Legislative Neglect Is Reason For Toll Privatization Deals

Posted in Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 12:01 pm by wcnews

It’s becoming more and more obvious by the day that our transportation infrastructure problems in Texas and in the United States are due to neglect by our elected representatives. It’s also becoming clear that the years of neglect is why some elected officials are trying to push us into “free money” privatization deals instead. But two articles linked below show that the media is catching onto the game and hopefully more sunlight like this will only help to show what a bad deal these privatization scams are and also force legislators into making the right decision.

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Bush To Get Purple Heart Today?

Posted in District 31, Commentary, Around The Nation at 10:08 am by wcnews

Came across this today and it’s totally bizarre, Copperas Cove man to give president his Purple Heart.

Thomas said he and his wife came up with the unprecedented idea to present the president with the Purple Heart over breakfast one morning a few months ago as they discussed the verbal attacks, both foreign and domestic, the commander in chief has withstood during his time in office.

“We feel like emotional wounds and scars are as hard to carry as physical wounds,” Thomas said.


Thomas said he drew up a citation and he and his wife signed it before dropping it and the medal off with Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, to forward to President Bush.

“Congressman Carter called me last week and said the President was very moved by it, and would like us to present it in person,” Thomas said.


“I feel the President deserved one,” he said. “The bottom line is, I paid for these Purple Hearts with my blood.”

The Thomas’ are scheduled to be at the White House at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

“As John Carter said, this is a piece of American history,” Thomas said.

Our poor, victim president.


Helen Thomas, David Gregory (sometimes), etc.. and the foreign media are just wounding our president so much he needs a Purple Heart? This is ridiculous. Criticism is expected in his job and he doesn’t deserve a medal for taking it, no matter how much it is.


OAAT and Clear Channel shill for TTC

Posted in Road Issues, The Lege at 7:07 pm by dembones

OAAT and Clear Channel TTC billboard A pro-Trans Texas Corridor billboard is on display around Texas promising “Less traffic”, “Faster emergency evacuations” and “More jobs.” Aside from the half-truths in the advertisement itself, the placement of the sign on a billboard owned by Clear Channel, paid for by the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas appears to be missing the key phrase “political advertisement.”

Without those words, the message is unregulated. Therefore the money spent to spread it is not reported in the campaign expenditures of any Political Action Committee (PAC), where its donors can be identified and their motivations scrutinized.

Make no mistake about it, this is a big deal. In an environment where a moratorium targeting the TTC has been enacted in the House, and will be argued soon in the Senate, there is absolutely no way to see this message as anything other than an attempt to affect the outcome of legislation.

Eye on Williamson wants to know who paid for this advertisement and whether those expenditures were made from a PAC account.

Beyond that, the claims themselves appear to be false. How can a network of toll roads that veers around populated areas be considered useful in an emergency evacuation? As for “Less traffic,” when has any road ever produced less traffic? And “More jobs?” Are they talking about low-paid toll-takers?

Maybe they’re referring to the boon to the legal industry all the eminent domain cases the TTC will spawn. There will be some living wages paid to quite a few lawyers if the current plan is allowed to proceed.


City of Round Rock and RRISD Settle Student Protest Lawsuit

Posted in Criminal Justice, Williamson County at 11:08 am by wcnews

AAS link.

The Round Rock City Council voted 6-1 Thursday to approve the settlement, ending the federal class action lawsuit filed against the city and the Round Rock school district in December. The lawsuit claimed the city and the district violated the students’ Constitutional rights of assembly and free speech when police gave out 204 Class C misdemeanor citations during the demonstrations.

The city agreed to dismiss any pending charges against students and pay the Texas Civil Rights Project — which represents the students — $30,350 for attorneys’ fees, plus $41,400 so the students can file motions to have the charges against them expunged.

The Round Rock school district also agreed to pay $20,000 for the plaintiff’s legal fees and to seal the disciplinary records related to the protest.


The city said the settlement costs will be paid by its insurance carrier.

Ah, yes, wrongful prosecution insurance. It took a year, a lawsuit, and just shy of $92,000 to determine what a colossal mistake this was. Hopefully everyone involved has learned a civics lesson from this.

Who Is And Is Not Being Locked Up At T. Don Hutto

Posted in Criminal Justice, Privatization, T. Don Hutto, Around The Nation, Around The State at 10:50 am by wcnews

Yesterday the AusChron had an article about T. Don Hutto, Refugees Remain in Taylor Prison. The paragraph on the ACLU lawsuit I will excerpt here but pay special attention to the highlighted part at the bottom:

On March 6, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against the Department of Homeland Security and its secretary, Michael Chertoff, calling the Hutto facility in violation of Flores v. Meese, a 1997 settlement that established a minimum of standards for the care of minors in federal immigration custody. The suit is filed on behalf of 10 kids who were incarcerated at Hutto; six have since been released with their families: Kevin Yourdkhani, Richard Carbajal, Angelina Carbajal, Aisha Ibrahim, Mohammed Ibrahim, and Bahja Ibrahim. Deka Warsame, mother of the Ibrahim children, must wear a tracking device until her immigration status is determined, “further confirmation that alternatives to detention are viable,” says Amy Everhart-Davis, communications director of the ACLU of Texas. “And [it] poses the question of why such alternatives are not employed in the first place.” Congress has stipulated that the detention of kids should only occur after all other alternatives have been exhausted. Furthermore, as Michelle Brané, the director of the WCRWC’s Detention and Asylum Program, pointed out in testimony before Congress less than a month ago, immigration violations are civil offenses, not criminal ones. Yet DHS arrests more than 1.6 million undocumented people each year in this country, of whom more than 230,000 are detained.

The reason that part is highlighted is because many, many people have the false impression that these are “illegal immigrants” that are imprisoned at TDH. These are people who came here from another country seeking asylum. They’re looking for freedom, have done nothing wring, and are sent to prison immediately. These are not the people that are coming here “stealing our jobs”. But the two comments to this article which will be posted below the fold, show that false impression being dispelled:
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Right Wing Talk Radio Comes To The Floor Of The Texas Senate

Posted in The Budget, 80th Legislature, Commentary at 9:31 am by wcnews

Wing nut talk radio is full of distortions, obfuscations and flat out lies. Just go to Media Matters on a daily basis and you can see for yourself. Al Franken used to do a skit about it on Friday’s when he was still on the radio. Typically what happens is they pick up a on a smear, false accusation, from Drudge or some other truth challenged source on the right and grow it. With careful call screening and control of the microphones their facts are never seriously challenged. Because of this they just throw things out that they believe to be true and figure everyone will just lap it up as the truth. They may have, at one time, been good debaters but have long lost that ability to talking over people and cutting them off.

Well yesterday we saw one not doing so well when he had to back up his rhetoric with facts. That’s what was on display yesterday on the floor of the Senate. Texas Rush was trying to treat the rest of the Senate like a caller that disagreed with him on his radio show. Except yesterday he had no call screener and no control over the microphones. When forced to back up his rhetoric with facts he couldn’t and wound up just looking like an ignorant blowhard.

For all the coverage and commentary on this be sure and check out this post, “I’ve got a list”, from Off The Kuff and these two from Burkablog’s Patricia Kilday Hart, It’s Official: Patrick is Senate Pariah, Post-Mortem on Patrick. The comparisons to Joe McCarthy are too much because Texas Rush hasn’t gotten anyone blacklisted, yet, except for maybe himself.


Budget Passes Senate

Posted in The Budget, 80th Legislature at 4:58 pm by wcnews

Final vote 26 -5. Only fireworks between Sen. Whitmire and Texas Rush, Gloves come off in the Senate.

Editorial Debate On Incentive Pay

Posted in Public Schools, 80th Legislature, Education, Around The State at 3:47 pm by wcnews

The pro-incentive pay,, Leininger funded TPPF goes first, Without incentive pay, quality teaching is at risk.

Teacher groups argue that performance pay is arbitrary and subjective. But private-sector employees know performance pay works, because they see it in practice every day.

During a large part of the 20th century, our nation engaged in a Cold War against an ideology that shunned the individual in favor of a misguided, collective attempt to create equal outcomes. To our enemies, the value of the individual was merely its value to the state. There was no place for ingenuity because there was no individual benefit derived from it. Over time, their vision of the world could not compete with a capitalist vision that values individual achievement.

The point is not that our education system is communist, but that it takes a collectivist approach to compensation that ignores individual achievement and rewards mediocrity.

Well, now that the editorial has made if perfectly clear that techer’s unions aren’t a bunch of Commies like we fought in the Cold War, let’ move on.

Next up the TFT, a teacher’s union, Incentive pay would fail teachers and students.

Teachers have been saying that the mania for testing has put us on the wrong course for quite some time. For example, 92 percent of teachers responding to a testing survey stated that they were opposed to incentive pay tied to test scores.

Story’s commentary also contains inaccuracies. The vote in the Texas House giving all teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians an additional $850 a year is a real pay raise, and it will be added to the salary for all these positions if it remains part of a final budget bill. Declaring that it isn’t a pay raise because a minority of the state’s teachers could have received more under the incentive plan is sheer fiction.

Story’s claim that the state “committed an additional $3,000 per year to teachers, though excellent teachers can gain thousands more through performance-based pay” is just bad math. Test-driven bonuses would reach fewer than a third of teachers at best under Story’s $3,000 assumption and even fewer than that if bonuses for some totaled “thousands more.” In fact, an $850 raise is simply what it takes to keep last year’s across-the-board teacher pay raise from being eroded substantially by increases in the cost of living.

Reliance on results of standardized tests to determine who gets the incentive pay is a bad, bad plan.

Read them both.

Dewhurst, CHIP & Children - [UPDATED]

Posted in The Budget, 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State at 10:47 am by wcnews

Today begins the debate in the Senate over the budget - see preview here. In preparation there was a press conference yesterday, with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and a few Senators. At Burkablog Patricia Kilday Hart reports that things got interesting during the press conference between the Lt. Gov. and SAEN reporter Gary Scharrer.

Then Dewhurst’s temperature started to rise. The whole argument about twelve-month eligibility versus six-months “has been made up by zealots and magnified by the press,” he said.

Of which he believes Mr. Scharrer is one of the magnifiers of zealotry. From Scharrer’s article today, CHIP backers say they’ve lost patience with Dewhurst.

The House version of the budget returns the CHIP enrollment period to 12 months, where it was before lawmakers slashed the program four years ago to save money.

Many families do not re-enroll every six months, which drops children from coverage. Dewhurst has said most Texans don’t have much sympathy “for someone that can’t fill out a two-page application every six months.”

The Democrat-supported Lone Star Project in Washington reported this week that Dewhurst failed to file necessary forms at least six times in recent years for companies that he owned or controlled.

“It’s certainly an important thing for the leader of the Texas Senate to be as punctual as the poor people that he expects to be punctual,” (Rev. Kevin Collins, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Houston and a leader with The Metropolitan Organization) said. “And, of course, he’s probably got several lawyers who can do this for him, whereas the poor people of Texas have to do this all by themselves. It’s a shame. He’s out of touch.”

Oh the hypocrisy. But that’s not the Lt. Gov.’s only problem. Some of Dewhurst’s ire is because his other child-championing issue is being held up due to issues that prosecutors, who will have to live with the proposed law, have with it. (It’s so bad even WC DA John Bradley thinks it needs to be changed). More from Burkablog:

The meltdown was perhaps not surprising given the stress Dewhurst has been under recently. Senate members unhappy with his leadership have tried to round up votes to block the budget bill on the floor to protest Zaffirini’s appointment to the conference committee. And Dewhurst’s banner campaign issue — Jessica’s law — has been stalled for lack of votes on the Senate floor.

Dewhurst’s position on Jessica’s Law has frustrated many senators, who oppose it on the advice of prosecutors and victim’s groups. They say an automatic death penalty would actually make it more difficult to prosecute cases as victims must often testify against family members. An automatic death penalty would likely silence those victims.

Negotiations have been ongoing, though senators question the presence of Dewhurst political advisers at those meetings. Dewhurst at one point told a senator he would campaign against him in his district if continued to oppose the bill.

More zealots!! They’re all around when you are for bad public policy.

With the Senate finally getting serious this session with today’s budget debate we will now get to see Lt. Gov. Dewhurst in action since his reelection. We will see if he is facing opposition not only from Democrats but from Republicans too as he tries to get his signature issues for his 2010 race for governor through the legislature - keep an eye on what Texas Rush does, he may be Dewhurst’s competition form the right in 2010.

[UPDATE]: The Dewhurst v. zealots saga continues, from Burkablog, Dewhurst/Interfaith Group Miscommunication Continues.


Army Deployments Extended To 15 Months - [UPDATED]

Posted in District 31, Around The Nation, Williamson County at 11:08 pm by wcnews

Pentagon Adds Three Months To Iraq, Afghanistan Tours Of Duty.

The move affects thousands of soldiers from Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Division now serving in Iraq as part of Multinational Baghdad as well as thousands more soldiers from the post’s 4th Infantry Division who are expected to deploy again to the country.

Haven’t heard from Ft. Hood’s Congressman on this yet, we should hear something soon let’s hope. There’s been no call to service by the supposed “pro-military” folks like Rep. Carter to try and ease this burden on our military that is overstretched because of the decider’s deicisions.

Democrats charged that lengthening the time troops will be expected to stay in Iraq is further proof that the so-called “surge” that President Bush announced in January is really a long-term increase in troop strength likely to last well into next year. They also called it an acknowledgment that the Iraq war has seriously overstretched the U.S. military’s largest branch.”

The decision to extend the tours of U.S. service members by three months is an urgent warning that the administration’s Iraq policy cannot be sustained without doing terrible long-term damage to our military,” Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said in a statement. “We don’t have to guess at the impact on readiness, recruitment and retention.”


Marine Gen. Pete Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the extension was part of a U.S. strategy to give Iraqi leaders more time to find a political solution to violence there.

“What we are doing as a U.S. armed force with our coalition partners is buying time for the Iraqi government to provide the good governance and the economic activity that’s required,” Pace said.

Using the military to buy time for a political solution. It’s time for this all to end.

[UPDATE]: This from today’s AAS, Anger, frustration at Fort Hood.

Pfc. Floyd White Jr., a medic expecting to leave for Iraq in late fall, said longer stays there will hurt most at Christmas.”You could miss not just one Christmas, but two Christmases in a row,” said White, who is facing that prospect, as are most Fort Hood troops now in Iraq.

“To me, to extend to 15 months because of the rise of an insurgency, it’s got to tell you something about the war,” said White, whose son Christian was born during his last deployment. “No matter whether I’m for it or against it, I’ll do my job well, but if things were getting better, you’d think there would be less troops over there and for shorter periods of time.”

His wife, Theresa White, agreed.

“To a civilian, three months is 12 weeks,” she said. “To an Army wife, three months is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

My issues with this “war” and the larger “war on terrorism” have been that, 1) If this is such as just and noble cause why didn’t the President go to Congress and get them to declare war (We all know the answer to that) and 2) If this is such a just and noble cause where is the call to shared sacrifice by all from our “leadership” in this country. If this is truly a “clash of civilizations” shouldn’t we be pulling out all the stops? Other than everything’s fine, go shopping we don’t get much from our President and his people. And the soldiers and Marines and their families are doing the vast majority, if not all, of the sacrificing and that’s why this all must end.

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