Austin News and Views #3 – 5/23/11

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City Council Election Fallout


State Budget

“I truly believe in my heart that Texas is a big boat territory,” said Jim Hedges of Lone Star Yacht Sales, “but because we haven’t been progressive in our laws most of the buyers of large vessels have chosen other places to keep these boats.”

“It doesn’t take much to get over $250,000 anymore,” a Republican from Wichita Falls said, empathizing with the yacht industry’s plight.

… Villarreal … said … : “So this bill is a tax break for mega-yacht owners? I feel like I just walked through the Twilight Zone.”

Villarreal mockingly grilled John Davis, the Houston Republican who’d proposed the yacht break. “Have you considered turning this into an omnibus bill, and including limousines and fur coats and other luxury items? Because you know, we haven’t cut education enough this session, and there apparently aren’t enough nursing homes on the verge [of closing]. What else can we do to bleed the state?”


Texas vs the TSA and More TSA / BackScatter Related Headlines

Now, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, has made public a series of government contracts that reveal that the Department of Homeland Security has been paying millions of dollars to develop and implement several radical programs that allow for an even broader, even spookier form of covert surveillance, namely “drive-by” surveillance from innocuous looking vans. In its own words this allows the Department of Homeland Security to conduct “covert inspection of moving subjects,” which includes people, places, and things.

According to a former Homeland Security officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, DHS has been conducting this “drive-by” surveillance of American citizens since at least 2007, using a technologically advanced vehicle called a Z Backscatter Van, or ZBV for short. The corporation that makes the surveillance van, American Science and Engineering Inc. (AS&E), received a $17.5 million service contract from the U.S. government for the ZBVs in the winter of 2007.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that TSA was one client, and may still be. TSA, the newspaper says, tested body scanners in public places besides airports, including at a New Jersey commuter rail station. In a carefully worded statement, TSA denied that charge: “TSA has not tested the advanced imaging technology that is currently used at airports in mass transit environments and does not have plans to do so.” But TSA did not comment on whether they were using Z Backscatter Vans out in the field.

Texas Banning Smoking In Public?

Followup from past shows…

Texas Toll Road News

Planet-Bee-Kave Saga


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