Corporations Don’t Want Congress Looking Into Their Toll Road Scams

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 9:17 am by wcnews

Came across this today, Goldman, Macquarie Face Fight in Congress on Private Toll Roads. Goldman is involved in many, if not all the deals in Texas, and Macquarie and Cintra, the Spanish company that’s in the thick of the TTC, work together on many projects. (Emphasis added)

The trucking industry and congressional Democrats are trying to put the brakes on state efforts to lease toll roads to Macquarie Bank Ltd., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other private investors.

Urged on by truckers such as U.S. Xpress Enterprises Ltd., House Democrats are considering withholding highway funds from states whose leases with companies fail to meet proposed federal standards. Critics of leasing say private investors are more likely to raise tolls than government authorities are. Private investors would also find it easier to fire toll collectors and other employees.

New federal restrictions could make investments in the $1.7 trillion of public roadways less attractive to private interests. And the mere fact of congressional attention might have a chilling effect on such deals, says Mike McDermott, an analyst who works on toll-road transactions in the New York office of Fitch Ratings Ltd., which rates debt used to finance infrastructure.

“Those kinds of public debates would make politicians at the state level more cautious,” he says.

It needs to be noted that when Republicans controlled Congress they didn’t care one iota about oversight on this issue. It’s only since the Democrats took power that Congress has started to scrutinize these deals. Also note that just talking about oversight on these deals is already having a chilling effect on them. For these deals to go through, because they are such bad deals for the public, they must be done with as little public knowledge as possible. Any time someone is worried about public debate it must be a bad idea.

If these deals are such a good deal for taxpayers those who want to lease our infrastructure should be willing to stand up to public and Congressional scrutiny and make their case or the deals should not be allowed. The secrecy that contracts like the TTC were given, as opposed to the public’s right to know, has always been infuriating. These corporations should be held to a much higher standard then they have been if they want the right to profit off of our infrastructure. The fact that the public knowing what they’re doing scares them will just add to the public’s distrust of these deals.


Immigration “Reform”; It’s Dead, It’s Not Dead, No Matter What It’s Bad

Posted in Immigration, Around The Nation, Around The State at 12:08 pm by wcnews

I’ve always seen our current immigration problem not as an invasion, but like with so many things over the last 25 plus years, as a consequence of the Reagan Devolution. The weakening of labor unions in this country, support of anything that benefits corporations no matter what it does to workers and their families, NAFTA/globalizatoin, stagnant wages (except while Clinton was president), etc. They’re the policies of the “cheap-labor conservatives”. This immigration fight is really going on inside of the GOP as Atrios points out.

So, let me be more clear and more specific. The only reason there’s any potential Republican support for the bill is because of their support from elite business interests. The Republican base is anti-immigrant, anti-immigration, however you want to describe it. There was plenty of bad stuff in the bill which was in there to try to get a couple of Republican politicians on board - the various punitive measures and hurdles - but none of that stuff is convincing to the base. They may like that stuff more than I do but it isn’t anything close to being enough to make them happy.

So the bad stuff I was referring to which Lou, Michelle, and I can all agree is bad is the fact that the bill would do nothing to stop illegal immigration and would, through the guest worker program, create an additional path for people to enter legally and then remain here by overstaying their visas. While business interests have protested too loudly about some aspects of the bill, basically anything which gives them a large supply of an unprotected underclass makes them happy. They’d be thrilled for it to be a completely legal guest worker program, but they’re not too troubled by the alternative.

And like most Republican legislation in order to keep a bad situation profitable they have to make the situation worse by passing an inane and nonsensical law (that’s probably redundant). Thom Hartmann has called this battle going on inside the GOP as being the Corporatists vs. Racists.

The corporatist Republicans (”amnesty!”) are fighting with the racist Republicans (”fence!”), and it provides an opportunity for progressives to step forward with a clear solution to the immigration problem facing America.

Both the corporatists and the racists are fond of the mantra, “There are some jobs Americans won’t do.” It’s a lie.

Americans will do virtually any job if they’re paid a decent wage. This isn’t about immigration - it’s about economics. Industry and agriculture won’t collapse without illegal labor, but the middle class is being crushed by it.

As long as it’s vastly more profitable for businesses and corporations to hire illegal workers than not, this will continue. Even if there’s a wall built. But the business/corporate lobby pays much, much more to our elected officials than the people do so it’s obvious who’s getting their way here. Don’t forget to note that no change is good for the corporatist side, it’s still business as usual if nothing changes, and that’s just fine with them.

Below are two news stories on wheter or not the current immigration bill is dead or not:

McClatchy, Prospects dim for immigration bill.

HChron, Immigration reform had a little something that many could hate.

GOP’s Voter Fraud Farce Comes To Texas

Posted in Elections, Around The Nation, Around The State at 1:05 am by wcnews

SAEN has this story, Vote fraud probed in Bexar.

A Bexar County review that apparently found illegal voting by undocumented immigrants has triggered a county investigation of voter fraud and a federal probe of false citizenship claims.

County and federal officials acknowledged this week that they are looking into whether up to 41 non-citizens voted illegally in San Antonio, some repeatedly, in more than a dozen local, state and federal elections between 2001 and this year.

Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed’s office has joined the investigation, which began in late May when the Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement requested a report prepared by Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen.


Callanen said it was not readily apparent that the illegal voting influenced an election’s outcome. The names have been purged from voting rolls.

41? Highly doubful they influenced an outcome. Toward the bottom we get a few more interesting tidbits:

“ICE does not investigate voter fraud. That’s not the purpose here,” Pruneda said. “We are investigating fraudulent claims of U.S. citizenship.”

In March, Callanen said she was contacted by a Texas legislator and asked to provide a list of names purged from the county’s voter rolls.

Voter rolls are routinely purged as people die, move out of the county or otherwise become ineligible to vote.

Callanen’s review came as the Texas Legislature debated a bill that would have required prospective voters to present two forms of photo identification. Current state law requires only a voter registration certificate, which does not carry a photo ID.[…]

San Antonio-based U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, whose office prosecutes federal law violations, said there hasn’t been a voter fraud case in the area since he took office in 2001.

We all know how important it is for US Attorney’s to prosecute voter fraud in the Bush administration.

There was no investigation until a state legislator contacted the Bexar County EA about this with the Voter ID debate coming to the legislator. I wonder who that was?

As the GOP’s lack of evidence of any widespread voter fraud glaringly continues, their long time scheme rears its head in Texas.

Sex Between Gurad And Inmate Swept Under The Rug By Feds At T. Don Hutto

Posted in Criminal Justice, Privatization, T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Williamson County at 12:33 am by wcnews

Federal authorities are trying to make sure what happens at TDH stays at TDH. AAS has the story, Sex assault inquiry at immigrant facility leads to no finding of criminal activity:

Federal authorities said they found no evidence of criminal activity after investigating the possible sexual assault of a female inmate by a security guard at an immigrant detention center in Taylor.

The guard, whose name was not released by officials, was fired last month from the T. Don Hutto Residential Center by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees the facility. The center confines families and children on noncriminal immigration violations.

From last week’s AusChron article, Cover Up At Hutto?, we found out that sexual assault was suspected. The Taylor police and the WCSO were both called in and the inmate was even taken to the hospital to be checked out. The FBI says “no evidence of criminal activity” was found after their investigation. If not then will they rehire the fired guard, since he committee no crime? Doubtful. Just everyone keep quiet and hopefully it will go away. We could try and guess about what their definition of “criminal activity” would be, but that would be worthless. The FBI also didn’t even tell ICE they made their final determination:

Eric Vasys, a spokesman for the FBI in San Antonio, said Friday that investigators consulted with the U.S. attorney’s office, determined that there was no criminal activity and closed the investigation.

Nina Pruneda, a spokeswoman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, would not comment Friday, saying she was unaware that the FBI had completed its investigation. She would not say whether her agency is conducting an internal investigation or re-evaluating any policies.

The AusChron article last week that also had this:

Despite ICE’s assurances that the case is in good hands, the outlook appears bleak; a 2005 U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General report titled “Deterring Staff Sexual Abuse of Federal Inmates” flatly states that custodial sexual abuse, as well as assault, often go unpunished. Even if such sex is consensual, it is a crime, the report emphasizes – though only a misdemeanor offense under federal law. (Most states, including Texas, consider it a felony.)

So even if the sex was consensual it’s still illegal but no criminal activity was found. Then we must assume they found no evidence of any sex between the guard and an inmate. There’s this from the comments on this situation from this SA Current article on T. Don Hutto, Undocumented Immigrants, Unlicensed Prison:

I have heard a rumor that the story about the woman who was sexually abused in T. Don Hutto came to light this week because her child told another child and eventually another mother heard about it and relayed it to authorities in some manner. These sorts of incidents are often covered up by the industry, though the behavior is criminal on the part of the guard.

It’s obvious something that shouldn’t have happened did happen at T. Don Hutto, why else would the local authorities have been called? But with the federal government having jurisdiction over this little slice of Williamson County it’s case closed. Don’t forget who’s responsible for allowing this to happen in Williamson County. All for the low, low price of $1/inmate/day.


Stop Cornyn!

Posted in Election 2008, Around The State at 11:28 pm by wcnews

stop sign

Often times the best plans start with a simple slogan. StopCornyn.com is not different. Even though there is no Democrat officially in this race there will be several to choose from and eventually one Democratic nominee. The idea is that John Cornyn must be stopped from being reelected to the US Senate. It’s that simple.

Attorney Mikal Watts is all but in ($3.8 million makes him a shoe-in to run). Some want to draft state Rep. Rick Noriega (Who says this race is about more than money). There’s rumblings that former Comptroller John Sharp is thinking about running. So is Barbara Ann Radnofsky, who ran against KBH in ‘06. There are probably others mulling a run, and the ubiquitous Gene Kelly is always a possibility.

No matter who the eventual nominee is we simply must Stop Cornyn.

Be sure and visit StopCornyn.com to find out the latest in the effort and be sure to sign up for email alerts.

Hutto Vigil IX, Saturday

Posted in Criminal Justice, T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Around The State, Williamson County at 12:42 am by wcnews

Hosted by the Texas Indigenous Council

Hutto Vigil Nine: Please join us in our ninth effort to end the incarceration of families with children in prison cells 35 miles to the northeast of us in Taylor, Texas.

WHEN: Saturday, June 9, 2007, 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM

WHERE: T. Don Hutto Prison, 1400 Welch, Taylor

More details here and here.

Burka Adds The Politico To His Favorites

Posted in Election 2008, 2008 Primary at 12:24 am by wcnews

It seems he just realized The Politico existed and he’s linking to their story that’s reporting that Robert “Point of Order” Talton is going to run in TX-22. From The Politico, GOP may not win DeLay’s old seat:

But the Republican recruitment process has hit several snags. Two candidates touted as front-runners for much of the year, Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace and Harris County tax assessor Paul Bettencourt, have opted not to run. And the one announced candidate, Sekula-Gibbs, alienated Republicans with her erratic behavior during her short stint in Washington (including firing staff members left over from DeLay’s office).

By comparison, crowded fields are already forming against many freshman Democrats who won seats in other conservative territories. Still, Republican operatives said they are still interviewing prospective candidates to challenge Lampson and caution that it’s too early to draw conclusions about the field.


Several Republicans are considering runs now that the initial crop of front-runners has backed out. State Rep. Robert Talton said he would jump into the race and would make an official announcement in the next 10 days.

“I’m leaning in that direction, but it’s not official yet,” Talton said.

Talton touted his right-leaning credentials, calling himself “as conservative, if not more” than DeLay. He represents parts of Harris County in the state legislature.

Other prospective candidates include Cornyn’s former chief of staff, Pete Olson, former Sugar Land Mayor Dean Hrbacek and state Rep. John Zerwas.

Wallace, who just dropped out of the race, said he’s not enamored with any of the prospective candidates.

“I have yet to see anybody I would be proud to support,” he said. “I don’t feel they’d offer adequate representation for Texas 22.”

Burka’s post on the article includes another jab a Mikal Watts:

Note to Mikal Watts and all Watts supporters: Here’s (Lampson not running against Cornyn) another indication that Cornyn is not such low-hanging fruit after all.

And he finishes with his endorsement of the e-zine:

The publisher, Robert Allbritton, is the son of prominent Houstonian Joe Allbritton, who bought the Washington Star, then the leading competitor of the Washington Post, in the seventies. The Web site has hired a substantial editorial staff. It’s mainly for Washington junkies, but I’m going to put it on my “favorites” list anyway.

The Allbrittons have ties to the Bush family, Riggs bank and Saudi Arabia. That more than likely helps explain some of the bias issues the The Politico has had since coming online. Thanks for the tip Paul, and Sekula-Gibbs v Talton in the GOP primary should be a blast.


AusChron Wraps Up The 80th

Posted in The Budget, 80th Legislature, Central Texas, Around The State, The Lege at 4:06 pm by wcnews

This week the AusChron has a couple of post-session wrap-ups.

First up this one how the Austin area legislators did, The Dust Settles: How did local legislators fare? (They didn’t include Sen. Steve Ogden or Rep. Dan Gattis) They mention Rep. Dawnna Dukes, Rep. Mike Krusee, and Rep. Patrick Rose as being the two or three locals who “..may be forced into frontline battles to defend their House seats.” And they had this little tidbit:

For what it’s worth, GOP Capitol buzz reports Craddick was meeting last week with his inner circle – among them HillCo’s Bill Miller, lobbyist Bill Messer, and deep pockets Richard Weekley and James Leininger – plotting primary revenge against those Republicans who led the uprising against him.

I wonder who they could have been talking about?

They also did a wrap on on the issues, Rodeo 80. Areas highlighted include the budget, Austin area, the environment, TYC, Voting Rights and Women’s Rights.

Rep. Michael McCaul Sends Up A Bill - UPDATED

Posted in Election 2008, District 31, Central Texas, Around The Nation, Williamson County at 10:24 am by wcnews

Today the AAS has an article about Rep. Michael McCaul (R - Austin) Milquetoast proposal for Iraq, McCaul bill urges Bush to heed advice of Iraq Study Group. My first thought is has Bush ever responded to an urging from Congress? Here’s what it will do, or not do, as the case may be:

The benchmarks set in both the report and McCaul’s proposal include creating an oil revenue-sharing agreement, securing Iraq’s borders and rapidly increasing the training of Iraqi forces. If various economic, political and military goals are met, U.S. troops could begin to redeploy from the region in early 2008. McCaul’s bill does not, however, set a specific deadline for withdrawal.

The chances of all that happening by 2008 are impossible. This bill is nothing more than Rep. McCaul trying to cover himself on the war against his future Democratic challenger for his 2008 reelection bid. He knows it has no chance of getting to the floor because majorities in both parties don’t like it.

Here’s what Rep. John Carter’s mouthpiece had to say about it:

Republicans are shying away because the measure suggests a 2008 winding down of U.S. combat operations in Iraq. Democratic leadership is cool to the bill because its language doesn’t go far enough and require a withdrawal.

“The congressman does not really foresee using his leadership role to drum up support for this particular bill,” said Lindsey Willis, a spokeswoman for Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.

Carter is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Republicans’ conference secretary, the sixth-ranking position in GOP leadership in the House. Willis said Carter supports the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations, though, and would support McCaul’s bill should it come up for a vote.

He’s for it, he just won’t use any of his “power” to help get it passed.

Not a big deal because the Democrats have had enough trouble of their own getting bills with serious timetables or benchmarks - whatever the phrase is this week - passed into law. This bill it DOA. It would be interesting to see it get a vote, just to see if Carter really would vote for it. More that likely the only reason that statement was made is because his office knows the bill won’t get a vote.

UPDATE: TexasKaos has this from Dan Grant who’s running for the Democratic Nomination in TX-10, McCaul’s seat, I’m Running to Reclaim the Seat Tom DeLay Stole From LBJ.


Meanwhile, SB 792 Is Still On The Governor’s Desk

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 12:01 pm by wcnews

If he’s waited this long is he going to sign the bill, maybe he won’t. I know he’s a was in Turkey but he got back on Monday. Here’s a few things to ponder:

If he was going to sign it wouldn’t he have done it by now?

Will it piss off those who called this bill a “good bill” after caving in to the governor’s demands if he doesn’t sign it and just let’s it become law without his signature?

Then he could claim no responsibility for the finished product. He could then say he was just letting the legislature have it’s say in the matter. Maybe even say he didn’t agree to it, he would have signed it if he did.

It’s obvious the governor’s office doesn’t think it’s worth the paper its printed on.

What do you think, will he sign it, veto it, or let it ride? Comment below.

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