December 31, 2009

Time Warner tells Rupert Murdoch to get bent

Oh, noes!

News Corp. said it isn’t likely to reach an agreement with Time Warner Cable Inc. and expects to pull the Fox broadcast network from the cable system when their deal expires tomorrow.

“We deeply regret that millions of Fox customers will be deprived of our programming,” Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said today in a memo to employees. “We need to receive fair compensation from Time Warner Cable to go forward with them.”

At first, I was a wee bit concerned. Then I realized I only watch Fringe and I can catch that online. Or on broadcast WHICH just so happens to be the point here. See, TWX isn't charging me for what I can get for free. They're charging me for a good clean signal, not for the content on Fox. Fox makes that money when they draw in viewers
and then sell ads. With that in mind, this seems like a shakedown.

Go ahead, Time Warner, and pull the plug! We'll either get the content for free or Fox will lose some viewers.

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December 30, 2009

Marc Katz files for Lite Guv

But who really gives a rat's ass? Especially when you can watch this instead.

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KBH's Transportation Plan FAIL

Anyone who expected guts or integrity from Senator Hutchison simply has to be disappointed by her Transportation Plan. In short, it's all a bunch of damn bullshit which comes as a huge surprise. Right up there with 39% going teabagging.

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December 29, 2009

Sen. KBH to unveil plan that sucks balls today

Sen. Hutchison will unveil her Transportation plan (with, hopefully, the funding piece) today in Dallas. The DMN had some good questions for her...

But the big questions in Texas are the ones that have dividing state leaders for years:

1) Are transportation planners and leaders like Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, right when they say Texas' fast-growing population requires enormous investments in new roads and bridges?

2) If so, how do we pay for those new projects, especially in our busiest cities, when the costs of simply maintaining the aging and growing system we already have continues to rise? New taxes? More toll roads by public entities willing to borrow billions? Capital from private firms willing to build them?

3) Is Texas wise in favoring roads over rail to such a large extent? And if something should change here, how quickly and with what money?

4) Finally, if the money is too tight at the state level, should local governments be allowed to ask their citizens to vote on new, local tax increases and fees to fund local roads?

We'll know soon enough tomorrow morning, given her other stops, and we'll report back here. Feel free to weigh in now with your thoughts and predictions, and with your feedback tomorrow.

OK, so you need to know that this is rolling at 3:25 this afternoon meaning that other than blogs, there won't be much coverage of this for a day or so. Which means she's not particularly comfortable with the plan and neither she nor her staff know the numbers well enough. To be honest, even if it's unalloyed anti-Perry goodness I'll still be asking why they didn't wait until they were a little more solid and could pull more coverage. Bad press hit planning, IMHO... but it really shouldn't surprise me since the MO of Hutchison's campaign has been incompetence wrapped in abject stupidity.

Meanwhile, nothing from Shami or Bill White yet on this. I know Shami is working on his because of friends working with the campaign and I'm sure White's folks are as well. Word of advice to the D's... just copy Hank's plan. There was a reason the press didn't rip it to shreds, it was solid as rock and I've seen the polling on increasing the gas tax. The privatization hit on Perry is BRUTALLY effective, by the way.

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December 28, 2009

So, another terrorist?

Sorry about the light posting, you know how it is... having a life sometimes interferes with the blog.

What we missed was a terrorist trying to blow up a plan on approach to Detroit. Then another one tried to do the same thing. Both failed.

Two points here...

1) How exactly, given the asinine levels of security we've been forced to deal with since 9/11, did this happen?

2) If the aforementioned security was inadequate, why don't we just ditch the whole damn thing and start over with air marshals? With tasers or some kind of gun that can kill but not puncture the airframe? Or, simply, isn't it clear at this point that we're all kinda hyperaware of terrorism and ready to beat ANY motherfucker down who tries to blow us up while traveling in an aluminum tube?

Representative Peter King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, was critical of he Obama administration as well as Ms. Napolitano, who said repeatedly on the Sunday programs that the system had “worked” because passengers jumped on Mr. Abdulmutallab as he tried to ignite a highly explosive powder mixture, PETN, also called pentaerythritol tetranitrate, that he had taped to his leg.

WOW. Que the politicos with the dumbest bullshit of all. Rep. King will, of course, demand tougher security screenings and try to drop the President in the grease which will earn Rep. King a hearty "GO FUCK YOURSELF" from people all over this country. As for HSS Napolitano, the system, with all due respect, fucking failed. A terrorist with a bomb got an a plane bound for the US. Period. What the passengers did was exactly what they were going to do and what some tried to do even on 9/11. Simply put, woe be to any terrorist who tries to fuck with a plane full of Americans.

To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised this particular asshole made it to the ground alive. I know if I had been on that flight, I would have tried has hard as I could to crack his skull open. I'm not generally violent, but when someone tries to fuck with my life I have a nasty reaction to it.

Terrorism will never stop. Period. It never has. Particular terrorist movements end up destabilizing when both sides agree to compromise and end up reaching a peaceful solution. Obviously, we aren't there yet. So, we need to show the terrorists and their families that Americans aren't soft. Americans are way fucking meaner than our military and if you try to kill us on a plane, WE'LL catch you. If you're lucky, you might make it to the ground alive and receive the benefit of our criminal justice system. But it's really more likely we'll kill you in flight.

And if that happens all the broadcast networks should be forced to carry footage of what the passengers did to the body. The message needs to get through, don't bring your bullshit here. You'll fail. And our citizens will kill you. And every passenger involved in such an action should receive immunity from prosecution and be held harmless from any civil action.

Yeah, maybe it is vigilante justice. Let's see how you feel about it when at 30k feet someone decides to blow up the plane you're on.

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December 27, 2009

Rambo Catholics

These people are so itching for a fight. Schism they want, schism they’ll get. The full article

Even though there has been a realignment of religious groups in fighting the cultural war on economic issues rather than social ones, the old school is still trying hard to ratchet up the past battles. From the article.

Last spring, (conservative Christian thinker Robert) George was invited to address an audience that included many bishops at a conference in Washington. He told them with typical bluntness that they should stop talking so much about the many policy issues they have taken up in the name of social justice. They should concentrate their authority on “the moral social” issues like abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and same-sex marriage, where, he argued, the natural law and Gospel principles were clear. To be sure, he said, he had no objections to bishops' “making utter nuisances of themselves” about poverty and injustice, like the Old Testament prophets, as long as they did not advocate specific remedies. They should stop lobbying for detailed economic policies like progressive tax rates, higher minimum wage and, presumably, the expansion of health care — “matters of public policy upon which Gospel principles by themselves do not resolve differences of opinion among reasonable and well-informed people of good will,” as George put it.

A few months later, in a July 17 letter to Congress, the bishops did something close to that in the health care debate. Setting aside decades of calls for universal coverage, the bishops pledged to fight any bill that failed to block the use of federal subsidies for insurance covering abortion. “Stalin famously asked, ‘How many divisions has the pope?’ ” George wrote to me in an e-mail message after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote on an amendment that satisfied the bishops’ demands. “I guess Pelosi now knows.”

When a conservative brings up natural law in a debate, you know you’ve won because the laws are interpretive values, and not time-honored virtues. This is reinforced when George advocates “new” natural law.

No one has to look any further than world history to know that the “everything is relative” philosophy attached to secularist, has been nurtured for centuries by religion, especially Christianity.

Locally, the bishop-less Austin Catholic Diocese is being influenced by these people, and the push is being made to bring in a new bishop that adheres to the new natural law. It is up to progressive Catholics in the diocese to make their voices heard. The diocese can expect a bishop who will decrease social justice activity, and use the excuse of increasing spirituality to defend this decision.

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December 23, 2009

Who's up for dropping President Obama?

Actually, not just him but let's primary every blue dog cocksucker and DINO in the country...Sure, we'll lose some of these fuckers, but the reality is it's time for a wake up to these clowns.

First up, there is another too-small stimulus program. Krugman says it needs to be at least $200 billion AFTER it's whittled down by the carping R's, DINO's and blue dogs. Now, we all know it won't be that large (which, not-coincidentally, dovetails with the low end of the numbers for what the size of the stimulus provided earlier this year SHOULD have been... which is my way of saying "a bunch of smart people, including myself, TOLD THAT IT NEEDED TO BE BIGGER. But, NO... you ran off and listened to the same people who told you first that tax cuts wouldn't cause deficits and then that deficits didn't matter in a normal economy. The same idiots who are telling you now that the deficit is too large. Here's the thing... THEY'RE WRONG. One point about this asshole, he never tells you that it actually makes sense to raise taxes once the economy turns... he'd rather scare you.) For more on our 'crushing' debt, see here.

Then there's this...which makes it pretty clear compromise for the sake of compromise, even when we're totally in the right and they are totally in the wrong, is really the nature of our electeds.

Oh, and why even bother fixing our broken financial system? It's obvious our folks lack the will even though Wall St. itself admits that without effective and enforced regulation, they'll run wild once again (and thank you, John Mack, for having the balls to admit that).

Unfortunately, we can't sit out elections. What we can do is start working on another candidate to rid ourselves of President Obama. Oh, shut up and grow a pair. I told y'all throughout 2007 and early 2008 that this asshole wasn't transcendent. That he was always looking for compromise even when it wasn't necessary. I mean, come on, did you really have any doubt that the FISA vote wasn't a prelude of things to come.

This isn't about broken campaign promises and whining. This is about the fact that we elected a man whose will is too weak to accomplish even the simplest things. We needed a fighter and instead we got a version of Mr. Rogers without pesky morality. Now, let's correct the mistake and put someone on the ballot in 2012 who won't fuck us over.

Oh, but you're worried about the Republicans? Don't. We're still overwhelmingly the majority. What's dragging down the numbers for Dems is the near constant capitulation to the weakest Republican Party since January, 1965.
When that stops, you'll see the numbers come back up, wildly.

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December 22, 2009

Roundin' Up The TPA

The Texas Progressive Alliance brings you the highlights from the blogs.

As the deadline to file for a place on the 2010 March primary ballot drew near, there was lots of activity on the Democratic side: Kinky Friedman followed Hank Gilbert over to the race for agriculture commissioner, Linda Chavez-Thompson was rumored to be running for lt. governor, and, late on Friday, Ronnie Earle dropped his name in the hat for that same post. There's more on all this news from PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

BARNETT SHALE GAS THREATENS HUMAN HEALTH !!! TXsharon posted the Final Results of the DISH TX health survey at Bluedaze.

WhosPlayin broke the story about a former Republican County Commissioner who got arrested this week for shoplifting a vacuum cleaner.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why some men in power (here, here, here, here and here) think that abusing women and children is their right? Why does Senator Cornyn choose to enable rapists?

Over at Bay Area Houston, John Coby is bored and thinks Kay Bailey Hutchison's commercial sounds like a Whataburger commercial.

Looking for ways to green up your life? Start by making some thoughtful changes to the way you spend your holiday, and check out Texas Vox' Green Up Your Life: Holiday Edition for tips and tricks!

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about the fifth anniversary of the terrible Indian Ocean tunami. Five Years Since Terrible Indian Ocean Tsunami—People Are Recovering While many are still suffering from the impact of this killer wave, there are also many who are recovering and getting back their lives.

The folks over at McBlogger are desperate for your help! Find out how you can do them a solid when you help get a planet named for the blog!

Xanthippas at Three Wise Men covers the utter failure of tort "reform" in Texas (with a h/t to John Coby.)

The Texas Cloverleaf highlights the charge against the Denton County District Attorney's office of racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the fact that elected Texas Republicans still have no sensible ideas about how to pay for roads, Dewhurst and transportation funding.

Off the Kuff took a look at precinct data in the Houston Mayor's runoff.

lightseeker has a question for you over at TexasKaos, Is Arnold's California a foretaste of our nations' future? Check out his analysis in Deadlock, facts ,Partisans -Is California a Fore taste of Our Collective Future?.

XicanoPwr reports that anti-immigration grinches are wanting to replace dreams of success with a lumps of coal by filing a lawsuit challenging Texas’ DREAM Act, the statute that allows undocumented students to pay in-state rates, provided, they meet certain criteria. Their grinch-like behavior would rather punish these extremely vulnerable students for the sins of their undocumented parents, instead of rewarding them for wanting to contribute to our society by making college tuition a bit more affordable, since they already are ineligible for financial aid.

Justin at Asian American Action Fund Blog is excited that Houston has one of the first hospital Asian care units in the nation

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December 17, 2009

Glenn Beck's Christmas Sweater REVIEWED!

PhotobucketThis is, hands down, the best review I've yet seen of Glenn Beck's Christmas Sweater. Even if you're not familiar with the story or Glenn Beck, it's well worth the read!

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December 16, 2009

Today The Blog, Tomorrow...

Sure, being a world-famous blogger is a great ego massage, but why stop there?

Astronomers have spotted the most Earth-like planet to date, a massive ocean world that probably has an atmosphere and — though it’s highly unlikely — may support life. And it needs a better name.

For now, GJ 1214b is tagged according to standard exoplanetary nomenclature: the technical name of the star it orbits, plus a letter to signify the order of its discovery. (The letter “a” is reserved for the star itself.) It’s a name only a committee could love, and hardly appropriate to the discovery’s emotional resonance.

“We’ve been finding exciting planets for 50 years, and we’re still calling them by these terrible catalog names,” said David Charbonneau, a Harvard University astronomer who helped discover GJ 1214b, but doesn’t even have a nickname for it. “I have three young daughters, and I think they might be inspired by a better name.”

How about giving us all a nice Christmas present by going here and putting down a vote for Planet McBlogger? (Suck it, Burka!)

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Back in El Paso my life would be worthless

Let me start off by admitting that there are some good things about El Paso I kind of miss. For one thing, the sun shines almost every day. And the Mexican food is pretty damn good. And ... did I already mention the sunshine thing?

One thing I don't miss is that it's basically impossible to spend a day without hearing that dreadful Marty Robbins El Paso song. Shopping music in the malls, the PA system in the airport, TV commercials: it's as hard to avoid as images of the Dear Leader are in North Korea. EXCEPT for this time of year, when the yowling about Rosa's Cantina is replaced by Jose Feliciano howling Feliz Navidad. Now, I'm man enough to admit that this isn't the worst holiday ditty ever recorded---that would be that horrifying Little Drummer Boy atrocity. But I've heard it enough that I'm joyful to be living somewhere else these days. And thankful that Comrade Obama hasn't yet been able to stop people from singing alternative lyrics and sticking the results on YouTube.

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No, no, no... Joe, that's not the question.

In which Sen. Lieberman tries to use the NYT as his cockwipe...

Mr. Lieberman’s opposition to a bigger government role in health care runs counter to public opinion in his state, according to polls. In a Quinnipiac College survey last month, a majority of voters said they supported a so-called public option.

Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac poll, said the profile of Mr. Lieberman’s public support suggested he was shifting into a moderate Republican. Mr. Lieberman insisted that it was his liberal colleagues who were holding the health care bill hostage.

“People have said to me, including some people in the caucus: ‘We know you are for health care reform. You know how important this is to the president. Would you yourself stop this from happening?’ ” he said.

“So I say: ‘There is a wonderful core health care reform bill on the Senate floor. Would my liberal friends in the caucus stop that from happening and prevent the president from getting this major goal that he has set because they want to add more on to that? Why won’t they be reasonable?’ ”

Just so we're clear, you're voting against something the majority of your constituents actually want? Thanks for playing handjob with the insurance companies and denying millions access to coverage they desperately need and for forcing the rest of us to tithe our new corporate overlords. If this passes, if Lieberman gets his way, we will be effectively subsidizing a truly uncompetitive industry that serves absolutely no rational purpose.

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December 15, 2009

Why I parted ways with the right...

It takes some folks a little longer than others to realize that today's Republican party is kinda, well, fucktard crazy. I got it in 2000, this guy just got it recently. But it least he got it. Welcome, friend!

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December 14, 2009

The Kinkhole cometh...

In what has to be one of the stupidest decisions ever made by someone seeking office, Kinky Friedman, mediocre author and appalling bad entertainer, announced today that he would challenge Hank Gilbert to be the Democratic Party's nominee for Commissioner of Agriculture.

Yep. Someone whose only real experience with agriculture is consuming the produce from it is challenging someone who has spent their entire professional life in Agriculture. Laugh. It. Up. Pushing him into this is none other than Jim Hightower, the last Democrat to occupy the office (almost 20 years ago) which he lost to Rick Perry.

Never missing a beat, the Gilbert Campaign released this. My favorite part...

"Texas needs bold, common-sense leadership at the Texas Department of Agriculture in order to address the many issues facing consumers, family farms, food producers, and the other industries regulated by the agency. All of these issues directly effect the citizens of this state on a daily basis. People don't need someone more concerned about self-promotion than selfless public service," Gilbert said.

"A careless, lackadaisical attitude has already resulted in the deaths of eight and more than 600 cases of illness nationally thanks to poor TDA oversight at the former Peanut Corporation of America factory in Plainview. I shudder to think what would happen if Texas' next Agriculture Commissioner were out selling books and not running the office," Gilbert said. "I'm sure former Commissioner Hightower has done what he could to help Kinky understand the complexities of the office, but having been out of it for almost 20 years one wonders if his knowledge of the office may be a little out of date."

Well said, Mr. Gilbert. VERY well said. And Hightower, what the hell are you doing with this lunatic?

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December 12, 2009

Guess who helped Pakistan build nukes...

In what will come as a shocking revelation only to those who've been asleep for 30 years (or working in Republican Administrations), it appears that the Chinese and Pakistanis have a lovely little nuclear co-op going which helped Pakistan in building a bomb and helped China increase their bomb-grade material production yields.

Not surprisingly, the Chinese did this to 'check' the power of India. Now, one has to wonder if they'd like a do-over on this given the troubles in Pakistan being created by the Taliban.

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December 10, 2009

Please, 39%, stop embarassing us!!

Granted, no one reads the Washington Times except Moonies and really, really stupid, but it's still a publication that gets cached on the web and simple searches reveal, once again, our Governor fully out of his depth...

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday compared President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, just months after being elected, to a freshman winning college football's Heisman Trophy.

"It raised a few eyebrows," said Mr. Perry, a Republican facing reelection. "And we'll just leave it at that."

Mr. Perry said Mr. Obama was elected in November amid great enthusiasm, but his efforts to reform U.S. health-care and limit carbon emissions have failed and are too costly.

"He is an amazingly popular president," he said onThe Washington Times' "America's Morning News" radio show."Most Americans, whether they agreed politically, were proud to elect an African American. But hope and change is all over with. Now we have to look at the policy."

Mr. Perrysaid passing the health-care reform legislation now on Capitol Hill "would bedevastating" in terms of consumer costs, limiting access to care and dissuading young people from becoming doctors.

"I think you're going to see a deterioration in medicine," he said.

Mr. Perry said U.S. cap-and-trade legislation on carbon emissions in based on "shoddy if not fraudulent evidence" that will cost the average Texas family $1,100 to $1,200 more a year.

"It means nothing more than higher costs for energy and losing jobs," he said.

Will these people never get over the 2008 election? I mean, even the most die-hard liberal is over Bush, but these people are going to be bitching about President Obama well into the 22nd century. You'll also notice that his typical bullshit negative arguments have changed recently... he's dropped the shit about the 'debt increases' and 'the failed stimulus'. Two reasons... 1) George Bush and Perry's fellow Republicans increased the debt far more than the Democrats and 2) The stimulus is finally arresting job losses and we're on a major upswing as confidence returns and the financial system returns to normal.

Now it's all about health care (he's lying here, by the way... a publicly run insurer will do nothing but hurt private insurance companies that are some of Perry's biggest contributors and whom have been squeezing Texans for decades) and Cap and Trade, about which he's also lying.

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Talkin' some shit with Ted Delisi

As a Republican strategist, it's really gotta suck to live in Travis County. Maybe that explains Ted Delisi's oh-so-dour column about the prospects of Democrats next year. I mean, when you're living in an area that's thoroughly Democratic, economically vibrant and entrepreneurial, it's gotta be depressing. Austin is pretty far from anyone's idea of a Randian paradise but it IS pretty damn close (traffic aside) to most people's idea of an urban paradise.

It's also pretty close, economically, to what the rest of the state desperately wants... especially the rural areas and suburbs where people have been hit hard by a recession Republicans don't even think is really happening. Democrats have had neither the money or the message to carry to these areas a problem which is changing. This year.

The funniest thing about Ted's opinion is just how clueless it shows him to be about the state of affairs in his own party. If the Teabaggers were a party of their own, they'd outpoll Republicans. Which means that sterling Texas Republican brand is looking pretty tarnished right now. Couple that with a rapidly improving economy (thanks to a stimulus plan Republicans stupidly said wouldn't work... and have done everything in their power to make sure wouldn't) and more aggressive D strategy and you have the ingredients for a shift next year that'll put many Republicans on unemployment.

Sure, it'll take a lot of hard work, planning, some great candidates and a little luck. All of which seems to be falling into place for the Democrats this year. They already rid themselves of deadweight (so long, Chuckles) and now, not being in a position where they have to defend losers, they're positioned to mount a broad offensive.

Ted would realize all that if he wasn't doing his best imitation of a French general by solidly focusing on the past.

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December 09, 2009

Houston... but not the mayoral race

I often chide my friends in Houston for having kind of dull, stupid muni elections based on 'qualifications' and 'skills' instead of the more fun 'bullshit' that often permeates city elections here in Austin. That's not to say candidates in Austin elections aren't qualified and possessed of the skills necessary to govern, it's just that at least here the elections devolve so quickly (and thoroughly) into a race to the mud that it's more entertaining.

Until recently, we had Houston beat on this count. And no, I'm not talking about the mayoral race which is receiving the vast majority of the attention(and we're STILL for Annise... she's prettier than Locke and has better friends). I'm talking about the District A race which pits Lane Lewis against, no shit, a woman who is, apparently, a barfly.

Like I could make this shit up.

Not that there's anything wrong with drinkin'. They know me by name at three different liquor stores, one of which is Spec's, so don't think I'm coming from some sort of holier than thou place. This is more along the lines of... YOU'RE RUNNING FOR OFFICE AND IT'S NOT TOWN DRUNK. It would also be a good idea if you didn't accept endorsements from people like Hotze especially when you have family that's gay. What kind of message does that send to them? Not only about who you'll pal around with to gain support but what you really think of them?

So, yeah, in Houston District A, go vote for LANE LEWIS.

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Hopson (R - Traitor) files

Rep. Hopson filed for re-election as a Republican on the 7th which means there's now something else horrible that occurred on that day to distract us from the painful memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The write up in the Jacksonville Progress (attributed to Special, which usually means someone who loves the subject of the story wrote the story. So, yeah, it was probably Chuckles himself) was really funny but then it went right off the rails...

Also joining Cornyn at the mid-November press conference were new Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Straus endorsed Hopson as “an outstanding public servant with integrity and commitment to conservative values.”

Staples said Hopson was following the path of other rural conservative Democrats who became Republicans, including Perry, former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, former Railroad Commissioner Kent Hance.

LOOKIT, this is important! Like when the crazy scientist finds the government official near the beginning of a Roland Emerich movie and explains that some disaster is rapidly approaching. YES, that kind of important.

One press conference in East Texas featured Sen. John Cornyn, Ag Commissioner Staples (who's going to get thoroughly pwn'd by Hank Gilbert) and Rep. Chuck Hopson! Don't you see? We narrowly escaped the formation of a black hole of suck which would have completely decimated the Piney Woods and, possibly, ALL LIFE ON EARTH. Only the lameness of Speaker Strauss, I'm speculating, averted disaster by providing a counterbalance to the malevolent stupidity of the other three.

In other news, Sen. Hutchison also filed to get stomped* by 39% and released a stupid statement about eminent domain restrictions that Farm Bureau wrote for her but which really won't do anything. I'm sure the D candidates in the Governor's race will take some time to beat her up about that.

*Just for little Matty and the fucktards over at the RPT (Hey Cathie, Bry-guy!), I'm using stomped figuratively. I do not actually think 39% will step on her. He'd probably like to, but I think she'd beat him up if he tried. And yeah, I totally think Hutchison could beat up 39%.

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December 08, 2009

Children playing at high finance (a TXDOT primer)

I can't express to you the unalloyed joy I will feel when, in a little more than a year, a Democratic Governor removes Trans Commissioner Ted Houghton from the his seat. Why? Just take a look at this and see what the sneaky little shit is up to...

Last week in Austin, Texas Transportation Commission members told staff to submit plans by January for how to fast-track a roughly $4 billion expansion of Interstate 35E between Dallas and Denton. Officials say the project is a prime candidate for a new kind of financing that they concede looks a lot like the private toll deals ruled out by the Legislature.

“We’ve got to use all of these innovative ways of building highways or we won’t be building,” said commission member Ted Houghton of El Paso in an interview Friday. “It’s a fact of life. If you want us to build roads, then we are going to move forward using these kinds of tools.”

The tool in question is called pass-through toll financing, and is different, though not very, from the private toll deals lawmakers have put on ice.

Here’s how it works: A private company, usually backed by a group of banks and other investors, agrees to use its own money to build a state road, usually with the help of at least some tax dollars. In return for the new road, Texas promises to make payments to the firm based on the level of traffic it attracts. The more vehicles that “pass through,” the bigger the payment the private company will receive.

Officials say such deals involving big toll roads could last 30 years or more. So far, though, pass-through financing has only been a way for Texas to pay for a handful of smaller free roads. The per-vehicle payments simply pay back the investment by the private company, or in some cases a local government, and are not passed on to drivers in the form of tolls.

Houghton, of course, completely omits that there will be minimum guarantee levels from the state for the toll lanes and that these agreements usually prohibit improvements to free lanes, frontage roads and alternate routes. Let's also take special note of how the taxpayer's contribution to this scheme is being downplayed. What do WE get in return, Commissioner? A road we get to pay to drive on? Since the state is providing the lions share of the money, what do we get... Here's the breakdown of the capital structure, just FYI...

NORTH TARRANT EXPRESS MOBILITY PARTNERS plans to sell $400 million of tax-exempt debt this month through the Texas Private Activity Bond Surface Transportation Corp. The borrower is a group led by Madrid-based Grupo Ferrovial SA’s Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA, which Texas awarded the concession to rebuild and operate a highway northeast of Fort Worth. The bonds will be secured by toll revenue from the North Tarrant Expressway, including rebuilt highways Interstate 820 and State 121/183 near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Fitch rated the bonds BBB-, while Moody’s ranked the issue Baa2, one step higher. The $2 billion cost of redeveloping the 13-mile (20.9-kilometer) stretch of highway will be covered by the private-activity bond proceeds, a $650 million federal transportation loan, about $570 million in gasoline tax revenue from the state, and $420 million in equity invested by Cintra and others. (Added Dec. 7)

Let's take special note of the rating... since this is a project backed by what may be uneven (and certainly unproven) toll revenues, these things are rated just barely investment grade. The spread over typical state issued debt (which carries a higher investment grade rating), which is essentially the difference in the interest rate between these securities and safe Treasuries, will I'm sure be pretty large adding still more expense to the capital structure. In other words, this innovative tool is costing us MORE in interest than if the state just did it themselves. We're actually paying MORE to privatize and Houghton is soaking tax payers for the difference.

Cintra, for it's investment totaling LESS THAN 25% of the capital structure, will get the rights to the toll revenue for 50 years. I'm sure there's some sort of profit sharing agreement, right Commissioner? I LOVE that you're selling this as if the private company will make the majority of the investment when in reality they are making only a small portion of it. And, let me guess, the contract specifies that they get the first money out of it, right? Even before the debt is serviced? Come on, Houghton... let us SEE the contract. Let's see what kind of sweetheart deal you've given to Cintra. What's the cap rate for Cintra on this? 12%? 15%? 25%?!?!?! For those of you keeping score at home, this means that if Cintra is due $100 mn per year and the debt service is $135 mn per year and the revenues are only $75 mn per year, then tax payers will cough up $135 mn to meet the debt service AND an additional $25 mn to pay to Cintra for their guarantee.

Reality was, is and always will be that privatization of infrastructure is THE most expensive way to fund our roads. We all know we need roads, but Carona and others continue to allow TXDOT to call the shots instead of forcing them to back off these risky privatization schemes that are essentially nothing more than corporate welfare.

And that, friends, is the dirty little secret. When you hear the words "innovative ways of building highways" or "innovative financing" in a discussion about transportation funding (especially if it's Ted Houghton speaking), you need to hear it as CORPORATE WELFARE.

The reality is simple... we need the gas tax increase. Failing that, we could toll but it needs to be the authorities and the state issuing the debt and collecting the tolls, not a private entity. All adding a private entity into the mix does is create yet another party that has a superior claim on our tax dollars.

Posted by mcblogger at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What's old is new again...

Credit where it's due, BAR has managed to resurrect one of the talking points of the 2005 No Nonsense in November campaign which fought the Texas Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment.

The amendment, approved by the Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by voters, declares that "marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman." But the troublemaking phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

"This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Yes, it was a specious argument then and it still is now. But Radnofsky is riding it like a bull for all the media she can and I'll applaud that all day long. I'll also applaud anything that gets Kelly Shackelford's panties in a twist, as this evidently did. Because he's an asshat and really belongs trapped in a cage poked with a stick by a child with ADHD.

Posted by mcblogger at 11:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Republicans actually are good at...

Apparently, in an effort to show they're good at something other than fucking up the state and pissing off bloggers who really, really dislike them already and really, really LOVE making fun of how weak and stupid they are, they've now moved to pissing up the legs... drumroll, please... of Hispanics!

It's really very exciting to see Republicans embracing the 'open tent, open door' policy championed by Cathie Adams who knows all about that from the Eagle Forum where they simply love any diverse group of white people.

For all you budding Matt Lewis' and Bryan Preston's out there, I'm not saying the Republicans are literally pissing up the legs of people. It's Texan for angering people. I certainly hope your precious little virgin eyes haven't been strained by my horrible, obscene language and heartfelt desire to make fun of a bunch of racist crackers who are too stupid to realize that they're upsetting people THAT SUPPORT THEM.

Posted by mcblogger at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 07, 2009

What a little candyass...

Well, Cathie and mooks over at the RPT tried to make hay on Friday. I wrote this in response and this little candyass referred to the post today with what I certainly hope is affected indignation...

The reference about "bloodying-up" Cathie is especially disturbing. Cathie Adams, of course, is the new Chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party.

Matt Lewis, for those of you who don't know, is some nancy halfwit from Virginia so you'll have to forgive him for not understanding Texan. Matty, 'bloodying up' is when you go on the attack in a political fight. It's a figure of speech like 'kick your ass'. So, don't worry... Cathie's in no physical danger. Her agenda to screw over Texans, however, is very much in danger.

Reached on the telephone, Republican Party of Texas Communications Director Bryan Preston had this to say: "The issue here is we have a blogger who repeatedly posts obscene material, and Bill White is advertising on their website. Is this the kind of political rhetoric that Bill White finds acceptable?

Brian, obscene? Like dumping a couple of hundred thousand kids off their insurance? Like underfunding schools? Like allowing insurance companies to rape the citizens of the state at will? Like allowing the electric companies to charge the most expensive rates in the country AND make it easy for them to pollute our air and water?

Shit, Brian... I could take a lesson from y'all. You guys have obscene down in a way that I can only hope to imitate one day. In comparison, the question of whether or not Rick Perry has a dildo that may (or may not) have been up his ass kinda looks sad. At least on the obscenity scale.

Oh, and y'all need to man up... this is Texas, not Virginia. Quit being a bunch twunts with all the whining about being mean. We haven't even really STARTED to be mean to y'all.

Posted by mcblogger at 03:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Who's more American?

Who represents the quintessential American woman more, MoDo or Sarah Palin? My money is on MoDo... no one cares any more about critter cooking rural politicians from Alaska.

Posted by mcblogger at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2009

Staples, you're such a douche

On Friday, within an hour of Hank Gilbert's announcement he was moving to the Ag Commissioner's race, Todd Staples tweeted this out...

After losing the ag race, losing in a local election & a deceptive run for gov, Hank Gilbert now says he is going to run for ag comm again

Team Gilbert, never missing a beat, was out with this shortly afterward...

@Todd_Staples One thing about losing a race, it makes you smarter the next time out. Welcome to the fight, Commissioner.

And now, because he's a chickenshit douchebag, Staples has banned a number of D's, including yours truly and Phillip Martin from @BOR. And it didn't go unnoticed.

Just so you know, Staples outspent Hank 22:1 in 2006. Pretty easy to win an election with those kinds of resources. The question now is how far the tables will turn... We already know Hank IS raising money and will continue to do so, straight through the primary and into the general. That, coupled with his high name ID due to his work opposing freeway privatization and championing private party right (two things Staples led on... in the opposite direction), means Staples has got a far more significant problem than many have realized.

I would wish the Commissioner good luck but we all know that would be disingenuous. It wouldn't matter anyway...

Posted by mcblogger at 04:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 04, 2009

Stay out of it, bitches...

The RPT, in response to this, tweeted this.

To Cathie and all our friends over at the RPT, you want to stay out of this. We'll bloody you up soon enough and you really don't want a premature boot (or Gucci slip on as the case is today) up your ass.

Don't think we can't do it, Cathie. You're playing in the big leagues now.

Posted by mcblogger at 01:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's ok if you give some folks asthma...

...just please, stop giving them cancer. That is the message the State is sending to O&G operators in the Barnett Shale.

Posted by mcblogger at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 03, 2009

I may not like Bernanke but I like the R's even less

I'm watching the super fun Senate confirmation hearing for Fed Chair Ben Bernanke. Aside from the par payouts on the CDS (Credit Default Swaps) written by AIG (many of which were lottery tickets), he's done a decent job or, at least, as decent a job as anyone could have done. The reality is that many of the problems we faced were created by Congress, not the Fed and certainly not Bernanke. That's not to say he didn't screw up or that mistakes weren't made. However, all things being equal, we aren't in the middle of a depression and that's what we were looking at a little over a year ago.

Watching Senators Bunning and Bennett (R-UT) pontificate makes me actually like Bernanke. First off, there's Bennett whining about inflation and 'Carter's inflation' in the 1970's that finally ended thanks to Paul Volcker and President Reagan. Of course, Sen. Bennett's kind of a moron. He didn't realize that it was actually President Nixon, through his control of then Fed Chair Arthur Burns who kept expansionary monetary policy in place despite pressures that were clearly building in the economy. And it was Carter's appointee to the Chair, Paul Volcker, who broke inflation, not President Reagan. Reagan's policies had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Then there's Senator Bunning. Bunning was pissed about the par payouts on the CDS contracts without even understand the terms of those contracts which really is the far bigger issue. As for the payout, Bernanke's hands actually were tied... the only way to renegotiate the payout on the contracts would have been for AIG to go into bankruptcy. Given the aftershocks of Lehman (a total freeze of the credit markets and the complete breakdown of structure finance, eliminating more than $5 trillion from the US banking system), that was wholly undesirable. If the contracts hadn't been paid at par, the creditors would have forced AIG into bankruptcy and the result would have been disaster.

That ain't the whole story, though. These contracts weren't just insurance policies (that's basically what CDS is... it's an insurance policy against risk of economic loss or to cover event risk), they were also lottery tickets. For example, with most types of insurance, the policy is for the full value of the property covered (either cash or replacement cost) or limited by a set coverage amount. That's the maximum the company will pay in the event of a full loss. However, insurers only actually pay (in property settlements) ACTUAL loss. With CDS, especially some of the crap contracts written by AIG, they were set to pay off the entire contract value, not just the actual loss. So, if Goldman Sachs had a swap contract in effect with AIG covering a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) the payout trigger might be a default rate of 15% on the CDO. But, the swap didn't pay off to cover the 15% loss, it paid out the full PAR value of the CDO, even though it was worth significantly less than par.

It's equivalent to me insuring my house for $280,000. Then, if there's a minor fire in the kitchen, instead of paying to repair the damage, they just cut me a check for $280,000 and then they own the house which, watch out, was only worth $100k.

THAT'S what Bunning should have been pissed about, the fact that those contracts were honored at all even though they were clearly fraudulent since I'm sure the valuations were based on representations and warranties made by the insured. If they'd been attacked that way, the court could have issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the counterparties (Goldman Sachs, for example) from collecting or forcing any payment. Then we could have broken it all apart.

So, yeah, instead of focusing on bullshit, how about looking at the really bad stuff, Senators?

Posted by mcblogger at 01:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 02, 2009

Bigotry hides behind Scripture in NY

This is just sad... especially this Rabbi

Demonstrators on both sides of the issue were relatively scarce in the Capitol on Wednesday. A small group of Orthodox Jews gathered outside the Senate chamber, one of them holding a sign that read “Gay Union/A Rebellion Against the Almighty.”

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of Monsey, N.Y., said he traveled to Albany to remind the Senate “that the world belongs to the Almighty, and they have to reckon with his rules and his law.”

Would someone in NY take a second and remind the Rabbi that he

a) Doesn't actually speak for the Almighty
b) Not everyone believes in what he perceives to be the Almighty
c) Doesn't make laws in this country, people do for themselves. You choose personally whether or not to follow the laws of the Almighty but you CAN NOT force others to follow those laws.
d) Not everyone believes in the same laws as laid out by his interpretation of the dictates of what he calls the Almighty. Some of us love some bacon and shellfish. And bacon wrapped shellfish (grilled or fried, either way).

And to our weak sister from the Bronx, a pox on you and I wish an El Pollo Loco would open next door to your home.

Posted by mcblogger at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meet Anna Campos!

If you're in San Antonio, even if you're not in Commissioner Precinct 4, please take some time tomorrow to swing by and meet Anna Campos

Wednesday, December 2nd
5:30 - 7:00 pm
713 S. Alamo
San Antonio, TX 78205

Posted by mcblogger at 01:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fun at the Times

A recent lawsuit makes it clear that despite the rhetoric about free markets and capitalism, the Washington Times is a failure as a commercial enterprise.

Too harsh? How the hell would YOU describe a newspaper that can only survive if their parent organization contributes $40 mn per year to it's operation.

Posted by mcblogger at 09:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack