Wednesday, March 16


The Texas Senate has its own ideas about funding public education and offering property tax relief.


The tax bill approved Tuesday by the House differs in a number of ways from the plan proposed in January by the Senate.
• Sales tax: House proposes a 1 percent increase; Senate proposes a half-cent increase
• Alcohol tax hike: Not in House plan; included in Senate plan
• Business tax: House raises $3.5 billion annually; Senate raises $5.5 billion annually.

In addition, the Senate also plans to provide a sales tax rebate for low-income Texans with a Lone Star Card, a provision not included in the House bill.

The devil's in the details, of course, and this continues to bear watching. The Senate hasn't yet explained how its business tax would work.


Courtesy of Sully, here's an AEI analysis of our Homeland Security spending. (Yes, that's the arch-conservative American Enterprise Institute.)

We conclude that a large portion of homeland security-spending decisions are made on a political basis rather than on a sound cost-benefit analysis, leading to the traditional public choice failures that plague government spending more generally. As a result, homeland security funding is likely to be misallocated, resulting in a less than optimal level of security in America.
This paper will show that a substantial portion of new homeland security spending is being used for grants to state and local governments, many of which appear to be applied to questionable purchases. Second, the large increase in spending appears to have occurred without risk and cost benefit analysis, leading to a large amount of wasteful spending. For instance, a significant amount of spending is directed to addressing risks that are possibly obsolete, or fighting yesterday’s battle, which is likely not the most efficient use of limited federal resources.

This is a fascinating report. For instance, did you know that fully 10% of the DHS budget is so-called disaster aid for farm states? The budget is FULL of pork for things having nothing to do with defending the homeland from terrorists. And the AEI is scathing in its criticisms of the Transportation Security Administration, whose budget now exceeds that of the FBI.

And the Bush administration doesn't get off without a spanking: "Between FY2001 and FY2005, the administration expects total outlays to rise from $1,864 billion to $2,423 billion--a 30 percent increase.[151] The Bush administration has followed a remarkably irresponsible course by requesting many spending increases often in the name of security but rarely asking for cuts to programs or agencies. As for Congress, most members are blaming the overall spending increases on post-9/11 national security costs and few talk about eliminating unneeded government programs to fund this added protection money. No trade-offs are being made in the budget, as evinced by the fact that non-defense spending has increased by 42 percent in four years.[152] "

AEI's conclusion:

Yet, because most of the money is allocated on a political basis rather than a sound cost benefit analysis, much of the new spending will not result in sound security. In other words, the security we are getting against terrorism is likely to be ineffective, yet comes at an enormous expense. [Emphasis mine]

Yikes. They suggest that security experts should make the spending decisions, not politicians.

Tell it to the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.


Interesting note from Uggabugga:

Mark of the Beast:

News item:
Trade deficit hits record $665.9B in 2004

Why the .9?   Because otherwise the deficit, in round numbers, is $666 billion.

"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." (Revelation 13:16-18.)


DeLay's ARMPAC linked to Texas group: Records cited in a civil suit deepen the controversy over financing of the 2002 election.

Controversy, my hind leg. We're talking about a violation of the only Texas restriction on campaign finance, in other words LAW BREAKING:

The documents also raise questions about whether ARMPAC used corporate funds to raise the money delivered to the Texas candidates. Such use of corporate money for candidates has been at the core of civil lawsuits and criminal investigations into TRMPAC.

Texas law allows corporate money to be used for a committee's administrative purposes but not for political purposes. Republicans claim any money not given directly to a candidate and spent on his behalf is an administrative expenditure.

DeLay spokesman Dan Allen said the ARMPAC expenditures in Texas were legal because the committee at the time kept two accounts: one for corporate money and another for candidate-eligible money. Allen said no corporate money was used to pay for raising candidate money. "All those contributions were legal and proper," Allen said Tuesday.

TRMPAC kept two separate bank accounts for corporate and candidate money, but the ongoing investigation has shown the corporate money was used to pay for candidate fund raising.

Emphasis mine.

UPDATE: Karen Tumulty has an update on Delay's troubles in the new issue of Time:

After the debacle over the ethics rules, more than a few House members say they can ill afford to put their necks out much farther for DeLay. And their support could erode further--and quickly--if they start hearing complaints about DeLay from their constituents at home. "As members head home, they'll review the various media reports," says Arizona's Hayworth, who has been burned by revelations that he used a skybox supplied by Abramoff for fund raising. "I'm sure that it's in the best interest of the majority leader and the majority to have an accounting of what transpired."

A more ominous sign for DeLay: those who might succeed him have begun quietly positioning themselves to make a move if the opportunity arises, sources say. Among the possible successors most frequently mentioned are majority whip Roy Blount of Missouri, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds of New York, House Education Committee chairman John Boehner and leadership chairman Rob Portman of Ohio. Not so long ago, it looked as though the speakership would be DeLay's for the taking after Hastert left the post, probably after the next election. But if DeLay is doing any praying in his office these days, it's probably to hold on to the job he has.

UPDATE: Alternet has an article entitled, "Delay's Dirty Dozen: A scandalous round-up of Tom DeLay's flagrant trespasses against decency."

UPDATE: Okay, so I'm just getting around to the news magazines. Newsweek covers the FBI probe into $2.5 million in payments to accounts at the conservative think tank National Center for Public Policy Research, accounts controlled by two lobbyists with close ties to DeLay. The FBI is trying to determine whether the monies, which were supposedly earmarked for a PR campaign promoting Indian gaming, were used instead for political contributions or for gifts to members of Congress.


Karen Hughes to polish U.S. image?

But Ivo Daalder, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution, said the perception problem lies within the Bush administration.

"I don't think our problem in the world is the fact that people misunderstand us; I think our problem in the world is that people don't like what we are doing," Daalder said. "One of the grand failures of this administration is their inability to put themselves in others' shoes."

Daalder pointed to Hughes' lack of foreign policy background and predicted her service will be "as grand a failure as her predecessors'."
A former U.S. diplomat, Djerejian said 80 percent of international perceptions about America are based on policy and values, with the remainder hinging on the message.
Gerald Birnberg, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, said Hughes "was able to mold George Bush into a viable gubernatorial candidate in Texas, so she ought to be able to sell some portions of the world on his notions of foreign policy."


Via Smirking Chimp, Mike Whitney speculates further on Italy's pullout of troops from Iraq and whether Berlusconi knows more about the Sgrena ambush than we do.

Eason Jordan, feeling vindicated yet?


Not all of us got it wrong.

But he was forced to admit that his support for the Bush tax cuts had been a mistake. In 2001 he had mounted the extraordinary argument that budget surpluses were too big and that the US foreign debt would be paid off too quickly.

Under vigorous and often aggressive questioning by Hillary Clinton, Dr Greenspan, looking decidedly uncomfortable, said that, with the benefit of hindsight, he had been mistaken in his view about budget surpluses.

"We were confronted at the time with an almost universal expectation amongst experts that we were dealing with a very large surplus for which there seemed to be no end," he said. "I look back and I would say to you, if confronted with the same evidence we had back then, I would recommend exactly what I recommended then. Turns out we were all wrong".

"Not all of us," snapped Senator Clinton.

Tuesday, March 15


An amazing story of missing Iraqi millions, the mysterious death of an arms dealer who tried cautioning against the lack of oversight and died in an ambush eight days later, military procurement incompetence and/or corruption.

Sounds like another grand Halliburton story.

"I'M TIRED OF 9/11"

You and me both, buddy.

Sept. 11 was a criminal act. Those responsible ought to be pursued, arrested and punished. But it didn't happen because reasonable safeguards weren't in place or because we weren't aware of terrorism. It occurred because bad guys always find a way around safeguards, and terrorism is a product of evil people.

To erode our legal protections, to escalate our levels of security or to live in daily fear of terrorism will not protect us against evil. It will only diminish the lives and freedoms of good people.

That's wrong. And I'm tired we keep forgetting that.


Well, the Texas House passed HB3 yesterday. Now it heads for the Senate, where activists of the anti- type are hoping it's amended (drastically) or defeated. Eight courageous and principled Republicans crossed Speaker Tom Craddick by voting against the bill with the Democrats.

But Democrats attacked the measure because it wouldn't raise additional funds for public education and, according to a recent report by the state comptroller, would give a net tax cut only to higher-income Texans.

And isn't this a cute rider? "State Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale, R-Tomball, gained approval of an amendment that would send any appeal of the constitutionality of the new tax law directly to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court."

Why has there been so little in the Texas media, other than conservative talk radio, about this horrendous and cynical legislation? Aha! This might be a clue:

A proposed sales tax on newspaper sales was stripped from the bill. Donnis Baggett, publisher and editor of the Bryan-College Station Eagle, said he was "very pleased" by the change.

"It's a cumbersome and inefficient revenue-generating measure," said Baggett, past president of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association.