The Darsch Report: June 21 to 27

Armed man barges into Bexar County Elections Office

On Friday morning, June 25, a 24-year-old man, whom authorities suspect was hallucinating from drugs, barged into the Bexar County Elections Office after he had fired shots inside a nearby hotel room

According to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, Jouwan D. Williams Thomas jumped over the counter in the office on South Frio Street around 10 a.m. and said he was being chased. The suspect went into a secured area before a SWAT unit and other law enforcement personnel quickly arrived and apprehended the suspect. No injuries were reported.

While Thomas didn’t open fire inside the elections office, he did fire several shots of a 9mm handgun that penetrated some rooms at a Quality Inn nearby, Salazar said. No injuries were reported at the hotel. Salazar said the suspect had a high-capacity magazine in the gun and a similar magazine in the hotel room.

Salazar said it was initially believed that Thomas fired shots because of a drug deal gone bad, but it now appears that he may have been suffering from a drug-induced incident. High-grade marijuana and possibly synthetic marijuana were found in the room.

State Sen. José Menéndez was in the back of the elections office for a meeting with officials when the incident happened, Salazar said.

“They were pretty scared,” Salazar said of the election staff. “They locked down, sheltered in place. Kudos to the elections staff.”

Texan Voter Fraud

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on Friday, June 25, that the Election Fraud Unit arrested and booked Monica Mendez into the Victoria County Jail on June 23, 2021, after a Victoria County Grand Jury returned an indictment against her on 31 counts of election fraud.

Mendez is being charged on 7 counts of Illegal Voting (a 2nd Degree Felony), 8 counts of Unlawfully Assisting Voter Voting Ballot by Mail (a 3rd Degree Felony), 8 counts of Unlawful Possession of a Ballot (a State Jail Felony), and 8 counts of Election Fraud (a State Jail Felony).

The charges relate to eight mail-in ballots in a May 2018 water district board election in Bloomington, a town of around 2,500 residents near Victoria.

According to the press release, the Texas Secretary of State referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office after Bloomington residents raised allegations of illegal voting and other election code violations. One specific concern being that about 275 people, out of a town of 2,500, tried to register as new voters using the same mailing address, according to local government officials.

Other residents of Bloomington were supposedly threatened with rent increases if they did not vote for their landlord’s preferred candidate in the local water department elections.

Miami Condo Collapse

Rescue efforts continue in the search of all those missing after Thursday’s June 24 tragedy in which a Surfside condo collapsed.

As of Sunday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the death toll had risen to 9, and the number of people missing was reduced to 152. “We were able to recover four additional bodies in the rubble as well as additional human remains,” the mayor said.

Additionally, although the investigation has just begun, experts who have examined video footage of the disaster outside Miami are focusing on a spot in the lowest part of the condominium complex—possibly in or below the underground parking garage—where an initial failure could have set off a structural avalanche.

Called “progressive collapse,” the gradual spread of failures could have occurred for a variety of reasons, including design flaws or the less robust construction allowed under the building codes of four decades ago, when the complex was built. But that progression could not have occurred without some critical first failure. Close inspections of a grainy surveillance video that emerged in the initial hours after the disaster has given the first hints of where that might have been.

“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” said Donald O. Dusenberry, a consulting engineer who has investigated many structural collapses. “It’s not like there’s a failure high, and it pancaked down.”

US Economy

Supported by positive news from the Federal Reserve and hopes that a good infrastructure deal would be announced soon, the stock market did well over the past week. The Dow Jones increased to 34,433.84 on Friday, increasing by +1,143.76 points, or +3.44 percent over its June 18 close of 33,290.08. The S&P 500 increased by +114.25 points or +2.74 percent on Friday to a record high of 4,280.70. In addition, the Nasdaq increased on Friday by +2.35 percent.

China Announces Crewed Missions to Mars

Last week the People’s Republic of China announced plans to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033 as it continues to boost its space ambitions in a battle with the U.S.

Wang Xiaojun, head of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, outlined the country’s Mars plans for the first time this month at a space conference in Russia, according to the academy.

It comes just weeks after China landed a remote-controlled rover called Zhurong on Mars, making it the only country after the U.S. to do so.

Wang said the first step in China’s plans is to use robots to explore Mars to sample its surface and help select a place to build a base. The next stage would be to send astronauts up to Mars to build a base station there. Then China wants large-scale Earth-to-Mars cargo missions.

China has earmarked 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041, and 2043 for such missions and said it would explore technology to fly astronauts back to Earth.

The revelation of China’s Mars goals comes after a string of successful space missions. China has begun construction of its own space station and earlier this month sent the first astronauts up there. It was the first time China sent a crewed mission to space since 2016.

NASA says it plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

The Texan Border

Over the weekend, nearly 100 days after being appointed by President Joe Biden to address the immigration crisis at the southern border, Vice-President Kamala Harris visited an El Paso border facility.

During a press conference, Harris touted “extreme progress” made by the Biden administration in tackling the migrant surge despite inheriting a “tough situation” due to the “disastrous effects” of the Trump administration’s border policies. 

When asked why she visited El Paso instead of areas that have been more acutely hit, like the Rio Grande Valley Sector, Harris explained that El Paso was where a number of Trump policies, like the Remain-in-Mexico policy and child separation policies, were implemented. 

This comes as more than 180,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border in May, an increase over the 178,000 encountered in April and 173,000 encountered in March—all representing the highest numbers in years. In addition, 173,000 in March was a big increase from the 100,000 migrants encountered in February.

With or without help from the Biden Administration, Governor Greg Abbott is continuing to promote the continued building of a border wall along the Texan-Mexican border. Over the span of about a week, Texas received $459,000 in private donations for the state’s planned wall at the southern border, the governor’s office said Wednesday.

This comes after the governor promised a $250 million “down payment” in state funds for the project.

The Darsch Report: January 25 to 31

Ken Paxton Goes After San Antonio Mayor

According to KSAT, in an amended petition regarding an ongoing lawsuit on San Antonio’s sanctuary city’s status, Mayor Ron Nirenburg has been implicated for the first time in the case. The lawsuit accuses the city of defying a state law requiring local governments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

In the petition Attorney General Ken Paxton accuses Nirenburg of instructing city staff not to contact federal authorities after 12 people believed to be immigrants without documentation were found inside a tractor-trailer in Dec. 2017.

The claims made in the petition state that the mayor told high-ranking officials that he “does not want ICE called,” and that releasing them without being handed over to federal immigration officials as a “Christmas gift” for their families.

This decision to release the suspected illegal immigrants by SAPD Chief William McManus’ has been described by Paxton as in violation of Senate Bill 4. Nirenburg called the criticism of the release as “nothing more than political theater based on a fictitious narrative.”

Texas vs Biden

On Tues., Jan. 26, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared “Victory” on Twitter after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop President Joe Biden’s deportation freeze.

According to U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton in the Southern District Court of Texas, the Biden Administration will not be allowed to pause deportations of illegal immigrants. Biden had tried to do so on his first day in office, but Paxton sued the administration, arguing the president’s move was “unlawful and perilous.”

In the order, Tipton wrote that the Biden Administration had failed to “provide any concrete, reasonable justification for a 100-day pause on deportations.”

“*This* [sic] was a seditious left-wing insurrection. And my team and I stopped it.” Paxton stated on Twitter.

This executive order was one of many the Biden Administration has signed attempting to overturn many Trump Administration policies. Other orders include stopping funding for border wall construction, reentering the Paris Climate Accord, and canceling the Keystone XL pipeline project.

After Tipton’s order, Paxton celebrated the decision to “prioritize the law and safety of our citizens.”

“The Court’s decision to stop the Biden Administration from casting aside congressionally enacted immigration laws is a much-needed remedy for DHS’s unlawful action. A near-complete suspension of deportations would only serve to endanger Texans and undermine federal law,” Paxton said in a press release.

Reddit Takes on the Stock Market

Over the past week, the internet and the stock market have both been on fire as thousands upon thousands of Reddit users from r/WallStreetBets (WSB) have decided to take on hedge fund Melvin Capital and save GameStop.

Investors from the Reddit page noticed that Melvin Capital was attempting to heavily drop the price of GameStop stock ($GME) by shorting around 140% of the $GME stock that they owned. In response, they gathered as many WSB users they could and told them to buy the stock as a meme with the potential of the rise in price hurting Melvin and leaving them with some capital gains in the end. This meme has now spread to all corners of the internet and $GME as of Friday closed at a price of $328.34 compared to the price from a month ago of around $17.

Short-selling hedge funds have suffered heavily from this buying of $GME with a year-to-date mark-to-market loss on the stock of around $19.75 billion, according to data from S3 Partners

In response to the dramatic increase in stock price, brokerage apps such as E*Trade, RobinHood, TD Ameritrade, etc halted and/or limited trading of dozens of different stocks with the heaviest limitations placed on stocks being targeted by WSB like $GME, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. ($AMC), Blackberry Ltd ($BB), Nokia ($NOK), etc.

Still, though, short-sellers are holding onto their bearing positions or are being bought by other short sellers willing to take the bet. However, WSB is still claiming to hold or buying more of the stock and will refuse to sell.

This new week may prove who has the greater resolve, who is more stubborn, or both.

US Economy

The stock market has not been responding well to the news of Reddit taking on hedge funds as over the week the Dow Jones decreased to 29,982.62 on Friday, decreasing by -977.38 points, or -3.16 percent over its Jan. 25 close of 30,960.00. The S&P 500 decreased by -141.12 points or -3.66 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -4.15 percent.

Military Coup in Myanmar

As of this moment, a military coup is taking place in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Myanmar’s military has detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected leaders of the country and has declared a one-year state of emergency.

The move follows a landslide win by Suu Kyi’s party in an election the army claims was marred by fraud.

In a letter written in preparation for her impending detention, she said the military’s actions would put the country back under a dictatorship and has urged supporters to not accept this coup and to protest against it.

Aung San Suu Kyi was one of the leading voices pushing for democratic reforms in Myanmar during the military rule that ended in 2011. She was internationally hailed as a beacon of democracy and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. However, her reputation heavily suffered after an army crackdown on the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority that some have described as a genocide.

Time will tell how this will change Myanmar but for now, the military has replaced all of the ministers, arrested many leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and have installed former vice-president and retired Gen. Myint Swe as the temporary president.

The Darsch Report: Feb. 11-17

SA Climate Action

Over the next week the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, also known as SA Climate Action, is set to go to the public sphere of San Antonio as a means for the city to combat and address climate change.

The plan is already under scrutiny by environmental activists who say that the plan does not go far enough and by business leaders who say that it goes too far.

SA Climate Ready lays out a road map for the city to prepare for climate change and reach an overall objective of carbon neutrality — meaning the city, its residents and businesses would stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — by 2050.

The 84-page plan recommends that the city switch to more renewable energy, reduce energy use in buildings and increasing the use of electric vehicles in order to address the climate of San Antonio becoming hotter and drier.

Many businesses, especially those tied to the fossil fuel industry, believe that the bill is specifically signaling them out and that they are no longer welcome in the city.

Councilman Greg Brockhouse criticized the plan stating, “I’ve heard from multiple business sources that this is a job-killing venture. We can’t be selling short the economic impacts of this plan.”

Angela Paxton

On Friday, Feb. 15, Sen. Angela Paxton filed Senate Bill 860 in the Texas State Legislature with the purpose of creating within the attorney general’s office an entirely new program — what the bill calls a “regulatory sandbox” — that would allow approved individuals “limited access to the market … without obtaining a license, registration, or other regulatory authorization.” The bill aims to cut red tape for the growing financial tech sector, allowing businesses to market new products for up to two years and to as many as 10,000 customers with scant regulation.

Angela Paxton said the bill is geared toward strengthening consumer protections in the underregulated, ever-changing financial tech industry — a sector that in Texas is largely centered in Richardson, part of her North Texas district.

But skeptics pointed to the bill’s optics problem: Ken Paxton, a statewide official accused of violating state securities law, would be empowered to decide who can skirt state securities law. And he’d get that power from a bill authored by his wife. Currently, Texas law requires investment advisers to register with the state — failing to do so is a third-degree felony punishable by a sentence of two to 10 years.

Regardless of the actions that Attorney General Paxton took, the bill should come under the same scrutiny, skepticism, review and amendment that goes into any other bill that enters the Texas State Legislature.

National Emergency

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency regarding the US southern border and will be using funds not given to him by Congress for a border wall or barrier.

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or the other,” Trump said in a televised statement in the Rose Garden. “It’s an invasion,” he added. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”

The emergency declaration, according to White House officials, enables the president to divert $3.6 billion from military construction projects to the wall. Trump will also use more traditional presidential discretion to tap $2.5 billion from counternarcotics programs and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.

Combined with $1.375 billion authorized for fencing in the spending package passed on Thursday night, Trump would have about $8 billion in all for barriers, more than the $5.7 billion he unsuccessfully demanded from Congress.

Although construction for the barriers hasn’t entered the planning phase yet for this declaration, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California stated that the state is planning on suing the president “to reject this foolish proposal in court the moment it touches the ground.”

The national emergency is a way for President Trump to move around Congress to receive the funding he wants for a border wall but as it currently stands, not much may come out of the lawsuits. Trump isn’t the first President to use executive action/national emergencies to move around Congress, but also much of the funding for it won’t come at the taxpayers’ expense as it is a reallocation of funds rather than an increase in spending.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with a few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 25,883.25 on Friday, increasing by +339.06 points, or +1.33 percent over its Feb.  8 close of 25,106.33. The S&P 500 increased by +67.72 points or +2.50 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by +2.39 percent.

Trade talks between the US and China are still going well according to US and Chinese sources. This has been much of the cause of optimism in investors and the rally seen over the past week as many are hoping to see an end to the trade war.

Green New Deal Vote

Eyeing an opportunity to put Democrats on the spot, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, announced on Tuesday, Feb12, that he plans on holding a vote on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, D-NY, and Sen. Ed Markey’s, D-Mass, Green New Deal.

“I’ve noted with great interest, the Green New Deal,” McConnell told reporters. “And we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate, going to give everyone an opportunity to go on record, and see how they feel about the Green New Deal.”

The 14-page document released Thursday sets a goal of moving to net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 and outlines a series of broad methods to achieve it, like upgrading or replacing existing buildings to be more energy efficient, upgrading electric grids to make better use of renewable energy, and investing in electric vehicles and mass transportation. It also includes a call to guarantee a well-paying job for every American and provide universal health care and housing.

The measure is backed by many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The move of Sen. McConnell is a smart one as every Republican Senator can unite in opposition to the bill but it may divide Democrats, many of whom are running for reelection or for President in 2020. It is a way to force senators to put their money where their mouth is and not just talk about support or opposition.

The Darsch Report: Jan. 14 – 20

San Antonio Housing Projects

On Wednesday, Jan 16th, San Antonio officials declared that the first applications for the city’s revamped Center City Housing Incentive Policy (CCHIP) are being received and reviewed. Four new housing developments, encompassing 515 units, will set aside 238 of the units for families making less than 60 percent of the area’s median income.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a written statement that the mix meets “the level of affordability that we need in San Antonio.” This comes after Nirenberg paused CCHIP so that the city could reevaluate its rules in order to combat fears of displacement,  rising rent and the incentives being used for luxury developments.

The new applicants include:

  • Museum Reach Lofts, a 95-unit, $17.5 million project at the corner of West Jones Avenue and North St. Mary’s Street. It’s one of two projects submitted by Alamo Community Group, a San Antonio based non-profit housing developer.
  • Cattleman Square Lofts, Alamo Community Group’s other submitted project, which will add 160 units west of downtown at 811 W. Houston St.
  • Augusta Apartments, a 260-unit development by Stillwater Capital at 819 Augusta St., near Central Catholic High School.
  • The Villas at Museum Reach, a $3.5 million townhouse project by MGS Museum Reach LLC on Dallas Street across from the Museum Reach Lofts.

Travis County v. the City of Austin

Earlier this week, the Travis County District Court ruled that the city of Austin violated Texas law when it refused to allow duly-licensed residents to lawfully carry firearms in City Hall. As punishment the city is to pay a fine for each day they prevented investigators from lawfully carrying concealed weapons in Austin City Hall, resulting in a total of $9,000 to the state of Texas.

In response, Attorney General Ken Paxton stated, “The district court’s ruling preserves and protects the Second Amendment rights of Texans and sends a strong message to the city of Austin that they are bound by the same laws as all other Texans. The city of Austin cannot violate the open carry law or any other law the Texas Legislature has enacted simply because they disagree with it. If the city of Austin appeals the district court’s decision, my office will continue to strongly defend the right of law-abiding Texans to keep and bear arms in accordance with our handgun laws.”

The degree to which Ken Paxton is willing to go to to protect every Texan’s Second Amendment rights is commendable. This is a clear victory for the gun owners of Austin.

Trump-Pelosi Showdown

As of Sunday, January 20th, the United States federal government will have gone through 29 days of a partial government shutdown, the longest in our nation’s history. The shutdown’s current cost exceeds an estimated $4.8 billion and is forcing about 800,000 federal workers to take leave of absence or work without pay.

On Saturday, Jan. 19th, Trump described a deal that he hopes will reopen the government. In exchange for $5.7 billion for a border barrier, Trump will grant a 3-year extension of protections for 700,000 DACA recipients and extend protections for 300,000 recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. The deal would also allocate $800 million in funding for drug detection technology, 2,750 new border agents and law enforcement professionals, and 75 new immigration judges to reduce an immense backlog of asylum requests.

In the speech, Trump said “Our immigration system should be a source of pride, not a source of shame as it is all over the world,” and that “If we are successful in this effort, we will have the best chance in a long time at real, bipartisan immigration reform, and it won’t stop here, it will keep going until we do it all”.

However, both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have already denounced the deal, calling the provisions a “non-starter”.

This shutdown has gone on long enough. Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer need to start talking with Trump about a compromise instead of devolving into partisan bickering while thousands of families are left worrying if they can pay their bills.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with multiple gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 24,706.35 on Friday, increasing by +710.40 points, or +2.96 percent over its Jan 4th close of 23,995.95. The S&P 500 increased by +74.45 points or +2.87 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq had an increase on Friday by +2.66 percent.

This comes on the news of a potential end to the US-China trade war. The deal would have China ramping up imports for the United States over the next 6 years for a combined value of goods of more than $1 trillion and China closing their $323 billion surplus with the US to zero. The deal has met with skepticism from U.S. negotiators but if implemented would theoretically turn the US into an exporter rather than an importer nation, solving our $55.5 billion trade deficit.

Though the year is young, so far in 2019 the economy is looking great. If the Trump administration does actually strike a favorable deal with Beijing that can end the trade war and reduce the trade deficit with China, then we can have high hopes for the US economy in 2019.

Failed Brexit Vote

On Tuesday, Jan 15th, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by historic margins with MPs voting to reject the deal 432 votes to 202 as well as barely surviving a no-confidence vote by 325 votes to 306. The deal in question received bipartisan rejection after criticism that it would leave the UK as a vassal state of the EU, having to obey EU laws and regulations while having absolutely no say in EU matters.

Now the British government has until March 29 to extend the deadline for when the UK leaves the EU under World Trade Organization (WTO) laws, renegotiate a new deal or hold a second referendum. It appears that a WTO Brexit is the most likely option, as the conservative government remains highly opposed to any consideration of a second referendum and MPs in the House of Commons cannot seem to come to an ideal compromise.

The UK government at this point needs to start preparing for a WTO Brexit in hopes to minimize any potential damage it may have. A WTO Brexit may also be their best bet for a better economy and country, granting them full control over their own sovereignty and the ability to negotiate better trade deals without the restrictive laws and tariffs that have left the EU stagnant for years.