07.31.09

Democrats show how stimulus has helped Texas

Posted in Good Stuff, The Budget, The Economy, Uncategorized at 5:03 pm by wcnews

Debunk GOP claims that it’s not working

Via the HChron, Texas Dems say state benefiting from stimulus.

Texas Democratic lawmakers Thursday defended President Barack Obama’s stimulus package against criticism from Republican leaders, saying Texas is making economic progress with the help of recovery funds.

Texas state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said that without the $16.5 billion in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, steep cuts would have been made to the state’s budget.

“We would have been in severe trouble if we had not had it,” Van de Putte told reporters in a Democratic National Committee-sponsored conference call.

Van de Putte said the stimulus money has led to the creation of about 69,000 transportation jobs, an $800 pay raise for public school teachers and accounts for $1.7 billion in other education funds.

State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, said the state did not have to reduce Medicaid spending as it did in 2003 when the Legislature cut the program.

The lawmakers criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, for his rejection of $555 million in stimulus spending for unemployment insurance.

“He’s just lost touch with reality,” Dunnam said.

[...]

And Perry has “mastered the art of hypocrisy,” Dunnam added, because he took $12 billion to help balance the state budget.

“I think what the governor did was a Texas two-face: Say one thing and do another,” Van de Putte said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has also criticized the president’s stimulus package.

In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Cornyn called it a “spending spree” that has failed to produce results.

Despite $1 trillion in spending, Cornyn said unemployment in Texas has increased from 6.5 percent in February to 7.5 percent in June.

The national unemployment is 9.5 percent, according to the Department of Labor.

When George W. Bush was president, Van de Putte said, Cornyn “didn’t have any problems bailing out corporations.”

No he did not, and Perry has definitely lost touche with reality. Great to see Van de Putte and Dunnam clearing this up.

07.30.09

More on Hutchison’s right turn

Posted in 2010 Primary, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Right Wing Lies at 1:27 pm by wcnews

There is no moderate Republican running for governor of Texas.

Kuff has a rundown of KBH’s antics yesterday, From the “Nobody knows what KBH will do” department.

07.29.09

The media is failing on health care

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Health Care, Insurance Reform, Media at 12:33 pm by wcnews

That our media in this country is in flux is no longer in question. While the recent news in Texas of a new media venture has sparked interest, we’ll still have to wait and see what kind of product it produces and if it can succeed. As far as where the media currently stands there’s very little substance in most of it. Which got me thinking – I know, uh oh! – about the media’s stake in the current debate about health insurance reform.

They’re obviously not trying to inform the public about the proposed policy changes.  As this LAT article points out, Media needs to deepen coverage of healthcare reform, the current media is doing little if anything to actually inform the public about what’s really at stake.

A key senator had begun to explain a proposal that might help clear the way to national healthcare reform. Television cameras zoomed in as Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, began to explain the potential compromise.

But if you were watching CNN on Tuesday about the time that Baucus mentioned instituting a cost-control commission he called a “Med-Pac on steroids,” you quickly found yourself whisked back to the studio. The senator had gotten into messy details, “a little bit in the weeds,” as CNN anchor Tony Harris said.

Rather than try to explain to its viewers how such a commission might control Medicare costs, CNN cut away to an all-important update on . . . Alberto Contador’s ongoing war of words with fellow cyclist Lance Armstrong.

By all means, let’s recap the story of two big-name jocks man-slapping each other, rather than help Americans sort out the central domestic issue (Snore!) of the moment.

[...]

Campaign-style “horse race” coverage seemed to me to have shoved aside more pertinent reporting, and on Tuesday, that view got some confirmation, in the form of research from the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The Washington-based watchdog group found that more than three-quarters of the coverage (by 55 outlets across television, radio, newspapers and websites) in the week ending last Sunday focused on politics and legislative strategy. That means less than one quarter of the coverage centered on current medical care conditions, the details of reform proposals or the effect of healthcare on the larger economy.

[...]

The complexity of the debate has not been lost on anyone, but even accepting the difficulties, many outlets have shown a dazzling determination to highlight conflicts and legislative timetables while telling us almost nothing about potential changes in insurance and care.

Many outlets have obsessed, in particular, over the likelihood that the legislation would not be settled by this week’s congressional recess.

[...]

“Now it looks like that’s happening again,” Lieberman said, “and again, we’ve degenerated to the kind of coverage we had in ’93-’94 — who is up, who is down, who’s winning, who’s losing?”

(Here’s the link to the PEJ study).  Essentially the traditional media can no longer inform the public on the big issues facing them in their daily lives.  They can’t inform on what the debate is about, but all that really matters is which side wins or loses.  No matter that it really is a matter of life and death.  It’s like one big long Super Bowl pre-game show for them until the legislation either passes or fails.  What’s included in that legislation, in the long run, is just a side show, literally.

The media has largely abdicated their role in showing what the current state of health insurance is in this country. And they largely obfuscate or don’t lay out what the alternatives can be. All one has to do is listen to what Wendell Potter had to say on Bill Moyers a few weeks ago about how scared the health insurance corporations were of Michael Moore’s movie Sicko. You can watch Potter’s most recent interview last night on MSNBC with Howard Dean.

It is deep in the weeds, and not the most exciting TV, but it is very informative as to what is actually going on.

Part of the reason the media pays attention to the so-called “horse race” aspect is because it pays the bills. The longer the issue stays alive, the longer both sides and their advocacy groups are spending money on ads all over the country. Also they have a vested interest in the changes that are being proposed to the health insurance system, and have a preferred outcome for their bottom line. Anyone who watches TV knows that the drug commercials are everywhere, and that likely pays a good portion of their bills.  Therefore it stands to reason that they would have a negative stance on a plan that would alter that revenue stream.

The media should be informing the public about all the possible health insurance reform solutions that extist, as well as how other country’s insure their citizens.  But they should also be explaining the details of the policies that are being proposed, instead of harping exclusively on polling, how this will affect the 2010 election cycle, and the chances of it getting something passed.

The traditional corporate media model is no longer an honest borker, and hasn’t been for some time, in policy debates in this coutry.  That is why, for the most part, they’re struggling.  It’s also why there is so much hope when new media ventures come along.

Hutchison takes a hard right turn

Posted in 2010 Primary, Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary, Election 2010 at 8:52 am by wcnews

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison after seeing her slipping in the polls in the upcoming governor’s race has decided to feed the beast of the far right GOP primary voter.  She has decided to vote against Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States.  Her vote against is based on Sotomayor’s position on one of the GOP’s 3G’s – the guns section of the Gods, guns and gays, in the GOP platform. Read her statement here.

Here’s the statement from TDP chair Boyd Ritchie:

“The appointment of a Supreme Court nominee should be about that person’s qualifications – not about Republican primary politics. Unfortunately, Sen. Hutchison is more concerned with making politically motivated decisions to compete with Gov. Perry for Republican primary voters than in doing what’s right.”

And as Kuff shows as she decries Gov. Perry’s leadership Hutchison is doing much more following than leading.

So KBH will follow Cornyn’s lead on Sotomayor just as she’s followed Rick Perry’s lead on health care and the economy. Has this woman ever had an original thought in her life? Maybe her latest campaign manager will help her come up with one. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.

Those poll numbers must be really bad because she even went so far as to have a sit down with the teabaggers in her office. Well there goes any chance Texans had of a moderate GOP candidate emerging after the primary. It sure would be to have a Democratic candidate for governor pointing all of this out.

[UPDATE]: More on KBH’s hard right from First Read:

Considering that Rick Perry has established a lead in the polls as he has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration, it wasn’t very likely that Hutchison would vote for the president’s first appointee to the Supreme Court. While Hutchison is going to try to be more moderate than Perry on issues such as the unemployment stimulus dollars and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, I expect she will use the gun issue over and over to remind voters that she’s more a conservative than a moderate.

Also, it is worth noting that Hutchison voted against Sotomayor for the Court of Appeals long before she was in this primary fight for governor.

Evan Smith says he thinks she would have voted for Sotomayor if she weren’t running against Perry: “The question for her — and her new team — is, How do you grow the primary vote when you spend all your time competing for the base? If she’s making a case for herself as a pragmatic alternative to the status quo, I haven’t heard it.”

[UPDATE]: Here’s another take on it, A Missed Opportunity.

Now that Hutch has announced she will vote against Judge Sotomayor, Lone Star State Dems have an excellent opportunity to fully engage the state’s growing Latino vote. National Latino organizations are pretty much united in supporting Judge Sotomayor. Dems need to step forward and take full advantage of the current political situation. Check it out. Of course, other than issuing press releases, I don’t think the Lone Star State Dems are going to do anything else to engage the Latino vote.

It is pretty clear that Hutch is now going all out to appeal to GOP right wingers in order to win next year’s GOP Guv Primary so voting against a historical appointment isn’t too much of a big deal to her even in a state with close to 40% of its people Latino. The conversation behind closed doors in Hutch’s office probably went like this: From one of her GOP advisers – “Senator, if you vote for Judge Sotomayor, Guv Dude is going to hang this “wise Latina” around your neck for the next seven months. You will be toast.” From Hutch – “But won’t I alienate Latino voters in the Fall of 2010?” From her GOP advisers – “We will worry about that if we get by Guv Dude. Besides, there is no evidence that the Lone Star State Dems are going to launch a major Latino voter outreach effort anytime soon and so far their candidates for Guv don’t look like they will excite the base.”

No se puede! What else is new!

It would be nice to have some targeted ads running and/or outreach on this issue, hitting the GOP hard in Texas, for a couple of weeks.

07.28.09

The Democrats must pass health insurance reform

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Commentary, Health Care, Insurance Reform, Take Action at 10:15 am by wcnews

It’s key to remember, just like with the stimulus, the Democrats don’t need a single GOP vote to pass health care reform.  After reading this column by State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, Texas would be biggest winner under Obama’s health care reforms, it’s obvious that, not only are Republicans not needed, they’re irrelevant and don’t want  to reform our health insurance system.  No, the biggest impediment to a solution to our country’s health insurance quandary are Democrats.

The members of the the Democratic Party that receive the most benefit from health  insurance corporations are the ones that are holding up insurance reform.  Two of the most egregious Democratic examples are Max Baucus.

No one serving in the Senate today has taken as much money from the Medical-Industrial Complex as Baucus ($2,865,881) other than notorious corporate whore Arlen Specter ($4,066,433) and two former presidential candidates, John Kerry ($8,163,141) and John McCain ($8,672,260). Baucus even tops Medical Industry shill Mitch McConnell ($2,755,468). And when it comes to the Financial Sector– the banksters, Big Insurance and Big Real Estate– Baucus was also on the payroll in a major way. His $4,675,393 in donations put him in the Top 10, with corporate whores like Mitch McConnell, Alexander Lamar, Arlen Specter, Joe Lieberman, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chuck Schumer… basically the folks who oversaw the economic legislation that dragged the economy right over the cliff.

And Sen. Evan Bayh and his wife Susan, Susan Bayh an issue in fight over health care.

But for Bayh, health care isn’t just the latest high-stakes political fight in Congress. It’s also a substantial part of his family’s income.

As the debate over health-care reform intensifies, Bayh’s wife is receiving lucrative payouts from some of the companies that could be most affected by that legislation.

Bayh contends the $2.1 million that his wife, Susan, earned from public health-care companies from 2006 to 2008 represents no conflict of interest. Questions persist, however, for at least two reasons. First, Evan Bayh has been unclear about his positions on many issues related to health-care reform. Second, there’s the timing of Susan Bayh’s rapid rise into corporate governance.

[...]

Adding to speculation about a connection between her board memberships and her husband’s office is Susan Bayh’s unwillingness to discuss the matter, including for this story. She has declined several requests for comment on her corporate interests, making it difficult to tell where those interests end.

So, as Obama attempts to keep his party together on what he has called his most important domestic policy initiative, Susan Bayh’s business contacts are a growing concern.

“What makes her appointments suspicious and worrisome is the fact that most of these board positions came after Evan Bayh was elected to the Senate,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group in favor of a single-payer health-care system. “The situation that the Bayhs are in poses a very serious and obvious conflict of interest, and one that should be worrisome to the public and to the senator.”

Yesterday the CBO released some very good news on the public option.

In a letter to Rep. David Camp (R-MI), the CBO said a “preliminary analysis” found that a health care bill with a public option “would result in 3 million more people enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage by 2016, compared with what would happen under current laws.” “The CBO has…disputed claims made by the Republicans about what our legislation will do,” declared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in response to the letter.

Here’s a great post on the difference between how the traditional media treats CBO news that’s good for the people vs. news that’s good for insurance corporations, Peaceful Coexistence.

Strangely, the headline to this article doesn’t characterize this development as a devastating blow to Republicans and opponents of health care reform the way every other report from the CBO has been characterized as a devastating blow to Democrats, even though it punctures one of the industry’s central arguments against the public plan:

A new government health insurance plan sought by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats could coexist with private insurers without driving them out of business, an analysis by nonpartisan budget experts suggests.

The estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — seen as good news by Democrats — comes as leaders pushed Monday to make progress on health care overhaul before lawmakers go home for their August recess.

I personally don’t like insurance companies and I’d be happy if we had a system where they weren’t necessary. But if they could be made to do their business in a fair and equitable manner, sell their products honestly and fulfill their obligations, then we could probably live with them. Rapacious greedheads making obscene profits on the backs of sick Americans, however, is an immoral and expensive arrangement that can’t be tolerated any longer.

It’s not Democrat v. Republicans on health care. It’s the people v. the health insurance corporations. And yes, it’s way past time for the people to matter more than profit.

07.27.09

Free screening of “The Least of These” in Georgetown Tonight

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, Immigration, T. Don Hutto, Take Action, Williamson County at 2:47 pm by wcnews

(Received via email today).

Don’t forget that Clark Lyda’s film on the T. Don Hutto Detention Center, “The Least of These,” will screen on Monday night, July 27th, 7 pm, at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 West 8th. Admission is free. The film is one hour long and will be followed by a Q. and A. with people interviewed in the film and active in the struggle to end the practice of imprisoning innocent, traumatized children.

Our County Commissioners, who have the power to change those conditions but won’t, have been invited to be present. They believe that they needn’t change this or many other things about County government because they have apathetic, solidly-conservative, or overwhelmed constituents. To remind them that this is not uniformly the case, join us on Tuesday at 9:30 am at the Commissioners Court meeting at the County Courthouse. You can help give voice to those without power who cannot speak for themselves. For questions, please call Susan Wukasch, 963-3969.

Read the press release here.

Franking Commission draws the line on Rep. Carter

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commentary, Congress, District 31, Had Enough Yet?, Health Care, Right Wing Lies, Williamson County at 12:06 pm by dembones

At various times over the past three years, most households in Rep. John Carter’s 31st Congressional District have received taxpayer-paid missives from the Round Rock Republican featuring his rants decrying alleged wastes of taxpayer money. A few get the irony, and now even the House of Representative’s non-partisan Franking Commission, which polices members’ taxpayer-paid constituent communications for political bias, has decided Carter has gone too far.

The conservative mouthpiece Cybercast News Service is reporting that an email Carter introduced at a press conference Thursday was rejected by the Franking Commission for use in taxpayer-funded constituent communications, such as postage and printing on official House stationery. In a message critical of proposed Democratic Healthcare reforms, Carter said “The House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan.” The Franking Commission asked Carter to change the phrase “government run” to “public option.”

Carter has now released the Franking Commission’s email to the press, to expose what he calls the Commission’s suppression of his freedom of speech. Carter’s misrepresentation of the Franking Commission’s duties raises familiar questions of whether the Republican representative is being dishonest or if in fact he is ignorant of the law. The Franking Commission prevents the use of taxpayer funds by Congressmen who cloak political campaigning within the confines of constituent communications. Rules and guidelines related to the franking privilege of members of Congress are provided here (PDF).

The Franking Commission interprets the rules on what pieces of mail qualify for the franking privilege. The Commission explained to Carter that his submission was not qualified, and suggested changes in language to bring it into compliance. Their actions do not limit the ability of Carter to speak his mind on proposed legislation, since he is free to say or write whatever he wants. He just can’t mail it to constituents for free. The use of taxpayer funds to disseminate his words in this case is a violation of federal law. He is free to say it, but our tax dollars should not pay for his megaphone.

Yet, Carter is playing a familiar role as victim, whining to friendly media outlets who’ll dutifully print his protestations verbatim:

“Why does the Franking Commission have the right to prevent me from freely speaking what I think my folks back home ought to hear…”

“I think that is an abridgement of free speech,” he said.

During Rep. Carter’s first four years in the House of Representatives, he was a trusted ally of disgraced Republican former Representative Tom DeLay, in the majority, and freely able to proselytize his constituents at taxpayers’ expense. Now, in his third year in the minority, he appears to be unhappy with his current office. One wonders why he continues to run for re-election if he can no longer function effectively.

UPDATE: Note well the bias of CNS News’ headline, “House Democrats Censor Republican’s Use of Term ‘Government-Run’ Health Care in Constituent Communications.” The Franking Commission is a six-member committee formed by three members of each party. The Franking Commission’s staff is in fact responsible for the suggested corrections, so the House Democrats had little or nothing to do with this action.

Texas Blog Round Up (July 27, 2009)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 7:47 am by wcnews

Time again for the Texas Progressive Alliance weekly blog roundup.

Off the Kuff takes closer look at that story about Texas turnout in last year’s election.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson adds some context to what’s being said in Texas about Unemployment insurance, the stimulus, and Gov. Perry.

This week at McBlogger, Krispy Kreme takes a moment to tell of her personal experiences with folks desperately in need of adequate health care.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston thinks Clear Lake Hospital has a heart of Cold.

No matter what Governor Rick Perry says or hopes for, Texas is part of the federal union. Neil at Texas Liberal offers a video this week of him reading Federalist Paper #9 on the site of the San Jacinto battlefield. Federalist #9 talks about the need for a strong union and San Jacinto is where Texas won independence from Mexico.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that John Cornyn chooses to be an a**hole over Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation.

TXsharon is combining Principles of Community Organizing (POCO) training with a vacation in Colorado so several of her posting this week contained pictures of the Durango & Silverton train ride, clean air, huge deer and breathtaking beauty. But, be sure to check out the progress made from working on the Railroad in regards to land farming toxic drilling waste.

Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker explains why the language we use in defending Health Care Reform matters more than we may think. Hint: They want to have a discussion of Government takeover of health care. We should want to discuss the necessity and fundamental fairness of publicly assisted health care for all. We can win one of these debates, but probably not the other. Check it out…

Miss Hypocrisy, meet Mr. Ignorant. Kay Bailey pricked Rick Perry for snubbing stimulus money she voted against. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs serves.

WhosPlayin was on vacation all week, but still ended up spending some time reading the Health Care Bill and has written a summary of the ‘Public Option’ part of the bill, noting that it looks an awful lot like a PPO.

This week Teddy from Left of College Station covers the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce resolution to oppose any national health care, and reviews what the resolution says and what the resolution means. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

After Citizen Sarah at Texas Vox read the Austin American Statesman’s report on how poorly the Green Choice power program was selling, she felt motivated to write a rebuttal on how Austin Energy’s pricing of wind energy left something to be desired. And this week, the Statesman reports that Austin Energy may re-evaluate the price of their latest batch of clean energy When folks start asking questions, the powers that be (get it?) pay attention. Ya gotta agitate to get the dirt out!

07.25.09

Hutto Citizens will continue to fight for a fair landfill contract

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, County Judge, Hutto, Landfill, Williamson County at 9:52 am by wcnews

Via AAS, Despite setback, opponents of landfill contract vow to continue fight.

A group of citizens opposed to the expansion of a landfill north of Hutto vowed on Friday that the fight over the validity of a contract to operate it is not over despite a major setback in court the day before.

[...]

A group of citizens, however, including the Hutto Citizens Group, appealed the ruling.

The court of appeals on Thursday ruled that because the 2003 contract had ended, claims that it is invalid are moot.

Jeff Maurice, a member of the citizen’s group, said the group could take the issue to the Texas Supreme Court or file a lawsuit claiming the new contract between the county and Waste Management is invalid because of a lack of competitive bidding.

“In terms of our next steps, we have at least a couple,” Maurice said. “By no means is it over.”

He points out that the court dismissed the case because the 2003 contract was no longer in effect, as opposed to ruling on whether it was valid in the first place.

[...]

Opponents of the expansion say the large size of the landfill will have a negative effect on economic development and quality of life in Hutto.

The Hutto Citizens Group, Mahlon Arnett, Robbie Arnett and TJFA L.P. are listed as appellants in the opinion released Thursday.

The new contract was not competitively bid. It was actually more a reworking of the previous contract as opposed to a whole new contract. Maybe the court should have taken that into consideration? Either way the our county elected officials concerns for a corporation over it’s citizens still shines through.

Rachel Maddow calls out Gov. Perry for his states’ rights comments on health care

Posted in 2010 Primary, Around The State, Election 2010, Good Stuff, Right Wing Lies at 1:30 am by dembones

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow regularly refers to herself as a news nerd. That personality surfaces in her reporting in the form of thoughtful analysis and a genuine zest for policy detail. All the more surprising, then, was her gobsmacked befuddlement at the comments of Gov. Rick Perry on WBAP yesterday in which Goodhair suggested that Texas might recoil from proposed federal health care reforms under cover of states’ rights claims.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

MADDOW: Governor Rick, you’ve been governor for nine years. How are you doing finding a solution for Texas’ health care problem, Governor? You’ve got the most expensive health care markets in the country, and the least number of people insured. And you’re worried the federal government is going to screw up the good thing you’ve got going on in Texas? You need to protect Texas’ health care system that you’re doing such an awesome job with, from people you think might really screw it up? Let the states find their own solution? You’ve had nine years, Governor. You’re the worst in the country. How are you doing with that?

With our front row seat at the freak show that is Texas politics, we may have lost a bit of our bemusement over the absurd, paranoid and delusional stylings of Gov. Hairdo. When our elected leader hints at secession, or rejects federal stimulus dollars before he takes them, we roll our eyes and pray the rest of the county isn’t paying attention. Rachel’s rant reminds us they are, and we in Texas are looking increasingly foolish as a result of the example Perry sets.

About four minutes into the clip, Maddow gathers herself and brings in her guest, Washington Spectator Editor Lou Dubose, who quips that Gov. Perry is executing a “line item secession”. He then explains, as we’re all too aware, that the Neanderthal logic behind Perry’s behavior is to convince the shrinking constituency known as the Republican primary voter, that Perry loves God and guns; and hates gays and anyone from Washington, D. C.

“He’s terrified of Kay Bailey Hutchison,” Dubose said. “It’s an extemist base that he’s got to nail down before Kay Bailey Hutchison starts spending money.”

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