John McCain’s “Curved Talk” Weiner Mobile Is Coming To Texas

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State at 2:26 pm by wcnews

The TDP is calling it the Double Talk Express but I like The Daily Show’s name for it better. Either way the TDP documents some of McCain’s most egregious “changes of opinion”:

McCain Then: John McCain has “long supported” public financing and spending limits on campaigns.

McCain Now: McCain’s campaign “is still studying whether to forgo the public financing and spending limits” and has said that he “will not be handicapped by restrictions his competitors will not face in 2008.”


McCain Then: “McCain the reformer relentlessly argued that six- and seven-figure ‘soft money’ checks that corporations, wealthy individuals and unions were giving to political parties to influence elections were corrupting American politics. ‘The voices of average Americans have been drowned out by the deafening racket of campaign cash,’ he warned just a few years ago.”

McCain Now: “McCain the candidate has enlisted some of the same GOP fundraising giants who created and flourished in the soft-money system…who earned their designations by raising at least $100,000 or $200,000 for his campaigns.”

This is worth noting and sad, but with McCain looking worse and worse by the day this might not matter very much.


“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world….”

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Williamson County at 10:37 pm by wcnews

On Friday the The Texas Observer Blog put up this post, Toll Road Roller Coaster (thanks to Sal for the tip). The tone was sorta weird, like a bad file noir kind of take, with the talk of “devils sweet nectar” and all. But as far as the content goes It’s pretty silly.

It portrays Rep. Mik Krusee as a willy-nilly, happy-go-lucky legislator that doesn’t care if he gets reelected, he just wants to build roads for the good of society, and if it’s takes raising the gas tax then that’s OK too. And to even allude to the fact that Krusee may, in some way, be on the side of those opposed to his style of toll roads is a little out there.

But the worst part is the end where we get a glimpse into the altruistic Mike Krusee, who’s just trying to make it easier on those in the inner-city and his plan, no matter how unfair, is only soaking the rich Republicans. Those are the people that live in the suburbs that will be paying for these roads.

As for the raising the gasoline tax, Krusee said he was okay with that. But he added that he was going to make sure his colleagues knew that it was one of the most “regressive taxes” on the planet. He said most of the toll roads on the drawing board will benefit people living in the suburbs, who for the most part are affluent Republicans. “When we do a fuel tax, people in the inner city are not only subsidizing people who live in the suburbs, but they’re also subsidizing NAFTA trucks carrying goods from Monterrey to Chicago.”

It was thirsty work, trying to explain the benefits of toll roads to doubting Thomases. Krusee drained his second glass of nectar and stood up to leave.”I give this talk twice a week all over Texas. I haven’t met anybody who hasn’t been persuaded that it isn’t a fair way to proceed.”

Of course preaching to the choir, giving this speech to Chambers’ of Commerce and other business friendly groups, doesn’t really get him many converts. But we all know that Rep. Krusee won’t bring his message of hope into hostile territory. Not only would he not show up in Coupland, (Rep. Krusee Leaves Constituents Thinking He Doesn’t Work For Them). He also didn’t show up at any of the TxDOT hearings last summer. I’ll bet he would have met somebody he couldn’t persuade in those two places.

To say that Krusee is not feeling any pressure is, more than likely, true. He’s such a lightning rod on this issue I doubt anybody would go looking for him to support their plan any longer. If the GOP in this state wants to move on this they’ll do it, and there’s probably not much Krusee can do to stop it.

Also check out OffTheKuff today, he’s got a great post on To toll or not to toll, dueling editorials, in the HChron today.

AAS Does T. Don Hutto

Posted in T. Don Hutto, Williamson County at 7:03 pm by wcnews

It’s a great article by Juan Castillo, Familial bonds. Here’s how it begins:

Conversations with her mother and the son she left behind in Somalia because she feared for her life there. Visits to her grandmother’s tranquil vegetable garden. Walks past her grandparents’ house on her way home; they were always waiting to greet her.

These recurring images filled Bahjo Hosen’s dreams as she slept — with her 2-year-old son, Mustafa, curled up next to her — on a narrow metal bunk bed in a roughly 8-foot-by-12-foot cell with an open toilet and sink in the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.

On most mornings about 5:30, a guard’s rap on the door jarred Bahjo awake, drawing a dark curtain on her dreams and beginning another day of confinement while she and Mustafa pursued asylum in the U.S. immigration system’s slow-grinding bureaucracy.

“I never dreamed I would be in jail,” said Hosen, who fled a Somalian clan’s death threats, only to be locked up in the immigrant detention center in Taylor.

The former state prison is in the bull’s-eye of a growing controversy over a federal policy that requires families like Bahjo and Mustafa to be confined on immigration violations while they await outcomes of their asylum petitions or deportation. The waits can drag on for days, months, sometimes years.

The controversy raises two questions: Is it inhumane to confine children and families for running afoul of immigration laws? And are there better alternatives than locking people up?

Critics answer yes to both.

Read the whole thing.

Two Sides On Education

Posted in Education at 12:41 am by wcnews

Over the weekend I started seeing a commercial on local TV about public education. It directs the viewer to a web site, www.excellenceintheclassroom.com. They of course want the visitor to get involved and more importantly read their report. It’s from the Governor’s Business Council. Not much on who’s involved with funding and running this effort. From a search I could only find this AAS editorial, Let’s give teachers tools they need for classroom excellence.

This group, more than likely, started their advertising push in direct opposition to Raise Your Hand Texas. There was article this weekend about Raise Your Hand in the SAEN, New way to rate Texas public schools urged, (see Kuff on this too). Here’s their legislative priorities.

  • Universally accessible, full-day Pre-K and Kindergarten for all Texas four and five-year old children
  • Safe and orderly schools
  • A comprehensive review of the current accountability system to align with federal requirements focusing on clear, measurable results that are easy for parents, educators, and taxpayers to understand
  • Campus pay for performance based on improvements in student achievement
  • Financial incentives for those teaching in challenging schools and in high need subjects such as math and science, and bilingual and special education
  • Expansion of current graduation options to include new concentrations in career and technology, math and science, and the arts
  • Encourage choice within the public school system and support well-run charter schools that meet public school accountability standards
  • Maintain the vital resources needed for public schools by opposing voucher programs for private schools

They also have no problem telling you who they are.

This all goes very nicely with what the CCCP has bee saying for years, Personal income tax can boost schools, Texas and also what we’ve recently found out about who pays taxes in Texas. Say what you will, until we make education a priority in Texas it will continue to suffer.


Relax, Sen. John Cornyn’s getting to the bottom of the purge scandal

Posted in Criminal Justice, Commentary, Around The Nation, Around The State at 12:30 am by dembones

Sen. John Cornyn, posturing:

Earlier Friday, a staunch White House ally, Sen. John Cornyn, summoned White House counsel Fred Fielding to Capitol Hill and told him he wanted “no surprises.”

“I told him, ‘Everything you can release, please release. We need to know what the facts are,”’ Cornyn said.

Talk about split loyalties. Cornyn has been a “good Bushie” for at least a dozen years, repeatedly proving his zeal for defending Bush. But this time, it is Cornyn’s own political fortune twisting in the gale of scandal.

This could have been a quiet little obstruction of justice. A well-timed promotion here, an extended leave-of-absence there, a resignation by an “exhausted” United States Attorney to “spend more time with family” would have achieved the desired retardant effect on the prosecutorial flames scorching the Republicans’ plans for perpetual rule. Had it not been for Gonzalez’ spectacular mismanagement of the prosecutor purge, this entire scandal may never have risen to this level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Now, Cornyn launches himself headlong, driven by competing loyalties to Bush and himself. Cornyn wants the truth suppressed about who ordered which USAs fired and why. He doesn’t “need to know what the facts are.” He just wants the job of obstructing justice done right. No more “slow bleed” of damning emails; glaringly obvious gaps in the timeline; or forgetting to release an email that was addressed to a Democrat.

Now that Cornyn’s been exposed scurrying to clamp the lid back down on the cookie jar, his response is to act like he’s a champion of full disclosure. Rest assured, Cornyn’s proximity to this scandal is no accident. He is looking after his own political hide. And when caught doing that, he postures uncomfortably.

We can deal with John Cornyn serving the Bushies. We’ve come to expect that from him. But it is his loyalty to his own interests that makes him just another greedy, corrupt Republican who has overstayed his welcome and violated the public’s trust for too long. It’s time for John Cornyn to go. Now.


Two From The Texas Federation of Teachers (HB 1 & Vouchers)

Posted in Vouchers, Public Schools, The Budget, 80th Legislature, Around The State at 2:10 pm by wcnews

Two bulletins from the Texas Federation of Teachers (TFT) this week point to a couple of items to take action on. First, they express their disappointment with the budget that passed out of the Appropriations Committee this week that will be debated next week.

That’s why HB 1, the budget bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee today and now on its way to the House floor, is so disappointing. The budget proposal does not increase per-pupil funding for schools at all. This zero-increase budget comes at a time when our schools still remain below the per-pupil funding level reached in 2002, in real dollars adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the legislature keeps adding demands on our schools to raise achievement levels for an ever more challenging population of high-need students. This fundamental defect alone would justify calling on legislators to rewrite this budget (click here to take action), but here is a short list of other major flaws that need fixing:

  • The proposed House budget fails to restore the $1,000 health-care stipend for school employees that was chopped in half in 2003.
  • There’s no across-the-board pay raise for teachers in this bill, leaving average teacher pay lagging far below the national average and far below pay for comparable knowledge and skills in the private sector.
  • Yet this budget plan throws nearly $600 million-roughly enough to finance a $2,000 pay raise across the board–into an unproven, untrustworthy program of “performance incentive” bonuses sure to leave the vast majority of educators empty-handed.
  • Funding in HB 1 also falls well short of need for proven educational programs like pre-kindergarten and the Student Success Initiative.

If this wasn’t bad enough the Appropriations Committee left billions of dollars on the table and those dollars will not be allowed to be part of the debate next week.

The other issue they inform us on is that the Autism voucher bill (SB 1000) is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. From the TFT bulletin:

A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, on SB 1000 by Sen. Florence Shapiro, Republican of Plano, the bill to provide private-school vouchers for parents of students with autism. But transferring public funds to unaccountable private schools is not going to improve educational services for students with autism. The right way to improve education for all students with autism is through added training and resources within our public schools, as provided by a package of more than a dozen other bills filed this session. One bill in that package, also up for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, is SB 840 by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Democrat of Brownsville, providing stipends for teachers and paraprofessionals to attend training institutes. SB 840 is modeled after the highly successful reading academies for teachers that were used to disseminate up-to-date research and methods on reading instruction a few years back.

Again they would like us to take action. Unfortunately it’s hard to see this bill as anything other that the pro-voucher crowd’s latest attempt to slip vouchers under the door. Obviously if we just prioritized, funded, and supported training educators in our public schools to teach autistic students there would be no need for vouchers. Just like if we prioritized, funded, and supported the public education system in Texas as a whole. See how that works?

The Houston Chronicle Calls T. Don Hutto “An outrage”, Says It Should Be Closed

Posted in Privatization, T. Don Hutto, District 31, Around The State at 9:45 am by wcnews

They say it should be closed, The Hutto federal detention center, where immigrant children and their families are locked up under inhumane conditions, should be closed.

Given the ample evidence accrued by advocacy groups and attorneys, the Department of Homeland Security should close Hutto. It is inhumane and shameful and is a draconian response to an immigration issue that could and should be handled in a responsible, nonpenal manner. Other, less punitive alternatives to incarceration include parole, electronic bracelets and shelters run by nonprofit groups.

It is difficult to fathom why Hutto was ever considered an appropriate shelter for families: It is still essentially a prison, arranged in pods with cells furnished with two metal bunks and a toilet, and a central day room. Cell door systems prevent parents from attending to children after “lights out.”

This is great news to get one of the major state dailies outside of Austin to recognize what an outrage this facility is. If they want to know why all they have to do is ask Congressman Carter who thinks the facility is just grand, or the Williamson County Commissioners Court who don’t want to give up the money it brings in.

There was an article earlier in this week in the AAS about improvements in the number of hours of education the children are receiving, but the curriculum is still severely lacking. Making things better is not even close to good enough, and agree with the HChron, this facility that locks up families needs to be closed.


Update on Sen. Carona And The Privatization Moratorium

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues at 11:17 pm by wcnews

CorridorWatch has put out bulletin tonight explaining how they were sandbagged into not bringing the power of their activists to bear on the Senate committee hearing on Wednesday because the hearing was a mere formality.

CorridorWatch got sandbagged Wednesday.

We were led by Transportation and Homeland Security Committee staff to believe that Wednesday’s hearing was a formality. CorridorWatch was requested not to have more than one speaker. Shame on us. Instead of bringing a room full of elected local officials in support of SB1267 we sent one representative with a brief prepared statement. Meanwhile, local officials in opposition filled the room and testified against the bill, many inspired by TxDOT pressure and scare tactics.

Then when calling Sen. Carona’s office they were lied to about Sen. Carona’s being miquoted, later admitting he wasn’t, and were also told the Senator would give them a call and they’re still waiting for that call.

Information, misinformation and spin.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of CorridorWatch members were told this morning by Senator Carona’s office that the Senator was misquoted in this morning’s Austin American-Statesman report.

CorridorWatch however confirmed today that nothing in news reports that were attributed to the Senator will be challenged as incorrect. A source close to the Senator was clear and unequivocal that nothing was wrong, inaccurate or misleading in Ben Wear’s story.

Despite the clarification Carona’s office was still telling callers this afternoon that the story was misleading because the reporter didn’t get all of the information.

“I’ll call you!”

Sounds familiar doesn’t it. That’s what Senator Carona’s office told David Stall of CorridorWatch at 10:38 a.m. this morning. The actual message was, “I will call you when I get a chance this morning.” As this is written it is after 5:00 p.m. and the morning is long gone.

Instead of a call we received word after lunch that the Senator is working on a formal statement that would be sent to us as soon as it was available. It arrived at 3:28 p.m. We never did get that call.

The Stall’s are better people than I. They still believe that Sen. Carona, despite his dissembling and evading, “..is [in] the best position to do our cause the most good”.

Please read the whole bulletin and take action. Call Sen. Carona, call your Senator, the Lt. Gov and any other elected representative that you feel needs to know your feeling on this issue. They’re all listed in the bulletin.

Sen. Carona Jilts Toll Road Opposition

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Commentary at 10:25 am by wcnews

“Within thirty years’ time, under existing comprehensive development agreements, we’ll bring free roads in this state to a condition of ruin.”-Sen. Carona, December 2006


“I don’t intend to move it,” (In reference to the toll road moratorium bill in his committee).-Sen. Carona, March 2007

From the today’s article it seems that Sen. Carona is doing this because he was pressured by his local pro-toll officials. They have been able to get Sen. Carona to buy the concept that waiting two years to make sure all of this is done correctly and the damage that would do to transportation in his local area is worse than, in his words, “..bring(ing) free roads in this state to a condition of ruin.”

Sal’s pissed and for good reason. CorridorWatch is not happy either and that’s totally understandable.

Sen. Carona gave hope to the people that are for a sane, rational discussion of our transportation future in Texas. Why Sen. Carona has decided to retreat from the tough talk on tolls that endeared so many to him, despite the local backlash in his area, will leave many wondering who or what go to him. To a certain extent what he’s done, giving hope and now taking it away, is worse than if he’d have never done it in the first place.

Read the rest of this entry »


Veto Override Sessions Amendment Passes House

Posted in 80th Legislature, Around The State, Williamson County at 3:23 pm by wcnews

Via AAS. The vote on HJR 59 is below:

[UNOFFICIAL]: RV# 151 — Unofficial Totals: 109 Yeas, 29 Nays, 2 Present, not voting

Yeas - Allen; Alonzo; Anchia; Bailey; Bohac; Bolton; Bonnen; Branch; Brown, F.; Burnam; Callegari; Castro; Cohen; Coleman; Cook, R.; Davis, J.; Davis, Y.; Deshotel; Dukes; Dunnam; Dutton; Eiland; Elkins; England; Escobar; Farabee; Farias; Farrar; Flores; Frost; Gallego; Garcia; Gattis; Giddings; Gonzales; Gonzalez Toureilles; Goolsby; Guillen; Haggerty; Hamilton; Hancock; Harper-Brown; Heflin; Herrero; Hilderbran; Hochberg; Hodge; Hopson; Howard, C.; Howard, D.; Hughes; Jackson; Jones; Keffer; King, P.; King, S.; King, T.; Kolkhorst; Kuempel; Latham; Leibowitz; Macias; Madden; Mallory Caraway; Martinez; Martinez Fischer; McCall; McClendon; McReynolds; Merritt; Miles; Moreno; Murphy; Naishtat; Noriega; O’Day; Oliveira; Olivo; Orr; Ortiz; Otto; Parker; Peña; Pickett; Pierson; Pitts; Puente; Quintanilla; Raymond; Ritter; Rodriguez; Rose; Smith, T.; Smith, W.; Solomons; Strama; Straus; Taylor; Thompson; Truitt; Turner; Van Arsdale; Vaught; Veasey; Villarreal; Vo; West; Zedler; Zerwas

Nays - Anderson; Aycock; Berman; Brown, B.; Chisum; Christian; Cook, B.; Corte; Crabb; Creighton; Crownover; Delisi; Driver; Eissler; Flynn; Hardcastle; Harless; Hartnett; Hill; Krusee; Laubenberg; Miller; Mowery; Paxton; Phillips; Riddle; Smithee; Swinford; Woolley

Present, not voting - Mr. Speaker; Isett(C)

Absent, Excused - Geren; Homer; Menendez; Morrison; Patrick; Talton

Absent - Chavez; Darby; Hernandez; Lucio

Gattis yea, Krusee nay.

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