in Houston, Texas
Texas wind power companies reap tax breaks from fiscal cliff deal
Thursday, Jan 03, 2013, 01:29PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
wind farm

Look! Up there! Just off the precipice of the terrifying fiscal cliff! It’s a taxpayer built and outfitted Deltaplane carrying the Texas wind power industry to safety.

And lined up behind it on the cliff are hang gliders for such deserving and needy industries as Puerto Rican rum producers, electric scooters, Coca Cola and Hollywood.

Congress is launching this flying armada under the cover of whatever unspeakable horrors might have been visited upon Americans had it not bravely stepped in at the very last minute to protect random and profligate spending, the Washington Post reports today.

Among the leaders in this glorious formation are companies that will receive a tax credit valued at about $12 billion for beginning construction of wind farms sometime in 2013. Texas, the leading wind power-producing state in the nation, will be the chief beneficiary of the 2.2 cents-a-kilowatt-hour of projected energy production tax credit, Bloomberg is reporting.

As Texas Watchdog has reported, the entire wind power industry in Texas had for months been cowering in fear that Congress would not extend a tax credit that has been crucial to its life support for 20 years.

Just how crucial? Bloomberg says the tax credit uncertainty alone caused projections of putting wind turbines online in 2013 to drop to 4,800 megawatts of power from 11,800 megawatts estimated in 2012.

With its ability to embed sleeper cells of questionable taxpayer spending well established in bills like the stimulus and Obamacare, Congress set out to keep a $14 billion tax credit for research and development and $11 billion for financial services companies to shelter income earned overseas from certain financial transactions, the Post says.

Compared to those, what is $222 million to help prop up the rum industry in American territories? Or $78 million to help auto racing better compete with amusement parks for your hard-earned dollar? The $7 million for the Oregon scooter makers is almost nothing.

Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, disagreed, preferring to keep his fiscal cliff rescue metaphor grounded.

“These are like the cockroaches of the policy world,” Ellis told the Post.  “You think they’re dead, and then they come back.”

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of wind turbines by flickr user the russians are here, used via a Creative Commons license.

Texas Ethics Commission fines treasurer of Waste Control Specialists PAC
Wednesday, Jan 02, 2013, 11:10AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Texas state Capitol

Ten months after a complaint was filed, the Texas Ethics Commission fined William Lindquist $6,450 for illegally accepting political contributions as treasurer of a political action committee for Waste Control Specialists.

The Commission ruled Lindquist accepted on behalf of WCS-Texas Solution PAC a donation of $100,100 from Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons Sept. 21, 2011, before the political action committee had gotten donations from at least 10 other people, a violation of state ethics law.

The Commission announced its ruling today after issuing its order on Dec. 20, having met to hear the case Nov. 29.

Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice, filed his complaint against WCS-Texas Solution on Feb. 21, 2012. When brought to his attention several days later by Texas Tribune, Lindquist called the mistake an oversight, took responsibility for it and said he intended to ask 18 elected officials to return donations totalling roughly $64,500.

According to Ethics Commission records, WCS-Texas Solution recalled the donations in March.

The size of the fine and the unwilingness of anyone involved in the donating to admit wrongdoing to the Ethics Commission disappointed McDonald.

"The fine should have been the $65,000 that was illegally contributed," McDonald told Texas Watchdog this morning. "This looks more like a 10 percent nuisance tax on Mr. Simmons."

McDonald said he would be following up to see if the 18 elected officials who received donations had returned the money.

"Let's hope this group handles nuclear waste better than it does Texas ethics law," McDonald said.

Those receiving donations between October 8, 2011, and December 13, 2011 were state senators, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen and Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; and state representatives, Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Dan Branch, R-Dallas; Cindy Burkett, R-Mesquite; Byron Cook, R-Corsicana; Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas; Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; Jessica Farrar, D-Houston; John Frullo, R-Lubbock; Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth; Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, R-Mauriceville; Kelly Hancock, R-Fort Worth; Patricia Harless, R-Spring; Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi; Sid Miller, R-Stephenville; Wayne Smith, R-Baytown; and Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 2 to include comments from McDonald and the detail of the committee recalling the donations.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Texas state Capitol by flickr user Kumar Appaiah, used via a Creative Commons license.

Broken government promises, sweet contracts uncovered by Texas Watchdog reporting in 2012
Monday, Dec 17, 2012, 10:28AM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
money

In 2012, Texas Watchdog broke news on lucrative contracts, cronyism and broken promises in government, from the White House to the smallest government districts in Texas. We hope you found our reporting useful for holding your leaders accountable, and we look forward to digging deep into agencies and politicians and bringing you terrific stories in 2013.

Here are some highlights from this year:

Special districts, special favors: An insider network of favors surrounds these proliferating governments in Texas. The web of special districts in Texas is at times marked by self-dealing and relationships greased with campaign cash, which passes from the firms and developers who make a living off the districts to the lawmakers who authorize them. These deals result in government that is not always for the people by the people, but instead is driven by special interests --- lawyers, lobbyists, and management firms --- that make huge profits on the backs of residents.

Overweight? Smoke? Uncle Sam wants to help. Wellness programs started under 2009 federal stimulus persist, getting fatter with $1 billion in health care law. Contrary to the billing of the $862 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a one-time infusion, the smoking and obesity programs branded Communities Putting Prevention to Work were never meant to be orphaned. While hundreds of new hires were spending hundreds of millions in advance of a March 2012 spending deadline, advocates were busy embedding promises for billions more in something called the Prevention and Public Health Fund created with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. The fund is expected to spread $1 billion around to wellness programs this year and increasing every year after to $2 billion by 2016.

As Metro pushes referendum for more money, some promises from last public vote unfulfilled. Houston-area residents don’t have the public transit system they voted for in 2003. Nor do they have the transit system Metro officials back then promised would exist by the end of this year. Transit authority administrators told taxpayers that they would expand the region’s bus service and, by Dec. 31, build four light-rail lines with $640 million worth of bonds, plus sales tax proceeds from the region and federal grants. Yet bus ridership and routes have dipped, and just three rail lines are under construction, which officials now say will be finished in 2014.

White House logs a list of union leaders, lobbyists. Lobbyists for the nation’s largest labor unions have had the run of the White House during its occupancy by a president who pledged from his first day in office to curb political influence. At the same time President Obama personally limited access to the wealthy and powerful, including labor leaders, union lobbyists made nearly 500 visits to the White House during the Obama administration, according to a review of White House visitor logs through June.

State Rep. Vicki Truitt's company secures no-bid contracts with Tarrant County Hospital District. A firm owned by state Rep. Vicki Truitt has received $350,000 since 2004 through no-bid deals and contracts with the Tarrant County Hospital District, including contracts that were signed by donors to her political fund, records show.

Texas couple fit to be tied in red tape, stimulus weatherization cash more trouble than it was worth. Viewed in one very particular way, carefully following the bureaucratic contours of a $327 million stimulus energy efficiency program, the weatherization of Brandi and Byron Hockaday’s south Austin home is a success story. And yet, after more than two years and well over $14,000 spent, no one involved, least of all the Hockadays, believes they should have gotten involved with the federal weatherization assistance program in the first place.

Texas educators sanctioned in cheating scandals get recycled at other schools. Principal Robert Earl Peters Jr. left the Dallas school district in 2009 as the district and state began to look into allegations that he failed to secure test results. Those accusations would soon compose a disturbing complaint filed by the state against Peters, that he had failed to safeguard the results of the high-stakes Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test at Harold Lang Middle School. Peters disputed the charges and soon found employment with the Manor Independent School District outside Austin. His case points to a larger question, of whether school districts do enough to vet applicants who have been embroiled in testing-related disciplinary disputes.

Government finished the job yet continued to tax North Texas residents. Even though its debts were paid, a municipal utility district in North Texas kept taxing residents, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars.

Texas members of Congress dip once, twice, three times at the public troughMore than a third of the state’s 34-member U.S. congressional delegation are taking a pension from a public retirement plan in addition to their congressional salary of $174,000, according to financial disclosure filings.

Weaknesses in pension plans amplified by GASB, Moody’s rule changes. A pair of moves this summer, by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board and Moody’s, will almost certainly bleaken the financial outlook for pension plans in municipalities here and across the country. This deeper public red ink might result in lower bond grades for some cities, counties and states, making it more expensive to borrow and leaving less money to spend on public services. 

Contact Lee Ann O’Neal at leeann@texaswatchdog.org or 832-316-4966.

Photo by flickr user 401 (K) 2012, used via a Creative Commons license.

UT System puts brakes on new headquarters project, cites campus plans in Lower Rio Grande Valley
Friday, Dec 14, 2012, 02:04PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
UT tower

Taxpayers are free to direct their ire at University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell for robbing them of as much as $5 million a year in savings.

Powell had the temerity to suggest the Regents put off plans to build a new headquarters for the UT System in downtown Austin, the Austin American-Statesman reports today.

We know. You’ve already clicked on the link to the story, and it says not building a shiny new 15-story headquarters in a high rent district would save $102.4 million, considerably more than $5 million.

That’s why you aren’t Regents.

We’re coddling, but follow along. Many months ago, the Regents looked out at their empire, a complex of five buildings downtown. Although these buildings were paid for, they were expensive to maintain.

A study of the matter concluded a consolidation and construction would lead to annual savings in maintenance, energy efficiency, security and other sundries of between $2 million and $5 million a year.

At its maximum savings, the building would pay for itself in 20 years unless, of course, new technologies would make it foolish not to build an even more cost-saving headquarters.

Not at all unlike the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent by our local and state governments to capture the “savings” of solar power.  

But Powell wants to save the whole $102.4 million, right? You’re still just a little behind the curve on this.

According to the Statesman, the Legislature is anxious to put these cost savings theories into practice by merging UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American into a single Lower Rio Grande Valley campus with a brand new medical school.

Knowing perfectly the direction of the political winds, Powell sent a memo to the board saying construction/savings projects on actual campuses “must take priority over other internally focused capital projects like the proposed new UT System building.”

Not to worry. Powell assured Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs,“that we will recommend re-evaluation of the project at an appropriate time.”

Appropriate meaning when there is more money available to be spent on saving.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of UT tower by flickr user Niyantha, used via a Creative Commons license.

Feds probe drug task force in south Texas
Thursday, Dec 13, 2012, 12:59PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
handcuffs

The police officer sons of two south Texas law enforcement chiefs who made fighting corruption the cornerstones of their careers have been taken into custody on suspicion of waylaying drug caches coming across the border from Mexico.

Federal agents investigating several border departments west and south of McAllen arrested Jonathan Treviño, the son of  Lupe Treviño, sheriff of Hidalgo County, and Alexis Espinoza, the son of Rodolfo Espinoza, Hidalgo’s police chief, the McAllen Monitor is reporting.

Agents took another pair of officers they didn’t identify into federal custody, and at least three more arrest warrants were outstanding. Sources told the newspaper two Hidalgo County Sheriff’s narcotics deputies are among those named in the warrants.

Warrants and related documents had not been filed by late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in McAllen. Federal investigators declined to discuss the investigation with the newspaper.

The probe, however, centers on something called the Panama Unit, a joint drug task force made up of Hidalgo County and Mission officers. Treviño and Espinoza are members of the unit.

“It’s just going to get real, real nasty, real, real quick,” an anonymous local investigator told the paper.

Sources told the paper the combination of authority and the absence of supervision had a way of making the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics disappear, particularly for Treviño, who “has gone unsupervised since the get-go.”

“With all the problems he’s had,” the source said, “they should have kicked Jonathan out years ago.”

“Everybody knew that kid was dirty,” another investigator told the paper. “It was just a matter of making a case.

Voters in Hidalgo County in November gave Treviño’s father a landslide third-term victory. Since his election in 2004 Treviño has promised to get on top of corruption in the county and secure the border.

In October, Mission hired Espinoza away from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. A captain, Espinoza taught law enforcement ethics to deputies and headed special units for the department.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of handcuffs by flickr user .v1ctor., used via a Creative Commons license.

Formula One organizers get $29.3 million from taxpayers
Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012, 03:21PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
racecar

No one is quite sure how officials arrived at the dollar amount, but state Comptroller Susan Combs cut a $29.3 million check to the group that staged the first Formula One race in November outside of Austin.

The public has been waiting for more than two years to learn exactly how the payment would be calculated and a raft of other details involving its stake in subsidizing an event described in the local media as something close to The Rapture, were it fast, loud and smelly.

No one involved in staging the race has been too sure of how much anything cost taxpayers, not that it seems to have mattered much. The Austin American-Statesman, which did its full share of cheerleading for the event, has carried on a rather lonesome effort in court to try to get to the bottom of some of it.

It is the Statesman Tuesday saying the comptroller authorized a payment based on an estimate of the tax revenue the event is supposed to have generated. The estimate was developed by the comptroller’s staff with the assistance of the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee, a group affiliated with Circuit of the Americas.

The organizing committee this summer had estimated the three-day race extravaganza would generate $26.4 million. Still, the group thought nothing of asking for $30.6 million from the state’s Major Events Trust Fund.

Trust fund guidelines give the comptroller’s office up to 18 months to arrive at the true tax revenue figure. That would be approximately six months after the 2013 Austin race, the exact dates of which have not been finalized.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at mark@texaswatchdog.org or 512-299-2318.

Photo of racecar by flickr user Phil Ostroff, used via a Creative Commons license.

Judicial panel may keep records secret, Texas AG says
Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012, 03:28PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Raiders of the Lost Ark

It is at great personal risk that Texas Watchdog discloses that Attorney General Greg Abbott agrees that Texas law allows the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to operate in utter secrecy.

Imagine our surprise when doing a search that instead of finding a blank page the commission has a website with just enough words on it to prove the agency exists.

Having failed to turn into a pillar of pink granite we can conclude that at least for now it is safe to continue on typing the name State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Just don’t say the name aloud while reading this story.

You see, many of us were under the impression the commission was a public body much like any other, subject to laws governing the disclosure of its operations and to regular review by the state’s Sunset Advisory Commission.

How wrong we all were. The Commission on Judicial Conduct, claiming the law afforded them a blanket confidentiality almost unheard of in state government, refused in March to turn over any documents related to its reviews of judges and the judicial process in Texas.

Commission meetings are off limits to the public. State auditors were denied the documents. Low-level government employees were urged to look away from the secret papers when they were removed from a golden winged ark that had been buried for thousands of years.

(We admit to having gotten carried away with a Raiders of the Lost Ark metaphor here.)

The Sunset Commission threw up its hands at the time, saying a review was impossible, and asked for an opinion of the attorney general.

Understanding judges needed some buffer from political pressure and disgruntled plaintiffs, the commission wrote, the public ought to be able to see for itself whether judicial conduct was adequately scrutinized.

The public, with a little help from the Legislature, made sure that wasn’t going to happen by approving the adding of Section 1-a to Article 5 of the Texas Constitution in 1965.

Under that section all commission proceedings are confidential, Abbott said in an opinion he issued last week. Only an exception signed into law by the Legislature could circumvent the confidentiality protections.

In a wholly unexpected move, Seana Willing, executive director for the commission, declined to discuss Abbott’s ruling with the Austin American-Statesman. Nor were reporters allowed to gaze upon Willing’s face.

We were kidding about that last one. We think.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' the 1981 action-adventure film starring Harrison Ford.

Dimmit County Sheriff Joel Gonzalez waffles on deal to resign over outside work
Monday, Dec 10, 2012, 10:47AM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
Dimmit County courthouse

You know it’s rough when the sheriff has a probation officer.

That’s how things stand in Dimmit County, where Sheriff Joel Gonzalez is under pressure to resign over complaints he neglected his duties while running a security firm without a license, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

The charge against the sheriff came from an investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety that found he had operated Troy Security Services in Catarina and Asherton, each about two hours southwest of San Antonio, from January 2011 through March 2012, without a state license.

Joel GonzalezJoel Gonzalez

Long before he was charged, the sheriff, who was re-elected in November, was being criticized within the community for being hard to find and neglecting his official duties while operating his private security company.

The county attorney has more specific complaints, saying that hundreds of cases were poorly investigated, badly prepared or were delayed beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution.

In a pre-trial diversion deal, Gonzalez agreed to resign effective at the end of the year, and county commissioners are set to discuss the matter today.

But the sheriff’s been blowing off meetings with his probation officer and is now having second thoughts. “No sir,” he told a reporter who inquired last week about his leaving office.

The county attorney, who wanted the sheriff arrested, has said he is prepared to file for his removal.

***
Contact Lee Ann O’Neal at 713-980-9777 or leeann@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of the Dimmit County courthouse via dimmitcounty.org.

Rep. Bill Callegari aims to curb state licensing; Texas regulates eyebrow hair removal, timekeeping for boxing matches
Friday, Dec 07, 2012, 10:10AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Texas state Capitol dome

Pay attention in this next legislative session to state Rep. Bill Callegari, chairman of the House Government Efficiency and Reform Committee.

The work of the committee will almost certainly be overshadowed, as it is every session, with the high decibel clamoring to spend your tax billions. But what this committee accomplishes by the end of next May is one important measure of how serious your elected officials are about curbing their worst impulses.

Texas, Callegari tells the Austin American-Statesman, is unnecessarily regulated and over-licensed. He has so far filed four bills and has plans to file more in a broad salvo against those regulations and licenses.

Bill CallegariBill Callegari

Callegari, R-Katy, has filed a bill to get rid of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR tests, for high school students and roll the public education system back to testing methods that have been around for decades, the Statesman reports.

Texas Watchdog has long reported on efforts to repeal state mandated training and fees for such arcane services as eyebrow hair removal and wig refurbishing. Callegari is nettled by licenses for court reporters who use shorthand, timekeepers for boxing matches and shellfish processors, the Statesman says.

Callegari filed two bills, one for reviewing and phasing out silly licensing and one to give leverage for challenges to silly licensing to individuals and non-profit groups like the Institute for Justice that give legal help to people with their regulatory fights.

“When you regulate an occupation, you are expanding government control on how that job is done,” Callegari says. “That’s where the rubber really hits the road as far as government control.”

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Texas state Capitol dome by flickr user victorfe places, used via a Creative Commons license.

Six-figure drone, hog snares in Texas spotlighted in report critical of homeland security spending
Thursday, Dec 06, 2012, 05:08PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
Homeland Security

Thanks to the Urban Areas Security Initiative there are two feral hog catchers at the ready to make Liberty County, Texas, a safer place to live.

Like the $65 for the brace of hog snares, the Department of Homeland Security has little idea whether the $7.1 billion it has spent on the initiative over the last decade has provided real security, a new report by government spending watchdog Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says.

Guidelines for the grant program are broad as to be nonexistent and riddled with politics, the report says.

“FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) could not explain precisely how the UASI program has closed security gaps or prepared the nation in the event of another attack. In part, FEMA has done very little oversight of the program, allowing cities to spend the money on almost anything they want, as long as it has broad ties to terror prevention.”

Broad indeed, if one supposes that terrorists may one day unleash feral hogs on the people of Liberty County northeast of Houston.

Officials there used homeland security funds on two hog catchers, which is making the national rounds today and was first revealed last year by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram   which also broke news of a $21 fish tank, a $24,000 “latrine on wheels” and two 2011 Camaros, $30,884 a pop, purchased in the name of securing the Texas homeland.

Liberty County had in mind a threat like Hurricane Ike, not a terrorist attack, when it purchased two hog snares, at $32.50 each, in March 2010, according to an emergency management official.

Following that 2008 storm, “thousands of head of livestock were run out of their normal pastureland due to high water or escaped due to damaged fences,” Tom Branch, Liberty County coordinator of emergency management and homeland security, said via e-mail.

By state mandate, counties must evacuate people who cannot do so on their own, Branch said. This mandate extends to their pets.

So far, though, the snares have not been used.

“To my knowledge they have not been used as we have been fortunate enough not to have a disaster since they were purchased,” Branch said. “These are not things one would use daily, but this equipment would be invaluable when trying to round up animals during a disaster.”

Also unused is the six-figure drone, a Vanguard ShadowHawk, purchased by the sheriff’s department in Montgomery County north of Houston, population, 471,734. (For a photo of the ShadowHawk, see page 44 of the report.)

The ShadowHawk can be customized to send out flares or fire a Taser and “provides sophisticated and covert eyes-on-target capabilities to SWAT and other law enforcement teams,” the PoliceOne website for law enforcement boasts.

Those finely honed capabilities have not been tested in Montgomery County, though, because of FAA regulations, the sheriff’s chief deputy told the San Antonio Express-News last month.

***
Contact Lee Ann O’Neal at 713-980-9777 or leeann@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Homeland Security logo via House.gov.

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Legislative Session The 85th Legislative Session was different in many ways. Two things changed the narrative this session. First, Empower Texans successfully...
Update:1 year 7 months
Big Jolly Politics
Court trends advise tempered enthusiasm for HB 34 eyewitness ID reforms Does this sound like a suggestive photo array to put before a witness?A witness described being robbed at gunpoint by a “[b]lack male,...
Update:1 year 7 months
Grits for Breakfast
MAY 22, 2917 / Theodore Dalrymple on secularization and transcendence THE SECULARIZATION of Europe is hardly any secret. Religion's long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no...
Update:1 year 8 months
Unca Darrell
MAY 10 / James B. Comey . . . . . . needed firing. Everything he did during the 2016 election was wrong. He was wrong . . . . . . back in July to release information...
Update:1 year 8 months
Unca Darrell
Droppin' F bombs, Beto O'Rourke style It's not often that a politician decides to start cursing repeatedly during speeches and interviews. But that hasn't stopped...
Update:1 year 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
APRIL 5, 2017 / Weeding out the audience at the Alley is . . . . . . a feature, not a bug. Houston's Alley Theatre is running "An Act of God," a loosely dramatized collection of irreverent one-liners...
Update:1 year 10 months
Unca Darrell
Statewide primary rumors It's that stage of the election cycle where politicians are trying to figure out if they should run for something else or stay put. ...
Update:1 year 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Not really. Sure, he's not liked, Texans think Ted puts Ted first, his approval rating is upside down, etc...
Update:1 year 10 months
Rick Perry vs The World
MARCH 16, 2017 / Jim Webb on what it means to be a redneck, and . . . . . . why redneck culture matters. In 2004 Jim Webb wrote Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Though the 2016 presidential...
Update:1 year 10 months
Unca Darrell
MARCH 3, 2017 -- Goodbye, and thanks, to Thomas Sowell THOMAS SOWELL, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of America's most important public intellectuals, retired from...
Update:1 year 11 months
Unca Darrell
March 2, 2017 / The poem our teachers got wrong TWO ROADS diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Generations of commencement...
Update:1 year 11 months
Unca Darrell
FEBRUARY 27 / Eric Hoffer on . . . . . . baby boomers and alienated intellectuals. "SCRATCH AN INTELLECTUAL, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the...
Update:1 year 11 months
Unca Darrell
2017 Project: January “Progress” There are two different ways to interpret my 2017 project: that it's a way more complicated New Years Resolution, or that it is essentially...
Update:2 years 1 week
Greg's Opinion
Ted Cruz's first senate term in a nutshell The National Review's Tim Alberta switched to Politico, and one of his opening pieces put Ted Cruz's first term in a nutshell It...
Update:2 years 1 week
Rick Perry vs The World
Andrea Parquet-Taylor named KTVT CBS 11 news director Former KHOU 11 assistant news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor named Vice President, News Director for KTVT CBS 11 Andrea...
Update:2 years 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
VIDEO: KPRC 2 10pm newscast (1-24-99) ...
Update:2 years 2 weeks
Mike McGuff
Democrats actually thought Wendy Davis was a serious candidate? Hat tip to Willisms: VIDEO- Wendy Davis being Wendy Davis: https://t.co/SHq3ACGVDJ #txlege— Will Franklin (@WILLisms) January 24,...
Update:2 years 2 weeks
Rick Perry vs The World
Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:2 years 3 weeks
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 6 years 8 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 6 years 8 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 6 years 8 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 6 years 8 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 6 years 8 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 6 years 8 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 6 years 8 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 6 years 8 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 6 years 8 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 6 years 8 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 6 years 8 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 6 years 8 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 6 years 8 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 6 years 8 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 6 years 8 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 6 years 8 months
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 6 years 8 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 6 years 8 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 6 years 8 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 6 years 8 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
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