Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Stakeholder...

..Picks Up Congressman Carter's (mis?)Statement
The Stakeholder is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Weblog, So Many Crooks, So Little Time


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Craddick, TRMPAC, DeLay Update

Is the noose tightening around Tom Craddick? Records chronicle Craddick-PAC ties
The contacts and cooperation between Mr. Craddick and Texans for a Republican Majority were so extensive that two experts on state campaign laws say that the ban on outside influence in speaker races may have been violated. Mr. Craddick's attorney said the activities were nowhere close to illegal.
More on the TRMPAC scandal, TRMPAC in Its Own Words. They always hurt the most. That article is from The Texas Observer, always a great resource. So is this one, Texas Democrats Can Win on Values.

Speaking of values, or the lack thereof, the DNC has put together a Case File on Tom Delay, check it out.


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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Congressman Carter Explains What Has Caused The Problem With Social Security

This was posted as a comment to my earlier post, John Carter and Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay and John Carter. It is an eyewitness account of what happened at one of Congressman Carter's “town hall” meetings on the president's Social Security privatization scheme.
John Carter visited Round Rock and a few other cities over President's day weekend on his mission from Bush to drum up support for the Privatization of Social Security. During that meeting, he actually stated "If it weren't for all these people having these abortions and using birth control we'd have enough workforce to support Social Security from now on". The room was aghast. Immediately I said "There is tons of unemployment now!" Others joined in "Our jobs are being outsourced" and "our factories are closing down!". Carter knew he had made a big mistake,and turned sideways to pack up his papers so that he wouldn't have to look any of us in the eye as he continued his denials of our claims. As he walked down the aisle to leave, he was still answering someone's question about the "privatization" of Social Security and he actually said "Oh I am not supposed to call it 'Privatization'. If my aide hears me say 'Privatization' one more time she'll choke me" I do hope Tom DeLay relies on John Carter for legal counsel. He is one dull cookie.
In our Republican dominated county I can find no media reference to these comments, so far, but that is not surprising. Was there any local media at this "town hall" meeting? If so they should have reported this. If this statement was made Congressman Carter needs to clarify his statement at the least. Let's hold Congressman Carter to account. Contact him here.


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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

This Is A Great Article On ...

How to Turn Your Red State Blue


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Why One Party Rule Is Bad

When one party controls an entity, say a county government, it breeds corruption and a feeling that they are above the law. The arrest of RRISD school board vice president Steven Copenhaver helps prove this point. Mr. Copenhaver has given $2,500 to Congressman John Carter over the last 3 years. The fact that no other contributions show up for Mr. Copenhaver would lead one to believe that he is a Republican. Mr. Copenhaver is a defense attorney. Don't Republicans, like John Carter, hate defense attorneys? Why is John Carter taking money from a hated defense attorney? Well I guess if it's a Republican defense attorney it's not as bad!

For all the sordid details of this case, mugshot and arrest warrant, you can go here. Be warned, what Mr. Copenhaver was asking for is spelled out in the arrest warrant.


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Monday, March 28, 2005

We Need To See This On A Daily Basis From The State Party
Chairman Soechting Blasts GOP Gas Tax
"The GOP's all-out assault on the middle-class has now officially become intolerable," Soechting said. "With this proposal, Republicans have shown that they are running out of gas and may soon be run out of office."

The GOP gas tax hike, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Krusee (R-Round Rock), would peg the price of gasoline to the consumer price index so that gasoline prices would automatically rise with inflation -- without the need for lawmakers to vote to raise gas taxes in the future.
That last part is the most insidious. It's a one time Republican tax increase on that hurts the poor the most, a regressive tax, and it just rises automatically. It's a Republican tax increase that keeps on giving.

This Statesman article, Peering under the radar at transportation bills, lists the transportation bills that are likely to become law after session. The previously menitoned gas bill (HB 5) being one of them.

One that's not on the list that I think is interesting is HB 650 also authored by Rep. Krusee. The purpose of this bill is to make it so the executive director of The Texas Department of Transportation no longer has to be a "registered professional engineer in the state". I'm not an engineer but does this matter? Or is this just too rigid a standard for this position or does he have someone in mind for the job that doesn't have that qualification?


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Why Has Representative Gattis Failed, So Far, To Fix His Mistake?

Last session a "mistaken" amendment made to a health and human services consolidation bill blocked public access to the names of doctors that defrauded Medicaid. Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown made that mistake, I mean authored that amendment. In 2003 Gattis said this,
Gattis told the Star-Telegram in November 2003 that he didn't intend to block access to details about completed investigations and that he believed state bureaucrats were misinterpreting the law. If the confusion wasn't straightened out, Gattis said, the problem would be fixed.
Fair enough, a mistake was made, and it will be fixed. Or so he says. Last session a mistake was made on an amendment he authored. It would seem that he would be eager to correct that mistake, right? Well here is the next sentence,
However, he does not appear to have introduced any legislation to open the records, based on a search of pending bills. Gattis did not return several phone calls from the Star-Telegram this week.
Hmm, didn't even return phone calls. I'm sure Representative Gattis meant what he said when he said he would fix the problem but he doesn't seem very eager to fix his "mistake".


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John Carter and Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay and John Carter

The Austin American Statesman had an article about Tom DeLay a week ago Sunday. It had an interesting tidbit about our Congressman John Carter, aka, Tom DeLay's most vocal defender.
A 2001 trip to South Korea was financed by the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, in violation of House rules banning foreign agents from paying for congressional travel.

The organization also paid for trips to South Korea by other members of Congress from both parties, including U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who said the ethics committee had approved the council paying for the trip.

DeLay said last week he was not aware that the group registered as a foreign agent three days before his trip.
Let's put aside the fact that ignorance is not excuse. There was an item a few weeks ago on 60 Minutes, The D.A. And Tom DeLay. You can watch it here. The man in the video defending Tom DeLay and attacking Ronnie Earle is none other than, your Congressman, John Carter. One of my favorite parts is excerpted below.
And these activities, he (Craig McDonald the director of Texans for Public Justice) says, are "spelled out."

"Candidate evaluation recruitment. Message development and communication," says McDonald. "These activities cannot be paid for with corporate dollars under Texas law."

But that very point is being challenged.

DeLay’s fellow Texan, Republican Rep. John Carter, says whether the law was broken depends on what your definition of “administrative” is.

"No court has actually defined clearly what administrative purposes is," says Carter.

60 Minutes showed him TRMPAC's brochure with the statement of how the corporate funds would be spent.

"Active candidate evaluation and recruitment. Message development. Market research and issue development," says Stahl. "I mean, how is that administrative?"

"Active candidate evaluation and recruitment, that’s a party of administrative procedure," says Carter. "That’s a party function."

"I thought administration was the running of the office. The Xerox machine. Paying bills," says Stahl.

"This is what the court has to rule on," says Carter. "If they find all these things are administrative, there’ll be no convictions in this case."
John Carter being a member of the No Frivolous Law Suits Party thinks we need a court to decide whether - "(a)ctive candidate evaluation and recruitment. Message development. Market research and issue development." - are administrative procedures? WOW! Remember how Republicans used to howl about, "That depends on what your definition of 'is' is"? This is the same thing. Now DeLay is in quite a bit of trouble but he is still very powerful. All of this stems from illegal cooperate money being funneled to state legislative races, which is illegal in Texas. They needed the legislature so they could redistrict the state out of turn and increase the Republican majority in Congress. But, of course, we already knew that.

This article, Tom DeLay's funny-money trail, of where DeLay's problems stand at this point. In my opinion Tom DeLay and John Cater should be tied together whenever possible. If you mention one while talking to someone in this county, make sure you mention the other as well.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sunlight Is The Best Disinfectant

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant". Anyone who has been doing their spring cleaning can attest to that. When you turn over a rock, sunlight makes all the bugs underneath run for another dark hiding place. Well, this county has had a dark blue cloud hanging over it for too long now.

This blog was started, in part, as a test. To see if anyone would notice.

Another reason to begin a blog like this is that there seems to be a hole--a gaping hole--in Williamson County. No, not the obvious holes where the new highways and toll roads are being placed. The hole is, as the blog’s title implies, a lack of media presence keeping an "eye" on those in power in Williamson County. They--our elected officials--are not being held accountable. They are not hearing an opposing voice. I have lived in and around this county for almost 27 years, and many things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse. I won't bore you with a litany of those changes, but for me the most glaring is the now-Republican domination of the county, which in many ways mirrors that of the state of Texas.

In 2003, when the now-infamous corrupt DeLay redistricting fiasco was being force-fed to us, I decided to investigate the state of the opposition in the county. What I found was a party in the beginning stages of rising from the ashes. The first thing a person always says, myself included, when they walk into a Williamson County Democratic Party (WCDP) meeting is, "I didn't know there were Democrats in Williamson County!" a phrase which crossed my mind as the name for this blog. But after a person says those words you can kind of see or sense in them a satisfaction that they know they're not alone anymore. These people and their hard work are what was responsible for the gains alluded to by Off The Kuff on Thursday:
Don't know who's behind this new blog from Williamson County, but I'm glad to see one from there. Williamson, like Fort Bend, voted for Bush in lesser numbers in 2004 than it did in 2000, and I think it stands a chance of being competitive for Democrats in a couple of cycles. I hope this blog will help me get a little more insight on it.
So do I. In the grand scheme of things, this blog may not mean much. Hopefully, we can learn more about new technologies such as blogs and wikis that are available, and use them to our advantage. Also, maybe this can be the start of an ever-broadening conversation about what is happening in Williamson County.

A blog is a free and easily accessible way to shine some light and disseminate information. It is not a static form or forum. In six months, this may be a completely different entity. I do not intend this to be solely my blog and my words and opinions. I hope, as I said before, that it will become a conversation among those of us in the county with a different point of view from those currently in power. I encourage comments and suggestions, good or bad. I encourage others to submit their opinions or pertinent items to post on the blog. Everyone's participation is welcome. So send me an e-mail or make a comment and let the sun shine in!


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Monday, March 21, 2005

The Gas Tax and Carter On Social Security

Republican State Representative Mike Krusee wants to RAISE THE GAS TAX to pay for roads, House committee approves slew of tax bills:
The gasoline tax has not changed since 1991, and is set at a flat rate of 20 cents per gallon. Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told lawmakers that because of inflation the state is short 40 percent of what it needs for highways and other projects.

Linking the tax rate to inflation would allow the rate to grow over time, rather than shrinking as the cost of living increases, Krusee said. The Consumer Price Index grew about 2 percent this year.

The increased gasoline tax is expected to generate as much as $50 million per year in revenue.

The gas tax will hit the poor harder than wealthy Texans, said Dick Lavine, senior analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income Texans.

"We should focus on business and professional taxes, which would generate $6 billion and reduce the regressivity of sales tax a little," Lavine said.
Rep. Krusee sure does have a major itch for highway money. Aren't toll roads enough?

Carter On Social Security
Have you seen Congressman John Carter's Misconceptions: Social Security yet? He seems most concerned that you may be getting the wrong idea from an e-mail going around fibbing about how much he will get in retirement when he leaves Congress. I know that's the top misconception I have about Social Security.

Have you seen his article A Generational Challenge? He states his postition on private accounts as, "an idea that deserves serious consideration". He also uses the previously debunked as misleading claim that, "..each passing year adds $600 billion to the cost of fixing the system."


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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

HB 3

Late Monday night the Texas House of Representatives passed HB 3. Which will, ahem, ease the tax burden on the people of Texas. Here is how the locals voted. House votes to change tax system
"This bill is only a tax savings for the people in the highest income brackets," said Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston. GOP Reps. Todd Baxter of Austin, Dan Gattis of Georgetown and Mike Krusee of Williamson County voted for the bill.

Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, voted against it. Also voting against it were Democratic Reps. Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs and Dawnna Dukes, Eddie Rodriguez, Elliott Naishtat and Mark Strama of Austin.
All the locals voted the same as they did on HB 2 except for Terry Keel who switched sides.

This bill so far does not seem to be very well received by the "conservative" wing of the Republican Party, much less anyone else. Call me crazy but I don't think substituting an income tax for lower property taxes was what the Republicans in the Legislature had in mind when this process started. Much less those that voted for them. State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin have come out publicly for a state income tax, State income tax mulled, but not likely. That of course would take a joint resolution to pass both houses, be signed by the Governor and then get a majority vote from the people of Texas. That, of course, is the result of SJR 49 passed in 1993 by the 73rd Legislature, if you can remember back that far. I'd be willing to bet that every person that voted in favor that resolution said they did it so that only the people of Texas could ever vote in a state income tax. My question is if the people of Texas wanted an income tax could they even get it on the ballot? I guess the funny part of this is that the Legislature took such radical steps in 1993 to insure there would NEVER be a state income tax that when it became the only way for the Republicans to save their school finance plan they had to sneak it by the people of Texas. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall when the Republicans came to that conclusion. Just imagine Krusee, Gattis and all the other no tax Republicans campaigning for a state income tax.


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Friday, March 11, 2005

Here is How..

..your state representatives voted on HB 2:
Locally, GOP Reps. Mike Krusee of Williamson County, Dan Gattis of Georgetown and Terry Keel and Todd Baxter of Austin voted for the bill.

Democratic Reps. Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs and Elliott Naishtat, Mark Strama, Eddie Rodriguez and Dawnna Dukes of Austin voted against it.


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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Here We Go

All The Williamson County News That's Fit To Print! Coming Soon!


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