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: March 18 – 24

Chick-Fil-A Banned from San Antonio Airport

On Thursday, March 21, the San Antonio City Council approved and amended a seven-year concessions agreement for new restaurants and businesses in Terminal A of the Texas airport with Paradies Lagardère, a travel retailer and restaurateur that works with more than 100 airports. The amended plan bars Chick-Fil-A from being one of the businesses able to be in the terminal despite the initial plan allowing them due to concerns over the company’s record regarding LGBT issues. The amendment was approved by a 6-4 vote.

In a statement after the vote, Councilman Roberto Treviño (District-1) stated that the decision “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

In a statement given to USA Today Chick-fil-A said that “the press release issued by the councilmember was the first we heard of his motion and its approval by the San Antonio City Council.”

“We wish we had the opportunity to clarify misperceptions about our company prior to the vote. We agree with the councilmember that everyone should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A,” the company said in the statement. “In fact, we have welcomed everyone in San Antonio into our 32 local stores for more than 40 years.”

This consideration was only made for Chick-Fil-A after ThinkProgress reported that they had donated $1.8 million to groups that discriminate against the LGBTQ community in 2017, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. However, since it was only Chick-Fil-A who was barred, it wouldn’t be that surprising is the company starts making claims of discrimination that they were discriminated against.

Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Collusion

The investigation by led Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign and possible collusion with the Russian government has officially ended. The report was given to Attorney General William P. Barr and a summary of the special council’s key findings was made public on Sunday.

In the summary, Barr quotes the report stating that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The summary states that there were two main Russian influencers in the 2016 election, the Internet Research Agency and the Russian government, but, “the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts… [and] the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”

However, on the issue of obstruction of justice, the report states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Because of the nature of the evidence presented to them, with it not pointing one way or the other, the special counsel left the decision of prosecution up to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and AG Barr. They concluded that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” so there will be no indictment and prosecution of President Trump regarding obstruction of justice.

This report flies in the face of many in the mainstream media and in politics who for the past two years have constantly talked about how Trump is guilty, even before all the facts were examined by the special counsel.

Trump Free Speech Executive Order

On Thursday, March 21, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities” meant at improving free speech on college campuses.

The order makes clear that at colleges and universities, public or private, that receive federal funding must adhere to the first amendment regarding on-campus activities or risk having those funds pulled.

The order states that it is the policy of the government to “encourage institutions to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including through compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions”.

Further, the order also states that it will help students and borrowers avoid mountains of student loan debt by making “available, by January 1, 2020, through the Office of Federal Student Aid, a secure and confidential website and mobile application that informs Federal student loan borrowers of how much they owe, how much their monthly payment will be when they enter repayment, available repayment options, how long each repayment option will take, and how to enroll in the repayment option that best serves their needs”.

This order, whether more symbolic or legitimate is a nice step toward promoting free speech on college campuses for everyone on the political spectrum. For more information regarding this please read about the experience of one of our editors who was invited to attend the signing of this executive order.

Houston Chemical Plant Fire

During the weekend, residents near the ITC plant in Deer Park, Houston were urged to stay informed as another fire broke out at the chemical plant and cleanup from the fires continued. The fire has been extinguished but, Francisco Sanchez, Harris County’s deputy emergency management coordinator, said: “Our hope is this does not happen again, but should it happen we’ll be ready to respond.”

As cleanup efforts continued throughout the weekend,  the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has confirmed dangerous chemical levels in the waters near Buffalo Bayou and in the Houston Ship Channel.

In a Saturday press conference, officials stated that three tanks caught fire on Friday and more problems arose when a dike holding contaminated runoff from the firefighting efforts broke.

“Our main objectives today is to maintain safety, second thing is to do some remediation of the ditches, and then lastly, is to resume product removal,” ITC incident commander Brent Weber said.

The Houston Ship Channel will continue to remain closed, and officials said there’s no time table on when it will reopen after chemicals were released into the waterway.

There is no threat to the public drinking water in Houston but officials need to make sure that cleanup is done as swiftly as possible to mitigate the damage done to the Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel. Officials also need to look more into the cause of not only the fire but the dike breakage as well as and come up with ways to prevents this from happening in the future.

US Economy

It was not a good week for US stocks over the past week. The Dow Jones decreased to 25,502.32 on Friday, decreasing by -346.55 points, or -1.34 percent under its Mar 15 close of 25,848.87. The S&P 500 decreased by -21.77 points or -0.77 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -2.46 percent.

Fear of a recession and a global economic slowdown are the main forces behind the drop in the stock market over the past week. However, with China trade talks still going on and a delegation set to meet on April 3, a trade deal made between the US and China and an end to the tariff war between them will go a long way to cooling slowdown fears. Also with the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign having ended the stock market may take it as a sign of a more stable government and bump stocks back into the positives over the next week.

The Darsch Report: Feb. 4 – 10

Bexar County Child Sex Crime

On Thursday, Feb. 7, a Bexar County Sheriff’s Office records employee was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a child.

Jose Angel Laines, 44, is currently assigned to the Sheriff’s Office records section and has been employed with the Sheriff’s Office since 2004.

“The disturbing allegations against this 14-year employee go back to at least a decade. We are glad our warrants team was able to get him into custody. We have already initiated termination proceedings and we stand ready to assist SAPD with whatever they may need,” Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

The press release said the Bexar County Sheriff’s Public Integrity Unit has begun an administrative investigation into the incident and is working in conjunction with the San Antonio Police Department pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.

Laines has been placed on unpaid administrative leave. He is charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by contact and has a $75,000 bond for each charge.

Both the San Antonio Police Department and Bexar County Sheriff’s Public Integrity Unit have started their own investigations into the matter so hopefully, this case will be finished quickly so that the child and their family can begin to move past this horrific encounter.

Migrant Caravan on Texan Border

Since Feb. 4 roughly 1,800 Central American migrants intent on seeking asylum in the US have been playing a frustrating waiting game on the Mexican side of the Texas-Mexico border.

The migrants, who are mostly Honduran, are being housed in a former warehouse in Piedras Negras — and being guarded by Mexican law enforcement — while they wait to be let into the US.

Due to the very slow process of going through these migrants, US Customs and Border Protection officers are only able to process about 16 to 20 of the migrants a day according to CNN. This has lead to high tensions between law enforcement and the migrants with many being told by Mexican officials to return to Honduras.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has joined the US Border Patrol in stationing agents in Eagle Pass, Texas — on the banks of the north side of the Rio Grande. They’re meant to deter any migrants who might choose to cross the river instead of waiting their turn in Mexico

“As part of our border security plan we keep DPS on the border with boats & planes. They work with local & federal authorities to enforce the law,” Gov. Abbott tweeted alongside a picture of the law enforcement build up.

US and Mexican law enforcement need to possibly work together and process every single migrant to make sure that they are legitimate asylum seekers and not someone who would pose a threat to the US, Mexico or their citizens.

Green New Flop

Early on Feb. 7, NPR received the Frequently Asked Questions page of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY.) Green New Deal. It was immediately criticized by opponents and supporters alike until it was eventually taken down from down NPR’s and Cortez’s website later that day.

The FAQ was specifically ripped apart not for wanting to lower US carbon emissions, but how it plans to do that and the economic policies it proposes. It should also be noted that the Green New Deal is considered a “Non-Binding Agreement”, meaning that even if it passes, Congress is just saying that it will work towards lowering carbon emissions and the other goals laid out in the deal.

The FAQ states that “[i]t guarantees to everyone:

  • A job with family-sustaining wages, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security
  • High-quality education, including higher education and trade schools
  • High-quality health care
  • Clean air and water
  • Healthy food
  • Safe, affordable, adequate housing
  • An economic environment free of monopolies
  • Economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work…

and a transition away from nuclear to renewable power sources only”

The bill does not state how it plans on providing everyone in the US with these things or how it plans to pay for them. The phrase “economic security to all who are unable or unwilling to work” is especially troubling as it will create an incentive for people to not work as they will be provided with everything that they need anyway “a job… healthcare… food…[and] housing.”

Though many in the US support the idea of a Green New Deal this bill is more of a government take over of the largest industries in America than an investment in renewable energy. Even going as far as to want to phase out nuclear, one of the most efficient and reliable energy sources that have little to no greenhouse gas emissions.

US Economy

It was a decent week for US stocks, with a few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 25,106.33 on Friday, increasing by +42.44 points, or +0.17% percent over its Feb. 3 close of 25,063.89. The S&P 500 increased by +1.35 points or +0.05% percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq decreased on Friday by -0.47 percent.

This comes on news that the US and China are still negotiating an end to the trade war with a deadline for reaching a deal by March 1. The economy did not do that well this week but it is still remaining positive. The US has a very volatile stock market at the moment but this volatility should go away by the end of 2019.

Possible Border Deal

On Saturday, Feb. 9, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said that both Republican and Democratic legislators were optimistic about coming to a bipartisan deal on border security that would avoid another government shutdown.

Hoyer said that he doesn’t know the specifics of the deal, including the amount for border barriers, but does “hope [that] as early as Monday we will hear what that agreement is.” Negotiators last Friday were closing in on a deal that many lawmakers are calling a rebuff to Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion dollars for a wall along parts of the US-Mexico border. Instead, lawmakers are focusing on a compromise that would give no more than $2 billion for border barriers.

Hoyer said that both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will bring the agreement to vote in their respective chambers but it currently appears that Trump may veto the deal with tweets he made about it on Feb. 10. Lawmakers have until Feb. 15 to come up with an agreement that can pass both chambers of Congress and be accepted by Trump otherwise we enter another partial shutdown.

Trump is not in that good of a position depending on what will be in the finalized compromise bill. He will get funding for barriers along the US southern border but many of his supporters may see it as too much of a compromise compared to his original demand of $25 billion back in 2017. Democrats may come out of this worse though as 93% of Democrats and Democratic leaners oppose expanding the wall along the southern border.

The Darsch Report: Jan. 28 – Feb. 3

Money Laundering and Russians

Court documents were released on Friday, Feb. 1 detailing a money laundering scheme of more than half a million dollars committed by a San Antonio luxury car dealer with Russian connections. Karen Mgerian, 40 — one of two men arrested in raids Thursday in which more than 100 high-end vehicles were seized — is accused of laundering $575,000 in four separate money-laundering sting transactions in 2018 with undercover IRS and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.

Before his arrest Thursday, Mgerian was in negotiations to launder another $4.7 million for the undercover agents by selling his business, MGM Auto, to the agents in return for a 12.9 percent money laundering fee. He also admitted to undercover DEA agents that he had recently laundered $780,000 “through a real estate transaction with a California marijuana distribution organization.”

Mgerian, a naturalized US citizen who traces his roots to the countries of Georgia and Armenia, denies the allegations, according to one of his lawyers, Jay Norton. Norton and his law partner, former Bexar County district attorney Nico LaHood, jointly represent Mgerian with former federal prosecutor Mike McCrum.

From what it looks likes with what he admitted to the DEA agents, this appears to be a cut and dry case that should be resolved fairly quickly.

Texas Tax Relief

On Thursday, Jan 31, identical property tax reform bills were introduced into the Texas State House and Senate by State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) and State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston). House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 are also part of Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen long-anticipated “big bill” on property tax reform.

Highlights from the bills include:

  1. Lower the rollback rate from 8 percent to 2.5 percent for taxing units that collect more than $15 million in tax revenues and establish election notice requirements based on whether a school district will or will not exceed a 2.5% rollback rate for Maintenance and Operation property tax.
  2. Requires an automatic tax ratification election in November if the rollback rate is exceeded in a taxing unit, and;
  3. Creates a property tax administrative advisory board that recommends improvements to the effectiveness and efficiency of the property tax system, best practices and complaint resolution procedures.

These bills are a huge step in the right direction for Texas in their effort to slow down property tax increases and provide tax relief to many across the state. Vance Ginn, Ph.D., TPPF’s senior economist and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity, stated:“This is a positive step toward providing taxpayers the support they are looking for and we are eager to work with leadership on securing the greatest relief possible.”

Texas Clergy Identifies Abusers

On Thursday, Jan 31, fourteen Texas dioceses identified 286 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children. This represents one of the largest collections of names to be released since an explosive grand jury report last year in Pennsylvania. The move by Texas Church leaders comes a month after the Illinois attorney general reported that at least 500 Catholic clergymen in that state had sexually abused children.

It is unclear whether any local prosecutors will bring up criminal charges as the majority of those identified have since died. Some investigations dated back to 1950 while other reviews, as in the case of the Diocese of Laredo, only went to 2000 because that’s when that diocese was established. Of the 286 men named in Texas, 172 are no longer alive, a percentage comparable with the national tally.

Marc Rylander, spokesman for the Texas attorney general’s office, went on record to state “Our office stands ready to assist local law enforcement and any district attorney’s office that asks for our help in dismantling this form of evil and removing the threat of those who threaten Texas children.”

With Catholic clergy and Texas law enforcement willing to work together on this issue, everything should hopefully be resolved by the end of the year. And with the Catholic Church taking a harsher stance on abuse committed by its clergy, this issue should hopefully largely disappear within the next few years.

Virginia Can’t Catch a Break

Over the past week, Virginian Democrats, and by extension Gov. Ralph Northam, have come under fire for various reasons that many have found appalling.

The first being a new bill that would allow a pregnant woman to have an abortion throughout the entire 3rd trimester. House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert asked bill sponsor Kathy Tran if this bill would allow a woman who was in active labor to request an abortion if a doctor determined that childbirth would impair her mental health. In response, Tran stated, “It would allow that, yes.”

Gov. Northam is especially under fire for what this bill allows after he made comments regarding it on a local radio on Wednesday.

“In this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I could tell you exactly what would happen: the infant would be delivered; the infant would be kept comfortable; the infant would be resuscitated, if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” Northam said.

These statements earned Northam the ire of conservatives, moderates and liberals across the nation as he described this scenario as one of “infanticide”. But the controversy doesn’t end there.

The governor is also now facing controversy for a supposed picture of him in his medical school yearbook wearing either a KKK hood or blackface in a manner that makes it look like a minstrel show. In the 24 hours it took the news story to circulate on Friday and Saturday, Northam has gone from apologizing for his behavior when he was younger to denying that the is even in the photo.

“When I was confronted with the image, I was appalled that it appeared on my page, but I believed then and I believe now that I am not either of the people in that photograph,” he said at a news conference at the governor’s mansion.

If this photo does indeed include him, then Gov. Northam needs to resign if he wishes to save face (no pun intended) following not one but two controversies within the span of a few days.

US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with quite a few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 25,063.89 on Friday, increasing by +262.47 points, or +1.06% percent over its Jan 25 close of 24,737.20. The S&P 500 increased by +39.39 points or +1.48% percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq had a decreased on Friday by +1.63 percent.

In addition to this, January gave the US an excellent jobs report despite the government shutdown. In January non-farm payrolls increased by 304,000, versus the expected number of 165,000, which analysts are calling the strongest number relative to expectations they’ve seen since June 2009. The labor force participation rate also increased to 63.1%, the highest since 2013, sending unemployment to 4.0%. Wages also continue to outpace inflation with yearly growth of weekly wages reaching 3.48% while inflation continues to stay around 2.0%.

With such a strong showing in January, despite the government shutdown, the US can look forward to continued excellent growth in the economy. All Trump needs to do now is finish trade negotiations with China and the US economy will be looking at growth rivaling that of 2018.

The Darsch Report: Jan. 21 – 27

Non-Citizens Voting in Texas Elections

On Jan. 25, Texas Secretary of State David Whitley announced that there are about 95,000 non-citizens in Texas who are registered to vote and that 58,000 have voted in one or more elections since 1996.

This is the result of an 11-month investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety in which investigators cross-referenced those registered to vote with those who have applied for a driver’s license or state identification card in the last five years with a green card or visa. The information was then sent to the state attorney general’s office which will decide whether or not to pursue voter fraud charges. The attorney general’s office has prosecuted only 130 cases of voter fraud since 2005.

“Every single instance of illegal voting threatens democracy in our state and deprives individual Texans of their voice,” Attorney General Ken Paxton stated. “Nothing is more vital to preserving our Constitution than the integrity of our voting process, and my office will do everything within its abilities to solidify trust in every election in the state of Texas.”

Depending on where these votes were cast since 1996, they could have easily swung any number of statewide and even national elections. Democrats have ignored illegal voting for decades now, insisting that no credible data indicates a problem. In the face of these official numbers, we hope they will start caring about the voting process more than their own reputations.

The Shutdown is Over

On Jan. 25, the United States government has finally been reopened after a shutdown that lasted a record 35 days, costing an estimated $6 billion. The temporary reopening will last 3 weeks ending on Feb 15 during which Republicans, Democrats, and President Donald Trump will attempt to seek a compromise on permanent federal funding.

“I am very proud to announce we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” Trump said, adding that he will continue to seek $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall. He insisted that if he and Democratic leadership can not reach a compromise then he will declare a national emergency to build the wall.

“Walls should not be controversial,” he said. “As commander-in-chief, my highest priority is the defense of our great country… We cannot surrender operational control over our nation’s borders to foreign cartels, traffickers and smugglers.”

Democrats are calling the reopening a victory. “Our unity is our power — and that is maybe what the President underestimated,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

Many are glad to see at least a temporary end to the shutdown with all 800,000 furloughed employees receiving back pay for the past 35 days. However, this is only the beginning of Trump’s efforts to fund the wall, and unless Democrats are willing to negotiate with Trump it is doubtful a real compromise will be met before another shutdown.

Whataburger Delivers a Helping Hand

Speaking of the shutdown, San Antonio-based fast-food giant Whataburger was the latest company to offer free food to any and all federal employees that were furloughed during the 35-day government shutdown. On Saturday, Jan. 26, from 6 to 11 am they offered food to any federal employee who went unpaid during the shutdown.

The notice said that anyone who showed a valid federal government-issued ID would be eligible for the offer of a free coffee and breakfast burrito. The deal was at any participating location but will not extend to drive-thru and mobile orders.

Whataburger’s communications office said the brand will honor the offer until further notice. In the face of a government shutdown it is great to see private entities step in and help where the government has failed.

US Economy

It wasn’t a good week for US stocks, with very few gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones decreased to 24,737.20 on Friday, decreasing by -153.11 points, or -0.62 percent under its Jan 18 close of 24,706.35. The S&P 500 decreased by -28.38 points or -1.06 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq had a decreased on Friday by -1.17 percent.

This comes on news from Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross that the US and China are still “miles and miles” away from coming to terms on a trade deal. The stock market was acting relatively positive on news that China has offered to buy over $1 trillion worth of US goods to eliminate the trade deficit, but optimism tanked after Ross’s comments.

Venezuela in Crisis

On Jan. 23, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela Juan Guaido swore himself in as ‘interim president’. The United States, Canada, Brazil, UK, Argentina, Costa Rica, and many other regional allies have backed Guaido’s move, while the countries of Mexico, Cuba, Russia, Turkey, China, and Iran have decided to support Nicolás Maduro’s claim to the presidency.

“As president of the National Assembly, before God and Venezuela, I swear to formally assume the competencies of the national executive as interim president of Venezuela,” Guaidó declared before an opposition rally in eastern Caracas.

President Trump immediately recognized his claim. “I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy,” Trump said.

The US and regional allies were quick to issue their statements due to suspicions that the 2017 Venezuelan presidential election was rigged in favor of the incumbent president Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuelan authorities denounced what they have termed a “coup attempt” led by the United States. “This coup attempt that is being unleashed in the country is the most unwise effort by imperialism and its lackeys in the Venezuelan opposition,” Maduro said to supporters. Maduro has also given all US diplomatic personnel 72 hours to leave the country.

The situation in Venezuela is a unique chance to see if one of the old socialist regimes in the Americas will finally fall and how powerful the US is with her regional allies against the two other superpowers involved, China and Russia. As it currently stands, Maduro’s regime does not look like it has much longer to live in this world bringing an end to another oppressive socialist regime and giving hope to the people of Venezuela.

Gun Owners vs New York City

On Jan. 22, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear its first 2nd Amendment case in a decade, concerning a strict New York City ordinance that bars a legal owner of a handgun from taking it to a shooting range outside the city.

The city says it allows gun owners to seek hard-to-obtain permits to legally carry a handgun if they have good cause. They may also obtain a “premises” permit to keep a handgun at home, allowing them to carry an unloaded handgun to a shooting range inside the city but not to a shooting range outside the city.

Justices will consider the case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Assn. vs. New York, in the fall. If they take the case, then a final ruling is not expected until early 2020.

Their lawyer, former US Solicitor General Paul Clement, urged them to take the issue to a higher court after losing in the US 2nd Court of Appeals. Clement called the “city’s transport ban an extreme, unjustified and irrational restriction on 2nd Amendment rights. … There is absolutely no evidence that transporting an unloaded firearm, locked in a container separate from its ammunition, presents a material public safety risk.”

The New York City ordinance is an extreme and needless burden on the gun owners of New York and the Supreme Court should reaffirm the 2nd Amendment rights of New York citizens and rule this law unconstitutional.

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.

The Darsch Report: Jan. 7 – 13

Tarrant County GOP

In Tarrant County on Jan. 10th, county GOP officials overwhelmingly voted against a motion to oust Vice-Chairman Shahid Shafi because he is a Muslim. Precinct chairs voted 139-49 in favor of the trauma surgeon and Southlake City Council member.

After the vote, Shafi told members of the press, “As an immigrant to this great country, I am honored and privileged to receive the support of my fellow Republicans. We need to learn to trust each other so we can create a more perfect union every day.”

Those in favor of removing Shafi from office argued that he cannot represent all Tarrant County Republicans because of his religion. Some also stated that they supported the initiative because Islamic ideologies run counter to the American constitution.

The vote drew national attention as well as condemnation from some of the state’s top Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey. Dickey went on the day after the vote, “We look forward to working with all Republicans to fight for lower taxes, quality education, and to continue our booming economy through Republican leadership.”

Conservatives should applaud the 139 County Party members in Tarrant County who voted against such a bigoted act against a fellow conservative. In these times, Republicans need to unite over a common sense of values and beliefs and not try to divide each other over things that shouldn’t matter like race, creed or religion.

Ohio HQ Moving to SA

Investment management company Victory Capital Holdings Inc. is also moving its corporate headquarters from Cleveland to San Antonio and adding with it 50 jobs on top of the 300 they acquired from their November acquisition of an arm of USAA.

According to the company, the city, and the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF), the 50-plus new jobs will average a base salary of $96,000. Because of the HQ move, the company’s CEO David Brown, as well as five other senior executives, will be moving to the San Antonio area.

However, the city incentivized the move with tax dollars. As San Antonio Express-News reports, “San Antonio and Bexar County officials have agreed to give Victory Capital $750,000 in tax incentives for the move. The city projects a $945 million economic effect and $460,000 in tax revenue from the headquarters over the next decade.” On top of this, Brown cites the area’s 160,000 college students, population growth particularly among millennials, low cost of living and information technology presence as what sealed the deal.

Although it may be a gamble, this may also be good news for the city of San Antonio and Texas in general as it continues to expand not only its job growth but growth in information technology as well. Perhaps this move will be another step toward having a tech area in the US that can rival Silicon Valley.

The US Economy

It was a good week for US stocks, with multiple gains in the stock market. The Dow Jones increased to 23,995.95 on Friday, increasing by +522.79 points, or +2.18 percent over its Jan 4th close of 23,433.16. The S&P 500 increased by +64.32 points or +2.48 percent on Friday. In addition, the Nasdaq had an increase on Friday by +3.34 percent.

The US economy is also looking really good. The GDPNow forecast from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta expects the US economy to have grown around 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. If this holds true then the US will have exceeded 3 percent annual growth for the first time since 2005 with a growth rate of 3.15 percent.

With this strong showing from the US economy, we also expect a good performance in 2019. It would be unsurprising if 2019 GDP growth exceeds the expected 2.4 percent, especially if Trump is able to negotiate a new trade deal with China to end the trade war.

2020 Mania has Begun

It is only the second week of January but already there are many heavy contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Julian Castro, former San Antonio mayor and US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary, and Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaiian representative, have officially declared that they are running for president. Meanwhile, California Senator Kamala Harris will make an official announcement of her decision on Jan 19th and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has taken some steps that suggest a presidential run.

If Harris, Gillibrand and Warren all decide to officially run, the three will bring the total number of declared Democratic candidates to eleven. Along with these eleven, there are an additional twenty-nine speculative candidates who have made no official announcements, from well-known politicians like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke to not so well-known like Eric Garcetti, Tim Ryan, and Howard Schultz.

In the two most recent polls conducted by Public Policy Polling and the Morning Consult, the results don’t look that good for any of these candidates. In the PPP survey of 750 people in North Carolina, they asked participants if they would vote for Trump or a democratic candidate. The results were as follows: Biden 49-44, Booker 45-46, Harris 45-45, Beto 45-46, Sanders 48-45, Warren 46-46. In the Morning Consult poll of 1989 registered voters, they polled who people would vote for in the 2020 Democratic primary. Biden polled with 17 percent, Warren 3 percent, Sanders 12 percent, Beto 4 percent, and Harris 1 percent; the other candidates mentioned weren’t listed.

It is much too early to tell what will happen over the next year and a half but for now, it will be very interesting to see how polls shift in the coming months.

Government Shutdown

As of Sunday, January 13th, the US Federal government has entered its 23rd day of a partial shutdown, the longest ever. On Friday, January 11th, some 800,000 government employees missed their first paycheck, of whom:

  • 380,000 are furloughed
  • 420,000 are still working without pay, according to CBS News

Some have blamed the shutdown on the unwillingness of congressional Democrats to find a compromise on Trump’s demand of $5 billion for a border wall. Top Republican lawmakers have criticized Democratic leadership for not putting any counter-offers on the table.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, an ardent supporter of Trump’s efforts to build a wall, criticized Democrats who have condemned Trump’s proposed wall but previously voted in favor of other bills, such as the Secure Fence Act of 2006, that build barriers on the border. “It really does perplex me how you expect this to end when you tell the president of the United States, ‘you get one dollar for a wall’ when in the past Democrats have appropriated billions for the wall,” Graham said.

According to GovTrack, 59 percent of Senate Democrats (including Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer) voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which allowed fencing to be built along much of the US-Mexico border. In the House, however, only 31 percent of Democrats voted for the bill. Rep. Nancy Pelosi voted against it.

We are currently in the longest government shutdown in US history. This is not the time for Congressmen to devolve into useless bickering. Trump is going to find some way—any way—to get the wall built and it is in the Democrats’ best interest to negotiate. Perhaps a DACA for Wall deal, as was suggested in late 2017, could be a possible solution.

UT-YCT Doxxing

This week a doxxing group at the University of Texas released names, photos, emails and numbers of over 30 students who have attended Young Conservative of Texas (YCT) meeting and lectures held by conservative speakers. Saurabh Sharma, 21, leads the UT chapter of YCT and is the statewide chairman of the organization. Many of Sharma’s cabinet members have been doxxed and he says the fallout has been immense.

“It hasn’t impacted all our members… but it has discouraged many from staying involved,” Sharma told PJ Media on Monday. Many of the students were doxxed for simply liking conservative pages on Facebook.

Unfortunately, the doxxing blog will not be taken down any time soon because the hosting server is a well-known ‘anti-fascist’ server. Hopefully the students responsible will be found and those affected will be able to return back to a normal life.