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Christian Science Monitor
Baghdad Jan. 7, 2006
She has been a good guest on my program. One of the very, very few to travel outside the Green Zone to do actual reporting.
Her Letter From Baghdad 2005
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EARLY VOTING INFO DOWN COLUMN
NUMBER of DAYS SINCE the E-MAIL INCIDENT THAT
COUNCILWOMAN ELENA GUAJARDO HAS NOT RESIGNED
Allen Ellebracht is trying to get City Council to investigate councilwoman Guajardo and seeks email support at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Messer:
Unfortunately, I only caught a minute or two of your talk with Mr. Ellebracht this morning about possible law that deals with the releasability of information covered by the Texas Public Information Act (formerly Open Records Act). The Dickerson tragedy has bothered me so much, I've looked into it a bit -- as a layman.
Contrary to what Ms. Guajardo, my family's Councilperson, and others involved have said, not all information possessed by Texas government entities is releasable.
Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code lists specific exceptions. Here is the one that appears relevant.
§ 552.137. CONFIDENTIALITY OF CERTAIN E-MAIL
ADDRESSES. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, an
e-mail address of a member of the public that is provided for the
purpose of communicating electronically with a governmental body is
confidential and not subject to disclosure under this chapter.
(b) Confidential information described by this section that
relates to a member of the public may be disclosed if the member of
the public affirmatively consents to its release.
(c) Subsection (a) does not apply to an e-mail address:
(1) provided to a governmental body by a person who has
a contractual relationship with the governmental body or by the
(2) provided to a governmental body by a vendor who
seeks to contract with the governmental body or by the vendor's
(3) contained in a response to a request for bids or
proposals, contained in a response to similar invitations
soliciting offers or information relating to a potential contract,
or provided to a governmental body in the course of negotiating the
terms of a contract or potential contract; or
(4) provided to a governmental body on a letterhead,
coversheet, printed document, or other document made available to
(d) Subsection (a) does not prevent a governmental body from
disclosing an e-mail address for any reason to another governmental
body or to a federal agency.
Added by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 356, § 1, eff. May 26, 2001.
Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1089, § 1, eff. Sept. 1,
As a skeptical senior-citizen, I sense a "circling of the wagons" by our city's government in this matter. For example, the public saw no mention by Ms. Guajardo and others of the "Zachry server" in the news media until follow-up stories days after the initial coverage of this tragedy. A skeptic might wonder if that is because she received legal guidance after the story broke, and the ultimate legal gobbledygook the public gets will be about what entity owned the server, rather than focusing on the individual named in the e-mail address.
Also, a skeptic might want to know if the 300, or so, communications to Ms. Guajardo that Ken Rodriguez reviewed in researching his column that appeared in Sunday's Express-News contained (released) the e-mail addresses of the senders. Did each sender consent to release of his/her e-mail address? Or, did someone excise all of that information before showing the e-mails' content to Mr. Rodriguez?
Here is another excerpt from Chapter 552 that got my attention because I remain very offended by my Councilperson's actions and what Mr. Dickerson chose to do as a result.
§ 552.352. DISTRIBUTION OR MISUSE OF CONFIDENTIAL
INFORMATION. (a) A person commits an offense if the person
distributes information considered confidential under the terms of
(a-1) An officer or employee of a governmental body who
obtains access to confidential information under Section 552.008
commits an offense if the officer or employee knowingly:
(1) uses the confidential information for a purpose other
than the purpose for which the information was received or for a
purpose unrelated to the law that permitted the officer or employee
to obtain access to the information, including solicitation of political
contributions or solicitation of clients;
(2) permits inspection of the confidential information by
a person who is not authorized to inspect the information; or & nbsp;
(3) discloses the confidential information to a person who
is not authorized to receive the information.
(a-2) For purposes of Subsection (a-1), a member of an advisory
committee to a governmental body who obtains access to confidential
information in that capacity is considered to be an officer or employee
the governmental body.
(b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:
(1) a fine of not more than $1,000;
(2) confinement in the county jail for not more than six
& nbsp; (3) both the fine and confinement.
(c) A violation under this section constitutes official misconduct.
Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 268, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.
Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 249, § 7.01, 7.02, eff.
Sept. 1, 2003; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1089, § 2, eff. Sept. 1,
I have spoken with an unnamed atorney at the Texas Attorney General's Open Records Hotline (866-673-6839) about this.
I also plan to contact the Bexar County District Attorney's Office tomorrow, because Chapter 552 says the appropriate county district attorney is responsible for enforcement. I do not expect much success, because my layman's reading of Chapter 552 looks like I do not qualify as a "complaintant" since I sent no e-mail and was not possibly wronged.
(We did call Ms. Guajardo's office to voice our criticism and got the "talk to the city clerk" brush-off.)
This situation smells so bad, I hope you will continue to pursue it for the public good. I also wish a knowedgeable attorney would take it on for free -- fat chance -- because he or she is as offended as I and many other San Antonians are.
Stun-gun maker Taser International Inc. reported Wednesday its fourth-quarter profit dropped 98 percent on lower sales and higher expenses, as the company fought lawsuits during the period.
James Lifshutz has big plans for the dilapidated Big Tex Grain Co. silos just south of downtown San Antonio ... roughly $20 million to turn the derelict hulks of industrial buildings into another chic haven for artists and art lovers.
A driver lost control of a Ferrari sports car traveling 120 mph along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, slamming into a power pole that cut the car — which sells for up to $1 million — in half
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that adherents of a small Brazilian-based religion practicing in New Mexico may continue to use a hallucinogenic tea
PROTECT THE RIVERWALK "citizens' alert"
"The unique character of the San Antonio River Walk is under great threat. Today’s River Walk economics make an uneven playing field between smaller locally-owned businesses and national chains. If this trend is allowed to continue, it will result in the eventual destruction of the River Walk’s ambiance..."
( Folks, there's a kinda interesting rundown on Dr. James R. Leininger in SourceWatch, from the Center For Media And Democracy )
What is your problem? Why are you going after Dr.James Leininger? Is it because he is rich? It is because he is a Christian? Or could it be both? You make it sound like he is a terrible person. Almost as bad as the Devil.
The way you are going after Carter Casteel's opponent, I am beginning to think that you and her are somehow related. So to test that theory, I placed a picture of you and her side be side, and I think I am beginning to see a family resemblance.
Maybe your goal is to help get her re-elected and that in my opinion is bad. She is not one of the good guys. I know through personal experience.
However on the other hand if your goal is to attack the man who is putting his money where he feels it will do the most good, then I would strongly suggest that you look at other politicians that receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from PACS like the Texas Federation of Teachers and other unions. Casteel a former teacher, gets her share of money from them.
No matter what spin Casteel tries to put on her record the fact is that her voting record does indicate that she has very strong liberal tendencies of the tax and spend kind.
Just recently about 6,000 Comal County voters signed a petition to roll back the County tax rate. Comal County Commissioners Court was forced to set an election for voters to decide if the tax rate is to be rolled back to the maximum rate allowed by law. Would you like to guess which elected officials are against the rollback? The County Judge, all four County Commissioners, Carter Casteel and Jeff Wentworth. There are others besides them but these are the main ones who have declared WAR on the ROLLBACK. They and others are in the process of forming a PAC, Save Our System. This PAC is being set up to fight the rollback. All these people claim to be Republicans and are running as Republicans. I thought that Republicans are against more taxes, favor less government, and in general supportive of the US and Texas Constitutions.Their actions say they are like liberal Democrats.
One last thought.
There is a growing tendency today in this Country to degrade, slander, libel, and punish anyone that has a different opinion. I sure hope this isn't going to become your "normal operating procedure".
Tom B., Canyon Lake
Tom, Tom, Tom...
I haven't referred to Dr. Leininger's faith even once. I've said he's rich. No slander there, right? It is common for him to be spending a huge amount of money to support candidates. What makes the current situation different is that his support accounts for virtually the entire financial base of his five pro-voucher candidates.
Here are the words of veteran Austin political analyst Harvey Kronberg in a Channel-8 commentary Feb. 13th:
"What is different about the Leininger effort is its breathtaking order of magnitude. His money alone represents more than 94 percent of all the money given to four of his candidates and 88 percent to the fifth. As they say in the commercials, "but wait, there's more."
Apparently, Leininger doesn't trust these candidates to run their own campaigns. Very little of his money is actually going to the candidates. Instead, it's Leininger's PAC that is directly paying the consultants and pollsters. His PAC is bypassing the campaigns and directly buying the television and radio time, as well as paying the people doing the mail and producing the commercials. In fact, it's fair to say these five campaigns are run by the PAC and its consultants, with the actual candidates reduced to little more than figurehead or employee status.
So it's not surprising that the voters in Nacogdoches are seeing the exact same cookie-cutter advertising as are the folks in say, Fort Worth, Lubbock or New Braunfels.
When one man all but single handedly organizes, plans and funds five campaigns, local voters might reasonably question whether Leininger's candidates will represent them rather than the wealthy physician from San Antonio."
I bring up Rep. Casteel's challenger because the man has never been elected to public office, and is getting virtually all of his financial support from one source. That's fishy.
Regarding the several Republicans who oppose a tax rollback, you write that you "thought that Republicans are against more taxes, favor less government, and in general supportive of the US and Texas Constitutions.Their actions say they are like liberal Democrats."
That's exactly my own complaint against President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress: they're not acting like Republians are supposed to act. And they should straighten up and fly right, except they can't because they have become Beltway pod people feeding on power and money and choosing to ignore the interests of us so-called common people.
So you and I are not completely on opposite sides on how some politicians act.
As for and tendency to "degrade, slander, libel, and punish anyone that has a different opinion" you know for a fact, and I want you to admit, that it's pretty much my national anthem to NOT "degrade, slander, libel, and punish anyone that has a different opinion."
Different opinions are my business.
That much support from one source IS fishy, isn't it.
I reckon while you're admitting stuff you might consider admitting that too.
I don't know if even I spelt those candidate's names right - who cares. I'm writing to remind you that out of county money people frequently knock off politicians they don't like, especially anyone trying to be fair with Arabs. A lot of smart folks think we should throw all the incuments out of office. Look at all the bad things they have done in just the last few years. Our poor children. And here comes a guy wanting to help the kids, putting his money where his mouth is, and bango, that ethics man you had on the other day makes the guy look like a threat to democracy. Lt. Col.Macais is a retired military officer, an engineer, and just being that makes him more qualified than his politician-lawyer opponent. That's what I think, and many others who I talk to. You got a good show Brad, thanks.
Feb. 21, 2006, 8:23PM
EATING THEIR OWN
PAC attack against Texas incumbents attempt to buy legislation
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
ONE thing you can say about conservative San Antonio businessman James Leininger: He's as rough on Republicans who disagree with him as with traditional Democratic foes.
Maybe even rougher. He has made almost $1 million in contributions to political action committees to fuel primary challenges to five Republican lawmakers who failed to back Leininger's pet proposal to issue state-funded private school vouchers to parents seeking an alternative to public education for their kids.
The lawmakers in the Leininger doghouse committed the sin of failing to vote for legislation to create a pilot voucher project last year. Public school administrators oppose widespread use of state revenue to pay for private school tuition, arguing it undermines public schools by siphoning money from already inadequate state funding.
While continuing to contribute to pro-voucher Republicans, Leininger doubled his primary contributions from two years ago in an attempt to purge the unfaithful five: GOP representatives Roy Black, Nacogdoches; Carter Casteel, New Braunfels; Charlie Geren, Fort Worth; Delwin Jones, Lubbock; and Tommy Merritt, Longview.
Kathy Miller, president of the anti-voucher Texas Freedom Network, says Leininger is trying to buy legislation in his obsessive pursuit to make taxpayers subsidize private school tuition. "Now this one-man special interest is digging even deeper into his pockets to get the kind of Republicans who will do what he wants next time," she said.
Leininger's campaign cash doesn't always produce the desired results. Last week anti-voucher Democrat Donna Howard trounced pro-voucher Republican Ben Bentzin in the District 48 special election runoff in West Austin, despite a $20,000 contribution to the loser from the San Antonio businessman.
As the Austin-based political newsletter Texas Weekly observed, the effort to oust the GOP five is a political gamble. "Never shoot a bear unless you're sure to kill it," the publication quipped. "If it lives, it might eat you." In other words, if the challengers win, pro-voucher forces will have added clout in the 2007 Legislature. Should they lose, Leininger's support will not only be seen to be ineffective, but he'll have at least five very angry bears prowling the Capitol next session.
Monty Python's Personal Best on KLRN
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Give cable TV some healthy rivals
After Keller, Texas let Verizon compete with the local cable company, prices dropped 20 percent.
Suitable as toys?
Ohio town debates painting water tower as stack of pancakes
THE CAT PIANO
The musician would select cats whose voices were at different pitches then arrange them in the pens accordingly. The piano delivered sharp pokes into the tails of the cats. Cruel? Definitely.