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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Wednesday Roundup - After the Big Night

Paging through the usual chunk of news stories and blogs this morning, I came across an entry on The Huffington Post by David Rees, creator of the brilliant Get Your War On, which was once solely on the Internet and now runs in Rolling Stone. He referred to the State of the Union as Congress' "Night To Remember," as if it were the yearly prom. He's funny, and his post includes mention of a tactical plan in which Condoleezza Rice and Dennis Kucinich team up to personally arrest terrorists.

Speaking of the State of the Union, the New York Times postulates on the seeming dishonesty in the President's bipartisan tone. It didn't go unnoticed that in all the years leading up to this one, the President was unabashedly disinterested in bipartisanship. It is true that he didn't really need to be, but the pleading at this late hour for teamwork leads myself and others to feel like either empty lip service or a thinly-veiled warning that "bipartisanship" actually means "keep doing what I want," even if he is in no real position to enforce sentiment. The Washington Post's Dan Balz noted the more humble tone of the address, which was evident through the initial self-aware moment about the changing situation and sentiment over Iraq, but largely disappeared when the address turned to the escalation. I'll be interested to see how the polls shake out, but I don't think there will be much of a bounce.

The Texas Task Force on Appraisal Reform submitted its report yesterday, and failed to suggest a cap on property taxes. Public opinions among those that pay the tax wishes they would have, and many Republicans who ran on the promise of getting these very rates under control may have trouble in the offing. Perry and members of the panel all seem to agree that getting a hard cap passed in the legislature would be impossible this time around, so a series of measures to slow the rate of increase for property taxes was introduced instead. There will be a couple of runs at constitutional amendments providing for the cap, but again, confidence is not high.

UTA and UTD released the details of a new program that will allow them to offer free tuition to students from families that make less than $25,000 a year. I'm sure this program will have its critics, as a percentage of tuition increases will go towards financial aid initiatives like this, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who would argue against the idea that a well-educated potential workforce does wonders for the economic well-being of an area, and the growth in the DFW area will support some pretty big business moves in the next ten years.

Before this morning, the last time I saw a reference to a "package store" was when I was living in Boston. This article explains what your friendly neighborhood wholesale liquor lobby has been up to in reference to package stores - apparently, places that serve booze in Texas must buy their liquid courage from package, or liquor stores. Wholesalers would like to open up that enormous market to their services, and liquor store owners are of course upset by this potential development. To show they mean it, the wholesalers have been handing out the dollars to everyone who might play a role in the decision, should it come up.

An interesting bit that came out yesterday about the Scooter Libby trial: the defense for Libby made the assertion that he's a scapegoat, which was no surprise. What was a surprise is the argument that he's been made to take the fall instead of Karl Rove. Rove probably isn't going to jail over this and it most likely won't go any higher up the chain than Libby anyways, but I thought it was surprising they would just throw that out there. I am curious to see how this angle works for the Defense.

Speaking of going to jail, Tom DeLay may be back in the same pot he started out in as far as criminal charges go. Travis County DA Ronnie Earle is attempting to get the conspiracy charges against him reinstated. The argument is in the details - the defense claims what DeLay and Pals did wasn't illegal when they did it, Earle argues that criminal conspiracy is criminal conspiracy - but the finer point is that this appeals process could drag out the time before the trial even begins by several months.

If you went to A&M and own one of those charming "Saw 'Em Off," you will be saddened to learn of the lawsuit UT is levying against the creator of the popular decal. Claiming trademark infringement, UT's board of regents is taking it court. I imagine the legal precedent set by this will be just as effective as Bill Watterson's attempts to legally force people to stop making stickers that feature Calvin peeing on everything from Ford logos to Satan.

Houston is undergoing some mixed-use struggles these days, and it is a situation which is not uncommon in cities that undergo unchecked industrial growth. How much of Houston, if you were to dig up a vacant lot for mixed-use parks, what kind of junk would you find lurking in the earth as a byproduct of development? Parks are more important than most people really understand to healthy cities - observe Detroit in the late 1980's and 1990's. Or, I guess, observe Detroit today. I think the proposal to have developers pay into a fund set aside for parks is an idea who's time has come, but it usually gets crushed when put up for a vote.

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