Archive for the ‘Texas’ tag
Dome of Texas Capitol Building – Ektachrome Holga
Texas, and other Republican strongholds like Alabama and Mississippi, et al, have a large number of secessionists, clamoring to leave the country instead of loving it. There is a black man and his family in the White House, and to these idiots that is reason enough to dissolve the country. Take their ball and poutily leave the playground, as it were.
The joke in the rest of the country, oft repeated, is, hurry up and go! We don’t miss you already. As long as you leave Austin behind…
Few of the public calls for secession have addressed the messy details, like what would happen to the state’s many federal courthouses, prisons, military bases and parklands. No one has said what would become of Kevin Patteson, the director of the state’s Office of State-Federal Relations, and no one has asked the Texas residents who received tens of millions of dollars in federal aid after destructive wildfires last year for their thoughts on the subject.
But all the secession talk has intrigued liberals as well. Caleb M. of Austin started his own petition on the White House Web site. He asked the federal government to allow Austin to withdraw from Texas and remain part of the United States, “in the event that Texas is successful in the current bid to secede.” It had more than 8,000 signatures as of Friday.
(click here to continue reading With Stickers, a Petition and Even a Middle Name, Secession Fever Hits Texas – NYTimes.com.)
or at least treat Austin like East Berlin, and allow visitors.
Dana Milbank wrote recently:
And so a large number of patriotic Americans, mostly from states won by Mitt Romney last week, have petitioned the White House to let them secede. They should be careful about what they wish for. It would be excellent financial news for those of us left behind if Obama were to grant a number of the rebel states their wish “to withdraw from the United States and create (their) own NEW government” (the petitions emphasize “new” by capitalizing it).
Red states receive, on average, far more from the federal government in expenditures than they pay in taxes. The balance is the opposite in blue states. The secession petitions, therefore, give the opportunity to create what would be, in a fiscal sense, a far more perfect union.
Among those states with large numbers of petitioners asking out: Louisiana (more than 35,000 signatures at midday Thursday), which gets about $1.45 in federal largess for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama (more than 28,000 signatures), which takes $1.71 for every $1 it puts in; South Carolina (36,000), which takes $1.38 for its dollar; and Missouri (31,000), which takes $1.29 for its dollar.
Possibly, the new United States would need to negotiate certain protectorates in the Confederacy — Austin, New Orleans, South Florida and the like — the way the British did in Hong Kong. Then there is the awkward matter of what the breakaway nation would do to its poor.
But once the handout states left the union (and took with them a proportionate share of the federal debt), the rest of the country could enjoy lower taxes and the high level of government service typical of the Northeast, the Great Lakes and the West Coast.
There would also be nonfinancial benefits. Tampa’s Central Command, now caught up in the David Petraeus sex scandal, would be the new nation’s problem. And the exit of a number of Southern representatives from Congress would give Democrats a solid governing majority.
(click here to continue reading Secession push – chicagotribune.com.)
A small sampling of editorial cartoon responses:
ben sargent Secession 121120
Angry White Manistan.jpg
Can you detect a theme?
I have a copy, but haven’t started reading it, yet. The previous volumes have all been ripping yarns, and have high expectations for this one too.
“The Passage of Power,” the fourth installment of Robert Caro’s brilliant series on Lyndon Johnson, spans roughly five years, beginning shortly before the 1960 presidential contest, including the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis and other seminal events of the Kennedy years, and ending a few months after the awful afternoon in Dallas that elevated L.B.J. to the presidency.
…You don’t have to be a policy wonk to marvel at the political skill L.B.J. wielded to resuscitate a bill that seemed doomed to never get a vote on the floor of either chamber. Southern Democrats were masters at bottling up legislation they hated, particularly bills expanding civil rights for black Americans. Their skills at obstruction were so admired that the newly sworn-in Johnson was firmly counseled by an ally against using the political capital he’d inherited as a result of the assassination on such a hopeless cause.
According to Caro, Johnson responded, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”
This is the question every president must ask and answer. For Lyndon Johnson in the final weeks of 1963, the presidency was for two things: passing a civil rights bill with teeth, to replace the much weaker 1957 law he’d helped to pass as Senate majority leader, and launching the War on Poverty. That neither of these causes was in fact hopeless was clear possibly only to him, as few Americans in our history have matched Johnson’s knowledge of how to move legislation, and legislators.
(click here to continue reading ‘The Passage of Power,’ Robert Caro’s New L.B.J. Book – by Bill Clinton.)
Charles Pierce writes this about some newspaper publishers’ fainting over this week’s Doonesbury comic strip:
Apparently, as has happened about once a decade or so, Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” is once again giving the vapors to the people who run our nation’s newspapers. The important thing to remember is that nobody is objecting that the facts of the Dildos Mandating Dildos laws on which Trudeau is riffing here are in any way untrue. The guardians of the marketplace of ideas are having problems with how directly Trudeau is expressing his opinion on those facts.
The reasons for this is that many of America’s newspapers, large and small, are now in the hands of bean-counting poltroons who wet themselves at the prospect of angry phone calls from wingnuts, or that the local mini-Rushbo on their evening drivetime station will get a hold of their names and say mean things about them.
Here, for example, is the mewling from the Oregonian. Trudeau, apparently…
“…went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page.”
The graphic language? “Transvaginal,” which is apparently banal enough for the Virginia House Of Delegates, but not for the delicate souls who read newspapers in Portland. Inappropriate images? Who in hell knows, although the suggestion by the Oregonian that all that graphic language, and all those inappropriate images, are okay for their readers of experience online, but not on the sacred corpses of their dead trees, gives you some idea of why newspapers are in so much trouble these days.
(click here to continue reading Doonesbury Abortion Strip Censored – Screaming Yellow Zonkers – Esquire.)
Mouth breathing still-governor of Texas, Rick Perry, was not amused, once someone read the strip to him out loud:
And Trudeau stands by the strip. “To ignore it would have been comedy malpractice,” he told the Washington Post. It’s also apparently the first time Trudeau has tackled abortion. “Roe v. Wade was decided while I was still in school” he said. “Planned Parenthood was embraced by both parties. Contraception was on its way to being used by 99-percent of American women. I thought reproductive rights was a settled issue. Who knew we had turned into a nation of sluts?”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office is not amused, calling the comic tasteless. “The decision to end a life is not funny,” Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed told TPM. “The governor’s proud of his leadership on the sonogram law … and being a staunch defender of unborn life.”
(click here to continue reading Doonesbury Comic Series On Abortion Rejected By Several Newspapers | TPMDC.)
I hope Michael Morton gets his day in court, and hope he deposes Rick Perry. If Rick Perry had gotten his way, Morton would have been already dead, no matter if Morton was innocent…
AUSTIN, Tex. — A Texas man wrongfully convicted in 1987 of murdering his wife is scheduled to be officially exonerated on Monday. That is no longer so unusual in Texas, where 45 inmates have been exonerated in the last decade based on DNA evidence. What is unprecedented is the move planned by lawyers for the man, Michael Morton: they are expected to file a request for a special hearing to determine whether the prosecutor broke state laws or ethics rules by withholding evidence that could have led to Mr. Morton’s acquittal 25 years ago.
“I haven’t seen anything like this, ever,” said Bennet L. Gershman, an expert on prosecutorial misconduct at Pace University in New York. “It’s an extraordinary legal event.”
The prosecutor, Ken Anderson, a noted expert on Texas criminal law, is now a state district judge. Through a lawyer, he vigorously denied any wrongdoing in Mr. Morton’s case.
Mr. Morton, who was a manager at an Austin supermarket and had no criminal history, was charged with the beating death of his wife, Christine, in 1986. He had contended that the killer must have entered their home after he left for work early in the morning. But Mr. Anderson convinced the jury that Mr. Morton, in a rage over his wife’s romantic rebuff the previous night — on Mr. Morton’s 32nd birthday — savagely beat her to death.
Mr. Morton was sentenced to life in prison. Beginning in 2005, he pleaded with the court to test DNA on a blue bandanna found near his home shortly after the murder, along with other evidence.
For six years, the Williamson County district attorney, John Bradley, fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Judge Anderson, his predecessor and friend. In 2010, however, a Texas court ordered the DNA testing, and the results showed that Mrs. Morton’s blood on the bandanna was mixed with the DNA of another man: Mark A. Norwood, a felon with a long criminal history who lived about 12 miles from the Mortons at the time of the murder. By then, Mr. Morton had spent nearly 25 years in prison.
(click here to continue reading Texas Man Seeks Inquiry After Exoneration in Murder – NYTimes.com.)
and Ken Anderson sounds like he had a vendetta:
In August, however, a different judge ordered the record unsealed, and Mr. Morton’s lawyers discovered that Mr. Anderson had provided only a fraction of the available evidence. Missing from the file was the transcript of a telephone conversation between a sheriff’s deputy and Mr. Morton’s mother-in-law in which she reported that her 3-year-old grandson had seen a “monster” — who was not his father — attack and kill his mother.
Also missing were police reports from Mr. Morton’s neighbors, who said they had seen a man in a green van repeatedly park near their home and walk into the woods behind their house. And there were even reports, also never turned over, that Mrs. Morton’s credit card had been used and a check with her forged signature cashed after her death.
In October, Judge Sid Harle of Bexar County District Court freed Mr. Morton based on the DNA evidence and authorized an unusual process allowing his defense lawyers to investigate the prosecutor’s conduct in the original trial. The lawyers questioned the lead sheriff’s investigator, an assistant district attorney who worked with Mr. Anderson and the former prosecutor himself.
The Rick Perry Texas Miracle in action: privatization of public resources, for profit of the few. Who gets screwed? Just consumers.
A growing number of suburban Texans are getting their water from large, private corporations owned by investors seeking to profit off the sale of an essential resource. State figures show private companies are seeking more price increases every year, and many are substantial. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which regulates water and sewer rates for nonmunicipal customers, doesn’t keep numbers, but “their rate increases tend to be 40 and 60 percent,” said Doug Holcomb, who oversees the agency’s water utilities division.
For years, small private companies have played a crucial role in Texas, providing water and sewer service in new developments outside of cities. Analysts say private companies will continue to fill an essential need in the future, when public money is projected to be insufficient to make the billions of dollars in costly upgrades needed in water and sewer systems.
Increasingly, however, the companies are neither small nor local. Over the past decade, multistate water utilities have expanded aggressively in Texas, drawn by the state’s booming population and welcoming regulatory environment. A September report prepared by utility analysts for Robert W. Baird & Co., a financial management company, identified Texas water regulators as the most generous in the country for private water companies. Today, three out-of-state corporations own about 500 Texas water systems that serve more than 250,000 residents.
For residents living outside cities served by private utility companies, the state environmental commission is charged with setting “just and reasonable” water rates based on a company’s cost of doing business plus a guaranteed profit. In exchange, the companies enjoy a monopoly on their service area.
Yet critics say the agency is unprepared to handle the recent influx of corporations that have exploited a regulatory system more accustomed to handling rural mom-and-pop operations. Meanwhile, Texas laws provide fewer consumer protections to residents facing water rate increases than electricity and gas ratepayers.
“We are in the midst of a transformation in this state, and the state is ill-prepared to move into that transition,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who co-chairs a legislative subcommittee to investigate the rates charged by investor-owned water utilities. “It feels like it’s happening at warp speed.”
Industry officials say their rates reflect the true cost of rehabilitating and expanding older water systems, and that without their deep pockets, such systems would languish. The “larger Investor-Owned Utilities have invested in small, rural water and sewer systems that have gone decades without meaningful improvements in their infrastructure and often do not meet minimum environmental standards set by the state,” SouthWest Water spokeswoman Janice Hayes said in an email, adding that the companies have poured millions of dollars into new equipment and upgrades.
But in some places, the rate increase s following those improvements have been so high as to inhibit economic growth. Just south of Austin, SouthWest Water seven years ago purchased rights to provide water on the eastern edge of Kyle. Today, officials say, its rates are about double those of the city.
As a result, the company’s service area is one of the few desirable commercial locations — just off Interstate 35 — where fast-growing Kyle has remained underdeveloped, said Diana Blank, the city’s director of economic development. “We’ve lost projects because of that,” she said. Prospective employers “will look at the map and say, ‘Who serves the area for water?’”
SouthWest’s latest rate request, which would increase rates for some suburbanites to more than three times what Austin residents pay, has caught the attention of lawmakers. A half-dozen legislators said they will introduce changes to the law during the next session to provide more consumer protections.
“This may be the poster child for the kinds of reforms we need,” Watson said. “Some utilities will stretch the law as far as they can stretch it.”
(click here to continue reading Statesman.com : Growth of large private water companies brings higher water rates, little recourse for consumers.)
Regulation? I thought the mantra was that regulation was anathema in Texas? You mean to say, “let the free market figure it out!”, right?
Water is scarce already, especially in arid places like South Texas and North Dakota. But hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, slurps up a lot of water.
CARRIZO SPRINGS, Texas—Water has always been a concern for 65-year-old Joe Parker, who manages a 19,000-acre cattle ranch here in South Texas. “Water is scarce in our area,” he says, and a scorching yearlong drought has made it even scarcer.
What has Mr. Parker especially concerned are the drilling rigs that now dot the flat, brushy landscape. Each oil well in the area, using the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, requires about six million gallons of water to break open rocks far below the surface and release oil and natural gas. Mr. Parker says he worries about whether the underground water can support both ranching and energy exploration.
Darrell Brownlow, another cattle rancher, says that if the economically depressed region has to choose between the two, the choice should be simple.
Mr. Brownlow, who has a Ph.D. in geochemistry, says it takes 407 million gallons to irrigate 640 acres and grow about $200,000 worth of corn on the arid land. The same amount of water, he says, could be used to frack enough wells to generate $2.5 billion worth of oil. “No water, no frack, no wealth,” says Mr. Brownlow, who has leased his cattle ranch for oil exploration.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has revived prospects for oil-and-gas production in the U.S. and provided a welcome jolt to many local economies. Less than three years after its discovery, the Eagle Ford oil field here already accounts for 6% of South Texas’s economic output and supports 12,000 full-time jobs, according to a study by the University of Texas at San Antonio earlier this year, which was funded by an industry-backed group.
But fracking also is forcing communities to grapple with how to balance the economic benefits with potential costs. To date, criticism of fracking has focused mainly on concerns that the chemicals energy companies are mixing with the water could contaminate underground aquifers. Oil industry officials regard that issue as manageable. The biggest challenge to future development, they say, is simply getting access to sufficient water.
The issue isn’t just rearing its head in parched regions like South Texas. North Dakota, another big source of oil from fracked wells, is concerned about the industry depleting aquifers and has threatened to sue the federal government to free up water held by an Army Corps of Engineers dam. Oklahoma, too, is struggling to cope with the industry’s thirst.
(click here to continue reading Focus on Fracking: Oil’s Growing Thirst for Water for Hydraulic Fracturing – WSJ.com.)
So, either short term profits or long term ability to live in an area. Hmm, I know what Darrell Brownlow has chosen, but what about the rest of the people in his community? Are they willing to destroy the local water supply so that he can get rich?
In addition to tapping underground aquifers, oil companies are interested in water from Texas rivers. They have acquired—or are currently seeking to acquire—from local irrigation authorities the rights to nearly 40,000 acre-feet of water a year. That is enough to supply nearly a quarter-million people for a year.
One source has been the Rio Grande. Cities along the river, which are among the fastest growing in the state, draw from it to supply water to residents.
“This is a major concern for us,” says Juan Hinojosa, a Democratic state senator from McAllen who represents the area. “The oil companies have a lot more money than we do to buy water rights.”
The intense drought over the summer exacerbated the water concerns of cities. More than 964 public water systems, covering 14.7 million Texans, have imposed voluntary or mandatory restrictions, according to the state.
This summer, the city of Grand Prairie, near Fort Worth, stopped selling water to oil companies as part of its drought-contingency measures, which also included lawn-watering restrictions.
Oil companies have long been exempt from most Texas state water rules and permitting requirements, but the state has begun to take a fresh look at the industry’s ability to drill water wells wherever they have acquired rights to extract oil and gas.
Saturday Morning Lines
John Turner of the Guardian U.K. concurs:
The low-wage economy is Texas’s dirty little secret, and it is easy to ignore in swaths of the state. The sad scene at Dove Springs was unfolding only a few miles from the majestic domed state house in downtown Austin, a city which is famed for its vibrant music venues and world-class restaurants.
Austin is also famous for its growing technology sector and is becoming the Silicon Valley of the Texas hill country. It is in many places a city of well-to-do neighbourhoods, with manicured lawns and plush housing. The same is true of other Texas urban centres, such as Dallas and Houston, helped by an energy industry that has been buoyed by rocketing oil prices. The state also avoided the worst of the housing bubble.
Perry touts all this when he boasts of the legion of Fortune 500 companies that have flocked to make their headquarters here and he boasts that, since June 2009, about 40% of all jobs created in America are in Texas, a state whose economy is growing at twice the national rate.
But the devil is in the detail. Unemployment is stubbornly stuck at about 8%, below the national level but still leaving one million Texans out of work. In 2010 half a million people in the state earned no more than the minimum wage of $7.25 (£4.47) an hour. Texas, for all its glittering metropolises, has the joint highest percentage, along with Mississippi, of hourly paid workers earning the minimum wage or less.
Jim Hightower, a longstanding Texas liberal and radio host, has a simple description of Perry’s Texas economic miracle. “It is a hoax. He is telling Perry-tales. You can’t make a living off of these jobs,” he said.
(click here to continue reading The dark underbelly of Rick Perry’s Texas | World news | The Observer.)
Another generated tale, in other words, which when examined by rationale minds isn’t so great after all. Just ask the Texas teachers who are about to be fired. Rick Perry is still going to repeat his so-called Texas Miracle fable thousands of times in the next few months though, facts be damned.
While Texas has created more jobs than any other state in the past two years, the increase is far less than advertised. The rate of increase is not much higher than a number of other states, including former rustbelt centers like Pennsylvania or liberal sanctuaries like Vermont.
Moreover, its recent performance is a classic case of “all hat, no cattle.” Texas lost 34,000 jobs in June, causing its unemployment rate to jump to 8.2 percent, which ranks it 25th among states and leaving it worse off than its immediate neighbors. Even as Texas’ unemployment rate rose along the lines of the entire country, the neighboring states of Louisiana and New Mexico saw their unemployment rates fall to 7.8 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively.
Moreover, to the extent Texas has succeeded in adding jobs over the past two years, most of its good fortune rests on conditions that are not replicable elsewhere. Soaring oil prices have provided a substantial number of new jobs and tax revenue since it is the nation’s leading oil- producing state, even as those $4-a-gallon gas prices drained consumers nationwide and put pressure on other states’ budgets. An influx of new government defense spending has also pumped up revenue, while the state has used oil revenue to postpone a sharp cutback in state and local government employment, which is about to hit in full force.
Two other factors that may not play well with Republican Party primary voters also contributed to the Texas economic performance over the last decade and through the Great Recession. According to a recent analysis in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, state debt grew by 282 percent over the last decade, a slightly faster rate of increase than the ostensibly more profligate federal government. Local government debt in Texas grew by a heady 220 percent over the same period.
Texas also benefited during the downturn by having tighter housing finance rules – a stark contrast to the business-friendly regulatory environment Perry likes to tout. After the savings and loan crisis of the early 1990s, which hit Texas hard, the state legislature prohibited “cash out” mortgages. The state’s tough mortgage rules kept housing prices in check and saved it from the huge price declines and foreclosures that devastated many other areas of the country. Still, construction employment fell by 95,000 jobs during the recession and remains 14 percent below its pre-recession peak.
“Anyone who thinks the relatively strong performance in Texas has much to do with state government policy is wrong, except when it comes to housing, where regulation helped the state,” said Howard Wial, an economist and fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “In Texas, the worst is yet to come.”
(click here to continue reading Rick Perry and the Myth of the ‘Texas Miracle’.)
Looking Up- Texas Capitol Building Austin
Baffles my mind that such an ignorant, government-hating hypocrite as Rick Perry is considered Presidential material. Also, remember those quaint old days when politicians honored the intent of U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and considered Church and State separate entities? Wouldn’t it be pleasant to have some secular humanists in charge for a change, instead of these Christian Taliban fools?
Anyway, Rick Perry is hosting a Christian-only indoctrination camp in Houston which is decidedly anti-secular. Anti-humanity, in fact. Read on:
In early August, Texas Republican governor and possible presidential candidate Rick Perry will host a prayer summit at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The event, dubbed “The Response” and funded by the American Family Association (which was labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center), is designed to combat the economic, political, and spiritual crises facing the United States by returning the nation to its Biblical roots. The Response’s website proclaims, ”There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.” And in a video message Perry sent out this week, he noted, “I’m inviting you to join your fellow Americans for a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of our nation.” Perhaps Perry should have clarified what sort of “fellow Americans” he meant, for at this event only Christians will be allowed to share the podium with Perry.
Since the event was first announced in early June, organizers have suggested that it would be a great opportunity to convert non-Christians. Now, they’ve gone even further: According to an email blasted out by The Response, only Christians will be permitted to speak at the non-denominational event. If representatives of other faiths (particularly Muslims) were to be included, the email noted, such inclusion would promote “idolatry.” In a message sent out under The Response’s official letterhead, Allan Parker, one of Perry’s organizers, described the event in less-than-ecumenical terms:
This is an explicitly Christian event because we are going to be praying to the one true God through His son, Jesus Christ. It would be idolatry of the worst sort for Christians to gather and invite false gods like Allah and Buddha and their false prophets to be with us at that time. Because we have religious liberty in this country, they are free to have events and pray to Buddha and Allah on their own. But this is time of prayer to the One True God through His son, Jesus Christ, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
With this prayerfest, Perry is associating himself with rather radical folks. The American Family Association’s issues director, for instance, has said that gays are “Nazis” and that Muslims should be converted to Christianity. Another organizer, Doug Stringer, has said that 9/11 was God’s punishment for the nation’s creeping secularism. And then there’s Jay Swallow, whose endorsement is trumpeted on The Response’s website, and who runs “A Christian Military Training Camp for the purpose of dealing with the occult and territorial enemy strong holds in America” (his description). Consequently, it’s not much of a mystery why only one of the nation’s other 49 governors has so far accepted Perry’s invitation to attend the event (Perry invited all of them)—arch-conservative Sam Brownback of Kansas.
(click here to continue reading Rick Perry’s Christians-Only Prayerfest | Mother Jones.)
I do wonder how the organizers of this summit will screen potential visitors. Will they check their genitals for signs of circumcision? Will they float potential ticket holders in the water to see if they float? Curious.
Nero fiddled, I’d say Senators like Jim Inhofe are just playing their energy company-sponsored kazoo as the planet burns up.
Arizona is burning. Texas, too. New Mexico is next. If you need a grim reminder that an already arid West is burning up and blowing away, here it is. As I write this, more than 700 square miles of Arizona and more than 4,300 square miles of Texas have been swept by monster wildfires. Consider those massive columns of acrid smoke drifting eastward as a kind of smoke signal warning us that a globally warming world is not a matter of some future worst-case scenario. It’s happening right here, right now.
Air tankers have been dropping fire retardant on what is being called the Wallow fire in Arizona and firefighting crews have been mobilized from across the West, but the fire remained “zero contained” for most of last week and only 18% so early in the new week, too big to touch with mere human tools like hoses, shovels, saws, and bulldozers. Walls of flame 100 feet high rolled over the land like a tsunami from Hades. The heat from such a fire is so intense and immense that it can create small tornadoes of red embers that cannot be knocked down and smothered by water or chemicals. These are not your grandfather’s forest fires.
Because the burn area in eastern Arizona is sparsely populated, damage to property so far has been minimal compared to, say, wildfire destruction in California, where the interface of civilization and wilderness is growing ever more crowded. However, the devastation to life in the fire zone, from microbiotic communities that hold soil and crucial nutrients in place to more popular species like deer, elk, bear, fish, and birds—already hard-pressed to cope with the rapidity of climate change—will be catastrophic.
The vastness of the American West holds rainforests, deserts, and everything in between, so weather patterns and moisture vary. Nonetheless, we have been experiencing a historic drought for about a decade in significant parts of the region. As topsoil dries out, microbial dynamics change and native plants either die or move uphill toward cooler temperatures and more moisture. Wildlife that depends on the seeds, nuts, leaves, shade, and shelter follows the plants—if it can.
(click here to continue reading How the West Was Lost | Mother Jones.)
My high school is having an anniversary; 25 years ago we graduated from William B Travis High School1. Facebook became popular since the last time a reunion was held, thus some enterprising classmate set up a Facebook Group for the details of where and when, and who was attending. To be brutally honest, there weren’t many on the list of attendees that I’d like to have a beer with, seems like too many are Tea Baggers, religious zealots, or both. I’m sure some folks didn’t fall into this cynical trap, we are from Austin after all, but too many of the same schmoes that I didn’t like then, and hadn’t heard of in years, were going to attend.
Instead, I left the following RSVP which I’m saving for posterity:
I’m sorry but I cannot attend, even though I would like to see how some of you turned out after all these years. I’m just too afraid that Rick Perry is going to convince Texas to secede from the US, and institute some sort of 3rd world Tea Party Republic that won’t be friendly to liberal, secular humanists like myself. Maybe when there’s high speed rail service from Chicago to Texas I’d reconsider.
I’d thought about being less abrasive, and just saying “sorry, couldn’t make it”, but then, why? Don’t care about my “reputation”, and those who even remember me will have a chuckle.
Me and Joshua Starbuck in my first car, parked in front of Post Oak, back when my waist size was still 28…Footnotes:
- apparently Roky Erickson also went to Travis – there should be a statue or something, no? But there is not. [↩]
Not that this is breaking news or anything, but Governor Good Hair Perry is a hypocrite and a liar. And a raging Tea Bagger, in deed if not words. I thought Rick Perry was advocating Texas secede? I guess he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions, all talk, no cattle, as the phrase goes.
Asked by a Dallas television reporter whether he agreed with Texas leaders that the federal government should take some governing cues from the Lone Star State, President Barack Obama said he saw “a little inconsistency” in that position.
“Keep in mind, Gov. (Rick) Perry helped balance his budget with about $6 billion worth of federal help, which he happily took, and then started blaming the members of Congress who had offered that help,” Obama said during an April 18 interview with WFAA reporter Brad Watson at the White House.
The roughly $800 billion federal stimulus package, named the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by Congress, became law in February 2009 after receiving only three Republican votes, all in the Senate. State governments were the primary recipients of the money, although funds have also gone directly to entities such as schools, hospitals and utilities.
The law specified that governors had 45 days after its passage to certify that their state would “request and use” the offered funds. On Feb. 18, 2009, Perry sent Obama the requisite letter of certification, assuring the president that the state would accept the funds and use them “in the best interest of Texas taxpayers.”
According to a February 2009 PBS News Hour online post, some stimulus money was meant “to help states avoid slashing funding for education and other programs that lawmakers could trim to offset shortfalls.”
Abrams, asked for backup for the president’s statement, pointed us to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which in turn sent us its July 2009 report on state budgets. According to the report, state budget-writing Texas lawmakers in 2009 were short $6.6 billion in revenue for 2010-11 and relied heavily on stimulus funds for a solution.
(click here to continue reading Barack Obama: “Gov. (Rick) Perry helped balance his budget with about $6 billion worth of federal help, which he happily took, and then started blaming the members of Congress who had offered that help.” – Latest Barack Obama News – Barack Obama: 2008 US Presidential Candidate – Newsbeet.)
Given the fact that Texas will certainly break the record for the most acres of land that has ever burned, in state history, it is obscene that Texas Republicans — who control every level of state government, as they have for every year since 2003 — are planning to do this, according to KVUE news here in Austin, TX:
State funding for volunteer fire departments is taking a big hit. It is going from $30 million to $7 million. Those departments are already facing financial strains. The State Firemen’s and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas represents 21,000 state firefighters. The Association says more than 80 percent of volunteer firefighters are reporting taking a personal hit in the budget crisis. They have started using their own money to help pay for equipment and supplies.
“We’ve seen budget cuts, but this is the worst time that we’ve ever seen,” said Executive Director Chris Barron. “As far as the budget crisis and the fuel cost stuff for example continues to go up and it doesn’t help us out any whatsoever, so with the rising fuel and the budget cuts from the state it’s taken a great effect. I think the citizens and the public is going to see that.”
Most of the State of Texas is protected by volunteer departments. There are 879 volunteer departments compared to 114 paid departments and 187 departments that are a combination of both paid and volunteer firefighters.
- 1.8 million acres of Texas land has burned, guaranteeing Texas will have the worst year for wildfires in recorded history
- So far this year local fire departments have saved over 10,000 structures from being burned
- There are 879 volunteer fire departments in Texas, compared to 114 paid departments and 187 that are a combination of both
- Texas Republicans have voted to cut funding for volunteer firefighters by over 75%.
By the way — Governor Perry’s solution for all of this was simple: pray.
(click here to continue reading Burnt Orange Report: While Texas Burns, Texas Republicans Could Cut Funds for Volunteer Firefighters by 75%.)
This straight from the “How is it we are not making this up?” files: Gov. Rick Perry has declared this weekend Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas. Well, that’s cheaper than coming up with real water policy. Obviously you are currently checking the date but, no, this is not a delayed April Fools story. It’s on his website.
In an accompanying statement, Perry said, “It is fitting that Texans should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this ongoing drought and these devastating wildfires.” What makes this particularly galling is when he goes on to ask Texans to pray for “the safety of the brave firefighters and emergency management officials who have worked tirelessly to protect lives and property around the state.” This would mean something if Perry’s people had not stood in the way of a measure that would have improved the safety of exactly those firefighters. It is not just that the current wildfires, which have destroyed over 1.5 million acres and killed two firefighters, are so huge: It is that Texas is increasingly building housing outside of cities. Unincorporated areas are very attractive to developers because there is usually lots of space and fewer regulations. However, there are also fewer hospitals, fewer police, and fewer firefighters. That means less equipment, fewer fire stations, and worse response times.
Texas had a chance to fix that two years ago, and Perry was at least passively part of the effort to squash that fix. Back in 2009, now former Travis County Democratic state rep Valinda Bolton authored House Bill 3477, a measure that would have allowed those hugely overstretched rural emergency service districts to hold short-term tax elections for desperately needed infrastructure. The sole purpose was to cut response times and give them a better chance to fight exactly this kind of fire. It is interesting to note that, when the accompanying House Joint Resolution 112 came up in committee, every witness spoke for the bill – except for Michele Greg of the Texas Apartment Association. Somehow, the bill still failed, and word at the time was that the governor’s office was pleased that even a vitally needed and broadly supported ‘tax’ bill sputtered out. If it had passed, then it would have given ESDs the ability to ask voters to give them more resources to fight wildfires in unincorporated areas. It would also have meant more infrastructure in place like Oak Hill, which was severely damaged by fire this weekend, when they are incorporated.
When asked about the bill’s demise last year, Perry said he did not know about the specifics. However, during the 2009 session it was pretty clear to everyone that HB 3477 was squashed as part of the general anti-tax, anti-public investment rubric coming out of his office. So now Perry’s solution to out-of-control wildfires caused by a massive and ongoing drought (ssssh don’t mention climate change) is prayer. Maybe we should be praying for longer hoses.
(click here to continue reading Perry Gonna Make it Rain – News Blog – The Austin Chronicle.)
With wildfire season gearing up out West, more tankers are expected to be available. A total of 18 air tankers are scheduled to be cycled in for use by mid-June, and four more military C-130s could also be called upon in an emergency.
Severe drought set the stage for these massive wildfires, but the intense winds and abundant shrubs that grew as a result of last year’s more plentiful rains stirred the pot for Texas and its surrounding areas (ClimateWire, April 21).
Texas State climatologist John Nielson-Gammon said that while the Texas fires themselves cannot be attributed to climate change, global warming likely sparked some of the conditions leading to the blazes.
“Global warming probably produced a slight enhancement of the rainfall, leading to a little extra plant growth,” he said. “Also, the warm temperatures during the past couple of months are probably a degree or two warmer than they would have been without the rise in global temperatures, thereby increasing the dryness,” he added.
(click here to continue reading Fighters From 43 States Battle Far-Flung Texas Wildfires – NYTimes.com.)
But, don’t forget, Obama is the culprit, not Rick Perry and his teabagger tendencies.
Wildfires have already ravaged nearly two million acres in Texas, and Perry is requesting federal help to pay for the emergency response, officials said. Spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said without the federal assistance, “we’re going to have to get pretty creative.” She said it has been about 10 days since the state requested federal disaster assistance and the governor, who has repeatedly bashed Washington, believes disaster response is one of the government’s “core functions.”
She said the state has estimated the cost of the response at $70 million. The state can pay 25 percent of that, or about $17.5 million, Cesinger added. Perry wants Uncle Sam to pick up the rest of it.
“We can’t afford ($70 milllion),” Cesinger said. “That’s why we asked them for help.”
(click here to continue reading Texas governor: Disaster could blow hole in budget – BusinessWeek.)
A federal major disaster declaration could reimburse Texas and local governments 75 percent of the cost of their response. Local departments and the Texas Forest Service have spent more than $60 million since Sept. 1 responding to wildfires, state forest service spokeswoman Linda Moon said.
“Governor Perry’s request is currently under review, and will continue our close coordination with the state as they work to protect their residents and communities,” FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen said.
She said Texas has already received 22 grants to help pay fire management expenses this fire season, including 16 in April alone.
In the past, Perry has charged that the Obama administration is punishing Texas. The Republican governor has been an outspoken opponent of the federal health reform law, and the state is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a proposal to end Texas’ independent air quality permitting program for factories and refineries.
(click here to continue reading UPDATE 1-Governor says Obama leaving Texas in the dust | Reuters.)
I hope John Kuhn, father of three, doesn’t mind me quoting his entire letter to the Mineral Wells, Texas, newspaper. Mr. Kuhn makes a few excellent points, I’ll let him articulate them:
Stop labeling teachers, label the lawmakers
The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.
I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?
Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!
Teachers are surrounded by armchair quarterbacks who won’t lift a finger to help, only to point. Congressmen, come down out of those bleachers and strive with us against the pernicious ravages of poverty. We need more from you than blame. America’s education problem is actually a poverty problem.
If labels fix schools, let us use labels to fix our congresses! Let lawmakers show the courage of a teacher! Hold hands with us and let us march together into the teeth of this blame machine you have built. Let us hold this congressman up against that congressman and compare them just as we compare our schools. Congressmen, do not fear this accountability you have given us. Like us, you will learn to love it.
Or maybe lawmakers do such a wonderful job that we don’t need to hold them accountable?
Did you know that over the next five years, Texas lawmakers will send half a billion dollars to London, to line the pockets of Pearson’s stakeholders. That’s 15,000 teacher salaries, sacrificed at the altar of standardized testing. $500,000,000 for a test! I’m sure it’s a nice test, but it’s just a test. I’ve never seen a test change a kid’s life or dry a kid’s tear. Tests don’t show up at family funerals or junior high basketball games. They don’t chip in to buy a poor girl a prom dress. Only teachers do those things.
If times are desperate enough to slash local schools’ operating funds, then surely they are desperate enough to slash Pearson’s profits. Lawmakers, get your priorities straight. Put a moratorium on testing until we can afford it. Teachers are our treasure – let’s not lose the house just so we can keep our subscription to Pearson’s Test-of-the-Month Club. We have heard Texas senators often talk about the teacher-to-non-teacher ratio in our schools. Lawmakers, they are ALL non-teachers at Pearson. Don’t spend half a billion dollars that we don’t have on some test that is made in England.
Parents are so fed up with standardized testing that hundreds are now refusing to let their children test. They do not want their children run through this terrible punch press. They do not want standardized children. They want exceptional children!
Let me tell you Texas’s other dirty secret – some schools get three times the funding of other schools. Some schools get $12,000 per student, while others get $4,000. Did you know that every single child in Austin is worth $1,000 more than every single child in Fort Worth? Do you agree with that valuation? Congress does. They spend billions to fund this imbalance.
Now the architects of this inequity point at the salaries and staff sizes at the schools they have enriched to justify cuts at schools that have never been given enough. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, of Plano, says, essentially, yes, but we’re cutting the poor schools by less. Senator, you don’t take bread away from people in a soup line! Not even one crumb. And you should not take funds away from schools that you have already underfunded for years. It may be politically right to bring home the bacon, but ain’t right right.
Legislators, take the energy you spend shifting blame and apply it toward fixing the funding mechanisms. We elected you to solve the state’s problems, not merely to blame them on local government. After all, you have mandated local decision-making for years. Your FIRST rating system tells school boards that their district’s administrative cost ratio can be no higher than 0.2 percent. And over 95 percent of school districts in Texas are in compliance with the standard you have set. At my school, our administrative cost ratio is 0.06 percent – so could you please stop blaming me?
If 95 percent of schools are compliant with the administrative cost ratio indicator in the state’s financial rating system for schools, then why are state officials saying we have too much administration? We have the amount of administration they told us to have! Either they gave us bad guidance and we all followed it, or they gave us good guidance and just need someone other than themselves to blame for these cuts.
Is this the best we can do in Texas? I wish they would worry about students half as much as they worry about getting re-elected.
These same senators have a catchy new slogan: “Protect the Classroom.” I ask you, senators: who are we protecting the classroom from? You, that’s who. You are swinging the ax; don’t blame us for bleeding wrong.
They know that their cuts are so drastic that school boards will have no choice but to let teachers go, and I can prove it: while they give press conferences telling superintendents not to fire teachers, at the same time they pass laws making it easier for … you guessed it …administrators to fire teachers. Which is it, senators?
If we don’t truly need to cut teachers, then don’t pass the laws that reduce their employment protections. And if we truly do need to cut teachers, then go ahead and pass those laws but quit saying teacher cuts are the superintendents’ fault. Here’s the deal: I can accept cuts, but I cannot do anything but forcefully reject deceit.
Politicians, save your buck-passing for another day. We need leadership. Get to work, congressmen. Do your jobs, and find the revenue to fund my child’s education.
John Kuhn, father of three, Perrin
(click here to continue reading Letters to the Editor – April 10, 2011 » Opinion » Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX.)
Fascinating. Though I’m surprised the Texas Government has not banned this sort of science since it contradicts their beliefs about a 6,000 year old earth as described in their Holy Bible. If this new discovery ever makes it to a Texas schoolbook, there will have to be a sticker claiming the carbon dating1 is just a theory, one among many, with a Jesus-Fish superimposed over the arrow heads.
For many years, scientists have thought that the first Americans came here from Asia 13,000 years ago, during the last ice age, probably by way of the Bering Strait. They were known as the Clovis people, after the town in New Mexico where their finely wrought spear points were first discovered in 1929.
But in more recent years, archaeologists have found more and more traces of even earlier people with a less refined technology inhabiting North America and spreading as far south as Chile.
And now clinching evidence in the mystery of the early peopling of America — Clovis or pre-Clovis? — for nearly all scientists appears to have turned up at a creek valley in the hill country of what is today Central Texas, 40 miles northwest of Austin.
The new findings establish that the last major human migration, into the Americas, began earlier than once thought. And the discovery could change thinking about how people got here (by coastal migrations along shores and in boats) and how they adapted to the new environment in part by making improvements in toolmaking that led eventually to the technology associated with the Clovis culture.
The Texas archaeologists said the new dig site has produced the largest number of artifacts dating to the pre-Clovis period. The dates for the sediments bearing the stone tools were determined to range from 13,200 to 15,500 years ago.
Given the lack of sufficient organic material buried around the tools, the radiocarbon dating method was useless. Instead, earth scientists at the University of Illinois, Chicago, used a newer technique known as optically stimulated luminescence. This measures light energy trapped in minerals to reveal how long ago the soil was last exposed to sunlight.
(click here to continue reading Clovis People Weren’t First in Americas, Texas Arrowheads Suggest – NYTimes.com.)
- actually optically stimulated luminescence [↩]
Rick Perry and his fellow GOP-ers are busily ensuring that Texas remains at the bottom of most education metrics for a long while. I guess their philosophy is to turn Texas into a third world country, and depress wages, thus ensuring the Texas oligarchy healthy profits when Texas secedes from the US.
Paul Krugman writes:
Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.
But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.
And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.
But wait — how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? Well, a couple of years into his presidency the truth about that miracle came out: Texas school administrators achieved low reported dropout rates the old-fashioned way — they, ahem, got the numbers wrong.
It’s not a pretty picture; compassion aside, you have to wonder — and many business people in Texas do — how the state can prosper in the long run with a future work force blighted by childhood poverty, poor health and lack of education.
But things are about to get much worse.
(click here to continue reading Texas, Budget Cuts and Children – NYTimes.com.)
and concludes, in case you missed his point:
The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?
Anyway, the next time some self-proclaimed deficit hawk tells you how much he worries about the debt we’re leaving our children, remember what’s happening in Texas, a state whose slogan right now might as well be “Lose the future.”