Archive for the ‘Texas’ tag
East of Austin somewhere on 290, headed towards Bastrop. I was sitting in the passenger seat, my sister was driving, and somehow I was able to focus enough at 65 mph…
Allegedly, each bale of hay is worth several hundred dollars, but I haven’t yet fact checked that assertion.
Surprising nobody, Ted Cruz and the Tea Party Republicans have their own version of history, a version where Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were the same kind of obstructionist asshole as Ted Cruz. Of course, that isn’t factual, but since when have the 6,000 year old Earthers required facts to get in the way of narrative?
Jeffrey Toobin hangs out with Senator Cruz a bit:
Cruz’s ascendancy reflects the dilemma of the modern Republican Party, because his popularity within the Party is based largely on an act that was reviled in the broader national community. Last fall, Cruz’s strident opposition to Obamacare led in a significant way to the shutdown of the federal government. “It was not a productive enterprise,” John McCain told me. “We needed sixty-seven votes in the Senate to stop Obamacare, and we didn’t have it. It was a fool’s errand, and it hurt the Republican Party and it hurt my state. I think Ted has learned his lesson.” But Cruz has learned no such lesson. As he travels the country, he has hardened his positions, delighting the base of his party but moving farther from the positions of most Americans on most issues. He denies the existence of man-made climate change, opposes comprehensive immigration reform, rejects marriage equality, and, of course, demands the repeal of “every blessed word of Obamacare.” (Cruz gets his own health-care coverage from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a vice-president.) Cruz has not formally entered the 2016 Presidential race, but he is taking all the customary steps for a prospective candidacy. He has set up political-action committees to raise money, travelled to early primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, and campaigned for Republican candidates all over the country. His message, in substance, is that on the issues a Cruz Presidency would be roughly identical to a Sarah Palin Presidency.
Still, Cruz’s historical narrative of Presidential politics is both self-serving and questionable on its own terms. Conveniently, he begins his story after the debacle of Barry Goldwater, a conservative purist whom Cruz somewhat resembles. Nixon ran as a healer and governed, by contemporary standards, as a moderate, opening up relations with China, signing into law measures banning sex discrimination, expanding the use of affirmative action, establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and signing the Clean Air Act. Reagan’s record as governor of California included support for tax increases, gun control, and abortion rights, so he sometimes appeared less conservative than his modern reputation suggests. George W. Bush won (if he won) as a self-advertised “compassionate conservative.” So, at this point, Cruz’s concerted attempt to establish himself as the most extreme conservative in the race for the Republican nomination has not evoked much fear in Democrats. “We all hope he runs,” one Democratic senator told me. “He’s their Mondale.” (Running against Reagan as an unalloyed liberal in 1984, Walter Mondale lost every state but his native Minnesota.)
(click here to continue reading Jeffrey Toobin: The Rise of Ted Cruz : The New Yorker.)
I also hope Ted Cruz continues running for President, as I anticipate being amused that the Tea Bagger Birthers will find ways to twist pretzel logic so they can support a Natural Born ‘Murican who wasn’t actually born in the US. Even the most ardent Birthers never claimed Obama’s mother wasn’t American, just that Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii. Ted Cruz’s mother may have been born in Delaware1 but Ted Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada. It says so right on his birth certificate! The U.S. hasn’t invaded and annexed Alberta, yet.
As Jeffrey Toobin puts it:
Rafael Cruz fled Batista’s Cuba for Texas in 1957 after aligning himself with the anti-Batista movement. He returned to Cuba for just a month, in 1959, and became convinced that Fidel Castro was even worse than his predecessor, so he settled in the United States for good. He majored in mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, and met and married Eleanor Darragh, who was born and raised in Delaware. (Rafael had two daughters from a previous marriage.) Rafael and Eleanor started an oil-services company after moving to Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, where Rafael Edward Cruz was born, in 1970. (Ted’s birth in Canada, with dual American and Canadian citizenship, has raised the question of whether he is a “native born” citizen and thus eligible, under the Constitution, to be President. The answer is not completely clear, but it seems likely that the Constitution does not bar a Cruz Presidency. Recently, Ted Cruz formally gave up his Canadian citizenship.)
(click here to continue reading Jeffrey Toobin: The Rise of Ted Cruz : The New Yorker.)
Ballard Street, viaFootnotes:
- allegedly [↩]
Santa Anna’s Prosthetic Leg
Good for the Illinois State Military Museum for standing up to self-important Texans. The funny thing is, the leg as an artifact has very little to do with Texas, as it was found by Illinois soldiers, near Veracruz, Mexico, in 1847 after the Battle of Cerro Gordo. I’m not sure why Texas thinks it has more of a right to the leg than Santa Anna’s family1 or a Mexican museum.
Illinois museum officials say their Lone Star State counterparts have no leg to stand on as they seek a prosthesis from Springfield.
The curator of the Illinois State Military Museum plans to keep Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s wooden leg despite a failed petition that sought to temporarily display the artifact in suburban Houston.
For Texans, it seems to be a bit of a sore point that the artificial limb resides in a glass case 875 miles northeast of the Alamo.
But folks here say the fake leg, a battlefield trophy captured by soldiers from Illinois in 1847 in the Mexican-American War and then carried back to Illinois, is a piece of local military history that’s a big draw at the downstate museum.
“It’s not going anywhere,” said curator Bill Lear. “It’s going to stay.
“This is a centerpiece of the museum and a very important artifact to tell the story of Illinois soldiers and the sacrifice that they have made in service of this country.”
As eager as Texas is to display Santa Anna’s leg, Lear said it’s not clear that the prosthesis has even been in the Lone Star State. Santa Anna had both his legs while leading Mexican forces at the Alamo, more than a decade before Cerro Gordo. Lear said the prosthetic limb was captured in Mexico and apparently taken to Illinois via New Orleans.
(click here to continue reading Museum sticks to its guns over Santa Anna’s leg – chicagotribune.com.)
and yet the San Jacinto Museum of History seems to think the leg should be in their museum. Weird, even if after publicity, the museum claimed it was a light-hearted request…
“I cannot imagine a president from Illinois seriously trying to remove a piece of Illinois history and send it to Texas,” [San Jacinto museum president Larry Spasic] said this week.
Spasic said Texas feels the leg should be lent to the San Jacinto museum because it is part of the deeply shared history with Mexico and its leader.
“It’s all interrelated,” he said. “The history of Mexico and Texas is all one and the same, to a great extent. Does that give us a great latitude of claiming a large part of Mexico’s history as our own? Yes, I say.”
“No one had anything in mind for removing it by force,” he said. “And if the leg goes missing, we’ll just keep it between us.”
(click here to continue reading Illinois museum has Santa Anna’s leg, and Texas site wants it | Dallas Morning News.)
Yeah, sure buddy. The center of the universe is just outside of Houston, everything orbits around Texas.Footnotes:
- if it still exists [↩]
Does this ever happen to you? You’ve owned a piece of music1 in your library for a while, and you like it, but your relationship to the songs is tenuous, ephemeral, noncommittal. And then for whatever reason, you rediscover that particular artifact, and it grips you, forces you to play it over and over, compels you to swirl the songs in your ears. Is it that certain music takes a few plays before it sinks in? Is it a factor of your changing brain? The music is the same, but your response to it has altered, deepened.
Last week, a song came on my iTunes shuffle while I was photostrolling, a song from Guy Clark’s Old No. 1 LP. I had added this album to my library July 15th, 2008, the same day I added Nigeria 70 Lagos Jump, Ry Cooder’s I, Flathead, Alejandro Escovedo’s Real Animal, and had played Old No. 1 a few times since then, but I couldn’t say it was a particular favorite of mine. I had played it five or six times, and particular songs shuffled a few more times than that, but nothing more.
However, last week, that particular song smacked me2 and would not relinquish its hold on my imagination. So I was compelled to listen to it a few times, and then enticed to listen to the entire album multiple times. Great tunes through and through. My favorites are L.A. Freeway, She’s Ain’t Going Nowhere, A Nickel for the Fiddler, Desparados Waiting on the Train, Like a Coat From the Cold. Maybe others too. The shaggy-dog story on Texas, 1947, about putting a nickel on the train tracks as a six year-old boy has some great lines, as does That Old Time Feeling. What I’m saying is there are no skippable songs on Guy Clark’s debut album, Old No. 1…
Maybe I’m about to start my mid-life crisis, though only if I concede to not living past the age of 120, maybe it is because so many of my formative years were spent in Austin, or maybe because I’m such a fan of Townes Van Zandt, but for whatever reason, I am adding this album to that best albums of 2014 post that I will probably never get around to writing…
Guy Clark pushes a fading, black and white photograph across the table. In it, a man leans against a 1939 Packard, foot propped up on the bumper in the dusty streets of Monahans, Texas. “Jack Prigg” reads the inscription on the back. He’s smiling and sharply dressed in a black suit, a gleam of success in his grin. The image is striking for its sheer contrast to the portrait of Prigg immortalized in Clark’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” the old, busted oil-driller crying at the kitchen table to broken memories and songs. “Well, that must have been a Sunday,” laughs Clark, looking at the photo as he carefully takes a toke from the last vestiges of a joint and lets loose a rattling cough.
The workshop in the basement of Clark’s west Nashville home collects such memories. His father’s Randall knife sits on the workbench alongside his tools for making guitars. Behind him, shelves of cassettes with handwritten labels display a country songwriters hall of fame. A black and white photo of Townes Van Zandt, his haunted eyes somehow tracking around the room, stares down from the wall. Clark pinches a clump of tobacco and begins rolling a cigarette. The 71-year-old songwriter’s eyes sharpen as he takes in the room, his lips pursed together between the faint stains of yellow on his white mustache and goatee.
“Shit, I’d go back to Texas in a second if I could break even,” he says. “But the music business is here, and if I could just pay back what they’ve given me, or advanced me, I would love to live in Texas. At this point, though, I don’t know. I’m too fucking old to move back, pack all this shit up.”
Clark’s lack of sentimentality is deceiving. What the songwriter submerges in person surfaces in the deeply personal poetry of his songs, from “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” to the elegy for his father in “The Randall Knife,” and the title track of his new album, “My Favorite Picture of You,” an ode to his wife Susanna, who passed away last year after an extended decline from cancer.
Guy and Susanna’s marriage stands as one of the great relationships in music. As strongly devoted as it was tumultuous, their union and the art it produced became the locus for a new community of songwriters that emerged in the Seventies, a wave of scrappy expatriate Texans overtaking Nashville that included Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, and most notably, Van Zandt, whose lifelong friendships with both Clarks remain inextricable from the couple’s relationship.
Those days feel impossibly far away in the quiet of Clark’s house as he draws slowly on his cigarette.
“If you want good friends, they’re gonna cost you,” he notes as he exhales a thin line of smoke.
(click here to continue reading We Were From Texas: Guy Clark and the high price of inspiration – Music – The Austin Chronicle.)
from Thom Jurek’s review at Allmusic, where I learned that Steve Earle played on this album…3
If only every country songwriter could release a debut album as auspicious and fine as this one. Houston’s Guy Clark, well known to the outlaw movement for his poetic, stripped-to-the-truth songs about ramblers, history, the aged and infirm, the drunken, the lost, and the simple dignity of working people who confront the darkness and joy of life quietly, issued Old #1 when his compadres had already been making waves with his songs. Jerry Jeff Walker had already cut “L.A. Freeway” and other tunes by Clark, as had Gary Stewart, Billy Joe Shaver, and others. But the definitive versions come from Clark himself. On this disc with help from Emmylou Harris, fellow Houstoners (a young) Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, guitar wizards Chip and Reggie Young, Mickey Raphael on harp, pianist David Briggs, fiddle boss Johnny Gimble, and the angel-voiced Sammi Smith, Clark executed a song cycle that is as intimate and immediate as it is quietly devastating with its vision of brokenness and melancholy, loose wild times, and unforgettable characters.…Old #1 was unequaled in 1975 for the depth of its vision and the largeness of its artistic and empathetic heart; only Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run came close to it in terms of aesthetic merit.
(click here to continue reading Old No. 1 – Guy Clark | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic.)
I’d rather listen to this album a million times more than having to plod through Born to Run again.Footnotes:
- album, usually, but sometimes a particular song, or artist [↩]
- Desperados Waiting for A Train [↩]
- Steve’s first known professional recording was with Guy Clark on Guy’s 1975 album Old No. 1. Steve sang back-up vocals (along with Rodney Crowell, Sammy Smith, and Emmylou Harris ["The first time I met Emmylou, she came in to sing on Guy Clark's first album. She gave me half of her cheeseburger. I wasn't the same for weeks."]) on the song Desperados Waiting For A Train. Steve toured with Guy from early ’75 until late ’76. Steve also may have appeared in Robert Altman’s 1975 film, Nashville (he was part of a large crowd scene in Centennial Park, but it’s not clear whether he actually shows up in the film via [↩]
Johnny “Guitar” Watson – What The Hell Is This?
One of the albums I got for next to nothing as mentioned here, but it is surprisingly listenable. A couple of dud tracks, some silly songs, but some good funky, R&B-based slinky blues contained herein too. I bet you could find a used copy for next to nothing…
Democracy in action, Texas style…
First, Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification for 52 years, did not exactly match her name on the official voter rolls.
A few days later, state Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat who became a national celebrity after her filibuster over a new abortion law, had the same problem in early voting. So did her likely Republican opponent in next year’s governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott.
They were all able to vote after signing affidavits attesting that they were who they claimed to be. But not Jim Wright, a former speaker of the House in Washington, whose expired driver’s license meant he could not vote until he went home and dug a certified copy of his birth certificate out of a box.
On Tuesday, Texas unveiled its tough new voter ID law, the only state to do so this year, and the rollout was sometimes rocky. But interviews with opponents and supporters of the new law, which required voters for the first time to produce a state-approved form of photo identification to vote, suggest that in many parts of the state, the law’s first day went better than critics had expected.
(click here to continue reading Texas’ Stringent Voter ID Law Makes a Dent at Polls – NYTimes.com.)
Isn’t it amazing that one of the major political parties in the US would rather have less people vote than do the hard work to convince citizens the political ideas of that party are worth supporting? Or change the doctrines of the political party to comply with the wishes of the voters? The Republicans have spent billions of think-tank dollars figuring out how to disenfranchise as many people as possible instead of taking a chance on democracy. What does that say about the popularity of Republican doctrines?
And in Texas, this was a relatively minor election with low turnout; most participants were experienced, committed voters, not the casual voters who turn out in presidential and gubernatorial contests. Just wait until there are lines stretched around the block…
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas, which opposed the new law, said that it was concerned more about voters who do not have the proper documentation at all, and might stay away from the polls altogether as a result.
“We have always felt there was anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 voters who would not be able to present the proper identification,” Linda Krefting, the group’s president, said. “The concern we have is that all this flap in the news may have discouraged people from turning out at the polls.”
Voter ID laws and other statutes that cut back on early voting or make it more difficult to register have proliferated in states dominated by Republicans since the party’s wave of governor and statehouse victories in 2010.
Proponents say they are needed to curtail voter fraud. Opponents point out that such fraud is extremely rare and say the laws actually target groups that have proven less likely to have the state-mandated identification: the poor, students, African-Americans and Hispanics, all of whom tend to vote more Democratic.
Under the new Texas law, the list of acceptable identification includes a driver’s license, a passport, a military ID and a concealed gun permit, but not a student photo ID. Voters who showed up at the polls with no acceptable IDs were allowed to cast provisional ballots. Voters whose names were “significantly similar” on their IDs and the official voter rolls could sign an affidavit, which involved checking a box next to their name, then were allowed to vote normally.
(click here to continue reading Texas’ Stringent Voter ID Law Makes a Dent at Polls – NYTimes.com.)
If I still lived in Texas, I’d have trouble because my drivers license spells out my middle name and my voter registration card only lists the middle initial. And I would vote Democratic…
There seems to be some sort of metaphor here. Compare and contrast, Illinois vs. Texas…
Illinois increases highway speeds:
Drivers tooling through the Illinois countryside will be able to nudge the gas pedal a little harder next year after Gov. Pat Quinn overcame safety concerns and approved legislation Monday that will raise the speed limit on rural interstates to 70 mph.
Dodging a possible veto showdown, Quinn signed the measure despite opposition from the Illinois Department of Transportation, state police and leading roadway safety organizations, who feared increased mayhem on the highways, especially between cars and trucks.
“This limited 5 miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors’ and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding,” Quinn said in a statement.
The six-county Chicago region — home to some of the nation’s busiest interstates — would be allowed to set lower speed limits under the law, as would two Illinois counties near St. Louis. The speed limit would increase on the Illinois Tollway but also could be kept at current limits on some stretches, according to the governor’s office.
The speed limit in Illinois is 55 mph in metropolitan areas and 65 on rural highways. But on Jan. 1, Illinois will become the 37th state to approve limits of 70 mph or higher since the national speed limit was repealed almost two decades ago.
(click here to continue reading Quinn signs 70 mph speed limit law for Illinois – chicagotribune.com.)
Steep Road Ahead
while in some areas of Texas, the conservative mantra of private profit over public services finally yields to reality – the government cannot afford to maintain the roads anymore.
Citing a funding shortfall and the impact of a historic oil drilling boom, Texas Department of Transportation officials on Thursday announced plans to move forward with converting some roads in West and South Texas to gravel.
Approximately 83 miles of asphalt roads will be torn up and converted to “unpaved” roads, TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton said. The speed limits on those roads will probably be reduced to 30 mph.
“We would do these immediately, and I would suspect we would continue to convert other roadway segments as we continue to move forward,” Barton told the Texas Transportation Commission.
All of the affected roads have been so heavily damaged by truck activity related to oil and natural gas exploration that they have become safety hazards, Barton said. The process of converting the roads to gravel can be done quickly but will probably be delayed a few weeks as TxDOT gets permission from the commissioners to lower the speed limits on all of the impacted segments, Barton said.
The impacted roads are in four South Texas counties — Live Oak, Dimmit, LaSalle and Zavala — and two West Texas counties — Reeves and Culberson. The list of impacted roads includes a three-mile stretch of frontage road for Interstate 37 in Live Oak County. Barton said a plant that processes oil and natural gas has dramatically increased the truck traffic on that road.
“Instead of whipping in at 70 miles per hour, they’ll have to move in there at 30 miles per hour,” Barton said.
(click here to continue reading TxDOT Plans to Convert Some Roads to Gravel | The Texas Tribune.)
Illinois is no haven of joy, but at least the IL government isn’t so cowed by corporations they cannot collect enough in taxes to keep roads paved…
The part I cannot understand is why Rick Perry’s friends in the oil industry are allowing this to happen. Won’t slower traffic impact profits?
Steve Benen adds:
The state legislature briefly considered tax increases on energy companies — the companies that have benefited greatly from the energy boom, and which are chiefly responsible for pushing the roads quite literally past the breaking point — but as you might have guessed, those proposals faced stiff political opposition and never gained traction in Austin.
Darlene Meyer, a 77-year-old rancher whose property sits along a state road marked for conversion to gravel, told the Texas Tribune, “Texas used to have the best roads…. I just can’t believe the Department of Transportation is going back to the dark ages.”
…On the one hand, Gov. Rick Perry (R) believes Texas’ economy is amazing, and he’s managed to strike the perfect balance between meeting the public’s needs and keeping the private sector happy. Every other state, the governor assures us, should be following Texas’ lead — after all, thanks to the energy sector, the Lone Star State has plenty of money.
On the other hand, thanks to wear and tear from the oil companies, which have made themselves remarkably rich from Texas’ resources, Texas can no longer afford to pave many of its roads, and will instead transition from pavement to gravel.
(click here to continue reading A different kind of Stone Age – The Maddow Blog.)
The standard bearer of the 2013 Republican Party is the excrement also known as Ted Cruz, and the Republican leadership can’t stand it. The question then becomes whether or not Ted Cruz and his ilk ever lie and bully their way into actual political power / shudder.
A small contingent of the more Tea Party-ish Republican senators has decided to shut down the government unless “Obamacare” is “defunded.” (Or, at least, they plan to threaten to shut down the government.) Defunding Obamacare is not really as simple as it sounds. The ACA involves a lot of “mandatory” as opposed to “discretionary” spending, so you can’t really effectively repeal the program through the Continuing Resolution. (Here’s Karl Rove explaining the issue.) The plan was Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) idea, but its current most vocal proponent is Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a very smart man who purposefully talks like a very crazy man, because he understands how to become a celebrity in the modern conservative movement.
Cruz doesn’t care if the plan makes sense, either as policy or even as political tactics. If he cared about passing conservative legislation, he wouldn’t spend all of his time purposefully angering his Republican colleagues. If he cared about the Republican Party’s national image and reputation, as opposed to his own image within the conservative activist community, he would have offered rhetorical support for immigration reform, as Rand Paul did. Cruz is in it for himself and himself alone. A majority of Americans want the GOP to be more conciliatory and moderate. A majority of Republicans strongly believe that the party must be even more conservative.
To all these critics, the only reasonable response is, hope you enjoy this bed you made for yourselves. Ted Cruz is the right man for the decadent decline stage of the conservative movement, which has always encouraged the advancement of fact-challenged populist extremists, but always with the understanding that they’d take a back seat to the sensible business interests when it came time to exercise power. The result has been a huge number of Republican activists who couldn’t figure out why the True Conservatives they kept voting for kept failing to achieve the creation of the perfect conservative state once in office. That led to an ongoing backlash against everyone in the party suspected of anything less than perfect ideological purity. Meanwhile all the crazies got rich simply for being crazy. There’s no longer any compelling reason, in other words, not to act like Ted Cruz, and the result is Ted Cruz.
(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz does not care about you, Republican “grown-ups” – Salon.com.)
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.)