01.27.15

Conservative Snake Oil

Posted in Commentary at 11:28 am by wcnews

snakeoilimage

Via Media Matters, The Conservative Movement Is Infected With Scams.

Politico‘s Ken Vogel today examined how “the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them.” Media Matters has similarly found that conservative media is infected with scams, touting cancer “cures,” dubious financial companies, reverse mortgages, and fringe penny stocks.

Vogel noted the financial stakes of the proliferation of these shady groups:

A POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs. POLITICO’s list is not all-inclusive, and some conservatives fret that it’s almost impossible to identify all the groups that are out there, let alone to rein them in.

Vogel explained that Fox News contributor and influential conservative activist Erick Erickson is a frequent critic of these dubious PACs, yet the email list bearing his website has nonetheless promoted some of their efforts. Erickson told Vogel he does not control who rents his list, “and it horrifies me that the list sometimes get rented to some of these guys.”

This is nothing new. As Rick Perlstein pointed out years ago the non-existent line between pundit and charlatan has been part of conservatism for a long time, The Long Con.

Here’s the information in question: “If you have shied away from profiting from the immense promise of stem cells to treat disease because of moral concern over extracting stem cells from fetal tissue, pay close attention. You can now invest with a clear conscience. An Israeli entrepreneur, Zami Aberman, has discovered ‘an oilfield in the placenta.’ His little company, Pluristem Life Systems (OTCBB: PLRS) has made a discovery which is potentially more valuable than Prudhoe Bay.”

Davidson concluded by proposing the lucky investor purchase a position of 83,000 shares of PLRS for the low, low price of twelve cents each. If you act now, Davidson explained, your $10,000 outlay “could bring you a profit of more than a quarter of a million dollars.”

Not long after I let the magic of the placenta-based oilfield sink in, I got another pitch, this one courtesy of the webmasters handling the Human Events mailing list and headed “The Trouble with Get-Rich-Quick Schemes.” Perhaps I’m a little gullible myself; for a couple of seconds, I believed the esteemed Reagan-era policy handbook might be sending out a useful consumer advisory to its readers, an investigative guide to the phony get-rich-quick schemes caroming around the right-leaning opinion-sphere. But that hasty assumption proved sadly mistaken, presuming as it did that the proprietors of outfits like Human Events respect their readers. Instead, this was a come-on for something called “INSTANT INTERNET INCOME”—the chance at last to “put an end to your financial worries . . . permanently erase your debts . . . pay cash for the things you want . . . create a secure, enjoyable retirement for yourself . . . give your family the abundant lifestyle they so richly deserve.”

Back in our great-grandparents’ day, the peddlers of such miracle cures and get-rich-quick schemes were known as snake-oil salesmen. You don’t see stuff like this much in mainstream culture any more; it hardly seems possible such déclassé effronteries could get anywhere in a society with a high school completion rate of 90 percent. But tenders of a 23-Cent Heart Miracle seem to work just fine on the readers of the magazine where Ann Coulter began her journalistic ascent in the late nineties by pimping the notion that liberals are all gullible rubes. In an alternate universe where Coulter would be capable of rational self-reflection, it would be fascinating to ask her what she thinks about, say, the layout of HumanEvents.com on the day it featured an article headlined “Ideas Will Drive Conservatives’ Revival.” Two inches beneath that bold pronouncement, a box headed “Health News” included the headlines “Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days,” “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily—without drugs, without surgery, and without a radical diet,” and “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes . . . Drop Measurement 60 Points.” It would be interesting, that is, to ask Coulter about the reflex of lying that’s now sutured into the modern conservative movement’s DNA—and to get her candid assessment of why conservative leaders treat their constituents like suckers.

The history of that movement echoes with the sonorous names of long-dead Austrian economists, of indefatigable door-knocking cadres, of soaring perorations on a nation finally poised to realize its rendezvous with destiny. Search high and low, however, and there’s no mention of oilfields in the placenta. Nor anything about, say, the massive intersection between the culture of “network” or “multilevel” marketing—where ordinary folks try to get rich via pyramid schemes that leave their neighbors holding the bag—and the institutions of both evangelical Christianity and Mitt Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history—if not, indeed, more so. The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began. [Emphasis added]

Those tactics gelled in the seventies—though they were rooted, like all things right-wing and infrastructural, in the movement that led to Barry Goldwater’s presidential nomination in 1964. In 1961 Richard Viguerie, a kid from Houston whose heroes, he once told me, were “the two Macs”—Joe McCarthy and General Douglas MacArthur—took a job as executive director for the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The organization was itself something of a con, a front for the ideological ambitions of the grownups running National Review. And fittingly enough, the middle-aged man who ran the operation, Marvin Liebman, was something of a P. T. Barnum figure, famous on the right for selling the claim that he had amassed no less than a million signatures on petitions opposing the People’s Republic of China’s entry into the United Nations. (He said they were in a warehouse in New Jersey. No one ever saw the warehouse.) The first thing Liebman told Viguerie was that YAF had two thousand paid members but that in public, he should always claim there were twenty-five thousand. (Viguerie told me this personally. I found no evidence he saw anything to be ashamed of.) And the first thing that Liebman showed Viguerie was the automated “Robotype” machine he used to send out automated fundraising pitches. Viguerie’s eyes widened; he had found his life’s calling.

Following the Goldwater defeat, Viguerie went into business for himself. He famously visited the Clerk of the House of Representatives, where the identities of those who donated fifty dollars or more to a presidential campaign then by law reposed. First alone, and then with a small army of “Kelly Girls” (as he put it to me in 1996), he started copying down the names and addresses in longhand until some nervous bureaucrat told him to cease and desist.

By then, though, it was too late: Viguerie had captured some 12,500 addresses of the most ardent right-wingers in the nation. “And that list,” he wrote in his 2004 book, America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Over America, “was my treasure trove, as good as the gold bricks deposited at Fort Knox, as I started The Viguerie Company and began raising money for conservative clients.”

Fort Knox: an interesting image. Isn’t that what proverbial con men are always claiming to sell?

The lists got bigger, the technology better (“Where are my names?” he nervously asked, studying the surface of the first computer tape containing his trove): twenty-five million names by 1980, destination for some one hundred million mail pieces a year, dispatched by some three hundred employees in boiler rooms running twenty-four hours a day. The Viguerie Company’s marketing genius was that as it continued metastasizing, it remained, in financial terms, a hermetic positive feedback loop. It brought the message of the New Right to the masses, but it kept nearly all the revenue streams locked down in Viguerie’s proprietary control. Here was a key to the hustle: typically, only 10 to 15 percent of the haul went to the intended beneficiaries. The rest went back to Viguerie’s company. In one too-perfect example, Viguerie raised $802,028 for a client seeking to distribute Bibles in Asia—who paid $889,255 for the service.

In other words, “There’s gold in them thar hills!” It’s obvious the snake oil sellers believe that if these folks are gullible enough to buy the conservative ideology they’ll buy anything.  Cue John Stuart Mill.

..I did not mean to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. (Public and Parliamentary Speeches, 31 May 1866, pp. 85-86.)

01.26.15

Texas “Conservatism” Exposed

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Money In Politics, Uncategorized at 10:47 am by wcnews

There are many oxymoron’s in politics.  In Texas we are becoming all too familiar with one – responsible conservative.  This article from Lisa Falkenberg at the HChron shows why, Lack of fiscal responsibility dogs conservatives.

Let’s forget for a moment about all the issues that divide us as Texans, from guns to abortion to Confederate flags on license plates.

Let’s focus on something that nearly all of us can agree to hate – bad spending.

I don’t mean debatable spending, such as, say, publicly funding birth control for poor women. In principle you may oppose it, but fiscally, many argue it saves the state money in unplanned Medicaid births.

No, I mean obviously bad spending, including but not limited to stupid spending, shady spending and sleazy spending. We can all join hands, sing Kumbaya, and agree that this kind of spending of taxpayer money is not good.

Yet, if you’ve seen a newspaper lately, there seems to be a rash of it in our “conservative”-controlled state. The Chronicle’s Brian M. Rosenthal in Austin, along with reporters at the Austin American-Statesman, have reported extensively on a state contracting system that lets inexperienced companies win millions in contracts without having to compete. They simply sidestep the bidding process by getting pre-approved for contracts using a process intended for smaller purchases.

The only problem that so-called conservatives have with government spending is who gets the money. Spending for poor, working, and middle class Texans on education, transportation, health care are always bad.  Tax payer give-aways to their corporate donors are always good.

The GOP playing fast and loose with taxpayer money has gotten out of hand.

{Houston] Chronicle reporters Rosenthal and Mike Ward recently confirmed that the Travis County district attorney’s public integrity unit had been looking into another case of no-bid contract dealing by Perry’s administration, this time at the Department of Public Safety.

It involved more than $20 million in contracts given to a Virginia defense contractor, Abrams Learning and Information Systems Inc., to help the state of Texas redevelop border security strategies. See if you see a pattern here: Abrams had little experience in the work it was hired to do. Abrams didn’t have to bid for the contract.

And how did DPS get around the state’s open-bidding laws on this one? There’s loophole in the case of emergency. Perry had proclaimed on the campaign trail that border security was an “emergency.” And that was enough.

But wait, there’s more

It was the emergency that kept on giving. According to reports, the company was initially approved for $471,800 in March of 2006 to establish the state’s Border Security Operations Center in Austin. Only three months in, that amount was hiked by $680,000. It just kept growing.

And Travis County’s investigation? It died a quiet, sudden death when Perry vetoed funding for the public integrity unit. He said he vetoed the funding because District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg wouldn’t resign after her embarrassing drunkendriving arrest.

But this latest revelation casts even more doubt on that claim. Maybe, just maybe, those grand jurors who indicted Perry for threatening Lehmberg, weren’t crazy after all.

And don’t expect those currently in power to try and “fix” the system that got them elected to office.

Now, the only reason we know as much as we do about how our money is being misspent in these cases is because a few dogged reporters told us. Official investigations underway can provide more answers.

But here’s another irony: officials at the Health and Human Services Commission are using the “ongoing investigations” as an excuse to block the flow of public records requested by reporters. A gaping loophole in the Texas Public Information Act, passed a few years ago, lets them get away with that.

Who writes these laws? Who signs off on this bad spending? Who has the power to do something about it?

Mostly people who call themselves conservatives.

A few influential Republican state senators have already condemned the shady contracting and one has called for stronger action at HHSC than has thus far been taken.

But it’s up to the new crop of “conservative” leaders in Austin to remember the modern definition of that word still includes fiscal responsibility.

This is the way responsible conservatives in the Texas GOP operate.

TPA Blog Round Up (January 26, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 9:08 am by wcnews

Well more than two thirds of the Texas Progressive Alliance thinks this legislative session is off to an inauspicious start as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reviewed the state of play in the Mayor’s races in Houston and San Antonio.

light seeker at Texas Kaos writes a thought provoking article about how we can create a more inclusive prosperity and save democracy at the same time. The Great Progressivism Debate, Part 2.

The latest developments in the Houston mayoral contest posted by by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had Adrian Garcia dropping hints and Chris Bell throwing his hat in.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is tired of Henry Cuellar acting like a crony capitalist Republican. Why can’t Cuellar represent his constituents?

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The 2/3rds in the Texas Senate is gone…oh well. That’s what happens when 60 percent of 30 percent “govern” our state.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast interviews Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas.

Texas Vox warns about the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) that Congress recently passed.

Dwight Silverman documents a year of living without cable.

Concerned Citizens contemplates the meaning of the MLK Day march and the #ReclaimMLK movement.

SciGuy has five can’t-miss space events for 2015.

The Lunch Tray concludes that new Ag Commissioner Sid Miller is being deliberately dishonest in his “cupcake amnesty” proclamations.

Minding Houston explains the current state of mental health funding in Texas.

Lisa Falkenberg pens the second-worst poem ever about the end of Rick Perry’s reign as Governor.

01.23.15

Senate Districts, Public Pensions, Kansas & Corporate Lawyers

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Public Employees, Public Schools at 2:54 pm by wcnews

Are Texas Senate districts too big (800,000 plus), and therefore making Senators out of touch with their constituents? This statement from state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen) when talking with Evan Smith about the likelihood of vouchers passing this session.

House members are closer to their public schools and closet to their trustees then their Senators. A more involved discussion goes on in the House about all those issues.

Too much ground to cover and Senators are out of touch.

Moody’s “warns” about public pensions in Texas. EOW reminds about Moody’s failings in the past.

Kansas is failing after right wing governor cuts taxes.  Likely what’s in store for Texas if Patrick and Abbott get the tax cuts they want and oil stays low.
To Make Up For His Massive Tax Cuts, Kansas Governor Proposes Cutting Schools.

Rather than retreat from the massive tax cuts that are crippling his state’s finances, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) wants to cut classroom funding for Kansas schools by $127 million and push pension fund payments off into the future.

[…]

All that short-term thinking in Brownback’s budget doesn’t even produce long-term solvency for the state, according to the Star’s editorial board. The paper criticized Brownback’s promise to “continue our march to zero income taxes,” noting that his cuts have not produced job growth in exchange for starving the state of resources. Brownback’s “proposals leave the state barely able to meet its statutory obligations, much less invest in its citizens and the future,” the editors wrote.

Ideology trumps sanity.

Corporate lawyers toss whistleblower under the bus, Fired TCEQ Investigator: Law Firm Triggered Dismissal.

Kent Langerlan, a former Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigator, is suing Houston-based Baker Botts. After he asked the firm to represent him in a possible whistleblower claim against the TCEQ, he says, Baker Botts let the agency know about the request. The agency later fired him.

[…]

“When you contact an attorney with information, even if the attorney initially rejects the case, that initial contact is privileged,” said Josh Davis, the fired staffer’s attorney. “I mean, that’s ethics 101.”

I’d take a trial lawyer over a corporate lawyer any day. Go talk to a lawyer at Baker Botts and they’ll sell you down the river.

01.22.15

A Great, Simple Explanation

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Elections at 2:31 pm by wcnews

Although this has been said many times, this really lays it out really well, Progressive Policies Are Popular–So Why Should Democrats Be Afraid of Them?

So it’s not voters’ preferences that…”could hurt Democrats” facing elections. A likelier reason is election funding. In what were probably the most expensive midterms in history (Washington Post, 10/22/14), politicians largely depended on financing from economic elites, observed political scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson (AlterNet, 12/18/14):

The president and the Democratic Party are almost as dependent on big money–defined, for example, in terms of the percentage of contributions (over $500 or $1,000) from the 1 percent–as the Republicans. To expect top-down, money-driven political parties to make strong economic appeals to voters is idle.

In the context of low-turnout elections largely financed by economic elites, policies such as minimum wage increases and paid sick leave, which force financial concessions from the wealthy, do indeed “hurt Democrats.” It is in part this conflict that explains high-profile Democrats’ lack of advocacy on those measures.

[…]

Thomas Ferguson offered a simple commentary on this agenda gap (Real News Network, 12/27/14): “You’ve been running these sort of big money-driven elections for quite some time, and it’s policy disappointment that’s driving down the voter turnout.” A far better strategy, he suggested, would be “to do something for the population instead of the 1 percent.”

If politicians were to ignore corporate pundits and instead energized otherwise-apathetic voters with an actual commitment to popular policies, they would offer a solution to voters’ yawns.

Yes, give the non-voters a reason to show up and they just might.

California Rolling Stop

Posted in Around The State, Leander, Transportation, Williamson County at 1:19 pm by wcnews

Just like water finds its own level, when traffic gets bad drivers look for other options.  Technology is allowing drivers to find new routes to get around, New traffic apps may be pushing cars into residential areas, (via Atrios).

Many commuters say that Waze has made driving a more pleasant and serendipitous experience. But residents along once-quiet streets that parallel Los Angeles County’s freeways have begun to complain that commuters dodging sluggish morning traffic are zipping through their neighborhoods, veering around corners and rolling through stop signs. And some of the worst of the traffic, they say, is being diverted to streets that are too small to be commuting conduits.

This reminded me of this item which I saw on the local news earlier in the week, Leander police crack down on reckless driving in subdivision.

Hang out by stop signs in the County Glen subdivision and you can see the problem.

“Some of them just do a Californian stop and roll through it,” Bo Biggs said, “and some of them barely hesitate and once they see there’s nobody around they gas it going through.” [Emphasis added]

The County Glen subdivision sits between U.S. Highway 183 and Bagdad Road, two very busy roads. So police are patrolling more and handing out tickets to drivers who don’t stop.

“They think it’s significant because it’s off the main route, but they use it as a cut through,” Biggs added.

Running stop signs isn’t the only concern. Neighbors say some people are driving much faster than the posted 30 mph.

“Oh yes, very fast,” said Libby Simpson, who asked for the stop signs years ago. “It’s unnerving it is…especially in the spring when you pop open your windows and you hear so much going up and down the road. It’s scary.”

It would be interesting to know where these folks stand on raising the necessary billions that are needed to fix our transportation problems in this state. Hopefully they understand the neglect of issues like transportation, by their local and state governments, is why they now have dangerous traffic driving through their once safe neighborhood.

60 percent of 30 percent

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Money In Politics, Taxes at 10:23 am by wcnews

TxCapitol

The only thing sadder then the inauguration this week has been the reaction to it of retiring Texas Village Paul Burka.  Also his lamenting the end of “adult behavior” because the 2/3rds rule is no more.

I have always been a fan of the two-thirds rule because it gave the minority a fighting chance to take on the majority and it required a level of bridge-building and consensus to pass legislation. On a more basic level, it imposed “adult behavior on people who might be otherwise inclined.” Unfortunately for the Democrats, their party just doesn’t have the numbers to fend off the majority, so Patrick doesn’t have to worry about bridge-building, consensus, or adult behavior as the presiding officer.

I’m not sure what Lege he’s been covering for the last 10 years, but adult behavior went out the door quite a while ago. We get it, things have changed over the last 40 years . This is what happens when we have one-party GOP rule, they change the rules.

When 60 percent of 30 percent of registered voters are allowed to pick our elected leaders this is what we get. I wish Scott Turner would have been elected Speaker. The Democrats should have voted for him. Nothing will speed Democrats back to power in Texas faster then giving the wing nuts control. Once they break Texas then maybe we can get back to sane and rational government – Burka’s adult hehavior.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be serious negative consequences because of how our state is now “governed”.  Anyone that’s not wealthy and/or connected is left out.  And as long as our elected officials are allowed to essentially bribe corporations with tax payer money – likely the same corporations that bankroll their campaigns – little is likely to change.

 

01.20.15

Inaguration Day – Texans Are Weary, An Opportunity Awaits

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans at 4:36 pm by wcnews

TxInnaug

I’ve been asked more questions about politics at work in the last week then I have in the last decade.  Generally speaking they’re people that don’t vote and are wondering how someone like Dan Patrick, in particular, was able to get elected.  In a mostly nice way I try and explain that’s what happens when 30% of the registered voters show up to vote.  Then they fall silent.

It was disheartening to listen to the vapid regurgitation of GOP talking points from our new Governor and Lt. Governor. Snarky comments abounded as my coworkers watched the proceedings.  Most think Patrick is unqualified for the job, and his religious talk scared them.  And Abbott is not a good speaker.  But again, they don’t vote, and they wonder how this happened.  I get the sense that they never thought it was possible for someone like him to get elected no who did or didn’t vote.

But now they’ve realized they’re going to have to live with this for 4 years and they’re starting to ask questions.  The sad part is I’m still not sure they’ll vote in the next election.  One thing I do know as I talk about the issues with them, they any tax cut won’t effect them.  They no longer see their pay rise,  and the cost of everything – except gas recently – continues to rise.  They see the rich getting richer and the rest of us struggling.  And they don’t see good things ahead for their children, and they believe neither political party is on their side.

Which is why this article piqued my interest, Why Elizabeth Warren Strikes Such a Chord.

It seems like just about everyone these days is talking about Elizabeth Warren. I saw Jay Leno -not a very political guy or especially progressive- the other day on Bill Maher’s show, talking about how shocked he was that Elizabeth Warren was only 18 months younger than Hilary because of how vital and energetic she seemed. A focus group of swing voters, who traditionally don’t follow politics very closely, in Colorado a couple of weeks back were disdainful of the politicians they had heard of like Jeb Bush and Hillary who were likely running for president, but loved what they were hearing about Elizabeth Warren. The Sunday “Doonesbury” this weekend was a plea to “run, Lizzie, run” because “she hears the voices no one else hears”. The Washington Post print addition on Sunday had a front page article whose headline asked “What does Elizabeth Warren want?”

Why is a first-term Senator in the minority party, a wonky college professor who had never held elective office before 2013, a woman who insists to everyone who asks that she is not running for president, striking such a chord in American politics right now? Why are hundreds of thousands of people and some of the biggest organizations in American politics begging her to run for president despite her apparent lack of interest? Where did she get the political power to stop the president’s political nominations and almost bring down budget bills that seemed destined for easy bi-partisan passage? Why is the media obsessed with her?

As great as Elizabeth Warren is (and she is), I think the chord she strikes has at least as much to do with the moment we are in as to who she is. I think most Americans in both parties have come to believe that government is too bought off by big money special interests to care about them anymore. They are worn down by an economic system that doesn’t seem to reward working hard and playing by the rules, in Bill Clinton’s famous words, anymore; and they are cynical that the establishment politicians in both parties seem disconnected to the real world of no wage increases and rising costs of necessities. Elizabeth Warren excites people so much because she actually seems like she knows what is going in everyday people’s lives, and because she seems like she will take on the powers that be in both party to fight on their behalf. That is so refreshing to voters and activists alike, and it is turning Elizabeth into an icon that people respond to. She calls “Charge!” on a nomination fight for a position that no one has ever heard of, or a legislative fight that they weren’t even aware of, and people answer the call because they trust her- they know in their hearts that she is fighting for them.

[…]

The large numbers of activists and voters who follow Elizabeth know she is not only smart and tough, but trustworthy to the core. And in this cynical age of politics, where big money and rank partisanship seems to drive everything in DC, having someone you can trust to fight for you, to be on your side rather than on big money’s side, creates a loyalty and a passion that is powerful.

[…]

Beyond those policy proposals, which would go a long way in making our economy work far better for working people in this country, there’s a simple answer: she wants a country where we invest in all of our people, and where everyday folks get the rewards for working hard and playing by the rules. She wants a country where the government is on the side of working people rather than just the wealthiest individuals and biggest businesses.

There a millions of Texans and Americans who want a party or just a bunch of their fellow citizens to fix our rigged political system. They will support those who will fight for it. Those, like our new Governor and Lt. Gov., who are for more of the same will not inspire them to get out and vote. The opportunity is there, my hope is that some politicians in Texas will start talking and acting like Elizabeth Warren.

Here are statements from Progress Texas and Texas Forward on today’s inauguration.

01.19.15

TPA Blog Round Up (January 19, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 9:06 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance commemorates the life of Martin Luther King Jr. today and welcomes any progress on moving his Dream closer to reality.

Off the Kuff offers some thoughts on emphasizing local elections for the next cycle or two.

lightseeker, back from his sabbatical at Texas Kaos, re-examines the state of the Democratic Party and the need for and challenges to grow its voter base, in The Great Progressivism Debate, Part I.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson grimaces at the taste of the rotten fruit of one party rule in Texas. See the corruption inherent in the system?

Texas Leftist kicked off his coverage of the 84th Legislative Session with a new blog series. Big Government Texas is a catalogue of the endless hypocrisy demonstrated by Texas’ TEApublican CONservative leaders. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Texas Republicans clearly love their cronies’ profits more than they care about the safety of our workers. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme mourns along with those missing an actual fighter for workers and Texas children.

Handicapping the race for Houston mayor this early in the cycle is a dirty job, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs did it anyway.

Bluedaze asks North Texans to make their voices heard at the EPA public hearing in Arlington on the proposed guidelines for controlling ozone.

Neil at All People Have Value — perhaps suffering a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder — ruefully observes that since nobody voted in 2014, nobody really cares about what happens in Austin in 2015.

Texpate made a prediction about this summer’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

Dos Centavos wants to remind everyone that there is, again, no Tejano band playing on Go Tejano Day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs:

TFN Insider and Texas Watch join in bidding Rick Perry a very fond “Adios, mofo”.

Christopher Hooks at the Texas Observer details the unannounced reasons why Leticia Van de Putte is running for mayor of San Antonio.

Juanita Jean explains what “local control” really means.

The Lunch Tray highlights Ag Commissioner Sid Miller’s grandstanding on “cupcake amnesty”.

Better Texas Blog lays out its legislative priorities.

CeCe Cox wants rationality to win out over fear-mongering in Plano.

Bill Kelly of Mental Health America of Greater Houston has his maiden blog post up, welcoming the Texas Lege back into session.  Minding Houston will be an advocate for policy supporting the mental health care system in Texas.

Grits for Breakfast shares a SAEN op-ed that implores the Lege to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act by raising the age of criminal culpability.

Lone Star Ma bemoans the STAAR requirements.

Newsdesk eulogizes Linda Bridges, president of the American Federation of Teachers chapter in Texas, who died unexpectedly last week.

Socratic Gadfly shares his best blog posts of 2014.

Fascist Dyke Motors has the second part of what’s inside your head.

Trail Blazers takes note of the Dallas DREAMer invited to sit in the First Lady’s box at the State of the Union address tomorrow night.

Finally, the TPA wishes Paul Burka all the best as he begins the next chapter of his life.

01.18.15

Ghost Towns

Posted in Around The State, The Economy at 1:17 pm by wcnews

barstowstreet[1]

With every boom comes a bust, and it looks like the bust is coming, Texas oil boom heading for bust in a hurry; downturn may be prolonged.

It is a sharp turnaround for the Texas oil industry, which in just five years tripled its production and drove hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy.

For decades Texas oil had slowly been disappearing from the world market. The big companies were chasing oil buried under ocean floors off the coasts of Russia and Nigeria and in thick, tar-like crude in western Canada. Then came advances in hydraulic fracturing and the shale drilling revolution. Suddenly, what had been considered third-rate fields in Texas’ Eagle Ford and Permian Basin became some of the most sought-after prospects in the world.

Now concern is deepening that the U.S. oil industry is entering what could be a sustained downturn.

“It’s going to be devastating. For all practical purposes we lowered the barrier to entry so low that every Tom, Dick and Harry could go out and rent a rig,” said Fadel Gheit, a managing director with the investment firm Oppenheimer & Co. “The longer prices stay down, the more companies are throwing in the towel. We will see a lot more pain before we get any gain.[Emphasis added]

Of course, no one really know what’s going to happen.  The consensus seems to be that it won’t be good.  And the boom towns in South Texas may turn into ghost towns.

In the Eagle Ford, everyone is on edge waiting for layoffs to begin. Mike King, who runs a workers’ camp in Carrizo Springs, south of San Antonio, said Thursday that he was still above 75 percent capacity but was worried it wouldn’t stay that way for long.

“There’s so much speculation. It’s hard to know what reality is,” he said. “When this stuff changes, it changes rapidly. This afternoon I could get a call from one of our clients that all our guys are out of here, we lost our contract.”

For now, economists are preaching that a downturn in production will not have the same devastating impact it had on the Texas economy in the 1980s. Then, the wave of defaults on loans to oil companies sent a shock wave through the finance sector, forcing the closure of seven of the state’s 10 largest commercial banks.

The economy is more diversified now, said Mine Yücel, director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. And the flip side of low crude prices — cheap gasoline — is expected to boost consumer spending.

Even so, less demand for pipes and drilling equipment would threaten recent industrial expansion along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Already U.S. Steel has announced it is laying off 142 workers at a pipe-finishing plant in Houston.

One thing that came to mind while reading this is that while Texas is more diversified then it once was, there’s still going to be much pain for those in the oil industry. And Texas isn’t known for it’s social services and helping people who are in need.  So those who lose their jobs will not get help for very long.

So while the state may not be in for really bad recession overall, some Texans are in for a world of hurt and their government is likely to care little about helping them.

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