“Wars don’t just go away, they are only postponed to someone else’s advantage.” Half a millennium has passed since Niccolò Machiavelli wrote those words, but they rang true at the Texas Capitol this week. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus challenged Governor Greg Abbott on the agenda of the upcoming special legislative session, demonstrating that he has no intention of surrendering on the contentious issues that tanked the regular session. When Abbott called the special session for July 18, he tried to take command by declaring that he would not add anything to the agenda until the Senate passed some agency renewal bills, which Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick used to force the session in the first place. Abbott said he would only add other items to the session…View Original Post
Revelations that Russian hackers tried to break into Dallas County’s web servers, likely with the intention of accessing voter registration files, in the lead up to last November’s election renewed concerns about Texas election security. Both Wednesday night’s news out of Dallas and a Bloomberg report on Monday—which said that the Russian hacking attempts affected 39 states—are forcing states to look inward and re-examine the security of their local and state-level electoral technologies. The particular targets of Russian hackers were the accounts of elections officials and voter registration rolls, which are connected to the internet and are unlike the voting systems that actually do the recording and vote tallying. But a possible security breach of one area of electoral technologies has the potential to ripple out and affect the integrity of other ones. “The…View Original Post
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When Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt cut ties to the Qatar this week for allegedly financing terrorism, one of my first thoughts was what this might mean for the campus of Texas A&M. No, not the one in College Station. The Aggies established an outpost in Qatar in 2003 to teach engineering in the oil and gas rich nation. A&M reported to me that there are 30 faculty and 49 staff members at the Qatar campus who are U.S. citizens, but the of the 543 students enrolled at the campus, 93 percent are from the Middle East, and 45 percent of them are Qatari. How many Qatari’s attended the A&M College Station campus in 2016? Twelve. “We are in touch with our students, faculty, and…View Original Post
“Damned rascal!” — Sam Houston just before he thrashed Congressman William Stanbery. Angry chest bumping and a shove or two are not unusual toward the end of a Texas Legislature, but this year’s end of session confrontation between several Democratic legislators and a Republican colleague was perhaps the most dramatic since one senator sucker punched another during a 1985 filibuster on a bill to regulate the shrimping industry. Even that kerfuffle—which erupted not over contentious shrimping regulations but from an exchange of personal insults—did not compare to this year’s exchange, which ultimately resulted in a death threat. But historic parallels can be tempting, and though our recent incident was less violent, we couldn’t overlook the similarities to the run-in that prompted Sam Houston to make his…View Original Post
Television cameras in the press conference room formed a tripod wall between Governor Greg Abbott and the Capitol journalists as he announced a special legislative session for July 18. Throughout the regular session, Abbott isolated himself from the legislative process—and as he delivered his call, the cameras insulated him once again. There would be no reporter questions to disrupt his message. He put forth the image of a man in charge, calling lawmakers back together on a twenty-item agenda. At the top was legislation to renew five regulatory agencies that are set to expire, including the one that licenses doctors. In calling a special session with a broad array of issues, it was a show of strength—but also a demonstration of weakness. Abbott’s strength was using the…View Original Post