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Texas Touts Toll Roads

Photo: KTRH 

Some people like them, some hate them, others tolerate them as a necessary nuisance.  Regardless, toll roads are apparently here to stay in Texas.  At the recent annual conference for the toll road industry in Austin, Texas leaders including Gov. Rick Perry and TxDot’s executive director Joe Weber praised the state as a leader in the pay road industry.  Perry called Texas “the mecca of innovation on transportation infrastructure,” while Weber described toll roads as “vital” to the state’s transportation needs as it deals with crowded roads and a growing population.  Moreover, the state’s gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993, resulting in an estimated $5 million annual shortfall in the Texas highway fund.

Critics say it’s not about how much money is coming in, but where it is spent.  “The toll roads make, I think, $600 million or more per year, they keep raising the fees, and now they want to do a number of other projects,” says Tom Bazan, a Houston transportation activist and longtime critic of METRO.  Bazan tells KTRH he is not against toll roads.  “The taxes need to come from somewhere,” he says.  “If they are specifically from the users and applied towards maintaining the roads, I don’t have a problem with that…they just need to keep it from being diverted to other spending priorities.”

The Harris County Toll Road Authority has several projects currently in the works, including an extension of the Hardy Toll Road to downtown, and widening of the Sam Houston Tollway.  In a statement to KTRH, the HCTRA says, “Toll Roads, whether build by TxDot or HCTRA, are just a part of the solution.  Toll Roads are not meant for every project.”

Bazan agrees that toll roads are only part of the solution, but he wants to see more drastic change in road funding.  “We need more rubber-tired solutions,” he says.  “We need to quit wasting the money on urban rail, and quit taking the gasoline tax from the drivers and giving it to things like education.”  Texas voters will decide this fall on a ballot measure to divert some of the state’s oil and gas tax revenues to the highway fund.

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by KTRH’s Corey Olson

The Liberal Newcomers: Limit immigration or watch conservative efforts become irrelevant.

File Photo

People come to America because it is a remarkable oasis of freedom, prosperity, and opportunity. Conservatives recognize that the principal reason for our unique abundance is our constitutional restraint on the power of government. As Thomas Jefferson said, “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Maintaining this system requires the public to support limited government. In a new report, Eagle Forum details how immigration is fundamentally changing the electorate to one that is much more supportive of big government.

By itself, the annual flow of 1.1 million legal immigrants under the current system will create more than 5 million new potential voters by 2024 and more than 8 million by 2028. Congressional Budget Office projections indicate that under the Senate Gang of Eight’s S.744 bill, the total additional potential voters would rise to nearly 10 million by 2024 and 18 million by 2028. The influx of these new voters would reduce or eliminate Republicans’ ability to offer an alternative to big government, to increased government spending, to higher taxes, and to favorite liberal policies such as Obamacare and gun control.

 There is nothing controversial about the report’s conclusion that both Hispanics and Asians, who account for about three-fourth of today’s immigrants, generally agree with the Democrats’ big-government agenda. It is for this reason that they vote two-to-one for Democrats.

The 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey found that 62 percent of immigrants prefer a single, government-run health-care system. The 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that 69 percent of immigrants support Obamacare. Pew also found that 53 percent of Hispanics have a negative view of capitalism, the highest of any group surveyed. This is even higher than the 47 percent among self-identified supporters of Occupy Wall Street.

The Pew Research Center has also found that 75 percent of Hispanics prefer a “bigger government providing more services,” and only 19 percent prefer a smaller government. Pew also reported that 55 percent of Asians prefer “bigger government providing more services,” and only 36 percent prefer a smaller government. So it’s no surprise that in 2012, 71 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of Asians voted for Obama.

Even Republican emphasis on patriotism and national sovereignty is likely to alienate many immigrants. A Harris poll found that 81 percent of native-born Americans believe our schools should teach students to be proud of being American, compared with only 50 percent of immigrants who had become naturalized U.S. citizens. Only 37 percent of naturalized citizens (compared with 67 percent of native-born citizens) think our Constitution is a higher legal authority than international law.

While it seems that much of the Republican-party leadership has not actually looked at the policy preferences of immigrants, everyone else who has looked at the polls comes to the conclusion that significant majorities of immigrants and their children are big-government liberals. The New York Times’ Washington bureau chief admitted last year that “the two fastest-growing ethnic groups — Latinos and Asian-Americans — are decidedly liberal.” As University of Alabama political scientist George Hawley observes, “Immigrants are well to the left of the American public on a number of key issues.” He also makes clear that “liberalizing immigration will liberalize the U.S.” Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute points out that it “is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic party, but the core Democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation.”

Immigration in general — not race — is the issue. The limited data for other immigrants — including Europeans and Muslims — indicate that they, too, generally hold views well to the left of the average American voter. In fact, as discussed in our new report, for reasons largely outside the control of conservatives, immigrants and their children gravitate to left-wing parties in almost all Western countries. The problem for conservatives is not race or ethnicity but immigration as such.

Read more here.

By Phyllis Schlafly

Chaffetz: Four men with Middle East terrorist ties caught at Texas border on Sept 10

Photo: FOX News Screen Shot

Was the United States closer to a terrorist attack on home soil on the 13th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, than Americans realize?

At a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questioned Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about a report that four men with known ties to Middle East terrorist groups were apprehended on Sept. 10, as they tried to cross the Texas border.

“I’ve heard reports to that effect, but I don’t know the accuracy of the reports or how much credence to give them,” Johnson said nonchalantly, while scratching his nose.

Again, this is coming from the man whose task is to “secure the nation from the many threats we face,” as the department defines its mission.

Chaffetz was a guest Wednesday on “The Kelly File,” and after noting that Johnson did not confirm or deny the report, host Megyn Kelly explained that Chaffetz had earlier asked Johnson if any suspected or known terrorist have ever been apprehended on the southern border.

“Sitting here right now, no specific case comes to mind,” Johnson answered, according to Kelly. “That doesn’t mean there is none, perhaps FBI director [James] Comey can think of one.”

Feeling more secure now?

Chaffetz noted that 466,000 people have been caught illegally crossing the U.S. border over the last 351 days, with 157,000 getting away, according to Homeland Security — those captured came from 143 different countries, including Syria, Iraq and Iran.

“We have a porous border […] I’m worried about [Islamic State militants] actually coming to the United States and crossing that porous border and getting into the homeland,” he told Kelly.

The New York Times reported Monday that that Homeland Security pushed back on such concerns.

“There is no credible intelligence to suggest that there is an active plot by ISIL to attempt to cross the southern border,” Homeland Security officials told the Times in a written statement.

See the full exchange between Kelly and Chaffetz on the Fox News video here.


by Tom Tillison

Waitress Says Rush Limbaugh Tipped Her $1,000 on Two Occasions — Here’s What She Did With the Money Just to Spite Him

Photo: AP/Chris Carlson

A waitress turned author claims she received two generous tips of $1,000 on two separate occasions from conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh — but she couldn’t find it in herself to keep the “blood money.”

Instead, she allegedly donated a “sizable chunk” of Limbaugh’s $2,000 tip to an abortion charity.

Author Merritt Tierce makes the claim in her debut novel “Love Me Back,” in which she tells stories about her experience as a waitress at a fancy Dallas steakhouse.

In a recent interview with the Dallas Morning News, she recalled the two occasions where Limbaugh and his friend, sportscaster Al Michaels, dined at the restaurant and left the massive tips.

“It felt like laundering the money in a good way. He’s such an obvious target for any feminist or sane person. It was really bizarre to me that he gave me $2,000, and he’s evil incarnate in some ways,” she told the paper.

Tierce said she donated a good portion of money to the TEA Fund, a charity that helps fund abortions for low-income women. However, the Dallas Morning News article does not specify how much of Limbaugh’s $2,000 represents a “sizable chunk”

Tierce was reportedly the executive director of the TEA Fund at the time.

A new, sillier ‘battle of the Alamo’

As we’ve been reminded in several instances this year, far-right paranoia surrounding the United Nations can get a little unnerving, at times, even counter-productive to U.S. interests. But once in a while, the manifestation of this paranoia can get a little silly.
Recently, for example, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization decided to grant World Heritage status the Alamo, giving the Texas historical site the same status as other American treasures such as Independence Hall, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Statue of Liberty. It would seem like the sort of thing that Texans could be proud of, and which might even help boost tourism in the area.
But it’s not quite working out that way.
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whose office oversees the Alamo, had two key words Wednesday about rumors that the state shrine could fall under control of the United Nations.
“Horse hockey,” Patterson, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, said Wednesday in a statement.
Rumors have circulated in recent weeks, via email and social media, that the U.N. would manage the Alamo if it – and San Antonio’s four other Spanish colonial missions — are granted World Heritage status.
The conspiracy theory apparently started with George Rodriguez, the former president of the San Antonio Tea Party, who warned that ownership of the Alamo could be transferred from Texas to the U.N. It was soon after picked up by Alex Jones.
In an especially interesting twist, the right is going after San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, saying he “may have started a new ‘battle of the Alamo,’” even though the mayor’s office has literally nothing to do with the state-run site or surrounding national parks.
“Castro is a liberal who believes in a ‘global society,’ and apparently he sees no problem with the U.N. influencing or even managing the Alamo,” Rodriguez wrote. He added that “a blue U.N. flag may fly above the historic shrine of liberty once it falls under U.N. control.”
None of this is even remotely true, but local conservative activists are apparently worked up about this and state officials are doing their best to explain that the conspiracy theories are wrong. With Alex Jones keeping the right agitated,
I don’t envy the Texas Land Commissioner’s office.

By Steve Benen

Perry Declares His Legacy

The Associated Press 

Republican Gov. Rick Perry says Texas adequately funded public schools on his watch and still believes in offering in-state tuition rates to students who are living in the country without legal permission.

Perry on Sunday sat for a wide-ranging interview at the Texas Tribune Festival about the highs and lows of his record 14 years in office.

One surprise was his deferential tone about whether Texas should continue his signature economic incentive programs after he leaves in January. Handing over millions in taxpayer dollars to private companies has grown unpopular in some Republican circles.

Perry said the next Legislature should have a conversation about whether those programs should continue or not.

Perry is weighing another White House run in 2016 but says he won’t announce a decision until next year.

The Associated Press

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SpaceX To Break Ground On Texas Rocket Launch Site

Photo: AP File 

Gov. Rick Perry will attend as SpaceX breaks ground on the state’s southernmost tip for the company’s first commercial site for orbital launches.

The Monday ceremony will mark the start of construction of the $85 million site at Boca Chica Beach, east of Brownsville. The site will be used to launch commercial satellites.

Perry is providing $2.3 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund toward the project, and the state offers another $13 million from the Spaceport Trust Fund to pay for infrastructure development.

California-based SpaceX is expected to create 300 jobs at the site. The company already has a rocket testing facility in McGregor, in Central Texas, that employs 250 people.

SpaceX says it plans 12 launches a year from the South Texas oceanfront site.

By The Associated Press 

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Opinion: Are We Prepared For An ISIS Threat At The U.S.-Mexico Border?

By Nelson Balido

The president’s recent address on the threat of the Islamic State terrorist group and its effect on U.S. security resulted in a mixed bag of post-speech analysis and commentary, and it should affect the way policymakers consider U.S.-Mexico border security in the future.

The departing director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, has said there is no credible information pointing to an Islamic State-led terrorist attack in the U.S. or Europe, nor is there any indication of an Islamic State cell operating in the U.S.

Mexico doesn’t want to be a beachhead for terrorists any more than we do. Approaching our southern neighbor as a friend and ally first will help keep the cross-border communication lines flowing freely.

- Nelson Balido

But then in a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, a Department of Homeland Security undersecretary testified that members of Islamic State have discussed via social media the possibility of infiltrating the U.S. via our border with Mexico. The DHS official, Francis Taylor, went on to say that his department was “satisfied that we have the intelligence and the capability at our border that would prevent that activity.”

So is there a threat? And if so, are we prepared for it, especially at the border?

Whether real or imagined, the infrastructure is in place for terrorist networks to exploit gaps in U.S. border security. This summer’s experience with thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America streaming across the border shows that human smuggling rings and drug cartels can easily adapt their perverse supply chain management techniques for new paying customers. Coyotes and kingpins don’t perform background checks on their clients.

Congress and the administration could meet this challenge by passing spending bills to pay for a human chain of Border Patrol agents from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, or they could build a wall from coast to coast, but both are terrible uses of taxpayer dollars.

A huge expansion of Border Patrol’s ranks might appease some in the close-the-border camp, but it would divert resources away from the security of our ports, which are just as vulnerable to acts of terror. Certainly more infrastructure expansion, as many engineering and construction companies may claim, simply is more money down the drain without focusing on the actual problem.  And a fence or wall would result in little more than years of headaches as land owners and the feds duke it out in courtrooms. ISIS won’t wait that long.

There has to be a better way.

America’s technology firms are home to some of the nation’s best and brightest minds on security, and they’re ready to help. There are exciting new developments and tools that can be force multipliers and reduce costs for our border agencies. Cameras, satellite imagery and sensors are just a few of the gadgets at DHS and other law enforcement agencies’ disposal available for quick deployment.  And with new spectrum technologies emerging taking advantage of older and abandoned 2G bandwidth from cell phone companies, there are many of today’s functions that can be accomplished at a fraction of the cost.

In addition to technology, we need a robust intelligence network in Mexico. Already private sector firms are using sophisticated preemptive behavior monitoring software to determine the best times for freight shippers to cross the border while sharing information with customs authorities to better understand the inspection process. These same methods could be adapted to other border security applications.

Finally, even though the executive branches in the U.S. and Mexico often portray their relationship as one wrapped in the pomp and circumstance of things like official state visits and obscure sounding reports, we can’t lose sight of the importance of friendships and information sharing. Mexico doesn’t want to be a beachhead for terrorists any more than we do. Approaching our southern neighbor as a friend and ally first will help keep the cross-border communication lines flowing freely.

Policymakers should shift to war footing on the border, but that doesn’t mean slowing down travelers on holding up shipments. Technology and intelligence are the keys to a secure border. In light of a new and emerging terrorist threat, their importance has only increased.

Nelson Balido is the managing principal at Balido and Associates, chairman of the Border Commerce and Security Council, and former member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.  Follow him on Twitter: @nelsonbalido

Fort Worth police: Man shot, charged with theft after he tried to rob a man he met on Craigslist

Photo: WFXP

A man was shot and then arrested after police say he was trying to rob a man he met through Craigslist.

Police responded to a call around 10 p.m. Thursday at a house in the 6800 block of Robinhood Lane near Meadowbrook Drive.

Orlando McClinton, 27, agreed to meet at a 41-year-old man’s residence to buy a piece of jewelry that was listed for sale on Craigslist. McClinton tried to take the jewelry without paying for it, and the other man shot him, police said.

McClinton was shot in the leg. He was transported to the hospital with injuries that were not expected to be life-threatening, police said.

Both men stayed at the scene until officers arrived. McClinton has been charged with theft. Investigators were questioning the other man Friday, police said.

By Tasha Tsiaperas - The Dallas Morning News

El Paso Releases Video of Cop Executing Handcuffed Man — Where’s the Anger?

Image via El Paso Police Department

An execution video has become a morbid feature of this week’s news cycle. On screens across the country, click after click, a “graphic” warning gives way to grim curiosity. Viewers see a man whose arms are cuffed behind him. He struggles with officers and squirms on the floor. The executioner draws his gun and shoots. The body bleeds, convulses, and eventually lies still.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants are masters of execution and know the value of a viral death video. But I’m not referring to Iraq or Syria — I’m referring to El Paso, Texas. This week, in compliance with an open records request order, the El Paso police released video of what can only be described as a summary execution. Officer Jose Flores shot Daniel Saenz, a 37-year-old bodybuilder, while Saenz was on the ground and in police custody.

The video released by the El Paso Police Department. The sequence ahead of the shooting begins around 18:00 (can be seen here). 

Video of cop assaulting black ASU professor should prompt more than outrage. Read more here.

Saenz had been arrested for reportedly assaulting an off-duty officer and staff at a local medical center on March 8, 2013. Flores and a prison guard were transporting Saenz — shirtless, handcuffed, and struggling — from the city jail to a hospital to treat a self-inflicted injury. Flores fired the fatal shot with a Glock semiautomatic handgun as he and the prison guard wrestled with Saenz outside of the jail.

The bullet went through Saenz’s left shoulder and into his chest, piercing his heart. The authorities called it an accident. They said that the guard knocked Flores as he pointed his drawn weapon, causing it to fire. They said that Saenz could have moved his cuffs to the front of his body and, with his strength, use them as a weapon. They said a taser would not suffice to subdue him.

But the video speaks for itself. The bodybuilder was executed.

When BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar Grant dead as he lay face down on the platform at Oakland’s Fruitvale Station in 2009, he was also caught on video (by the camera phones of onlookers). As the footage spread, the streets erupted. Protesters and rioters left smashed windows and burning cars in their wake.

The NYPD is now bypassing journalists to write news stories about itself. Read more here.

The video released by the city of El Paso, however, has provoked no such response. The streets are quiet. Of course, the differences in context between the two shootings are vast and multifaceted. It is merely my humble opinion that seeing a cop shoot an unarmed man dead should produce a collective rage so strong that the police can feel it, see it, and smell it.

Officer Flores was not indicted. A New York Daily News report said that “it was not clear whether Flores was still on the force.” It went on to note that “Flores is also the El Paso cop who became the focus of national attention after giving a pair of boots and socks to a homeless man in January 2013.” The Daily News story ends with this reference to the cop’s good deed. The indeterminacy over whether he is or is not on active duty after killing a handcuffed detainee is tucked between paragraphs.

I am reminded of the 2012 story of an NYPD officer pictured giving boots and socks to a barefoot homeless man on a wintery New York tonight. Hundreds of thousands of Facebook users “liked” the image posted online by the police department.

“The NYPD has been on a warpath against the homeless, going back decades,” Jean Rice, a long-time civil rights campaigner and homeless advocate with the nonprofit organization Picture the Homeless, told me at the time. “The kindness of one individual officer is a drop in the ocean of the NYPD’s pattern and practice of violating homeless people’s civil rights.”

Disastrous #myNYPD Twitter campaign backfires hilariously. Read more here.

In the case of Flores we are confronted with the fact that a kind cop can be a killer cop too. It might appear inconsistent of me to urge a distrust of cops based on incidents of brutality but not urge an appreciation of them based on incidents of charity and kindness. If this is bias, it is empirically grounded in response to a structure of criminal justice in which a cop can shoot dead a handcuffed, unarmed man and not even face an indictment. A cop can kill a young black man prone on a train platform and face little more than a year in prison for involuntary manslaughter. A cop can kill an unarmed Bronx teen after he runs into his grandmother’s bathroom and have his indictment thrown out by a judge.

“That’s how they work,” said the weeping mother of this slain teen, Ramarley Graham, as fellow cops cheered for their colleague in court. “You see it every day.”

The mother’s use of “they” was appropriate. Anti-police sentiment is regularly met with ripostes like, “But they are people too,” or, “What if that officer has a family?” To such comments I respond that whenever we talk about a cop we’re not dealing with an individual but an institution — the uniform and weaponry indicate as much. Not all cops give warm socks and boots to homeless citizens. Not all cops shoot unarmed detainees. But all cops are part of a violent system of policing, colored by harassment and drenched in impunity. Yes, all cops.

How to get more from police self-surveillance: don’t turn it off. Read more here.

Follow Natasha Lennard on Twitter: @natashalennard