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.


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.


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.


Reflections on Revolutions: a review of Age of Revolutions by Fareed Zakaria (Max J. Prowant, 5/21/24, Law & Liberty)

According to Zakaria, we are living in a revolutionary age, both in our domestic politics and in the world at large. Domestically, the traditional left-right divide is changing. For decades, the dividing line between left and right was economic in nature; conservatives wanted tax cuts, deregulation, and a smaller federal government whereas liberals wanted to preserve and expand a host of entitlement programs. Both, however, operated within a broad liberal framework that located the ends of government in the protection of individual rights. That is no longer the case. The divide now concerns the “open” versus “closed” societies where moral and ideational issues are more determinant of a person’s vote than tax cuts and spending. Internationally we are seeing a similar “revolution” against the US-backed liberal order uniting the world through free trade, collective action, and easy immigration. This revolution, led by an array of demagogues and populists, prefers tighter borders and national identity instead of globalism.

Resistance to the moral obligations that are imposed by our having been Created is understandable, but futile. It’s particularly hard to convince young people, who are brought up in our diverse society, that some of their friends are qualitatively lesser.


Beyond Schmitt (John Ehrett, 5/20/24, Ad Fontes)

Unlike Vermeule, these Protestant thinkers are not drawn to Schmitt because of his fascination with executive administration. Instead, many Protestant commentators on Schmitt take up a theme far more basic to his thought: his claim that the essence of the “political” is the distinction between “friend” and “enemy.”

There is, of course, a sense in which this definition is trivially true. If there were no disagreements between people, there would be no “politics” in any familiar sense of the term. But it is the sheer bleakness of Schmitt’s characterization of the “enemy” that distinguishes his paradigm. In his best-known work, The Concept of the Political, Schmitt argues that the distinction is not just descriptive of, but constitutive of, politics as such.[6] That is to say, in the strictest sense politics is not merely about the organized human pursuit of some common good or other. It requires, at its root, an other destined for destruction.

Schmitt makes the matter quite clear: the “enemy” is one whom one seeks to annihilate. Concepts of “friend” and “enemy,” on Schmitt’s model, “receive their real meaning precisely because they refer to the real possibility of physical killing. War follows from enmity. “War is the existential negation of the enemy.”[7] An irreducibly violent agonism, which must inform how leaders and citizens alike relate to external “others,” lies at the very heart of politics as such.

If Schmitt is right, then anyone engaged in the business of politics must ask a fateful question: Who, then, is my enemy?

The very question—an inversion of the parable of the Good Samaritan—rings odd to Christian ears. What about Jesus’s command to love your enemies? It seems strange to identify individuals (functionally) excluded from the horizon of Christian concern.

Identitarianism is anti-Christian.


The Case For Open Borders: Journalist John Washington debunks common anti-immigrant myths and explains why free movement is a human right. (NATHAN J. ROBINSON, 5/17/24, Current Affairs)

One of the strangest things is that the places in the country that have the largest immigrant populations, like New York City, people there don’t think it’s going to be a threat to their culture if there’s immigration because they know that the whole vibrancy of the city is built on its diversity.

Except maybe for Mayor Adams and most of the NYPD police force. His arguments are really insulting to history, to the legacy that the current status of New York City as a city was really built by immigrants, or, going back to our last point, by invaders. Does he think that 170,000 people over a little bit more than two years is a threat? Actually, Adams has described it as an existential threat to New York City. It’s almost laughable, but it’s actually just stupid.

You can point back to so many different moments in New York City’s history and say, actually, the percentage of people who were coming at that moment in the early 20th century, and in the mid-19th century, 30 percent of the population was coming in a six-month period. Right now, it’s about 1 percent of the population coming over in a two-year period, to a robust economy. What’s going to change in New York City? There’s going to be some more stands in Queens—what is the actual change that we will see in New York? It takes some work to help orient people and to welcome them. But also, these people are barred from working right now—most of them are. Adams, to his credit, has actually addressed that point that we should give them work visas and let them actually do the work that they came here to do rather than trying to force them to rely on handouts.


The myth of “woke” indoctrination at American universities (JUDD LEGUM, MAY 16, 2024, Popular Information)

Open Syllabus, a non-profit group, collects syllabi from colleges and universities. The group has collected over 5.5 million syllabi at more than 4,000 American institutions of higher learning. The data is not comprehensive because Open Syllabus relies mostly on publicly available data. But it is the most robust database of what is actually taught on campus in the U.S.

Data collected by Open Syllabus reveals that, in 2023, “woke” terms like “critical race theory,” “structural racism,” or “transgender” appear in just 0.08% of college and university syllabi. These are all legitimate areas of inquiry but are derided by critics as evidence of academia’s decline. In any event, the data shows they are not significant components of college and university curricula.

Even generic terms that encompass these terms appear in relatively few syllabi. The term “race” — allegedly an obsession of the modern university — appears in only 2.8% of the syllabi collected by Open Syllabus in 2023. Moreover, the prevalence of “race” in syllabi has remained relatively consistent over the last 15 years. Similarly, “gender” appeared in 4.7% of syllabi in 2023 — a rate that has held fairly steady since 2008.


A gunman shot Slovakia’s prime minister. Here’s what you need to know. (MICHAL ONDERCO, MAY 15, 2024, Good Authority)

We do not know much about the motivation of the alleged shooter, who was apprehended quickly. While his immediate comments at the police station hinted at his political opposition to some of Fico’s recent domestic policy moves, journalists quickly dug up earlier racist anti-Roma texts, and his earlier affinity with Slovak Levies, a paramilitary group with ties to Russia.