Inside the Texas Pardons Board’s Unusual Role in Freeing Racist Murderer Daniel Perry (Andrew Logan, May. 24th, 2024, Texas Monthly)

The board’s pardon recommendation came as a shock to many familiar with the Perry case. All seven members of the board, appointed by Abbott, were respected by pardons lawyers in the state. “We entered this process believing that the members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles were people of integrity who would put the law above politics,” Garza told Texas Monthly. “We were wrong.”

Almost from the start, Perry’s case proceeded through the board in an unusual manner. A day after the guilty verdict, in April 2023, Abbott publicly called for Perry’s clemency and announced that he had instructed the board to expedite the review process, even though Texas law states that a full pardon will not be considered for anyone currently in prison except under “exceptional circumstances.” (Unlike full pardons, commutations can be considered without “exceptional circumstances” for those serving prison sentences.) Typically, exceptions apply to cases in which new evidence of innocence is presented. Here, however, what appears to have been exceptional was the pressure from Abbott. Although the governor has the legal authority to request a pardon, Abbott had never done so in his then eight-plus years in office. “The board hasn’t voiced or identified any [exceptional circumstances], so the only thing that comes to mind is the special intrusion of a craven politician in the pardon process,” said Gary Cohen, a parole attorney who has been practicing for more than thirty years and who has consulted with the board on its parole system.

Less than a week after Abbott’s promise, Texas district court judge Cliff Brown, who presided over the trial, released a trove of social media posts and texts written by Perry ahead of his sentencing. These documents revealed racist comments and fantasies of killing Black Lives Matter protesters, as well as messages to apparent minors. “No nudes until you are old enough to be of age,” Perry wrote to a girl who claimed to be sixteen years old. “I am going to bed come up with a reason why I should be your boyfriend before I wake up.”

Many legal experts speculated that the board would drag its feet and provide political cover for Abbott. The governor could claim to his right-wing supporters that he’d tried to pardon Perry, without actually having to do so. Garza, however, wanted assurances. He called Bettie Wells, general counsel for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Normally, when the board reviews cases, input from the involved parties is given through written statements, not in-person meetings. But given the political nature of the pardon, Garza wanted a face-to-face conference. He says Wells told him on the call not to worry about showing up yet. The review of Perry’s pardon was going to take a while, she said, which Garza took as a sign that the board wasn’t making the case a priority, despite Abbott’s public pronouncement that he was “working [on it] as swiftly as Texas law allows.”

Wells and David Gutiérrez, the chairman of the pardons board, declined requests for interviews but responded with a statement. “Pursuant to Governor Abbott’s request, the Board of Pardons and Paroles conducted a thirteen-month investigation, after which, the Board recommended the Governor grant a full pardon,” they wrote. “By statute, the information obtained and maintained concerning the investigation is privileged and confidential.”

When Garza checked back in on the case in late January 2024, he learned on a phone call with Wells that the board had met with Perry’s defense counsel. It had also heard testimony from Detective David Fugitt, the lead investigator on the case, who did not arrest Perry the night of the killing because he believed the Uber driver could have acted in self-defense. Perry’s lawyers had argued in front of the board that Garza had committed witness tampering by forcing Fugitt to remove exculpatory evidence from his presentation to the grand jury, a claim that Brown, the judge, had dismissed during pretrial arguments. Also distressing to Garza was the revelation by Wells that the defense counsel had provided the board with the grand jury transcripts, presumably to dispute the grand jury’s decision to indict Perry, based on the allegation that Garza tampered with one of the witnesses. Garza told Wells he felt the transcripts should be secret and were potentially unlawful for the defendant to distribute.


Hit Man: Gary Johnson is the most sought-after professional killer in Houston. In the past decade, he’s been hired to kill more than sixty people. But if you pay him to rub out a cheating spouse or an abusive boss, you’d better watch your own back: He works for the cops. (Skip Hollandsworth, October 2001, Texas Monthly)

On a nice, quiet street in a nice, quiet neighborhood just north of Houston lives a nice, quiet man. He is 54 years old, tall but not too tall, thin but not too thin, with short brown hair that has turned gray around the sideburns. He has soft brown eyes. He sometimes wears wire-rimmed glasses that give him a scholarly appearance.

The man lives alone with his two cats. Every morning, he pads barefoot into the kitchen to feed his cats, then he steps out the back door to feed the goldfish that live in a small pond. He takes a few minutes to tend to his garden, which is filled with caladiums and lilies, gardenias and wisteria, a Japanese plum tree, and rare green roses. Sometimes the man sits silently on a little bench by the goldfish pond, next to a small sculpture of a Balinese dancer. He breathes in and out, calming his mind. Or he goes back inside his house, where he sits in his recliner in the living room and reads. He reads Shakespeare, psychiatrist Carl Jung, and Gandhi. He even keeps a book of Gandhi’s quotations on his coffee table. One of his favorites is “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

He is always polite, his neighbors say. He smiles when they see him, and he says hello in a light, gentle voice. But he reveals little about himself, they say. When he is asked what he does for a living, he says only that he works in “human resources” at a company downtown. Then he smiles one more time, and he heads back inside his house.

What the neighbors don’t know is that in his bedroom, next to his four-poster bed, the man has a black telephone, on which he receives very unusual calls.

“We’ve got something for you,” a voice says when he answers. “A new client.”

“Okay,” the man says.

The voice on the other end of the line tells him that a husband is interested in ending his marriage or that a wife would like to be single again or that an entrepreneur is ready to dissolve a relationship with a partner.

The man hangs up and returns to his recliner. He thinks about what service he should offer his new client. A car bombing, perhaps. Or maybe a drive-by shooting. Or he can always bring up the old standby, the faked residential burglary.

As he sits in his recliner, his cats jump onto his lap. They purr as he strokes them behind their ears. The man sighs, then he returns to his reading. “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed,” wrote Gandhi. “Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”


We can, and should, return to our nation’s economic ideals (Samuel Gregg, May 24, 2024, Washington Examiner)

Put simply: Key Founders believed that America’s future was to be one in which dynamic trade, entrepreneurial spiritedness and, commercial audacity would define society — not aristocratic priorities. The “republic” side of the equation was that these market freedoms would be grounded upon institutions and virtues derived from those same classical, religious, and Enlightenment sources: virtues that don’t just grease the wheels of commerce, but which, as Adam Smith wrote, are nothing less than “excellence, something uncommonly great and beautiful.”

Put another way: America isn’t meant to be a facsimile of Western European social democracy. America isn’t meant to be an outpost of Central European traditionalism. America isn’t meant to regard the federal government as its economic savior. America is meant to be something unique, something exceptional.

Today’s America is far removed from the civilization of ideas upon which it is built. Its polar opposites — populism, demagoguery — stalk the land. Our fiscal house is a shambles. Our economy is riddled with regulation, welfarism, bureaucracy, and cronyism. And those who Adam Smith called “men of system” have emerged across the political spectrum to demand even more power to direct that economy from the top-down. From left to right, interventionist hubris is in, and economic humility is out.

But we should not despair. Bad ideas are powerful, but good ideas are difficult to keep down.


Heat battery system hits record efficiency for grid-scale energy storage (Michael Irving, May 27, 2024, New Atlas)

A new heat battery design has reached a record power conversion efficiency of 44%. This thermophotovoltaic cell is a major step on the way to sustainable grid-scale energy storage from renewable sources.

With renewable energy prices dropping fast, the barrier now is their intermittency – the first point any renewable energy skeptic will throw at you is “but what happens at night or when the wind isn’t blowing?” A little thing called “batteries” can help there, and there’s no shortage of grid-scale storage systems that can save energy for (literally) rainy days. […]

“We’re not yet at the efficiency limit of this technology,” said Stephen Forrest, contributing author of the study. “I am confident that we will get higher than 44% and be pushing 50% in the not-too-distant future.”


The Perils of Right-Wing Economic Populism: A Conversation with Economist Ryan Bourne: The new right is embracing progressive economics to advance its regressive cultural agenda (AARON ROSS POWELL,
MAY 20, 2024, The UnPopulist)

Last month, Aaron Ross Powell sat down with Ryan Bourne, who is the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute, to discuss the new right’s adoption of populist economics. The following Q&A has been adapted from their conversation on Aaron’s ReImagining Liberty podcast.

Aaron Ross Powell: Ryan, you’re an expert in the public understanding of economics. I want to ask you about an important shift that’s taken place since Trump’s takeover of the conservative movement. People on the right used to talk about the importance of free enterprise—certainly that was an emphasis of Reagan-era conservatism. Today, the right has a much more populist perspective on economics. What do they misunderstand about markets?

Ryan Bourne: As economists, we tend to think markets are quite valuable for society. They enable people to convey their subjective preferences about goods and services. Suppliers use those signals to try to meet our wants. In this and other ways, markets are incredibly pluralistic.

The new right, by contrast, believes markets deliver suboptimal outcomes. It thinks we should use the power of the state—through tax regulation and subsidies, tools progressivism has traditionally used to advance a particular social design—in pursuit of the national interest or common good. This makes its view more of a social theory of markets than a purely economic one. The new right’s insistence on a much larger manufacturing sector, a heavy industrial base, families that look a bit more traditional (single-income households, wife as homemaker)—these require configuring markets toward a specific set of social goals.

So instead of seeing markets as an economic mechanism that reflects our pluralism and enables us to satisfy our subjective preferences and desires, they conceive of them as vehicles toward a particular social vision. They set out what they perceive to be the national interest or common good and they’re willing to use the powers of the state to impose it. […]

An interesting feature of the new right is they’ve adopted an economic history of the last half-century that is distinctly progressive in that it believes we have been living under a radical libertarian experiment.


Trump Voters Don’t Just Expect Higher Inflation—They Get It Too: There has always been a difference between how Republicans and Democrats view the economy. But the gap has gotten bigger. (Justin Lahart, 5/25/24, WSJ)

Inflation estimates provided by Moody’s Analytics, combined with voting data, show that states where Donald Trump garnered the most votes in 2020 have on balance experienced higher inflation.

For example, South Carolina experienced the most inflation of any state since the pandemic hit. Its consumer prices rose at a 4.88% annual rate between December 2019 and last month. South Carolina elected Trump with 56% of the votes cast between him and President Biden in 2020.

In contrast, New Hampshire had the least inflation of any state, with prices rising at a 3.75% rate. It elected Biden with 54% of the Trump/Biden vote.

Just as importantly, Binder and her co-authors found that people in Republican-leaning states were more likely to expect that higher inflation. While feelings might seem superfluous, economists and policymakers widely believe that expectations do matter. If people think more inflation is coming, that can lead to higher inflation in fact.


C. S. Lewis & Maksym Kryvtsov: The Experience of War and Godforsakenness (Yuliia Vintoniv, May 20, 2024, Church Life Journal)

The multifaceted experience of Christ’s cry: the raw intensity of “cursing in fight and toiling,” and the desperate plea of “Stop! Stop it! Enough!” These evocative expressions paint a vivid picture of godforsakenness—that moment when grief plunges so deep that even faith and hope seem to waver. Yet, nestled within this existential struggle lies the possibility of kenosis, a self-emptying love we discover through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.

Biblical commentators highlight Christ’s cry as a powerful expression of human despair and a desperate plea for help from the gathered crowd. This interpretation draws support from the Greek text, where words like βοάω (Mark) and ἀναβοάω (Matthew) signify a loud cry or an anguished outburst. Notably, Christ re-utters this cry at the very moment of his death (Matt 27:50; Mark 15:37; Lk 23:46). This echoes the cry that raised Lazarus from the tomb (Jn 11:43) and mirrors the cry accompanying the angel’s dramatic arrival in the Book of Revelation (Rev 10:3).[6] However, other exegetes offer a distinct perspective. They argue that Christ’s experience of Godforsakenness signifies him taking on not only the burden of “sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), but also the very consequence of sin itself: the agonizing separation from God and existence outside God the Father’s divine presence (cf. Gen 1-3). In this interpretation, Christ plunges into the depths of sin without succumbing to it himself.

Such exegetes simply can not accept God having become fully human.


Civilization is from the Jews (Andrew Doran, May 25, 2024, European Conservative)

Most will agree that civilized behavior, at a minimum, consists of abstaining from ritualistic torture, rape, sexual mutilation, human sacrifice, cannibalism, and related conduct. Yet for most of human history such conduct was normative and often sacralized. Habits of ritual violence and scapegoating to satisfy blood lust and communal anxiety were ubiquitous.

Human sacrifice was a near-universal practice in primitive pagan societies, even among sophisticated pagans. Greeks had elaborate religious rituals for killing their pharmokoi (scapegoats). Romans buried sacrificial victims alive in religious rituals to spare Rome from enemies like the Carthaginians, and though human sacrifice was later banned, crucifixion, mass executions, and murderous entertainment continued until banished in the Christian era. The Carthaginians, like their Phoenician and Canaanite ancestors, sacrificed their own children, as did many Mediterranean peoples. Aztec, Maya, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian civilizations all had rituals for human sacrifice.

Ritualistic violence among low pagans was less well documented but often more horrific. Christians from the medieval to modern eras, travelers like Ahmad ibn Fadlan and Samuel de Champlain, and missionaries all personally witnessed ritualized torture, murder, and cannibalism, from North America to Northern Europe and Asia. Celtic and Baltic, Germanic and Angle, Comanche and Guanche—more peoples partook than can be numbered because most have gone extinct. Ritualistic barbarity was universal.

We probably cling to the myth of the noble savage despite the evidence because the truth—that we all descend from inbred cannibals who made a sacred ritual of torture, rape, sexual mutilation, child sacrifice, and murder—is too unpleasant. We have no desire to confront our history, ourselves, or what the world looks like with different gods. The earth beneath us is a vast crime scene, and those of us walking around descend from something far worse than our simian ancestors. Apes are incapable of the tortures humans inflict on one another.

So what brought most of that savagery to an end? And why do we believe in universal moral norms that restrain violent impulse rather than indulge it? Each inquirer is free to examine cause and effect throughout history. But if by progress we mean the spread of universal concepts of human dignity, equality, and morality—rather than, say, democracy or roads or sound architecture or law—then it all began with the Hebrews. It was the Jews who gave us monotheism, universal moral standards, the notion of the human person, and much else besides. Civilizational progress came from the Abrahamic faiths—unevenly, imperfectly, and undeniably.

Sacrificial violence and scapegoating were cathartic. They satisfy blood lust and the innate sense that there is injustice, that something is wrong, and that someone ought to be held to account, hence the sacrificial victim. The Hebrews shifted the violent cathartic urge from man to creature, and Christians shifted it to bread and water.

There are of course examples of civilized conduct among high pagans, though many of these had a threshold for quotidian violence that we conveniently ignore. And there are Abrahamic peoples who, often in the name of God, inflict unspeakable violence—much of it on each other, and the worst of it on the Jews. However, in general, civilized conduct among high pagans requires a deviation from pagan norms, and uncivilized behavior among Abrahamic communities requires a deviation from their own morality. Sorting through the genealogy and authenticity of moral systems today is nearly impossible for many reasons. Suffice it to say, most of us behave very differently from our pagan ancestors—and why we do so has everything to do with Judaism.


America’s Third Founding: May 24, 1924, the Immigration Act of 1924 (David J. Bier, 5/24/24, Cato at Liberty)

The third founding occurred on May 24, 1924, when President Calvin Coolidge signed the National Origins Quota Act, which imposed the first permanent cap on legal immigration. Prior to the 1924 Act, all would‐​be immigrants were presumed eligible to immigrate unless the government had evidence showing that they were ineligible. The 1924 law replaced this system with the guilty‐​until‐​proven‐​innocent, Soviet‐​style quota system that we have today.

No law has so radically altered the demographics, economy, politics, and liberty of the United States and the world. It has massively reduced American population growth from immigrants and their descendants by hundreds of millions, diminishing economic growth and limiting the power and influence of this country. Post‐​1924 Americans are not free to associate, contract, and trade with people born around the world as they were before.

The legal restrictions have erected a massive and nearly impenetrable bureaucracy between Americans and their relatives, spouses, children, employees, friends, business associates, customers, employers, faith leaders, artists, and other peaceful people who could contribute to our lives. It has made the world a much poorer and less free place for Americans and people globally, necessitating the construction of a massive law enforcement apparatus to enforce these restrictions.