Thursday, December 31, 2009
Thank God that decade is over. Happy 2010.
Annise Parker is TPA's "Texan of the Year"
Limbaugh dies of heart attack
The man has lost 90 pounds since March using the Quick Loss system. That's probable cause. Although he also told the hospital he was on pain medication for an ailing back ... while previously seen golfing on his Hawaiian vacation.
Too bad he's not recovering in the same hospital that Obama was born in. That would be the karmic payback of the decade. They could have served him a copy of the birth certificate as an enema.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Quan in (and other candidate filings)
-- Grits has some of the state's judicial filings. Democrats are still short on candidates for Texas Supreme Court and the regional Courts of Appeals, as well as Congressional challengers.
-- So far the statewide executive ballot for Texas Democrats in March looks like this:
Governor: Bill White, Farouk Shami, Bill Dear, Alma Aguado, Felix Rodriguez
Lt. Governor: Ronnie Earle, Marc Katz
Attorney General: Barbara Ann Radnofsky
Comptroller of Public Accounts:
Commissioner of Agriculture: Kinky Friedman, Hank Gilbert
Commissioner of the General Land Office: Bill Burton of Athens
Chief Justice, 1st Court of Appeals: Morris Overstreet of Houston
Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 5 - Unexpired Term: Wally Kronzer of Houston
Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 9: Tim Riley of Houston
Justice, 1st Court of Appeals, Place 8: Unexpired Term: Robert Ray of Houston
Justice, 3rd Court of Appeals, Place 4: Kurt Kuhn of Austin
Justice, 4th Court of Appeals, Place 2: Unexpired Term: Rebeca C. Martinez of San Antonio
Justice, 5th Court of Appeals, Place 12 - Unexpired Term: Lawrence J. Praeger of Dallas
Justice, Texas Supreme Court, Place 9: Blake Bailey of Tyler
(These are candidate filings as posted at the TDP's website as of today.)
Did I miss anybody? The deadline is next Monday.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
2009 in review
Monday, December 28, 2009
The year's last Weekly Wrangle
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to be afraid of drug cartels buying our politicians. We've all seen what money and power did to health care reform. Imagine all that drug money buying power here. It's time to legalize drugs and take away the profit.
You can't make this stuff up; at Bay Area Houston: GOP "Bubba" white supremacist wanted for murder.
Barnett Shale communities can breathe easier after a victory last week, when TCEQ issued a new emission policy following the release of Texas OGAP's study: Shale Gas Threatens Human Health. Read the report and view documents that the TCEQ will use to record odor complaints and take necessary enforcement action.
WhosPlayin picked up on the TCEQ policy change and also weighed in on strange comments by a Flower Mound councilman explaining his vote not to impose an oil and gas moratorium. Speaking of city councils, Lewisville has a teabagger councilman who wants to turn down a $913,000 stimulus grant from the federal government.
The Texas Cloverleaf looks at the potential for a contested party chair race in Dallas County. And it's among the Democrats.
Xanthippas at Three Wise Men on Robert George, the conservative Christian "big thinker" who dresses up old prejudices in new rationales.
Justin at Asian American Action Fund Blog is terribly excited that Gordon Quan is running for Harris County Judge.
Off the Kuff writes about Harris County board of education trustee Michael Wolfe, the silliest officeholder in Harris County.
Escalation in Afghanistan, a healthcare reform bill lacking a public option, and another climate change bust in Copenhagen has left a lot of Obama believers stranded at the intersection of Hope and Change. PDiddie has stepped off the bus; read why at Brains and Eggs.
WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the GOP property tax swap that has fixed nothing: The Texas GOP and the state budget.
Neil at Texas Liberal said that all of us in life seek the 60 votes of hope and kindness to defeat the filibusters of despair and anger. The Senate of life is always session so that we can rustle up the needed votes.
Pete Sessions hearts Allen Stanford
Just hours after federal agents charged banker Allen Stanford with fleecing investors of $7 billion, the disgraced financier received a message from one of Congress' most powerful members, Pete Sessions.
“I love you and believe in you,” said the e-mail sent on Feb. 17. “If you want my ear/voice — e-mail,” it said, signed “Pete.”
The message from the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee represents one of the many ties between members of Congress and the indicted banker that have caught the attention of federal agents.
I don't know about you, but the mental image of Stanford with his tongue in Sessions' ear makes me more than the usual nauseous.
Agents are examining campaign dollars, as well as lavish Caribbean trips funded by Stanford for politicians and their spouses, feting them with lobster dinners and caviar.
The money Stanford gave Sessions and other lawmakers was stolen from his clients while he carried out what prosecutors now say was one of the nation's largest Ponzi schemes.
Sessions, 54, a longtime House member from Dallas who met with Stanford during two trips to the Caribbean, did not respond to interview requests.
Supporters say the lawmaker, who received $44,375 from Stanford and his staff, was not assigned to any of the committees with oversight over Stanford's bank and brokerages.
Sessions is one of Congress' biggest clod-hoppers. He consistently finds himself in the news over idiotic statements. But it's fair to note that this is a bipartisan issue. Besides Republicans including former Rep. John Sweeney of New York and convict Bob Ney of Ohio, the list includes current Ways and Means chair Charlie Rangel (whose name also pops up in seemingly every single ethics investigation) as well as Sen. Ben Blue Ass Dog Nelson ... the one from Florida. They both donated contributions from Stanford to "charities".
In addition, Caribbean Caucus member and former Rep. Max Sandlin of Texas -- who became a lobbyist for damage control experts Fleishmann-Hillard after Tom DeLay's redistriciting knocked him out of Congress -- married another Congresscritter, Stephanie Herseth of North Dakota.
There's also this:
In late 2001, Stanford confronted another threat: A bill allowing state and federal regulators to share details about fraud cases — which would have brought Stanford's brokerages under closer scrutiny — landed in the Senate Banking Committee.
Though the Senate was now controlled by Democrats, Stanford was prepared: He had given $500,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2002 — his largest-ever contribution.
“I told him that the Democrats were going to take over, and he needed to make friends with them,” recalled his lobbyist Ben Barnes, once Texas' lieutenant governor.
Stanford also doled out $100,000 to a national lobbying group to fight the measure.
The bill, which sparked sweeping opposition from brokerages and insurers, never made it to a vote.
How is it that Ben Barnes is always mixed up in every single Texas scandal?
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
One more grinchy post
What's costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting.
Consider the president's leadership style, which has now become clear: deliver a moving speech, move on, and when push comes to shove, leave it to others to decide what to do if there's a conflict, because if there's a conflict, he doesn't want to be anywhere near it.
Health care is a paradigm case. When the president went to speak to the Democrats last week on Capitol Hill, he exhorted them to pass the bill. According to reports, though, he didn't mention the two issues in the way of doing that, the efforts of Senators like Ben Nelson to use this as an opportunity to turn back the clock on abortion by 25 years, and the efforts of conservative and industry-owned Democrats to eliminate any competition for the insurance companies that pay their campaign bills. He simply ignored both controversies and exhorted.
In the vacuum left by the president's inaction, troglodytes like Nelson and Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe and Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln took turns rushing in to fill it.
Leadership means heading into the eye of the storm and bringing the vessel of state home safely, not going as far inland as you can because it's uncomfortable on the high seas. This president has a particular aversion to battling back gusting winds from his starboard side (the right, for the nautically challenged) and tends to give in to them. He just can't tolerate conflict, and the result is that he refuses to lead.
The man is just weak. Period.
We have seen the same pattern of pretty speeches followed by empty exhortations on issue after issue. The president has, on more than one occasion, gone to Wall Street or called in its titans (who have often just ignored him and failed to show up) to exhort them to be nice to the people they're foreclosing at record rates, yet he has done virtually nothing for those people. His key program for preventing foreclosures is helping 4 percent of those "lucky" enough to get into it, not the 75 percent he promised, and many of the others are having their homes auctioned out from right under them because of some provisions in the fine print. One in four homeowners is under water and one in six is in danger of foreclosure. Why we're giving money to banks instead of two-year loans -- using the model of student loans -- to homeowners to pay their mortgages (on which they don't have to pay interest or principal for two years, while requiring their banks to renegotiate their interest rates in return for saving the banks from "toxic assets") is something the average person doesn't understand. And frankly, I don't understand it, either. I thought I voted Democratic in the last election.Same with the credit card companies. Great speech about the fine print. Then the rates tripled.
Obama has trashed himself -- and by extension, the campaigns of other Democrats down the ballot in 2010 -- with the base of Democratic activists who do the heavy lifting: the ones who bank the phones, walk the blocks, knock on the doors.
Using the healthcare reform bill as the lodestone, we have a) weak-tea legislation that the insurance companies are hailing; b) that doesn't accomplish real reform for most Americans -- even though it does for many of the most impoverished; c) resulting in the Republicans' caterwauling to kill the bill intermingled with the Left's identical cries ... for obviously different reasons. But the telling moment was once the Democrats announced they had finally secured 60 votes, the healthcare stocks hit a 52-week high.
But-but-but he won the Nobel peace prize...
What's the mood of other key Democratic constituencies? Gay people -- after their concerns about same-sex marriage and DADT got dissed -- got off the Obama bus long ago. Women? Let's see: we're moving fifty years into the past on reproductive freedom, the insurance companies together with the physicians are sending conflicting messages on health issues like mammograms...
Issues? The same thing that happened/is concluding in the Senate and the Congress happened in Copenhagen last week: a bunch of important people quarreled back and forth about a critical matter and ultimately decided to do ... barely something. Cap-and-trade legislation is on the docket first thing after the New Year. How do you think that's going to go? How about alternative energy? Financial re-regulation?
If the trend continues Obama will give a stirring speech and then leave the particulars to someone else, whose job will be to mash the sausage into something tasteless and slightly disgusting but which we all get to eat a spoonful of.
Not the recipe for re-election of anyone who share his views -- whatever they actually happen to be.
Merry Christmas, every one.
Update: McBlogMan feels the same as me.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Winter Solstice
Not that anyone needs to remind the snowed-in people on the Eastern seaboard, but today is the first day of winter, known as the winter solstice. ...
The bleak news: It's the shortest day of the year, meaning the earth's tilt is at 23.5 degrees. As LiveScience puts it, the top half of the earth will spin on its axis away from the sun. Most of us will experience daylight for only about nine short hours. But it gets worse: The weather will actually get colder. Without sunlight to warm the ocean, temperatures will continue to drop. There is a bright side: From here on out, minute by minute, each day gets a little bit longer. In other words: Countdown to summer. The summer solstice falls around June 21, marking the longest day of the year. Take that, winter. ...
As the Dscriber blog tells it, the winter solstice has been marked since the pre-Christian days about 4,500 years ago. The word "solstice" comes from the Latin "sun stands still," and the rock monument Stonehenge is believed to be one of the ancient sites for the winter ritual. The Guardian reports that archeologists have dug up what looks like the remains of a really big barbeque that could have been a winter solstice fete, shedding more light on the purpose of the mysterious stone structure. But as National Geographic points out, celebrations of the solstice soon got switched out for Christmas, once the Christian religion spread to the West.Although the dark days of winter are upon us, it could be so much darker. If you happen to reside in the North Pole (Santa and reindeers, we're looking at you), you haven't seen the light of day since early October. And, sorry to say, you won't until March.
Monday, December 21, 2009
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 tsunami, in Five Years Since Terrible Indian Ocean Tsunamia --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 writes on the fact that elected Texas Republicans still have no sensible ideas about how to pay for roads in the post Dewhurst and transportation funding.
Off the Kuff took a look at precinct data in the Houston mayoral runoff.
lightseeker has a question for you over at TexasKaos: Is Arnold's California a harbinger of our nations' future? Check out his analysis in Deadlock, facts , partisans --Is California a foretaste of 0ur 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.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Ronnie Earle for Lt. Governor *updates*
FORMER TRAVIS COUNTY D.A. RONNIE EARLE FILES TO RUN FOR LT GOVERNOR
No details. More here as I find them elsewhere. A blockbuster of a development, to be certain. Earle is highly prized by Texas progressives as the kind of candidate we would seek anywhere on the ballot, and has been rumored previously for both governor and attorney general. His filing for the state's #2 job fills a vacancy on the ballot and injects more excitement into an already-enthusiastic 2010 campaign. Should Linda Chavez-Thompson also contest the primary, then Democrats would have choices to make for three executive offices -- governor, lt. governor, and agriculture commissioner.
The Texas Tribune:
Earle filed with the Texas Democratic Party late Friday evening. So far, he is the only lite gov candidate to do so.
(He) served as Travis County DA from from 1976 until his retirement at the end of 2008, made national headlines in 2005 when he filed campaign finance fraud charges against U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Austin American-Statesman's Postcards blog:
Earle brings a higher profile than the other potential candidates after a career of noteworthy and notorious prosecutions that drew attention far beyond Travis County, including the still-pending case against GOP powerhouse Tom DeLay.
With no advance notice, Earle quietly filed his paperwork at state Democratic headquarters late Friday. He said he plans a formal announcement after the holidays, when he will spell out his campaign themes.
Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has filed for re-election. Austin deli owner Marc Katz has also announced for the post as a Democrat.
Earle took a wait-until-later approach when asked his views on Dewhurst's performance in the job. But he hinted at his likely plan of attack by saying, "The idea of government by a few doesn't sit well with me."
DMN's Trail Blazers:
Ronnie Earle's entry into the 2010 election sweepstakes recalls his legal clash more than a decade against Kay Bailey Hutchison - and her political guru, Karl Rove. Rove was Hutchison's political adviser in 1993 when a grand jury under Earle's direction indicted her. Earle was the Travis County district attorney at the time. Hutchison was accused of using her state treasury office for partisan politics, but she was acquitted amid a full-court press by Hutchison's legal and political team. Hutchison. When a judge during pre-trial hearings ruled that some evidence against her couldn't be admitted, Earle gave up before going to trial. Hutchison was declared innocent.
Rove took an active part in the pretrial proceedings. He directed Karen Hughes - then executive director of the Texas Republican Party - to denounce Earle daily. Hutchison spokesman David Beckwith - at Rove's direction - trumpeted the message that Earle was a politically motivated prosecutor.
(Above: Rove & Beckwith at the time working on Team Hutchison).
And Rove took the stand during a pretrial hearing to paint Earle as a publicity hound. Rove accused Earle - falsely - of notifying the media in advance to maximize publicity of a raid on the treasurer's office by investigators. Rove said he was told by a newspaper reporter that Earle gave advance notice of the raid. In fact, the reporter learned of the raid the same way others in the press corps did - from Hutchison employees once the raid was already underway.
At any event, Rove's an informal Hutchison adviser in her gubernatorial bid. There's a possibility that that Earle and Hutchison could both find themselves on the ballot next November. If both won, it would mean Republican Gov. Hutchison would be working with Democratic Lt. Gov. Earle as presiding officer in the Senate.
A Cajun Pre-Christmas
Also visiting Shangri La today.
The Heronry Blind had only some black cormorants to see, working on their spring nests. It's a little too soon for any nesters. We'll come back in the spring for some better birding.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lt. Governor
Hat tip to Phillip, here's Jason Embry.
Linda Chavez-Thompson, a former executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, is leaning toward running for lieutenant governor as a Democrat, according to multiple sources familiar with her plans.
The San Antonio resident, born and raised in the Lubbock area, is now executive vice president emerita of the labor organization and is also a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. She was also a super-delegate during the 2008 presidential primary.
From her bio on the national Democratic Party Web site: “A native of Lubbock, Texas, Chavez-Thompson is a second-generation American of Mexican descent. Upon her retirement, she celebrated 40 years of experience in the labor movement, beginning in 1967 with her first work for the Laborers’ local union in Lubbock. She went on to serve in a variety of posts with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in San Antonio, Texas, and became an international vice president in 1988, a post she held until 1996. She also served from 1986 to 1996 as a national vice president of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, AFL-CIO. In 1993, Chavez-Thompson was elected and served a two-year term as one of 31 vice presidents on the Executive Council of the national AFL-CIO.”
Among Democrats who know about her plans, there is already considerable excitement about a Chavez-Thompson bid. The thinking goes that her personal story — she quit school in the ninth grade so she could start working and earn money for her family — creates a contrast with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the wealthy Republican incumbent. (Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Dewhurst wasn’t born into wealth). And as someone who has risen to the top of the national labor movement and the top of the national Democratic Party, Chavez-Thompson has a myriad of contacts within the party from whom she can raise money. Plus, she is well-known in the San Antonio area.
Not much to add to that. She would present a formidable opponent to the blue-blooded Dewhurst -- or Greg Abbott, if Dewhurst eventually becomes the appointed US Senator.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Summing up the Senate debate on health care reform
If Harry Reid can't bring himself to use reconciliation and restore some of the real reform measures that have been stripped out, then it's time to kill the bill. We'll do it all over again in 2010 after we elect some real Democrats.
(It might be that the quickest way to kill it is to support it as strongly as possible -- if you believe Chris Bowers -- but I can't go there.)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Invertebrate uses tool
Or perhaps this:
(In case you're not getting it ... read this, and then this.)
Update: Ted at jobsanger speaks for me as well.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Kinky follows Gilbert to Ag Commish
(Kinky's campaign consultant Colin) Strother says while Friedman did consider the land commissioner post, he felt the agriculture commissioner job was "the best fit". Friedman spent the past week getting advice from his friend, former Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.
"I've got a pretty detailed plan of action that we'll be rolling out later in the week," Friedman said. "From forming a statewide public defenders' office and setting a goal of at least one animal rescue facility in each county, to restoring our depleted woodlands and promoting a greater role for local producers in school cafeterias, we're going to shake things up and show folks what the office can be if you have someone there who actually cares about the job."
"He's really energetic and excited about it," said Strother. "[He's excited about] the great diversity of things it can do for rural Texas - from economic development, to land and soil conservation... The first thing he wants to do is get an animal rescue facility in every county in Texas. Biofuels and animal rescue were the clinchers."Friedman says he'll officially file on Tuesday...
That's probably the biggest disappointment here; that Jim Hightower gave him this nudge.
There were hints over the weekend. Kinky had his visits with Farouk Shami and Bill White, and let this slip to the Conroe Courier (hat tip to The MoCo Report) ...
Friedman said he (had) discussed running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner with former commissioner Jim Hightower, singer Willie Nelson and Bill White.
“What I learned is that as agriculture commissioner there was almost nothing I couldn’t do that I couldn’t do as governor,” Friedman said.
Friedman would have been better served by his advisers -- not to mention his own brain -- had he entered any other contest besides the one with the best progressive and the highest Democratic vote-getter in 2006.
I think I could have voted for him if he had chosen Land Commissioner. But not now.
Update: Reactions from Muse, McBlogger, Trail Blazers, Texas Politics, and Poli-Tex. And also Hank Gilbert himself ...
“Since exploring a race for governor, Kinky has had a cigar promotion tour, a book promotion tour and a documentary released about his last run all in an attempt to promote his publishing and business interests. He doesn’t care about running for office for the sake of helping people. He’s looking for the best and most cost-efficient way of building name recognition to sell his products and himself. He’s figured out that an entertainer running for office can generate earned media to help boost his book sales and sell tickets to his shows,” he continued.
“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.
Sealy's Army truck plant gets second chance
The federal government today overturned the Army's decision to shift billions of dollars in combat truck production from Texas to Wisconsin after 17 years, raising hopes that as many 10,000 jobs can be saved at the BAE Systems plant in Sealy and surrounding suppliers.
The decision by the contract appeal division of Congress' watchdog Government Accountability Office set aside the Army's decision last August to hand the potential $2.6 billion five year contract to Oshkosh Corp., a 92-year-old firm in Wisconsin that bid roughly 10 percent below the bid submitted by BAE Systems.
Lots has been posted on this, focusing on the failure of Texas Republican officials -- in particular Michael McCaul -- to see it coming.
Michael R. Golden, GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, announced that his agency had “sustained or upheld the protests” lodged by BAE Systems and Navistar, rivals for the contract that had been awarded to Oshkosh Corp. “The Army's evaluation (of the contract proposals) was flawed with regard to the evaluation of Oshkosh's proposal.”
Golden said GAO recommended that the Army “make a new selection decision.”The official added: “We also recommended that if at the conclusion of the re-evaluation Oshkosh is not found to offer the best value, the agency should terminate Oshkosh's contract for the convenience of the government.”
Emphasis above is mine.
The Sealy-based subsidiary of British-owned BAE Systems had been hoping the GAO would reopen the contract for a second round of competitive bidding after Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp., won the first phase of a projected $2.6 billion deal to produce 23,000 trucks and trailers over the next five years.
Oshkosh bid roughly 10 percent below the BAE Systems' subsidiary, helping the 92-year-old northern truck manufacturer to win an initial contract to produce 2,568 trucks for $281 million.
...The Army decision to shift combat truck construction from Texas to Wisconsin was a huge blow to BAE Systems and Texas alike, after the Sealy-based operation produced more than 50,000 2.5-ton and 5-ton utility trucks for the Army for the last 17 years. Company and local officials say as many as 10,000 direct and indirect jobs could be at risk in and around Sealy if the Army were permitted to stick with the decision announced last August to move the contract to Wisconsin starting next October.
So... should we be happy that the jobs in Sealy might be saved, or unhappy that as taxpayers we're going to be paying 10% more? Or will we pay more? Is the GAO simply doing what any group of good beancounters does: leveraging its authority to ratchet down the price? Let's hope that particular outcome will also be good for the Army and our soldiers -- if the new (lower) bid doesn't compromise on reliability and/or safety.
Somewhere in Washington a big ol' political fight is erupting, with the main event between the Wisconsin and Texas Congressional delegations. Pop some corn.
Update: More on the news and more on the credit-taking for the save by our GOP from Stewart Powell at the Chron. Hal at Half Empty also has a take.
The Weekly Wrangle
TXsharon @ Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS helps you follow the money to see why Governor Perry and others want Texans to keep breathing toxic air.
BossKitty at TruthHugger is proud to give a hat tip to Houston – Annise Parker inherits a City of Progress.
The Stonewall Democrats of Denton County denounce Rep. Michael Burgess for his recent actions against openly gay Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennnings, at the Texas Cloverleaf.
This week on Left of College Station Teddy covers the dispute in Waco between the McLennan County Republican Party and the Hispanic Republican Club of McLennan County over whether or not the Republicans needs to reach out to minority voters. Also, the tradition of homophobia continues at Texas A&M and the Coalition for Life invites anti-choice and anti-woman Jeb Bush to speak at their annual fundraiser. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.
While Houstonians took great pride in the election of Annise Parker as mayor, it was discouraging to see -- despite his company's multi-million dollar contracts with the city and his apparent misunderstanding of their value -- that Stephen Costello was elected to city council over a good Democrat, Karen Derr.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme hopes Silvestre Reyes gets primaried for his vote against a women's right to choose. Beto O'Rourke may be just the one to do it.
Off the Kuff gave a rundown of the Houston runoffs.
Over at BlueBloggin, guest writer Len Hart of the The Existentialist Cowboy has been connecting some dots with the CIA efforts to control world distribution of ‘illicit’ drugs. If the US/CIA hoped to control this lucrative trade, the Taliban had to go. I wonder how many CIA ‘black ops’ have been financed ‘off the books’ (as was Iran/Contra) with the proceeds of its various drugs.
At the very moment that leaders from around the world are meeting to come to an international agreement to save the world from catastrophic global warming, Texas gives the green light to build another mercury-spewing, asthma-inducing, planet choking coal plant. Read more at Texas Vox.
Neil at Texas Liberal does not understand why the Burger King on Houston's Harrisburg Blvd. needs to be open on Christmas Day. Neil is certain that the staff at Burger King wants to be off on Christmas and that a Xmas Whopper is a depressing thought. The picture in the post features a rare snowfall in Houston.
WhosPlayin finds that once again the Lewisville ISD is trying to shut out citizen involvement. This time, they're trying to supersede state law and charge more for public information requests.
WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on a discussion about where the Democrats in Texas stand heading into 2010: Pragamatic party building.
Justin at Asian American Action Fund Blog has a guide to the historic Houston runoffs.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
TeaBaggers are to "moderate" Republicans as the scorpion is to the frog
-- South Carolina Teabaggin' Sen. Jim DeMint has endorsed Michael Williams for Texas' vacancy (?) in the US Senate. Wait, it gets weirder: DeMint is lining up his own 2012 White House bid. Does he really think he can out-crazy Sarah Palin? Why yes. Yes he does ...
DeMint, who is positioning himself for a presidential run, has a PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund, which will give Williams the maximum $10,000 and bundle more money for his race. "Michael Williams is the Democrat Party's worst nightmare," said DeMint.
Note: I'll stop calling these lunatics TeaBaggers when they stop saying "Democrat Party".
-- Comptroller Susan Combs was accused last month of giving state grant money to "radical left-leaning groups" by 'conservative crusader' Peter Morrison, and the cudgel has been picked up by Tom Pauken, current chair of the Texas Workforce Commission and former Texas Republican Party chair. This donnybrook works in the code words "community organizers", ACORN, and Saul Alinsky in a creative-yet-typical swirl of a smear. More from the Lone Star (Right Wing) Report.
-- Can't leave out the latest Kay v. Rick dustup, this one involving a video of his goon blocking a KBH videocam operator as the governor was entering a fundraiser hosted by Jose Cuevas, the Perry-appointed head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and attended by Texas bar owners and restauranteurs (the people whose businesses Cuevas oversees in his post). More from the anonymous Republican consultant blogger:
This is a good example of how sometimes in campaigns you can try to fix a bad situation, and instead end up making it worse. Rick – for obvious reasons – didn’t want the Hutchison campaign to get video of him walking into a controversial fundraiser. But by blocking the Kay videographer’s camera, the Perry campaign provided Hutchison’s people with an even more interesting video of Rick entering the event. That, in turn, led to posts about the fundraiser in the Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News and The Texas Tribune, who probably wouldn’t have picked up the story otherwise.
Madam Mayor: reactions
“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the doors to history,” she said. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who thought we could never achieve high office. I know what it means. I understand, because I feel it, too. But now, from this moment, let us join as one community. We are united in one goal in making this city the city that it can be, should be, might be, will be.”
-- Annise Parker, in her victory speech
Here's the bottom line, or maybe the punch line:In Houston, it is now harder for a lawyer to be elected mayor than a lesbian.
He was anointed as the business establishment's candidate by old-time leaders such as Ned Holmes (Locke's finance chairman) and former Mayor Bob Lanier, who effectively discouraged conservatives such as Metro critic Bill King from making the race.
Their analysis of Locke's route to victory, however, turned out to be fundamentally flawed....
His backers had nothing against Parker but did not believe she could overcome the lesbian label.
They believed Locke could win by combining the black vote with a substantial portion of Republicans who would vote against Parker because of her sexual orientation.
That turned out to be wrong. For one thing, as the low turnout indicates, neither candidate had the star power to boost voter participation.
More important for Locke, his appeals to Republicans, particularly as a law-and-order candidate, didn't stick, and the anti-lesbian vote turned out to be smaller than expected.
Greg Wythe, a bright political analyst and blogger (www.gregsopinion.com) who has joined Mayor Bill White's gubernatorial campaign, did a precinct-by-precinct analysis of the first-round of votes.
It showed Parker coming in first or second in such Republican areas as the West Side, Kingwood and Friendswood.
Locke came in a poor fourth in those areas.I believe it was Locke's performance in those areas that led his finance team members to take the desperate step of aligning the campaign with gay-bashing Steve Hotze — thereby pushing undecided white liberals and moderates into Parker's well-run campaign without turning out enough anti-gay votes to win.
-- Rick Casey, "Advisers gave Locke wrong key"
Throughout the campaign, Ms. Parker tried to avoid making an issue of her sexual orientation and emphasized her experience in overseeing the city’s finances. But she began her career as an advocate for gay rights in the 1980s, and it was lost on no one in Houston, a city of 2.2 million people, that her election marked a milestone for gay men and lesbians around the country.
Several smaller cities in other regions have chosen openly gay mayors, among them Providence, R.I., Portland, Ore., and Cambridge, Mass. But Ms. Parker’s success came in a conservative state where voters have outlawed gay marriage and a city where a referendum on granting benefits to same-sex partners of city employees was soundly defeated.
-- New York Times
Saturday, December 12, 2009
It's Annise, and it's history
The Houston Chronicle is calling the mayoral election for City Controller Annise Parker.
With 89 percent of precincts counted, Parker holds a lead of nearly 8,000 voters, a divide that former City Attorney Gene Locke cannot make up with the relatively small pool of voters expected to be counted in the remainder of the night.
Parker's election-day advantage has reached nearly 11 points.With 652 of 738 precincts reporting in Harris County and 100 percent in Fort Bend County (slightly less than half of the total), Parker leads former City Attorney Gene Locke by about three points with 52.7 percent to his 47.3 percent. About 7,000 votes separate them out of more than 145,000.
Congratulation to Madam Mayor, her campaign staff and crew of volunteers and supporters and benefactors.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
RIP, Public Option
The public health insurance option died on Thursday, December 10, 2009, after a months-long struggle with Senate parliamentary procedure. The time of death was recorded as 11:12 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Its death had been rumored numerous times over the past year, but the public option repeatedly and defiantly battled back. The Senate's insistence on 60 votes, combined with President Obama's decision not to intervene on its behalf, eventually proved overwhelming.The public option leaves behind a Medicare buy-in for people aged 55-64, an expansion of Medicaid, a quasi-public option for those under 300 percent of the poverty line and a collection of national private plans managed by the Office of Personnel Management.
Dr. Pelosi had it in her hands to save. For a moment.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pulled the final plug in a press briefing with reporters Thursday.
She had often said in the past that a health care bill without a public option simply wouldn't have the votes to pass the House. She was asked about that claim Thursday, in relation to the Senate compromise, and pointedly told reporters that any bill could pass as long as it met certain broad goals.
I'll leave it to you to view the dearly departed. I will attend neither the chapel nor the graveside service.
Despite the fact that progressives like Paul Krugman, Anthony Weiner, and Howard Dean are all for these revisions (and despite the fact that I myself will be eligible, in less than four years, for the proposed Medicare buy-in) ... this is simply not healthcare reform I can believe in.
As far as I am concerned, today marks the first day in a quest for a progressive presidential candidate in 2012.
DeLay for Bum Steer of the Year
Maybe that should be "of the Decade". The former House Majority Leader and eventual convict edged out Sir Allen Stanford and Governor MoFo for Texas Monthly's annual prize. Let's allow Jake Silverstein, their new editor, to tell ...
How to choose a Bum Steer of the Year in such a bummer of a year? We thought we had an answer in February, when U.S. marshals raided the Houston headquarters of Stanford Financial, the house-of-cards money-management firm of the knight from Mexia, Sir Allen Stanford. He spent two days holed up at a girlfriend’s house while we rubbed our hands together ... Ridiculous as his “outside wives,” gold helicopter, and fake British snobbery were, Stanford turned out to be more villain than clown. The sins were too serious. The victims too aggrieved. He didn’t make you want to laugh; he made you want to punch him in the face.
But not to worry. The year was young. Another candidate would come along. Sure enough, on tax day, with tea partiers making merry all around him, Governor Rick Perry obliged, hinting strongly—though erroneously—that if the federal government didn’t watch out, the State of Texas might just have to see about seceding from the union. Visions of the governor storming Washington immediately began to dance before our eyes. There would be pitchforks! There would be torches! Someone would be riding a mule! But this one wouldn’t stay funny either. Next thing we knew, Perry was tied up in a controversy about the possible execution of an innocent man. Not a lot of yuks there. Then he was proclaiming that the president was “hell-bent toward taking America towards a socialist country.” It didn’t make you want to laugh; it made you want to cry.
Meanwhile, a dark horse had entered the race. On September 21, before a television audience of 17.5 million viewers, former House majority leader Tom DeLay pranced into our plans as a contestant on season nine of Dancing With the Stars. Unlike our previous contenders, the Hammer got off to a slow start. The fact that he had made a calculated decision to appear on ABC’s hit reality show, weighing the probable humiliation against the probable goodwill it would generate, initially hindered his candidacy.
Needless to say, any doubts we had were completely obliterated by the first close-up shot of the DeLay buttocks awkwardly shaking from side to side like two elderly lap dogs fighting under a blanket. Over the next three episodes, the former majority leader showed a surprising passion for ass-shaking. Who knew? Who wanted to know? ... And his outfits! In an early Entertainment Tonight interview from the rehearsal studio he explained, “Most of my costumes are going to be really classy and tasteful and reflect the grandfather image rather than the extreme fighter image.” That made sense until he came flouncing onstage for his first cha-cha looking like an extra from Boogie Nights. Goodbye, Grandpa. Hello, Fabulous. When you were done cringing, you had to laugh, and in a year as unfunny as 2009, this was no small feat. Thanks, Tom. We needed that.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Stephen Costello's municipal contracts
Turns out Costello is anything but independent. Not only has he donated to some of the most far right republican candidates, DeLay, Olson, Sekula-Gibbs, and Culberson, he voted in the republican primaries in 2000, 2004, and 2008. And there is more. He is a member of the Republican Leadership Council which..."indicates those elected officials and candidates who provide generous financial support to the Harris County Republican Party through membership in the Republican Leadership Council."And on top of that, he has recently become a sustaining member of the Harris County Democratic Party.
But perhaps most oddly, Chris Bell and Gordon Quan are listed as Costello supporters, and Bell has even been doing robocalls to Democratic households -- mine, for example -- urging voters to turn out for Costello.
Costello, to his credit, rejected the Hotze endorsement that Gene Locke cannot. Further, Kuffner broke down the precinct analysis after the general election in November and found the runoff to be a toss-up.
But this post is about this story quoting him (my emphasis) ...
Costello acknowledged that his company, Costello Inc., has received about $3.5 million in Houston contracts over the past 18 years. But he called Derr's attitude “offensive.” “The people that back me are people who bring jobs to the city, who bring economic development to the city,” the 56-year-old said.
So I went to his firm's website and looked at the page entitled "Municipal engineering". It lists the following:
That seems like a lot more than $3.5 million over 18 years. In fact -- and if the sum of the construction costs are not what is paid to the engineering firms, then I will be delighted to be corrected -- those numbers above add up to:
Glenbrook Valley Street & Drainage Improvements – City of Houston – CI is negotiating the contract to provide Phase I, II, and III services that includes: Erie Street (Park Place to Sims Bayou) and the Glenbrook Valley Subdivision (bound by Broadway – West, Belfort – South, Sims Bayou and Tributary – East and North). The project will potentially include $7 million of paving and drainage improvements as well as 2 improved outfalls to Sims Bayou. Improvements may include 30,400 sy of pavement replacements, 4800 lf of storm sewer replacements (24”-48”), utility adjustments, sidewalks, driveways, street lights, and appurtenances. Engineering services will include impact analyses of outfalls to Sims Bayou and the use of HouStorm and Division 9 of the City Design Criteria Manual for storm sewer design. Highland Village Pavement Reconstruction – City of Houston – CI, as part of a project team, is performing design and construction phase services for the reconstruction of streets in the Highland Village Subdivision. Design activities include pavement and public utility design, private utility coordination, traffic control, construction phasing, tree protection, storm water pollution prevention measures, and possibly a hydraulic impact study for storm system outfall(s). The scope of construction includes replacement of existing asphalt pavement and roadside drainage system with reinforced concrete pavement with curb and gutter/closed conduit drainage system, in addition to the replacement of portions of existing water lines and sanitary sewers (crossings only), sidewalks, street lighting, driveways, tree protection, and offsite drainage outfall(s). The preliminary construction cost estimate is $2.7 million and construction is scheduled to begin in 2007. Courtlandt Pavement Reconstruction – City of Houston – CI, as part of a project team, is performing design and construction phase services for the reconstruction of Courtlandt Street and Beauchamp Street . Design activities include pavement and public utility design, private utility coordination, traffic control, construction phasing, tree protection, storm water pollution prevention measures, and possibly hydraulic impact study for storm system outfall(s). The scope of construction to include replacement of existing asphalt pavement and roadside ditch drainage system with reinforced concrete pavement with curb and gutter/closed conduit drainage system, in addition to the replacement of portions of existing water lines and sanitary sewers, sidewalks, street lighting, driveways, tree protection, and offsite drainage outfall(s). The preliminary construction cost estimate is $4.2 million and construction is scheduled to begin in 2007. Holcombe Blvd. Reconstruction – City of Houston – CI as part of a project team, is providing engineering services for the reconstruction of a portion Holcombe Blvd., from Fannin to S. Braeswood. Engineering services include design and construction phase services for the paving and utility improvements, traffic control, maintenance of access, tree protection, storm water pollution prevention measures, traffic signal improvements, sidewalks, construction phasing. The scope of work includes design of concrete curb and gutter street reconstruction, a 30 inch water transmission line, storm sewer improvements (new parallel trunk storm sewer, inlet leads, and inlets), traffic signal upgrades, street lights, and sidewalk improvements. The preliminary construction cost estimate is $12 million. South Main Storm Sewer Leads – City of Houston – Costello, Inc., as part of a project team, is providing engineering services for storm sewer improvements on portions of South Main St. , from Holcombe to Sunset. The scope of work includes storm sewer improvements and paving reconstruction (Holcombe – Dryden) and storm sewer inlet and lead replacements (Dryden – Sunset). Engineering services include design and construction phase services for storm sewer, inlet and inlet leads, paving reconstruction, traffic control, maintenance of access, tree protection, storm water pollution prevention measures, traffic signal improvements, sidewalks, and construction phasing. University Blvd. Reconstruction – City of Houston – CI, as part of a project team, is providing engineering services for the reconstruction of a portion of University Blvd., from Travis to Main . The scope of work includes design of concrete curb and gutter street reconstruction, a 12 inch water line, storm sewer improvements (trunk sewer, inlet leads, inlets), and sidewalk improvements. Engineering services include design and construction phase services for the paving and utility improvements, traffic control, maintenance of access, tree protection, storm water pollution prevention measures, traffic signal improvements, sidewalks, construction phasing. South Braeswood Pavement Reconstruction – City of Houston – CI, as part of a project team, is performing design and construction phase services for the reconstruction of South Braeswood Blvd., from Kirby to Stella Link. The project is approximately 1.5 miles of 4-lane reinforced concrete pavement in a 120 foot right of way including public and private utilities and appurtenances. The scope of work includes 48,000 sy of concrete pavement, approximately 8700 lf of 12-inch water, 1,400 lf of 8-inch to 12-inch sanitary sewer, 5,400 lf of 24-inch to 120-inch storm sewers, including eight outfalls to Brays Bayou, private utility relocations, 38,500 sf of sidewalks, 22,000 sf of driveways, 3-traffic signals, street lights, and all appurtenances. Design elements includes pavement design, utility design, traffic control, traffic signals, storm water pollution prevention measures, tree protection, sidewalks, and all appurtenances. The preliminary cost estimate for construction is $8 million and construction is scheduled to begin in 2007. Safe Sidewalk Program – City of Houston – This project consisted of the construction and reconstruction of more than 15 miles of sidewalk within the City of Houston. These projects included sidewalks, driveway replacements, and wheel chair ramps. The scope of services included preparation of plans, specifications, and estimates (PS&E), field reconnaissance to determine eligibility requirements for the program, TDLR reviews and inspections, and final certification of work for compliance with ADA and other regulations and criteria. Construction cost was approximately $1 million. Preliminary engineering was completed September 2004. Harris Gully Relief Project – City of Houston – In June of 2001, Tropical Storm Allison caused extensive damage in many areas of Houston. One of the worst areas for street flooding was the Texas Medical Center. Drainage for this area is provided by the Harris Gully dual 15' x 15' box culverts which lie beneath the Medical Center. Because of the critical importance of passable roadways in this area, the City of Houston hired CI to analyze the existing storm sewer inlet and inlet lead capacities and determine whether or not the existing facilities were adequate to limit ponding to only one lane during localized rainfall events with a 10-year frequency of occurring. Where deficiencies were found, inlet modifications were simulated to limit the ponding to the desired levels. Two methods of adding inlet capacity were proposed: adding inlets on grade and replacing older sag inlets when adding inlets was not possible due to space constraints. The City of Houston adopted the preliminary engineering plans and the project has been designed by Costello, Inc. However, just recently, the project scope has been expanded to include the reconstruction of approximately 0.75 miles of Holcombe Boulevard in the Medical Center area. The project will include utility coordination and possible relocation, as well as storm sewer construction along both Holcombe and University Boulevards. Construction cost was approximately $4.5 million. Preliminary engineering was completed October 2002. Almeda Genoa Road – City of Houston – CI performed preliminary and final design of a 4-lane concrete major thoroughfare to replace a 2-lane asphalt roadway with no shoulders for this 2.0-mile project from Almeda Road to SH 288. The scope of services consisted of a Preliminary Engineering Report, right-of-way plans, and final PS&E for the construction of a 4-lane concrete boulevard with storm sewer drainage, offsite channel improvements including detention, waterlines, sanitary sewers, and traffic signals. The scope of services also included preparation of a Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessment. Construction cost was approximately $8.3 million. Preliminary engineering was completed July 2000. Gaylord Drive – City of Houston – CI performed design surveys, a hydraulic impact analysis, storm sewer design, traffic signal design, SW3P, and final PS&E for the construction of this 4-lane concrete roadway from Memorial City Way to Bunker Hill Road. This 0.25-mile project was located east of the Memorial City Mall, within the boundaries of City of Houston TIRZ No. 17. Construction cost was approximately $471,000. Preliminary engineering was completed April 2000. Dunvale-Lipan Relief Storm Sewer System – City of Houston – This project consisted of the preliminary and final design of a relief storm sewer system for a 277-acre area in West Houston from Westpark Drive to Buffalo Bayou. Storm sewer sizes ranged from 24”-72”. Design considerations included complex traffic control issues, tunneling along a portion of Westheimer and pavement replacement on Dunvale, and ACOE permitting for the Buffalo Bayou outfall. The construction cost is $6 million and the project will be completed in 2006.
$ 7 MM in negotiations currently
$ 21 MM solo
$ 27 MM "as part of a project team"
$ Several projects' costs unspecified.
There is also this, from the Houston city council agenda of October 20, 2009 (.pdf):
AGENDA - COUNCIL MEETING - TUESDAY - OCTOBER 20, 2009 - 1:30 P. M.
COUNCIL CHAMBER - SECOND FLOOR - CITY HALL
901 BAGBY - HOUSTON, TEXAS
with notes of action taken
MOTIONS - 2009-0753 to 2009-0776 2009-0752-2
ORDINANCES – 2009-0989 to 2009-1042
RESOLUTIONS – 2009-0026 to 2009-30
PRAYER AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE - Council Member Noriega
1:30 P. M. - ROLL CALL
70. Ordinance 2009-1026
ORDINANCE appropriating $1,716,755.00 out of Water & Sewer System Consolidated
Construction Fund and approving and authorizing Professional Engineering Services Contract between the City of Houston and COSTELLO, INC for Design of Waterline Replacement in Memorial Plaza Area, Shadywood Area and Regency Square Area; providing funding for contingencies relating to construction of facilities financed by the Water & Sewer System Consolidated Construction Fund - DISTRICTS F - KHAN and G - HOLM
That "pending" contract alone represents about half of what Costello says the city has paid his company over the past eighteen years. I would like to know if Mr. Costello is simply mistaken about the value of his business with the city ... or misrepresenting it?
And also leaving aside the question of Costello's duplicity associated with his political affiliation, and even the *ahem* 'confusion' of some otherwise good Democrats who have endorsed him, how does a man whose company has profited from so many municipal contracts expect to extricate his business from the city's?
And how can the voters of Houston expect it to happen so that there is not -- at the very least -- an appearance of impropriety?