Thursday, February 25, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The following note was written by Richard Glasheen, Democrat for JP, Precinct 5, for publication in the Austin American Statesman, but that newspaper can be somewhat selective in what they publish, so we thought it would be of value to readers by posting here.
I think it's important to note that the Republican Party in Travis County worked feverishly to find candidates for all judicial races but the people we approached noted that it would not be a smart move, professionally, on their part, and they declined. Here's Richard's note:
I sent the following e-mail to the Austin American Statesman in response to their Feb 21,2010 story in Section B on page B1 titled "Candidate wrong on pleas for cash to support party". They will surprise me if they print it. So I am sending it to the Travis County Democratic Party, the Travis County Republican Party, the Travis County Libertarian Party,the Austin Chronicle,local TV stations,CNN,MSNBC, and Fox News. Please feel free to forward this to anyone that you choose. And remember to vote for the candidate of your choice.
My e-mail to the Statesman:
My name is Richard Glasheen. I am a candidate for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5. I am a political newcomer having never before held or run for office.I believe that the general public would be shocked to find out what goes on behind the scenes.
The shakedown of the candidates in the Democratic primary by the Democratic Party is the tip of the iceberg. The Democratic Party primary is a corrupt system.
To begin with, the majority of the candidates on the ballot are running unopposed. Sadly,in some cases, those candidates will not face any challenger in November.
In the nonjudicial "races", the Libertarian Party will field a candidate in every race. Good for them.
As for the Republicans, shame on them for not having candidates in every "contest". Sure, they would likely be the loser here in Austin,Travis County. But the people deserve a choice. Sometimes you have to fight a fight you are probably going to lose. Remember the Alamo?
What a coincidence that there is a strong correlation between those who pay to play and who gets the endorsements. Even more disturbing is the contamination of our courthouse by money flowing from lawyers to judges in the form of "campaign donations."
My opponent,for example,reported in his campaign report filed last month that he purchased a mailing list from the State Bar. He sends letters to lawyers asking them for money. Shameful. We have judges who ask lawyers for money. And my opponent is far from being the only one. It is rampant.
Read the campaign finance reports online at the Travis County Clerk website. They are shocking. Now I understand that this practice is legal. But it is wrong. The only people I've met who think the practice is acceptable are lawyers or judges.
Prior to the civil war, it was legal to own other persons. So if you bought another human being in 1850,a black one, it was legal. But it was wrong. And some chose to not participate in slavery because it was wrong. They didn't wait for a law to come along to tell them the difference between right and wrong.
Throughout history, there are those with integrity and those without. The stream of money that flows from lawyers to judges in Travis County runs fast and deep.
Why don't you reporters analyze the data? Do lawyers who pay judges in Travis County get better results in the courtroom than those who don't? Do candidates who pay a shakedown fee get more endorsements than those who refuse? Isn't it a strange system where a sitting judge asks lawyers for money, then turns around and pledges money to the Democratic Party, gets favorable endorsements, and gets reelected? And then they stay on the government tit for years or decades.
When I walked in to the Democratic Party headquarters in January to file to run against an unopposed candidate in the primary, who also has no Republican opposition in November, I was told "That's Herb's court!" I had to explain to the party hack who said it that the courthouse belongs to all of us.
There is plenty to report on in this primary. Follow the money.
Posted by Joe Gimenez at 4:19 PM
Several groups in Austin are fighting new measures to increase bicycle lanes in Austin. This blog should serve as a reference to what is going on and offer some viewpoints of people involved in the fray.
The City's Bicycle Plan is here:
KeepAustinMoving.org is trying to fight one portion of the Plan: the change of Nueces (or possibly Rio Grande) through downtown into a "bicycle boulevard." Here's their concern:
"At a time when the motoring public is demanding relief to traffic congestion and the Greater Austin Community is desirous of greater densities throughout Downtown, it is counter-intuitive, counter- productive, and just a Plain Old Bad Idea to be reducing vehicular mobility on an important commercial collector street that is poised for redevelopment. No matter which road is chosen.
A Bicycle Boulevard may be appropriate for quiet residential neighborhoods, but it is inappropriate for commercial roadways in dense urban areas and its construction will have a chilling effect on future redevelopment, the viability of commercial businesses that line the road, and the ad valorem taxes generated by property values."
Another Travis County activist weighed in on these developments, saying:
I was a board member of A-PADD, Austin Planned and Directed Development, an organization composed of 36 south Austin neighborhood associations, which successfully got MoPac extended from 290-71 west to Hwy 45. We proposed the extension as a parkway (no frontage roads) with hiking-running trails on one side and bike trails on the other. The bike trail was envisioned beginning at Circle-C's Velodrome and eventually connecting to bike trails at Zilker. The MoPac design consultant incorporated that concept into the engineering and construction plans. Austin and the bike lobby have consistently opposed that plan. Recently though it has been adopted though modified to not use the MoPac ROW.
I served on the Transportation Commission for 4 years in the mid 1980's and couldn't agree more with the negative impact of removing lanes from city streets to accommodate bicycles. Doing it on neighborhood streets (not neighborhood collectors) I have no problem with but only if the neighborhood is fully supportive.
However, we all know what the objective is; to reduce auto mobility and force use of the grossly inadequate public transit system. Rather than upgrading our flexible bus system by purchase of smaller buses, more frequent scheduling and cross node routes, Austin (via CapMetro) is spending excessive funds to implement rail, both commuter and light. What a shortsighted waste! Austin can't even run an effective bus system but it can darned sure spend funds as though they were unlimited.
Ultimately someone is going to have to pay the piper and, unfortunately, it will be the citizens these costly systems are supposed to benefit.
And, where was Austin when the freeways were being built or upgraded? Why were no HOV lanes requested of TxDOT so transit services could reduce the bus trip time versus auto to destinations?
Remember, when Mopac from the Colorado to 290/71 West didn't have frontage roads and from Parmer to I-35 wasn't a freeway (now it is a Toll Road)? Austin's leadership had their heads stuck in the sand listening to "environmentalists" and "neighborhood activists" that opposed any mobility improvements. When I was
on the Trans Commission system mobility improvements were proposed by City Staff for Enfield-15th streets, 35th street (35th - 38 1/2) and Northland-Koenig. All were opposed and defeated by those same groups at Council meetings.
If I sound negative it is because I have come to the conclusion that Austin is run by
folks with little or no actual business experience and elected by folks that want to maintain the status quo, or, to actually move us backwards. And, then there are the newbies that want downtown Austin to be like New York City with "street cars" and Zilker becoming their Central Park. For my money, if they want it to be like where they came from, then they should go back there. And as Texans like to say, "Don't let the door hit them in the butt as they leave!"
Posted by Joe Gimenez at 3:45 PM
Monday, February 22, 2010
So a law hailed as the most sweeping piece of consumer legislation in decades has helped make it more difficult for millions of Americans to get credit, and made that credit more expensive.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. The law that President Barack Obama signed last May shields card users from sudden interest rate hikes, excessive fees and other gimmicks that card companies have used to drive up profits. Consumers will save at least $10 billion a year from curbs on interest rate increases alone, according to the Pew Charitable Trust, which tracks credit card issues.
But there was a catch. Card companies had nine months to prepare while certain rules were clarified by the Federal Reserve. They used that time to take actions that ended up hurting the same customers who were supposed to be helped.
Here are some more results:
Annual fees, common until about 10 years ago, will make a comeback. During the final three months of last year, 43 percent of new offers for credit cards contained annual fees, versus 25 percent in the same period a year earlier
Several banks also added these fees to existing accounts.
-- Created new fees and raised old ones.
These include a $1 processing fee for paper statements for cards issued by stores such as Victoria's Secret and Ann Taylor. Another example is a $19 inactivity fee Fifth Third Bank now charges customers who haven't used their card for six months.
Other banks increased existing fees. JPMorgan Chase, for instance raised the cost of balance transfers from one card to another to 5 percent of the transfer from 3 percent.
-- Raised interest rates.
The average rate offered for a new card climbed to 13.6 percent last week, from 10.7 percent during the same week a year ago -- meaning cardholders had to pay almost 30 percent more in interest, according to Bankrate.com.
For millions of other accounts, variable interest rates that can rise with the market replaced fixed rates. The Fed is expected to start raising its benchmark interest rates later this year, which would likely trigger an increase on those cards.
-- Fewer cards being issued, more being cut off
The number of Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards in circulation dropped 15 percent in 2009, for example. Rarely used cards were among the first cut off. Some cards linked to rewards programs for purchases like gasoline were likewise shut down.
Card companies also slashed credit limits for millions of accounts that remain open. About 40 percent of banks cut credit lines on existing accounts, according to the consultant TowerGroup, which estimated that such moves eliminated about $1 trillion in available credit. Much of that was unused.
Companies are also making fewer solicitations. Mailed offers for new cards increased in the final three months of 2009 for the first time in two years, but there were only about 575 million. That's about a third of the average number of quarterly offers from 2000 through 2008, according to Mintel.
Because the law makes credit cards less profitable, some subprime borrowers may not be able to get cards at all, at least for the next few years. There's no fixed definition, but subprime borrowers generally have a FICO score below 660. For a good portion of this group, options may be limited to alternatives like PayPal and other electronic payment services, prepaid cards and payday lenders.
I'd guess supporters of these moves could say these measures will ultimately reduce the possibility for credit bubbles to reoccur and keep people who can't pay from getting out of control with their credit cards. But the moves will also have the effect of reducing consumer financial flexibility and make it so much more expensive for people who already have outstanding debt. Get ready to start feeling more of a financial squeeze.
The knock out punch will be the inevitable higher taxes that are on their way.
Posted by Joe Gimenez at 6:59 PM
Friday, February 12, 2010
Austin, Texas — Tuesday night the Central Texas Republican Assembly (CTRA) endorsed several candidates running in the Republican Primary. The CTRA endorses candidates only in contested Republican Primary races for districts solely within or covering portions of Travis, Bastrop and Hays Counties.
The CTRA is one of six chartered chapters of the Texas Republican Assembly (TXRA), which itself is affiliated with the National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA). Cast in the mold of President Ronald Reagan, the Assemblies aspire to remain the 'Republican Wing of the Republican Party', meaning they consider themselves to be fiscal and social conservatives and they seek to endorse candidates who they consider are fiscal and social conservatives.
Regarding the endorsement process, CTRA President Timothy Bradberry said, “Many candidates seek our endorsement. To get that endorsement they present themselves to the membership at forums, undergo scrutiny by an endorsement committee and ultimately must garner the votes of two-thirds of the members at an endorsement meeting.”
Bradberry also said, “In the Primary we identify and support conservatives. We wholeheartedly back the candidates we endorse. In the General Election we support the Republicans, meaning that the CTRA will respect the will of the Republicans who vote in the Primary even if our endorsed candidates do not win the primary. After all, we are Republicans.”
The CTRA endorsements for the 2010 Primary are as follows (“I” indicates Incumbent):
- Patrick McGuinness for Texas House of Representatives, District 50
- Ken Mercer for Texas State Board of Education, District 5
- Michael T. McCaul (I) for U.S. House of Representatives, District 10
- Lamar Smith (I) for U.S. House of Representatives, District 21
- Donna Campbell for U.S. House of Representatives, District 25
The Central Texas Republican Assembly (CTRA) is a Charter member of the Texas Republican Assembly, which is affiliated with the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, “the Republican Wing of the Republican Party.”
Here's a press statement that's worth repeating:
WASHINGTON - Today, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele issued the following statement on President Abraham Lincoln’s 201st birthday:
“Today, I am pleased to honor the 201st birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln’s remarkable presidency helped pave the way for African Americans to have an opportunity to achieve the American dream. From issuing the two executive orders that made up the Emancipation Proclamation and to his commitment to the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, President Lincoln secured his place in history as a civil rights pioneer. Though the battle for equality continues almost 150 years since his death, it is President Lincoln’s legacy that will always point America in the right direction.”
I think Steele could have added that the election of an African American to the Presidency of the United States is the ultimate legacy of Abraham Lincoln.
Posted by Joe Gimenez at 9:25 AM
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
The Obama Administration has been quite frank about its intention to do things different, to reset how America does business, and to extend olive branches to Muslim jihadists dedicated to our death.
We're now seeing from the Wall Street Journal that those policies mean announcing your intended targets by press release:
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan—In a rare break from traditional military secrecy, the U.S. and its allies are announcing the precise target of their first big offensive of the Afghanistan surge in an apparent bid to intimidate the Taliban.I'm not a military tactician by any means, but knowing where and when your opponent is going to attach means the enemy can choose among several options:
Coalition officers have been hinting aloud for months that they plan to send an overwhelming Afghan, British and U.S. force to clear insurgents from the town of Marjah and surrounding areas in Helmand province, and this week the allies took the unusual step of issuing a press release saying the attack was "due to commence."
- run, regroup and fight again, another time, another day
- gather the resources to successfully fight against the U.S. forces at the pre-announced site
- hit the U.S. forces at a location where its forces have been reduced (as they are in Helmand)
- surrender because they are scared
The sad fact is that of all the options, number 4 is the least likely and this tactic of broadcasting our moves does nothing to end the ongoing threat from Taliban/Al Queda forces.
Our prayers go out to the men and women in unform under this Pacifist in Chief.
Posted by Joe Gimenez at 3:24 PM