04.30.08

Still No New Ideas From Republicans, Gas Prices Version

Posted in Around The Nation, District 31, Had Enough Yet?, The Economy at 4:07 pm by wcnews

As stated in this LTE at the RRL:

The representative from Exxon, John Carter, in his latest spin attempts to smokescreen why he and Exxon are enjoying record excessive profits at all our expense. They do this while not paying us royalties for drilling on our federal lands and tidelands.

The representative from Exxon also tells us the Bush-Cornyn-Carter regime’s gross misadventure in Iraq has nothing to do with our collapsing economy, despite most economists telling us the trillion dollar (and going toward $3 trillion) borrowed from the Chinese Communists has no doubt been a major factor in our falling dollar.

The Bush-Cornyn-Carter regime is spending billions each month for Iraq. Meanwhile, Iraqis pay $1.35 per-gallon for gas (subsidized by the American taxpayers), while our military forces in Iraq are forced to pay market rate, which of course is nearing $4 per gallon.

Meanwhile, these chickenhawks continue to sneak in and out of Iraq for photo-ops with our heroic soldiers and Marines, while at the same time refusing to support the “New G.I. Bill.”

Here’s the deal on ANWR:

The Energy Information Administration, which is the Energy Department’s independent analytical arm, estimated that if Congress had cleared Bush’s ANWR drilling plan the oil would have been available to refiners in 2011, but only at a small volume of 40,000 barrels a day — a drop in the bucket compared with the 20.6 million barrels the U.S. consumes daily.

At peak production, ANWR could have potentially added 780,000 barrels a day to U.S. crude oil output by 2020, according to the EIA.

The extra supplies would have cut dependence on foreign oil, but only slightly. With ANWR crude, imports would have met 60 percent of U.S. oil demand in 2020, down from 62 percent without the refuge’s supplies.

Oh yeah and the gas tax holiday is a bad idea too.

Economists said that since refineries cannot increase their supply of gasoline in the space of a few summer months, lower prices will just boost demand and the benefits will flow to oil companies, not consumers.

“You are just going to push up the price of gas by almost the size of the tax cut,” said Eric Toder, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center in Washington.

[...]

Anyway, John McCain has a really bad idea on gasoline, Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no….The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.

[...]

Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

Wow!!

Hacktackular – UPDATED

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Cronyism, Privatization, Road Issues at 2:49 pm by wcnews

This may be the best headline regarding Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment of Deirdre Delisi’s as chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, Daughter-In Law Of Local Lawmaker Will Chair Transportation Commission. As reported by Burka it appears that Austin’s own Sen. Kirk Watson has finally acquiesced, and will allow Delisi’s appointment to go forward.

..I have learned from a source close to Kirk Watson (NOT Watson) that the Austin senator will not object to the appointment of Deirdre Delisi to succeed the late Rick Williamson as chairman of the Texas Highway Commission. Watson has been the primary roadblock–so much so that speculation was rampant that Perry would name a chairman who was not controversial, and then Delisi would take over the running of the agency, a position for which no Senate confirmation is required. However, Watson had previously objected to the appointment of Ron Wilson to the Public Safety Commission, and the best way I can think of to put it is that Perry was playing hardball and Watson didn’t think that busting a second Perry appointee was a good career move.

Not sure what kind of future “career move” Watson is planning on. But it’s hard to see how standing up to a Republican governor, with little public support, could be bad for a Democrats future. There’s no comment yet from Watson or Senate Transportation Committee chair John Carona.

Perry spokesman Robert Black said he believes they will be confirmed. He said Watson, who has not yet commented on the appointment today, had met privately several times with Delisi.

“I think when any member of the Legislature … sits down with Deidre, they will see someone exceptionally bright, someone who wants to find the solution to a problem and doesn’t care who gets the credit,” Black said.

As for Carona, Black said the senator still is no fan of the appointment. As for Carona’s harsh assessment to a Fort Worth audience some months ago, Black said that “anyone who uses terms like that doesn’t really know Deidre. You would be more accurate to call her a policy wonk than a political hack.”

Carona should be well acquainted with Delisi, however. Black said that in her capacity as chief of staff, one of Delisi’s “top priorities is going to be working withh members of the Legislature to get things done.”

Carona was not yet available for comment Wednesday.

While this is patroage the appointment power is often cited as the greatest power of Texas’ governor.

[UPDATE]: Watson speaks to the AusChron and what he says is hard to take:

“I knew they were coming, and my hope is that what we see with these two appointments is a change in direction,” said Watson. He hopes this could indicate a shift from the “us versus them mentality at TXDoT,” and place more emphasis on local control over decisions about road infrastructure.

You can just look at the current US Attorney General to see what happens when Democrats believe in GOP appointees. Hoping is fine but, it just can’t be done when dealing with this current crop of GOP leaders in Texas. And looking at Perry’s speech from last week there isn’t any hope for a change in direction in there.

Enough Already, Seriously

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Privatization, Road Issues at 11:56 am by wcnews

Yesterday the Legislative Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Projects met in Galveston. Looking at the agenda from yesterday it looks like the committee was again serenaded by those who favor toll roads, corporate/privatized toll roads, that include comprehensive development agreements (CDA), and public private partnerships (PPP). It’s hard to imagine at this point what little nugget of information on transportation financing they’re still searching for. Sen. John Carona and many of his colleagues on this committee have been immersed in this issue for some time now. It’s either tolls, corporate tolls, the gas tax or some combination of the three, that will finance future roads in Texas.

To that point there’s a great editorial in the Waco-Tribune today about our governor’s willingness to cling to an ideological and unpopular scheme, Not serious on roads (tip ot Sal).

Rick Perry can’t be serious.

He says he is – seriously devoted to building and maintaining highways. But he is just as devoted to fencing state government into fiscal straits that make these goals impossible without privatizing highways through tolls.

Perry last week said that going full-bore with toll roads is the only way for Texas to build new highways. That’s not so. The history of Texas tells us it’s not.

Toll roads have their function without question. But so do bonds. So does a gasoline tax that has not kept pace with inflation. So does a reexamination of how Texas funds highways in general – including a look at how highway funds are siphoned off for non-highway purposes.

He’s serious because it has not cost him anything politically in the past, (more on that later). But he’s not the only one to blame.

(Much more in the ..rest of the entry)

Read the rest of this entry �

04.29.08

We Don’t Need Political Hacks, Especially At TxDOT

Posted in Around The State, Road Issues at 9:53 pm by wcnews

Move It! is reporting that changes are afoot at TxDOT, Highway Chair Hope Andrade on way out:

Texas Transportation Commission Chairwoman Hope Andrade, who has a steady resolve but not the fire and spark of the deceased chairman she replaced in January, won’t be reappointed, sources say.

Such a possibility was first reported by Express-News reporter Peggy Fikac in February, and today she’s hearing that the governor’s office might make the announcement tomorrow.

Elected officials closely tied to transportation say Gov. Rick Perry will appoint his former chief of staff, Deirdre Delisi, 35, of Austin, and Fort Worth executive Bill Meadows, 55, who serves on the North Texas Tollway Authority board.

There is only one vacancy, left when Perry’s toll enforcer, Chairman Ric Williamson, died in December. That means Andrade is probably on the way out. The Texas Senate will have to confirm the picks.

I’ll trust Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) chair of the Senate Transportation Committee on this one. From back in January:

Carona said he has been told that Gov. Rick Perry will appoint former Chief of Staff Deirdre Delisi to the Texas Transportation Commission. The governor’s office declined to comment.

Carona said it would be a bad move.

“We don’t need political hacks in that position,” he said. “We need people who understand the business. We need people who understand transportation. We don’t need someone who’s unpopular with the Legislature.”

Also under consideration are Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, who isn’t seeking re-election, and former Fort Worth Councilman Bill Meadows, now a North Texas Tollway Authority member.

Carona isn’t high on Krusee, a Perry insider. But he likes Meadows.

Carona’s opinion matters, since they will have to be confirmed by the senate.

Update On Voter ID In Texas

Posted in Around The State, Elections, HD-52, Williamson County at 9:27 pm by wcnews

Yesterday’s post on the Voter ID ruling by the US Supreme Court I guaranteed two more Democrats in the Texas Senate would guarantee this issue would be history. But Kuff brings us back to reality and has a much better way to guarantee this never becomes a law in Texas:

While I wholeheartedly agree with his prescription, I fear that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in his zeal to provide red meat for Republican primary voters in 2010, will find a way to bypass the two-thirds rule and force this through somehow. Frankly, had it not been for the extraordinary circumstances last year, I think he’d have succeeded then. To me, the best line of defense for 2009 is ensuring that a Democrat is the Speaker of the House, because in that case, we won’t have Leo Berman chairing the Elections committee, and any voter ID bills that get filed ought to get strangled in the crib.

I wholeheartedly agree with that. Let’s take back the house and then we don’t have to worry about the Senate, and the Texas GOP changing long-standing senate precedent. There is no better place to start than here in Williamson County with Diana Maldonado. Kuff also her thank you to TexBlog PAC for their endorsement:

Dear Texas BlogPAC and Friends,

I want to thank you and your donors for your generous contribution to my campaign. We will use your contribution to communicate our message of balanced, progressive leadership to the voters of Williamson County.

I also want to thank you for a great party at Scholz’s! The good news about getting Texas back on track is that so many different people are prepared to pitch in their resources, time, and in the case of your party…their singing voices!

House District 52 covers most of Williamson County including far north Austin, Round Rock, a bit of Georgetown, and all of Taylor and Hutto. The eastern side of the district is home to some of the most productive farmland in all of Texas. To the west, high tech workers and busy commuters have settled in the district because of affordable housing and excellent schools. We must honor and protect our rural roots as we plan for and manage the growth of urban areas.

Just like you, I am prepared to do much more than merely complain about the failures of past leadership. I will advocate for affordable tuition, consumer protection for homeowners, state support for public education, and increased access to healthcare for all Texans. I will fight against toll roads, the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC), and road projects that do not serve the people of my district.

As a former president of the RRISD Board of Trustees, I have worked to put the interests of our kids first. I have worked with my fellow citizens and board members to fully fund classrooms while respecting the pocketbooks of local taxpayers.

I am ready for to fight this battle. As the next legislator from Williamson County, I will build upon my track record of success to provide fair and honest leadership to my district and all Texans.

Sincerely,

Diana Maldonado

Candidate HD52

Cedar Park Municipal Court Overcharged Thousand$

Posted in Cedar Park, Williamson County at 11:19 am by wcnews

The AAS reported last week that Cedar Park court overcharged residents, audit finds.

Cedar Park officials will refund money to residents and to the state after discovering a series of administrative errors and overcharges at the municipal court dating to at least 2004.

The overcharges for fines range from $2 to $120, said Margaret Robbins, a consultant with Harden and Robbins LLC, which the city hired in February to audit its court records. Robbins said her investigation has found about $20,000 in overcharges from part of 2005 and part of 2006.

The city began investigating the errors in June 2006 after a clerk complained about some procedures and overcharges at the court, where people resolve Class C misdemeanors, including traffic fines.

An initial outside investigation by attorney Susan Morrison of Austin found that court clerks had been enhancing charges for failure to maintain insurance if the driver had been previously charged with the same offense. Only a prosecutor is allowed to enhance charges. The report also found that clerks were doubling fines for violations in construction zones that weren’t supposed to be doubled.

The previous court administrator, Sandra Thomas, was fired in October 2006 because of the administrative mistakes, city officials said. April Christensen, who replaced her last year, found that some defendants who failed to appear in court were being charged above the state maximum for that violation.

No one was jailed improperly because of the mistakes, officials said.

If all else fails blame the computer:

Robbins also found that court software had charged defendants either too much or too little for court costs. She said such mistakes are common because the software is not always up to date with current laws.

KEYE-TV has a little different take (w/video):

You may have heard the saying “pay the fine or do the time” when it comes to unpaid traffic tickets, but in Cedar Park some people are paying fines and doing time for fines they shouldn’t owe.

If you think you may have been caught up in this you can contact the Cedar Park Municipal Court here.
There is this interesting comment to the AAS article:

What makes them think they are only liable for the flat amount that they overcharged? Section 118.801 of the Texas Local government code “An officer named in this chapter who, in bad faith, demands and receives a higher fee than authorized under this chapter or a fee that is not authorized under this chapter is liable to the aggrieved person for four times the amount unlawfully demanded and received.

That could get expensive.

Health Insruance Premiums Far Outpacing Incomes

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Health Care at 10:53 am by wcnews

This article in today’s AAS, Report: Texas insurance premiums jump 40 percent from 2001 to 2005, points us to a study that tells us what we already know. Health insurance premiums are rising much faster than incomes.

Texas families saw their health insurance premiums soar 40 percent in five years – 10 times faster than their incomes increased, according to a report being released today by a national foundation that promotes health care improvement.

Nationally, Texas ranked third – behind Oklahoma and Idaho – in premium increases from 2001 to 2005, according to the report on employer-offered insurance by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, N.J.

Here’s the truly horrifying part:

At the same time, Texas ranked No. 1 in the percentage of residents without insurance. In 2005-06, that figure was 27 percent. The state had 5.5 million of the nation’s 47 million uninsured people.

Health care advocates said they were not surprised by the relationship between high health insurance premiums and a high number of uninsured people. But they said they found the difference between the growth of insurance premiums and the increase in the state’s median income over the same period – 4 percent – to be alarming.

“These are horrifying numbers,” said Regina Rogoff, executive director of People’s Community Clinic, which treats uninsured people in the Austin area. “This is, for many people, the bottom line of the crisis of the uninsured in Texas. The costs don’t go away.”

Increased income inequality in the US along with many being priced out of health care does not bode well for those who need insurance or the health insurance corporations. And of course this is having the effect we’ve heard about all too often. People showing up in the emergency room (most expensive care) instead of a doctor’s office (least expensive care), and those with health insurance are picking up the tab.

People without coverage often get expensive emergency room care, and those costs get passed on as higher premiums to people with insurance, Rogoff and others said.

Taxpayers also share the tab when hospitals and governments do more to help the uninsured, said Clarke Heidrick, a member of the Travis County Healthcare District board.

“For people at the lower-income jobs, it’s just not affordable” to buy health insurance, said Heidrick, who has proposed a regional, low-cost health insurance program for small-business workers.

A spokesperson for the health insurance industry gives us their side:

“Health care insurance companies are not making a fortune,” but like any business, they deserve a profit, said Carolyn Goodwin, president of the Texas Association of Health Underwriters.

Texans want health care on demand, which has resulted in an investment in new technology by hospitals across the state, Goodwin said.

Another reason costs are increasing is that 60 percent of uninsured Texans who are eligible for government-assisted programs are not receiving the help, she said.

“Without getting too political, I think the programs don’t have the appropriate outreach,” she said.

That’s very funny. First she shows the insurance Industry’s true colors and sense of entitlement, “they deserve a profit”. Nothing about the free market there. Then she blames the government for the problem, for not having “appropriate outreach” to those who need assistance. Did you hear that whore boy Gov. Perry?

Of course the TAHU and most, if not all, Republicans and many Democrats are still trying to find a way to prop up our rotting health care system and the corporations that make money off of it at the expense of people’s health. More need to start advocating for the solution to our health care problem.

04.28.08

US Supreme Court Allows Voter ID Law To Stand

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Elections, Right Wing Lies at 10:05 pm by wcnews

There’s one thing that all Democrats, in this contentious presidential primary should keep in mind regarding today’s US Supreme Court Voter IDiocy ruling, it’s extremely important, no matter which candidate wins the nomination, that a Democrat is sworn in as President in January 2009.

It’s also key to remember that the kind of voter fraud that this law purports to stop is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. For some background here’s some history on the issue and the kind of voter suppression, and partisan politics that could happen as a result of a law like this in Texas. And for a refresher on what kind of voter suppression used to happen in this country read this, Introduction: Master of the Senate – it’s long so here’s an excerpt:

The scene that had occurred in the Eufaula courthouse was not an unusual one in the American South in 1957. After the Civil War almost a century before, there had been an attempt to make black Americans more a part of their country, to give them the basic rights of citizens—which included, of course, a citizen’s right to vote—and in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution had supposedly guaranteed that right, forbidding any state to “deny or abridge” the “right of citizens . . . to vote” because of their race or color. But the amendment proved to be an insufficient guarantee in the eleven southern states that had seceded from the Union and formed the rebel Confederacy; specific laws to give the amendment force and make it meaningful—federal laws, since there was no realistic possibility that any southern state would pass an effective statute—were going to be necessary. During the eighty-seven years since the Fifteenth Amendment had been ratified, scores, indeed hundreds, of proposed federal laws had been introduced in the Congress of the United States to ensure that black Americans would have in fact as well as theory the right to vote. Not one of these bills had passed. And in Barbour County, in which there were approximately equal numbers of black Americans and white Americans, out of 7,158 blacks of voting age in 1957, exactly 200—one out of thirty-five—had the right to vote, while 6,521 whites had that right. In Alabama as a whole, out of 516,336 blacks who were eligible to vote, only 52,336—little more than one out of ten—had managed to register. For the eleven southern states as a whole, out of more than six million blacks eligible to vote, only 1,200,000—one out of five—had registered. And of course, even those blacks who had registered to vote often didn’t dare go to the polls to cast ballots, because of fear of violence or economic retaliation. In 1957, there were scores of counties in the South which had tens of thousands of black residents, but in which, in some elections, not a single vote had been cast by a black.

If we don’t remember it, we’re doomed to repeat it.

BOR has more,Supreme Court Upholds Indiana Voter ID Law.

Key Point: A Republican Supreme Court backs a Republican-pushed law that has no evidenciary justification for its enactment; meanwhile, in Texas, a Republican Attorney General pursues minority and elderly Democratic voters for laws that may not even constitute illegal activity while the same Republican Attorney General ignores documented instances of Republican voter fraud on a much larger scale.

Vince has a great picture of Texas’ Axis of IDiocy.

For a national wrap-up check out this post from Crooks and Liars, More reaction to the Indiana Voter ID ruling by the Supreme Court: Video Update. This excerpt from Digby:

I have been writing about this since before I started this blog. It’s at the heart of the Florida debacle in 2000, where they illegitimately purged voter rolls and relied on arcane interpretations of the rules to deny people the fundamental right to have their votes counted. It goes all the way back to the reconstruction period and has continued right up to Ohio in 2004.

The Supreme Court has just legitimized the notion that “voter fraud” is a problem when, in fact, every study shows that it simply does not exist in any systematic way and that the voter disenfranchisement that results from such laws is a far more serious problem

The only way to keep this from happening in Texas is to elect more Democrats. Especially in the Texas Senate where two more Democrats, Joe Jaworski and Wendy Davis, would guarantee this wouldn’t happen.

Early Voting Starts Today For May 10 Elections

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:37 am by wcnews

Early voting starts today and runs through Tuesday, May 6th for all the city, school board, and bond elections on May 10th.  Here’s a list [.PDF] of locations and times.  As with the primary and runoff there are full-time locations as well as part-time locations in Hutto, Liberty Hill, Thrall, Granger, Florence and Jarrell.

To find your precinct and look at a sample ballot go here.  Just enter you address and town and it’ll take you to a map to your precinct with a link to a sample ballot.

Texas Blog Round Up (April 28, 2008)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:47 am by wcnews

North Texas Liberal analyzed the arguments from Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound, and Newt Gingrich in favor of the flat tax. See our conclusions here.

The Commissioner of the General Land Office of Texas is a monumental ass. PDiddie of Brains and Eggs has the dirty details in “Discussted”.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News informed his readers about the local elections and other events taking place in a Local Early Voting Edition.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson has This Week’s Transportation Wrap-Up.

WhosPlayin resumes his watch on GOP Congressman Michael Burgess, and joins North Texas Liberal in rejecting his “flat tax” proposal as a tax increase on the middle class.

Hal at Half Empty wonders why Texas’ junior senator, John Cornyn, doesn’t support our troops.

Over at McBlogger, Captain Kroc has a real problem with some of the concessions the City made to a certain developer looking to build condos on Lake Lady Bird.

The Texas Cloverleaf promotes a story about more shenanigans in the Texas Youth Commission, this time forcing a Denton County superintendent to quit before she is fired.

Last week, KUHT (PBS Channel 8) in Houston ran a special on immigration and public attitudes towards it called Houston Have Your Say, which included public officials, activists, ordinary citizens, and a couple of bloggers. Off the Kuff was one of those bloggers, and he wrote about his impressions here.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that the Texas Association of Business is calling for education reform and wonders if anyone else sees the hypocrisy in that situation.

BossKitty at BlueBloggin looks at yet another VA screw up and continues to ignore the welfare of our troops in the VA Caught In Suicide Coverup.

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