The Hostage Situation Continues

Posted in District 31, Had Enough Yet?, Around The Nation at 5:07 pm by wcnews

A Hostage Situation (Tip: Crooks and Liars):

There are two ways to describe the confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration over funding for the Iraq surge. You can pretend that it’s a normal political dispute. Or you can see it for what it really is: a hostage situation, in which a beleaguered President Bush, barricaded in the White House, is threatening dire consequences for innocent bystanders — the troops — if his demands aren’t met.

If this were a normal political dispute, Democrats in Congress would clearly hold the upper hand: by a huge margin, Americans say they want a timetable for withdrawal, and by a large margin they also say they trust Congress, not Mr. Bush, to do a better job…

But this isn’t a normal political dispute. Mr. Bush isn’t really trying to win the argument on the merits. He’s just betting that the people outside the barricade care more than he does about the fate of those innocent bystanders.

Think Progress has more, Congress Must Reject The Toothless Supplemental.

TDP On Sex Scandal At TDH

Posted in Criminal Justice, Privatization, T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 3:33 pm by wcnews

This was bound to happen, ‘Inappropriate’ act.

A male employee at the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center was fired Sunday after management received information alleging an inappropriate relationship between the employee and an adult female detainee at the facility.


The sheriff’s office investigated the report of officer misconduct at Hutto, and they concluded that the misconduct did not fall under local or state statutes, said Detective John Foster, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. They are in the process of turning over their findings to the federal government.

The employee was not identified by CCA or the authorities investigating the incident, and CCA offered no further comment “out of respect for that ongoing investigation,” according to a press statement.

Federal law criminalizes any sexual conduct, regardless of coercion, between staff and inmates in detention, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility is also reviewing the incident, according to a statement by ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda.

The investigation is the latest controversy surrounding the Taylor facility.

Don’t forget to thank members of the County Commission for renewing the contract so this could take place in our county. Also don’t forget what John Carter said, “..he has been assured the center is ‘running in an appropriate and humane manner.’“. More than likely this wasn’t the first time, just the first time we’ve found out about it. It’s no wonder why the didn’t want to let the UN Inspector inside.

Moratorium Blues

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet?, Road Issues, Around The State at 3:06 pm by wcnews

Rural v. urban is too easy. While that’s a big part of it there are other factors too. Whether it’s the TTC or local toll roads in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, or El Paso the fight we’re talking about is about tax payer give-aways to corporations, to build toll roads with guaranteed profits, and which governmental entity controls that process - TxDOT or a local authority. Analysis on where we are from the same post, read the comments too:

So here’s where we are. HB 1892, the original bill, has been vetoed. SB 792, Carona’s bill, is in conference committee. The governor’s office, through former senator Ken Armbrister, is trying to round up enough votes in the Senate (11) to block an override of the veto. If he is successful, then the governor holds all the cards. He can veto 792 as well, with the calendar preventing an override, and we will be right back to current law, with no moratorium and no provisions enhancing the power of local toll authorities and no restrictions on Tx-DOT. Big money is at stake for Tx-DOT and for the metro areas, billions of dollars in concession payments and toll revenue. All the pressure has come down on Kolkhorst to drop her amendment or take some face-saving language. She has said no. Her former allies, the urbans, appear to be ready to throw the rurals under the bus so that they can get their money.

If the Senate and the House vote to override the veto of 1892, the rurals and the urbans both win. The Perry camp is saying that they have the votes to block an override in the Senate, but that’s what they would say even if they didn’t have the votes, to try to get Kolkhorst to give up. This is a great fight: big money, treachery, a solitary figure trying to stop the locomotive.

Rep. Kolkhorst deserves tons of credit for sticking to her guns on this one. Despite what some are saying, that Amendment 13 is not needed, there is no trust in Perry or TxDOT not to use any loophole by those who are anti-TTC. And any Republican that thinks that Perry’s slide and that of other Repbulicans (see Mike Krusee) is not related to the TTC then they are out of touch, and can just keep thinking that has the House goes Democrat in 2008.

Ben Wear also has a post up on the negtiations on SB 792. Perry was able to craft a “compromise” that exempted the TTC but also included exemptions for all the major metropolitan areas corporate toll roads as well. Thereby co-opting all those votes and leaving poor Lois out in the cold:

So why wouldn’t Smith and the other members of the conference committee, all of whom voted for Kolkhorst’s amendment and for a moratorium on private toll road contracts at multiple other points this session, stand up to Perry on the issue? The problem is that SB 792, with or without Amendment 13, addresses the concerns of Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth and even, to a degree, Austin.

“I guess Amendment 13 might be the cherry on the sundae, but we’ll have the sundae either way,” Smith said today.

Kolkhorst and state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, who is on the Senate side of the SB 792 conference committee, are simply outnumbered by people who want the sundae more than the cherry. This is working to Perry’s advantage.

All Kolkhorst and Nichols may get, in the end, is a statement on the House floor (and maybe the Senate floor as well) of what the Legislature’s intent was with SB 792, minus Kolkhorst’s amendment. That statement would say lawmakers don’t want private toll road contracts (other than the numerous exceptions in SB 792).

That would be very nice. But it wouldn’t be binding if the Transportation Department decides it wants to build another segment of TTC-35.

Yes all you anti-TTC folk your concerns, and the whole reason this was even an issue, have been belittled and compared to a piece of fruit on a desert.

I think the legislature, or at least Lois Kolkhorst, now realizes that they ceded all the power back to Gov. Perry on this issue and there’s no time to get it back.

SA Current Does T. Don Hutto

Posted in Criminal Justice, Privatization, T. Don Hutto, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 1:59 pm by wcnews

Dave Maass has the story on “Kidmo”, aka TDH, Undocumented Immigrants, Unlicensed Prison. Via this document dump we now know that CCA’s T. Don Hutto facility was exempted form oversight by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Although TDH has been exempted form oversight by the SOT, that does not get them around their legal troubles.

Call it Kidmo — a supposedly family-friendly version of the Guantanamo Bay detention center deep in the heart of Texas. While the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Center houses mostly “Other-Than-Mexican” immigrant families instead of suspected terrorists, including more than 200 children from 30 countries, the policy of hide, deny, and dodge civil-rights law is unmistakably familiar.


The lawsuit in question was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in federal court in March on behalf of 10 children between the ages of three and 16, from six countries. The suit claims a wide array of civil-rights violations at the Hutto facility and a disregard for the 1996 Flores v. Reno settlement, which established rigid and binding requirements for when, where, and how the U.S. government (at the time the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which was restructured in 2003 as ICE under the Department of Homeland Security) may detain non-criminal immigrant minors.

“Almost all of our clients are asylum-seekers, which means their parents fled their countries and in most cases have been found by a trained asylum officer to have a credible fear of persecution if they are returned, which is why they’re in asylum proceedings and not being processed by expedited removal,” said Lisa Graybill, legal director for ACLU of Texas.


ICE assigned the licensing responsibilities to CCA, the U.S.’s largest private prison operator. CCA’s inexperience in residential programs is evident in documents obtained by the Current that show in March 2006 CCA was hoping to receive licensing from the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and the Texas Youth Commission. Both agencies determined that Hutto was outside their jurisdiction because the detained juveniles had not committed criminal offenses and were foreign nationals. Only as the facility was set to open in May 2006 did CCA finally file paperwork with the proper agency, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. However, instead of applying for a license, CCA requested and received a licensing exemption, which Sparks pointed out does not satisfy Flores.

“The Court finds it inexplicable that Defendants have spent untold amounts of time, effort, and taxpayer dollars to establish the Hutto family-detention program, knowing all the while that Flores is still in effect, without either promulgating final regulations or going back to the Flores court for clarification and/or modification of the requirements,” Sparks wrote. “Nevertheless, the fact is that the Defendants have not sought any such clarification or modifications and clearly have no intent to do so.”

Children who have done nothing wrong are left to languish in a prison facility that has no oversight, and is in violation of federal law. And now this, Immigrant Center Employee Fired For Detainee Contact.

Speakers Race Fight Bleeds Into Williamson County

Posted in Election 2008, 2008 Primary, 80th Legislature, Around The State, Williamson County at 11:28 am by wcnews

Via Burka, Reader Predicts Total War (Burka has since deleted that form that post and the comments can be seen in the comments to this post.)

I just got word that a group of Craddick money guys got together by conference call this evening and agreed to pledge “at least $10 million” of their own money to defeat in the next primary election those Republican house members who defect from Tom Craddick and vote to remove him from the Speaker’s chair. According to some of those who participated in the call, their focus will not be on the Tommy Merrit, Pat Haggerty types who have consistently been anti-Craddick, but that they will instead focus on the Mike Krusee, Jim Keffer, Fred Brown, Dan Gattis, Dennis Bonnen, Byron Cook, John Otto and Fred Hill types who were with Craddick in January, but now appear to have abandoned him.

Read the rest of this entry »

Voter IDiocy - More On The Fraud Fraud

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 11:06 am by wcnews

Juan Castillo has a good expose (except for his quoting of indicted money launderer John Clolyandro) on what a sham Voter IDiocy is, Voter ID debate replete with drama, but is voter fraud an urgent problem? He does a good job, using only the words of Republicans, to show that there is no problem. And not only does he show there’s not a problem, but he also shows that what’s proposed wouldn’t fix it, even if there was a problem.

However, even Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, House Bill 626’s sponsor, acknowledges that “there is no evidence of extensive fraud in Texas elections or of multiple voting,” but it could occur. His bill would require proof of citizenship to register to vote.

The Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections, says it has no way to track whether noncitizens vote, and Attorney General Greg Abbott has said that the rare voter fraud prosecutions in Texas have been mostly related to mail-in ballots, which HB 218 and HB 626 do not address

Critics say the measures are intended to add hurdles that would effectively suppress voter turnout among minorities, the elderly and the poor, who they say would probably vote for Democrats.

Republicans have said the bills are vital to ensuring that only citizens vote.

“For most Americans, this is a no-brainer,” Dewhurst said last week.

In his letter, Dewhurst cited figures he said proved noncitizens voted in Harris, Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant and El Paso counties.

Opponents dispute the data, which was drawn from jury summons, arguing that some people claimed that they were not citizens merely to get out of jury duty.

Dewhurst also produced results of a poll he said showed that Texans overwhelmingly support HB 218.

However, the poll of 1,001 voters by Austin-based Baselice & Associates asked only if voters should be required to show a driver’s license or other photo identification “to ensure that they are U.S. citizens before they are allowed to vote.”

Yet, the identification required by HB 218 wouldn’t guarantee that the voter is a citizen. Most of the acceptable forms of identification under the measure, such as a driver’s license issued by the state Department of Public Safety, do not verify citizenship.

A driver’s license, for example, can be issued to immigrants who are legal permanent residents — meaning they’re authorized to live and work here.

But legal permanent residents can’t vote; only citizens can.

“House Bill 218 doesn’t in any way address undocumented voting,” said Luis Figueroa, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The only thing it prevents is voter impersonation.”

Critics say independent research shows that illegal immigrants do not vote. Figueroa said undocumented immigrants have no motivation to vote illegally because voting would jeopardize their chances of acquiring citizenship.

No evidence of extensive fraud, AG says only issues are with mail-in ballots and this bill doesn’t address that issue, GOP is using flawed and misleading stats and polling to make their case, ID’s in bill don’t verify citizenship, and illegal immigrants aren’t voting and don’t want to vote.

What we have are a few mail-in ballots and an occasional person that slips through the cracks and gets registered to vote. But were going to put in all this new law because and “conservative” Rep. Phil King mentioned it COULD happen. I thought” conservatives” were for less government, not legislating for what could happen, that opens us up a whole bunch more government.

But let’s also want to focus on a more insidious point that’s getting little, if any, mention on this issue. There would be a need for tighter voter identification if this was a problem, a wide-spread problem, meaning a coordinated or orchestrated effort by some group to commit voter fraud to advance their chance of winning elections. Those advancing the cause of Voter IDiocy - The GOP nationally and the Texas GOP in this case - are rigging polls and statistics to try and show that there’s a problem where none exists. But also there’s an implication in this effort, that there’s a coordinated effort on the part of some group to commit this fraud. Let’s be frank, they’re implying the the Democratic Party has been orchestrating this voter fraud. Otherwise, if a group isn’t doing this, we’re supposed to believe that ALL this fraud is being done by a bunch of people, illegal immigrants most of them, that show up on election day and decide to risk being tossed out of the country to vote in an election.

That’s why Lt. Gov. Dewhursts flunkies stooped to using the post-911 frame of fear and name calling in that attack letter last week. Because this has nothing to do with protecting the right to vote, it’s about making sure only the “right” people vote.


Clarification & No Veto Override

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The Nation at 11:54 pm by wcnews

I’ve written about a possible line-item veto on SB 792, where Perry could get rid of just the parts of the bill he doesn’t like. After looking over the Texas Constitution a line-item veto only applies to the budget, so that’s a non-issue.

Next from the comments in the previous post a veto override of HB 1892 is not going to happen says Sal Costello:

There will be no override for HB 1892 - I’ve been told there is no will for it and nobody wants to take the lead.

Burka said earlier that the votes weren’t there in the Senate and it looks like he was right. So all the power rests with Perry and he can just veto this one when sessions over and nothing changes.

Two Quick Items

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary at 4:42 pm by wcnews

The race for Speaker is quickly becoming a joke. Now that Craddick has a, two, three, four challengers, and has been openly asked to resign from the front podium, it’s pretty obvious his “fear-factor” is gone. But now with Burka’s premise becoming a reality this is just turning into a sad chapter in the legislature.

How long will the legislature wait before starting the override process for HB 1892?

Where’s Rep. Krusee?

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 1:07 pm by wcnews

Now that we have conferees named for SB 792 (see below) is anyone else wondering why the Chair of the House Transportation Committee was not included on the conference committee on the most meaningful piece of transportation legislation this session? Too volatile or too irrelevant?

Moratorium - Where Is It? - UPDATED

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 9:32 am by wcnews

Last we heard SB 792 was supposedly on some kind of “fast-track” through the legislature and to the governor’s desk. Like so many other things this session it must have gotten caught up in the great Texas GOP leadership vortex of ‘07. There was no change to the bill (SB 792) yesterday and beyond what CorridorWatch is reporting the House conferees still haven’t been named.

CorridorWatch also realizes that, unfortunately, the legislature has again done nothing to help their cause - scroll down until you see, Have We Been Sold Out? Afraid So!.

Once again we ask, Will Our Senators and Representatives Continue Standing-Up For the People of Texas?

Unfortunately they can’t continue because they haven’t actually stood up for the people of Texas yet. Saying it and actually getting it done are two totally different things. Just see Sen. John Carona over the last 6 months. We had an election and the same people were back that spearheaded this effort in the first place. Without Perry and Krusee things would be much, much different.

The Chronic spots a dejected Perry.

[UPDATE]: We’ve got House conferees, tip to QR:

Senate Conferees: Appointed (05/18/2007) Williams (Chair) | Brimer | Carona | Nichols | Shapleigh

House Conferees: Appointed (05/22/2007) Smith, Wayne (Chair) | Harless | Kolkhorst | Phillips | Pickett

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