Friday, September 30, 2005

Texas Republican Privatization Scam Exposed

The Red State has a very good synopsis of the whole scam:
During the 2003 legislature, we yelled and screamed that the privatization of state and human services would only benefit those companies seeking private contracts from the state. We yelled and screamed that there would be no appreciable savings. We yelled and screamed that those who needed the most help would be hurt.

The Republicans did not care and passed HB 2292, the largest state agency reorganization.

...

So who really benefited?

The poor? No. The needy? No. Taxpayers? No. Texans? No.

Private contractor who donated and will donate to the Republicans? YES!
That about sums up how Republicans govern. They take your tax money and funnel it to their corporate friends. These people hate the government and it should not surprise anyone that they are doing everything they can to ruin it.



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Thursday, September 29, 2005

DeLay Wrap-Up

Today's Statesman editorial on DeLay, Travis County grand jury has spoken; now it is up to the courts takes offense at his false statement about their earlier editorial:
In his taped statement, DeLay attacked Earle personally and said , "(As) recently as two weeks ago, Mr. Earle himself publicly admitted I had never been a focus or target of his inquiry. Soon thereafter, Mr. Earle's hometown newspaper ran a biting editorial about his investigation, rhetorically asking what the point had been, after all, if I wasn't to be indicted.

"It was this renewed political pressure in the waning days of his hollow investigation that led this morning's action."

A Sept. 11 American-Statesman editorial questioned why only the political action committees and not the individuals behind them had been indicted. DeLay was not mentioned by name, nor was there an allusion to him. It is either DeLay's hubris or his conscience that leads him to think that the editorial targeted him.
At issue was Earle's indictment organizations and not individuals, not that he hadn't indicted DeLay, specifically, Four indictments issued against TAB; one against TRMPAC. They also have this page that has the whole story, if you need the history.

Chris Bell Responds to the DeLay Indictment:
Today’s indictment makes it obvious that the House Ethics Committee needs to finally launch a full investigation of the ethics charges I filed against Tom DeLay last year. When I broke the so-called ‘ethics truce’ and took on Tom DeLay, there were even a few Democratic leaders who asked me to back off. Now it is clear that the corruption in Texas goes all the way to the top and that his cash & carry criminality has infected all levels of Texas government.
KXAN gives us the Reaction To DeLay Indictment:
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX):

"My heart goes out to Tom and his family. We must all remember that in our system of justice he is innocent until proven otherwise and he deserves the chance to tell his story. I am very concerned about the recent news leaks predicting exactly what happened today. Those leaks taint the judicial process and should never happen."
She didn't seem to mind when they were leaking about him not getting indicted. BOR has Sen. Hutchison's history with Ronnie Earle, Kay Bailey Hutchison was GUILTY.


What John Carter/Old #6 is saying about his gravy train getting indicted?

From The Hill, DeLay indicted, steps down:
The possibility of an indictment was a topic of discussion during the morning conference meeting yesterday, almost three hours before the indictment was announced. In that meeting, Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), a former judge, told conference members the details of the case and explained why he thought the charges were baseless
Please everyone sit, while Rep. Carter preaches on why the charges are baseless. Probably just a bunch of swearing and plotting against Ronnie Earle.

From the Statesman, DeLay risks losing post, job:
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said he was confident DeLay would be acquitted.

"However, it is unfortunate that DeLay is being punished for an accusation by losing his leadership post. This is a far cry from what I believe in and what the American justice system prescribes: punishment after conviction."

...

To date, more than $400,000 in contributions have come from Republicans, including $10,000 from Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio and $5,000 from Carter. Perry expects a boost in donations after the indictment.
Fox News, I know, Tom DeLay Steps Down From Leadership Post After Indictment:
"I happen to have a copy of the indictment in my hand right here and I think the indictment has some problems," said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, who said Earle pursued the indictment for three years and six grand juries because he knew that under House rules, there would be "instant punishment as the result of an indictment."

The indictment has "escalated politics into the courthouse," Carter told FOX News.





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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

WCDP Needs Volunteers This Weekend At Fiddlin' Fest In Georgetown

A reminder that we still need more volunteers for the Fiddlin' Fest which takes place this Saturday and Sunday 10-01/02 on the Georgetown Square.

WCDP's booth space is M-21, on the east side of the Courthouse, slightly closer to the SE corner than the NE corner.

Here's a list of the bands and when they're playing. So you can schedule your volunteer time around the music you want to hear.

Contact Information:

Jane Van Praag, Chair,
WCDP Events Committee
jlvanpraag@sbcglobal.net
254.527.4694
P. O. Box 54
Bartlett, TX 76511-0354




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Compasssionate Conservatism? I Don't Think So!

When George Bush began his run for the presidency, he adopted the moniker of "compassionate conservative." This was the first lie that had to be accepted by the American people in order for him to even have a chance to get into the White House. We, dear reader, knew it to be a lie because we knew those two words used together like that was an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp. A majority of Americans now know that, too. The other falsehoods he perpetuated--of a humble foreign policy, of not going to war without an exit strategy, of the US not being a nation-builder, etc.--had to be accepted as well, and now those, too, have been proven as lies.

But why is it that "compassionate" and "conservative" used together form an oxymoron? One of the main tenets of conservatism is an I-got-mine-you-get-yours, dog-eat-dog ideology, which naturally doesn't lend itself to compassion. But George was going to be different.

Over the years, conservatives have billed themselves people who look out for your money's welfare, and they were able to use the mantra of being 'fiscally wise' to their advantage. Their ability to use this appearance of fiscal conservatism--I said appearance not reality--to somehow prove that they were better with money than liberals are, allowed them to take power. Reagan was able to get away with running up the huge deficits because he still had a Democratic-controlled Congress for most of his presidency. With Congress controlling the purse strings, that gave him a scapegoat. But now, with supposed "conservative" Republican control of every branch of government, our country is in its worst budgetary shape ever. How could that be? It's because those in power are not conservative. They're not tax-and-spend; they're spend-and-leave-a-tab.

The main problem now is that Republicans control every branch of government and that means there is no oversight or accountability. This article, Deep Pockets, Small Government and the Man in the Middle, is absolutely hilarious. To understand the humor, you have to understand that the current leaders of the Republican party are not conservatives. Their plan is to bankrupt the government. They believe that instead of the government levying taxes and using the money to help the people, a government should levy taxes, specifically on those that have less, and use the money to benefit corporations and their friends. As we read the "Deep Pockets" article, we find out that the current leaders of the Republican party in Washington see the Katrina disaster as just another opportunity to bilk the government of cash for their own gain:

As fiscal hawks surrendered, would-be government contractors were meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building to figure out how to get a share of the money. A "Katrina Reconstruction Summit," hosted by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and sponsored by Halliburton, among others, brought some 200 lobbyists, corporate representatives and government staffers to a room overlooking the Capitol for a five-hour conference that included time for a "networking break" and advice on "opportunities for private sector involvement."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) sent his budget director, Bill Hoagland, who cautioned that federal Katrina spending might not exceed $100 billion. But John Clerici, from a law firm that helped sponsor the event, told the group that spending would "probably be larger" than $200 billion. "It's going to be spent in a fast and furious way," Clerici said.

Sipping coffee from china cups and munching on doughnuts, the corporate crowd heard Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, predict: "I think we'll see Mardi Gras in New Orleans to some extent this year."
Wait! I haven't got to the funny part yet. You see, last week Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who bills himself as a conservative, heads a group called the Republican Study Committee--of which our very own Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) is a member. Last week, they released "Operation Offset", their plan to pay for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina by cutting spending. Well, the House leadership got a hold of him and now he's singing a different tune:

Pence, chairman of a group of House conservatives called the Republican Study Committee, was complaining to his companions about a Robert Novak column in yesterday's Washington Post saying Pence was subjected to a "closed-door auto-da-fe" from Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay for daring to suggest that the profligate House leadership should reconsider its big-spending ways. But Pence got the leadership's message, loud and clear.

Pence's speech was billed by the conservative Young America's Foundation (YAF) as a discussion of "why the conservative leadership in Congress has abandoned its allegiance to the principles of smaller government" and gone on "massive spending splurges." But instead, a chastened congressman delivered unstinting praise for his superiors.

"I believe in the leadership of this Congress," Pence told his surprised audience. "I believe in the men and women who lead the House of Representatives and the Senate. I see them as men and women of integrity and principle, who work every day to bring the ideals of our Founders into the well of the people's house."
That's the funny part. The Republican Congressional leadership plans to feast on New Orleans' reconstruction money. Oh, and this, too:

The natural enemy of this spending is Pence's 110-member Republican Study Committee in the House. House GOP leaders have taken to calling the group "the minority caucus," believing that Republicans would return to minority status if they were to follow its recommendations.
These members of Congress, the most conservative, being ridiculed by the leadership like this--that would piss me off. It's another example of how corporatism was disguised as conservatism to hoodwink true conservatives into advancing the corporate agenda. The party that all these many years has billed itself as being for small government and balanced budgets and fiscal "conservatism" is just a whore for corporations now. The really funny part is that these corporatists are not doing this because they believe government should be big or that government should benefit the people. They're doing it to use the government to funnel money from tax-paying citizens to themselves and corporations. Funny, isn't it?!

Another lie we were told was about the responsibility Bush and his cronies were going to bring to the government. All we've gotten has been a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do policy. The corruption is staggering. Just look at the evidence of compassionate conservatism:


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DeLay Indicted

The Statesman is reporting that Tom DeLay, or as Congressman Carter/old #6, calls him the Ham Sandwich has been indicted.




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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Did Katrina Effect Cause Rita Overreaction?

The New York Times did a story last Saturday on the Rita evacuation in Texas: 'Katrina Effect' Pushed Texans Into Gridlock. The article points out that the psychological scars of Katrina were the reason why more people than estimated evacuated the Houston/Galveston area last week. In other words, if in the 3 weeks prior to Rita, we hadn't watched New Orleans fill with water, then 2.5 million people--double what was estimated--probably wouldn't have left. I'm inclined to agree, and that is not to say that anyone who left shouldn't have left:
The danger, it turned out, was not that too few would listen, but that too many did.

In interviews on Friday, state and local officials acknowledged a glaring flaw in their planning, the failure to account for the psychological effects of Hurricane Katrina, or what was instantly labeled "the Katrina effect."

"We had a lot more people evacuated than should have evacuated," said Frank E. Gutierrez, emergency management coordinator of Harris County, which includes Houston. "But because of Katrina, the damage that happened in Louisiana, a lot of people were scared."
Another factor in all of this was that none of the elected officials involved wanted to be the next Ray Nagin or Kathleen Blanco, and, of course, the President was trying to look like he was doing everything he could and to appear engaged, unlike during Katrina:
If anything, well-intentioned officials magnified the effect by repeatedly lacing evacuation pleas with reminders of the death toll and devastation in New Orleans.

"Don't follow the example of New Orleans," Mayor White pleaded on Wednesday.
There were definitely problems last week that cannot be denied, and believe me, I'm not trying to make excuses for anybody. What I worry about is that last week's problems will become the new benchmark for evacuating that area, instead of the exception. My wife (she grew up in the Houston area) worries that because the storm did not turn out to be as bad for Houston and Galveston, that next time people won't take the warnings seriously and many won't evacuate when they should. Mix in some memories of sitting on the road for 12 hours in the sorching heat (my sister-in-law and her husband spent 20 hours trying to get from Houston to Dallas), and you have, as they say, the recipe for disaster. The reaction to the traffic problems should have been more swift, no doubt. Maybe state and local officials can start with that. Also, OffTheKuff points out that FEMA is still having serious problems bringing relief to anyone.

After reading the NYTimes story, it becomes clear from this report from the governor's office, which addresses many of the problems that occurred, many of these issues were already known:
In September 2004, Gov. Rick Perry ordered the state's Office of Homeland Security to evaluate evacuation plans. The review, delivered in March, identified weaknesses, particularly in the "Houston-Galveston Evacuation Area."

The weaknesses included evacuation routes not wide enough to "handle large-scale movements of evacuees," routes that were too low and flood-prone, radio systems that cannot communicate with one another and inadequate monitoring of congestion.

The report made 18 recommendations. State officials said few had put been put into effect.

One recommendation was to install traffic counters on evacuation routes to monitor the heaviest traffic flows. Officials said they expected to have a plan for the counters by the end of the month.

A spokesman for Mr. Perry did not respond to telephone messages for comment.
Now the governor, in an attempt to make it look like he is on top of things, will convene a task force to address these same issues all over again. If the task force's job is to look over the prior report and make a few changes here or there, I think that's a good thing. If the purpose of this exercise is to completely reinvent the wheel using last week as the benchmark, I think it is a mistake. Every disaster will present its own special set of circumstances, so build in some flexibility. There are certainly things that can be learned from what happened with Rita, but I also believe implementing a plan that was set out during a time prior to last week's evacuation is probably the better course of action, rather than convening a new task force to start all over again.


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Monday, September 26, 2005

Mr. Speaker Speaks

Mr. Speaker's local paper did a two part series on him and his school finance problem. The first part, Austin political maelstrom daunts education reform didn't add anything new to the debate. Just the Speaker playing the martyr and how he is still licking his wounds from all of those school superintendents that beat up on him over two special sessions:
"I get blamed for everything else, but I was not at the Alamo," Craddick quipped at a Midland Young Republicans luncheon Thursday at the Petroleum Club. He said the Battle of the Alamo primarily was fought over what the "Texicans" felt was the responsibility Mexico had shirked to provide schools.

Reinforcing his recent observation that education lobbyists blocked reforms, Craddick said he often has looked into the House gallery this year to see superintendents and their lobbyists "high-fiving it when we lost an amendment.

"It's very difficult to pass anything when all the school districts are for waiting on the Supreme Court," he said, referring to the pending court ruling on how the state's 1,056 districts will be funded.
When asked why the legislature failed the answer is because he couldn't keep his own party in line:
The speaker said numerous people have asked why legislators failed to enact reform when they control the House and Senate and every statewide office. But while the 150-member House has 87 Republicans, 12 often side with the 63 Democrats, making a 76 vote majority hard to achieve.

"I've voted more in the three years I've been speaker than all the speakers in history," Craddick said. "I don't mind voting, but it's unusual that I would have to. It's that tight."

He noted the GOP dissidents crossed party lines June 27 to bolster an amendment by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, supplanting House Bill 2 and forcing him to break a 74-74 tie to avoid spending $3.5 billion more than the state could afford.

The House had appropriated $30 billion for public school education in the current biennium and then OK'd $34 billion for 2005-07 in House Bill 2 last June 27 on a 77-70 vote. The proposal failed in the Senate.
Craddick tries to blame the problem again on administrators only wanting money and they don't agree, and that number, 65, appears:
"There was always the assumption the districts didn't want reform, they only wanted money. If you look at the bills, there were a lot of reforms in there that the districts never complained about."

Beneski said TASA didn't fight new accountability standards but did not like Craddick's plans to delay starting school until after Labor Day, have school board elections in November instead of May and institute a "65 percent rule" to require that much of districts' budgets to be spent for classroom instruction.

"Security is a big issue in Dallas and the urban districts," Beneski said. "Then you have non-instructional expenses for nurses, counselors, librarians and transportation, where the price of gasoline has gone up.
On to part 2, Craddick airs views on school finance and reform, where it comes pouring out:
With the state Supreme Court poised to rule on the "Robin Hood" system, Craddick will brook nothing but a complete overhaul -- lower property taxes, more accountability and transparency, course-ending exams, an emphasis away from books to technology and post-Labor Day school starts.

The Midland republican also wants a "65 percent rule" to mandate spending that much of districts' budgets in classrooms and to move school board elections from May to November.

"We're going to change the system one way or another," he told Midland Young Republicans at the Petroleum Club Thursday. "We may be there for two or three years, but we're going to get it done. It'll be a system fix.

"We don't need school board elections in gyms on an odd Saturday in the spring."

He said schools spend far too much on administration, vouchers should offer private school alternatives and districts need revenue caps along with lower taxes to avoid property value inflation. "We're not going to pour more money into this bottomless pit without reform," he said.

"As long as I'm speaker, we're not going to do it."
Oh, boy, there it is. "Robin Hood" gone, lower property taxes, more accountability, transparency, exams, Computers not books, post Labor-day start date, "65% Rule", November elections, vouchers, lower taxes, no more money into schools. Holy crap! Well that's all as long as he's still Speaker. I'll let this comment to the article do the talking:
"We're not going to pour more money into this bottomless pit without reform," "As long as I'm speaker, we're not going to do it."

I think perhaps we can take of the "as long as I'm speaker" part of this quote. Those folks in Austin that were elected to represent not dictate may not be back.
Either that or we need Santa Claus for Speaker for Craddick to get everything he wants.


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StarTran and Mike Krusee

Ben Wear has a great article in today's Statesman about StarTran. Never heard of StarTran? Well neither had I, Ignore that agency behind the Capital Metro curtain. They are a shell corporation that allows Capitol Metro not to have to bargain with unions:
StarTran is a convenient fiction. But not necessarily a harmless one.

Most of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. After all, you've never ridden on a StarTran bus or paid your fare to a driver with a StarTran logo on her shirt.

...

StarTran Inc., you see, is the nonprofit public corporation created in 1991 by Capital Metro to thread the needle between state and federal law.
Nice, isn't it? The funny part is that Mr. Wear asks Rep. Mike Krusee to help with the solution:
All the blarney might at first glance seem harmless. But it introduces one more level of bloviation into a tense labor negotiation, a situation inherently prone to indirection. There is a solution available, however.

If state law says Capital Metro can't collectively bargain, all it would take would be a few words inserted into the statutes providing an exception for the agency. Inserted by, say, former Capital Metro antagonist state Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Williamson County, now a reliable friend to the agency.
Rep. Mike Krusee come to the aid of union worker's? That'll be the day!

Sal Costello has a post on some of the latest transportation scams that are proposed on the November constitutional amendment ballot, "Tax Wolves in sheep's clothing":
Proposition 1 is an open-ended corporate subsidy scheme --- a blank check. Taxpayers will pay unlimited tax dollars to move private corporation rail lines into Gov. Perry's Trans Texas Corridor, and this after the governor had promised Texans that no public funds would be used.
This is of significant importance to all of those who live in eastern Williamson County () and are concerned about the shifting rail lines in Gov. Perry's TTC scam.




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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday Items

Texas PIRG 2005 Legislative rankings (.pdf) via Pink Dome which has some other information as well.

The lastest on the winding down of Ronnie Earle's grand jury, A burst of activity by grand jury, whose term ends Wednesday, has some lawyers worried.

John Kelso has his Sunday column on Chris Bell, 'Food fighter' Bell throws his onion into the gubernatorial ring.

The Houston Chronicle is against Proposition 2 Amending the Texas Constitution to undermine protections for same-sex families protects no one.
Houstonians, now famous for their compassion and practicality, will have special clout on this referendum: The city is the only major population center holding municipal elections this November. Already voters under 30 have told pollsters that they don't agree with changing Texas' Constitution in order to discriminate.

Prodded by conscience, these voters could turn the tide. In the same spirit, all Texans who support true family values should vote "No" on Proposition 2 on the November ballot.


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Friday, September 23, 2005

A Little More On Sharp and Perry: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

Now that we've had a few days to look over this new pairing and let it sink in, it's time to take a longer view of John Sharp's "..stunning political pirouette..". To some, these two guys getting together like this may seem a little odd. But veterans of Texas politics with a knowledge of the recent past know that these two guys, ideologically, have never been that far apart. That's why their race was so close. Sharp's record of fiscal conservatism is what made his races against Perry and Dewhurst so close. His plan in 2002 to balance the budget was not all that different from what wound up happening. He was going to go after CHIP and other social programs and balance the budget mainly on the backs of the poor, the same way we saw it happen. Sharp has always been a fiscal conservative--that's not a bad thing!--and he did an excellent job as Comptroller by all accounts, no pun intended.

John Sharp stayed a Democrat when others decided to become Republican. His "buddy" and other Democrats at the time put their fingers to the wind and decided that to survive they needed to become Republicans; he didn't. Back when these two "buddies" entered politics, to win on a state level you had to be a Democrat. One effect that had was such that some people who ran as Democrats back then would not do so today. Some West Texas Democrats, like Pete Laney, and those redistricted out of office, like Charlie Stenholm and Jim Turner as examples, if they were starting their careers today, would probably run as Republicans. That changed with the election of Bill Clements as governor and then changed even more when Ronald Reagan was elected president. Some stayed, some left, but a candidate no longer had to be a Democrat to win statewide. Now it's the exact opposite: you have to be a Republican to win statewide. Therefore, from this we can infer that the only reason Sharp lost to Perry and Dewhurst in his statewide races had nothing to do with his record, but everything to do with his party affiliation.

When John Sharp left politics, he joined a company which specializes in minimizing a business' state and local tax burden. Who better to assist a corporation in Texas with tax issues than the former Comptroller of Texas? John Sharp, after all these years, has finally joined them. He now specializes in helping businesses to avoid paying taxes. Who better to "restructure" the tax structure in this state?

Editorial boards around the state think it is a great idea and a wonderful bipartisan effort and that this will depoliticize the whole effort. I say B.S.! This was, at its heart, a political move. To dismiss the fact that there is an election next year and to view this as just a good faith effort to fix the tax structure in this state is naive. This is a Republican Party in Texas which was built by Karl Rove and his Machiavellian minions. Policy means nothing to these people; winning elections means everything. Whether this is a master stroke or a master joke, only time will tell.

Any way you look at it, the man who was believed by many to be the best Democratic hope to unseat this Republican governor has just come to his aid. John Sharp, these days being more a friend to corporations than to the people of Texas, heading a committee like this, makes me a little suspect about what conclusions this committee will eventually come up with. Perry and Sharp both made it perfectly clear that one possible solution, a state income tax, won't even be discussed! This closed-minded approach adds to the speculation about what is really going on here. One of the first things to look at will be who else joins Sharp on this committee and whether the committee's membership is representative of Texas. If it is stacked with business leaders, voucher proponents and the like, we will know that nothing has changed.

And I have more questions: When does the committee report? What does Sharp get out of this in the long run? What do Republicans think about this? Speaker Craddick, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, what do they think of the governor going to a Democrat for help? I hope that Democrats in Texas will now put John Sharp behind them and understand that the way for Democrats to win in Texas in the future is to look to the future and not to the past.


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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Mary Beth Harrell Announcement POSTPONED

Mary Beth Harrell has made the decision to postpone her campaign announcement that was scheduled for the 27th of September for a couple of weeks due to the impending hurricane and the need for everyone to focus their energy on helping those in need.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

John Sharp Won't Run For Governor In 2006

Burnt Orange Report has the story, Keep Your Enemies Closer:
As Damon reported a little earlier, John Sharp will not be running for Governor. The reason? Governor Perry appointed Sharp to chair a select commission on public school finance. The commission's job will be to carefully study the complex problem, and present a complete solution to the Texas Legislature in the near future. Due to the scope of that commission, Sharp will not be able to commit himself to a full-scale Governor campaign.
When BOR first put this post up, John Sharp Announcing He WILL NOT Run For Governor. My first thought was, good, now all the Democrats will hopefully embrace Chris Bell and come together, Sharp too, and support him for Governor. Then I thought maybe it's because he was involved in the auditor's report on the Comptroller and that there was something to his involvement, or that he was going to endorse Strayhorn or something crazy like that. Well it turned out to be something crazy alright. I know there were probably all those nice platitudes in his speech about how he is just doing what is best for Texas trying to work on a "bipartisan compromise" on school finance. Well, I don't buy it. Anything he does that helps Gov. Perry get reelected, no matter how "bipartisan" is ultimately partisan in favor of the Republicans. I've thought recently that the only difference between Perry and Sharp is that Perry beat him to the party switch all those years back. Oh yeah, anything going on at www.draftjohnsharp.com.

Statesman story on this, Sharp to head task force on school finance. There appears to be some nuance to this story. It's a "blue-ribbon task force", whatever the hell that is, and not a "bipartisan" task force and it "almost certainly removes Sharp as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2006". I'd say so. There most certainly was a deal worked out before this was announced between Perry and Sharp, the old college buddies. I can't imagine he would run after this but stranger things have happened. Also It would seem this would push back a special session until after the "task force" makes it's recommendations. Anyway, it appears Sharp is out for 2006, for now.


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The State Of Things As Rita Approaches

As Hurricane Rita moves closer to what seems an inevitable landfall on the Texas coast it appears all that can be done is being done to prepare for the coming disaster. As OffTheKuff points out, even taking potshots at Louisiana:
In declaring Texas a disaster area as part of the preparation for Hurricane Rita, Rick Perry's spokeswoman Kathy Walt said:
"FEMA has already been part of this. They have offered whatever support we need," Walt said. "Texas is not Louisiana. You won't see that breakdown occurring here."
You can parse that any number of ways. I don't care to get into that right now, but I'm wondering just how much Texas is not Louisiana.
But he then moves on to ask if Texas workers will get the same treatment from President Bush as Louisiana did when it comes to the Davis-Bacon Act. Which if you're not aware, "prohibits the federal government from undercutting prevailing wages in the construction industry in areas where the federal government is contracting for work." In other words, if construction workers on average make $9/hour in Houston when a federal contract is handed out the contractor has to pay their workers at least $9/hour. Makes sense to me. But after Katrina the President repealed the act where the reconstruction is to occur. There are a few twists to this though, which I found here, White House Finds in Katrina Recovery 'Opportunity' to Waive Needed Protections. First, I may not have been legal(.pdf) for him to do it:
Secrecy News, a publication of the Federation of American Scientists, noted that a Congressional Research Service report indicates Bush's waiver of Davis-Bacon may be illegal. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 renders several statutory authorities dormant, unless specific procedural formalities are enacted by the president. Since the president did not formally declare a national emergency in accordance with that act, the Davis-Bacon waiver may be illegal.
And this part as well, that just warms the heart:
Companies such as Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root that are given federal contracts to rebuild in the Gulf region are under no obligation to pass the savings from reduced labor costs onto taxpayers. There is nothing to prevent these contractors from cutting workers' wages and boosting their own profits, while passing no savings onto taxpayers. The Center for American Progress noted that prevailing wages in the Gulf Coast are not likely to make people rich. "A laborer in New Orleans would receive $10.40 per hour in wages and fringe benefits," according to the Center.
But as OMB Watch points out it is not just the Davis-Bacon Act. They've taken aim at the environmental restrictions and transportation safety as well. Now I think everyone understands that in the immediate aftermath of a huge disaster regulations will be scrapped in an attempt to save lives, and that is more than understandable. But when it comes time to rebuild and put people's lives back together we should not waive regulations so that corporations can bilk the taxpayers of their money.

OffTheKuff also points out the ongoing work of Josh Marshall in holding our elected representatives feet to the fire on the "Gulf Coast Wage Cut". The House Democrats have introduced a bill, H.R. 3763 repealing the President's order. 171 members have signed on, all of them are Democrats but not all Democrats have signed on (see Josh Marshall link above for the list). Of course that means that our representative has not signed on either. Please call him and ask him to explain why he has no signed on this bill and report back in the comments please. Minimum wage, the environment, public safety are issues that a vast majority of the people in this country agree on, no just Democrats. It is sad, among other things I could say, that in a time of tragedy our President uses his powers to enrich his buddies by allowing them to take advantage us, the taxpayers, like this.

Thanks to OffTheKuff, Josh Marshall and OMB Watch for the links.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More On John Courage

Our Congressman here in Williamson County needs to go but our neighbor's to the south also have a pretty bad one. Lamar Smith is his name. He held a town hall meeting a couple of weeks ago and this dkos diary has the skinny, Outraged *Republican* constituents confront Lamar Smith (R-TX):
Overall, I was very impressed by how well-prepared and well-spoken the people in attendance were. They had done their research, they asked pointed and pertinent questions, and they followed up when their questions were not answered. I had come with several questions, but all were asked during the course of the meeting. It is heartening to know that there are so many articulate and intelligent people out there, taking an interest in our government and holding our representative's feet to the fire. Bravo to all of us - and take heart, because based on the anger and frustration expressed by the Republicans in the audience, the walls of the Republican fortress are beginning to crumble, bit by bit by bit
Sounds very encouraging to me. Yesterday this came out from the Congressman, Lamar Smith Steps on His ShoeStrings:
Congressman Lamar Smith accidentally sent the following fax aimed at Karl Rove to an unnamed Dem. Congressman'’s office.
Rememeber, immigration is going to be one of the Republician Party's divide and conquer issues for 2006. We need to do everything we can to help not only John Courage but our own Mary Beth Harrell get elected to Congress in '06. Just imagine what a change that would be for our state with Mary Beth and John replacing those currently holding those seats.

Don't forget to vote for John Courage in the first DFA-List endorsement of 2006

[UPDATE] More on Lamar Smith from Richard Morrison, the man who ran against DeLay in '04, Meet John Courage, The Next Texas Netroots Hero. Especially this Texas Observer article, Lamar's Alien Agenda, Why is Mr. Smith Still in Washington?. Thanks Musselman!


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Thanks Mr. Eure Founder of Mr. Gatti's

I've been eating at Mr. Gatti's for as long as I've been in the Austin area, almost 30 years. I never really knew the history but Jim Eure seemed like he was quite a man, Mr. Gatti's founder dies:
Jim Eure, the quiet, energetic founder of the Mr. Gatti's pizza chain, died of heart failure Sunday night at his West Austin home. He was 87.

...

To his family, Eure was a dogged entrepreneur and energetic force, whether it was selling cattle, renovating upscale apartments or designing furniture.

When Willie Nelson ran into financial troubles in the 1990s, Eure bought the singer's property near Briarcliff, on Lake Travis, and then sold it back when things improved, Thorson said.

And even as he slowed down in his final years, his wife says, it's hard to describe everything he did.

"You don't have enough space," Pat Eure said from their Mount Bonnell home.

...

"His legacy is about the product: the pizza dough, the spaghetti sauce recipe and the integrity of the product," Mrlik said. "He really preached it in the early days, and that's what we want to bring back to the forefront."

Rick Barsness, who opened a franchise with Eure in Victoria in 1974, remembers one busy Friday night with a full house and 100 customers lined up. The staff was strained, and Eure told Barsness, then 21 years old, that he wasn't making the pizza "good enough."

So Eure shut it down, saying they would reopen Monday, after they fixed the problems.

"I thought (the pizza) was fine . . . but he was absolutely right," said Barsness, now owner of the Springfield, Mo.-based Incredible Pizza chain. "The Colonel was the greatest pizza maker that ever lived."

Eure is expected to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. He is survived by his wife, Pat, two daughters and a son, and four grandchildren.
Thank you for the pizza and also that Gatti's ranch dressing. Mmm, I may have to get some pizza tonight.



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Plenty Of Nonsense In September

I speaking of the "conservatives", of course. They're gonna pull out all of the gay bashing stops they can. Last week I posted on the intimidation from the Mayor of Round Rock on a local business owner. Now we know how conservatives are all for keeping the government out of people's lives, especially business' lives, right? Not only are these people in your business but they're in your "business". If you know what I mean? The Democrats in Williamson County are taking action:
First Meet up is scheduled for Thursday, September 29th:

Mesa Rosa
15515 FM 620
Austin, TX 78717
6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
512-733-6611

Dinner and Drinks optional.

We are preparing and gathering to ensure victory against Proposition #2 in Williamson County. If Mayor Maxwell did not make you happy with his comments, help place your anger with us in preventing the state from continued unnecessary, dangerous attacks on our Constitution and Texas Families.

The Williamson County Democratic Party officially endorsed it opposition to Prop. #2 at our August meeting. R.S.V.P by Tuesday Sept 27th.

For more information,

Contact:

Jimmy Rocha
Chair
512-671-8683 (Vote)
I believe that when the right wing rammed this through the legislature they didn't expect to be challenged on this much less vigorously. I've gone back to a comment by Rep. Garnett Coleman on school finance over and over again but it holds for anything, "It's hard to pass bad public policy". This is bad public policy and you can tell by the way they are attacking NoNonsenseInNovember, by resorting to lies and scare tactics and making stuff up. They're starting to sound desperate. Busing in voters and stuffing ballot boxes that sounds alot like the pot calling the kettle black to me.

Pink Dome also has this about the governor and business' involvement in this. This is nothing but red meat for the wing-nuts. Or as Chris Bell said:
That being said, putting a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution is a solution in search of a problem. The state law defining marriage is already on the books and is facing no legal challenge and no real threat of being overturned by the Texas Supreme Court. The proposed amendment will have no practical effect one way or another on the institution of marriage in Texas. This constitutional amendment is completely unnecessary and designed not to improve our state in any way but rather to tear people apart.
What a sham and waste this is.


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Monday, September 19, 2005

Take Action And Vote Courage

Campaign For America's Future has a page setup where you can send your Senators and Representative a message about the Gulf Coast Wage Cut. Click here to take action.

Also John Courage mades it to the finals for the first DFA-List endorsement of 2006. Go here to vote for him tomorrow.

Burnt Orange Report has a recap of John Courage's blogger conference call.


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Sunday, September 18, 2005

What's In A Number?

1900


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Something Smells Alright

This editorial, When Texas politics begin to smell, open window, today in the Statesman leaves me wondering what the point of it was. The only thing I smelled was a cop out. It describes why the Comptroller, Governor and possibly every other elected official in the state - legislators and judges too - are taking money hand over fist from interested parties and this MAY cause them to go against the public interest. Ya think? Their only suggestion for how to make the situation better is to require more disclosure from "taxpayer representative" groups. This doesn't seem like much of a fix to me. Another "band-aid" I would say.

I find it funny that a newspaper would be talking about the fact that if only the people were more informed about who was paying off their elected representatives then maybe they would elect better representatives. How about you folks at the Statesman and other media throughout the state holding their feet to the fire? Isn't that what the press is supposed to do? There is no telling how much cronyism and corruption there has been in Williamson County when it comes to the whole toll road mess that is going on. The Comptroller put out a report detailing the corruption in our own area earlier this year and recommended two of the board members of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) resign. I have seen very little about this in any print or television media in the area.

The non-existent presence of any media in Williamson County to challenge those currently running this county also abets these people immensely in getting a free ride. I applaud the Statesman for pointing this out in an editorial but the public would be better served if the paper would use some of it's resources on a multi-part expose on the corruption run wild in our state and local governments. Then the public would definitely smell something.


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John Courage Announces For Congress

Courage launches congressional bid:
John Courage announced Saturday morning at the Capitol that he will run again for Congress next year.

He is a San Antonio schoolteacher and Democrat who lost in 2002 to U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, by more than 100,000 votes. On Saturday, Courage, 54, told a crowd of about 100 supporters: "It's time for a change."

Smith, a House member since 1987, represents the 21st District, which includes almost 300,000 Travis County residents, all of Blanco County and parts of Bexar, Comal and Hays counties. In 2002, Republican candidates for statewide office garnered 64 percent of the district vote.

During his announcement, Courage wore a tie that he said Smith gave him after the 2002 race. Courage said that after he wins the race, "I'm going to give this tie back to him."



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Friday, September 16, 2005

Congressman Cater And The Davis-Bacon Act?

While Congressman Carter did no sign on to the letter asking President Bush to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 for the hurricane recovery effort, we need to find out where he stands on this issue. Let's start calling on Monday and post responses in the comments section if you like. There is a good discussion of this going on at TPMCafe, here is the specific post, Davis-Bacon: GOP Congressmen Facing the Music in Six Months?.

Some more weekend reading on the week that was:

Who's in Charge? Karl Rove!

After Katrina, Republicans Back a Sea of Conservative Ideas

The deafening - and dangerous - silence on taxes



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Go Vote For John Courage

Democracy for America is currently holding a Grassroots All-Star Competition to determine who will be on their first list of official endorsees. I would like to enCourage everyone to go, here and scroll toward the bottom of the list and vote for John Courage. Here are the particulars:

They've got a vote going to select Congressional candidates. One Texan is on the ballot in this round - John Courage, who is seeking to oust DeLay lapdog Lamar Smith in the 21st CD, which includes parts of Bexar and Travis counties plus what's in between. Courage has been running a pretty laudable grassroots campaign so far, and Rep. Smith is one of the worst toadies in Congress - he's an immigrant-basher in the Tom Tancredo mold. Better yet, Smith underperformed in 2004 against a placeholder candidate. This is a winnable race, and with the DFA endorsement it could become a
top-tier race in Texas.
So again go here and vote for John Courage.


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If You Know What's Good Fer Ya

I didn't really hear about this until yesterday but this seems very wrong to me, Round Rock drag show prompts fire inspection:
"The constituents we've heard from are concerned about the immorality of it, that it's promoting homosexuality," said Maxwell, who spoke with coffee shop owner Sarah Roberts on Tuesday morning.
Is there a law against that in Round Rock?
Maxwell said he told Roberts, "Sarah, you've got to look out after your business. You've hit a lot of people's radar screens."

Roberts said that she and Maxwell had a friendly visit but that she defended herself.

"I told him there's not anybody with more morals and with more integrity," Roberts said. "I said, 'What's the big deal? This is . . . a talent performance. These guys were impersonating famous performers, and one of them was an acrobat.' "
Reminds me of one of those old westerns when someone is reminded that they need to do what there told if they know what's good for them.



How does the owner, Sara Roberts, respond?
Roberts said she reminded Maxwell about the annual junior high and high school tradition of dressing football players in cheerleading uniforms.

"Everybody thinks it's funny and cute," she said.

Roberts said most of the feedback she's received has been positive.

As for the overflow crowd, Roberts said she's drawn that many people to other events, including for Christian band shows, CD release parties and a 25th wedding anniversary.

"I've never had anybody question the occupancy of this place," she said. "They've never called and told me, this was the code, this was the ordinance. Now I know, and I'm glad."
Sounds logical to me. Well this is Williamson County and it's a whole different animal when it comes to people that, let me see, how should I say this, don't fit the type:
Maxwell said Roberts should pay attention to public perceptions if she's going to stay successful as a business owner.

"A single event like this will not affect the viability of business downtown or the overall environment or the family-first environment," he said. "We have too many strong, conservative values, and this is a single event. There may or not be more. That's up to how Sarah conducts her business."

Roberts said she'll book more drag shows if there is a demand.

Maxwell said although he wouldn't personally condone drag shows, "it is not my position to stand in judgment of how she runs a business as long as it's legal and it is not endangering the health of her employees or customers. This is not Sixth Street, Austin, Texas; this is Round Rock, and it's a world of difference."
Sounds like they're about ready to run her out of town. Wow, we really need some new leadership in this county. These people are just downright mean. Whether you agree with a drag show or not is really not the point. The point is does a business owner in Round Rock have the right to do what they please in their business as long as it's not against the law. This is sending a message to a business for doing something that offends the supposed moral values of some in a community. That is wrong. Isn't this something that governments around the world do that makes them look undemocratic and uncivilized?

More here from Pandagon, It turned out the actual problem was there's a law against dancing in Round Rock.


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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Let's Use Their Own Words Againt Them

Josh Marshall makes some great points in this post. The Republicans have lost and lost bad on their scheme to privatize Social Security and they should not be let off the hook:
As one senior GOP lawmaker told Roll Call, "It's over." As indeed it is. Not forever. But at least for the next few years.

But where, I have to ask, is the affirmative effort on the part of Democrats to make this attempted betrayal of the public trust into a cudgel for the 2006 elections? Where is it? I don't see it. And I keep up on politics.

It shouldn't be hard. Many, many Republicans who will be in competitive races next year came out for this disastrous idea, which is now deeply unpopular pretty much across the country. And with very few exceptions -- I'll give Santorum his due on this one -- they ran away like scurrying rats as soon as it became clear that the president couldn't protect them and the public wouldn't stand for it.

Their own actions and words convict them twice-over. They stood up for terrible policy and then they switched or ran away from their position as soon as it was expedient. So they're happy to sell out their constituents and lack principle. They're flipfloppers.
Here is what Congressman Carter had to say about privitizing Social Security:
I believe that investing money in personal accounts and allowing younger workers to decide how their money is invested is an idea that deserves serious consideration.
Lest we forget they renamed their privatization scheme "personal accounts" when it polled bad. Just like they did with the Estate Tax. A couple of other things to remind voters of is his willingness to pass a law for one person Schiavo and his closeness to Tom DeLay, Old #6 as I like to call him.



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Cedar Park & Leander Raise Taxes

Cedar Park and Leander will pay more in taxes in the coming year.

The article about Cedar Park is quite surprised that no one is against raising taxes, or at least has shown up for any meetings to voice opposition to them. The city is raising the tax rate 3 cents/$100:
In a city where budget talks generally bring out the worst in people, this year's Cedar Park city budget hasn't brought out anything - even the people. No residents have spoken during citizens' comments regarding the proposed 3-cent tax increase slated for approval this Thursday during a special-called council meeting.
What does the mayor have to say:
"When I was campaigning, people were telling me they were wondering why projects weren't started on things they voted for in 2001, so I believe there are people out there who are saying it's about time we're working on something the citizens approved four years ago," Mayor Bob Lemon said regarding the lack of opposition to the tax increase. "I know nobody likes to see their taxes go up but when they understand they're getting some value for it and life is going to improve, that's good for everybody."
First of all is he saying that in 2001 the city passed a bunch of projects that weren't funded? Or were they funded and then that money went to pay for something else? Second "some value" implies that certain things the city spends it's money on are OK and certain things it spends it money on are not. Care to explain Mr. Mayor? He speaks in vague generalities. Using non-specific phrases like "people were telling me", "people out there" and "I know nobody". I'm sure there are many "people out there" who aren't telling the mayor anything and that he doesn't know that aren't very happy with his reasoning. Another interesting thing about Cedar Park is that the majority of the council are Republicans (I know, I know city councils are non-partisan). I thought I heard somewhere one time that Republicans were against raising taxes?

On to Leander. Where apparently it's citizens are too worried about gas prices to care that their going to be paying more to the city:
Perhaps people are more worried about ever-increasing gas prices than a jump in their monthly tax bill. Often times talks about tax rates and budgets can get nasty, but this year that simply hasn't been the case.
Did they ever stop and think that maybe the reason people aren't coming is because they can't afford gas to get to the meetings? Or that they are too busy working their second job to get to the meeting? Guess not. Now in Leander your tax rate actually went down, you're only going to pay more because the value of your home went up:
As for the taxes, the average citizen will be paying approximately $8.45 more than last year's tax rate, because of increases in assessed-property value, even though the tax rate decreased slightly.
I'm sure that makes you feel better? I also love this quote:
"I think if you ask every department head if they got what they want, they'll say no," said City Manager Biff Johnson of the budget. "But if you ask every department head if they got what they need, they'll say yes."
Anyone who has ever worked with budgets knows that "department heads" always ask for more than they know they can get. No matter what they ask for they know they're going to get less. They shoot the moon and then negotiate down. I'm not to sure of the make up of the city government in Leander but I wouldn't bet on many if any of them running for higher office as a Democrat some day.


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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Martin Frost Jumps On The Run Everywhere Bandwagon

This has already been reported on several blogs: OffTheKuff, Burnt Orange Report, and Save Texas Reps. Here is the actual story from Fox News, Memo: Let's Get Ready to Run:
It’s time to throw out the traditional playbook and be bold as you plan for the 2006 elections. There is a real possibility that next year’s contest will be a landslide for Democrats and you need to be prepared to win.

Specifically, Emanuel and Schumer should file candidates for every single Congressional seat and ever single Senatorial seat in the country, even those that have traditionally been Republican. And the DNC should be encouraging state legislative leaders throughout the country to take similar action on the state house and senate levels.
I am with Kuff in welcoming the former Congressman aboard. For this plan to take hold we need everyone to join in on this, no matter past differences. Kuff also points us to this from Ruy Teixeira, Do the Math: Why Expanding the Playing Field in 2006 Is Actually a Very, Very Smart Idea.

Run Everywhere? Oh yeah!


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In Cindy Sheehan's Wake Laws Change

Sheehan protest spurs county action, Parking to be banned on roads leading to Bush's ranch:
Citing public safety concerns, not a desire to limit anti-war demonstrators, McLennan County commissioners on Tuesday approved a measure to prohibit parking along 23 miles of county roads surrounding President Bush's Crawford-area ranch.

...

The lone dissenter, Commissioner Joe Mashek, read aloud the First Amendment, which guarantees the right to free expression. He said he voted against the order because limiting parking along 23 miles of road is "too extreme.

...

Commissioner Ray Meadows, who represents the area around Bush's ranch, said he wasn't approached by the White House or the Secret Service to push the ban. He said he was responding to complaints from the area's 80 or so residents, including six on Tuesday who were upset about blocked roads, loud music and public health and safety matters during the lengthy protest.
Democracy in action?


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DPS, Tapes, Texas Observer and Leininger

The Statesman has the latest, DPS sues to hold on to Capitol video:
A journalist's request for a videotape thought to show political arm-twisting has prompted the Texas Department of Public Safety to go to court over Capitol security concerns for the second time since 2003.

...

Last month, he said DPS should release the tape. Jake Bernstein, executive editor of the Texas Observer, a biweekly journal, had asked for any video taken of the hallway behind the Texas House chamber on May 23.

Legislators that day rejected a proposal to allow select low-income students to attend private schools with state funding amid speculation that voucher proponent James Leininger of San Antonio was secretively leaning on members.

Bernstein said, "We thought we would try to put those rumors to rest by seeing the video."
So what possible reason could DPS have for doing this? If they release the tapes then the terrorists win of course:
The DPS says the release of such tapes could weaken security by yielding insight into camera placement and angles and what they do or don't record.

"Events in recent years have shown that the Texas state Capitol is a likely location for terrorist attacks to occur," Sgt. Donnie Weakly said in a statement filed by the agency in its lawsuit against Abbott over a previous request for a tape.

Weakly called the building's security cameras among the Capitol's first lines of defense.
If all else fails fall back on old faithful, terrorism scare tactics. The cameras are among, not the only, first lines of defense. I'm no security expert by any means but I would assume that tapes have been made public in the past by security organizations and a disaster has not resulted from that. Kudos to the Attorney General for ruling for the reporter in the first place I just don't care much for his no comment on the current DPS suit. The AG should support open government.

Kirk Watson to run for Senate District 14, Naishtat to stay in House and John Courage to run against Lamar Smith in District 21,
Texas politics



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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Amazing Story About Katrina (non)Response

This article, Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows, sheds some new light on what happened at the executive level after Katrina hit. But before we get into it we all must remember that FEMA was lessened in importance and put under Homeland Security after its creation. Putting FEMA at the direction of Homeland Security. The article starts this way:
The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.
Which leads us to believe that Brownie was a Lee Harvey type patsy in this situation. "You've got the wrong guy fella". Next we learn about a little thing called the National Response Plan:
But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.
Chertoff didn't shift power to FEMA until 36 hours after the storm made landfall but we also find out that the President may have confused Chertoff:
"As you know, the President has established the `White House Task Force on Hurricane Katrina Response.' He will meet with us tomorrow to launch this effort. The Department of Homeland Security, along with other Departments, will be part of the task force and will assist the Administration with its response to Hurricane Katrina," Chertoff said in the memo to the secretaries of defense, health and human services and other key federal agencies.

On the day that Chertoff wrote the memo, Bush was in San Diego presiding over a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
And also in the memo it is made an "Incident of National Significane", I guess that about sums it up!?
Chertoff's Aug. 30 memo for the first time declared Katrina an "Incident of National Significance," a key designation that triggers swift federal coordination. The following afternoon, Bush met with his Cabinet, then appeared before TV cameras in the White House Rose Garden to announce the government's planned action.
But what the article starts to tell us next is that the actions not taken by Chertoff and those taken by the President interfered with the National Response Plan that should have already been in operation:
Chertoff's hesitation and Bush's creation of a task force both appear to contradict the National Response Plan and previous presidential directives that specify what the secretary of homeland security is assigned to do without further presidential orders. The goal of the National Response Plan is to provide a streamlined framework for swiftly delivering federal assistance when a disaster - caused by terrorists or Mother Nature - is too big for local officials to handle.
After about ten paragraphs of doublespeak from the Homeland Security and White House Ministries of Truth we read this:
The Chertoff memo indicates that the response to Katrina wasn't left to disaster professionals, but was run out of the White House, said George Haddow, a former deputy chief of staff at FEMA during the Clinton administration and the co-author of an emergency management textbook.

"It shows that the president is running the disaster, the White House is running it as opposed to Brown or Chertoff," Haddow said. Brown "is a convenient fall guy. He's not the problem really. The problem is a system that was marginalized."
Well, well, well the White House was running this thing from the beginning, what do you know!? Don't forget they had a plan all along. The article ends like this:
According to the National Response Plan, which was unveiled in January by Chertoff's predecessor, Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security is supposed to declare an Incident of National Significance when a catastrophic event occurs.

"Standard procedures regarding requests for assistance may be expedited or, under extreme circumstances, suspended in the immediate aftermath of an event of catastrophic magnitude," according to the plan, which evolved from earlier plans and lessons learned after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "Notification and full coordination with the States will occur, but the coordination process must not delay or impede the rapid deployment and use of critical resources."

Should Chertoff have declared Katrina an Incident of National Significance sooner - even before the storm struck? Did his delay slow the quick delivery of the massive federal response that was needed? Would it have made a difference?

"You raise good questions," said Frank J. Cilluffo, the director of George Washington University's Homeland Security Planning Institute. It's too early to tell, he said, whether unfamiliarity with or glitches in the new National Response Plan were factors in the poor early response to Katrina.

"Clearly this is the first test. It certainly did not pass with flying colors," Cilluffo said of the National Response Plan.

Mike Byrne, a former senior homeland security official under Ridge who worked on the plan, said he doesn't think the new National Response Plan caused the confusion that plagued the early response to Katrina.

Something else went wrong, he suspects. The new National Response Plan isn't all that different from the previous plan, called the Federal Response Plan.

"Our history of responding to major disasters has been one where we've done it well," Byrne said. "We need to figure out why this one didn't go as well as the others did. It's shocking to me."
Hmm? Let me see. The "new" plan didn't cause the confusion. Something else went wrong. I think it should be someone, or two someone's went wrong. Without inaction by Chertoff and interference by the President it looks like everything would have gone ahead just like the National Response Plan would have had it go. That definitely sheds some new light on this.

For more on what didn't get to New Orleans on time check this out, Can FEMA Do Anything Right?



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Texas' Dirty Little Secret

Yesterday on my drive home one of the talking heads in the area starting talking about the Texas Poll from last week, Poll shows most blame legislators, lobbyists for school-finance impasse. He started by talking about the blame numbers - who Texans blame for the special session debacles - which show Texans don't agree on who to blame (my words). But then went on to these numbers in particular:
57% agree with the state "Robin Hood" mandate that property-wealthy districts share their money with poorer districts

65% consider their school property taxes too high (33 percent say they're just about right, and just 1 percent say too low)

61% expect to pay more taxes overall under any new school-finance plan (10 percent expect to pay less, 23 percent the same)
I think the radio hosts main problem was that he couldn't separate the fact that while someone may believe their property taxes are too high, they don't mind paying more "taxes", if done right, to finance public schools. Not to mention the fact that most people believe, no matter what party is in power, that their taxes will only go up.

The point I've heard a few people make is that you can't have "Robin Hood" and have your property taxes lowered too. I guess the logic is that if "Robin Hood" was no longer in place all the wealthy school districts could lower their property taxes because they would no longer be shipping money of to poor school districts? But conversely, wouldn't all the poor school districts have to raise theirs to make up the difference? What these numbers say is that most of the people in this state, not legislators or the Governor or Speaker or Lt. Governor, the people are fine with "Robin Hood", most people still believe those with more should help those with less. But 65% believe that the current tax structure is bad. Lastly, most people do not have a problem paying higher taxes for a better school finance plan.

That's radical stuff folks. Imagine if we had a fairly financed, well financed school system. Who would be against that? Well many people. We saw that during both special sessions. The plans that were proposed by the Republicans all raised taxes on the poor and middle class and lowered taxes on the wealthy. This is another example in a long line of the leadership of this state doing what they think is best and not what is best or what the people want. Failed leadership.

So what to do about it? These numbers that should jump out at everyone and shows people moving toward the idea of a state income tax:
Although there is practically no support in the Legislature for a state income tax, 45 percent of respondents said they would support an income tax if it reduced property taxes and the revenue was used for education. Slightly more – 47 percent – said they opposed the idea.
As I pointed out over the weekend this is pretty much a 50/50 split now on a state income tax. Now I know an income tax is a sure killer, right? Well maybe in the short term but not in the long term (see this). As Democrats stay away from doing what got them into power and on the side of the people in the first place - in this case it would be putting together a comprehensive long-term plan to fix the tax structure and adequately fund public schools in Texas - they just stay in the "Republican-lite" category. "Our plan is like theirs but more fair". What I call a Republican with a D next to his name, and that is a sure loser. Because given the choice a Republican will vote for the candidate with the R next to their name.

All of this is to say that Democrats need not be afraid of speaking/advocating for and income tax as long as it's framed as an alternative to the current tax structure in this state that favors the wealthy. I have come to think of a state income tax as Texas' dirty little secret. If instituted correctly it would do everything a majority of Texans want: Fair funding of public schools, lower property taxes and for those with the most they will pay a little more in taxes that will go to the public schools. Greg had this to say about an income tax, Texas Goes Retro: Robin Hood Now the Latest Rage:
By nature, I'm predisposed against such an idea, but I suspect there's a cautionary tale somewhere in this ... if the state GOP insists upon making the tax code more and more regressive, the idea is going to take root in better political terrain at some point down the road. I'd just as soon not arrive at that day or reckoning, but the recklessness of the other side doesn't exactly instill a great deal of confidence that we can go on through the long term as-is.
A regressive tax falls harder on those with less money, a progressive tax - which an income tax is - hits everyone more equally. That is the other framing benefit, the fairness of an income tax, as linked above, is what makes it contrast with the current system and what has been proposed. Senator Eliot Shapleigh and Representative Eddie Rodriguez have been out front on this issue for quite some time.

An income tax has and for the most part still is a dirty word in Texas. I am not naive enough not to know that if the Texas Democratic Party was to embrace this they would not take some immediate hits for it. But as I've read over the course of the last year or so on the history of the conservative movement in this country, after Goldwater was railroaded, those people did not give up they made a plan. It's time for the Democrats in Texas to make a plan and I believe it should have as it's focal point a state income tax to fund public education. Let me have it.



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Monday, September 12, 2005

Democrats Need To Jump On This

This is a no-brainer issue, Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm, worker pay. Check this out:
President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.
1931! There is no more fundamental issue for Democrats to exploit. We are the party of the people, the working class, and this should be an easy "exectutive order" to get reversed.

More Bush administrtion here, Bush allies getting Katrina work:
Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast.
This is disgusting. First they drag there feet and now they are using the disaster to line their pockets.


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School Finance Update

Ruling coming soon:
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson said he expects the court to issue a ruling in a school funding case within two weeks.

"I can't say it will be definitive," Jefferson said in the online edition of the Midland Reporter-Telegram. "There will be a decision from the court, and the Legislature will do what it does."

The state's high court took on the issue when the state appealed a lower court ruling that said the method Texas uses to pay for public education is unconstitutional.

State District Judge John Dietz ruled the system unconstitutional and set an Oct. 1 deadline for the state to overhaul the system.

Jefferson said the Supreme Court will work to meet that deadline.

In the last three years, the Legislature has failed five times to find a solution, one that would replace local property taxes with another form of revenue, probably from new taxes.

The last special session ended in failure Aug. 19, and it is widely expected that Gov. Rick Perry will call lawmakers back to try it again once the state has received guidance from the court.
The highlighted paragraph above is quite interesting. I translate that to mean that they are going to hand down a very murky ruling - they're punting it back to the lege - that will allow the legislature and everyone else to interpret it however they want. In other words we are right back wehre we started. Pink Dome says there is another special session coming in October.



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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Poll Shows Lege/Governor Have Different Agenda Than Texans On School Finance

The poll shows that while the blame is more on the lege and lobby Perry gets his share as well. It also shows most people think there school is OK, it's the other school that bad. Everyone, of course, thinks their property taxes are too high. But look at the numbers on an income tax, it's almost 50/50. 57% even agree with "Robin Hood":
• About a fourth of respondents – 25 percent – blamed lawmakers for the impasse on school finance this year, while another fourth of those polled said lobbyists and special interest groups doomed the effort to fix the state's troubled school finance system. About 14 percent blamed Mr. Perry, and 17 percent said all sides share responsibility.

• Respondents gave the state's public school system bad grades, but when asked to rate their local schools, a majority assigned a grade of either A or B. By contrast, only 28 percent of those polled gave an A or B to the public schools of Texas, and 26 percent said the system deserved no more than a D or F. Another 39 percent gave a C.

• Although there is practically no support in the Legislature for a state income tax, 45 percent of respondents said they would support an income tax if it reduced property taxes and the revenue was used for education. Slightly more – 47 percent – said they opposed the idea.

• The 65 percent who said their property taxes were too high was a significant jump over the beginning of this year, when 54 percent had that complaint. That poll was taken just as the Legislature convened its regular session when school finance and tax reduction plans took center stage.
Check out this editorial, Throw 'em all out, which has some great commentary on the situation:
A couple weeks ago, the Texas Legislature was leaving town after yet another special session without writing a school finance bill. An Austin policeman across the street from the capitol ventured his opinion about the departing legislators.

"I think they ought to throw them all out," the cop said. "They can't pass a school bill, and they can't cut our property taxes." What would he think of a state income tax to fund good schools and lower property taxes?

"Give me an income tax," the cop declared vehemently. "I'm fed up."




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Saturday, September 10, 2005

More FEMA Problems

FEMA Nixes Grassroots Radio Station for Hurricane Evacuees. With everyone for this of course FEMA would nix it:
Although the effort was trumpeted in the media as an example of grassroots ingenuity in the face of disaster, local officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency have nixed an attempt by Houston activists to set up a low-power radio station at the Astrodome that would have broadcast Hurricane Katrina relief information for evacuees.

The project was unplugged even though it had key support. On Monday, the Federal Communications Commission quickly granted temporary licenses to broadcast inside the Astrodome and the adjacent Reliant Center. The station was also backed by the Houston Mayor’s office and Texas governor Rick Perry
These two paragraphs here do a good job of highlighting the disconnect between the "Astrodome officcials" and everyone else:
“We talked to cops, volunteers, church groups—everyone said it was a good idea,” Ellinger added.

But Astrodome officials were apparently more concerned about evacuees fighting over the radios. “They were worried about noise and people stealing them or that people would be tuning in to gangsta rap on other Houston stations, which they said could incite violence,” says Tish Stringer, a graduate teacher at Rice University and organizer with Houston Indymedia. After several days of back and forth, activists agreed to provide 10,000 cheap, Walkman-style radios with batteries.




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Governor's Race

Chris Bell had this to say about what should be done with gas prices in the state in the wake of Katrina, "We simply can’t afford to be paying over $3.00 a gallon":
What I have recommended is that we follow the lead of other states and suspend the gasoline tax in the state of Texas for a while. We just discovered over a billion dollar surplus, we can afford it. What we can’t afford is for people to be paying $3.00 a gallon for gasoline.
...
This is about the livelihood of the people here in our state and they need to put politics on the back burner for a while and look at where we are heading. We simply can’t afford to be paying over $3.00 a gallon for gasoline. It’s that simple.
He also had this to say about the work he started while he was still in Congress and that it should be finished, DeLay's state PAC indicted:
"If the actions of Tom DeLay's political machine are deserving of a criminal indictment, then he is certainly deserving of a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee," said former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston, who filed the original complaint.
Gov. Mofo is mugging for the cameras, Perry appears at high school games via video:
Gov. Rick Perry will be larger-than-life on scoreboard screens at high school and college football stadiums across the state this weekend.

The governor has recorded a video appeal for Texans to continue giving for hurricane relief. Red Cross volunteers will be collecting donations as the video is aired.
It's been a pretty good week for Perry as far as Perry vs. Strayhorn is concerned.

Time will only tell how bad this, Audit determines Strayhorn donors had tax bills cut, will hurt Strayhorn. I thought this was an interesting tidbit:
Contributions from tax consultant Ryan & Co., where Sharp now works, soared from $48,000 during Sharp's last year in office to more than $398,900 in 2004.
Sharp and Ryan & Co. Managing Principal Brint Ryan were not available for comment Thursday, but the audit recommends creating a registry that links such consultants with each taxpayer they represent and in which settlements.
Texas is doing an excellent job in the relief effort and Chet Edwards, who used to represent part of Williamson County, is doing his part, Waco congressman opens home:
As most evacuees in Texas are sleeping in shelters, hotels and living rooms, one family left homeless by the storm has settled comfortably into a congressional bedroom.

U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, has opened his usually vacant three-bedroom in Waco home to Johnnie Marchand and her family.

Marchand left her home in Algiers, across from the Mississippi River from New Orleans, and has a son, daughter and two grandchildren. They ended up at a Baptist church in Waco, and she accepted Edward's offer to stay in his home when she met him last Saturday.

She said she had no idea at the time Edwards was a congressman.





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Friday, September 09, 2005

One Of The Many Problems With The Aftermath Of Katrina

Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA:
Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.
(Link submitted by WCDP Chair Jimmy Rocha)
To put this all in context, check out the Katrina Timeline.


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Thursday, September 08, 2005

News

I was unable to make it to the WCDP Executive meeting tonight and thought I would post some of the latest news.

Goodbye Gonzalo, Barrientos leaving Texas Senate:
State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos on Wednesday bowed out of seeking re-election next year, insisting that a possible challenge in the March Democratic primary from former Austin Mayor Kirk Watson did not drive his decision.
He did many great things over the years but I think it's time for him to move on. Thank you Senator Barrientos for your many years of service.

Let's see Jr. as state Rep and Sr. as County Judge, Nepotism anyone. The Hill Country News shills for Republicans again, Start the how many Gattis' does it take... jokes.

The next round of the Perry vs. Strayhorn battle:
(via Texas Weekly) The State Auditor's Office didn't officially release its audit of the comptroller's tax settlements until 3 p.m. on Thursday, September 8. That was roughly nine hours after newspapers bearing the details of the audit started hitting driveways in Dallas and Houston. And it was almost 24 hours after the reporters who wrote those stories started working the phones to put the details together.
For Whom The Bell Tolls, Grand jury indicts TAB and TRMPAC from Off The Kuff. If you can't beat them steal it, that's what Republicans say (my words):
Today, the Texas Association of Business (TAB) and Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC) were indicted for 130 charges of criminal campaign activities stemming from conduct during the 2002 general election.
Chairman Soechting's response:
“Today’s indictments show how a handful of operatives working for Texas Republicans orchestrated a scheme to launder illegal corporate contributions to help Republican candidates in the 2002 elections,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting.
Don't forget to check out the flow chart.

Poll shows good news for Democrats or anyone not a Republican:
Carole Keeton Strayhorn, the state comptroller who wants to be governor, has some work to do to if she wants to beat Gov. Rick Perry in next year's Republican primary, according to the Scripps Howard Texas Poll.

The Poll also showed a growing dissatisfaction with President Bush, statewide leaders and the Texas Legislature.
Or what goes up must come down:
Texans have grown increasingly disenchanted with their government leaders, with politicians from the president on down suffering some of their lowest approval ratings ever, according to a new poll.
Our conservative governor has run out of compassion. Does this mean he won't pay until his buddy George pays up?:
Mr. Perry protested Wednesday what his office called "early indications" that federal officials would ask Texas to pay the usual state match of 39 cents of every dollar spent on Medicaid services for the evacuees who have found temporary shelter in Texas.



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