February 28, 2007
A look back at 39%'s Executive Orders
Both EOW and Kuff have good pieces up on 39%'s Executive Orders since he became Governor. The issue, for many, is the legitimacy of the orders themselves (I happen to think that they're, for the most part, thoroughly unconstitutional since the Governor in Texas should be little more than a good looking eunuch). Of course, as EOW points out, Republicans only started complaining about them when they were affected by them.
Of course the most humorous part of all this is how little Republicans and “conservatives” cared about Gov. Perry’s abuse of these orders until it hit them between the eyes. As long as he was using them to screw the teacher’s unions and help big business they didn’t much care.
Giving this kind of power to someone you trust is no better an idea that handing it over to a tyrant. Eventually, they will find a way to use that power to do something you don't like.
Someone I know will buy this
Though I'll make fun of them I know that one of my beer swilling friends will buy one of these. From the picture you can obviously see that this is a beer chiller. It runs on batteries. Well, batteries, water and ice. I'm thinking the last two items are probably the most important. It's kind of like a downmarket version of the wine chillers at the grocery store. Way downmarket.
I'm sure someone will see this being at the Texas Motor Speedway. I just don't happen to know them so y'all ask around for me.
Killing the TTC and reforming TXDoT
Looks like some of our friends are starting to swing back to reality, following the lead of Senator Carona and the majority of Democrats who have said no to the TTC and want to reinstitute legislative control over TXDoT. Welcome back to reality, Sen. Ogden!
Ogden said he is concerned about the Transportation Department's plans to allow private contractors, for a large upfront fee, to build roads and charge tolls — perhaps forever. He said the department has as many as 21 projects under consideration, including one announced by Perry on Tuesday in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
"Do we really want to be turning over state highways to private contractors?" Ogden asked.
The irony is that Ogden was the Senate author of the 2003 bill that expanded the commission's powers to construct roads.
"I'm trying to correct the sins of the past," Ogden said, adding that he is considering legislation that would end collection of tolls once a highway has been paid for. He said he is concerned about plans to use toll revenue, long after a highway is paid for, to build more roads.
He said legislators are hearing from constituents who want the agency's powers curbed.
"Every (legislative) member is paying a political price for what they are doing," Ogden said. "TxDOT needs to be more sensitive and accountable to the Legislature."
I'm willing to forgive, especially someone who is making amends for past wrongs. This is a massive shift and it's unfortunate that he wasn't joined by Last Term Krusee who, instead, sniped at Ogden.
Perry's office and state Rep. Mike Krusee, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, defended the state's toll road policy.
"The Legislature, including Sen. Ogden, had denied our cities adequate funding for transportation for years," said Krusee, R-Williamson County. "If we now remove the only effective tool, it's our cities and our citizens, not TxDOT, who will be harmed, with more congestion, more pollution and less economic opportunity."
He said that to abandon the state policy would return Texas to the days of 20-year highway projects.
Krusee's legislative district includes part of Williamson County, which is in Ogden's Senate district.
Krusee noted that toll roads Texas 130, Texas 45 and the Loop 1 extension have been built since the 2003 bill that he and Ogden co-sponsored.
"It's ironic that, after the senator's district benefited with literally billions of dollars of projects, he would prevent other cities from benefiting, too," Krusee said.
Billions in TOLL projects and the last I checked, Mikey, 130 wasn't exactly helping ease congestion through Wilco. Which is why Ogden is as pissed as the rest of us. You bitches couldn't even do toll roads right which makes me think you're thoroughly incompetent in all areas of your life. You picked the most expensive funding option, screwed your constituents and now want to complain about them being pissed at you?
This brings up an interesting point about the incompetence of Rep. Krusee, often touted as someone who 'understands transportation'. It's been pretty clear, viewing the practical effects of Krusee's ideas when implemented in the real world, that Mike Krusee knows as much about transportation as I know about lacrosse. So, let's dispense with this bullshit about the brilliance of Mike Krusee. It's his incompetence that is beginning to cause a lot of problems for Republicans in the House and Senate, many whom continue, much like good lemmings, to follow Krusee's lead.
What they don't know is the rumor that Krusee knows he can't win in 2008, has accepted that and has decided to throw everyone under the bus. Hear that, Republicans in the House? You're following a guy who is already politically dead, knows it and has decided to bring everything down around him. Ever heard of suicide by cop? This guy's planning suicide by voter and he doesn't care about collateral damage hurting anyone else.
So, let me make it very clear for those of you in the Republican caucus in the House, especially those on the Transportation Committee... you all have targets on your back and there are a massive number of political guns, including traditionally REPUBLICAN guns, pointed in your direction. Let Kolkhorst's bill out of committee. Right now it's the only chance you have to save yourselves from a primary opponent and a well funded Democratic opponent in 2008. Seriously, you'd be better off following Rep. Coleman's lead on transportation in the House. More Republicans like him right now than you can imagine.
SprintNextel throws a punch at Verizon, AT&T
This didn't get much notice, but SprintNextel is rolling our a new pricing plan... unlimited voice, messaging and data for $120/monthly. For another $30, you can add in wireless access for your home computer.
Current Analysis analyst William Ho said in a research note that the trial plans “have the effect of a grenade blast, damaging not only wireless competitors but also landline carriers (both traditional wireline and cable) with an attractive wireline substitution story (both voice and data).”
However, Ho went on to note that “although Sprint is the first national carrier to offer unlimited voice, messaging and Web access, it’s still a trial with limited availability.”
Right now I'm paying more than $310/month to Cingular and will tell you honestly that if SprintNextel rolls this out in Austin, it'll be worth it to me to break my contract with them. I'd recoup the contract termination fee in a little over a month and I've no special love for Cingular (what do you expect when their 'network' drops me from EDGE to GSM all the time?).
Edwards releases health care plan
John Edwards has a bold plan to transform America's health care system and provide universal health care for every man, woman and child in America.
Under the Edwards Plan:
* Families without insurance will get coverage at an affordable price.
* Families with insurance will pay less and get more security and choices.
* Businesses and other employers will find it cheaper and easier to insure their workers.
The Edwards Plan achieves universal coverage by:
* Requiring businesses and other employers to either cover their employees or help finance their health insurance.
* Making insurance affordable by creating new tax credits, expanding Medicaid and SCHIP, reforming insurance laws, and taking innovative steps to contain health care costs.
* Creating regional "Health Markets" to let every American share the bargaining power to purchase an affordable, high-quality health plan, increase choices among insurance plans, and cut costs for businesses offering insurance.
* Once these steps have been taken, requiring all American residents to get insurance.
Securing universal healthcare for every American will require the active involvement of millions of Americans.
Love the plan and I think it's great that he's rolling it out early. I still think this race is going to come down to Edwards and Obama. Last week kinda made that clear to me. While both Obama and Clinton staffs came across as petty bitches, Obama had THE money quote
"It's not clear to me why I'd be apologizing for someone else's remark,"
and came away with the win vs. Hizzally. However, Edwards by staying out of it altogether, came away the winner for the week.
The loser? Bill Richardson
Another Democratic presidential candidate, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, said at the candidate forum that Obama should denounce Geffen's comments. "We Democrats should all sign a pledge that we all be positive," Richardson said.
Pussy. I hope he's the next one to jump out of the race.
February 27, 2007
Chippendales in Lubbock
A troupe of Chippendales dancers won't face criminal charges for a West Texas performance featuring "pelvic thrusts" that prompted police to shut down the show and jail the dancers.
The Lubbock County District Attorney's Office told police Thursday that eight dancers, their manager, a promoter and a manager at the sports bar won't be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges, and city officials also said they wouldn't pursue the case.
The men were arrested Feb. 16 at Jake's Sports Cafe during the first of three sold-out shows for the troupe famous for it's beefcake dancers. Police alleged that the dancers were performing a sexually oriented show without the proper permits. The show was shut down after one dancer, whom police said has his pants open, made "pelvic thrusts" in front of a woman's face.
The group spent a night in jail before being released without having to post bond.
Scott Stephenson, owner of Jake's Sports Cafe, said he plans to invite the all-male review back.
You all know the saying about holding out both hands, wishing for one to fill up and... well, if you don't know the rest just email me. Yes, I'll ask how long you've lived in Texas.
Jokes of My Father's
My Father is all the time sending me jokes he thinks are hysterical. Sometimes they actually are a little funny and may help explain why I am the way I am (my Father thought this joke was H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S)
A man was on the water for his weekly fishing trip. He began his day with an 8 pound bass on the first cast and a 7 pound on the second. On the third cast he had just caught his first ever bass over 11 pounds when his cell phone rang. It was a doctor notifying him that his wife had just been in a terrible accident and was in critical condition and in the ICU. The man told the doctor to inform his wife where he was and that he'd be there as soon as possible. As he hung up he realized he was leaving what was shaping up to be his best day ever on the water.
He decided to get in a couple of more casts before heading to the hospital. He ended up fishing the rest of the morning, finishing his trip with a stringer like he'd never seen, with 3 bass over 10 pounds. He was jubilant.... Then he remembered his wife. Feeling guilty he dashed to the hospital. He saw the doctor in the corridor and asked about his wife's condition. The doctor glared at him and shouted, "You went ahead and finished your fishing trip didn't you!
"I hope you're proud of yourself! While you were out for the past four hours enjoying yourself on the pond your wife has been languishing in the ICU! It's just as well you went ahead and finished because it will be more than likely the last fishing trip you ever take!" "For the rest of her life she will require 'round the clock care. And you'll be her care giver!" The man was feeling so guilty he broke down and sobbed.
The doctor then snickered and said, "Just messing with you. She's dead. What'd you catch?"
Normally, I hate fishing jokes. Truth be told, I usually hate any joke my Dad finds funny, because usually it's not funny and I'm loaded 3/4 of the time. If it ain't funny when you're drunk, it ain't funny. This one actually made me laugh a bit.
Yeah, I'm not drinking during the day anymore.
ANYWAY, I'm sure the next installment of DadJokes will come soon when my Father decides to forward another joke about fags that he got from one of his huntin' buddies. Can't wait!
TTC 35 is even more expensive than we thought....
Kuff, Muckracker, EOW and Somervell County Salon all had posts up about the State Audit on just how much the Trans-Texas Corridor is REALLY going to cost. I apologize to our fabulous readers for not joining them, but they were doing such a good job and I was distracted. By candy. Seriously, Dots mixed with Mike and Ikes. I'm a fool for them and will do anything to enjoy their sickeningly sweet fruit-like flavor.
You probably won't get it. But you will understand all about cost overruns in Ric Williamson's Texas Transportation Commission, not to mention all the fun TTC stuff we've been talking about like...
1) No accountability of the private partner
2) GUARANTEED profit to the private partner
3) FAR MORE EXPENSIVE than we were told... as much as $100 BILLION. Reconstructing 35 would be far cheaper.
4) Non-compete agreements! No improvements to 35
5) The upfront money could disappear...
And the list of problems and defects goes on and on. It's time the Lege killed this turkey and instructed TXDoT to abrogate the contracts and pay nothing more to Cintra-Zachry (go ahead, Zachry... sue. You'll go broke with no business in the state and you'll never get the settlement. There are people who've been waiting since the 1970's for money from the state). Oh, and let's remember everyone who fucked us over with this deal... people like 39%, Krusee, CradDICK and Todd Staples . Let's none of us forget them or TTC Chair Ric Williamson whose gross incompetence gave Cintra-Zachry the deal of the century, risk free thanks to Texas taxpayers.
Take a bow, Ric! Your negotiating skills are on par with those of the great Neville Chamberlain. With your business acumen it's surprising you weren't picked up by the management teams at Enron or WorldCom.
Iran into a little problem
Condisleezahad some harsh words for Iran
"We have the common goal to encourage Iran back to the bargaining table," Rice said after a meeting in Berlin with her counterparts from Russia, Germany and the European Union. "The hope is that the sanctions show the Iranians the isolation that they are enduring, that isolation is likely to increase over time and that it is time to take a different course."
Cheney took things a bit further
At a joint news conference with Prime Minister John Howard during a visit to Australia, Cheney said the United States was “deeply concerned” about Iran’s activities, including the “aggressive” sponsoring of terrorist group Hezbollah and inflammatory statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Cheney said top U.S. officials would meet soon with European allies to decide the next step toward planned tough sanctions against Iran if it continues enriching uranium.
“But I’ve also made the point, and the president has made the point, that all options are on the table,” he said, leaving open the possibility of military action.
Then the Iranian Foreign Minister called Cheney's bluff
“We do not see America in a position to impose another crisis on its taxpayers inside America by starting another war in the region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters Saturday.
And, of course, he's right. Which leaves us only able to fight Iran with patience, which is what all of us have been saying all along. Russia, like the vast majority of Americans, is sick of our unilateralism.
In any relationship, disagreements arise. But observers make a grave error when they mistake the honest and open airing of concerns as some sort of casus belli. President Bush rightly emphasized the other day that, while differences exist between our two countries, "there's also a relationship in which we can find common ground to solve problems." Russia is ready to work with the United States on an equal and mutually respectful basis.
Another Cold War? Certainly not. A democratic world in which a strong Russia coexists with a strong United States, as well as a strong Europe, China, India, Brazil and others? That is Vladimir Putin's vision -- and it is well worth considering.
The problems we all face are OUR problems and we have to work together to solve them. Just as we were able to tget the North Korean's to return to the table, so too can we obtain an agreement with Iran that provides for non-proliferation. It's really our only choice.
I'm sooo copying and pasting JC on this one...
Of course, by 'JC' I mean the Houston Bay Area's own John Coby.
Who did you think I was going to quote?
From a Rick Perry press release on insurance:
"If the industry hasn't figured this out, listen up," Perry said. "Texans are fed up and I will sign legislation that prevents a handful of companies from bringing the state to its knees. I am offering solutions that put Texans first. I call on the industry to do the same."
Perry called for stiff regulation of the insurance industry in light of soaring insurance rates that have socked some Texans with 200 percent premium increases.
And Perry add even more:
"As a Republican, I generally support deregulation as a means to lower cost and improve services for consumers," Perry said. "But like former President Teddy Roosevelt, I disdain unfair market practices where one, or a handful of companies, use their power to manipulate the market."
Unfortunately, this load of crap by Rick Perry was said in a May 2002 press release. Contrary to what Perry promised in 2002, insurance rates have skyrocketed by over 200%. Texas now has the highest rates in the nation and with less coverage.
And yet he was re-elected in 2006 with 39% of the vote. Texans deserves Rick Perry and every rate increase they get.
Tort reform hasn't done the job (there will be another post about that soon).
February 26, 2007
Get to know City Council Candidates
Not from Austin because there are no city elections this year. This time, it's Houston and Dallas. Who's Playin' has a post up about John McClelland, a great Democrat who's running for Dallas City Council. Dallas is north of Austin for those of you unfamiliar with that GIANT BLOB CITY WAY FAR NORTH ON 35.
Then, of course, there is the lovely, the incredible,Melissa Noriega who is running for Houston City Council (why?the?hell?). I think she's setting her sights too low, but that's just me. Kuff has an interview with her that's worth paying attention to. At some point, Melissa is going to be playing on a bigger stage. At least she better.
Seriously, I'm mean and I want her on a Statewide ballot.
What is KKR up to?
You've no doubt heard the news that shareholders at TXU have accepted the LBO offer from KKR. You've probably also heard about the commitment the new owners have made to taking the company in a much greener direction. That last part has left some wondering WTF are thinking? Is it pure social responsibility or business genius?
KKR and Texas Pacific Group agreed over the weekend to drop most of TXU's ambitious plans for building new coal-fired power plants, a move designed to win support for the deal from environmentalists and other critics of the company. The new buyers also agreed to support a mandatory national program to cap emissions of greenhouse gases and pledged not to build coal-fired plants outside Texas.
I'm voting for the latter, here's why...
1) Value added services - the technology to deliver broadband over power lines has been in existence for a while. It's a new revenue stream for TXU that will require a minimal upfront investment since they already have the distribution system in place.
2) The additional plants were a stupid move, over committing to a legacy generation system while technology continues to advance rapidly.
3) Then there is this
The Natural Resources Defense Council said the new buyers have agreed to withdraw permit applications for eight of the 11 proposed plants and decline to propose new coal plants outside Texas and support caps on emissions linked to global warming.
The buyers also agreed to support a system of trading credits for cutting emissions, called cap and trade.
Pollution credits... by voluntarily reducing emissions, they'll end up with some pollution credits they can sell and realize a gain on. Every single year, it's a revenue stream they can tap without any new investment. While pollution credits aren't worth much now, they are going to be worth something much more down the road.
4) They are planning a massive expansion of wind and cheap solar capacity in West Texas, coupled with an investment in upgrading the distribution grid. Over time, wind power and passive solar are cheaper than coal by virtue of a free input. This is long term thinking that will reap big rewards down the road while earning huge PR benefits. See again #3 for the secondary impact on pollution credit sales.
The credits are the big thing. As the EU moves to tighten restrictions these will be become inherently more valuable worldwide. The US will soon be moving in that direction. The reason the cap and trade system has not really worked is that companies have never had to face real consequences. That's changing and the system will start to show some of the promised benefits.
Oh, and the KKR/TPG group stands to make a ton of money, not only off operations but through the eventual sale of the enterprise back to the public.
So much for the great economy...
The fastest growing socio-economic group in the US? Those living in P-O-V-E-R-T-Y!
The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.
The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.
As a result, welfare rolls are growing...
The welfare state is bigger than ever despite a decade of policies designed to wean poor people from public aid.
The number of families receiving cash benefits from welfare has plummeted since the government imposed time limits on the payments a decade ago. But other programs for the poor, including Medicaid, food stamps and disability benefits, are bursting with new enrollees.
The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Nearly one in six people rely on some form of public assistance, a larger share than at any time since the government started measuring two decades ago.
Where does Texas rank in all this? #2. We have the second largest percentage of our population living in poverty.
And now they fix the problems at Walter Reed
While it comes only after people have bitched and screamed (on the left, natch) about how badly how returning injured are being treated, it's good to see something's being done. My only question is how the hell the Republicans let it get this bad? I want blood on this one.
February 25, 2007
KKR to buy TXU?
Possibly, but it has to get past Texas regulators first.
OK, I know... that made laugh a little as well. They should really write it up as "KKR will assume control after the transaction is approved by TXU shareholders and rubberstamped by Texas regulators".
I don't know how I feel about all this. I've known people who have worked with KKR and I know they usually like to trim employment with layoffs after acquiring a company. I know they like sharp, focused management teams. I also know that if there is any hope for TXU to compete in a truly competitive environment, this is probably the only way because they sure as hell haven't been able to do it so far.
I'm not so much for workforce reductions, unless it's to trim bloated upper management who are in my opinion the ultimate liability to shareholder value.
February 24, 2007
Guns don't kill people
People kill people!
Adams was with 12 American tourists who hired a driver to explore Costa Rica for a few hours. They were climbing out of the van to visit a Caribbean beach when three men wearing ski masks ran toward them, she said. One held a gun to her head, while the other two pulled out knives.
Suddenly, one of the tourists, a U.S. military veteran trained in self defense, jumped out of the van and put the gunman in a headlock, according to Limon police chief Luis Hernandez.
Hernandez said the American, whom he refused to identify, struggled with the robber, breaking his collarbone and eventually killing him. Police identified the dead man as Warner Segura, 20. The other two assailants fled.
Again with the dollar coin?
The US Mint is once again introducing the dollar coin, this time a very special Presidential dollar coin that will bear a bust of Washington (shown here, in case you're a retard and didn't recognize the first President) or another, lesser President like Adams, Jefferson or Madison. The mint is thinking by the time Madison rolls out, these coins will be so hated that everyone will demand they be pulled. So they have only announced coins for the first four Presidents. I know this will be hugely disappointing to the knuckle dragging mongo's out there who will be eagerly awaiting the George W. Bush coin.
Seriously, most people don't understand and don't want the dollar coin. Of course, opposition from the majority of the citizens of this country has never been a reason for the government to stop doing something.
February 23, 2007
Handicapping the Presidential candidates
A few weeks ago we did a run down on McCain and Kerry detailing the reasons each was a stupid choice for Presidential candidate in 2008. Of course, Kerry backed out (YAY!) but old man McCain just refuses to give up the ghost. He's kinda like a codger trying to return food at a restaurant.
Politico has taken things a step further and done an analysis on the main announced candidates from both parties. You'll notice the glaring omission on the R side of Newt Gingrich, though in fairness he won't make a decision until September (IMHO, he's the one to watch). Other than that it's a great breakdown on these folks.
Liveblogging at Obamathon
Katie over at Texas Blue is liveblogging the Obama rally downtown. If you can't make it, check out her post for details on what's happening!
Wal-Mart... not quite the great corporate citizen
Apparently, Wal-Mart is not alone nor is Texas the only state in which this is happening. Vince at Capitol Annex has more on this loophole in tax law that allows a parent company to 'rent' space from a REIT subsidiary, which then passes the profits back to the corporate parent. The kicker? The corporate parent gets to use the 'rent' as an expense, thereby reducing it's tax liability.
New York is currently devising laws to correct this problem. Republicans there are spinning it as a new tax when in fact it's simply the closure of a loophole (as it would be in Texas as well). Spitzer is having none of it.
"Our definition of a tax loophole is a provision that is taken advantage of by a few sophisticated taxpayers to reduce their fair tax liability in a way that was never intended at the time the provision was enacted," said Spitzer's budget director, Paul Francis. "Given Gov. Spitzer's pledge not to raise taxes, we carefully scrutinized all of our proposals to make sure they met this definition."
"When we are asking other parts of the state budget to make sacrifices, it is only fair to ask that all taxpayers play fairly under a simple set of clearly understood tax rules," said Francis, former CFO of Priceline.com.
New York is estimating that it could bring in more than $400 Mn annually. I haven't seen an estimate for Texas yet but would be willing to bet it's more than that, possibly as much as $1 Bn annually.
Vilsack departs the field...
OK, maybe we've not been as supportive as we could have been. However, how the hell can I get charged up over a former Governor from a flyover state who thinks corn-based ethanol is hugely important? Can you say, captive of agribusiness? I knew you could.
Tom, don't feel bad about dropping out of the race. You were cursed with an unfortunate surname for a country that likes things simple and familiar. Don't let it get to you...a guy named Roosevelt probably couldn't win in this day and age either.
Obamathon at Town Lake
Everyone is excited except me because I'm on a conference call right now talking about interesting things like default rates and risk pools. Color. Me. Happy.
If you're interested in seeing Obama, please join Texans for Obama at Auditorium Shores. I can't go because I have to clean up a mess from yesterday that didn't get fixed (lawyers are fucking LAZY). However, Sister Ruth and The Mayor are going and they love them some Obama so no doubt they'll be sharing details as soon as they
sober up return from the rally.
The Texans for Obama site has some helpful information on parking (it's going to suck) and bus service that will take you to or close to Auditorium Shores.
Mayor Will Wynn, at least, is convinced that the city should unload Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
The airport's revenue was $9.6 million above its expenses last fiscal year, city Aviation Director Jim Smith said, and the city has averaged $8.9 million in net income annually since 2001. But federal law prohibits the city from using that money outside the airport site, instead requiring that it be plowed back into airport improvements.
Governments nationwide have been entertaining offers for toll roads, state-run lotteries and airports from foreign investors awash in cash. Futrell said the city has received no airport lease proposal, verbally or in writing.
Wynn said he has been lobbying his council peers for several months on the subject, picking up on a move by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to lease that city's Midway Airport.
"There's no financial reason whatsoever for the city to own the airport, as by law we can make not one penny from its operations or even property rentals," Wynn said Tuesday. "So why not explore a sale or a long-term lease that could net us hundreds of millions of dollars upfront that we could put toward any number of community needs, such as transportation?"
Of course, any 'lease' would have go to paying down the bonds used to finance the creation of ABIA. Honestly, this may be one of the few privatization ideas that makes sense.
The Austin Chamber of Commerce loves them some tolls
Recently I got a mailer from TakeOnTraffic.org, which is an education initiative funded by the Greater Austin CoC to inform the people of Austin that they need roads. Masters of the obvious, these folks.
Tolls, tolls and more tolls appears to be on tap if the GACoC has their way. One has to wonder what they'll get out of it, especially since I'd be willing to bet most members of the CoC aren't so much for tolls... they just want traffic off the roads (we'll get to that in a bit). Most of the site is pretty worthless (the design's not bad... the information is. For example there is a lot of information about why we need roads. Which is pretty stupid because no one is arguing that point save maybe morons). The Transportation Funding section is the real meat of the site... the rest of it is as substantial and worthwhile as a rice cake.
Gasoline taxes. This is the main source of revenue for highways right now. However, the state gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1991. With gas prices already reaching record highs, it’s unlikely that the state will ever raise this tax enough to pay for all of Texas’ unmet transportation needs.
Yeah, not so much at record highs anymore and around current, lower, prices, alternatives still make a lot of sense which puts an upward cap on gasoline prices. However, let's not even get into that. Let's focus instead on the idea that the state won't raise the gas tax. This is as much BS as anything else on this site. The state has been made very aware that it's cheaper to do that than anything else.
However, it may soon be possible for regions like Central Texas to institute local gasoline taxes. To meet our immediate needs, a Travis County gas tax would have to be set between 30 and 50 cents per gallon. This could have a severe impact on lower-income residents and on the regional economy.
That number for the gas tax is just wrong. We already know that it'll cost much less, even without indexing which the state is going to eventually pass. Further, the idea that gas taxes hurt lower-income residents more than tolls is absurd. For one thing, if tolls are used for expansion of 35 through central Austin, we'll all be paying the price. That's the most obvious issue. The less obvious issue is that tolls are going to increase the cost of goods sold for every business through increased transport to market costs. That'll be passed on even to consumers who don't use cars.
The other reason we'll be effected is that traffic won't disappear on 35 because there isn't a free 130 to take traffic away. 130 was always intended to be a bypass to 35 through Austin Metro for traffic moving north to south and vice versa. We already know that most trucking companies aren't going to use the toll roads. Which means that traffic in central Austin will continue to be bad and everyone will suffer. Take the tolls off 130 and watch the congestion on 35 disappear.
Finally, let's consider the only cost metric that makes sense, cost per mile. On the toll roads, the absolute best you can do is $0.12 per mile. With the gas tax (at even an inflated $0.17 per gallon), the per mile break down if your car (like most) gets 20 miles per gallon is $0.0085 per mile. Less than a penny per mile for new roads and improvements to existing roads is hell of a lot better than $0.12 per mile.
Sales taxes. This is main source of revenue for public transportation in Central Texas. Right now, state law limits the combined sales tax paid in local communities. However, Texas may allow regions to raise this limit to fund transportation improvements.
To meet our immediate needs would mean adding two or three cents to the sales tax paid now in Travis County. Sales tax can be a volatile revenue source, going up and down dramatically depending on economic trends. This makes it tricky to use sales tax to fund projects that, even under the best conditions, take years to build.
Nah, leave the sales tax alone. For one thing, it's more regressive than any other tax. For another, it'll just put a clamp on economic activity and more and more people will travel out of the area to shop (just ask people in NoCal how often they drive up to Southern Oregon).
Property taxes. Bonds repaid with property taxes are the main source of revenue for city streets and county roads in Central Texas. Also, tax-backed bonds have paid for right-of-way for current highway projects. The region has already ramped up its use of tax-backed bonds to get projects like SH130 moving.
To fund the system we need would require increasing Travis County property taxes as much as $200 a year for the next 20 years. Devoting such a large chunk of local bond capacity to transportation means less money for other capital improvements—like police and fire stations, jails and cultural facilities, parks and libraries—that are funded through tax-backed bonds.
Yeah, property taxes are kinda dumb anyway as they are the ultimate delinking of a tax to the ability to pay it. Just because you live in an $850,000 home doesn't mean you can pay almost $26,500 in property taxes. Yeah, let's crap all over the this idea.
Tolls. The tolls collected on new roads like SH 130 pay back the bonds that financed initial construction. Once those bonds are paid off, tolls can be lowered to the level needed to simply pay for maintenance. Or they can be used to fund other needed projects — like sidewalks, bike lanes, or bus service — that help make up a comprehensive system.
Not so much because tolls on 130 are dedicated to TXDoT. Much like the tolls on the North Dallas Tollway, they aren't going away. EVER. The Chamber of Commerce is definitely inaccurate here. Show me the mechanism that makes them go away then, maybe, we'll talk. So far there's nothing. Of course, you can argue that revenue from one road will go to build another and if you're going to do that (benefiting two different user groups) then you may as well implement a gas tax that covers everyone as cheaply as possible.
Tolls have been controversial in Central Texas, especially for projects where new toll lanes would be built in existing highway corridors. (No project in Central Texas involves tolling existing highway lanes.) Clear policies and accountable leadership are needed to make sure tolling is implemented wisely. However, compared to taxes, tolls have the advantage of only affecting the people who choose to drive on those roads, while still producing enough revenue to make a difference.
Yeah, the problem, as Senator Watson is finding out, is not accountability, it's the fairness of tolls themselves and how much more expensive they are than gas taxes. That's why tolls are going to be DOA and our leaders that support them are going to have some real problems down the road. Tolls almost cost the Chair of the House Transportation Committee his seat in this last cycle (what, you thought we'd get through this without mentioning Krusee even once?).
There is, of course, an upward density limit that forces a conversion to mass transit and less emphasis on roads. In most of Austin, which is a very compact city for the western US, some would say we are already there. That's what I'd like to see policy makers focus on as well expansion of (and improvements to) the freeway system. Even those who live in the burbs have, to some extent, been subsidizing public transportation through sales taxes for years. I point this out because I'm sick of hearing the argument that central Austin doesn't want to subsidize freeways for the burbs. One has to ask of the short sighted people, 'Who the hell do you think subsidized MoPac and 35?'
Decades ago there was a debate over tolling vs. gas taxes for transportation in this country. For the most part, tolls lost because they were more expensive.
Guess what? THAT HASN'T CHANGED.
February 22, 2007
Paging Warren Chisum! Paging Warren Chisum! Would Warren Chisum please pick up the white courtesy phone?
The Day the Earth Stood Still Being Remade for 2008 - Confirmed!
A car theft deterrent I'd like to see
This is a Tesla coil that some nut mounted to the top of the car and I LOVE it. No joke, I'm not worried about someone stealing my car (they'd have to clean it before they could get anything for it). I just think it would be cool. Because I'm a dork who wouldn't mind electrocuting the strays that might venture too close.
Cats and dogs, dumbass. Not the stray humans. Though it would be kinda funny. If it was Warren Chisum who would probably think it was some sort of demon surrounding my car which I summoned into existence with help from the Jews while we were plotting how to make everyone think the earth rotates around the sun.
Conservatives not pleased about NK deal
Connecticut native George W. Bush's idea about ignoring North Korea didn't work out so well. The change in strategy to one of negotiating and helping is bearing fruit (which is what Democrats had been saying for years), however that isn't stopping conservatives from grumbling
John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the agreement -- in which North Korea would freeze its main nuclear facility in exchange for an initial supply of fuel oil -- "a bad deal" that violated principles that were closely held in the beginning of the Bush administration.
Yeah, principles like stupidity, arrogance and a complete disregard for what might actually, you know, work. It's funny that Bolton would call this a 'bad deal' since everyone thought he was a 'bad ambassador'.
Bolton's comments, the barbs from conservative publications and the Abrams e-mails reflected deep concerns among conservatives that the agreement could turn out to be an important and troubling turning point. Current and former Bush officials said they fear that after six years they are losing control of foreign policy to more pragmatic forces. The shift, they said, has become especially apparent with the departure of Donald H. Rumsfeld, who as defense secretary was often seen as a counterweight to State.
Losing control to more pragmatic forces? Hope springs eternal. I think we can all agree that less pragmatic forces have done fuckall for the country.
So how are the Republicans treating the returning troops?
The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely -- a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients. Almost 700 of them -- the majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.
They suffer from brain injuries, severed arms and legs, organ and back damage, and various degrees of post-traumatic stress. Their legions have grown so exponentially -- they outnumber hospital patients at Walter Reed 17 to 1 -- that they take up every available bed on post and spill into dozens of nearby hotels and apartments leased by the Army. The average stay is 10 months, but some have been stuck there for as long as two years.
Not all of the quarters are as bleak as Duncan's, but the despair of Building 18 symbolizes a larger problem in Walter Reed's treatment of the wounded, according to dozens of soldiers, family members, veterans aid groups, and current and former Walter Reed staff members interviewed by two Washington Post reporters, who spent more than four months visiting the outpatient world without the knowledge or permission of Walter Reed officials. Many agreed to be quoted by name; others said they feared Army retribution if they complained publicly.
In one week, Senator Carona will be hosting a public hearing on transportation. Eye on Williamson has more here, including some great information about why the TTC and 'innovative' public/private partnerships are a super bad idea.
February 21, 2007
Keep Austin Blue welcomes Kronberg, Rodriguez and Strama
Yeah, I'm about to bail and head down to the Mother Egan's for Keep Austin Blue if my cold remains in check.
Keep Austin Blue Social Hour (3rd Wednesday of the Month) Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007
Harvey Kronberg, News 8 Austin political analyst and publisher of The Quorum Report
Eddie Rodriguez, State Representative HD-51
Mark Strama,State Representative HD- 50
TIME: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
PLACE: Mother Egan’s Irish Pub (715 W. 6th St)
Come drink if the mood suits you.
You need some ugly in your life
This rug is specifically designed for the modern world with channels for all the cables that make our homes so much fun. It's also totally ugly. Yes, we'll laugh at you if you buy one.
I am so sick of whiny ass corporations it's starting to make me sick. The problem is, we have a corporate welfare system in this country where we coddle corporations and shareholders and yet these people still complain about how horrible any regulation is. Tell you what, if you think having to go before a regulatory agency is such a horrible circumstance, imagine how much less you'd like it if the state legislated the dissolution of the company. I'm serious about this y'all. Why is it that TXU, with nothing but advantages, can't manage to outperform Austin Energy, a small municipal utility?
Maybe it's time we nationalized the power companies and brought them fully under the control of the state. Having a publicly owned utility has certainly worked to the benefit of consumers in Austin. Why shouldn't everyone in Texas enjoy that? It's clear from all of Kim Morgan's whining that they just can't cut it...
TXU spokeswoman Kim Morgan said the company is "disappointed" in the decision.
"Every day that a solution is delayed leaves older, less efficient power plants online too long — affecting prices and clean air," Morgan said. "And it brings us one day closer to the potential of widespread blackouts.
Kim, your employer damages public health as part of it's business providing power to people in Texas. Naturally, those people want to know their health is protected and TXU cleans up it's act going forward. That's why regulation exists, to restrict corporations from going too far in search of profit. Keep in mind, corporations exist only to make it easier for people to pool capital and operate a business. They aren't, in and of themselves, something that has more rights than any individual. The existence of TXU is TOLERATED by individuals who authorize the state to charter them. That can change quickly and your bitching is making that more and more likely. If I were you, I'd rethink my attitude, thank Judge Yelenosky, and talk about how happy TXU is to be allowed to operate in Texas.
The thing that consistently amazes me is that more shareholders aren't pissed as hell about the job being done by Kim and her fellow employees. These shareholders stand to lose substantial capital if these companies go too far in their efforts to control the regulatory environment. Further, the greed of management in charging dramatically higher prices than companies like Austin Energy could well backfire and trigger the nationalization of the company. I'd also like to know exactly what the pollution footprint of TXU REALLY is. Trust me, Kim, there are some questions you don't want asked so I like I said it's really best to keep your mouth shut. Thank God Judge Yelenosky decided to override 39%'s fast track EO because 39% doesn't give a shit about public health unless it's being effected by HPV.
State District Judge Stephen Yelenosky ruled that four environmental groups "are likely to prevail on their argument that the governor lacks the authority" to issue an executive order telling a state agency to hold hearings and reach a decision by a specific deadline.
Yelenosky ordered the State Office of Administrative Hearings to ignore Perry's demand that hearings on new power plants be limited to six months.
He did not specifically halt a hearing scheduled for today on TXU Corp.'s request for permits for six coal-fired plants, but he told the state's administrative law judge to reconsider requests for a delay from environmental groups.
While Yelenosky's order did not specifically relate to the controversy over the human papillomavirus vaccine, HPV, it was the first judicial ruling that indicated a governor does not have the power to direct state agency operations by executive order.
Kim doesn't understand that if TXU can't deliver power under the regulations established by the state of Texas then there is little point for TXU to exist as a public company. Given the comparison between electricity prices in Austin and Dallas, one has to wonder if there is any case for the continued existence of TXU. At the very least, the shareholders should be moving to rid themselves of the management team rapidly.
Tony Snowjob: Bush Knew About It Before He Didn't Know About It
It seems that all previous statements about the shameful conditions at Walter Reed are now inoperative.
During yesterday’s White House press briefing, Tony Snow tried to play down the neglect uncovered at Walter Reed by portraying it as old news. President Bush “certainly has been aware of the conditions in the wards where he has visited, Snow said, affirming that the administration was aware of Walter Reed’s conditions “before the articles appeared in the paper.”
The White House has since backtracked from Snow’s comments. In a small addendum added to the bottom of yesterday’s briefing transcript on the White House website, a note now reads that Bush “first learned of the troubling allegations regarding Walter Reed from the stories this weekend in the Washington Post,” and that he is “deeply concerned” by the conditions:
Bush rediscovers Afghanistan
You know when, at the beginning of winter, you'll find money in a coat pocket? It's always a nice treat. I'm all the time forgetting that I left money in pockets. So I understand how Connecticut native George Bush could forget about Afghanistan. I'm glad to see he's finally rediscovered it (we've been bitching about it for a while)
Bush announced that he will extend a temporary increase of 3,200 U.S. troops in Afghanistan "for the foreseeable future" and urged Congress to give him $11.8 billion more to accelerate training, reconstruction and counter-narcotics programs. He also insisted that NATO allies should drop restrictions on their forces in Afghanistan and join the fight against Islamic extremists.
"America and our allies are going to stand with these folks," the president said in an address to the American Enterprise Institute. "That's the message I want to deliver to the Afghanistan people today. Free debates are important. But our commitment is strong. We will train you, we will help you, and we will stand with you as you defend your new democracy."
The speech was the first Bush has devoted to Afghanistan during his second term, reflecting the shifting priorities in Washington as the Iraq war has turned increasingly violent and consumed more of the president's attention. But though Iraq dominated the debate, remnants of the ousted Taliban government have regrouped and launched a potent new challenge. Attacks on U.S., Afghan and other coalition forces nearly tripled last year, and the Taliban by some estimates controls four times as much territory as in 2005.
One has to wonder why we rushed into Iraq before we crushed these clowns. Maybe now we'll correct the mistake and finally help the Afghani's really get back up on their feet.
February 20, 2007
Jennifer Kim gets a little less funny
Sorry about the delay on this one... the AusChron has more on how Kim handles a traffic stop:
KVUE dredged another skeleton out of Kim's closet in their coverage of the controversy last night. Sayeth the ABC affiliate, "Documents show in September 2006, Kim was pulled over by an Austin police officer for speeding in the 7300 block of Ben White. During the traffic stop, she admits asking the officer if he knew who she was."
It gets so much better:
"Kim said in hindsight, she should not have asked the question in the manner she did. She said she was only interested in learning more about which Austin police officers lived inside and outside of the city because the officer didn't know her."
Not to be a bitch but COME ON, COUNCILWOMAN KIM! I'd have more respect for you if you at least owned it and said you were sorry. This apology non-apology is just infuriating.
It also made us laugh a little.
Flowers, specifically. Free trade in general
While giving testimony on trade issues last week, the following exchange occurred between US Trade Rep Susan C. Schwab and Rep. Pascrell.
"Imports do matter," Schwab assured him. "They matter to people who went out and bought roses today for their sweetheart, where they were able to buy inexpensive flowers at Safeway or Costco, where maybe a few years ago it would have been much more expensive to buy long-stemmed roses. That's trade."
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) took no comfort from Schwab's point. "Those very flowers come from countries that have child labor and forced labor, and that's why the prices are cheaper," he said. "And if we don't concern ourselves about that, then we are not the country we pretend to be."
Not to mention all the American flower growers (yeah, there are many of them) who have been put out of business by cheap imports. This is just one example of where free trade isn't exactly free. We need to really examine our trade commitments and what they will mean to people here in the US.
Bush tries to privatize the land
B&B has a great post up Connecticut native George W. Bush's attempt to sell off federal land. What is it with Republicans and selling public assets?
For the second year in a row, the Bush administration has proposed selling off as much as 300,000 acres of national forests and other public land to help pay for rural schools and roads.
And for the second year, Western lawmakers and environmentalists blasted the plan, saying short-term gains would be offset by the permanent loss of the land.
Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the new chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee that oversees environmental spending, pronounced the plan dead on arrival. “They are just not going to do this. It's not going to happen,” Dicks said Monday.
“We're going to find a way to fund the (rural) schools program without selling even one acre of public land,” added Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the plan a “betrayal,” and said he would “work around the clock ... to convince Congress to act honorably and fulfill the federal obligation to our rural counties.”
Is this some kind of bad joke?
Sometimes just a picture says it all
Republicans sink to a new low
HB2 is set to pass and Vince at Capitol Annex has a great post up about what a disaster it is. The crux is that the tax cuts are going to require breaking the spending cap. To sell it to the public, the Republicans have tied it to a long held Democratic dream, property tax cuts for the elderly which are desperately needed. The kink in the whole plan is that the tax cuts promised to homeowners can't be paid for by the new business tax the Republicans passed last year. So they are having to take money out of general revenue (from CHIP, TXDoT, etc) to fund the property tax cuts.
Combined with SCR 20, which the House will consider on Tuesday (along with HB 2 on third reading), HB2 busts the spending cap utilizing funds from General Revenue to fund the property tax cuts. Further, it takes General Revenue funds that should be rightfully spent on other more paramount state needs and uses them to fund property tax cuts that won’t even make a significant annual dent in the average taxpayer’s bill.
The bipartisan Legislative Study Group has more
HB 2 is bad public policy because it uses money for other state priorities to pay for an under funded tax cut. An inadequate amount of revenue has been raised by the tax package that was passed during the 3rd Called Special Session of the 79th Legislature. Only $8.1 billion is available in the property tax fund to pay for the $14.2 billion needed to buy down local school maintenance-and-operations (M&O) tax rates from $1.50 per $100 of property valuation to $1.00. HB 2 spends $6.1 billion in current General Revenue to make up the amount lacking on tax cuts before the Legislature has the opportunity to review and debate the state budget. According to estimates from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the $8.1 billion in the Property Tax Relief Fund would only buy down property taxes to $1.20 for the coming biennium instead of $1.00.
To fund the property tax cuts for 2008, HB 2 spends $4,231,466,000 from the Property Tax Relief Fund and an additional $2,724,934,000 from General Revenue. For 2009, HB 2 spends $3,846,492,000 from the Property Tax Relief Fund and $3,846,492,000 from General Revenue. Budget decisions, including property tax cuts, for the 2008-2009 biennium should be made in the General Appropriations Act, HB 1, where all spending priorities can be debated side by side so that members can make a more informed decision.
Nevermind the fact that taxes are going to keep going up because home values in Texas keep going up. Which I guess is why Tom Pauken is bitching about appraisal caps. Again. Tom's a real dumbfuck, even for a Republican. What the Democrats proposed (increasing the homestead exemption) would do more to help people than some ridiculous cap. The larger problem is that property taxes are a shitty way to fund public services like schools because they are levied based on assets, not income. That is to say, the bill is delinked from the mechanism that allows it's payment. Of course, you don't hear Pauken or anyone else talking realistically about replacing property taxes with income taxes. Like I said, DUMBFUCKS.
Just as in 2003, the Republicans are screwing over the people of Texas, in the name of tax relief that won't last and at the expense of actually putting money into public schools. Glenn Smith has more over at BOR.
Hagel should switch parties
It's interesting when Republicans start making sense. It almost makes you think they're Democrats. Don't get me wrong, Hagel is still a conservative, whatever in the hell that means, and probably would sooner see Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security dismantled than fixed. However, on the war he's been spot on and it's good to see.
Of course, the fact that nutter Republicans are attacking him also helps me think he's not such a bad guy. Here's an except from the GQ interview which is causing so much heat for Hagel.
GQ: And producing a National Intelligence Estimate that turned out to be doctored.
Hagel: Oh yeah. All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that's what we were presented with. And I'm not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing, because there were senators who said, "I don't believe them." But I was told by the president--we all were--that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort.
GQ: You were told that personally?
Hagel: I remember specifically bringing it up with the president. I said, "This has to be like your father did it in 1991. We had every Middle East nation except one with us in 1991. The United Nations was with us."
GQ: Did he give you that assurance, that he would do the same thing as his father?
Hagel: Yep. He said, "That's what we're going to do." But the more I look back on this, the more I think that the administration knew there was some real hard question whether he really had any WMD. In January of 2003, if you recall, the inspectors at the IAEA, who knew more about what Saddam had than anybody, said, "Give us two more months before you go to war, because we don't think there's anything in there." They were the only ones in Iraq. We hadn't been in there. We didn't know what the hell was in there. And the president wouldn't do it! So to answer your question--Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote.
GQ: And you feel like you were misled?
Hagel: I asked tough questions of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld before the war: How are you going to govern? Who's going to govern? Where is the money coming from? What are you going to do with their army? How will you secure their borders? And I was assured every time I asked, "Senator, don't worry, we've got task forces on that, they've been working, they're coordinated," and so on.
GQ: Do you think they knew that was false?
Hagel: Oh, I eventually was sure they knew. Even before we actually invaded, I had a pretty clear sense of it--that this administration was hell-bent on going to war in Iraq.
GQ: Even if it meant deceiving Congress?
Hagel: That's right.
That's all anyone would have had to say in 2004. Pity they're only know talking about it.
More ethically questionable deals in the Administration
A senior Justice Department official who recently resigned her post bought a nearly $1 million vacation home with a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips months before approving consent decrees that would give the oil company more time to pay millions of dollars in fines and meet pollution-cleanup rules at some of its refineries.
Sue Ellen Wooldridge, former assistant attorney general in charge of environment and natural resources, bought a $980,000 home on Kiawah Island, S.C., last March with ConocoPhillips lobbyist Don R. Duncan. A third owner of the house is J. Steven Griles, a former deputy interior secretary, who has been informed he is a target in the federal investigation of Jack Abramoff's lobbying activities.
February 19, 2007
Time to sac up...
Jeez, Joe. Did you have to screw us?
Hat tip to Truth Serum
Tolls : Cintra fucks Indiana and TTC 69 fast tracked
Best on screen kiss...
No, it wasn't the kiss between Rep. Cuellar and Connecticut native George W. Bush during the 2004 SOTU.
In a poll taken by its clients, UK's NetFlix-like service LoveFilm.com determined that the thirsty-for-it kiss between Gyllenhaal and Ledger in the gay-cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain, is the number-one favorite on-screen kiss of all time. And it's not the only man-on-man smooch on the list, btw. Here's all of them:
1. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
2. Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's
3. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith
4. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind
5. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions
6. Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity
7. Al Pacino and John Cazale in The Godfather
8. Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones' Diary
9. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man
10. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing
No, 39% isn't interested in being VP. Seriously.
via Political Wire
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) "has no interest in national politics and may seek re-election in 2010," the Houston Chronicle reports.
Political consultant Dave Carney "said speculation that recent decisions by Perry, including his mandate that middle-school girls be inoculated against a sexually transmitted virus linked to cervical cancer, are designed to raise the governor's profile nationally is 'one of the most retarded things about the political observers in Texas.'"
Said Carney: "He hates Washington. He doesn't like to go there."
Carney continued for another hour repeating that 39% doesn't want to be President, Vice-President, Senator or even Congressman.
Anyone else picking up on the unintentional comedy regarding the 2010 Governor's race?
Compass to merge with BBVA, GM and Chrysler get hitched?
The acquisition of Compass Bancshares Inc. by Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria S.A. would create a formidable Southwestern financial institution with nearly $20 billion in deposits and 326 bank offices in the lucrative Texas market alone.
BBVA is the same company that owns Mexico's largest bank, Bancomer. Want to know more about them?
Headquartered in Spain, Banco Bilbao, also known as BBVA, operates 7,500 bank branches in 35 countries. It has about 100,000 employees and reports more than $520 billion in assets. If the merger is approved by shareholders and regulators, the bank said it would merge its U.S. bank affiliates, which include Texas Regional Bancshares, State National Bancshares and Laredo National Bancshares, with Compass, creating "the largest regional bank across the Sunbelt."
Damn, the Spanish are just buying up all their old New World assets again. From transportation to banking, the Spanish seem hell bent on reconquista.
No, not that crazy 'what are all these brown people doing here' reconquista (it's not real, but is instead a figment of some anglo's delusional mind). The Spanish kind. This time they will not have those ridiculous metal helmets, but some really smart suits from a haberdasher in Barcelona where Barfly got me some fab cufflinks years ago.
"A merger makes no sense," said economist Peter Morici of he University of Maryland.
"There are no synergies to be found in a merger."
Mr. Morici said GM and Chrysler could co-operate in a range of areas, including developing hybrid and hydrogen vehicles. A merger would solve neither company's main problems, including "unattractive products" and high labour costs, he said.
"One of the reasons Daimler Chrysler wants to get out of the U.S. is because of [United Auto Workers president Ron] Gettelfinger," Mr. Morici said.
Again with blaming the UAW! Let's be clear. The union may have been a problem at one time but that's passed. The problem now is that these companies have never done a good job of anticipating where demand is going to go, adapting once it's clear they are way out of the market and managing their finances effectively (when someone says they have a multi-billion dollar shortfall in the pension, that's a managerial problem. You fire them, except in the American auto industry where you give them a ton of money and a promotion). That's the problem with these companies and the analysts who track them. To a single person they want to blame labor and not the shitty cars these companies are producing. Oh sure, the quality is up but the designs are still bad, not to mention the strategic errors.
1) Hyrdorgen powered cars? Dumbfucks. I mean seriously, this is not going to the future of transportation. Unless we find some ultra-efficient way to crack hydrogen out of water by electrolyzing it. With photovoltaics. And if you find PV systems that efficient, you'll just be running cars off them directly (screw the hydrogen).
2) Electric cars. WAY missed the boat on this one.
3) Hybrids. You had FEDERAL MONEY to help develop this and still Toyota is beating your ass? Losers.
Federal money should be used to shore up the pension plans of these companies and the companies should be forced into bankruptcy. Like a horse that's lame, they should be put out of their misery. Sell the assets to Toyota and let me have stock in them. One of the problems with American capitalism is the managerial class. The workers are THE most productive in the world and capital, for the most part, is free to move and can be put to work easily. The missing piece is MANAGEMENT. It effects GM, TXU and countless others.
It's not the workers, it's the management, stupid.
State Representative Warren Chisum (rumored to be the father of Anna Nicole's baby) has apologized for forwarding an anti-evolution memo last week. The controversial document contained numerous links to an anti-semetic website promoting "alternative" views of science called fixedearth.com. Chisum admitted he hadn't actually read the screed, which had been forwarded to him by a colleague in Georgia before ordering a minion to xerox it and send it to all House members with his cover letter. He said he was appalled that it contradicted his deeply-held belief that the Earth revolves around him.
February 18, 2007
Gong Xi Fa Chai, Y'all!
Happy Chinese New Year to everyone!
Thirty days hath September,. April, June and November.
Unless, of course, the intelligence is faulty
Allow TSA to unionize?!? Oh, please no!
I love me some unions. Seriously, I like them all. I think everyone should be able to join a union.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which has pushed hard to bring TSA screeners into the union fold, praised the committee's decision and predicted the measure would improve working conditions for screeners.
"It is good news," said John Gage, the union president. AFGE plans to bring about 800 members to Washington near the end of this month to lobby Congress on behalf of the screeners, he said. "We have some work to do with the Republican side of the aisle, and I think we will be successful."
These people have always been obnoxious jackasses. Now they'll be able to collectively bargain? For what? The ability to suck more? At this point you're probably asking, "Who, McBlogger, should we blame for this?"
Joe Fucking Lieberman.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, proposed the union-rights amendment to the Senate bill that would implement unfinished recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission. He prevailed on a party-line vote of 9 to 8.
As part of the response to the 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress created the TSA to take charge of passenger and baggage screening at the nation's airports. It also provided the head of the TSA with leeway to set personnel rules and ban unions.
The TSA later merged into the Department of Homeland Security, where unions filed suit to stop proposed curbs to bargaining rights.
But Lieberman said "personnel management has been troubled at TSA" and concluded that "it is time to give TSA screeners parity with other security officers within TSA and DHS in terms of their employment rights and protections."
You're a dick, Joe Lieberman. By doing this, the TSA will feel embolded to achieve new levels of evil. I dread my next trip through security when a pimply faced kid with a union card decides to pull me into the happy fun screening area.
And I will silently damn Joe Lieberman. Over and over again as the wand sweeps over my body.
February 17, 2007
Britney Exposes More Bald Parts
Last time it was her cooter, this time it's her head. I guess she got desperate watching attention turn away from her to Anna Nicole's autopsy.
Singles rule (and I blame the gays)
Did you know there is an overabundance of single men in Austin, LA and SF, to name a few? In this months National Geographic, there is a map of the US showing in which areas there are more single men than women. The women are primarily concentrated in the eastern US, while the men are concentrated in the west. Why are so many single men concentrated in western cities like Austin, LA, SF, Dallas and Phoenix?
Yep. It's the gays. We're just all over the place, aren't we?
So, single ladies, sadly the large number of single men in Austin will not mean that you are more likely to get a date here. Unless you like being a fag hag/drinking buddy.
Meanwhile, back in flyover country
LUBBOCK, Texas — Police arrested eight Chippendales dancers and three others during the first of three sold out performances Friday, accusing them of violating the city's adult entertainment ordinance.
Officers raided Jake's Sports Cafe about 30 minutes after the show started and the venue was closed. They arrested the venue's manager, the show's promoter and the dancers' manager along with the dancers in front of a disgruntled crowd of women.
Shortly after, several hundred women began chanting, "Bring them back, bring them back" and "the City Council sucks, the City Council sucks."
Authorities say the dancers violated a city ordinance which bars contact between entertainers and patrons. Lt. Greg Stevens of the Lubbock Police said the dancers were simulating sexual positions with audience members.
And of course, that could lead to dancing.
February 16, 2007
A doctor removed two moles from President George W. Bush's left temple on Friday and they were believed to be benign, a White House spokesman said.
How perverse, removing the only bits of him that aren't malignant.
(Apologies to Evelyn Waugh)
Gingrich back in the mix...
While I sit here at Discount Tire, reading Latina and Parenting (even though I'm neither) I thought y'all mightwant to know what the opposition is up to?
"A conservative back-bencher who fired up a lackluster gop and grabbed victory in 1994, Newt Gingrich is being tapped by the newly out-of-power group to help map a return trip," according to Washington Whispers.
Said one GOP insider: "Unlike anyone else in the party. Newt knows how to fight back."
Though he intially recommended a more conciliatory approach, he's now challenging his party "to bark loudly and often at Democrats and use parliamentary moves to thwart the opponents. His first order to conservative rabble-rousers: Take over the gop message. Next, he suggested tactics and rules to delay legislation and tricks to trap Democrats. Finally, drop a bomb the media will love."
If there's anyone to be focused on, it should be Newt. He should never, ever be ignored, kinda like a chronic illness.
Restrict Corporations? Commie...
That's right, I'm a big commie. Not really, they wear ugly shoes and only drink vodka. I'm not so much for either.
Capitalism, which has made this country a vibrant economic superpower, is being strangled not by communists or socialists but by corporations themselves. Who's Playin' has a great post up about restricting corporate lobbying, which has created too good an atmosphere for corporations. Why do corporations enjoy First Amendment protections of political speech? In Texas, we keep them out of it so why not at the Federal level?
The point I’m slowly getting to here is that I do NOT believe that a First Amendment right to freedom-of-speech exists for corporations. I truly think that we would all be better off if certain restrictions were placed on corporate entities:
1. No political lobbying.
2. No political donations of any kind.
3. No political advocacy of any kind.
After all, our government is supposed to be a government of, by, and for the people. As long as the current rules allow for corporations to influence public policy, it is the ethical obligation of the officers and board members of that corporation to do their best to encourage public policy that protects the interests of the shareholders to the detriment of other market entrants or competing interests such as labor, public safety, or the environment.
We've talked a lot about the failures of tort reform and deregulation. When you allow corporations to rewrite the rules, they won't do it to benefit consumers, especially when there is little more than lax government oversight. Deregulation is not altogether bad on it's face. However, it's time we take a serious look about what we're seeing in the competitive landscape and either prodding the companies forward to compete or re-regulate if they won't. That's a conversation that needs to be had sooner, rather than later and we need to cut the vocal chords of corporations first.
I know the lobby will hate it but who the fuck cares? When was the last time you felt bad for Velma Luna?
Strama, Watson and Tolls (Oh My!)
Ben Wear is finally getting it and it's positively heart warming.
So, what does it cost you to drive on Central Texas' emerging toll road system?
Well, about 12 cents a mile. Unless it's 18 cents, or 40 cents, or 64 cents. Or, in one notable spot near Lakeline Mall, a cool $1.50 a mile.
So there's no consistency in the system AND it's more expensive than advertised? Gee. Didn't see that one coming.
Officials with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is building and will operate 183-A, have been bracing for this sort of reaction.
They have an even broader problem, however.
The startup agency originally was going to build 11.6 miles of tollway, all the way from RM 620 to U.S. 183 north of Leander. But a traffic and revenue study done about three years ago indicated that, in the road's first decade, traffic north of RM 1431 would not justify the additional $100 million or so necessary to build express lanes all the way.
So the agency decided instead to build about 4.5 miles of tollway on the south end and then free two-lane frontage roads for the seven northernmost miles. But to pay back money borrowed to build all this, the agency will charge $1.80 for that 4.5-mile tollway trip. That's 40 cents a mile.
Of course, if you happen to live in Leander or points north, or have other business up that way, you'll be able to drive the whole 11.6 miles for that $1.80, stopping at a few stoplights in the free part. Cost: 15.5 cents a mile.
"Admittedly, it does get confusing," said Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the mobility authority since shortly after it was created in 2002. He compared the situation to a water system, in which early users of the system might have to pay for more of the startup costs of water mains but people in more outlying areas developed later get lower costs.
"We tried to hit the middle ground and give everyone a little something," he said. "Not everything's always fair."
No, Mike, it's not always fair but occasionally good things happen. Unless you're talking about toll roads. When it comes to them life is NEVER fair. Toll roads are bit like casinos, the house always wins. I say a bit because at least in a casino there is a chance, slim though it may be, that the gambler will win. With toll roads we never win. Especially the people who live off Wells Branch (they get the privilege of paying $0.64 PER MILE).
All this is interesting as hell since Strama and Watson are pushing a kinder, gentler toll concept. In principle, I get where they are going with this and it's entirely reasonable. It's also completely wrong. Why? It's a toll plan. If we've learned anything from cost per mile breakdowns, it's that the gas tax is uniformly cheaper. Across the board. That's simple math.
Don't get me wrong, I have a tremendous amount of respect for both Senator Watson and Rep. Strama (yes, Mark, the staff has come to terms with your cigarette tax increase...we understand it's needed to keep the kids at the cinema working behind the counter from being complete mongos). Their idea solves what they think are the biggest problems with tolls, a lack of accountability and a mechanism to eliminate tolls once debt has been paid. However, they've missed the fact that the vast majority of Texans, indeed of their constituents, don't want tolls. People know that if the tolling structure on 130 remains intact (for example), 35 will continue to be a mess through central Austin. While people who live in central Austin may not drive on these roads, they sure as hell recognize the benefit to them personally of an alternative for traffic that is passing through central Texas.
That's the point they missed. No one wants the tolls. Period.
Further, the argument has been made that tolls primarily affect the upper middle class in the burbs. The reality is that tolls always end up effecting those you don't intend. It would be great if we could just toll all those rich people in Georgetown and Cedar Park. The problem is, there aren't many of them there. Trust me, those folks are ordinary commuters, most of whom are living paycheck to paycheck. It's convenient to think of them as 'wealthy' in their McMansions. However, they aren't and as Mike Krusee found out during the last cycle, they don't like tolls. He'll get a much stronger taste of the public's hatred in 2008.
Don't overthink this guys and quit trying to fix something that's already shattered! Sweep it aside and think outside the box.
Teachers and Social Security
BOR has a nice piece up about once again allowing teachers to draw social security as well as teacher's retirement. For many teachers, this is only right since they have had, at one time or another, a job in which they pay social security taxes. In other words, they should receive both and would... if it weren't for Lamar Smith and Congressional Republicans who foreclosed that option.
It's time to let them back in... it's not exactly double dipping considering how much SS actually pays. Consider as well that more and more people are choosing second careers as teachers. They've spent 20-25 years in the private sector and are now willing to take a pay cut and enter the classroom. They'll pay into TRS and will receive payments from it when they finally retire. Why shouldn't they also be entitled to receive SS payments?
North Texas Liberal has a concurring opinion on this issue that you should take a look at if you want more detail on the mechanics behind keeping people from benefits to which they are entitled. It's really kinda like keeping me from a bar (get your drink, then MOVE... damn you!)
Lamar Smith (R - Douche) files a bill
That's right, San Antonio's own Lamar Smith (who actually now resides somewhere on the east coast), has filed a bill in the new Congress to make sure that someone can read your online correspondence and IM's.
Who wouldn't want the ORIGINAL creepy old man to read their convos?
A bill introduced to the US House of Representatives would require ISPs to record all users' surfing activity, IM conversations and email traffic indefinitely.
The bill, dubbed the Safety Act by sponsor Lamar Smith, a republican congressman from Texas, would impose fines and a prison term of one year on ISPs which failed to keep full records.
"A crime is still a crime, whether it occurs on the street or on the internet," said Congressman Smith.
"In this age of increasing digital and technological sophistication, cyber-crimes and cyber-terrorism pose a serious threat to the US. Law enforcement and the private sector must be prepared to deal with these crimes."
The bill includes a separate clause that would force the owners of sexually explicit websites to include warning labels on their web pages, or face jail.
Also included is a 20-year "jail tariff" for anyone ordering child pornography that crosses state borders, with a $150,000 fine for the ISP that allowed the transaction to take place.
Yes, crime is a problem and people use all kinds of communication channels to plan their crimes. So, why exactly don't we go after them, Lamar? Why are you requiring that EVERYONES communications be recorded? That's like using a 200 ft wide net to catch a minnow which is funny since we've heard you're kind of like a minnow (it's the smell).
Josh Nelson has more at The Agonist on the impacts and contact list for those who want to reach and get this thing quashed.
This is a terrifying development and it must be stopped before it gains any significant momentum. Background, Action items and contact information below the fold.
Under the guise of reducing child pornography, the SAFETY (Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act) Act is currently the gravest threat to digital privacy rights on the Internet. Given the increasing tendency of people, especially young people, to use the Internet as a primary means of communications, this measure would effect nearly all Americans in ways we are only beginning to understand. Also, given the fact that the Act requires all Internet Service Providers to record the web surfing activity of all Internet users, this amounts to the warrantless wiretapping of the entire Internet.
There are two ways to make members of Congress listen to your concerns.
1. Inundate them with phone calls and emails.
2. Get negative media coverage of what they are trying to accomplish.
Please contact any or all of the people and organizations listed below. Let them know that the SAFETY ACT, as it is written, is not acceptable.
Rep. Lamar Smith, web form, 202-225-4236
Rep. Steve Chabot, (202) 225-2216
Rep. Tom Feeney, (202) 225-2706
Rep. J. Randy Forbes, (202) 225-6365
Rep. Trent Franks, (202) 225-4576
Rep. Elton Gallegly, (202) 225-5811
Rep. Dan Lungren, (202) 225-5716
Rep. Mike Pence, (202) 225-3021
House Judiciary Committee Chair:
Rep. John Conyers, (202) 225-5126
A few media contacts:
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I have taken the time to compile this information. If what you have read here disturbs you, please take action on this or do more research on your own.
Texas Monthly presents Others On Bush
Sounds a little like a porno, right?
Pink Lady got an advance of the March,2007 article in which Texas Monthly reveals to us what others think will be the legacy of Connecticut native George W. Bush. I have to quote her post on this because we weren't included in the distribution. I blame the son of a bitch in the Audi station wagon who cut me off yesterday on 281 in SA. I gotta say, he was trying hard to look cool with the glasses and the 'just so' hair. Unfortunately, he didn't realize that it's impossible to look cool in a station wagon. ANY station wagon. Was it REALLY his fault? Probably not. However, I'm blaming him for everything right now.
At any rate, here are a few of the choicer quotes that made me laugh a little...
Mark McKinnon (chief media adviser for both W’s campaigns; lifetime PR flack): “We haven’t had another attack [since 9/11], and God willing, we won’t for some time. Critics can argue, but the facts are the facts: The president has protected the homeland.”
Mark, way to work God in there especially since it's more an act of God than of Connecticut native George W. Bush that we haven't been attacked again since 9/11. We're not secure and nothing will make us secure, not even a police state. Get over it, dude. You sound like a pussy who has been hiding for over five years because he's afraid of the 'big, bad terrorists'. For all those out there who are terrified of dying in an attack, here are a few tragedies which are far more likely to occur:
1) An Airbus 380 could crash. On your head.
2) Lightning could strike your house, causing an electrical surge that will create a portal (using your TV as a focal point) that will allow the evil dead to come through and eat you, your family, your pets and your neighbors. Even the fat, hirsute, bald one.
3) Your car could explode. While you're pumping gas at the Shell station in San Marcos (the gross one at the exit to WonderWorld). Just after, a dinosaur will eat your carcass.
Paul Begala (that guy that used to be on Crossfire): “Mr. Bush has been an abject failure. He promised to be a uniter, not a divider. You can look at data that show him to be even more divisive than Richard Nixon—he’s the most divisive president of the past fifty years.”
Connecticut native George W. Bush will make Nixon look good in comparison? The Mayor heartily agrees.
Donald Evans (former Secretary of Commerce): “While I know a lot of people think his legacy rests on what happens with Iraq, historians will say, with time and reflection, that he did a remarkable job. He didn’t worry about polls or focus groups or even elections. He worried about doing what was right—and our world will be a better place because of it.”
Don, if he worried so much about doing the right thing, why does he so consistently do the exact opposite?
Needless to say, I'm going to rush out an buy a copy. No, I don't subscribe. I have too many magazines as it is including the neverending subscription to Entertainment Weekly. A word of advice... don't ever make Barfly mad.
Yeah, we're not so much believing him either
"In the old days, if the U.S. government had come out and said, 'We've got this, here's our assessment,' reasonable people would have taken it at face value," the official said of the Baghdad briefing. "That's never going to happen again."
In yesterday's White House news conference, Bush grappled with the issue head-on. "What makes you so certain," a reporter asked Bush, of the military's charge that "the highest levels of Tehran's government" are responsible for shipments of lethal weapons to Iraq for use against U.S. troops?
Bush contradicted the military's account, saying, "We don't know . . . whether the head leaders of Iran ordered" it.
"But here's my point," he added. "Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that [the weapons] they're there."
via the WaPo
February 15, 2007
28 Day Slater
Former CIA official indicted
Public Corruption is such a nasty phrase and one we hear far too often in relation tothe administration of Connecticut native George W. Bush. Here's one more time...
The CIA's former executive director and a defense contractor were indicted yesterday by a San Diego grand jury for allegedly corrupting the intelligence agency's contracts, marking one of the first criminal cases to reach into the CIA's clandestine operations in Europe and the Middle East.
Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, a longtime logistics officer who was the CIA's top administrator from November 2004 until last May, was accused of using his seniority and influence at a prior CIA job in Europe to steer business deals to his longtime friend Brent R. Wilkes, a California businessman and top Republican fundraiser.
Where's the Bush connection, you ask? Turns out there are two...
The indictment is the latest development in a lengthy federal criminal probe into the dark side of a budget process known as "earmarking," in which lawmakers have directed federal contracts to favored designees who were either friends or campaign contributors. Last year the probe led to a prison sentence for one lawmaker, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham -- who, the government said yesterday, used two prostitutes financed by Wilkes.
While the probe has threatened to sweep in other members of Congress, some uncertainty surrounds it. A key U.S. attorney involved in it -- Carol C. Lam in San Diego -- has been fired by the administration for unspecified "performance-related" deficiencies along with a handful of other federal prosecutors. Lam oversaw the Foggo investigation and is to leave Thursday. The head of the local FBI field office praised Lam's performance and said her firing appeared to be "political," an accusation that the Justice Department has denied.
A political firing? By the Administration? Connection #1.
Additional legal troubles yesterday enveloped Wilkes, a Republican Party "Pioneer" who raised more than $100,000 for President Bush's reelection in 2004 and donated -- in concert with his business colleagues -- $656,396 to 64 other Republican lawmakers and the national Republican Party committees in Washington from 1995 through the third quarter of 2005.
A major contributor to the Bush re-election campaign? Connection #2
The evidence against Foggo included e-mails in which he promised to introduce a Wilkes subordinate to his CIA colleagues and helped arrange advance payments on a $1.69 million contract. Even after arriving at CIA headquarters as a top appointee of then-Director Porter J. Goss, he continued to press for more rapid payments to a Wilkes-affiliated firm identified in the indictment as "Shell Company No. 1," earning Wilkes's thanks, the document states.
An appointee of Porter Goss? Extra special Bonus Connection!!!
So, we have a political appointee who helped get contracts for someone who was very politically connected in exchange for 'lavish vacations' and the promise of a job in the private sector. The same appointee is then investigated by the same prosecutor who brought down Duke Cunningham, another Republican. That prosecutor has now been fired by the Administration.
What ARE they protecting?
Bipartisan group supports public schools
A new group headed up by former Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff is taking aim at the pro-voucher crowd:
"We don't understand how it is that if you have a campus with 500 children and 100 somehow ... take advantage of the voucher and go somewhere else, how does that affect the other 400?" Ratliff said. "If it's a bad school and we take a hundred of them out with vouchers, it's still a bad school. We believe a far better course ... is fix the school. Don't abandon 400 children for the sake of the hundred."
Rep. Coleman with the solar
Rep. Coleman has rolled out an ambitious plan to take Texas solar in the coming years. His journal at BOR is a wealth of information regarding the feasibility (simply beginning the install starts to lower the costs of the systems), economic impact (more jobs are created with solar than with coal) and health effects (more solar=less coal=pollution and the associated health problems). It's clear that Texas can meet 50% of it's energy needs just by installing PV systems in 5% of the urban areas around the state. Think about putting them on malls, houses, apartments and garages. It wouldn't take much to eliminate the need for coal fired power plants altogether.
This is the kind of leadership on energy that Texans need and have been demanding. Of course, it's terrifying to electric companies who will have to deal with a new, distributed generation system that's more robust than our existing system, less prone to terrorist attacks and a better deal for consumers.
Not to mention that it doesn't belch poisons into the air in the process of generating electricity.
Dregs : Bush cuts VA benefits; Paris Hilton; Breaking the cap
February 14, 2007
Fun with CHIP
Nothing better than losing money... simply because you didn't allocate it.
Before the 2003 Texas Legislature cuts, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) projected a funding shortfall to occur sometime between late 2006 and 2008. The legislative changes prevented this from happening, but it also meant that the state lapsed SCHIP funds because it did not spend all that the federal government had allocated. The excess, of course, was returned and redistributed to those states that had spent their allotments.
Next month, some $20 million is scheduled to lapse in Texas. These funds added to the previous lapsed monies total more than $913 million. In other words, Texas has given away to other states more than three times the $288 million in federal SCHIP funds provided the state in 2005 to run the CHIP program.
Congress is scheduled to debate the reauthorization of the block grant sometime this year. If Congress provides only enough money to support current enrollment, hundreds of thousands of children will still miss out on health care assistance. Texas needs to make very effort to counter the possible attempts to reduce the SCHIP allocation based on the state's current enrollment.
So, instead of doing the right thing and keeping kids insured, they are forcing the parents to instead take their kids to the emergency room for routine care. That's saving a dollar by spending four. Yet another example of Republican math the ends up costing taxpayers more.
An idea that doesn't rock
So, you break into someone's house and steal a bunch of stuff including an XBOX 360 and some games. However, you forget the power supply. What now?
Call Microsoft technical support, register the product and ask them to ship you a new power supply. Criminals in New Zealand are way stupid.
The saga began when a man accused of receiving a stolen Xbox 360 contacted Microsoft to register the stolen machine - and to ask for a replacement power cord.
Police suspected that the man had links to a burglary ring in Wellington, but Microsoft would not pass details to police till they obtained a court-issued search warrant - nearly two weeks after the theft.
The Xbox 360 and games, valued at more than $700, were among items stolen on January 23 from a Mt Victoria property.
The next day, a man telephoned Microsoft, quoting the stolen Xbox's serial number and asking for a new power cord - which had been left behind in the theft. Microsoft recorded the man's name, phone number and address to mail him the part.
Good to know that Mickeysoft likes to keep their customers private. Even the ones who stole their machines. Now if only they weren't such a drag about using MSOffice on more than one computer.
The tyranny of high expectations
Harold Meyerson has an interesting column in the WaPo today, calling up the ghost of Ed Muskie.
As the ancient or merely studious among us will recall, the Democratic senator from Maine, who'd been Hubert Humphrey's running mate in 1968, entered his party's presidential contest in 1972 as the front-runner. His prospects were dashed in the New Hampshire snows, however. As popular memory has it, an indignant Muskie started crying while refuting a silly attack on him (though whether he was genuinely upset or merely sniffling during a frigid outdoor news conference was never authoritatively resolved). Muskie's more serious problem, however, was the Vietnam War, which he opposed.
His opposition, though, had none of the fervor or long-term consistency of another Democratic senator and presidential aspirant, George McGovern. By 1972, seven years had elapsed since the United States had sent ground forces to Vietnam, and Richard Nixon, through his invasion of Cambodia and stepped-up bombing campaigns, had made clear that the road to de-escalation would entail periodic escalations, at least as long as he was president. The Democratic base was in no mood for temporizing on Vietnam.
Party voters wanted out, and they wanted a nominee who'd been right on the war (almost) from the start: McGovern. Sic transit gloria Muskie.
Today, Hillary Clinton seems almost uncannily positioned to become the Ed Muskie of 2008. She opposes the U.S. military presence in Iraq but not with the specificity, fervor or bona fides of her leading Democratic rivals. As Muskie did with Vietnam, she supported the legislation enabling the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and she has been slower and more inconstant than her party rivals in coming around to opposing the continued U.S. occupation.
Meyerson glosses over a bit of history here, I think. You might get the impression that it was all over after New Hampshire, that there was a rush to McGovern by the party faithful something like the stampede to Kerry that began as the 2004 Iowa Caucus results came in. As it happened, in 1972 Hubert Humphrey jumped into the race as the "Anybody But McGovern" candidate after Muskie's collapse. George Wallace was also a factor until he was shot by a would-be assassin; the bitter fight over the nomination wasn't decided until June.
But bringing up the spectre of Edmund Muskie reminds me of another interesting tidbit. You might think that McGovern won, and Muskie lost the primary. Not so. Muskie actually won in New Hampshire, but his margin of victory was lower than that touted for the annointed frontrunner. A media gaffe, a smaller than expected victory, and Muskie was history.
We're still almost a year away from the first actual election of delegates in 2008, but at this point Hillary Clinton looks like the overwhelming favorite. The question no one can answer yet, will she be overwhelming enough?
Senator Gramm wrapped up in the Lottery sale
Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, a longtime friend of Gov. Rick Perry, was part of a team from the investment firm of UBS that consulted with the governor's office about selling the Texas Lottery, the company confirmed Friday.
Mr. Gramm is a vice president of investment banking for the firm, which provides financial services in the area of privatization.
This week, the governor unveiled a proposal to sell the lottery and invest the proceeds in three trusts. He envisions that interest from each would fund public education, health insurance for low-income Texans and the largest cancer research initiative in the nation.
Legislators, who would have to authorize the sale, have raised numerous questions about the plan, and financial experts question whether the trusts would yield the continuous income that the governor suggests.
Oh, so that's where 39% got his stupid idea. I knew it couldn't have been original given that he hasn't had an original idea since late 1979 (it was around noon on November 6th and he decided to try soup for lunch). Good to also see a reporter for the DMN taking the time to write about the questions surrounding this boneheaded plan. The only people who stand to really benefit from this ridiculous scheme are the investment bankers (like former Senator Phil Gramm) and the company that ends up owning the Lottery at such a bargain basement price. Now comes word from the DMN that Griffen Perry is working for UBS. Honestly, the guy has a degree in economics so it's not unusual at all and it's no surprise that he would go to work for an investment bank (although I have to say UBS is a little cheesy. I'd have gone with Goldman Sachs). I don't think this is quid pro quo, I just think it's a bad idea to sell the lottery. Of course, I don't stand to gain from the sale so naturally I think it's a bad idea. Like all other Texans, I stand to lose.
John...just slug Dick!
The Schlockman (via EOW) has a story up about the confrontation Tuesday between Sen. John Carona and Texas Transportation Commissioner Ric 'Dick' Williamson in which Rep. Mikey Krusee (R- Toll Road Time Machines) decided to step in lamely (what, you expected him to be anything but?)
Williamson was the star witness before the House Transportation Committee this morning, invited there by the committee chairman, state Rep. Mike Krusee, to make his case about the state’s transportation funding shortfall and the Perry administration’s toll-centric approach to addressing it. Then Carona, a Dallas Republican who chairs the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, showed up.
Following legislative protocol, Krusee, R-Williamson County, invited his opposite number from the Senate side to sit in with the committee. Carona has called for Williamson’s ouster from the commission, by the way, and has filed a number of bills averse to Perry’s and Williamson’s transportation policy.
Granted the floor, Carona said that he’d tried to get on Williamson’s calendar and had been told it was full into March. So, he asked Williamson, will you commit here and now to meet with me this week?
“You are a clever guy,” Williamson said, trying to keep the moment light. “I look forward to meeting with you.”
Yes, but will you meet this week, Carona pressed? Williamson was non-committal. They went around the track a couple more times in this way, then Carona dropped the pretense of collegiality. Williamson was “arrogant,” he said, and engaging in “artful dodging.” A final time, he asked for a meeting this week.
Williamson paused. “Frankly Senator,” he said finally, “I’m speechless.”
The man has a huge say in the funding of TXDoT and you can't meet with him until MARCH, Dick? That's just stupid. Rather than upbraid the recalcitrant commissioner, what does Krusee do? HE APOLOGIZES TO HIM LIKE A PATHETIC CHILD.
Carona left shortly thereafter and the hearing continued. Krusee and state Rep. Fred Hill, R-Richardson, later offered words of apology to Williamson for the episode, and Krusee quickly called Carona to set up a meeting. A meeting between Krusee and Carona, that is.
“I think we’re all better off when we’re discussing policy, and not personalities,” Krusee said after the meeting. He said that would be his message for Carona.
Mikey, he doesn't want to meet with a douche like you. You no longer have any real power since everyone knows you'll be gone in 2008. Seriously, the people in Round Rock wouldn't lift a finger for you if they saw you on fire. Considering how you've treated them, I can see why. As for discussing policy, I think that's cool as long as you're starting from a point of apology for the horrendous job you've done for your constituents and the people of Texas. That is to say, this toll strategy is a non-starter and we have to approach future decisions with an acknowledgment of that. So far, that hasn't appeared, Mikey.
Wear finishes up the article with this...
This session is shaping up as a rough one for the Texas Department of Transportation. Several senators last week gave agency officials a good grilling in the Senate Finance Committee, and Carona has sponsored a number of bills averse to the Perry/Williamson way of doing things. If nothing changes, this may be a session marked by the House passing its transportation bills, the Senate passing its own, and then all of the legislation ending up in a crumpled heap in the Rotunda.
Let's hope not. My read on things is that Mikey better get his shit together and start backing up Carona. It's pretty sad when a Senator from Dallas is more popular in a Central Texas district than it's own Representative. That's the case right now in Mikey's district. If Mikey doesn't start playing ball he may find himself on the wrong side of Senator Carona.
That's something he definitely doesn't want.
UPDATE : I wrote this last night and this morning found John McClelland's excellent post at BOR with video of the hearing.
Cornyn's still riding the short bus...
More over at TexasKaos on why Cornyn decided to vote against increasing the minimum wage. Why? Because he thinks it'll hurt small business. Of course, he's wrong on this since most small businesses will be unaffected by the increase. What he really means is that his corporate
sponsors donors will be hurt by this.
Giant pile of mulch is STILL on fire...
B and B has more about the endless saga of the Helotes mulch fire. The most amazing thing? The folks at TCEQ don't appear to know much about the Edwards Aquifer.
It's quite amazing that it took so long for TCEQ to agree to a cautious approach such as this, especially given the well contamination discovered a few weeks ago after the initial fire-fighting efforts. Late last week, Dig Deeper Texas pointed to an Express-News editorial that may partially explain this, as TCEQ officials reportedly were unaware that there are no treatment plants for Edwards aquifer water. That such plants are not necessary is one reason why the aquifer is so valuable. Even with its chronic lack of funding, TCEQ has no excuse not to know such basic facts about their state.
Take that back... the most amazing thing is that this damn thing is still burning (it started EIGHT WEEKS AGO). The second most amazing that is that the state agency tasked with protecting natural resources (like the Edwards Aquifer) knows little about them.
February 13, 2007
Warrant issued for Verizon Wireless
A consumer who was wronged by Verizon Wireless sued the company in small claims court and won. He then went to a payment review hearing (which Verizon didn't show up for either) and the pissed off judge swore out a bench warrant for the entire company's arrest. Fortunately, before the warrant could be executed, the company paid up.
"Verizon failed to pay me by the court-appointed deadline. As I had a payment review scheduled, I attended this and was surprised that Verizon did not feel it necessary to attend, especially considering that the court paperwork clearly indicated that they would be subject to arrest for failure to appear. Apparently, being considered to be in contempt of court was not initially of concern to them. Afterwards, just prior to (lucky them) submitting a motion to seize property of the judgment debtor (Verizon Wireless), that's when I got the check. To hell with them! It's lovely that the court issued a "Writ of Capius" authorizing the arrest of Verizon. I am glad that I was eventually paid, as I would otherwise have had an issue having a sheriff arrest a corporation. I'm not sure how that would have gone. Perhaps I would have had to have filed a motion to amend the judgment to include an individual's name (perhaps their CEO or some other hotshot?)."
Wishing Glen Maxey well
On behalf of everyone at McBlogger we'd like to extend our sympathies to former Travis County Rep. Glen Maxey who lost his mother on Sunday.
Surprise! Voucher advocates think vouchers are a good idea
More private school vouchers could lead to lower dropout rates, according to a study from groups that support school choice.The study was commissioned by the National Center for Policy Analysis, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, and the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit started by the late economist dubbed “the nation’s leading voucher advocates” by The Wall Street Journal.
Then there is this from the DMN
“This research brings into sharp focus the disastrous results of not embracing bold steps to reform our public education system,” said Rod Paige, former U.S. Secretary of Education. “No society can long prosper under the weight of so many children lost.”
As EOW astutely points out, the 'bold steps' need be nothing more than actually FUNDING THE SCHOOLS. This is a bit like hobbling a race horse yourself then claiming that since he can't win a race he should be shot. Thankfully the majority of Texans aren't buying it and are demanding the Lege do more for public schools. Which is why vouchers will continue to be a loser for Republicans as long as they choose to bring the bills. Go ahead, Sen. Shapiro. It'll be fun to see a Democrat in your seat.
Building the case against Iran
During a long-awaited presentation, held in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, the officials displayed mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and a powerful cylindrical bomb, capable of blasting through an armored Humvee, that they said were manufactured in Iran and supplied to Shiite militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops.
"Iran is a significant contributor to attacks on coalition forces, and also supports violence against the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people," said a senior defense official, who was joined by a defense analyst and an explosives expert, both also from the military.
The Iranians are, of course, denying that they are supplying the insurgents
An official at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad called the U.S. accusations "fabricated" and "baseless."
"We deny such charges. We ask those who are claiming such evidence: Show the documents in public," said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. "We cannot compensate for the American failure and fiasco in Iraq. . . . It is not our policy to be involved in any hostile operations against coalition forces here."
To which the 'anonymous sources' replied
The U.S. officials said weapons were smuggled into the country by the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that U.S. officials believe is under the control of Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The officials in Baghdad said that Iranians recently detained in Iraq by U.S. forces belong to the Quds Force.
With so much official U.S. buildup about the purported evidence of Iranian influence in Iraq, the briefing was also notable for what was not said or shown. The officials offered no evidence to substantiate allegations that the "highest levels" of the Iranian government had sanctioned support for attacks against U.S. troops. Also, the military briefers were not joined by U.S. diplomats or representatives of the CIA or the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Hmmm. This certainly sounds familiar. So the Iranians are making arms that are ending up in the hands of insurgents? Quelle Surprise. I bet Russians, Chinese, Germans and even Americans also made some of the equipment being used by the insurgents. But at least these troops are alleged to be Iranians... until we find out they aren't. By then, Tehran should be in chaos and we'll be spending $25 bn/ month to rebuild the country.
The Iraqi's are as skeptical as most Americans (at least the overwhelming majority of Americans who don't read Shelly).
Iraq's deputy foreign minister, Labeed M. Abbawi, said in an interview Sunday that the Iraqi government remains in the dark about the full U.S. investigation into Iranian activities in Iraq. "It is difficult for us here in the diplomatic circles just to accept whatever the American forces say is evidence," he said.
"If they have anything really conclusive, then they should come out and say it openly, then we will pick it up from there and use diplomatic channels" to discuss it with Iran, he said. "The method or the way it's being done should be changed, to have more cooperation with us."
I want to see troops marching across the border. Then you have proof. Until then, you're between a rock and a hard place just like we were in Vietnam when the Soviets were supplying the Viet Cong. You can't attack everyone who made gear being used by the insurgents. It doesn't work that way.
Give me real, solid proof and I'll back an invasion of Iran with the caveat that it not begin until there is a Democrat in the White House because we can't afford another Republican failure like Connecticut native George W. Bush. Build a coalition like the first Gulf War and then do it.
Until then, STFU. I'm not the in mood for more BS about WMD's.
North Korea agrees to disarm
See, kids! Sometimes negotiation works. Why don't we try this in Iran?
The pledges--in an agreement reached here by North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States--marked North Korea's first concrete commitment to carry out an agreement in principle, dating from September 2005, to relinquish its entire nuclear program. In the view of U.S. and allied diplomats, they also amounted to a down-payment on establishment of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and a new set of relations among the countries of Northeast Asia.
"The parties reaffirmed that they will take positive steps to increase mutual trust and will make joint efforts for lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia," the accord said. "The directly related parties will negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum."
February 12, 2007
Protect nukes from airplane crashes? Oh, pish...
Remember when the 9/11 Commission reco'd securing nuclear power plants against jet attacks, specifically like those seen on 9/11? Apparently, the NRC ignored that part of the 9/11 Commission Report
Federal regulators plunged into an energy and national security controversy yesterday by ruling that the nation's 103 nuclear power plants do not need to protect themselves from potential attacks by terrorists using airplanes.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 5-to-0 ruling was in response to a 2004 petition by the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a Los Angeles nonprofit group, that said nuclear plants should build shields made of steel I-beams and cabling or take other steps to prevent a release of radiation in case of an air attack. Eight state attorneys general backed the petition.
But don't worry... the Democrats are, thank God, in the majority in Congress and they're having none of the NRC's bullshit.
Some members of Congress said that the NRC's steps fell short of what was needed.
"I am disappointed," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). The NRC decision "reflects an inadequate, industry-influenced approach that sacrifices security in favor of corporate profits."
On Friday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, had written to the agency that "the communities that surround existing plants need to be confident that the NRC, as the regulator charged with nuclear safety, did all it could to ensure that plants defend against current security threats" -- including, she added, "large attacking forces and commercial aircraft."
Yesterday, Boxer said that her "initial reaction" was that the NRC "did not follow the direction of Congress to ensure that our nuclear power plants are protected from air- or land-based terrorist threats."
The NRC thinks it's the job of the military to protect plants from an attack. They are right. However, due to the sensitive nature of nuclear power plants and the environmental catastrophe that would result from a successful terrorist attack, the onus is on the plants to secure themselves. Maybe if the Bush Administration would stop pouting they'd get off their asses and tell NRC to get to work.
Why an iPhone when you can have this?
Yes, I want one. Like you wouldn't believe... I'd give up my BlackBerry for it.
We're sorry, Pluck!
Pluck Media is the company that runs BlogBurst, a blogwire for newspapers nationwide (including the AAS). McBlogger is a participant though more often than not our material doesn't appear because of my affinity for profanity. Apparently, their servers really don't like it when we use profanity in the title of the post. We've heard they set up a separate filter for McBlogger since there is apparently 'profanity' and then there is 'McBlogger'.
Just wanted to let y'all know we all love you guys and I will try to do better. However, I know it'll take work and I'm sooo not about all that. I'll give it a shot. Just look at this post... not a single swear word! I'm proud of myself!
Don't give up on us, Pluck! The Mayor rarely curses and he likes appearing on the AAS.
Senate, 2008 - Cornyn is sooo toast
Casual Soapbox has the story on the 2008 Senate races to watch. Apparently one of them in Cornyn's and it's obvious the R's are concerned. If they only knew HOW concerned they should be they'd be trying to replace him. The only popular Republican in Texas right now is Kay Bailey. The only problem is that if she tries to help Cornyn, it's only going to tarnish her.
Actually, please help your buddy Cornyn, KBH! He needs you.
The Chicks sweep the Grammys
"For the first time in my life, I'm speechless," Maines said with a laugh while accepting song of the year. The Chicks got the last laugh later in the evening, when "Long Way" won best country album. "A lot of people just turned their TVs off right now," she said.
February 11, 2007
I thought Texans were supposed to be tough
But apparently they've turned into a bunch of fraidy cats.
Terrorists will destroy the Bush library and take out most of the Park Cities at the same time. The question isn't if but when, says Sam Boyd, a Park Cities lawyer.
Mr. Boyd isn't alone.
A number of Park Cities residents say they fear that building the presidential library in University Park would be like painting a big, red target on their community.
Posted by mayor mcsleaze at 04:27 PM
Wingnut-o-sphere goes apeshit over Edwards decision
Predictably, the reaction Sen. Edwards' decision from the nut-o-sphere can be best summed up with one word: outrage mixed with excitement at the possibility they will be able to use this in the general if Edwards wins the primary.
Go ahead, bitches. Let's recap, shall we... the bloggers in question aren't anti-religious. They are anti-theocrat and anti-nutter. So are the vast majority of Americans. The nut-o-sphere hasn't yet realized that which is why they think they have a weapon they can use.
Make no mistake, this wasn't Edwards caving to pressure from progressive blogs. This was him speaking with integrity and honesty. I think his language regarding finding the posts offensive was stupid because in context they were anything but. However, politics being politics, you do what you have to do. This was an important first step for politicians in the US, an acknowledgment that staffers have opinions that they sometimes express on their own time and just as the idiots on the right can bleat on about the US being a Christian republic, staffers have every right to their own opinions.
Calling Amanda anti-Christian is just completely wrong. Had this gone much further that would have come out. Amanda has done a tremendous job of pointing out the hypocrisy of the religious right. For the last two days the nut-o-sphere had a chance to define the issue. Had it gone on any longer, that would have changed dramatically. Guess what will happen if they try to bring this shit during the general in 2008? Let's just say people can get bitchy and mean, especially when their religious freedoms are threatened by a bunch of nutjobs who are dumb enough to think they alone speak for God.
February 10, 2007
Fuck the RIAA
The RIAA must be full of some of the dumbest people in the universe. They go after a mother not to long ago, don't get much out of it except a PR black eye. So they then turn around and go after her kid who countersues them for collusion and asks for a jury trial.
Real smart, these guys.
February 09, 2007
We'll just have to wait...
The shell of the Intel Building downtown was almost saved by Mayor Wynn who was trying to sell the structure to developers who wanted it as is for housing. Note I wrote almost...
Wynn agreed that finding a new site for the courthouse and restarting the design process were not feasible. The Austin project would essentially go to the end of the line behind dozens of other federal courthouse projects, whereas now it is near the top of the list, he said.
So, instead of condo's in less than a year, we'll have to wait for a courthouse... sometime after 2010. Thanks Feds!
Saturday with the Noreigas
FORT BEND DEMOCRATS Invite you to
A Tribute to an American Family
An Evening with Rick and Melissa Noriega
Friday, February 16th at 7:00PM
Quail Valley Country Club, Missouri City
Dinner will be served
Discrimination in Austin?
I got an email from a reader this AM with a link to this story on CraigsList talking about two of my sista's being treated badly at some place called Sapphire. My only question after reading this is why the author was even on Sixth Street? It hasn't been fun since '99. I'm guessing maybe they aren't native.
Regardless, they were treated shabbily by a dick bartender. So, if you choose to patronize this place don't say you weren't warned.
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 2007-02-08, 3:51PM CST
Reposting from a forward from a friend. I was pretty surprised so wanted others to know.
NO FAGS ALLOWED: "Sapphire" on 6th discriminates against homosexuals...
NOTE: I wrote this completely exhausted at the wee hours of the morning so please disregard the many stylistic/grammatical/spelling mistakes. For your convenience, I have put the story in bold to make it easier to read the actual occurence. My ranting and analysis will be in plain type.
Last night I experienced my first real brush with discrimination. I suppose that living in Austin minimizes your chances of getting blatantly profiled, and until now I've been rather lucky to have never experienced this. Still, it IS a college town filed with fratboy assholes, and fratboy assholes + alcohol = "OMG, fags."
The story is as follows:
We head downtown for a few drinks, stopping at various places and ordering a few shots. Matt (my boyfriend) and I show slight signs of public affection at worst met with a lingering gaze from a few people. And that's usually how it goes. For the most part, people from Austin are used to seeing gays doing their thing and to give anything more than a casual look would be the equivalent of a guy in Hong Kong giving the "exaggerated cough" to a nearby smoker. It's like: "Dude, you live in Hong Kong. EVERYONE SMOKES."
But whatever. I understand the world is still filled with idiots who insist that "being gay is a choice" or whatnot, and despite how incorrect that viewpoint is, they are allowed to have it.
EXT. SAPPHIRE BAR - NIGHT
Yes folks, the Sapphire (please remember the name) wasn't even our intended destination. We pass by the door and the bouncer shouts at us: "ONE DOLLAR WELLS."
One dollar wells? Shit! Sounds good to me.
We enter the bar (all five of us) and immediately double their clientelle. A popular bar, apparently.
As the drinks get consumed, the dancing spirit enters some of the girls. As any female will tell you: gays love to dance, ESPECIALLY when they're drunk. So, I start dancing with one of the girls and then Matt starts dancing with her too. Then the girl sits down and Matt and I dance a little by ourselves.
Cool? Cool. That's sorta how these things should go.
We return to the bar and sip our drinks for a bit. Then there is another round of dancing, only this time when Matt and I decide to dance solo, the bartender snaps his fingers, grabbing my attention:
"Hey, you guys need to cut that shit out."
Keep in mind: we weren't booty grinding or anything. It was nothing more than the light contact dancing you'd see at any bar or club. If we were full on dry-humping, making out, etc., one could make the case that no-one should be allowed to do that in a decent establishment, gay or straight, a sentiment I understand and even agree with. But this was blatant discrimination, no bones about it.
Now, as a card carrying Libertarian, I recognize his right to refuse service on his own property. Just as I don't approve of the smoking ban for similar reasons, I'm not going to demand that he allow us to continue dancing if he doesn't want us to.
I'm not going to give this asshole any more of my money. As an analytical creature, I tried to understand the logic behind essentially asking 5 of the 8 people in your bar to leave. Certainly we're not going to stick around in a bar that just told us that the homosexuals can't dance.
Let me repeat that in big, bold letters:
SAPPHIRE DOESN'T ALLOW HOMOSEXUALS TO DANCE IN THEIR BAR.
I urge you all to spread the news. You don't need to be a hairy-armpitted flag burner to see the obvious wrong in this situation. Just as they exercised their right to refuse service, I am now exercising my right to free speech and I implore you to do the same.
PLEASE DO NOT FREQUENT SAPPHIRE, AS THEY BLATANTLY DISCRIMINATE AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS. PLEASE TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO AVOID THIS PLACE AS WELL.
Again, make no mistake: this WAS discrimination.
"But Austin, you know that frat guys are their main clientelle and frat guys don't want to see a bunch of dudes dancing together."
Oh, really? Yes, you're right. SAPPHIRE sounds like a regular macho-magnet. Pardon me for assuming that a bar named after a sparkly blue gem wouldn't attract the football and beer types. It's not like the place was called "The Pigskin" or something. I understand the concept of appropriate context, but again: we're dealing with a bar called "Sapphire," here. They may as well have called it "The Blue Dildo."
False advertising aside, telling one homo that he can't dance in your bar is like telling all homos they can't dance in your bar. And that's like telling every single girl at UT that they can't dance in your bar. And no girls = no frat guys dancing in your bar. And...well...that just about covers every demographic you could hope to hit. Maybe that wasn't the best idea on his part.
Also, I'd like to point out that the "scaring off customers" reasoning is the same applied during the NO COLOREDS ALLOWED era of American history. You don't need to be a genius to understand the obvious similarity here. "People just haven't come around yet," is not an acceptable excuse. Period.
Needless to say, Matt and Alicia are pissed off enough to have a few words with the bartender.
"Is dancing allowed in your club?" she asks. The bartender replies, using some rather fey hand gestures:
"You and him can dance, but they can't dance together," pointing to me and Matt. At this point, I roll my eyes. What an asshole. It's one thing to politely explain your reasoning, apologize and perhaps offer to pay for a round of one dollar wells since, no doubt, the offended party will leave soon enough on their own. Five dollars seems like an awful cheap price for damage control.
But no, this had to erupt into an argument. I can say, with a totally objective eye, that the bartender had something a bit more than the interest of his bar in mind. The word "homophobic" certainly leaps to mind, and while I've never been a big fan of that mostly meaningless word, it was on full display here.
All said and done, drinks flew, glasses broke, bartenders shoved and we were ejected from the bar. Certainly it was one of those situations where "I don't know who started what," but it was clear that there was a give and take. We weren't just a bunch of drunk tools causing a ruckus. The bartender was very much inciting a reaction, assumedly on purpose.
In the process, one of our friends' lip got cut open. Aside from having a purse thrown at him (full force, mind you; this was no ginger handing off), Matt was then kicked in the chest through the fucking window as he called to Mae Lee asking if she was alright.
Completely unnecessary. Had the whole situation not been mired in scratches and bloody lips, the above incidents (which occurred far after the "fight" was over) would have easily qualified as assault. Unfortunately the cop informed us that filing assault charges would push the bar owners to do the same and everyone would get dragged into a game of he said-she said.
In the end, they just wanted us to "go away." Mmhmm. I bet they did.
Being too frazzled to really consider the legal options, we decide it's best just to cut our losses and spread the word about the homophobic institution that is SAPPHIRE. Which I'm doing now.
Once again, for those of you who just skip to the end:
SAPPHIRE IS A HOMOPHOBIC INSTITUTION THAT DISCRIMINATES AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS.
PLEASE TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW NOT TO FREQUENT THEIR ESTABLISHMENT.
Texas. It sucks for people
So the economy here in Texas is super good. If you're rich, which I'm not. Of course, even that depends on your definition of rich. Chances are, if you're reading this, you aren't having a difficult time trying figure out which color scheme to go with as part of the interior package in your G550. It's not because the choice is totally obvious, it's because you aren't in the market for a G550 and that would be because you aren't rich. So life in Texas is, for you at least, not so sweet.
The economy is about to suck a lot more, especially for owners of rental property in Farmers Branch, not to mention some of the people who rent from them.
Dallas Progress and Bay Area Houston have more on this issue from Sen. Shapleigh's report on just how bad we rank nationally in a whole lot of things where we're in a bad spot (not mention John Coby's excellent find that Texas is the most expensive insurance market in the country).
For $10k I'll tell you Sister Ruth made global warming up
The American Enterprise Institute is offering 10k to any scientist willing to say that global warming isn't caused by humans. While I'm not a scientist, I'd be willing to admit and supply proof that Sister Ruth is causing global warming. Seriously.
I'm always impressed by how some politicos deal with news. When asked what he thought about all this, Al Gore didn't even seem surprised.
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore sharply condemned critics of global warming, in an interview Tuesday with Cuatro, a television channel in Spain and a CNN affiliate.
"They've lost the argument and they don't want to stop dumping all this pollution into the Earth's atmosphere," Gore said in a short interview. "The only thing they have left is cash and now they're offering cash for so-called skeptics who will try to confuse people about what the science really say. But it's unethical because now the time has come when we have to act. And it's always easier to pretend that a big problem does not exist, because then you have no moral obligation to solve it. But our responsibility to our children and those who come after is sacred and we must discharge our responsibility. And the good news is the changes we need to make are ones that will improve the quality of life. They're things that we should be doing anyway."
Gore was the Democratic nominee in the 2000 presidential election. His film, "An Inconvenient Truth," is nominated for an Oscar in the "Best Documentary" category.
Are you listening, AEI? I know I'm not a scientist but hand to God, the bitch created 'global warming'. On her own. In fact, I'll publish an article on it for the bargain price of $5k. Look how affordable I am!
February 08, 2007
Presenting the Annoy-O-Tron
Oh, I'm excited and you know how wrong that can be. The picture up on this page is of an ugly little device that can provide hours of fun. It's the Annoy-O-Tron, the little gadget that's dedicated to driving people crazy. People you select.
Imagine the possibilities... the bitch down the hall? Drive him/her slowly mad by placing this device (even using the convenient magnet) in an out of the way place, setting it (it emits a squeak at 2Khz, 12Khz or alternating) and then activating it. The automatic timer never runs it at exactly the same time which is guaranteed to slowly drive the target insane.
The best part? Set it and forget it (just like the Showtime Rotisserie)! The battery lasts for weeks!
OH YEAH, that's why vouchers suck
Well, pro-voucher lobby day is over. No word yet on whether or not someone actually told Leininger to fuck off. I'd like to believe someone did, especially in light of his decision to abandon his voucher project in SA. That's really the point, isn't it? That a voucher program can throw kids out on the street while a public school can't.
Leininger's project always struck me as a little disingenuous considering that it was designed only to help a small portion of the student population in SA. If Leininger cares so much about the kids (and not about his own business interests) wouldn't he be doing everything he could to make sure that public schools were well funded?
Isn't it time we stopped talking about useless, wasteful projects like vouchers and started talking about really providing the support to public schools that they deserve? It's obvious that more money equals a better education (what, you thought private schools were cheap?), so why don't we talk about funding public schools?
We're all waiting Republicans. We know y'all are the hold up on all this. It sure as hell isn't the Democrats. Oh and would someone tell John Stossel that until he has something more than anecdotal bullshit he should really keep his ass out of the debate? Also, let him know that 'stache is doing nothing for him, except making him look like a nasty leather daddy.
Edwards : I'm not caving in to a bunch of crazies
Instead of caving into the demands of a fringe organization headed up by a leading right wing shill (not to mention all the wingnut bloggers who have joined the debate), John Edwards has affirmed the employment of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan.
The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
The nutters will, of course, talk about how this is offensive to millions of Catholics which is utter nonsense. What they do on their personal sites is one thing and if the nutters have a problem with that they can get in line behind the two - three thousand people who'd like us to shut down. Edwards can't control what his staff do on their own time anymore than my employer can demand I stop having hot gay sex.
To the nutters... a candidate is more than the sum of their staff. Stop being retarded about this and lets get back to important debates like how wrong Michelle Malkin and the rest of the nutterati have been about everything?
Is Edwards already fucking up?
Sean-Paul over at the Agonist has more about Edwards firing/non-firing of two staffers who also write blogs. Edwards people, if you're reading, don't listen to some nutter group on this. Don't fire these bloggers... keep in mind, despite our need to be
provocative, crude, opinionated, vulgar trash talking bigots, incendiary in their language, sarcastic, profane . . .and use explicit and inflammatory language.
We'll actually vote FOR you. These people don't give a shit about you.
I don't get the 'bigot' part but we're totally all of these other things. Further, we are just as much people of faith as this ostensibly 'Catholic' group. Plus, they're fucking crazy. They don't speak for us and their voters are steadily declining. Punch them back, Edwards and do it HARD. It's time these nutjobs know that they take on one of us, they take on all of us. In that vein, Pandagon itself has a great post up on Amanda Marcotte's attackers.
Either that or your candidacy is dead. Seriously, if you can't sac up and take these fuckers on then you're not the guy. Amanda and many other bloggers are actually expressing the general mood of the country. We're all pissed at elected officials for fucking up so much over the last 6 years. We're also tired of a bunch of wingnuts working diligently to swing debate their way and turn this country into a theocracy. Fuck them. We're done with all that. Neither blogger is anti-religious... they are anti-nutter. Unapologetically so.
We are too.
War on Terror spending to top to $745 Bn by EOY 2008
I just don't know what else to say... three quarters of a trillion dollars?!?! Hell, you could have fixed transportation in this country with that money.
If approved by Congress, the new war spending would bring the overall cost of fighting to about $745 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States -- adjusting for inflation, more than was spent on the Vietnam War.
What else could you have done? Well, you could have made a massive dent in the long term insolvency of entitlement programs. You could have also dumped federal money into improving schools. You could have had structurally 0% unemployment and massive economic growth through infrastructure improvements that would have led to a massive economic boom going into 2009 and beyond.
All of it has, however, been wasted on a war we can't win.
February 07, 2007
It's official... we're causing global warming
"I feel that it is inappropriate for the state to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions due to the highly speculative arguments that it may contribute to global warming. As the Star-Telegram correctly noted, I think the global warming theory is bad science." - State Rep. Phil King
Ok, Phil, I think this pretty much settles the fallacy that the arguments regarding the contribution of man-made CO2 emissions are 'speculative'. They are fact, dumbass, even the if they aren't published in the Star-Telegram.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made up of hundreds of scientists from 113 countries, said that based on new research over the last six years, it is 90 percent certain that human-generated greenhouse gases account for most of the global rise in temperatures over the past half-century.
So, what do we do now? Surely it's a good idea to go with clean coal and gen 4 nuclear as a first step, then move to pure renewables like wind and advanced solar. All the while we can make some dramatic improvements to efficiency and conservation. The sure thing is that it'll take all kinds of solutions to get us past this. One is, as Hank Gilbert talked about, using biofuels derived from crops like miscanthus. For one thing, it's easier to grow in Texas than corn and doesn't require nearly as much water to grow or process into fuel.
Unfortunately, the lead on biofuels is going to Illinois and California. Way to go, Texas Dept. of Agriculture!
Since Phil and his pals won't be able to whine about speculative science anymore, they'll now start whining about how expensive it will be and that it will destroy the economy. That won't play either.
Forcing power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions will not make consumers - or in most cases the power plants themselves - feel a pinch in their pocketbooks, according to a study released Thursday.
Economists from the University of Maryland, Towson University and a Washington think tank, Resources for the Future, said the overall affect on Maryland's economy will be slightly positive when Maryland joins the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in June.
"We concluded that there is a modest positive effect, it will actually lower a consumers electricity bill by about $22 dollars per year," said Steve Gabriel, co-principal investigator at the University of Maryland. "We can breathe a sigh of relief. Actually, we can breathe better, because that, after all, is the intent of the program."
We know the problem is big. We know what we need to do. We know that doing it won't break us. SO LET'S DO IT, SENATOR.
No to Vouchers
Is Dr. Hospital Bed at the Capitol today? Tell him that he's never going to have a PR resurrection. Let him also know his milk sucks ass and his beds are too hard. Then smile and finish it up with, 'you're ugly' followed by a kick to his genitals.
Remember, this is the man who wants to destroy public education in Texas and is hell bent on spending whatever it takes to get laws passed to destroy the middle class. He's declared war on us, I think it's high time we declare war on him.
Dr. Hospital Bed, you're the new suck. No, we don't like you Dr. Hospital Bed. We don't like people who try to turn this great state into a banana republic.
Muse has more on the pro-voucher lobby day.
Jerry sings his happy tune
Would someone please tell Patterson that feet are rather better to walk on than they are to eat? First he tries, laboriously, to 'splain why the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Of course, there's always someone to call out his shit, this time it's the far more knowledgeable Bruce Hight.
Nice work, Jerry. Way to make yourself look like an even bigger clown (we already thought you were kinda, you know, dumb). No wonder VaLinda Hathcox did better than expected.
More on the Lottery sale...
What is the price for the sale? We've talked about this a bit but Perry's now mentioned $14 Billion in the SOTS (which sucked, by the way. Put cynicism behind us? Fuck you, 39%). One has to wonder what would be a reasonable price that makes sense. Here's an idea...
Any number must be based on revenue and profits (cash flow) discounted over the life of the 'lease' or sale using historic growth rates, reasonable inflation and interest rates. However, that only gets you to the net present value (NPV) at par. What I want to see is how much of a premium we can get. Income producing assets, like the lottery, are only worth selling provided one can realize a multiple to that net present value. What's reasonable? How about 2 times that NPV. So, if the state can reasonably expect 25 billion over the next 50 years (which seems to be the lease term that Republicans LOVE) in constant 2007 dollars, then a reasonable sale price would be 50 billion. Today. When you consider that the lottery is currently funding in $1 bn annually, I think that's a pretty conservative estimate.
That money could be used to shore up education (expanding and renovating facilities) and employees (both state and teacher) retirement today, then help build out the local portion of our transportation needs. AFTER that is all done and only after can a tax cut be considered reasonable. Why? Because we are barely making ends meet with the tax dollars we collect today and every single piece of infrastructure in this state needs improvement.
Under this scenario, it might be reasonable to lease the lottery. However, if this is the case, why not just borrow against the revenue that the lottery brings in and cut the private company (middle man) and their necessary profit margin out of the loop completely?
I guess Perry hasn't thought about that. He clearly, from the $14 bn price he mentioned, hasn't realistically appraised the value of the asset. Further, he's proposed using the money for a variety of things, none of which replaces the $1 bn per year currently coming into the state. What will replace that money, 39%? Your trust funds might be OK provided your cronies aren't managing them, the population of uninsured doesn't grow and the amount of money per recipient doesn't need to be increased. Ever. Oh, and you earn a rate of return HIGHER than we are getting now on the public employees retirement funds.
In other words, your brilliant idea is anything but. Thanks for playing though, 39%! Maybe you'll do better next time!
Just like a stupid Republican to sell something for a $1 that's worth $10 and claim to have done the right thing. You're too stupid, 39%. It makes me brain hurt how stupid you are.
I am so sick and tired of references to that muthafuckin' Snakes on a Plane movie!
The Slag has a blurb about His Holiness Craddick I playing with rattlesnakes.
House Speaker Tom Craddick banged his gavel, asking for the attention of legislators for what he promised was an unusual occurance on the House floor. When the floor was still, Rep. Susan King took the podium to announce that earlier in the day, Craddick had handled a rattlesnake and that “he had made brave, courageous moves handling the rattlesnake.” Behind King, on the dais, were several members of the Jaycees of Sweetwater, each of them wearing bright red vests, festooned with pins and ribbons. One of the members stepped to the floor and to the surprise of legislators produced a rattlesnake.
Apparently it all had to do with promoting the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, a rural saturnlia of good ol' fashioned herpetologic slaughter. Some people, of course, deplore the treatment of the rattlesnakes; others defend the practice. One thing is clear, though. At the Texas Legislature, lobbyists will remain a protected species.
Rep. Coleman on YouTube
Oh, come on Austin Reps! Where are you?!?!?
February 06, 2007
Blame, like shit, flows downhill
Rudy dumps a load on the troops.
Posted by mayor mcsleaze at 06:35 PM
Apparently, Brazilian evangelical leaders are just as bad as ours
Before a service at Reborn in Christ Church this week, a man hawked gospel CDs outside the front door. In the cavernous nave, volunteers placed envelopes soliciting cash donations on each of about 1,000 chairs, while cameramen working for the church's television network focused on the altar.
Everything was ready, except the church's founders and spiritual leaders.
Estevam Hernandes-Filho and his wife, Sonia -- who oversee more than 1,000 churches in Brazil and several in Florida -- were under house arrest in Miami, accused of carrying more than $56,000 in undeclared cash. Some of the money had been stuffed between the pages of their Bible, according to U.S. customs agents who detained the couple last month at the Miami airport.
The Reverend Tim Haggard has been completely cured of The Gay!
One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counseling for the Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is ''completely heterosexual.''
Haggard also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday's edition.
''He is completely heterosexual,'' Ralph said. ''That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing.''
Now he's a 100 Percent Straight God-fearin' meth addict! Halleluja!
Bush says there will be a surplus in 2012... if we find that big pot of gold
Connecticut native George W. Bush released his budget estimates yesterday. It came as little surprise that the number differed substantially from the CBO's. Why the discrepency?
Of course, no one really believes Connecticut native George W. Bush's numbers. Even the Republicans in Congress laughed at him (except for Boehner who can't laugh anymore because his skin is too taut).
Portman said the White House proposal is a "tight budget, but a more realistic budget" that contains much to appeal to Democrats, such as a small increase in non-security domestic spending, the first in two years.
But Democrats were skeptical.
"With their track record, everything they present is going to be viewed skeptically. Because they've been deceptive year after year after year," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). "Every projection shows the cost of making all the tax cuts permanent explodes at the very time the baby boomers start to retire," driving "the deficit and the growth of the debt to the moon."
Skeptically? If I were you I'd view it much as a doctor would the scribblings of a lunatic. Wait...
Taking our money and going home
Morgan Stanley fund manager Hassan Elmasry has been anything but complimentary of the job the Ochs-Sulzberger family is doing at the NYT Co. in their capacity as the controlling shareholder. The NYT Co. has a two tiered ownership structure that makes class B shares (owned exclusively by the members of the Ochs-Sulzberger family), which control the Board of Directors, much more valuable than the class A shares which are the majority of the outstanding stock. The structure insulates the Ochs-Sulzberger family from criticism and accountability as their poor management has made the NYT Co. a perpetually underperforming company. Elmasry decided to be critical of the family and call for a change in the ownership structure. The Ochs-Sulzberger family responded by pulling it's money from Morgan Stanley...
Elmasry has written that such an arrangement protects Arthur Sulzberger and other family members from accountability for the company's lagging performance.
"We believe that the [Times Co.'s] current corporate governance practices deviate from what is widely considered to be best practice by corporate governance experts," Elmasry wrote last autumn.
Sulzberger appears to have struck back by pulling his family's assets, which include their Times Co. holdings, from Morgan Stanley. Times Co. spokeswoman Catherine Mathis would not confirm the motive for the exit from Morgan Stanley.
John Edwards at the DNC meeting...
To primary or not to primary...challenging the Iscariot Caucus
Vince and Hal both have excellent posts against primary challengers for the DemocradDICKS who voted against the Geren Amendment. Their underlying point is that the Democratic Party is the party of the big tent and I agree.
Except when it comes to leadership votes. And that's what this is all about... had these Democrats stood with the rest of the caucus, CradDICK would not now be speaker and the Democrats would have a stronger position from which to benefit their constituents and the state as a whole. As it stands now, the DemocradDICKS benefited alone and it remains to be seen whether anyone else will reap a reward. My money is on probably not, at least not on anything really important. There isn't a kindly, gentler CradDICK despite the claims to the contrary.
There are a number of Democrats who hold positions I don't respect While I like them personally, I think they are far from being the leaders this party desperately needs. LBJ was a leader, forcing as many Democrats as possible to vote for the CRA and VRA even though he knew he was asking them to vote 'against their districts'. The Democrats who voted for HJR 6 during the 2005 session voted their districts because they weren't brave enough to do the right thing and fight against bigotry. Would it still have passed during the election? Of course. However, it's that first step to make right a tremendous wrong. Would they have been defeated? Possibly a few but not all. However, they would have done the right thing and possibly changed some rather calcified minds. It's speaking to the electorate that makes the difference. It's how progress begins.
Even still, while I may not be overcome with love for these people, I'm also pragmatic. I knew there was no way in hell Chuck Hopson was going to vote to against making gays second class citizens. I would also never support a primary challenger to him. While I personally think it was a gutless decision, he voted his district and what he believed. As a Democrat, I expect nothing less. And that's really the point... people carp and bitch about DINO's but in the end they are with us more often than against us. Further, when it comes to leadership, they stick with the caucus. THAT IS WHAT DEFINES A DEMOCRAT. Yes, it was one Republican vs. another (everyone knew someone from the majority party was going to be speaker). However, it would have been a Republican we could have worked with and who didn't put greed before the people of Texas.
Vince wants this to be about a payoff for the DemocradDICK's districts and that's fine. However, this time they could have had their payoff and not fucked the rest of us over. Which is why this won't end well for any of them.
None of us are stupid. We know this is a multi-cycle project and will likely take years. However, it's going to be done and let me assure those out there who wring their hands over the loss of the district to a Republican that it ain't going to happen. If there's one thing I know about Texas Democrats today it's that they are tougher than anyone imagines. If Republicans come playing in our sandbox they'll have their balls cut off and shoved in their mouths just to remind others that people who try to take advantage of events usually get screwed.
We aren't all like Dennis Kucinich. We're mostly more like LBJ... only meaner. Oh, sure, occasionally we'll sing Kum Ba Yah. However, we'll only do it while dancing on a Republican grave.
Stace over at Dos Centavos has more about the real world impact of the vote for CradDICK.
February 05, 2007
My Box In A Box . . . for you
Getting ready for Valentine's Day . . .
Please watch this all the way through. You don't want to miss the taco reference.
Baby showers are the new suck
Tammy Wynette was right when she sang that sometimes it's hard to be a woman. You guys gets a total fucking free skate when it comes to one of life's true horrors, the baby shower! Now, I think I am just as girly as some women. I like high heels, cosmetics, Steel Magnolias, etc. However, I would rather take a strong beating
than attend a wedding or baby shower. Yeah, I like to celebrate my friends life choices, but can I send the gift by mail? I will spend more on it if it absolves me from attending. WTF could it hurt?
Until recently, I hadn't gone to one of these estrogen festivals since 1996. However, the preggers in question is a great friend with whom I once danced drunk in a cage. I can remember with great nostalgia her first girl fight where she introduced a girls face to the side of a Chevrolet truck. Oh the memories! So I felt obligated to attend. My best friend was invited as well but she had the flu. Lucky bitch. So I was solo as I stumbled around land mines, otherwise known as 'friends from high school'. A couple were cool. However, the vast majority were not. I came to the conclusion that when asked 'So, where are you living now?' , I will respond with 'Why? Are you coming over?'. Women are too fucking nosy. I'm sorry, I never ask those idiotic questions. I just don't fucking care. Oh, and if I get asked 'So, sell any houses lately?', I'm going to stab that motherfucker in the eye with an ice pick. I am going to carry one solely for that purpose.
Anyway, my friend got a lot of crap and I guess that is what really matters (drinks sure as hell didn't... there wasn't a drop to be found). I just wish she could have received her loot without having to listen to the reasons that something called Butt Paste totally rocks. I am just not part of that club (nor am I part of the 'I'm pregnant and not drinking' club. However, it did get me thinking. If I was ever to find myself in that position, how would I handle it? One can never be certain of such things, but I think this is what the invitations would look like.
Make sure your unborn child isn't Al-Qaida
We know the little human growing inside you is the physical manifestation of the love you share with your husband. Or your boyfriend. Or the mongo you just happened to hook up with 8.5 months ago during a really amazing happy hour. However, do you know Al-Qaida may have already turned him/her into a traitor? That's why you need the FirstSounds Eavesdropper. Of course, you can also hear baby's adorable little heartbeat, but we all know you're really going to use to make sure that Islamofascists haven't already taken control.
Calling Bullshit : Can I grope you?
PinkDome has a piece up about a South Dakota legislator who is accused of groping a page while slept. I'm not buying it. Why? Because the kid is gross... seriously, click the link and tell me you'd hit that... if he were of age and all. Actually, even if he was old enough I'd keep him far away. He just looks like the kind of guy who's got cheese breath. And a permarunny nose.
Still, everyone has different tastes. One of my friends has a thing for super skinny guys. Another loves Lance Bass. Sister Ruth has a thing for any man who's ever been on CSPAN, including Gore Vidal. Top THAT on the gross-o-meter.
Still, what about evidence that it's bullshit, you ask? Well, as it turns out, the page's father owed money to the legislator he's now accused of groping him. Needless to say, it just doesn't feel legit. That, and there are no IM's. But there is a tapped phone convo...
Wiese agreed to call Sutton on Feb. 13 after Zeeb interviewed him. Zeeb was listening to the conversation and providing Wiese with notes on what he should say to Sutton. The conversation lasted 27 minutes. Wiese made the call from his cell phone, and Zeeb told the committee that he hooked up a small microphone to record from the phone's earpiece. Almost all of Sutton's comments were audible in a recording played for the committee, but much of what Wiese said during the conversation was inaudible.
In the first 12 minutes of the conversation, Sutton was upbeat, talking to Wiese about legislative matters and personal issues. Then, Wiese changed the subject and said he called to talk about what happened "last week."
Sutton responded, "When, when what, you moved out?"
Wiese said: "Yeah, but why I moved out and I don't know what I should do. Tell the truth or if I should tell someone or who I should tell. You know what I'm talking about?"
Sutton replied: "No, I don't."
Throughout the remainder of the conversation, Sutton repeatedly said he didn't know what Wiese was referring to. The tone of his voice changed, and he obviously was upset. He also said that if he did touch Wiese, he didn't remember the incidents.
At one point, Wiese said: "I know you might be telling yourself that nothing happened and whatnot. You can handle it how you want to, but I want this straightened out."
At the end of the conversation, Sutton said he would be willing to see a Catholic priest to see how the situation should be handled, but he also said he would swear on a Bible that he did nothing wrong. At one point, Sutton said, "Well I, I walk in my sleep. I, I move around. I mean Austin, I will do whatever I can. I am, I am sorry and if I. ... Heck, obviously I, obviously I, if you remember, obviously I did it."
Honestly, first you've got an investigator who's leading a conversation and alludes to previous misconduct but no evidence is presented. Then there is a conversation between the two of them and it seems to me more a case of John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles than Mark Foley asking how big some guys cock is.
Ultimately, no one will know the truth. However, something just doesn't feel right in the kids story and the circumstance around it beg more questions than they answer.
This didn't stop the Senate committee investigating from recommending censure a week ago Friday. The SD Senate voted to censure last Wednesday. Maybe at some point we'll actually know the truth.
Someone else noticed that Condi's kind of dumb
via Brains and Eggs
It is one of the great mysteries of modern geopolitics. How the hell has Condoleezza Rice got away with it for so long? There she is, Secretary of State of the United States and one of the most powerful people on the planet. It is Condi Rice who leads on behalf of you, me, the entire Western world, in waging this deepening Cold War with Iran. She is the girl who threatens Ahmedinejad with Armageddon, or whatever our policy is. And yet if you read State of Denial by Bob Woodward (as you must) it is clear that she was the most stupefyingly incompetent National Security Adviser in the history of that office. She was warned, in some detail, about 9/11. The CIA made a special trip to see her on 10 July 2001 to say that al-Qa'eda was planning something huge and imminent, and that a 'strategic' response was necessary. Uh-huh, said Condi, and did zip; and at every stage in the catastrophic 'War on Terror' her behaviour is characterised by this same weird zen-like passivity.
Too Close To Craddick needs some help
Too Close to Craddick is a political committee I started last year to recruit and back viable challengers to Craddick Ds; www.TooClosetoCraddick.com is the associated URL.
Though I am a political consultant, this is a pro bono activity for me. I am looking for one or two volunteers with sufficient expertise in Photoshop and Flash to put together a brief animation for the home page. If you think you might be interested in helping, please contact me at this temporary email account.
Anyone wishing to make a donation toward getting the website up can contribute now through ActBlue.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Fans nationwide were saddened Monday after Senator John Kerry was finally euthanized due to his deteriorating condition. Kerry, a rising star on the political circuit, won the Kentucky Derby but failed to win the presidency in 2004 after a leg injury. After extensive surgery, he was initially thought to be recovering quite well, but ultimately had to face political reality.
Although even just last month supporters were optimistic and doctors said he "might one day run again," those hopes turned out to be futile. After a botched joke ostensibly making fun of American troops in Iraq, Kerry's status was offset so much that he was unable to recover. Last week he announced he would not run for president in 2008, and over the weekend his owners in the Democratic party in honor of his spirit and style decided against and then made the final decision to euthanize him.
February 04, 2007
Geopolitics and the price of oil
The EIA report came out this past week showing a larger than expected build in oil inventories which is causing a drop in the price of crude. That at least is what is causing the traders on the Merc to sell but the reality is the Saudis are talking down the price to a large extent. Toward the end of the week there appeared to be a trading spike based on heating oil supplies... it won't last though and prices will likely return to the low 50s before rising above 60 during the summer.
Why would Saudi Arabia, the worlds largest oil exporter want to talk down oil prices? In large part it's fear that their leadership role is being usurped by Iran. I mention this by way of a little known fact. For the Iranian economy to not run a deficit, oil must trade at $58 or above per barrel. The Saudi break even point is far lower, one of the reasons the Saudis, with prices in the low 50's, have said they are comfortable with current prices.
Could Saudi Arabia be trying to hobble Iran the same way they supposedly did the Soviet Union? Consider that it's likely Iran's exports of oil could decline to almost zero by 2015, it wouldn't take much effort for them do it.
February 03, 2007
Well, DMN, if you love him so much why don't you marry him?
The DMN has an editorial up about the vote this week to suspend the Constitution. The DMN looks at it as slowing things down which makes me think they are retarded. They view Democrats as obstructionist when in fact they were only doing what's right. The last time CradDICK and Co. got what they wanted on this we ended up able to sue no one, our insurance rates kept going up and we got toll roads out the ass. Of course, the DMN Ed Board thinks screwing consumers was progress so naturally they weren't upset by any of that.
What's more, the DMN was also wrong about this necessitating an end of session rush. As Rep. Dunnam pointed out, that's nothing more than a bullshit argument:
“We are told if we don’t pass this, the whole House will come to gridlock. I have the calendars from the last several sessions. In the 76th legislature, do you know how many were brought up in the first 60 days? Two! IN the 77th, we brought up six. In the 78th session, six came to the House floor, and in the 79th session, ten bills. Those include the emergency bills. So you are being told if we can’t bring up ten bills in the next 60 days the Senate is going to rule the world and the sky is going to fall. If we can’t take up 6-10 bills in the next 60 days, nobody’s bills are going to be passed. That’s not credible. You know that.”
You know, if the DMN wants to suck CradDICK off so bad, why don't they just save us the trouble of reading the pedestrian prose and get on their knees?
February 02, 2007
Dumb Debbie Riddle. Bad girl!
When Debbie acts like a stupid dog, we're going to damn well treat her like one.
Debbie's an idiot who'd rather waste time forcing her ridiculous, childish, and thoroughly hypocritical piety on others. Jesus Christ spoke of people like Debbie Riddle. It's in Matthew. If she's not too busy beating someone with her Bible, she might want to take a look at it.
My tax dollars are not going to pave Debbie Riddles (or any other Legislators) way into Heaven. I don't think anything can. This is, for me, no different than putting a golden calf on the steps of the Capitol. Yes, Debbie, I'm offended. As a Christian and as a Texan. Fuck you and your dumb bill.
It's like we can read 39%'s mind
Last week I wrote a post about IL's efforts to privatize their lottery. I wrote at the time that it was a bad idea on a variety of levels and that the supposed need to do this really driven less by reality and more by fear.
And now, 39% has said he wants to do the same thing in Texas. Gee, didn't see that one coming. Let's walk through this deal, shall we... 39% thinks it's a good idea to sell off an asset to meet recurring expenses. Fine. What happens when you run out of assets to sale? How do you replace the revenue lost from the asset sale? I keep hearing dazzling numbers about how much money we're getting up front from the sale of assets, yet I never see much about how the money is going to be used to create a better investment that will provide more revenue to the state to replace that which is lost. It's like selling your car to pay off a bill and leaving yourself no way to get to work. What happens when you spend that last penny? Where does the next come from?
In the case of the toll roads, if we just let the gas tax adjust with inflation, we can sell the bonds and get the up front money now without soaking the citizens of Texas for the next 50-75 years. The same goes with the lottery. If things are moribund over there, replace 39%'s cronies with people who actually know the gaming industry and retailing. Clearly the mongo's 39% put in charge aren't doing the job.
The bottom line is it's a poor manager that tries to inflate profits by selling assets. That is what 39% is trying to do and we'll all be poorer for it.
If this is such a swell idea, why don't we just private the entire state and sell off the ability to tax us to a private company for the next 50 years? We'll take the up front payment and go have ice cream. This would be comical if 39% weren't so stupid.
The Love Shack
Bitch, we control your fucking message. Don't kid yourself.
So, Vince at Capitol Annex sent me an email this morning about Gardner Selby's not-at-all self-conscience assessment of bloggers vs. the MSM. As a side note (we'll get back to Gardner in a bit), there really isn't an antagonistic relationship between bloggers and the MSM. They laugh about our needlessly profane writing and we laugh at their ability to miss the point (not always, but more often than you'd think). It's not respect because, like damn near everyone else, journalists think of bloggers like most people think of three legged dog's named Tripod, funny but largely trivial. We could really care less because we all have real jobs and make more money than they do. Seriously, they don't pay journalists shit. So, just in case you were wondering about the location for the rumble, it ain't gonna happen.
Back to Gardner's commentary, which can basically be summed up as bloggers are neat but we're stable, traditional and we have more access (new media and old coexist nicely). They have credentials which the Lege is thinking of giving us as well. However that isn't even the point... the piece went into specifics regarding the Governor's press briefings (from which bloggers are banned) and Perry's Bitch had this to say:
Spokesman Robert Black sees no advantage to Perry having his occasional press conferences in the room presented on the Web and archived for online viewing. Doing so, Black said, could diminish the office's ability to "control the message and distribution of the message."
Perry would run another risk by installing a camera. As Black speculated: "Before you know it, you'd have it on YouTube, and someone putting music to it."
No problema. By not having a Web camera, Perry effectively trusts ye olde newspapers (and a clutch of radio and TV reporters) to relay and remember what he says.
The balls on this cocksucker! Can you believe Black actually thinks he controls anything, let alone messaging? Shit, we OWN 39%. Black doesn't even have 24 hours before we're ripping into and exposing whatever dumbshit idea has been placed into 39%'s head by Bob Buildit or Dr. Hospital Bed (not to mention his close friends at TXU).
No wonder they don't want us at their events. The open contempt would probably make 39% cry. This isn't partisan, this is simply a case of being honest about a disastrous Governor. Even the R blogs rip on him.
Democrats for Reform and why no one cares
Burka really nails the obvious...
This is a much bigger story than people recognize. It is a bold move by the Craddick Ds to save themselves from joining Ron Wilson, Glenn Lewis, Al Edwards, and others on the list of Craddick's former Democratic supporters who have been defeated in primaries by candidates recruited by the anti-Craddick Ds. But it is more than that. It is an attempt to break the hold of the Dunnam-Gallego-Coleman triumvirate on the Democratic caucus. But it is more than that. It is an effort to achieve policy successes for Democratic proposals. In past years, the Craddick Ds were rewarded with plum appointments for their support of Craddick, but they received little in the way of policy concessions. Now they are calling Craddick out. They are saying, You wouldn't be speaker if it were not for our votes. We stuck out our necks for you, and we expect something more in return than appointments.
Yeah, Paul, we got all that. We are just waiting to see what they are actually able to achieve before we wasted disk space posting it. Granted I have gigs of free space, but wasting it for these people hardly seems worth it. For my money, I think CradDICK will leave them to twist in the wind. Just helping him win re-election is hardly enough to give up all CradDICK holds to dear, the eventual privatization of the state. Plus, any possible bills, while ostensibly aimed at doing some good, will come with all kinds of poison bullshit that will do nothing but raise the ire of the primary voters these DemocradDICKs are all now terrified of.
And we'll be watching every single thing. Of course, as I commented in a thread on BOR, actions are all that matter right now. Most of these people are finished and we'll see how far they go to make sure that this last session will be their best. The past can't be undone and any chance at real reform died the moment they voted against the Geren Amendment. No one's forgotten any of that.
February 01, 2007
Arnold Garcia (could use some) Humor Tips
You may have missed Arnold Garcia's Commentary this weekend. Like the VAST majority of Austinites, I don't subscribe to the AAS. For me, I don't really need it because I have a gas fireplace and therefore have no need to use paper as kindling. Oh sure, I could read it but then I'd only be as smart as Sister Ruth and I'm having none of that.
Garcia, in a fruitless attempt at humor, suggests that the (Connecticut native) George W. Bush Lieberry and Pool Hall should be moved to Austin. I frankly couldn't agree more with him. However, I don't think midtown Austin is a good place for it. Here are my suggestions:
1) Harris Branch. There's a whole lotta nothin' out there so there won't be much to compete with the Lieberry. Also, the empty spaces will remind visitors of Connecticut native George W. Bush's head.
2) Near the Airport. VERY near the Airport. No one's going to do much there anyway so the noise won't disturb anyone. Combine with parking and you have a guaranteed winner.
3) Creedmoor, near that ginormous garbage dump. Really, do I need to explain my thinking on this?
4) Davenport Ranch. Traffic's all kinds of jacked there anyway so, WTF? Everyone's accustomed to it... just don't put it too close to the Salt Lick there. I like to eat there occassionally (Free steaks to the first vegetarian who chastises me for liking barbecue).
5) The bottom of Town Lake.
Arnold's right, there a ton of great places where the Lieberry could go. Let's bring the Lieberry here so the 5 people who live in Austin Metro that don't read will feel comfortable.
Where we screw up, Iran steps in
Oh. Damn. Connecticut native George Bush is being outplayed by the Iranians in the Middle East. Like no one could see that coming...
"It's very bleak and it's very dangerous," said Dakhil, the Saudi writer. "We have a sectarian civil war in Iraq now and this is drawing sectarian lines through the region. This is the most important, the most dangerous ramification of the American war in Iraq."
It's not surprising that the heavy handed tactics of Americans (and, in Lebanon, the Israeli's) have had a deleterious effect. What is surprising is the extent to which Iran is stepping up their aid and support to those affected, creating goodwill from the Mediterranean to the Gulf.
"The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic. "There is one thing important about the ascendance of Iran here. It does not reflect a real change in Iranian capabilities, economic or political. It's more a reflection of the failures on the part of the U.S. and its Arab allies in the region."
Added Eyal Zisser, head of the Middle Eastern and African Studies Department at Tel Aviv University in Israel: "After the whole investment in democracy in the region, the West is losing, and Iran is winning."
Yeah, we've been thinking for a while that you gain more friends with honey than you do with bullets... but no one in Washington seems to be listening (they all think foreign aid is a waste of money)
In Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, a banner hangs near a bridge wrecked by Israeli strikes last summer: "The Zionist enemy destroys, the Islamic Republic of Iran builds." Even before the 33-day war ended, Iran had provided Hezbollah with $150 million to begin rebuilding, some of it going to victims in $10,000 bundles of crisp U.S. currency, according to a Shiite politician who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"You want me to give you my opinion? Honestly?" asked Hajj Hassan Sbeiti, a 44-year-old merchant, his face breaking into a wry smile. "If you say hello to me, you probably like me. If you say hello to me and ask what I need, you're a friend. If you say hello to me, ask what I need and put money in my hand, then you're going to be my brother."
Oh, sure... attacking Iran is a natural. We're guaranteed to make friends that way. Just look how well it's worked in Iraq. Quit with the bullshit about Iranian nukes and let's get down to winning the war of hearts and minds.
Bills : Villarreal files discrimination legislation
The bill, filed as HB 900 would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. This legislation is a broad anti-discrimination act that encompasses employment, labor unions, public accommodations (hotels, motels), housing, and provides penalties for those who discriminate because of sexual orientation.
I know it won't pass, but even to see it filed is impressive and says a lot about Rep. Villarreal. Seriously, he's going out on a limb to file this and that deserves some respect. Thank you, Representative.
Burnamʹs legislation would cause the minimum wage floor to automatically adjust each year based on the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers as computed by the United States Department of Labor.
Major opponents to the federal minimum wage increase cited the potential damage to businesses that are faced with a sudden wage hike. Because Representative Burnamʹs bill adjusts the wage floor each year based on inflation, this legislation will ensure that businesses are protected from sudden wage hikes in the future.
ʺThis bill will eliminate the time spent legislating the minimum wage in the future,ʺ said Burnam. ʺIt gives Texas workers the dignity of a living wage without having to fight for increases during every legislative session. This is a practical and necessary solution to a problem that affects the working poor all across the state of Texas.ʺ
Excellent work, Rep. Burnam! Though we know it won't pass, it's great to see someone take the initiative and put it out there. Let the Republicans explain why the voted against it.
KBH for VP
...that paper reported today that Texas' senior senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, is not averse to the idea of being the Republican No. 2 on the 2008 ticket. Asked about her vice presidential possibilities in a meeting with Times editors, Hutchison said, "If our party's nominee called me and said we are putting everything in the grid, and we think you are the best person, would I say no? I can't imagine that I would say no. Would I seek it or do something to promote it? Absolutely not."
HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA People all over the country HATE Republicans right now. In fact, they even hate certain types more than others and the flavor they despise most is from Texas. Oh, yes... it would be a great idea to select KBH. She's sure to come across well to folks all over the country.
Go ahead. We DARE you.
It's hard to say goodbye
The Texas Observer has done it best. We'll all miss you, Molly!