07.31.07

Meet Rick Noriega

Posted in 2008 Primary, Around The State, Election 2008, US Senate Race at 4:41 pm by wcnews

Rick Noriega has an introduction video:

Don’t forget to drop him a dollar or two.

More From Rep. Carter On Iraq

Posted in Around The Nation, District 31, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 1:14 pm by wcnews

At his blog Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) has posted on his latest trip to Iraq. There are a couple of points that need to be made about what he is writes in it. The first paragraph is extremely troubling.

As a Member of Congress I can tell you there is no bigger issue we face as a nation than the Global War on Terror. This war affects every American. It demands sacrifices from the men and women in uniform who so bravely risk their lives to defend the freedoms we enjoy today, and it affects the families of our military who send their loved ones to fight the battle. It is to these individuals that we owe our eternal gratitude.

While, let there be not doubt, we are all extremely grateful for the sacrifices of our military and their families this first paragraph highlights on of the biggest problems I’ve always had with the rhetoric used her by people like Carter. It’s also used by Bush and all the Neocons when talking about the Global War on Terror (GWOT). They tell us that the GOWT is the biggest issue we face and affects every American, but it demands the sacrifices of the military and their families only. Notice how Rep. Carter doesn’t ask anyone else to sacrifice for this issue that, he says, “affects every American”. It’s been obvious from the beginning that as long as people like Rep. Carter and those for continuing this war can keep it from entering most Americans daily lives they will be able to continue this war.

You can continue reading the rest of Rep. Carter’s tale of joy from Iraq, but let’s suffice it to say, he paints a rosy picture of what’s going on in Iraq, so don’t worry you’re pretty little head about it. If you do want to worry this might be a place to start. Iraq is a horrible humanitarian disaster, Nearly a third of Iraqis need immediate emergency help as conflict masks humanitarian crisis.

    According to the report:

  • Four million Iraqis – 15% – regularly cannot buy enough to eat.
  • 70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.
  • 28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.
  • 92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.
  • More than two million people – mostly women and children – have been displaced inside Iraq.
  • A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan

It will be hard to bring a political solution about to a county with conditions like that. And the violence continues unabated. None of this is to say that our troops aren’t doing the best job possible in near impossible circumstances. Rep. Carter goes on to show his adherence to GOP talking points and to Bush by parroting the party line on Iraq.

What is making a difference in Ramadi is the Sunni population is now working with the Iraqi government and our military to point out terrorists. I might remind you that the al Qaeda are Sunni. Because of the success of our men and women in uniform and the brutality of the terrorists, the Iraqi people are beginning to trust their government and the Americans.

In that paragraph Rep. Carter is hoping that everyone will believe that the war in Iraq is, and has always been, a fight against Al Qaeda. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While that story about Ramadi is a good one, it’s says nothing about the on-going bloodbath/civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiite’s.

What Carter is trying to do in this post is to tell his constituents, again, that everything is fine in Iraq, no need to think about it, our fine military and their families will take care of everything. Just keep buying gas, going to the mall, and doing everything you always do, as if there isn’t even a war on. Even though it’s the biggest issue Americans face and it affects us all.

Craddick’s been putting away the groceries

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:47 am by dembones

Roadside panhandlers call it “flying the cardboard.” Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) calls begging for food a campaign expense. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission (and summarized wonderfully here), Speaker Craddick spent $22,976.10 at H-E-B during the January-to-June reporting cycle.

To be fair, the regular session of the 80th Legislature occurred during this reporting period; however that still works out to $128 for each day of the 180-day session. That’s a lot of Rice Krispies. So much that the groceries were running 5 percent of the $455,023 spent out of Craddick’s campaign cash.

One wonders if his contributors are aware that Craddick’s literally eating on their nickel. The expenses are all payments to “HEB Credit Receivables”, so apparently the Speaker was running a tab at the grocery store. H-E-B does sell many non-food items. Perhaps we should search Craddick’s capitol apartment for tiki torches and plastic patio furniture.

Republicans to sick kids: tough luck if you’re poor

Posted in 80th Legislature, Bad Government Republicans, Congress, District 31, Health Care, The Lege, US Senate Race at 1:59 am by dembones

Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) are among a group of Republicans in Congress speaking out against plans to increase federal funding for State Childrens’ Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP). Pres. George W. Bush has asked Congress for an additional $5 billion over five years in his budget; however, a bill before the House will allocate up to 10 times that amount. The AP is reporting that without large increases in SCHIP funding, most of Texas’ 1.4 million uninsured children will remain uncovered.

Rep. Carter disparaged a House bill proposing an increase large enough to cover all uninsured children as “a slow stroll down the road to socialism.” The AP reports that Sen. Cornyn “is concerned about the program’s ‘dramatic expansion,’ warning it could set the stage for a government-run, national health care system.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) thinks the President’s plan goes too far. He “wrote an alternative bill that would spend $500 million to $1.5 billion over the same timeline.” That is as little as one-tenth as much as the President is requesting.

The Texas Republicans’ criticisms run in stark contrast to public opinion, which is firmly behind the expansion of SCHIP. Recent polling shows that Americans favor [pdf] “offering a government-subsidized health insurance plan to individuals who do not have access to employer-paid health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid” by a three-to-one margin (WSJ/Harris May 8).

State Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) broke down in tears on the floor of the Texas House in the waning hours of the 80th regular session to convey the lengths he was willing to go to restore SCHIP coverage to 127,000 uninsured Texas children. He allied with Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) and wielded the gavel for hours at a time, refusing to recognize members of both parties who sought to be recognized to make a motion to vacate the chair. Turner made it clear that he would bargain with the devil to restore coverage for those 127,000 children. Yet, if Congress does not pass and Pres. Bush does not sign a bill to increase SCHIP funding by an amount significantly higher than what the President is requesting, many of those 127,000 children will remain uncovered.

Texas Republicans are leading the charge to stab Turner in the back and render worthless the bargain he made.

The intense emotions and passionate debate over a matter, literally, of life or death for our nation’s 11.6 million uninsured children [pdf] will reach a fever pitch as Congress takes up this issue, with votes coming perhaps this week. The National Academy for State Health Policy’s Chip Central web site provides a great deal of material on this issue, including a side-by-side comparison [pdf] of three SCHIP reauthorization proposals under consideration.

07.30.07

HK on Hillary In Texas – [UPDATED]

Posted in 2008 Primary, Around The State, Election 2008 at 11:59 pm by wcnews

EOW‘s with Harvey Kronberg, (hat tip to Greg), “it is going to take more than Hillary Clinton on the ticket to revive Republican momentum“.

[UPDATE]:
It’s the last two paragraphs, that include the quote above, of Kronberg’s column that need to be expanded upon.

But it is often external things campaigns can’t control that drive elections. For the last 15 years, Republicans benefited from the daily drumbeat of conservative talk radio unifying their message and energizing voters. What’s new is that liberal blogs are serving much the same purpose, touching and energizing the left on a daily basis.

I am not predicting that Democrats are going to win Texas next year. But the way things feel today, it is going to take more than Hillary Clinton on the ticket to revive Republican momentum.

Voters of all parties, and not just in Texas but across the nation, have turned a deaf ear to the “wing-nut” blow-hards of talk radio. They’ve also grown tired of the Republicans failure to govern. The promise of tax cuts that never came and a government that can no longer help citizens in need (S-CHIP, Katrina, health, care, etc..), have opened a chasm. And with most traditional media ignoring that reality, blogs have served have filled that void that they left. Not that any of us want to be compared to “wing-nut” radio. We deal in facts and site our sources and while we are opinionated there’s a link to backup what we’re saying.

Humorous Headlines

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary, Election 2008 at 11:21 pm by wcnews

Republicans see Texas as a key to taking back House in 2008. Now it’s probably likely that the Republicans might pick up a Democratic seat or two in’08. Not saying they’ll gain overall and they won’t take back the majority in the House.

Despite President Bush’s low approval ratings and public opposition to the Iraqi war, Republicans remain optimistic that they can rebound from the midterm election rout and win back seats in the House.

Republicans have targeted 28 Democratic lawmakers considered vulnerable in the 2008 election cycle — including Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont.

“Texas is a pretty reliably Republican state, particularly in a presidential year,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Democrats hold a 231-202 majority over Republicans in the House, with two vacancies.

The NRCC badly trails the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in fundraising, and the GOP has had trouble fielding candidates for targeted seats — including one held by Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco.

Campaign finance reports for June showed the DCCC with $19.5 million in cash-on-hand, while the NRCC had $2 million.

“I think a lot of Democrats are very charged up after the 2006 elections,” Cole said, adding that the “energy translates into dollars.”

“They feel they are coming in for the kill, so to speak, in 2008. I think they’ve got another thing coming,” Cole told reporters in a conference about Republican efforts to win back seats.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the DCCC chairman, says the Democrats’ fundraising success show voters are responding “to our efforts to hold President Bush accountable.”

Van Hollen said Americans see Democrats as “fighting for middle-class families, not special interests.”

The next one is funny in a sad way, Rice: Iran now the biggest U.S. strategic challenge in Mideast.

Iran is the “single most important” strategic challenge in the Middle East for the United States and its allies, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday, as she flew to the region with a plan for billions of dollars in arms sales and military aid for Israel and Arab nations.

[...]

Rice accused Iran of backing Middle East terrorist groups, supplying arms to Iraqi groups who attack U.S. soldiers and of seeking nuclear weapons.

“The Iranians should stop their destabilizing activities. That’s what they should do,” she said.

Taken literally, Rice’s comments place U.S. worries about Iran ahead of concerns over the war in Iraq. Although that doesn’t seem to square with the reality of the war raging on the ground, it may well describe the situation likely to develop if the United States begins to withdraw from Iraq, leaving a much broader field for Iran to maneuver.

One could argue that the disaster that is Iraq might be “the biggest U.S. Strategic challenge in the Middle East”.

Too Much Water In Hutto

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Cronyism, Williamson County at 4:47 pm by wcnews

In 2004 the City of Hutto knew they were buying more water than projections said they would need and did it any way. AAS has the story, How did Hutto end up with so much water?

This Williamson County hamlet signed a deal in 2004 that committed it to buy more water than its own growth projections indicated was necessary, according to recently released documents and interviews with city officials.

Still, city leaders went ahead with the deal, perhaps under the impression they had no other choice. This year alone Hutto, by now a city but still growing fast, will spend $1 million on water it will not use.

Customers’ water rates have already gone up once because of the contract, and another increase is expected before the end of the summer. The city is now renegotiating with the water provider, which has cost taxpayers about $100,000 more in consultant fees.

When asked about the extra water, current city leaders have said Hutto simply didn’t grow as fast as expected to cover the extra water. But documents obtained by the American-Statesman and interviews tell another story.

Among the findings:

•Hutto’s city engineer calculated growth projections showing that the water contract was too big. Those projections turned out to be fairly accurate. But there’s no record that the City Council ever saw them before signing the 2004 contract.

•City leaders said Hutto was under orders from the state to buy more water immediately. State officials deny that.

•There’s evidence that there were other water options in the works. Nearby Taylor and the Brazos River Authority were planning an expansion of a water plant — fully expecting Hutto to be a customer.

I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the growth of Hutto in the past seven years, or so, but it’s been massive. To say Hutto didn’t grow as fast as expected sounds suspicious. Especially when in the next paragraph we find out that Hutto is the fastest growing city in the state. Instead is appears that Hutto’s leaders, at the time, panicked and mishandled a state citation.

This need was made more dire in the summer of 2003, when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality cited Hutto for not having enough water to meet state guidelines.

Mel Yantis, Hutto’s city manager at the time, said he took that citation — and numerous verbal warnings — to mean that they had to find a new water supplier.

But that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Hutto city engineer Dan Hejl had appealed to the state environmental agency to relax its minimum guidelines. The state denied his request, but only because it didn’t include the proper paperwork.

“We definitely didn’t tell them, ‘You need to get a whole bunch more water,’ ” said Judson Smith, who wrote the denial letter from the agency’s technical review and oversight team.

Yantis said this month that he didn’t know Hutto needed only to provide more detailed information. He said he relied on Hejl for engineering advice about state water requirements.

Hejl said he had prepared the missing documentation for the state, but city officials did not ask him to submit it — instead, they signed a new water contract with Heart of Texas Water Suppliers.

Yantis said he went with Heart of Texas because it was the only supplier with a contract ready to go.

Hmm…Heart of Texas Water that sounds familiar why?

Heart of Texas has come under scrutiny because it is partly owned by Frankie Limmer, the area’s county commissioner during the negotiations.

Yantis and Limmer said Limmer had no part in negotiating the deal because of his position with the county. Limmer is also a part-owner of land in two water control districts within reach of the pipeline. Limmer did not return calls for comment.

Hejl owns land in one of those districts through a limited liability company. He would not answer questions about whether he has or has had a business relationship with Limmer. He said Hutto approached the deal from a “purely water research standpoint.”

“Hutto has been extremely good to (my engineering company), and I would never do anything to harm that community,” Hejl said.

Why is it that whenever the people of Eastern Williamson County are getting a bad deal that Frankie Limmer is involved so how?  Let’s see if we have this straight. Hutto needs water because of fast growth. The city then buys too much water, and says it overestimated the growth, even though Hutto is the fastest growing city in the state. We then find out they knew they were buying too much water when they signed the contract but did it anyway. And who did they sign the contract with? Well the company owned by then Precinct 4 county commissioner Frankie Limmer. No big deal it’s not like all this extra water is going to cost the citizens of Hutto or anything like that.

Hutto customers already pay some of the highest water bills in Williamson County. The city plans to raise rates again soon, to an average of $72 per month.

Those rates shouldn’t change until 2011, according to a rate study by an outside engineering firm.

But that’s only if a new contract with Heart of Texas is finalized — and if the city grows as expected under Hejl’s new projections.

The new deal would decrease the amount of water the city buys from Heart of Texas considerably over the next few years. The council approved the new contract, but the two sides are working out small details; once completed, the deal would go into effect immediately.

But it also calls for Hutto to buy more water in the long term that its customers might not use. In 2027, Hutto would have to buy 5 million gallons of water a day from Heart of Texas, but according to Hejl’s most conservative projections, the city would need only 3.6 million gallons. If the city grows at a faster rate, the city would need 5.2 million.

A $72/month water bill would not make me happy.  This sounds like another issue that the Hutto Citizens Group could add to it’s . Like with Limmer’s landfill contract this deal is now being renegotiated. And like with the landfill deal the citizens of Hutto are the ones who are likely to suffer and better hold onto their wallets.

Texas Blog Round Up (July 30, 2007)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:42 am by wcnews

It’s Monday, and that means it is time for another Texas Progressive Alliance Texas Blog Round-Up. This week’s round-up is brought to you by Capitol Annex.

Diarist Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos has had enough, and she shares the letter she wrote Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn in Tell Me That Our Elected U.S. Lawmakers Do Not Embrace a W.
Monarchy
.

Could Be True ponders the often asked question (by the Right), “Why Post Election Information in Spanish” at South Texas Chisme.

Vince at Capitol Annex reveals a letter House Speaker Tom Craddick sent to former Parliamentarian Denise Davis telling her to keep her mouth shut about her time as Parliamentarian.

Texas Education just took another hit thanks to Governor Perry, according to a post by TXSharon at Bluedaze. Rick Perry appointed Dr. Don McLeroy as the Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. McLeroy is known for his radical fundamentalist views. This is especially bad because textbooks are up for review this year.

Hal at Half Empty ponders early endorsements in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in An Endorsement Is Worth Watt Price?

Matt at Stop Cornyn lets us know that John Kerry has announced a contest to Remove Republican Roadblocks (like John Cornyn).

Karl-Thomas at Burnt Orange Report tells us about Town Lake being named after Lady Bird Johnson.

Muse at Musings has the invite to LTC Rick Noriega’s change of command ceremony at the Alamo on August 4th. Noriega will take command of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, which can trace its history back to the Republic of Texas. The event is open to the public.

Thought we were done with Accenture and HHSC privatization? Charles at Off the Kuff says think again.

Stace at Dos Centavos tells us about a Pew study which finds Latino political participation is not matching up to Latino
population growth
. Will demographic changes be enough to put Democrats over the top?

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News points to a peer reviewed study that shows illegal immigrants are not criminals–they go to jail at an amazing low one-fifth rate of current citizens. Perhaps we should promote immigration to reduce the crime rate in the United States?

Dembones at Eye On Williamson County posts on the similarities between the new “right-wing” talking points on Iraq and the change in rhetoric by Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) on bringing troops home from Iraq in John Carter Heeds Grover Norquist Talking Points.

John C. at Bay Area Houston, in Raising Campaign Cash 2007 from Bob Perry tells us that, during the first part of 2007, Bob Perry didn’t get close to his record contributions of 2006 of $4.5 Million. In 2007 he only donated $471,000 with $250,000 doing to Texans for Lawsuit Reform. HillCo PAC, another fine anti-consumer organization received $50,000 and Lt. Governor Dewhurst received $25,000.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal tells us that Carrollton attorney Karen Guerra is set to run as a Democrat for the 16th District Court in 2008.

Steve at Who’s Playin’? tell us about three North Texas men calling for impeachment with a freeway banner over I-35 in Lewisville during rush hour.

Mayor McSleaze at McBlogger takes on recent changes in the dress code for visitors at the White House.

And, don’t forget about these other Texas Progressive Alliance Members: Three Wise Men, In The Pink Texas, Marc’s Miscellany, Common Sense, The Agonist, People’s Republic of Seabrook, McBlogger, B and B, Brains and Eggs, Feet To The Fire, and Who’s Playin’.

07.29.07

This Is Just Silly

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Privatization, Road Issues at 3:11 pm by wcnews

I’m always intriqued when economist Ray Perryman writes a column, and today is not different. He has a guest column promoting toll roads and public private partnerships, Toll roads take fastest route, in today’s WacoTrib. After promoting corporate toll schemes all through the column, Perryman tries to be conciliatory at the end by stating that, “No one factor should dominate the process, and no single approach is the answer.” That seems disingenuous, to say the least. Early on he tries to belittle anyone who’s against these corporate schemes:

How to ease the gridlock? With no appetite to increase the gasoline tax, the federal government is not likely to provide any major infusions. That leaves toll roads and public-private partnerships, which a vocal minority opposes.

I don’t know if I’d call us a minority. Of Texans that are aware of what’s going on in this state, when it comes to issues of transportation infrastructure, we are definitely a majority. Perryman goes on to correctly state that the recently passed “moratorium” isn’t a moratorium, but then he goes on to tells us all the joys the TTC will bring:

The moratorium doesn’t halt the proposed TTC, but no dirt will be moved as a part of this enterprise for two years. The time will be spent for studies and expanded preparation.

The TTC will improve efficiency, reduce transportation time and costs, help expand intrastate trade and strengthen the position of Texas as a site of corporate operations and expansions. Delaying it will cost the state’s economy millions of dollars per year.

All for the low price of 50 cents per mile.  And the claim about transportation time and cost all depends on who is asked the question.  He provides the usual pro-toll mantra that there’s no will, in this case “appetite”, to increase the gas tax so corporate toll schemes are our only option. Make no mistake, tolls are taxes, and they will be huge tax increases at that. But to spout the whole time about corporate toll sdhemes, and then have to nerve to say we should look at all options borders on ludicrous.

So Texas must be flexibile. In solving traffic congestion in Texas, careful consideration should go to the social, legal, environmental, economic and political costs and benefits. No one factor should dominate the process, and no single approach is the answer.

Of course “on factor” shouldn’t dominate the discussion, maybe someone should write a column about that.

07.27.07

TX-Sen: Democratic Primary, Experience And Money Needed To Win

Posted in 2008 Primary, Election 2008, Uncategorized, US Senate Race at 12:47 pm by wcnews

As reported at EOW yesterday Rick Noriega went down to the Valley earlier in the week. On that visit not only did Noriega, as is his MO, “speak truth to power”, and beat Sen. Cornyn over the head with his own record of neglect for the Valley, he also tried to gently encourage Mikal Watts to “stand aside” in the US Senate race, and let the more experienced candidate go forward against Texas’ failed US Senator.

In reaction to Noriega’s visit Mikal Watts went down to the Valley too and again trotted out his “endorsers” in the Valley to show his support down there. While there will be endorsements for both candidates from this area and, eventually, who will be declared the “winner” someday – if there is such a thing – of Valley endorsements, we’ll just have to wait and see. But because of Watts’ millions those endorsements will be looked at with skepticism.

Whether Draft Noriega bloggers will be able to reach our September goal is not, and should not, be looked at as the only marker of whether Noriega is the people powered candidate in this race. While blogs have increased scrutiny in politics, and given voice to previously voiceless, we are not a substitute for the previous ways of fundraising and campaigning. Our campaign is only one, and we hope an important part, of a larger campaign to show and help spread the word that Rick Noriega is the people’s candidate in the race for US Senate in Texas in 2008.

What the Democratic explorers’ Valley actions show is two different types of candidates. Watts, it appears, is trying to garner endorsement and votes the only way an inexperienced, wealthy candidate can, with money. Noriega, on the other hand, is trying to garner endorsements and votes the way a non-millionaire, politician, with a record of achievement best can, by trumpeting that record and asking people to join up with him and trust in his proven record of service.

It’s been said a few times already in this early stage of the primary, that while money is important, it’s not everything. It will continue to be said as long as these two candidates are involved. It’s also been said that if money was the “only” thing it took to win an election we’d be in Gov. Sanchez’s second term right now. While, we can hopefully assume, Watts is a much better inexperienced candidate than Sanchez was, what Democrats need most is a well financed and experienced candidate to take out Sen. Cornyn. With one of these two candidates being the likeliest to get the nomination, Noriega is the only one with the needed experience. The money can be raised in time to beat Cornyn, Watts cannot make up for his inexperience in time. The only way to get an experienced, well-funded candidate is for Watts to step aside and for Democrats in Texas to fund the experienced candidate, Rick Noriega, with all our might.

I also came across this from KERA in Dallas, Commentary: Texas Democrats. It’s about the Democrats chances in 2008 and Democratic resurgence in Texas, which has thus far been mainly in the urban areas. But there was this little blurb in it about Rick Noriega.

The key, of course, is Hispanic voters. It is their strength in South Texas that has prompted Dan Weiser to predict a strong run for Houston legislator and veteran of the war in Afghanistan Rick Noriega in the Democratic race to take on Republican Senator John Cornyn next year. Noriega may not win in the fall. Incumbents are hard to beat. But if he gets past the primary, he may well make the way for other Democrats in other years. “One day,” said [Dan Weiser, a long-time expert in the politics of the Democratic party], “we’ll wake up and the Hispanic giant will have voted.” That will be the day the Democrats rise from the cities to take on suburban, Republican Texas.

I’m not to familiar with Dan Weiser but he seems to think Noriega provides Democrats the best chance against Cornyn.

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