Thursday, August 30, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) – A three-judge panel in Washington ruled Thursday that the law imposes "strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor" and noted that racial minorities are more likely to live in poverty. Read the complete story
. . . to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech
Editor's note: Today is the last day, mercifully, of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Two take-away predictions: The convention will cause a slight dip, not a bump, in the polls for the GOP ticket. Future physicists who dabble in quantum mechanics will look back upon this event as proof of the existence of an alternate universe.
From the DallasMorningNews | By Todd J. Gillman Washington Bureau |Ryan promises tough choices, sweeping changes from Obama | Wed Aug 29, 2012 TAMPA, Fla. — Rep. Paul Ryan, the cheerful architect of a plan to reshape tax and entitlement policy, urged voters Wednesday to accept some bitter medicine to help nurse the nation back to fiscal health.
From Associated Press | By Jack Gillum | FACT CHECK: Convention Speakers Stray from Reality | Thursday Aug 30, 2012 WASHINGTON – RYAN: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama." ...... THE FACTS: Ryan's own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program's spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.
By Sally Kohn
Aug. 30, 2012
Read the complete story
To anyone watching Ryan’s speech who hasn’t been paying much attention to the ins and outs and accusations of the campaign, I suspect Ryan came across as a smart, passionate and all-around nice guy — the sort of guy you can imagine having a friendly chat with while watching your kids play soccer together. And for a lot of voters, what matters isn’t what candidates have done or what they promise to do — it’s personality. On this measure, Mitt Romney has been catastrophically struggling and with his speech, Ryan humanized himself and presumably by extension, the top of the ticket.
On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The ruling is the latest in a process that started in June 2011, when the Texas Legislature passed new political maps but failed to get them "pre-cleared" by the Justice department
By Paul J. Weber
Aug. 29, 2012
Read the complete story
SAN ANTONIO — The future of Texas' voting districts is again in question after a federal court Tuesday found evidence of discrimination in new district maps approved by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature last year.
The U.S. District Court in Washington wrote in a 154-page opinion that the maps don't comply with the federal Voting Rights Act because state prosecutors failed to prove that Texas lawmakers did not draw the new congressional and state Senate districts "without discriminatory purposes."
The ruling applies to the maps originally drawn by the Legislature in 2011, and not interim maps drawn by a San Antonio federal court that are to be used in the upcoming elections this November. The Washington court's Tuesday decision is most likely to impact the maps that will be used in the next election cycle in 2014.
Luis Vera, an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, called the ruling "better late than never" and a win for his and other minority rights groups that sued the state over the maps.
"The three-judge panel unanimously found intentional discrimination across the state. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Vera said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
New York Times Op Ed | By Nicholas D. Kristof | Tues Aug 28, 2012 | complete story
The Republican National Convention opened by smacking President Obama with the theme “We Built it.”
To pound that message, Republicans turned to a Delaware businesswoman, Sher Valenzuela, who is also a candidate for lieutenant governor. Valenzuela and her husband built an upholstery business that now employs dozens of workers.
Valenzuela presumably was picked to speak so that she could thunder at Obama for disdaining capitalism.
Oops. It turns out that Valenzuela relied not only on her entrepreneurial skills but also on — yes, government help. Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, documented $2 million in loans from the Small Business Administration for Valenzuela’s company, plus $15 million in government contracts (mostly noncompetitive ones).
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
These two areas of Bishop Romney's beliefs are only a small fraction of what he should be coming clean about and explaining in detail so that Americans can have a clear picture of who and what kind of man Mitt Romney is
Note: Lord knows President Obama has received his share of scathing attacks from the "far side" about his past associations, questioning his Christianity, patriotism and citizenship. So all things being equal – especially on the eve of Mitt Romney's official nomination for President of the United State at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida – isn't it time for voters get to know more about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith? No disrespect intended to Romney or the Mormon Church, but a man who wants to be president should hold no great secrets from the American people – least of all about his religious beliefs or personal business and financial history.
Related story: WBUR Boston | Tues Aug 28, 2012 | Mormons Consider What Romney Nomination Means For Faith – As she introduces her husband to delegates at the Republican National Convention tonight, Ann Romney may talk about how her family’s Mormon faith shapes their lives.
For many elected positions, like dogcatcher, (an) evasive posture could skate by the smell test without protest. But for The Office of The President, Mitt Romney will have to share more of his core religious beliefs and his business records by way of his taxes, too.
Did I mention he was a Bishop in the Mormon Church? Yes, "The Master" is a Bishop, too. Which one would you think would qualify him and cause him to tell us more about the intricacies of the Mormon Church more than probably any other candidate in the history of Presidential elections. But instead, Romney shies away from telling us details about Mormonism. Not only is that illogical but it's very suspicious to say the least.
Could it be the Planet Kolob thing? As cut and pasted from my friends at Wikipedia:
[Kolob is a star or planet described in Mormon scripture. Reference to Kolob is found in the Book of Abraham, a work published by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. According to this work, Kolob is the heavenly body nearest to the throne of God. While the Book of Abraham refers to Kolob as a "star", it also refers to planets as stars, and therefore, some LDS commentators consider Kolob to be a planet. Other Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) consider Kolob to be a metaphor.]
... According to several LDS (Latter Day Saints) writers (such as Cleon Skousen in his book The First 2000 Years), the earth was created near Kolob over a period of 6000 years (six "days" in Kolob time), and then moved to its present position in our solar system
In addition to the literal interpretation of Kolob as an actual heavenly body, the LDS Church has proposed that Kolob is also "a symbol of Jesus Christ," in that like Kolob, Jesus "governs" all the stars and planets similar to the earth.
Why won't Bishop Romney and the Mormons openly share those stories with us? Exactly who is Joseph Smith? How is he viewed by his Church? Inquiring minds want to know from the candidate who believes in these things.
Or maybe it's the "magic undergarment" as people often refer to?
From Wikipedia as well:
"Mormon underwear is a type of underwear worn by a vast majority of adherents of the Latter Day Saint movement, after they have taken part in the Endowment ceremony. Garments are worn both day and night and are required for any previously endowed adult to enter a temple..."
According to the LDS Church, the temple garments serve a number of purposes. First, the garment provides the member "a constant reminder" of the covenants they made in the temple. Second, the garment "when properly worn...provides protection against temptation and evil... General authority Carlos E. Asay adds that the garment "strengthens the wearer to resist temptation, fend off evil influences, and stand firmly for the right."
Is Romney going to wear this undergarment everyday or when he has to make his most important decisions because he feels like it's going to help him and America some way? That's a very fair question we should ask.
Lastly, there are special symbols written on these garments that have a wide range of interesting meanings. Too long to go into here but I encourage each of you to be independent and critical thinkers and research for yourself.
These two areas of Bishop Romney's beliefs are only a small fraction of what he should be coming clean about and explaining in detail so that Americans can have a clear picture of who and what kind of man Mitt Romney is. But again, we get the distinct feeling that he doesn't really want us to know anything about him that would cause us to question his judgment, character or business acumen in taxes and finances. All of which he says are superior to that of President Obama's.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Cartoon of the Week
Who's telling the truth in the great medicare debate?
Note: If you are enrolled in Medicare, approaching the age when you can enroll, or if you are a member of the younger set paying into Medicare through your payroll deductions, you should be paying close attention to the big ad wars being waged by the Obama and Romney campaigns over their respective plans for Medicare. Check out the dueling ads below and see if you can tell which side is telling the truth and which side is three sheets to the wind. You'll have to fine tune your inner truth detector (and do your own research) because these days in what passes for political debate, it's harder than ever to tell fact from pure D bullshit.
Friday, August 17, 2012
She loved driving the winding roads and admiring the Texas landscape, just as she loved spending time with her dogs, traveling with Jay, and staying politically active through the Wimberley Democrats
Editor's note: Ann was truly a delightful person to be around, fun-loving and wise. She will be missed.
After a long struggle with a rare neurological disease, Ann Merritt, 75, of Woodcreek, TX, died Wednesday, July 11, 2012, at the Deer Creek Nursing Center in Wimberley. Feisty, funny, and clever, Ann always enlivened social gatherings with her wit, energy, and good natured-humor.
Ann was born on April 10, 1937, to Marian and Harry Merritt, and raised in Houston, TX. In 1955, she graduated from Lamar High School, and then in 1959 completed her bachelor's degree in economics at Smith College. After graduation she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she worked for Bank of America and married Nelson McClung, an economist working at the Federal Reserve. Ann and Nelson lived in Sausalito for two years before moving to Washington, DC, where they had a son, Andrew, in 1963. However, the marriage did not last, and Ann returned to Houston, working at NASA and getting involved in the politics of equal rights for women. Ann enjoyed the intellectual atmosphere of NASA, but her career focus on fairness in hiring took her to New Orleans in 1975, working for the Department of Defense. There, she met and married Jay Strickler, who managed a steel container plant.
Ann and Jay bought a house together and enjoyed living in New Orleans, but in 1984 the container plant was closed, so they bought a Dutch houseboat in the Netherlands and began their next adventure overseas. The boat let them travel the inland waterways of Europe for nearly five years, from the Netherlands to Paris and the south of France, and making friends among the international expatriates they met along the way. In late 1988, seeking more stability on solid ground, Ann and Jay moved to Austin, where they lived for almost 10 years before moving to the Wimberley area in 1998.
Ann had always loved the Texas Hill Country, since her family spent summer vacations near Junction when she was a child. This last move gave her a chance to renew and strengthen friendships from her high school days at Lamar. She loved driving the winding roads and admiring the Texas landscape, just as she loved spending time with her dogs, traveling with Jay, and staying politically active through the Wimberley Democrats.
Ann is survived by her husband of 32 years, Jay Strickler; brother, Harry Merritt, Jr., of Mobile, AL; and son, Andrew. She leaves behind a large, diverse assortment of friends, and will be greatly missed.
A memorial service and reception will be held Sunday, August 19, 2012, at 4pm, at the Leaning Pear restaurant in Wimberley, TX. Those who plan to attend are requested to contact the family beforehand at firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, please make memorial donations to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, to promote the natural splendor of the Texas hill country.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Tonight – Ledge Stone apartments on Dripping Springs city council agenda; Isaac says many citizens in ETJ will have no say
"Despite the overwhelming opposition, the (Planning & Zoning) Commission approved the variance. One of the commissioners went so far as to berate the citizens in attendance who had taken time out of their evening to voice their opposition to a project that will greatly alter the community in which they live."
Note: This guest editorial from State Rep. Jason Isaac might also be titled "Welcome to the world your Legislature has Wrought." Isaac is correct in pointing out that thousands of people live in a kind of "no man's land" inside Dripping Springs' ETJ (unincorporated area), forced to live by development decisions made by a small cadre of city officials without the right to vote in city elections, without the opportunity to replace city officials whose decisions they disagree with. What Mr. Isaac fails to mention is that the Texas Legislature has designed a system under the Local Government Code tilted to favor developers, whilst leaving many citizens and their right to have a say twisting in the wind. Isaac's public opposition to the Cypress Creek at Ledge Stone apartment project is a safe bet. By doing so, he stands to gain a lot of support for his own re-election campaign, although it may not stop the development from going forward. Dripping Springs' Planning & Zoning Commission members recently approved Developer Stuart Shaw's final plans for the Ledgestone apartment complex, which gives the city council the green light to approve it tonight. The typical explanation is that the developer has met all the criteria in the law, "There's nothing we can do to stop it." Should the council approve it, the project's next and final move is to the desk of County Judge Bert Cobb, who, we predict, will give the project his blessing and repeat the explanation of the city council. As for Isaac, if he is as frustrated with the system as he claims, he should be advocating long lasting changes in the law to give ETJ residents all across Hays County and Texas more say in development decisions in their neighborhoods.
Send your comments and questions to Mr. Isaac at email@example.com, to Ms. Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org, to the city of Dripping Springs at email@example.com, or click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post
Taxation Without Representation
By State Rep. Jason Isaac
As the Dripping Springs area continues to grow, a troubling trend is emerging. While only 1,500 people live inside the city limits, the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) is home to more than 20,000 residents. With thousands of single-family homes, many children in public schools, and a lot of money spent in local businesses, the population in the ETJ makes up almost the city’s entire tax base.
Yet, because these citizens do not live within the city limits, they are unable to vote in the city elections that have a huge impact on the future of their community. In fact, less than seven percent of the area’s population is eligible to vote. This means that our City Council members, and the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission (whom the City Council appoints), are only held accountable to this small group of citizens.
This discrepancy has never been more apparent than it was in the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting held on July 24th. The Commission considered granting a variance for a large, low-income apartment complex proposed for the Dripping Springs ETJ. This development is heavily opposed by those who will be most affected by it, the residents of Ledge Stone, Heritage Oaks, Highpointe, and Belterra.
By my estimation, there were about 300 people who signed up or spoke in opposition of the complex, and petitions with thousands of signatures were also presented. The Commission sat through hours of testimony from residents with valid concerns about the strain that this complex could place on our schools and county services.
Despite the overwhelming opposition, the Commission approved the variance. One of the commissioners went so far as to berate the citizens in attendance who had taken time out of their evening to voice their opposition to a project that will greatly alter the community in which they live. I can’t help but wonder whether or not this approval would have been granted if the many residents who are seriously concerned about this issue were able to vote in city elections.
Public input is an integral part of our democratic republic. One of the greatest things about our country is our ability to make our voices heard, whether it’s through testimony at a public hearing or by exercising our right to vote for the elected officials who best represent our beliefs. In the case of Dripping Springs, I worry that the ability of the minority to control the majority translates into taxation without representation.
The decision has now been passed on to the City Council, who will meet on August 14th at 7:00 PM to consider the matter. Regardless of your stance on this issue, I encourage you to attend this meeting and contribute to the discussion.
Jason A. Isaac
State Representative, House District 45
** Letter from Teresa Scott, grassroots organizer opposing the Ledgestone Apartment project:
From: Teresa Scott
Sent: Sunday, August 5, 2012 12:51 PM
Subject: No to the Ledgestone apartment complex
Dear Mayor and City Council Members of Dripping Springs,
I have been following the progress of Stuart Shaw's development since early February this year. I have met numerous times with Mr. Shaw and have had multiple conversations via phone or email as well.
I am not opposed to development in the Dripping Springs area. As you can see by my signature block, I depend on progress to feed my family. However, I am opposed to development that is harmful to a community.
Over the past 5-6 months I have researched other communities that Mr. Shaw has developed. I have spoken with residents of his complexes, neighbors to his complexes, schools that are fed by his complexes, and governing entities with jurisdiction where his complexes reside. I wanted to know and learn about what might be coming into my area. I have yet to find and speak with someone that will give a thumbs up to his projects who has nothing financially to gain from the project. The general consensus has been, "sorry to hear they are moving into your area," "good luck with that," "I hope you can stop it." These comments give me a lot to be concerned about.
In no particular order, the reasons for these comments have been the following:
1. Lack of tax dollars
2. Drop in school performance
3. Calls to police
4. Disruption to neighboring homes from apartment residents
5. Drop in home values (one home appraised $40k less - the appraiser told the home owner this was largely due to the complex)
I spend a lot of my days with potential home buyers. I know what scares them away from an area. One big draw back is the tax rates which vary greatly from one neighborhood to the next.
I have more clients shy away from the Belterra, Highpointe, Ledgestone areas because of the ridiculously high tax rate. This tax rate is among some of the highest in all of our MLS area. Hays County is one of the most in debt counties in all of Texas. In talking with Williamson and Harris County tax offices where Stuart has other complexes, they have either received NOTHING or very little from his PILOT program. Harris County was shocked that he was tax exempt, they have other low income complexes that pay a reduced amount and the gentleman I spoke with doesn't understand how Stuart got in tax free. I can tell you first hand that taxes have a big impact on an area's home market. Other areas of Austin are thriving and are moving into a sellers market. The neighborhoods mentioned above are moving in that direction, but much slower than, for instance, Circle C Ranch that is only an 8 minute drive north-east.
There is not a lot of factual information on whether an apartment complex will increase or decrease home values. However, when I have a buyer in the car they will be very particular about what is around the homes they are interested in. They don't want to back power lines, gas lines, stores, warehouses, and especially not apartment complexes. If they can find an equally good property away from these and other "perceived" negatives, they will most always go away from the perceived negatives whether it truly is a negative or not.
I know there is a place for a complex this size and this restricted. Does it make sense at Ledgestone...no. We don't have the public transportation, the day cares, the jobs within walking distance or on a bus route, or the shopping close by. I also work with and have worked with section 8 clients and low income clients and they have all had the same needs as mentioned above.
I have researched our school situation in DSISD and worry that a complex of this size, tax free or tax reduced, will have serious negative impact. DSISD is the crown jewel of Dripping Springs and is quite frankly the reason most of my clients move into the area. If we are not careful on decisions that dramatically affect DSISD, we could damage that vital entity that drives a lot of our housing market.
I have called and spoken with offices of Lake Travis ISD and Eanes ISD to inquire about their financials since they are similar to DSISD and they are exemplary districts. Those districts also get many buyers moving into their areas primarily due to the great schools. While they are pinched because of Chapter 42, (Robin Hood), they have no tax exempt or tax reduced complexes in their districts that they were aware of. In fact, they are surrounded by growth and business that contributes to their tax base. These areas are much better equipped to have and support affordable housing and the residents who live there. While they also lack some public transportation, in contrast to Dripping, they have grown enough to financially support a reduced tax complex.
Right now we need growth that will add to our tax base, not take away. The housing market is bouncing back and there is plenty of room for growth in our DSISD boundaries. With the house tops come the business', so let's work on keeping our area attractive to home buyers by working at lowering the tax burden in the ETJ areas. The neighborhoods located in the ETJ provide a substantial amount of tax revenue and sales tax to Hays County, DSISD and the City of Dripping Springs. If the desirability of these neighborhoods drop, so will the growth and the tax dollars coming in.
Lake Travis wasn't always a booming area. In a few short years they have become one of the fastest growing areas in Austin. If we are needing and looking for growth, I'd like to see us follow in their path, great schools, great neighborhoods, ample business, and low tax rates.
There may be a time when Dripping Springs and Hays county are in a stronger financial situation where we can financially and economically support and welcome an income reduced complex the size of the proposed Cypress Creek at Ledge Stone project. It is clear from the information that has been gathered over the past 5-6 month, now is NOT the time.
I urge you to make the right choice and deny this complex at this time.