The Darsch Report: March 8 to 14

San Antonio Restaurant Vandalized

Early Mar. 14,  a San Antonio man’s ramen restaurant was vandalized with anti-Asian slurs and death threats following a CNN interview in which the man spoke out against Gov. Greg Abbott’s rollback of the mask requirement in Texas.

After the interview, Mike Nguyen, owner of Noodle Tree, was prepared for plenty of online hate comments but not for something like this.

“I’m still a little shocked that this would actually happen,” Nguyen said Sunday. “When I got here, that’s when it actually sunk in.”

Nguyen moved to San Antonio 5 years ago and started off with a food truck that eventually turned into a restaurant staple of UTSA Boulevard. He has made headlines before for refusing to open his business despite loosening COVID-19 restrictions because as he says the “money was not worth losing lives over.”

Nguyen, who is currently battling lymphoma, lost his grandmother recently after she contracted COVID-19 and he refuses to put any of his customers or employees at risk.

Nguyen says he believes that the Governor’s decision to repeal the mask mandate hurts business owners who now have to bear the burden of enforcing rules and the backlash that may follow.

“I will say that the governor doesn’t have us Texans’ interest at play at this point. I think it’s more of a personal interest,” Nguyen said Wednesday on CNN. “I think the decision to drop the mask mandate is selfish and cowardly, and there’s no reason to do it.”

Crisis at The Texan Border and FEMA Deployed

According to the Daily Mail, ICE is requesting additional personnel to be deployed to the US-Mexico border as a south Texas migrant complex is seven times overcapacity and reports are surfacing of children being forced to sleep on floors of detention centers. 

More than 3,500 unaccompanied teens and children have been held in Customs Border Patrol (CBP) detention centers with reports that many are spending an average of 108 hours in the facilities when they are only allowed to be there for 72 hours. 

Children at one facility in south Texas were reportedly going hungry and were only able to shower once every seven days as the center was at 729% of its legal capacity.

In response to the crisis, the Biden administration is mobilizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help take some of the pressure off of CBP, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Saturday evening.

The FEMA deployment will support what DHS called a 90-day government-wide effort at the border, where the Biden administration is struggling to care for a record number of minors arriving without their parents.

“The federal government is responding to the arrival of record numbers of individuals, including unaccompanied children, at the southwest border,” DHS said in a statement.

Soon after taking office, the Biden Administration quickly ended many of the Trump administration’s border policies put in place to deter illegal immigration and has relaunched the Obama-era policy of “Catch and Release.” However, the administration has not responded to questions concerning why they did not anticipate or better prepare for the unprecedented surge that has occurred since then in the Rio Grande Valley.

AstraZeneca Vaccine

As early as this month or early April, AstraZeneca will be filing for U.S. emergency use authorization (EUA) for its COVID-19 vaccine according to sources who informed Reuters on Friday. This vaccine has already been authorized for use in the European Union and many countries but not yet by U.S. regulators.

The British drugmaker completed enrollment in its trial of more than 32,000 volunteers in January and now has data on at least 150 cases of Covid-19, two sources familiar with the trial told Reuters.

“The U.S. Phase III study results are necessary for the FDA’s evaluation of an EUA request for our vaccine,” a company spokeswoman said, without confirming trial details being reported by Reuters. “We expect data from our U.S. Phase III trial to be available soon, in the coming weeks, and we plan to file for emergency use authorization shortly thereafter.”

There are safety concerns, however, regarding reports of serious blood clots in some vaccine recipients that have led several nations to pause administering the vaccine.

AstraZeneca is defending the vaccine, saying in a Sunday statement that more than 17 million doses have been administered in Europe and U.K., with no evidence that the shot increased the risk of blood clots.

The number of blood-clotting events are lower than what would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of that size, AstraZeneca’s Chief Medical Officer Ann Taylor said. In studies, participants getting the vaccine had fewer clots than those given placebo.

The UK Takes a Stand to China?

At the end of February, the Hong Kong government charged 47 democracy activists and protestors under a new national security law that prohibits “conspiracy to commit subversion.” The law criminalizes four types of activity: secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and collusion with foreign entities. In practice, it severely curtails whatever autonomy that Hong Kong had previously enjoyed under Chinese rule.

Many of those arrested were Hong Kong’s most vocal democracy activists and if convicted could face up to life in prison.

In response, the UK government sent out a press release on Mar. 13 stating that China is in “a state of ongoing non-compliance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

“Beijing’s decision to impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong’s electoral system constitutes a further clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in the statement.

The statement does not indicate what actions the United Kingdom will take against the People’s Republic but does come a day after a joint statement from the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., the U.S., and the European Union denouncing the undermining of Hong Kong’s autonomy by the Chinese government.

The US Economy

Over the course of the past week, the US stock market has been doing very well. The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by +976.20 points, +3.07%, and closed at a record high on Friday, March 12th, of 32,778.64. The S&P 500 Index, not wanting to be outdone but just barely falling short, increased by +121.99 points, +3.19%, over the course of the week and closed at a new record high of 3,943.34 on Friday. The NASDAQ, having been on a decline over the past month made, increased to 13,319.86 making a remarkable gain of +710.71 points, +5.64%, but still way below its Feb 12th high of 14,095.47.

Gas prices in the US also continue to see rapid price increases with the current national average according to AAA at $2.859 for a gallon of regular gas. This is a near 10 cents, ~3.2%, increase over last week’s average of $2.768 and a 35 cents, ~14%, increase over the national average from a month ago. This is likely due to a combination of three factors all at once; Saudi Arabia cutting oil production in February, increasing gas and oil demand as more vaccinations are leading to more people traveling, and Biden canceling the Keystone pipeline which would have allowed for more domestic oil refining.

New Covid Relief Bill

On Thurs., Mar. 11, President Joe Biden signed a new covid relief bill totaling $1.9 trillion in spending.

In the plan are some major spending changes, including:

  • Extending a $300 per week jobless aid supplement and programs making millions more people eligible for unemployment insurance until Sept. 6
  • $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans and their dependents with checks starting to phase out at $75,000 in income for individuals and are capped at people who make $80,000. However, these checks are not protected from debt-collection agencies.
  • Expanding the child tax credit for one year and increasing it to $3,600 for children under 6 and to $3,000 for kids between 6 and 17.
  • $350 billion in relief to state, local and tribal governments and more than $120 billion to K-12 schools.

The bill passed the House by a 220-211 margin without a Republican vote and Democrats also approved the plan on their own in the Senate through the special budget reconciliation process.

Biden celebrated the passing of the bill in a Wednesday statement stating “This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance.”

Republicans are arguing though that with this massive increase in spending we may see rising inflation, especially with an economy on the road to recovery with vaccines rolling out and many states now reopening.

“There is a real risk here, of this kind of massive stimulus overheating the economy. … I just think it’s sad because we could’ve done, I think something much more targeted and focused on Covid-19,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told CNBC on Wednesday morning.

Texas Tax-Payer Funded Lobbying

As of Mon., Mar. 15, there are 77 days left in the Texas legislative session, and 10 Texas State Senators, led by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–7), chair of the Local Government Committee, have joint authored Senate Bill 10 to stop Texas cities’ and counties’ use of public funds to lobby the state Legislature.

SB 10 joint authors include State Sens. Brian Birdwell (R-22), Donna Campbell (R-25), Charles Creighton (R-4), Bob Hall (R-2), Kelly Hancock (R-9), Bryan Hughes (R-1), Angela Paxton (R-8), Charles Perry (R-28), and Drew Springer (R-30).

“Taxpayer-funded lobbying diverts funding from local governments’ ability to provide local needs and results in money being used to advocate for policies not always in Texans’ best interest,” said Bettencourt. “The Texas Ethics Commission data showed that an estimated $32 million was spent on lobbyist compensation in 2018, a non-session year. We can’t have tax dollars being used to advocate for greater spending, more taxing authority, and increased regulatory power at the local government level without taxpayers’ consent.”

SB 10 does not prohibit city or county elected officials, officers, or employees from providing information to members of the Legislature, appearing before committee hearings at the request of a member, or advocating on legislation while acting in their official capacities.

The vast majority of Texans support this policy, and it is a legislative priority for Texan Republicans and conservative groups like the Young Conservatives of Texas. Because of staunch support for the policy, it has a high chance of passing the Senate. But it could also end up like similar legislation from the last session that was proposed and passed in the State Senate but was ultimately voted down in the House.

CPS Energy vs San Antonio Family

Following the death of San Antonio resident Esequiel Mendoza during the February winter storm, the man’s family is suing CPS Energy over his death.

The wrongful death suit, filed Mon., Mar. 8, in the 166th District Court, accused the San Antonio utility company of negligence that caused his death.

In the week before his death, Mendoza was not able to receive his usual life-saving dialysis treatment due to controlled outages imposed by CPS Energy at the request of the state grid, which is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. Instead of receiving between four and five hours of treatment, Mendoza only received two, according to the lawsuit.

It is at least the second wrongful death suit filed against CPS Energy related to the winter storm. The first lawsuit was brought by the husband of a woman who is believed to have died of hypothermia.

According to the lawsuit, the family is seeking financial compensation for their loss, and as of Friday morning, attorneys for CPS Energy declined to address the pending litigation.

“Unfortunately, these types of deaths require a thorough investigation into the relevant environmental conditions as well as assessment of the individual’s underlying health conditions, often including additional laboratory testing,” according to a statement from the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office. “Therefore, these deaths take several weeks to adequately investigate and determine. Thus, the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office does not currently have an accurate count of these types of deaths and may not for some time.”

Congressman Chip Roy Zooms to Trinity University

Local Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) met with students at Trinity University to discuss conservative issues in Congress and in their district.

On Tues. Mar. 2, 2021, Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas) came to Trinity University to speak to students. The event was run and sponsored by the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) chapter. 

Nathan Darsch, Class of 2022 and Chairman of YCT at Trinity University, said that he “asked Congressman Chip Roy to speak at the meeting because he is what we need more of in Congress.” Darsch also said that Roy “is a true conservative who will put his principles before party and I wanted my members to see that there are people genuinely fighting for conservative values and trying to make life better for future generations. My hope is that by listening to Congressman Roy it will encourage my members to help get more people like him elected in the future.”

Roy spoke about Texas Independence, COVID-19, and the importance of preserving individual freedoms. Roy spoke to the students for about 30 minutes, and then spent the last 30 minutes of the meeting answering questions in a Q&A format. Attendees of the event asked questions about COVID-19 relief bills, upcoming gun control bills, and fiscal responsibility (or lack thereof) of the United States government. 

When asked about fiscal responsibility and the government’s infringement of individual freedoms, Roy asked his audience to consider one important fact: “You cannot fund the people who are taking your freedom away and expect to have freedom.” Roy told students that states should use their power to keep the federal government in check, especially states like Texas that have citizens whose freedoms are being infringed by the federal government. The government’s primary function is to protect its citizens, and state governments should protect their citizens even from the federal government if it is necessary.

Roy made sure to clarify that he did not support a physical uprising–nor does he condone the the events at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021–but he did say that states should take legal action against the federal government if things get out of hand and it is necessary to do so in order to protect the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. 

Students who attended the event felt positively about Roy and his talk. Joseph Burrhus, Class of 2024, said that “Our meeting with Congressman Chip Roy was both inspiring and educational. He was able to communicate powerful arguments and explanations about important issues while also expressing his passionate love and devotion toward the country and the people he serves.” When asked about how the event influenced his views of YCT or his desire to attend future meetings, Burrhus said “After the meeting with Chip Roy, I feel more incentivized to go to YCT meetings because they are a great opportunity to learn about different issues, why they are important, and what can be done to fix them.”

Emma McMahan, Class of 2021 and a former officer of YCT, also enjoyed the meeting. She thought that Roy’s “ introductory speech in the beginning of the meeting reeled me into the discussion because he was obviously passionate about his beliefs, decreasing federal spending, for instance.” McMahan also commented on YCT’s friendly relationship with Roy, for whose campaign many YCT members from Trinity University have volunteered to blockwalk and phonebank. “I think YCT having a close connection with a U.S. Congressman like Chip Roy is a good thing because it gives us a good reputation as a conservative club.”

Ellis Jacoby, Class of 2024, also enjoyed the event. When asked about his reaction to Roy’s talk, he said that Roy “was really interesting and gave me some insight into how Congress really works. His explanation on how few chances he has to propose amendments to bills really shows how little influence individual Congressman have over the bills that Congress passes.” Jacoby also mentioned that Roy’s “level of concern for our national debt and his calls to have us hold our members of Congress accountable definitely encouraged me to do more to influence my representatives.” 

The event encouraged members of YCT to interact more with their local government and representatives, and to keep fighting for conservative values. The small event enabled for personal discussions and connections between club members and Roy, and students enjoyed the experience to meet with their Congressman and hear his opinions on important conservative issues. 

The Darsch Report: January 11 to 17

Election Fraud at Home

On Wed., Jan. 13, a San Antonio woman, Rachel Rodriguez, was arrested for election fraud, illegal voting, unlawfully assisting people voting by mail, and unlawfully possessing an official ballot, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Because each charge being is a felony under Texas legal code, Rodriguez could face up to 20 years in prison. 

The arrest happened after a video from Project Veritas appears to show Rodriguez engaged in vote harvesting leading up to the 2020 election. 

“Many continue to claim that there’s no such thing as election fraud. We’ve always known that such a claim is false and misleading, and today we have additional hard evidence. This is a victory for election integrity, and a strong signal that anyone who attempts to defraud the people of Texas, deprive them of their vote, or undermine the integrity of elections will be brought to justice,” said Paxton. “The shocking and blatantly illegal action documented by Project Veritas demonstrates a form of election fraud my office continually investigates and prosecutes. I am fiercely committed to ensuring the voting process is secure and fair throughout the state, and my office is prepared to assist any Texas county in combating this insidious, un-American form of fraud.”

Abortion Abolition

With the Texas legislature’s 87th session having begun on Jan. 12, we are bound to see some odd occurrences and bills enter the House and Senate. On Thursday, Jan. 14, Freshman State House Representative Bryan Slayton (R-Royse City) introduced an amendment to the House rules that would have forced the House to vote on abolishing abortion before they could take up any bills or solutions with the naming of bridges or streets. According to Slaton, the purpose of the amendment was to prioritize legal protection for unborn children.

The Amendment was voted down 41 to 99

However, following Slaton’s remarks on the Amendment, Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) proposed including a list of seven other conservative priorities along with abolishing abortion.

Another Covid Relief Plan

On Thurs., Jan. 14, President-Elect Joe Biden laid out another COVID-19 relief plan totaling an estimated $1.9 trillion and focusing on stimulus checks.

In the plan, more than $1 trillion would be allocated towards raising the stimulus check totals from that last relief package to $2,000 instead of $600. The plan would also allocate about $400 billion towards “pandemic response,” including expanding testing, emergency paid leave, and school funding. Additionally, another $440 billion would be allocated to small businesses, local communities, and transit systems that are struggling.

The bill targets these areas and seeks to expand the social safety net in America significantly. In Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan, unemployment benefits would be raised by $400 and along with eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and the increased SNAP benefits would last through the end of September.

However, probably the most costly for the nation would be the added proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The CBO estimates that such an endeavor could lift about 1 million workers to wages above the current poverty line, but it would also cost the US economy an estimated 1.3 million jobs. This comes only days before Biden said that he would bring forward “legislation his first day in office to provide a path to citizenship for… the roughly 11 million people in the U.S. illegally”.

A Texan Demonstration

On Sun., Jan. 17, a group of demonstrators, calling themselves “libertarian”, held a demonstration for a second day outside the closed-off Texas Capitol. The demonstration consisted of dozens of people, many of whom were openly carrying semiautomatic weapons, rifles, and knives, but remained peaceful through the afternoon.

Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a press release before either demonstration that the “Texas Department of Public Safety is aware of armed protests planned at the Texas State Capitol this week and violent extremists who may seek to exploit constitutionally protected events to conduct criminal acts.”

Individuals at the event said they were taking the DPS Director seriously and had walked around the capitol grounds to make sure no “provocateurs” took over the event.

“The big worry was we were gonna have tons of MAGA, QAnon people here to come and disrupt it, but it hasn’t been the case,” said Stephen Hunt, who had traveled from the Abilene area to attend this event.

Hunt did not want to identify the groups involved but did mention to KXAN that he was neither a Trump nor Biden supporter in the presidential election and he hopes that “this election has proven to people we need some change in our election laws.”

Capitol Raiders in San Antonio

On Sun., Jan. 17, FBI agents raided the home of and arrested Matthew Mazzocco, a local loan officer, following his appearance at the raid on the United States Capitol Building on Jan. 6.

According to MySA, Mazzocco posted a TikTok that was later reported to the FBI, appearing to show him as part of the raid on the US capitol but instructing others not to break or vandalize anything while inside the building.

“Don’t break or vandalize anything,” Mazzocco is seen saying in the video. “We’re probably all going to get in trouble for what we’re doing at some point in time.”

Following his trip to the US capitol, CMG Financial, the company listed as Mazzocco’s employer, commented stating “This person is no longer employed by CMG Financial. Our HR team has requested that he remove CMG Financial from his profiles as he does not work here.”

The FBI has confirmed that the arrest was made Sunday and will provide public documentation regarding the case soon.

Special Agent Michelle Lee told News4SA that there is “no immediate threat to the community at this time.”

US Economy

The stock market stayed mostly flat over the week as the Dow Jones decreased to 30,814.26 on Friday, decreasing by -149.43 points, or -0.63 percent over its Jan. 11 close of 31,008.69. The S&P 500 decreased by -31.36 points or -0.83 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -0.29 percent.