Time for super shorts. Not hot pants, but short Watchdog items about matters that may affect your life.
Chrome’s emergency patch
Do you use Google’s Chrome browser on the Internet? I hope you already know about the urgent upgrade that contains an emergency patch.
The new “zero-day” hack also affects Apple’s macOS, Microsoft Windows, Edge and Linux.
A zero-day hack gets its name because a vulnerability is discovered by hackers before Google can fix it.
The good news is the fix is easy and takes seconds. To update Chrome, at the top right click the three dots. Click help, then About Google Chrome. Click update Google Chrome — and if you can’t find an update click then you already have the latest browser. Finally, click relaunch.
For those who use other browsers, do a web search on the specific steps to update your particular browser (which we should be doing anyway if it’s not set to auto-update).
Southfork Ranch mystery
The Watchdog is getting closer to learning the fate of global tourist attraction Southfork Ranch in Parker. The home of TV’s Ewing family is in jeopardy, but no one is publicly saying why.
Yet 2,300 people have signed a change.org petition that claims to be started by a Mr. J.R. Ewing. Save the ranch from developers, the petition pleads.
The petition states that an unknown developer “intends to scrap it and parcel it off to tract home builders.”
The petition quotes J.R. as saying, “I’m buried there for crying out loud!”
The city of Parker has enacted a building moratorium, but city officials tell me that has nothing to do with the sale of Southfork, which a Realtor told me is under contract.
I know one thing: If J.R. were still around, this would not be happening.
Home warranty complaints
Several months ago, I reported how the Texas Real Estate Commission regulates home warranty companies. I’ve since learned that power has been transferred to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
If a company mistreats you on air conditioning (a common complaint) or any other warranty problem file a protest with TDLR.
However, if it’s a new home warranty, complaints should go to the Texas Department of Insurance.
Austin’s IRS center is saved
A week ago I recommended that you should only send your IRS tax forms to the Austin service center. I’ve since learned that used to be true.
Now many Texas forms are steered to North Carolina or other centers. So use whatever address is on your tax form.
Note: I also learned there was talk of closing the Austin IRS center, but that got scuttled. IRS officials announced in February their decision to keep it open.
Do not call list is a farce
I received an email that caused me to laugh and cry at the same time. It was a reminder to renew my phone numbers on the national Do Not Call Registry.
In between the eight spam calls I got that day, I did it.
Renew Texas license-to-carry gun permit?
Similarly, in another blast from the past, I received a renewal letter from the Texas Department of Public Safety asking me to pay $40 to renew my license-to-carry permit.
With the new “Constitutional carry” law allowing you to openly carry a handgun without a license, without training, without practice, why would anyone pay $40 when you don’t have to?
Turns out the license helps when you travel with a weapon out of state and for certain gun purchases. Also, college campuses still require the old license.
But I renewed so I could test an urban legend. I’ve read that if a police officer stops you for a traffic offense, you’re supposed to hand over your driver’s license and your license to carry. The officer, according to urban folklore, supposedly lets you go.
I wonder if that’s true.
Richardson police lawsuit
In case you missed it, Richardson Police Officer Kayla Walker has filed a lawsuit against her city. As The Watchdog has reported, she is challenging illegal traffic tickets quotas.
In the suit, Walker and Officer David Conklin are asking a Dallas County judge to declare the department’s practices illegal.
The Watchdog revealed emails from multiple supervisors to patrol officers that appeared to show a quota system in place.
Police Chief Gary L. Tittle has said there are no quotas.
Dan Patrick is anti-freedom
Nobody asked me, but I think Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s proposal to, in his words, eliminate “tenure at all public universities in Texas” shows, as the expression goes, that he’s a might shy in schoolhouse learning.
Patrick scoffs at the idea of academic freedom. I say there’s nothing more important on a college campus because professors need the freedom to teach as they wish. And what an awful image to present to the rest of the world. Talented young professors seeking a permanent home would avoid Texas and take a different trail to other universities that do offer tenure.
U.S. Supreme Court rules against Texas gadfly
David Wilson was a former elected trustee of Houston Community College who made it his mission to criticize the public college leadership.
Called a “gadfly legislator” by one federal judge, Wilson sued the district, set up robocalls to further his cause and hired a private investigator to find out the true address of one of his board colleagues.
The other trustees decided to censure Wilson even though a censure is essentially meaningless. Still, it doesn’t look good on your public service record.
Wilson sued the board, claiming that the repudiation violated his First Amendment free speech rights.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled against him. Wilson can be a gadfly, but he can’t hide behind the First Amendment to block a censure, the high court ruled.
So he can do his thing, and the board can do theirs. Everybody gets to blast everyone. Hooray. I guess.
Final note: In this record-breaking real estate year, save the date for The Watchdog’s 5th annual Property Tax Protest Seminar, online, at 4 p.m. on April 21. Signup details to come.
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The Dallas Morning News Watchdog column is the 2019 winner of the top prize for column writing from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. The contest judge called his winning entries “models of suspenseful storytelling and public service.”
Read his winning columns:
* Helping the widow of Officer J.D. Tippit, the Dallas police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, get buried beside her late husband
* Helping a waitress who was harmed by an unscrupulous used car dealer