Monday, October 31, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
The system of uncapped donations means that Perry's superinsiders effectively operate as mobsters who hold a chit on the state's government. "These are obscenely huge amounts," says McDonald. "You can give a politician $100 or $1,000 because you like his ideology. But when you start giving him $250,000 or $500,000, you gotta think you are getting something in return."
So what did Harold Simmons get for his money? A lot.
For starters, a group of Perry appointees on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality gave Simmons a license to build his hazardous nuke dump, even after the TCEQ's own team of scientists agreed that the project was too risky, given how dangerously close it lies to the Ogalalla aquifer, which provides drinking water for seven states.---
---What's more, the company even got the government to pay for the landfill, lobbying the town of Andrews to float a $75 million bond issue to finance the construction of two new dump sites on the property. And in a final insult, WCS managed to negotiate a loophole exempting it from having to pay school taxes in Andrews. Instead, it offers a few small scholarships a year.
Perhaps the single most interesting favor that Perry doled out is one that directly violated his supposedly "conservative" Tea Party principles. One of his first big moves as governor was to back the Trans-Texas Corridor, a $175 billion project to privatize the state's highways. This was to be the mother of all public-works projects, a 4,000-mile highway network, at some points four football fields wide, that would also include commuter rails, freight rails and telecom pipelines. The TTC, in essence, was the ultimate Tea Party nightmare, a massive public boondoggle that would have created a huge network of new tolls and required a nearly unprecedented use of eminent domain to help the state seize nearly 500,000 acres of land from ranchers and farmers.
Though most of the project was shot down by the state legislature, Perry did manage to push through several parts of it, most notably a few stretches of new highway construction around Houston and Dallas. Some of the beneficiaries of those projects were American firms that had donated lots of money to Perry and the governors association, like Williams Brothers Construction ($621,000), Parsons Corporation ($410,000) and JP Morgan Chase ($191,000). But another beneficiary was a Spanish firm called Cintra, part of a consortium that won the development rights for the original TTC project.
---Cintra ultimately received about $5 billion in contracts from the state to develop three major highway projects, one of which, a toll road in central Texas, is one of the few surviving remnants of the hated TTC.
That's if the road ever gets finished. Cintra received a similar contract to run a toll road in Indiana, but it soon ran into financial problems and had to jack up tolls to pay for the $3.8 billion project. In Texas, Cintra will have some latitude to raise rates on its roads, and if you don't like it, well, fuck you.
But the most treasonous Perry deal of all came when he tried to do a macabre favor for his political hero, former senator Phil Gramm. Gramm gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Perry's campaign, essentially emptying the remnants of his own campaign war chest into Perry's when he left public office and went to work for the Swiss bank UBS. In 2002, Gramm came to Perry's administration with a proposal that would allow the bank to take out life insurance policies on retired Texas teachers. Under the deal, UBS would collect on the policies of the teachers when they died, and reward the state with a small cut for arranging the wagers. Teachers who balked at letting UBS profit from their death were reportedly to be paid $100 to sign on the dotted line. The state insurance commissioner, a Perry appointee, approved a special waiver to allow the deal to go through, but the project collapsed after a media backlash.
To recap: Rick Perry sold the right to tax Texas highway drivers to Spanish billionaires, let a British firm write a law authorizing the sale of virtually all Texas state property to foreign corporations, and tried to literally sell the lives of retired Texas schoolteachers to a Swiss bank.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Up Your Butt, Jobu
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
"Out of the million folks who work in Dallas city limits, 727,000 are suburbanites who come for work then scoot when it gets dark."
- Distill the issue down into one of people vs corporations. Sure, corporations are businesses and businesses employ people, but it is the shear size and power of the few that is distorting both democracy and capitalism. This is how you'll achieve a critical mass, left and right, black and white, old and young, the 99%.
- Reach out to the Tea Party. You're both people, there is common ground. And you're not always going to agree on everything so let those minor details work out democratically after...
- Push for the transparency of campaign donations at the very minimum, with stiff penalties for undisclosed donations. At the very least, we'll know who is bought and paid for and by whom.
- Push for the breaking up of monopolies. This can be achieved through executive order. Those that exist in a variety of industries stifle innovation, fix prices, alter public policy, and wield too much weight over market rates for both goods and labor. And in fact, more smaller companies employ more people than few larger ones. I don't give a damn about "efficiency." I do care about opportunity, fairness, and true competition, aka a healthy capitalist society. With emphasis on the "society."
- Push for the end of corporate personhood under the eyes of the law. If corporations are people, then they should be locked up because they behave like sociopaths. For a detailed history on the rise of corporate personhood, I'd like to point you to Unequal Protection. Also, my personal favorite sign from OccupyDallas: "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one."