Issues With Congress

Posted in Congress, Commentary, Around The Nation at 3:14 pm by wcnews

[Much of what’s linked below can be understood much better by reading this first,
The Working Conservative (but not Republican) Majority]

Two from The Agonist:
Republicans More Happy With the “Democratic” Congress than Democrats.

..Congress is controlled by a conservative ruling majority. What’s not to like if you’re Republican? And what, exactly, have they done that independents and Democrats would like? I’m having a hard time coming up with much of anything.

MoveOn And the Kabuki Congress.

The US Senate voted 72 to 25 to condemn the Move-On ad which called General Petraeus “General Betray Us”. It’s hard to know where to start with this, because it’s an episode that says so much about the US and the US Congress, so I’m just going to work through it point by point.


The job now will be to support those few Dems who deserve it, to work on primaries and recruiting candidates and get ready for 2008. Working with the leadership is off the table - I personally will no longer be asking anyone to call on anything unless I believe the leadership will fight for the bill, rather than just make a token vote and let it go down easily. No fight - no support. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.

David Sirota’s column this week, Over The Dead Bodies … Again.

It is mere months after Democrats won the election on a promise to defend America’s middle class. The nation demands action to address burgeoning health care and environmental crises. But somehow, the first significant initiative the newly empowered Democratic Party is likely to pass into law is a lobbyist-written trade pact to help Big Business ship jobs overseas.

Quick: Am I talking about the early 1990s or the present day?



It all comes back to cash. Environmental, health care and war policies divide moneyed interests. But nothing unites them like trade pacts crafted to drive wages and public interest laws into the ground. Every corporate campaign donor rallies around that, especially when politicians and the media morph the trade debate into a caricatured contest between anachronistic protectionism and enlightened internationalism, rather than what it really is: a choice between pragmatic reform and selling out.

Thus, as America’s health care system fails, global warming intensifies and war in Iraq rages, the only initiative Congress seems willing to forge bipartisan consensus on is a new three-headed NAFTA, steamrolled “over the dead bodies” of voters.

A very good article on the overwhelming number of GOP filibusters in the Senate, Subverting Majority Rule.

Republicans are filibustering so many bills that the press has begun to cover this extreme tactic as business as usual. The front-page Washington Post story covering the Webb proposal is headlined “Senate bill short of sixty votes needed.” The article says the proposal “failed on a 56 to 44 vote, with 60 votes needed for passage.” The article never tells the reader that the reason majority rule was frustrated was because of a Republican filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.

The New York Times coverage – “GOP minority prevails” is the subtitle – was somewhat better. In its fourth paragraph, the article reports that the proposal “fell four votes short of the 60 needed to prevent a filibuster.” In fact, the 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster, not prevent it. Both papers reported the filibuster correctly on the habeas corpus legislation.

It is vital that the press get this right – and that the media expose the extraordinary scope of the Republican strategy of obstruction. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, has announced that Republicans will filibuster every “controversial measure.” They are making majority rule the exception rather than the routine in the Senate. Never has any party been so brazen or systematic in using the filibuster to block the majority.

It’s like a broken record.

Random Double Charges From TxTags

Posted in HD-52, Had Enough Yet?, Road Issues, Central Texas, Williamson County at 10:59 am by wcnews

KXAN is reporting, TxTag Glitch Charges Drivers Double, and Sal has the video. Here’s the gist of the story:

Thousands of drivers pay to use the new toll roads of Central Texas, but if they drive along sections of Loop 1 and state highways 130 and 45, they’re prone to pay double.

Here’s one driver’s story:

“I don’t use the toll roads all that much, but I use them occasionally,” said TxTag owner Marcus Davis. “And so I figured I knew I had a low balance, but it shouldn’t have been as low as it was.”

The low balance made Davis do a double take because of the double charge at the Lake Creek toll plaza.

“It may be a couple cents here or there, but it’s money that I worked hard for, and I’d like it,” said Davis.

Luckily, Davis caught the mistake after going through the westbound SH 45 toll booth, which was posted as Lake Creek plaza lane 10. He e-mailed TxTag and eventually got his money back.

Here’s TxDOT’s less than “oh well, these things happen” response:

The problem hasn’t affected drivers just along SH 45, however, and the Texas Department of Transportation doesn’t deny the problem.

“It’s not on every lane, not at every booth,” said Gabriela Garcia of TxDOT. “It does happen very randomly and sporadically, which is why we have a small number of customers that are being affected. It doesn’t happen every time.”

TxDOT said the glitch starts in the computer software.

“It’s a timing issue between the tag readers and the cameras that are in the lanes, so it’s that software that links the two together where we have a glitch in that software,” said Garcia.

According to TxDOT, the software charges about 150 accounts double the required amount daily. That’s out of about 192,000 recorded transactions.

There’s no mention of how TxDOT actually arrives at that number. I think most taxpayers/toll payers would prefer an independent audit to see how often this is really happening. Thre’s no mention about what they’re doing to fix the problem. Just a glitch, oh well, deal with it. The other thing that I didn’t find in this article was whose responsibility it is for finding who gets “tagged” by the glitch? If a driver gets double charged and never notices, does TxDOT get to keep the money? More than likely that was part of the fine print when acquiring a TxTag. Here’s Mr. Davis again.

Davis said he is glad his proactive eyes caught the mistake; he just wonders how many others haven’t caught the lack of cash in their account.

“If someone is busy, they’re just kind of skimming through, or they just don’t check it at all, especially if they travel this all the time, that’s a lot of money wasted,” said Davis.

Not wasted, scammed. 150 per day X 365 days in a year / .45¢ toll charge = $24,637.50/year. And that’s using the lowest possible TxTag charge.


Toll News, Get Your Toll News Here

Posted in Had Enough Yet?, Privatization, Road Issues, Central Texas, Around The State, Williamson County at 3:05 pm by wcnews

Terri Hall of SATollParty and Texas TURF has filed an injunction to stop TxDOT from wasting more of our money on their ads to fool Texans into believing the TTC is something we want, TURF Founder seeks temporary restraining order to halt public relations campaign.

TURF Founder Terri Hall has filed a petition for a temporary restraining order against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in Travis County District Court and the case is scheduled to come before visiting Judge Bill Bender at 3 PM.The petition also seeks injunctive relief, including Temporary Restraining Order against Steven E. Simmons, P.E. Individually and as Interim Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation and Coby Chase, Individually and as Director of the Texas Department of Transportation Government and Public Affairs Division.

This lawsuit is brought pursuant to § 37, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. TxDOT’s expenditure of public funds for the Keep Texas Moving campaign is illegal, and an injunction prohibiting any further illegal expenditures in this regard.

There’s more from MYSA here, TxDOT threatened with injunction. And go see Truth Be Tolled, FOR FREE, in Taylor tonight.

Sal’s got more on Sen. Kirk Watson’s ties to the Austin Chamber of Commerce and this awesome video from the recent CAMPO meeting. It’s a total citizen “smack down” and will make everyone against tolls feel better.

My Sense Of The Senate

Posted in Election 2008, US Senate Race, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The Nation, Around The State at 2:11 pm by wcnews

The Senate’s passage of a farcicle resolution leaves no doubt that for anything meaningful to get done anytime soon is this house of Congress a significant percentage of this bodies membership must change, Republican and Democrat. Rick Perlstein says it much better than EOW can, Why We Can’t Wait:

The word among the supposedly right-thinking people in Washington is that, of course the Bush Administration is wrong on this, and on the merits, MoveOn is right—but that they shouldn’t be so shrill about it. They shouldn’t have used such blunt words. They’re loud. They’re rude. And this won’t do. So maybe it’s even OK to vote for this anti-MoveOn resolution—love the sinner, hate the sin!—to get our side back on the respectable path. They “hurt the anti-war movement’s cause” more than they help it.

I thought of this as I read a review in the Texas Observer about a new book on Maritn Luther King. The reviewer reminds us of all the Americans who believed King was right on the merits, but shouldn’t be so shrill about it. Shouldn’t have used such blunt words. He was loud. He was rude. He who “hurt the Negro cause” more than he helped it—in fact, Gallup did polls on this very question, and learned that “even liberal whites,” as the book’s author points out, “interpreted nonviolent protest as a prelude to violence, rather than its politically efficient alternative”:

In June 1963, when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that King headed was in the midst of the Birmingham campaign that brought images of Bull Connor’s police dogs into Americans’ living rooms, 60 percent of all Americans thought the public demonstrations with which King was by then synonymous “hurt the Negro’s cause” more than they helped it. By May 1964, that percentage had risen to 74 percent. By October 1966, following the SCLC’s nonviolent direct actions in Selma and Chicago, it reached 85 percent.

“Your right, but you’re too rude” is the response of a party well down the path to surrender to evil. Let’s start using proper words: what Petraeus did, what President Bush ordered Petraeus to do, was evil. A Democrat—and, yes, a Republican—who votes to censure MoveOn will be no better than one who voted to censure Martin Luther King. What we’re up to here is a crusade to save the country from mountebanks and blackguards. It’s not a schoolhouse sing. Only strong words will work. Only strong words are effective.


EOW’s sense of the Senate is we need more and better Democrats in the Senate. Rick Noriega (Great redesign!) is definitely one so help him out if you can. More on Rick Noriega v. MoveOn John.

The Plain Folks Of America Reach Their Heart’s Desire - UPDATED

Posted in Good Stuff, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The Nation at 11:56 am by wcnews

The quotes been going around for a couple of weeks now but it’s definitely fitting. A must read, Bush fulfills H.L. Mencken’s prophecy.

It took just eight decades but H.L. Mencken’s astute prediction on the future course of American presidential politics and the electorate’s taste in candidates came true:

On July 26th, 1920, the acerbic and cranky scribe wrote in The Baltimore Sun: “…all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily (and) adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”


The White House is now so adorned by Mencken’s downright moron, and has been for more than six excruciatingly painful years. It wouldn’t be so bad if the occupant had at least enough common sense to surround himself with smart, competent and honest advisers and listen to them. But he hasn’t.

We inflicted George W. Bush on ourselves — with a little help from Republican spin-meisters, slippery lawyers, hanging chads and some judicial jiggery pokery — and he has stubbornly marched to the beat of his own broken drum year after year, piling up an unparalleled record of failures and disasters without equal in the nation’s long history.

He inherited a balanced budget and a manageable national debt, and in just over six years has virtually bankrupted the United States of America and put us in hock to the tune of nine trillion dollars — sum larger than that accumulated by all the 42 other Presidents we had in two and a quarter centuries.

The man from Crawford, Texas, stood Robin Hood on his head almost from Day One, robbing the poor and the middle class so he could give to the rich and Republican. When the bills for those selective tax cuts, and his war of choice in Iraq, began coming due our President simply signed IOU’s for a trillion dollars, with those markers now held by our traditional ally Communist China.

Although he titillated the Republican conservative base with talk of his opposition to big government Bush has presided over a far more grandiose expansion of government than even Franklin D. Roosevelt with his New Deal.


Throughout this ongoing national catastrophe Bush has kept close around him a coterie of incompetents and ideologues always on guard to defend the indefensible and justify the unjustifiable. They brush the lapels of the emperor’s suit of gold and whisper that he is right and God will make him shine in American history.

Perhaps the crowning blow came when it was revealed that The Decider is now getting his strategic advice and counsel from none other than Henry Kissinger, the author of genocide in Cambodia; wholesale slaughter in Chile; abandonment of American POWs in Laos; betrayal of South Vietnam, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

God help us.

Amen. I’ve always thought the President should be smarter than me. This is the first time in my life I don’t believe he is.

[UPDATE]: More on the moron here and here.

Noriega Lauches Campaign To “Tell John Cornyn To Move On”

Posted in The War, US Senate Race, Around The Nation, Around The State at 11:28 am by wcnews

Here’s the message:

Today, you are introducing a Senate resolution to condemn a recent advertisement from MoveOn.org in the New York Times. While the Senate is debating important legislation focused on bringing a responsible end to the war in Iraq, this is what you are focused on?

Why are you wasting the Senate’s and the people’s time by introducing a resolution about MoveOn.org’s ad?

Instead of public conversations about the large issues that are really important — the war on terror, the future of Social Security, education and health care for working families — we get distractions over non-issues and tirades over wedge issues to create divisions among people.

This is not why the people elected you to the U.S. Senate. We deserve better.

Click here to send this message to Sen. Cornyn.

Uh Oh, For Republicans That Is

Posted in Election 2008, Good Stuff, Democratic Events, Commentary, Around The State, Williamson County at 10:54 am by wcnews

State Representative Mark England (RD-Grand Prairie) is now A Democrat. From his statement.

“In December of 2005, when I filed to run for office, I made a promise to the hardworking families in our community to fight for our public schools, fight for affordable health care and to fight for them on pocketbook issues. After one session in the House, I found that the Republican leadership in Austin had no tolerance for the values and priorities of the folks I represent.

Well that should have been blatantly obvious before you ran in 2005 Rep. England. We’ll do our best to make sure you see these types of things long before they happen in the future. Those promises you mentioned do not “kick-back” money to Republicans that’s why they’re not valued. That being said, welcome to the party Rep. England!

There’s been a rash of GOP retirements in the state house and more party switching in the Dallas area:

What’s more, Dallas County Democrats will gather today at their Fair Park headquarters to welcome Criminal Court Judge John Creuzot back to the fold.

Judge Creuzot, a former Democrat turned Republican, is running in the March primary as a Democrat.

Though several area judges are expected to switch political affiliation in the wake of last November’s Democratic countywide sweep, few predicted Republican lawmakers would change parties as well.

There’s also rumor that Rep. England might not be the only one. Just more of the damage Craddick’s reign has wrought on the GOP in the house. Hopefully it’s as EOW suspected - (Democrats Need Your Help To Take Back Williamson County) - that there have been many Democrats playing the part of a Republican, not just around the state but here in Williamson County too, because it was the only game in town.

My gut tells me there are many Democrats in Williamson County that have been voting Republican and working with the Republicans because that was the only game in town. Well, that’s changed and it’s time to come home. If that was the case, there’s no reason anymore to wait in line for someone to decide not to run again and continue to keep quiet and aid the other side. Your needed to run as a Democrat, run a campaign for a Democrat, fund raise for a Democrat, block walk for a Democrat, NOW. Opportunity is knocking with the Democratic Party in Williamson County

My only caution would be for the closet Democrats not to wait too long. It may starts as a trickle but will being picking up steam soon enough - see tipping point. Better to join early and not be on the outside looking in. When party-switching starts it’s a signal. This signals the beginning of the Texas GOP’s slide down from it’s apex. That doesn’t mean that the Democratic Party will resume it’s once dominant role in Texas politics. More than likely it means that Texas may finally have something it hasn’t had in more than a century, a true two party system.

Go See “Truth Be Tolled” In Taylor Tonight, For Free

Posted in Democratic Events, Take Action, Privatization, Road Issues, Central Texas, Williamson County at 9:16 am by wcnews

Tonight at 7:00 pm, in an effort to better inform the local community about transportation issues and the Trans-Texas Corridor in particular, the East Williamson County Democrats Club (EWCD) is offering a free showing of the movie, Truth Be Tolled. You can view two trailers for the movie below.



Here’s a written syonpsis.It will be show at the historic Howard Theatre in downtown Taylor (MAP).EWCD has created a flyer for the event which can be downloaded an printed for distribution here [.PDF]. This is the first of what,hopefully, will be a series of films to be shown by the EWCD at the Howard Theatre. Please join them.

There will also be voter registration going on, and be sure to donate a couple of bucks if you can, so the series can continue for free.


John Carter (R-Lemming), MoveOn And The Surge

Posted in District 31, The War, Had Enough Yet?, Central Texas, Commentary, Around The Nation at 10:51 pm by wcnews

Here in CD-31 our congressman’s take on the issues is mostly a given. Except for the immigration issue he’s a Bush lackey. So his blind allegiance to Bush and Petraeus is no surprise to anyone. As Bush and Petraeus tout success in Iraq for the coming troop reductions remember that those drawndowns were going to happen anyway. And must happen by Spring 2008 or some bad choices will have to be made.

That presents the Pentagon with several painful choices if the U.S. wants to maintain higher troop levels beyond the spring of 2008:

Using National Guard units on an accelerated schedule.

Breaking the military’s pledge to keep soldiers in Iraq for no longer than 15 months.

Breaching a commitment to give soldiers a full year at home before sending them back to war.

For a war-fatigued nation and a Congress bent on bringing troops home, none of those is desirable

Well, some in Congress are, not Carter.

That’s what is so telling about Carter’s response to all of this. He doesn’t talk about how this fight has to be won, how we all must sacrifice in order to save our way of life, or anything grand like that. No, instead he attacks MoveOn.org!? Carter and the GOP’s attempt to divert attention from what’s actually happening in Iraq to MoveOn.org’s ad from last week is not surprising. The zeal in which they attack MoveOn, and try and stay away from the “facts on the ground”, is telling. It’s also why what Carter says on his “blog”, regarding MoveOn, that is so mendacious. We all know he didn’t care one bit when The Swifites “sucker punched” John Kerry in 2004. Except there is no “sucker punch” in the MoveOn ad. All it does is point to press accounts, shows the general’s prior statements, and asks a question. It allows the reader to decide. The ferocity with which they attack the messenger shows how scared they are of discourse like this on the war. (Sen. Cornyn’s taking it to the extreme, John Cornyn is Wasting our Time.)

Let’s not forget that since the general went before Congress there have been two reports that came out that go against his claims regarding Iraq. One from the White House and one from the Pentagon. Baghdad is so safe now that all civilian travel has been restricted outside the Green Zone. And across America nobody’s buying, except for lemmings like Carter, what Bush and Petraeus are selling.

Do You Know What TEAM Is?

Posted in Privatization, Elections, Around The State at 5:25 pm by wcnews

EOW has to admit being out of the loop on Texas’ latest statewide voter registration system, Texas Election Administration Management (TEAM). Seems to be the latest state purchased software that doesn’t perform. Although my interest was caught when I read this post from the recently resurgent AAS campaign blog Postcards from the Trail (PFTT). It was a breakfast conversation between W and our new SOS Phil Wilson, Wilson confident about upcoming vote.

Over a plate of migas Tuesday, the state’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Phil Wilson, said he expects no problems with a state voter registration system during the Nov. 6 elections.

The system, employed by more than 220 counties to update state voter registration records, had so many hiccups earlier this year that urban counties, including Travis, chose not to participate. Tarrant County election workers, for instance, reported delays of two hours to input a single voter into the system.

Wilson said an August stress test of the system went reasonably well, though if things don’t go swimmingly in the elections, two contractors responsible for the system will face “serious consequences.”

“It needs to work,” he said. “November will be the real test.”

That sure makes me confident. It’ll work or it’ll crash the whole damn election! Kuff has his takes here. But for the definitive posts and to get completely updated check out Racy Mind. A little more background from Computerworld, 2nd comment to article below, Statewide voter registration system hits roadblocks in Texas.

Why do we pay county employees to perform data entry tasks when I could do it myself? The State of Texas allows me to register for unemployment benefits online. What makes voter registration different?

Why not allow voters to register online? Why do we need to fill out a paper form, send it in, and let someone else enter our information?

Many if not all of the populous counties in the state, including Travis and Williamson, have opted out of using TEAM. It would seem that if the system can’t run worth a darn without the most populous counties in the state being included it has no chance of working when they are. And Hart InterCivic, the company that’s doing the database end of this project, has just been bought by Manatron, a Michigan company.

The bottom line is anytime Republicans start talking about voter registration it’s time to start asking questions.

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