Buyer Beware: EZ Pass toll tags used by private attorneys to catch cheating spouses

Link to article here. Another unintended invasion of privacy with BIG DADDY GOVERNMENT electronic toll systems. Except, now it's not just government who can get access to your personal information.Privacy advocate former Congressman Bob Barr says below that "people who want to protect their privacy shouldn't use electronic toll systems." In Texas, we won't have the choice on many of the new toll roads. TxDOT plans to use electronic collection systems only on most tollways. There's more and more reports of abuse and incorrect charges using these systems not to mention many are receiving bills in the mail when they weren't even aware they entered a toll road (on parts of 121 in Dallas the cameras are almost imperceptible; on 183 in Austin, many don't know they're on a toll road until it's too late). It's pay-up or you could lose your driver's license and pay hefty fines. Read more here.

Not So Fast: E-Z Pass Data Used To Catch Cheaters
Divorce Lawyers Find Toll Records, Prove Spouses Lied About Whereabouts
WCBS TV.com August 10, 2007

(CBS/AP) TRENTON, N.J. There's some potentially troubling and telling news for all you motorists out there who may be taking the Turnpike for the worst crime in marriage: cheating on your significant other.

E-ZPass and other electronic toll collection systems are emerging as a powerful means of proving infidelity. That's because when your spouse doesn't know where you've been, E-ZPass does.

"E-ZPass is an E-ZPass to go directly to divorce court, because it's an easy way to show you took the off-ramp to adultery," said Jacalyn Barnett, a New York divorce lawyer who has used E-ZPass records a few times.

Lynne Gold-Bikin, a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer, said E-ZPass helped prove a client's husband was being unfaithful: "He claimed he was in a business meeting in Pennsylvania. And I had records to show he went to New Jersey that night."

Generally mounted inside a vehicle's windshield behind the rearview mirror, E-ZPass devices communicate with antennas at toll plazas, automatically deducting money from the motorist's prepaid account.

Of the 12 states in the Northeast and Midwest that are part of the E-ZPass system, agencies in seven states provide electronic toll information in response to court orders in criminal and civil cases, including divorces, according to an Associated Press survey.

In four of the 12 states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, highway authorities release E-ZPass records only in criminal cases. West Virginia parkways authority has no policy. (Divorce attorneys in some cases can still obtain toll records from the other spouse rather than a highway agency.)

The Illinois Tollway, which hands over toll records, received more than 30 such subpoenas the first half of this year, with about half coming from civil cases, including divorces, according to Joelle McGinnis, an agency spokeswoman.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority said it turns down about 30 subpoenas in civil cases every year, about half of them divorces.

Electronic toll records have also proved useful in criminal cases.

They played a role in the murder case against Melanie McGuire, a New Jersey nurse convicted in April of killing her husband and tossing his cut-up remains into the Chesapeake Bay in three matching suitcases in 2004. Prosecutors used toll records to reconstruct her movements.

Davy Levy, a Chicago divorce lawyer for more than 30 years, said toll records from I-Pass (part of the E-ZPass system) are useful in catching a spouse in a lie.

"You bring up the I-Pass records and it destroys credibility," said Levy, who has used such records two or three times for such purposes.

The E-ZPass network covers about half the East Coast and part of the Midwest, with about 2 billion charges per year. That can mean a lot of records. One of the busiest toll plazas in New Jersey, the Garden State Parkway's southbound Raritan plaza, gets about 90,000 E-ZPass hits per day.

Some worry that using those records for other purposes is a violation of drivers' privacy.

"When you're marketed for this new convenience, you may not realize there are these types of costs," said Nicole Ozer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia turned Libertarian and privacy rights advocate, said people who want to protect their privacy shouldn't use electronic toll systems.

"People are foolish to buy into these systems without thinking, just because they want to save 20 seconds of time going through a toll booth," he said.

Nation Magazine: NAFTA Superhighway article features Founder Terri Hall


Link to article here. Considering all the people bringing us the NAFTA Superhighway (the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Chair even called it such) are the ones denying its existence, let's remind ourselves of a few more facts before digging into this lengthy treatise...19 state legislatures have now passed resolutions against the NAFTA Superhighways and the U.S. House of Representatives just OVERWHELMINGLY passed an amendment de-funding the highway that's purported NOT to exist. I think it's safe to say we're past conspiracy theories. This is being done in the wide open...the first leg is under construction and it's currently called Hwy 130.

The NAFTA Superhighway

by CHRISTOPHER HAYES

[from the August 27, 2007 issue of the Nation Magazine]

When completed, the highway will run from Mexico City to Toronto, slicing through the heartland like a dagger sunk into a heifer at the loins and pulled clean to the throat. It will be four football fields wide, an expansive gully of concrete, noise and exhaust, swelled with cars, trucks, trains and pipelines carrying water, wires and God knows what else. Through towns large and small it will run, plowing under family farms, subdevelopments, acres of wilderness. Equipped with high-tech electronic customs monitors, freight from China, offloaded into nonunionized Mexican ports, will travel north, crossing the border with nary a speed bump, bound for Kansas City, where the cheap goods manufactured in booming Far East factories will embark on the final leg of their journey into the nation's Wal-Marts.

And this NAFTA Superhighway, as it is called, is just the beginning, the first stage of a long, silent coup aimed at supplanting the sovereign United States with a multinational North American Union.

Even as this plot unfolds in slow motion, the mainstream media are silent; politicians are in denial. Yet word is getting out. Like samizdat, info about the highway has circulated in niche media platforms old and new, on right-wing websites like WorldNetDaily, in the pages of low-circulation magazines like the John Birch Society's The New American and increasingly on the letters to the editor page of local newspapers.


"Construction of the NAFTA highway from Laredo, Texas to Canada is now underway," read a letter in the February 13 San Gabriel Valley Tribune. "Spain will own most of the toll roads that connect to the superhighway. Mexico will own and operate the Kansas City Smart Port. And NAFTA tribunal, not the U.S. Supreme Court, will have the final word in trade disputes. Will the last person please take down the flag?" There are many more where that came from. "The superhighway has the potential to cripple the West Coast economy, as well as posing an enormous security breach at our border," read a letter from the January 7 San Francisco Chronicle. "So far, there has been no public participation or debate on this important issue. Public participation and debate must begin now."

In some senses it has. Prompted by angry phone calls and e-mail from their constituents, local legislators are beginning to take action. In February the Montana state legislature voted 95 to 5 for a resolution opposing "the North American Free Trade Agreement Superhighway System" as well as "any effort to implement a trinational political, government entity among the United States, Canada, and Mexico." Similar resolutions have been introduced in eighteen other states as well as the House of Representatives, where H. Con Res. 40 has attracted, as of this writing, twenty-seven co-sponsors. Republican presidential candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire now routinely face hostile questions about the highway at candidate forums. Citing a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, the Concord Monitor reports that "the road comes up at town meetings second only to immigration policy."

Grassroots movement exposes elite conspiracy and forces politicians to respond: It would be a heartening story but for one small detail.

There's no such thing as a proposed NAFTA Superhighway.

Though opposition to the nonexistent highway is the cause célèbre of many a paranoiac, the myth upon which it rests was not fabricated out of whole cloth. Rather, it has been sewn together from scraps of fact.

Take, for instance, North America's SuperCorridor Organization (NASCO), a trinational coalition of businesses and state and local transportation agencies that, in its own words, focuses "on maximizing the efficiency of our existing transportation infrastructure to support international trade." Headquartered in borrowed office space in a Dallas law firm, the organization, which has a full-time staff of three, advocates for increased public expenditure along the main north-south Interstate routes, including new high-tech freight-tracking technology and expedited border crossings. It has had some success, landing federal money to pilot cargo management technologies and winning praise from the Bush Administration. Speaking at a NASCO conference in Texas in 2004, then-Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta congratulated the organization for its efforts. "The people in this room have vision," Mineta said. "Thinking ahead, thinking long term, you began to make aggressive plans to develop...this vital artery in our national transportation system through which so much of the NAFTA traffic flows. It flows across our nation's busiest southern border crossing in Laredo; over North America's busiest commercial crossing, the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit; and through Duluth and Pembina, North Dakota, and all the places in between."

A few years ago NASCO put on its home page a map of the United States that more or less traced the flow that Mineta describes: Drawn in bright blue, the trade route begins in Monterrey, Mexico, runs up I-35 and branches out after Kansas City, along I-29 toward Winnipeg and I-94 toward Detroit and Toronto. The colorful, cartoonlike image seemed to show right out in the open just where NASCO and its confederates planned to build the NAFTA Superhighway. It began zipping around the Internet.

The organization soon found itself besieged with angry phone calls and letters. "I think the rumor going around was that this map was a blueprint and it was drawn to scale," says NASCO executive director Tiffany Melvin. (Given the size of the route markings, that would have heralded highways fifty miles wide.) Ever since the map went live, NASCO has spent a considerable amount of time attempting to refute charges like those made by right-wing nationalist Jerome Corsi, whose recent book The Late Great USA devotes several pages to excoriating NASCO for being part of the vanguard of the highway and the coming North American Union. Until recently, NASCO's website contained the following FAQs:

Is NASCO a part of a secret conspiracy?

Absolutely not... We welcome the opportunity to share information about our organization....

Will the NAFTA Superhighway be four football fields wide?

There is no new, proposed NAFTA Superhighway....

Is the map on the website an approved plan for the proposed NAFTA Superhighway?

There is no proposed NAFTA Superhighway.... The map is not a plan or blueprint of any kind.... They are EXISTING highways.

The Trans Texas Corridor is the first section of the proposed, new NAFTA Superhighway....

There is no proposed, new NAFTA Superhighway.

But NASCO is just one part of what Corsi and his ilk view as a grand conspiracy. There's also a federal initiative called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which they portray as a Trojan horse packed with globalists scheming to form a European Union-style governing body to manage the entire continent. The reactions of those in SPP to this characterization seem to range from bemusement to alarm. "There is no NAFTA Superhighway," Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance David Bohigian told me emphatically over the phone. Initiated in 2005, the SPP is a relatively mundane formal bureaucratic dialogue, he says. Working groups, staffed by midlevel officials from all three countries, figure out how to better synchronize customs enforcement, security protocols and regulatory frameworks among the countries. "Simple stuff like, for instance, in the US we sell baby food in several different sizes; in Canada, it's just two different sizes."

Another star in the constellation of North American Union conspiracies is the Mexican deep-water port of Lázaro Cárdenas. Located on the Pacific coast of the state of Michoacan, the port is undergoing a bonanza of investment and upgrades. According to a 2005 article in Latin Trade, the port is adding a terminal that could provide enough capacity to process nearly all of the cargo that comes into Mexico, making it "the logical trade route connecting the United States and Asia," in the words of the Mexican officials overseeing its overhaul. Since it's the only Mexican port deep enough to handle Super Panamax container ships from China--the most efficient means of shipping products across the Pacific--it's an attractive alternative to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are unionized and increasingly congested. (More than 80 percent of Asian imports come in through these two ports.)

Of course, if cargo switches from Los Angeles to Lázaro Cárdenas, more and more manufactured goods will have to travel through Mexico to reach their US destination, and there will be a significant uptick in the northbound overland traffic. The Kansas City Southern Railroad company is already betting on that eventuality, spending millions of dollars to purchase the rail routes that run from the port up to Kansas City. At the same time, a business improvement group called Kansas City SmartPort, whose members include the local chamber of commerce, is pushing for Kansas City, which is already a transportation hub, to transform itself fully into a "smart port," a kind of intermodal transportation and cargo center. The group recently advocated a pilot program that would place a Mexican customs official in Kansas City to inspect Mexico-bound freight, relieving bottlenecks at the border. The notion of a Mexican customs official on American soil fired the imaginations of those already disposed to see a North American Union on the horizon, and SmartPort staff have been fending off angry inquiries ever since.

In his essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," Richard Hofstadter famously sketched the contours of the American tradition of folk conspiracy--a tradition that has, at different times, seen its enemy in Masons, Jesuits, immigrants, Jews and Eastern bankers. There's certainly a strong continuity between that tradition and the populist/nationalist ire that drives the NAFTA highway myth. Hofstadter's original essay was motivated in part by the activities of the John Birch Society, which today is one of the leading purveyors of the highway myth.

But there's something more. The myth of the NAFTA Superhighway persists and grows because it taps into deeply felt anxieties about the dizzying dislocations of twenty-first-century global capitalism: a nativist suspicion of Mexico's designs on US sovereignty, a longing for national identity, the fear of terrorism and porous borders, a growing distrust of the privatizing agenda of a government happy to sell off the people's assets to the highest bidder and a contempt for the postnational agenda of Davos-style neoliberalism. Indeed, the image of the highway, with its Chinese goods whizzing across the border borne by Mexican truckers on a privatized, foreign-operated road, is almost mundane in its plausibility. If there was a NAFTA highway, you could bet that Tom Friedman would be for it--what could be more flattening than miles of concrete paved across the continent?--and Lou Dobbs would be zealously opposed. In fact, Dobbs has devoted a segment of his show to the highway, its nonexistence notwithstanding. "These three countries moving ahead their governments without authorization from the American people, without Congressional approval," he said. "This is as straightforward an attack on national sovereignty as there could be outside of war."

Though the story of the highway has been seeded and watered in the fertile soil of the nationalist right wing--promoted by Birchers and Corsi, co-author of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's book about John Kerry--it also stretches across ideological and partisan lines. Like immigration and the Dubai ports deal, it divides the Republican coalition against itself, pitting the capitalists against the nationalists. And more than a few on the center-left have voiced criticisms as well: Teamsters president James Hoffa wrote in a column last year that "Bush is quietly moving forward with plans...for what's known as a NAFTA superhighway--a combination of existing and new roads that would create a north-south corridor from Mexico to Canada.... It would allow global conglomerates to capitalize by exploiting cheap labor and nonexistent work rules and avoiding potential security enhancements at U.S. ports." Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Boyda, from eastern Kansas, invoked its specter early and often in her improbably successful 2006 campaign against Republican incumbent Jim Ryun. A campaign circular inserted in local newspapers warned that "if built, this 'Super Corridor' would be a quarter-mile wide and longer than the Great Wall of China." Boyda told me that her attacks on the highway "hit a real nerve because enough people had the same concerns."

What might at first have been a niche obsession has bled, slowly but surely, toward the mainstream. "The biggest problem of these conspiracy theorists," says Robert Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University and a leading proponent of increased North American integration, "is that they are having an effect on the entire debate."

Add up all the above ingredients--NASCO, SPP, Lázaro Cárdenas, the Kansas City SmartPort, the planned pilot program allowing Mexican truckers to drive on US roads--and you still don't have a superhighway four football fields wide connecting the entire continent. Which is why understanding the persistence of the NAFTA highway legend requires spending some time in Texas, where Governor Rick Perry and his longtime consigliere, Texas Department of Transportation commissioner Ric Williamson, are proposing the $185 billion Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), 4,000 miles of highway, rail and freight corridors, the first of which would run up from the border through the heavily populated eastern part of the state. Plans for the TTC call for it to be up to four football fields wide at points, paving over as much as half a million acres of Texas countryside. The first section will be built and operated by a foreign enterprise, and when completed it would likely be the largest privatized toll road in the country.

And unlike the NAFTA highway, the Trans-Texas Corridor is very, very real.

In 2003, amid a dramatic drawn-out battle over a legally questionable GOP redistricting plan, the Texas state legislature passed House Bill 3588. At 311 pages, it's unlikely that many of those who voted for the bill had actually read it (and many have come to regret their vote), but it received not a single opposing vote. The bill granted the Texas Transportation Commission wide latitude to pursue a long-term plan to build a series of corridors throughout the state that would carry passenger and commercial traffic and contain extra right-of-way for rail, pipelines and electric wires.

What first triggered opposition was that under the plan, the new TTC roads would have tolls, something relatively novel in Texas. The state's Department of Transportation--known as TxDot--pointed out that the state's gasoline tax, which pays for road construction and maintenance, hadn't been raised since 1991, while population and commercial traffic were growing at a dizzying pace. Tolls, the governor and his allies argued, were the only solution. (Many TTC opponents propose raising the gasoline tax and indexing it to inflation.)

But opposition quickly spread, from those in metro areas concerned about the cost of their daily commute to ranchers angry that their land might fall under the TTC hatchet. According to Chris Steinbach, chief of staff for rural Brenham's Republican State Representative Lois Kolkhorst, when people in the district heard about the plan they responded by asking, "'Why would you want to do that?' It was a real front porch, rocking chair kind of question."

Meanwhile David and Linda Stall, a Republican couple from Fayetteville, Texas, began actively organizing opposition to the proposal. As early as 2004, they started bringing friends out to local TxDot hearings and launched the website Corridor Watch. By the time the 2006 gubernatorial election rolled around, a wild four-way race with incumbent Rick Perry pitted against three challengers, the TTC had become one of the most controversial issues of the campaign. Perry was re-elected with 39 percent of the vote, but with all three of his opponents campaigning passionately against the TTC, it was hardly a popular endorsement of the plan.

What was once scattered resistance is now a full-fledged rebellion. The Stalls have pushed through a plank in the state's GOP platform opposing the corridor, which means the governor is now at odds with the official position of his own party. In March thousands of Texans from across the state attended an anti-TTC rally on the Capitol steps, and liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans came together to co-sponsor a moratorium on the plan. It passed the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by Governor Perry. (A considerably weaker version was ultimately signed into law.)

Perry's continued support of the TTC in the face of mounting opposition is more than just a political liability; it's begun to resemble Bush's Iraq policy in its obstinate indifference to public opinion. This, along with the fact that the federal government sent a letter to the state warning it not to pass a moratorium on the project, has fueled conspiracy speculations about what the real goal of the TTC is. Kelly Taylor, a John Birch Society member and Austin-based freelance contributor to its magazine, has been working hard to connect the dots between the TTC and the NAFTA Superhighway. "It first surfaced because it was a local toll issue," she told me over coffee. "That, in and of itself, was alarming enough--all the corrupt politics that happened to make it come about. Then we thought, Wait a minute, something's not right here, this is bigger than just a local toll issue."

Taylor may represent a certain fringe of the anti-TTC efforts (her name prompted some eye-rolling among other activists), but there's a whole lot of cross-pollination between local concerns about the TTC and the growing North American Union mythology. When I asked David McQuade Leibowitz, a Democratic State Representative from San Antonio, why the governor was so determined to build the TTC, he put his boots up on his desk, leaned back in his chair and said, "I think Texas is the first link in the highway to run from South America to Canada. One nation under God. We see bits and pieces of it. We don't see it all. It makes us cringe and sick to our stomachs."

Texas Transportation commissioner Ric Williamson is one of those Texas personalities who seem almost self-consciously to will themselves toward caricature. One Democratic staffer in the Capitol casually referred to him as Darth Vader; Texas Monthly recently called him "the most hated person in Texas." Owner of a natural gas production company before becoming a state legislator in 1985, he has lately been reincarnated as a transit policy wonk, a role he plays as a cross between mid-twentieth-century road builder Robert Moses and J.R. Ewing from Dallas: the planner as good old boy. He does not suffer from a lack of confidence. "We're the greatest state agency you'll ever interview," he told me at one point. With his good friend Governor Perry hemorrhaging political capital, it's fallen to Williamson to advocate for the corridor and draw fire from its opponents.

At first the press contact for TxDot told me Williamson wouldn't be available, but after I informed her I'd lined up dozens of interviews with TTC opponents, she called me back a week before my trip to Texas for this article to set up an interview. When I was ushered into Williamson's office, he was in the midst of a discussion with one of the four staffers who flanked him. At my appearance in the doorway, he made no move to acknowledge my presence other than slightly pulling out the chair next to him, where, apparently, I was to sit.

Williamson's case is straightforward: The state needs a whole lot of new roads it can't pay for. The sheer population growth in Texas, particularly in the urbanized area in the eastern part of the state that contains San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin, combined with the projected increase in commercial traffic, has precipitated what Williamson says is an impending crisis. The TTC would provide the necessary increase in capacity at the low, low price the state can afford. "Our view is, you can run from the corridor if you want to," he told me, smiling, "but that's eventually what we'll build. Because that's where the fricking people live!" At that he shot up to walk over to a map of the state hanging on one wall, patting my shoulder with paternal authority as he passed. "It's so logical to me it drives me nuts."

He's right about the challenges the state faces, but it's a long jump from the diagnosis to the cure. Opponents of the plan point out that, as conceived, the corridor will run parallel to the existing Interstate, possibly far from the same cities where it's supposed to relieve congestion. (TxDot says state law will require the roads to connect to Interstates, which connect to cities.) On top of that, the current plan employs a novel privatized financing mechanism that has many crying foul.

Under a comprehensive development agreement (CDA) signed in March 2005, the Spanish concern Cintra (in partnership with Texas-based Zachry Corp.) will pay the state for the right to develop the roads along the corridor, where it will be able to collect tolls and establish facilities within the right-of-way for fifty years. This kind of road-building deal is commonplace in other parts of the world, often in places where government lacks the ready capital necessary to develop large infrastructure projects. It's called a BOT, for build, operate, transfer. Until recently it was unheard of in the United States.

The arrangement has been heavily criticized for a number of reasons. The CDA includes a noncompete clause that could conceivably prevent the state from building necessary roads in the future because they would "compete" with a stretch of the privatized TTC. It's also expensive. A recent state auditor's report estimated the cost for just the first section of the corridor at $105 billion. TxDot portrays the deal as a clever way of getting the private sector to pay for public roads, but eventually the total cost of the project, plus a layer of profit for Cintra-Zachry, will be coming out of the pockets of Texas drivers. Finally, the timeline for development of the project, which will be constructed piecemeal, is based on which sections of the corridor Cintra has identified as "self-performing," according to Williamson--in other words, those sections that contain a high enough volume of toll-paying passengers that they will turn a profit.

Williamson argues that the state simply has no choice. Or, as he put it to one reporter, "If you aggressively invite the private sector to be your partner, you can't tell them where to build the road." But this seems, to put it mildly, pretty ass-backward. The point of transportation planning is to provide the infrastructure for people to move efficiently, safely and quickly from point A to point B, not to maximize the profits of some conglomerate that managed to win a state contract. You wouldn't want to place, say, fire stations across a city using the same logic that guides the placement of Starbucks. But that's more or less the way the TTC is unfolding.

"I always think of the corridor as a payday loan," said Kolkhorst's chief of staff Chris Steinbach. "You're going to get a little money up front, but you're losing the long-term gain you're charged by the people to oversee." As he said this I noticed his computer's screensaver, which featured an image of the Texas Capitol dome with a bright red banner Photoshopped in that read Everything Must Go!

In my conversations with people in Texas, it seemed that the privatized nature of the road was what got folks the angriest. Bad enough that drivers would face tolls, that ranchers would have their land cut out from under them, but all for the financial gain of a foreign company? "If you liked the Dubai ports deal, you'll love my TTC land grab," taunts an animated Rick Perry on one anti-TTC website. The cartoon goes on to portray Cintra as conquistadors clad in armor riding in to steal Texans' treasure.

"What really drives this is economic," activist Terri Hall told me. "It's about the money. We're talking about obscene levels of profit, someone literally being like the robber barons of old. And this is one thing that government actually does well, build and maintain roads."

Hall is an unlikely defender of the public sphere. A conservative Republican and an evangelical Christian who home-schools her six children, she first got interested in road policy when TxDot announced plans to toll the road near her house, which runs into San Antonio. Outraged, she brought it up with her local State Rep, and when that didn't work, she began organizing. She founded the San Antonio Toll Party (like the Boston Tea Party, she notes) by pamphleting at intersections and calling friends. "It's really like the old days, during the American Revolution...just fellow citizens trying together to effect change."

Hall soon became part of the broader anti-TTC effort, and though she originally thought she was just fighting a corrupt local government, she's come to view her battle in a much broader context. "There are big-time control issues," she said. "Someone is really jockeying around to control some things here in America. It explains the open borders, it explains our immigration issues, it explains our free-trade issues, what it's doing to the middle class.

"It really all started with NAFTA," she continued. "There've been people like Robert Pastor and the Council on Foreign Relations. All these secretive groups." She laughed nervously and apologetically. "It sounds like a conspiracy. But I do know there are people who have tried for a long time to go to this global governance. They see there's a way to make it all happen by going to the heads of state and doing it in a secretive way so they can do it without a nasty little thing called accountability. So they won't have to listen to what We the People want."

Hall had arranged to meet me in the San Antonio exurbs, in a home design center that doubled as a cafe. Outside, a thunderstorm lashed the windows with rain. As she spoke, her newborn son propped next to her swaddled and napping, it occurred to me that she was living the twenty-first-century version of the American dream. She and her husband had moved to Texas from California in pursuit of cheap housing, open space and a place to raise their family. Their web-design business was successful; their children healthy. Why, I found myself thinking, was she so upset about a road?

Ric Williamson must often ask himself the same thing. Just as the White House was blindsided by the opposition to the Dubai ports deal, just as NASCO was shocked to find that a simple schematic map attracted angry phone calls, just as the Commerce Department was shocked to find a simple bureaucratic dialogue the subject of outrage, so too have Perry and Williamson seemed ambushed by the zealous opposition of people like Hall.

But what people like Williamson don't seem to understand is how disempowered people feel in the face of a neoliberal order whose direction they cannot influence. For corporatists within both parties (Williamson, it should be noted, was a Democrat while in the Statehouse), selling port security or road concessions to a multinational is inevitable, logical, obvious. To thousands of average citizens in Texas and elsewhere, it's madness or, worse, treason. Both the actual TTC and the mythical NAFTA Superhighway represent a certain kind of future for America, one in which the crony capitalism of oil-rich Texas expands to fill every last crevice of the public sector's role, eclipsing the relevance of the national government as both the provider of public goods and the unified embodiment of a sovereign people.

For Williamson, this is progress; for Hall, it's an outrage and a tragedy. "We have so little control over our own government," she told me, the alienation audible in her voice, thunder punishing the air outside. "We are really the last beacon of freedom in the world--the land of the free and home of the brave--and we're letting it slip away from under our noses."

Texas to be hit HARD by transportation funding crisis

Link to article here. Just plan on dumping your wallet, your life savings, and your first born on the government's doorstep because that's what they're coming after to pay for transportation...never mind that most states have been running record surpluses (which means you've been OVERTAXED, not undertaxed). What we have is out of control spending on both the State and Federal levels, diversions of gas taxes to frivolous or non-transportation related fluff like building a private parking lot for a private university and mineral rights litigation, and downright stupidity on the part of politicians.
Read it and weep...

"To keep up with building and preserving highways, Congress should raise the 18.4-cent federal gas tax by a dime, or enact some other equivalent, and states should double toll revenues to $16 billion a year and also raise other taxes and fees, the association's board recently said.

Dampening the growth of driving, slicing projections by a fourth, and quadrupling transit ridership over the next 50 years..."

Trouble down the road for highway funding
By Patrick Driscoll
Express News
08/08/2007

IRVING — Ninety years ago, the federal transportation vision was to get farmers out of the mud.Fifty years ago, it was to build coast-to-coast highways without stoplights.

Today, it's a patchwork of confusion mired in desperate debate.

As policymakers argue whether to build toll roads and rent them to corporations, or raise gas taxes, or use high-tech gadgetry to track and charge motorists for every mile they drive, the federal highway fund is draining fast.

By 2009, the fund will be in the hole by almost $4 billion, according to the latest estimates.

"We're headed for a meltdown," said U.S. Rep. John Mica of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "It's going to be much more than a bridge that collapses."

But that just may be what it takes to spur lawmakers into action, said Mica, the keynote speaker at Wednesday's luncheon of the four-day annual Transportation Summit.

"Sometimes, it takes a crisis to get Congress to do something," he told an audience of about 600. "If we do nothing, I can tell you, from sea to shining sea we'll have nothing but a big parking lot."

Mica said he's ready to act, announcing his goal to come up with a plan. He marveled at how recent presidents, including George W. Bush, and lawmakers have failed to do that, though a congressional commission is now working on it.

"Shame on Congress and past administrations," said Mica, who's served in the House since 1992.

Though he has no details, Mica said the plan should define what's needed, what oversight the federal government should have and how people should pay.

And pay they must, said John Horsley, director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, who also spoke at the luncheon.

To keep up with building and preserving highways, Congress should raise the 18.4-cent federal gas tax by a dime, or enact some other equivalent, and states should double toll revenues to $16 billion a year and also raise other taxes and fees, the association's board recently said.

Dampening the growth of driving, slicing projections by a fourth, and quadrupling transit ridership over the next 50 years also are keys, the group says.

"Those are some of the tough choices that we're looking at," Horsley said.

When pressed, Mica wouldn't say whether the gas tax should be raised but did say that wouldn't be enough.

"We need a fundamental change in the way we finance our infrastructure," he said. "This could be a great opportunity for this country."

Such a change includes figuring out what role private investments and toll roads should play, and considering a mileage-based tax now being tested in places such as Oregon, Mica said.

Also, the nation must get serious about developing high-speed passenger and freight rail.

"Think of the opportunities if we had high-speed rail around the United States," he said.

As the talk continues, so does the dwindling of federal transportation funds.

Congress has cut promised funds to states five times since last year and may do so again in next year's budget. Texas lost $666 million so far and could soon be out another $259 million.

"To be clear, this is $666 million that (Texas) and local communities will no longer be able to count on," said Fred Underwood, who serves on the Texas Transportation Commission.

North American air traffic control system? Integration plans move forward

Link to article here.

PREMEDITATED MERGER
Now, here come the Mexican airplanes
Controversial SPP moves toward North American air traffic control system
August 9, 2007
  By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com The U.S. has built nine navigation systems for Mexico and Canada under the controversial Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America in an apparent first step toward establishing the satellite infrastructure needed to create a North American air traffic control system. The defining vision for North American air traffic control was articulated by then-Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta in a Sept. 27, 2004, statement announcing, "We must make flying throughout North America as seamless as possible if we are to truly reap the rewards of the expanding global economy."

Wide Area Augmentation System
The "2006 Report to Leaders" posted on the SPP website proclaimed, "In order to increase navigational accuracy across the region, five Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) stations were installed in Canada and Mexico in 2005."

WAAS is a space-based augmentation system that provides precision navigation information to aircraft equipped with Global Positioning Satellite/WAAS receivers through all phases of flight.
Working through the North American Aviation Trilateral, the U.S. has built for Mexico WAAS stations at five locations: Mexico City, San Jose del Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Merida and Tapachula.

Additionally, the U.S., working through NATT, has built four Canadian WAAS stations, at Iqaluit, Gander, Winnipeg and Goose Bay.

WND also has learned discussions are underway to create a North American Air Traffic Control System, complete with Federal Aviation Administration issuance of WAAS certifications for Canadian and Mexican airspace. According to a government official who specializes in satellite technology applied to air traffic control systems, it would involve Canadian and Mexican foreign nationals not only hosting but operating and maintaining U.S. air navigation equipment as part of a continental Global Navigation Satellite System.

The vision would permit Mexican and Canadian air traffic controllers to operate within North American airspace as if they simply were operating from a U.S. city.

The core of the U.S. air traffic control system is the Global Positioning Satellite system that functions as an integral part of the seamless Global Navigation Satellite System envisioned by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

A new program in development, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADSB, will eventually replace existing radar sites to incorporate WAAS navigation signals and report aircraft location to air traffic control.

The plan is to feed ADSB information on all participating aircraft to Mexican and Canadian air traffic control.

WAAS uses a network of ground reference systems – Wide-Area Reference Systems – to establish accurate vertical and horizontal identification of aircraft location to assist air traffic controllers in precisely managing air space, including the ability to space aircraft accurately in take-off and landing, as well as while en route from location to location.

'Remove the barriers'

FAA and SPP-affiliated government officials deny any intent to integrate Mexican or Canadian airlines into the domestic structure of U.S. air travel, emphasizing instead the need to facilitate international travel between the three countries and coordinate air traffic control for U.S. airlines needing to fly into or over Mexican or Canadian airspace.

Their position is reflected in Secretary of Transportation Mary Peter's statement at the first North American Transportation Trilateral meeting with her counterpart transportation ministers in Mexico and Canada in Tucson, Ariz., on April 27.

Peters said, "I look forward to the day when it is as easy for an airline to start new service between Tucson and Montreal or Monterrey as it is between Tucson and Austin."

Knowledgeable government sources tell WND on background that the vision of a North American seamless airspace is also designed to permit Mexican and Canadian airlines in the future to operate from within domestic U.S. air terminals, serving locations within the U.S. on a competitive basis with U.S.-domiciled airlines.

The FAA projects continent-wide full development of an operational GPS-WAAS system by 2013.

Peters announced at the April 27 meeting that, "With globalization intensifying the pressures on all our economies, it has never been more important to connect these networks, coordinate our policies, and remove the barriers that keep large and growing volumes of goods and travelers from moving efficiently across our borders. In the United States, we see the opportunities in aviation as especially promising."

At the NATT meeting, which went virtually unreported in the U.S. mainstream media, Peters said the 2005 air services agreement between the United States and Mexico and the Open Skies accord signed with Canada in March lift restrictions on continental travel to provide for "free and open trans-border air travel."

Globally, the vision is to integrate a North American GPS/WAAS system with the Ground-Based Augmentation System being established by EUROCONTROL, an agency established under the auspices of the European Union to manage EU airspace.

Airservices Australian, an Australian airspace management organization, also intends to leverage the FAA investment in GBAS technology to advance what ultimately will become a world-standard satellite-based airspace navigation system.

The FAA website documents that a CAN/MEX/USA working group held its first meeting in Mérida, Mexico, in June 1995, during the Clinton administration.

The CAN/MEX/USA working group can further be traced to October 1993, when the International Civil Aviation Organization completed its Global Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management Implementation and Transition Plan.

In an FAA webpage reserved for discussing international activities, the FAA says the activities organized under the North American Aviation Trilateral reaffirm the FAA goal to establish regional cooperation for seamless air navigation in North America, consistent with the vision articulated by Mineta and SPP.

TxDOT trumps up Homeland Security issues as excuse NOT to release deficient bridge list

In the height of arrogance, TxDOT REFUSES to release a list of structurally deficient bridges to the public and is refusing to release the list even to lawmakers unless they sign a confidentiality agreement. Sound familiar? TxDOT cites a Homeland Security law, but let's get real. A terrorist has little interest in a bridge on a farm to market road or random state highway versus a high profile, heavily traveled, maximum carnage target like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Who gets top fiddle with the highway department? Terrorists who are highly unlikely to care versus the traveling public who uses these bridges every day! It's pretty clear this is obstructionism and more of the same from TxDOT, who is now notorious for operating in secret and illegally withholding PUBLIC information from those who pay THEIR bills, the Texas taxpaying public!

TxDOT guarding info on bridges
By Polly Ross Hughes
Express-News
08/07/2007

AUSTIN — Amid growing concerns about government secrecy and Texas bridge safety, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst asked state transportation officials Tuesday to give him the locations of spans needing repairs, and an idea of when they'll be fixed. It remains questionable, however, whether the Texas Department of Transportation will produce the information for public consumption.

Dewhurst cited the collapse last week of an Interstate 35 bridge in Minneapolis and gave agency officials until Aug. 17 to provide the number and locations of all structurally deficient bridges, the status of maintenance contracts and anticipated dates for repair.

"I read with relief your statement that 'all of the bridges on Texas' public roads are safe,' but the Minnesota highway department, I assume, thought that was true for their state, too," Dewhurst wrote in his letter to Texas Department of Transportation Chairman Ric Williamson.


Meanwhile, a top-ranking state senator said at a public hearing Tuesday that he initially had been denied similar information from Williamson's department.

On Monday, state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, requested a list of North Texas bridges in poor condition and which ones would take priority for repairs.

"If the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee can't get that, who can get it?" Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, asked as he chaired a public meeting of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee in Irving.

Amadeo Saenz, TxDOT's assistant executive director for engineering operations, said Carona could obtain the information only if he signed a confidentiality agreement.

Of chief concern to transportation officials, according to records of a Monday e-mail exchange between a Carona aide and TxDOT, is the need for the public to be kept in the dark about specifics of bridge safety.

TxDOT's government relations staffer Caroline Love cited a state law saying government records are confidential if "they identify the technical details of particular vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure to an act of terrorism."

Also, she wrote that a federal law barring bridge inspection reports from use in court litigation strictly limits release of such information by the state to the public.

"TxDOT is not releasing specific bridge information or reports for requests from the general public," she wrote before she cited an "option" for legislators.

"If a legislator requests such information in writing AND indicates the information is for legislative purposes, information may be provided," Love wrote.

She added, "there must be an agreement or understanding that the requested information may not be shared further or with the public."

TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott said officials would provide Dewhurst with "the information as best we can as quickly as we can."

Meanwhile, he said the public need not fear.

If a bridge is not safe, we will close it," Lippincott said.

Link to article here. Prepare to pay....and pay BIG! Not for anything the taxpayers have done, but to bail out egotistical and wasteful politicians who would rather get their name on a road than maintain our infrastructure! One Republican is quoted as sa

Link to article here.

Prepare to pay....and pay BIG! Not for anything the taxpayers have done, but to bail out egotistical and wasteful politicians who would rather get their name on a road than maintain our infrastructure! One Republican is quoted as saying "may the sky not fall on me" for advocating a gas tax hike. It will if politicians increase our taxes after they approved 6,000 earmarks in the last federal highway bill, including the $223 million bridge to nowhere in Alaska! Don't come to us to bail out your fiscal waste and mismanagement. Until the earmarked money is returned to the taxpayers....NO GAS TAX HIKE! Politicians are doing what they do best...throwing MORE of OUR money at a problem instead of getting their own fiscal house in order!

Bridge collapse may mean gas-tax hike


Associated Press
August 8, 2007

Wanda Marsh of Papillion, Neb., fills her car with gasoline in Omaha, in this July 2007 file photo. Higher gasoline taxes may help fund infrastructure repairs across the USA.    
Enlarge image Enlarge    By Nati Harnik, AP

    
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Minneapolis bridge disaster that suddenly is the symbol of the nation's crumbling infrastructure could tip the scales in favor of billions of dollars in higher gasoline taxes for repairs coast to coast.
There are 500 bridges around the country similar to the Minneapolis span, and "these are potential deathtraps," says Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, former chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

"We have to, as a Congress, grasp this problem. And yes, I would even suggest, fund this problem with a tax," he says. "May the sky not fall on me."

One-quarter of the nation's bridges, including the one in Minneapolis, have been classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. One-third of major roads are judged by federal transportation officials to be in poor or mediocre condition.

Beyond the human tragedy of the Minnesota bridge collapse lie some daunting numbers: The cost of the backlog of needed repairs to roads and bridges is now $461 billion. Road conditions are a factor in one-third of the 40,000 traffic fatalities every year. Traffic congestion costs drivers $63 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs.


 There's no evidence to suggest that the Mississippi River disaster was a direct result of federal underspending. But there is wide agreement that the bridge is symptomatic of a national problem that Congress and the White House are going to have to address.
"It's a tragic wakeup call," said Matt Jeanneret, spokesman for the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. "This is gut check time for members of Congress for what they are going to do at the federal level."

Past action by Congress and the White House does not give rise to confidence.

The last six-year highway and transit bill finally passed in 2005, two years late and, at $286 billion, almost $90 billion short of the $375 billion that transportation advocates said was needed to keep U.S. infrastructure from further deterioration.

Young and other Transportation Committee leaders wanted to pay for the larger sum by indexing for inflation the fuel tax that keeps the National Highway Trust Fund in money. That would have raised the tax, at 18.3 cents a gallon since 1993, by about a nickel.

President Bush rejected what he said was a tax hike and insisted that Congress accept a far smaller highway budget.

According to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study last year, indexing fuel taxes retroactively to 1993 would have boosted the tax to about 25 cents a gallon last year, raising an average of $20 billion annually.

The two-year delay in passing the measure caused havoc with state transportation planners, who had to defer new projects because they didn't know how much would be available. Federal money accounts for about 45% of all infrastructure spending.

"This administration failed to support robust investment in surface transportation and the funding to accompany it," Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., the Transportation Committee's new chairman this year, said at a news conference after the bridge collapse in his home state.

When the next highway bill comes up in 2009, Congress won't settle for a "bargain basement" measure, Oberstar said.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the top Republican on the committee, called for a national strategic transportation plan to fix a system where "we have congestion, where we have bridges falling into our rivers." He cited an American Council of Civil Engineering estimate that this would cost $1.7 trillion.

The administration in turn has demanded that Congress show more discipline, citing thousands of special projects, or earmarks, in highway bills that don't reflect the real priorities. The best known among them was one that Young supported: $223 million for the "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska. That provision eventually faltered, but about $24 billion — a little less than 8% of the total — in the last highway bill was still devoted to projects singled out by lawmakers for funding.

State transportation officials also complain about the federal practice of annually denying spending for uncontracted projects, leaving states short of money promised in transportation bills. This helped build up the highway trust fund, said Jack Basso of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, but the reality is that "that money is never going to get used."

Since 2002, Congress has been using these unobligated funds for "rescissions," a budget device used to offset spending and make the budget deficit look smaller. Such highway-related rescissions have grown from $374 million in fiscal 2002 to $4.3 billion this fiscal year.

Within a day of the Minneapolis bridge disaster, the Senate moved to create a national commission to look into what must be done to improve roads, bridges, drinking water systems and other public works. Advocates said it basically boils down to two issues — finding the money and the political will.

Two years from now, when Congress has to write a new six-year plan, the highway trust fund — which had a balance of almost $23 billion in 2000 — is expected to go into the red.

While revenues from the fuel tax are eroding in value, construction costs are soaring. In the past three years the costs of basic materials such as asphalt, steel and diesel fuel have risen 47% because of construction booms in China and other countries, said Jeff Shoaf, senior executive director of Associated General Contractors of America.

"We're in so deep a hole that we've got to look at every option," he said.

Among those options, all with their detractors, are building more toll roads, encouraging more private-public road projects, sanctioning more state and local construction bonds and taxing drivers according to miles driven rather than fuel purchased.

Congress also may finally be ready to consider a boost in the federal gasoline tax. Frank Moretti of TRIP, a national transportation research group, said continuing to oppose higher gasoline taxes could become politically untenable.

The bridge collapse "is going to create a fundamental shift," Moretti said. The public would rather pay more taxes "than have to face the consequences of a crumbling infrastructure."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Senators talk tough at hearing, but didn't rein in the TxDOT monster when they could have

Senators may talk tough in these hearings, but the bottom line is they didn't rein in the TxDOT oligarchy when they should have...during the last legislative session. For all the huffing and puffing they did, they never blew the house down! They know TxDOT cooked the books on the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35 project, yet the Attorney General nor any of these "outraged" senators have done a single thing to bring anyone to justice.

Perhaps it's that cozy relationship with those in the hotel yesterday (the highway lobby was swarming at the annual Transportation Summit where private industry and government wed themselves together, sealed with a kiss, of course) that prevents the public from getting a fair shake and prevents criminal uses of our hard earned tax dollars. Et tu, Brute? and Judas come to mind...the kiss of betrayal!

TxDOT rides in hot seat as lawmakers fume
By Patrick Driscoll
Express-News
08/07/2007

IRVING — Just two months after the state's transportation department got its latest marching orders from the Legislature, a leading state senator said Tuesday the agency is as arrogant as ever.At a hearing of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas, accused Texas Department of Transportation officials of circumventing legislative intent and even refusing to explain what they're up to.

"What does it take to get TxDOT to listen to the will of the legislators?" he said. "It is a core attitude of arrogance that I believe still exists."

Carona made the same complaint last spring during a wild legislative session in which more than half a dozen bills gained traction to reign in the department's toll-road policies.

Surviving a gauntlet of political maneuvering was Senate Bill 792, which shifted some tolling powers to local agencies, limited what contracts can do and stopped leasing of toll roads — though there were many exemptions — pending further study.

Then came surprises from TxDOT officials, who said:

The moratorium on toll leases won't affect any contracts for toll roads or rail lines for the Trans-Texas Corridor route that will parallel Interstate 35, though those projects weren't exempted.

They might be able to get around the toll-lease ban by collecting the tolls themselves and then paying private developers returns based on traffic flows, an arrangement called availability payments.

They plan to move forward with a $2.5 million program to test speed cameras on Texas 6 near College Station and on I-10 in Hudspeth County, despite a law passed this year to prohibit cities from using such cameras.

Carona decided it was time for an update, and called a hearing on the first day of the annual Transportation Summit, which TxDOT boycotted two years ago because of disagreements with Dallas area leaders over where the Trans-Texas Corridor should go.

At the hearing, held at a Westin Hotel, Carona protested that his letters and phone calls to TxDOT about its speed-camera project have been ignored.

"All we're asking for is the courtesy of an explanation," he said.

He cast doubt on TxDOT's hope of using availability payments.

"What I heard was you found another way to get around us," he said.

State senators Robert Nichols, R- Jacksonville, and Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, the only other committee members there, also fired shots.

Nichols, who has served on the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees TxDOT, said using availability payments would be like the state co-signing private loans.

"I'm not so sure you have the ability to do that," he said.

After Carona noted that he couldn't make TxDOT play nice but he sure could turn up the heat, Shapiro flashed a friendly smile and chimed in: "I think he speaks for most of us."

Speaking for TxDOT, Assistant Director Amadeo Saenz and Transportation Commissioner Fred Underwood emphasized there's a severe shortage of funds, which means toll roads are needed.

"Texas is facing enormous and rapidly increasing transportation needs," Underwood said. "Achieving our goals will require a long-term program of investment in our transportation system by state, local governments and, we believe, by private participants."

Carona said he wasn't directing his attacks at Underwood, saying he's too new on the commission to have caused problems, or Saenz, saying he thinks the world of him.

Kansas to raise tolls to pay for college profs' digs

Link to article here. This represents the absolute worst kind of fiscal policy that drew ire when the Chicago Skyway was sold to Cintra-Macquarie to balance the state's budget in 2006. The people of Illinois will now be paying 99 years of interest and toll taxes to Spain and Australia so their government could balance the budget for one year. It goes to show that these toll road slush funds are NOT about infrastructure or congestion relief or anything other than MONEY! Road taxes are now the funds of choice that politicians raid for every pet project on the planet. This is NO user tax! Tolls translate into a whole new tax on driving while they tell you to your face it's not a tax increase. Throw the bums out or they'll tax us into poverty!

Kansas tolls for college profs digs still not dead
Toll Road News
Wed, 2007-04-11

Kansas legislators still see the need for the government to bail out a bunch of state colleges because the professors' digs are in need of rehab, and the state's governor Kathleen Sibelius hasn't abandoned her January proposal to raise tolls on the Turnpike. The higher tolls would support $300m in loans to the colleges for repairs and deferred maintenance.


Legislators haven't acted on the governor's proposal. Most agree with the Turnpike that any profits should be plowed back into the road. Kansas house majority leader Ray Merrick thought the colleges should raise more money themselves by increasing tuition fees. Students hopefully benefit from college education in better jobs and higher incomes so higher 'user fees' made sense.

However Merrick's view isn't flying. Other legislators, and the governor want to keep the profs on the state's gravy train. Trouble is they can't agree what gravy train!

So the possibility remains of the Turnpike tolls being used to fix the college digs.

Tolls up 5% Jul 1

Meanwhile preplanned toll increases on the Turnpike have been confirmed for July 1.

Toll increases will average 5%. The last toll increase was in 2004, also 5%.

Tolls will rise:
- for cars from the present 3.78c/mile (2.3c/km) will rise to 4c/mi (2.4c/km)
- for tractor trailers from 11.1c/mi (6.8c/km) go up to 11.7c/mile (7.1c/km)
- for long triples with 9 axles from 27c/mi (16.6c/m) to 28c/mi (17c/km)

CEO Michael Johnson says the Turnpike plans to make these kind of modest increases in tolls on a regular basis every year or two rather than allow the buying power of toll revenue to deteriorate over long periods requiring "huge" increases.

Perry spends over a quarter million in gas taxes for his own security

Governor Rick Perry and his cronies in the Legislature keep stepping into mine fields....when someone finally shines the light on the public fleecing and lack of fiscal responsibility the outrage gets kicked-up another notch! The fact that DPS is primarily funded from gasoline taxes, which is supposed to be a dedicated fund spent only for transportation needs, instead of by general revenues is what draws ire here. Everyone can see the Governor needs security when he travels, but the fact that he's pushing tolls across Texas claiming there's no money for roads rings hollow when he's guilty of spending that diverted money on his own travel (especially when the public purpose of such is questionable).

Politicians always try to reach for a "public purpose" for their own image building trips, Perry is foremost in saying everything is for "economic development." Think corporate welfare. He says he's creating jobs...well, the benefits of these "new" jobs are most often completely erased by the cost to the taxpayers through corporate tax breaks and new infrastructure needs. Perry's economic development dole outs are some of the most controversial use of taxpayer funds on his watch. Oh, but he's a fiscal "conservative"...yeah right. The hypocrisy continues.

Perry ran up a $259,428 tab for trip security
By Peggy Fikac
Express News
08/07/07

Austin bureau AUSTIN — Foreign trips by Gov. Rick Perry and his wife have cost Texas more than a quarter of a million dollars in security provided through his protective detail, according to figures obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.Perry spokesman Robert Black touted travel Tuesday as particularly important in advancing the GOP governor's economic development agenda.

That was a key aim of many of the 10 trips, although the list also includes a Grand Cayman vacation last year and a 2004 trip to the Bahamas with campaign donors and that the governor's office said was to discuss education.

Perry's direct expenses on state trips generally have been covered by a privately financed economic development program overseen by his office or business contributions or his campaign.

The security tab, however, is paid by the state. The cost of the Governor Protective Detail falls under the Texas Department of Public Safety's highway patrol budget, financed primarily by the state gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees.


"It's not a small amount of money," said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, of the security cost of $259,428.07 for nine trips starting in 2004. (Security for the 10th trip, to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006, was provided by the federal government, according to Perry's office).

But Chisum said security is an appropriate cost for government to bear.

"Obviously we wouldn't want our governor going without security. ... If he got kidnapped or something, we'd spend 10 times as much trying to get him out." Chisum said.

Then again, Chisum quipped about the governor who sometimes draws lawmakers' ire for his proposals and his vetoes, "There may be some debate about how much we would pay."

The costliest security tab — at $73,413.85 — was for Perry's trip to the Middle East in March, in the midst of the regular legislative session.

Perry, an Aggie, made the trip to help dedicate a Texas A&M University campus in Qatar and to have meetings with the aim of luring economic development projects to Texas.

"As the leader of the 10th largest economy in the world, the governor has made job creation and economic development a cornerstone of his administration, and that means ... bringing jobs to this state, whether from inside our own country or from around the world," Black said.

The other trips by Perry and/or his wife, Anita, included the Bahamas; Italy; two to Mexico; Japan; Iraq and Afghanistan; Grand Cayman; Qatar and the United Arab Emirates; Turkey; and Israel and Jordan. Anita Perry represented the governor during the 2005 trade mission to Japan.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said, "I think perhaps he should consider private security as an option. ... Allowing the campaign to pay for private security during personal time is a reasonable thing. If you're traveling as an official of the state on an official trip, then I completely understand the DPS should go with you."

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the security detail's duty is clear: "Whenever the governor travels, we go with him. That's the way it's been with past governors."

Past governors' travels also have drawn attention, although Perry seems to be the leader in foreign trips.

When then-Gov. George W. Bush campaigned for president the first time, in the 2000 election, Texas saw an increased security cost. In 1998, before Bush announced plans to run for the White House, the DPS spent $285,873 on his security detail. In 1999, when he began his campaign and traveled the country, the total jumped to $2.65 million. Bush also made a much-noted trip to Israel before launching his presidential campaign.

Bush's predecessor, the late Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, traveled to Mexico, said former aide Chuck McDonald, but it was her U.S. travel that drew barbs.

"We got criticized just for going to California, for crying out loud," McDonald said. "We were like, 'We're trying to bring the movie industry to Texas.' Everyone is like, 'Sure you are.'"

Political scientist Bruce Buchanan of the University of Texas said foreign travel potentially could benefit the state.

"It kind of depends on what's going on on the trips. Obviously, there's some element of building Perry's profile ... on the other hand, that doesn't necessarily hurt the state," Buchanan said. "It may in the long run help the state, should he in the long run have a future profile."

"Ten (trips) does sound like a goodly number," Buchanan added. "That's quite a lot. I'm not sure I want to jump on him for that. A certain amount would be easily forgivable. This seems like quite a lot."

Phyllis Schlafly: SPP summit about economic integration of U.S., Canada, Mexico

The Plans for Economic Integration
By Phyllis Schlafly
Monday, August 6, 2007

Canada in the summer and Mexico in the spring offer good weather for planning international policies. Nervousness about the political weather, however, is putting the third Security and Prosperity Partnership summit taking place Aug. 20-21 at a site where the uninvited can be easily excluded: the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello resort about 50 miles outside of Quebec.

The cheering gallery for SPP is hysterically chanting that its goal is not a North American "union" modeled on the European Union - and that anyone who thinks otherwise must be peddling conspiracy fears. But SPP supporters candidly admit they want North American "integration," which might be a distinction without a difference.

President George W. Bush started down this trail on April 22, 2001, when he signed the Declaration of Quebec City in which he made a "commitment to hemispheric integration." After Communist Hugo Chavez took over Venezuela, "hemispheric" was quietly scaled down to the Security and Prosperity Partnership of just North America.

The lobbyists for integration are bringing heavy-artillery reinforcements to their cause: a pro-integration report written by a prestigious think tank, the Center for Strategic & International Studies. The report is now being translated into Spanish and French so it can be presented to all three governments in September.

The importance of the Center for Strategic & International Studies comes from the political influence of its trustees. They are longtime internationalists and architects of some of the worst foreign and defense policies of the past 50 years.

A 25-page advance peek at the report has been released under the caption "North American Future 2025 Project." The core of the plan for America's future is North American "economic integration" and "labor mobility," key words that are repeated again and again in this report.

The threat to good U.S. jobs is obvious from the redundancy of demands to import cheap labor without limits: "international migration of labor," "international movement not only of goods and capital, but also of people," "mobile labor supply," "North American labor mobility," "flows of labor migration," and "free flow of people across national borders."

The report explains that "border infrastructure" means the "efficient flow of labor across North American borders" so we can "pool the human capital necessary to source a competitive North American work force." It's unlikely that U.S. workers want to "pool" their jobs with Mexico where the median minimum wage is $5 a day.

Slyly revealing the plan to integrate governments as well as economies, the report states: "To remain competitive in the global economy, policymakers must devise forward-looking, collaborative policies that integrate governments." In an attack on the unique American patent system and fountainhead of U.S. innovation superiority, the report calls for "harmonizing legislation" with other countries in the area of intellectual property rights. The report also calls on us to "harmonize" regulations of all kinds by adopting "unified North American regulatory standards."

No wonder the CSIS admits that its report was developed in "seven closed-door roundtable sessions." Let's call the roll of the trustees of this influential think tank: Henry Kissinger, who was the architect of the Nixon-Ford policies repudiated by Ronald Reagan; James R. Schlesinger, the secretary of defense for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford; Zbigniew Brzezinski, the trilateralist who was President Jimmy Carter's chief foreign policy adviser.

William Cohen, who was President Bill Clinton's secretary of defense; Harold Brown, who was the secretary of the Air Force carrying out Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's disarmament policies in the 1960s; and Brent Scowcroft, former vice chairman of Kissinger Associates and national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush.

The frontman for this galaxy of globalists is former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga. One more household name is former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the man who leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press.

Business authority Peter F. Drucker wrote in his 1993 book "Post Capitalist Society" (Collins, $16.95) that the European Union "triggered the attempt to create a North American economic community, built around the United States but integrating both Canada and Mexico into a common market."

He gleefully added, "So far this attempt is purely economic in its goal, but it can hardly remain so in the long run. ... The economic integration of the three countries into one region is proceeding so fast that it will make little difference whether the marriage is sanctified legally or not."

Now that the game plan is laid out, we can connect the dots: the North American Free Trade Agreement; the admission of Mexican trucks onto U.S. highways; the contract to build the TransTexas Corridor and the plans to extend it into a NAFTA Superhighway; making Kansas City an international "port"; the "totalization" of illegal immigrants into the U.S. Social Security system; and the recently defeated Senate amnesty bill. That bill would have integrated 20 million illegal immigrants into the U.S. labor force, locked us (by Section 413) into the SPP, and spent massive foreign aid to "improve the standard of living in Mexico."

WND: NAFTA Superhighway traffic connected to MN bridge collapse

Link to article here.

NAFTA Superhighway traffic tied to bridge collapse
WND uncovers federal study warning of high risk in 1998
August 5, 2007
By Jerome R. Corsi
WorldNetDaily.com

Evidence of increasing international trade truck traffic on Interstate 35 through Minnesota raises concerns that NAFTA Superhighway traffic contributed to last week's collapse of the freeway bridge in Minneapolis.


President George W. Bush, aboard Marine One, takes an aerial survey of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2007
WND has unearthed a Federal Highway Administration report dating back to 1998 that warned increasing NAFTA truck traffic was expected to create a safety concern with bridges in states along the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway, including Minnesota.


The study concluded that, "The I-35 Corridor's multimodal transportation hubs – where air, rail, river, and truck cargo converge – make I-35 ideally positioned to be a major route for what is expected to be increasing levels of international trade activity."

The study warned that, "Over the next few decades, about 65 percent of I-35 will require major upgrades, however the entire route will have a continued need for rehabilitating pavements, resurfacing sections of the highway, and providing replacements of some bridge decks. Bridge substructures and superstructures will also need to be maintained, requiring repairs to maintain the integrity of the bridges."
The FHWA study was conducted in conjunction with the Departments of Transportation in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota, and assessed I-35 from Laredo, Texas, to Duluth, Minn.A comprehensive study of freight traffic conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, shows conclusively a large percentage of the freight carried through Minnesota is carried by truck.FHWA data show that in 2002, a total of 280.7 million tons of freight moved through Minnesota, 86 percent of which was carried by truck.

The trend line shows dramatic increases projected, with freight traffic through Minnesota expected to double by 2035, to a total of 551.5 million tons, of which 88 percent will be carried by truck.

The bridge collapsed at rush hour, with an estimated 100-150 cars and trucks on the structure in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Officials in Minnesota had been warned since 1990 that the bridge was "structurally deficient" and severely fatigued from the increasing volume of traffic the bridge, which spans the Mississippi River along Interstate 35, was receiving.

North America's SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc. (NASCO), a Dallas-based trade association, also designates I-35 as a NAFTA Superhighway.

NASCO's website states, "There are no plans to build a new NAFTA Superhighway – it exists today as I-35."

The original 2005 NASCO website opened with a graphic map of I-35 that highlighted in yellow the continental nature of the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway, illustrating clearly the highway's links into Mexico and Canada.


NASCO's original map highlighted the I-35 corridor from Mexico to Canada
WND has previously reported the Minnesota Department of Transportation joined NASCO as a member in 2006, after a heavy lobbying campaign launched by NASCO executive director Tiffany Melvin.

As fully documented on the Texas Department of Transportation website, the department plans to build a new Trans-Texas Corridor parallel to Interstate 35, and NASCO has yet to repudiate these new superhighway construction plans.

The debate whether or not to build a new TTC-like NAFTA Superhighway parallel to I-35 or to repair and rebuild I-35 to accommodate NAFTA and other global trade traffic required by 2025 and beyond, including projections of international truck and train freight travel, is now being debated by the states north of I-35.

As WND has reported, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has repudiated his signing in 2004 of a document described as "The Declaration of North American Integration."

Cornett told WND he was opposed to the creation of a North American Union or the extension of TTC-35 into Oklahoma, "if the whole point is to make it cheaper to transport containers from China coming through Mexican ports."

WND has also reported Oklahoma House Speaker Lance Cargill has invited to Oklahoma Robert Poole, a prominent expert advising states to build toll roads as "public-private partnerships," complete with financing from private investment consortia seeking long-term operating leases on the new highways once completed, according to the Trans-Texas Corridor model.

Private investors' hunger pangs due in part to TX moratorium

Link to story here.

Hunger pangs
By Pat Driscoll
Express-News
August 01, 2007

Saliva drips from the teeth of global investors eyeing toll roads, airports and seaports in the U.S., but more often lately they've had to sit, knife and fork in hands, and wait, a recent analysis says.

281.hearing.jpg
(William Luther/Express-News)
In February, more than 650 people showed up for a hearing on proposed toll lanes along U.S. 281 in San Antonio. Almost one in 10 signed up to speak, and most were opposed to the plan.

The analysis, by JOSEPH A. GIANNONE, describes the worldwide privatization wave:

The global volume of deals involving public and private infrastructure assets — from power utilities and seaports to airports and toll bridges — last year tripled to $150 billion from the year before.By some estimates, specialist funds have earmarked more than $75 billion for infrastructure investments, which with additional borrowing represents up to $400 billion in dry powder. Some bankers say buying power exceeds $750 billion.



To give you an idea of how much that is, Cintra of Spain and Zachry Construction Co. of San Antonio say they can build a four-lane toll road from San Antonio to Dallas for $6.8 billion, which is more than two thirds of Texas' highway budget last year.

The Cintra-Zachry toll road is part of the Tran-Texas Corridor, Gov. Rick Perry's idea to carve 4,000 miles of toll lanes, rail lines and utility lines through rural areas over the century. That's been estimated at $184 billion.

But drooling investors trying to sink their funds where they can get stable, long-term returns are starving for action.

Giannone said:

All across Wall Street, firms have assembled teams and raised new specialized funds to handle the expected surge of public asset deals.Yet U.S. deal activity has come to a halt amid unexpectedly strong public resistance to parting with taxpayer-funded assets, many of which are monopolies.

Privatization plans have run afoul of legislatures ... in recent months, including Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In Texas, lawmakers declared a two-year moratorium on privatized highways.



Ah yes, Texas' moratorium bill, also know as SB 792, the bill that's so holey it'd be going to church regularly if it could grow legs.

Nearly every toll project in the pipeline, worth some $15 billion in all, was exempted from the moratorium bill. A notable exception to the exemption was U.S. 281 in San Antonio, which means a planned eight-mile tollway there can't be leased over the next two years.

In June, the Texas Transportation Commission decided to move forward on another 87 toll projects worth $56 billion (list and map), but that was mainly to establish local or state dibs on ownership. Most of them are likely years away, well beyond the moratorium.

But there's still some fear over leasing toll roads in Texas, and there's a ripe opportunity to run afoul of the Legislature. In the oven is a sunset review of the Texas Department of Transportation, which lawmakers intend to wrap up in the 2009 session.

Will the heat get turned up?

Many hunger for political change, fed-up with pork barrel spending and politics as usual

The first article speaks of just some of the Texas pork barrel spending in the budget just passed (not to mention the $1.6 billion in gas taxes diverted away from transportation in this year's budget). The second speaks to widespread discontent with politics as usual and the hunger for change, even among a Republican party faithful, Craig Shirley, who slams both parties and the political machine backed by special interests that produces the same ol' same ol' year after year. It's time for a revolution. Ron Paul, who has NEVER accepted money from special interests and who has bucked the system and party politics may be the only chance to restore representative government.

Author Craig Shirley pretty well sums it up: "The candidates come and go. The congressmen come and go. The senators come and go. But the media and K Street, and the campaign consultants are here forever. They take over. They're like cockroaches that come out in the middle of the night, and they take over."

 

State budget loaded with pork-barrel spending
By: Associated Press
Aug. 4, 2007

In this year's legislative session, it paid to support embattled House Speaker Tom Craddick.

That support translated into state dollars for an antebellum plantation home near Dallas, an Edinburg museum of South Texas history, and upgrades to a Houston park named for an influential Craddick legislative ally.

Recent budget prosperity and a presiding officer in desperate need of allies ushered in a return of pork-barrel spending during the recent session. In the new budget for 2008 and 2009, those who helped Craddick survive a bipartisan coup try were big winners of an estimated $176 million in so-called "special items."

But Craddick spokeswoman Alexis DeLee says the "budget process that took place this last session is the same as it's always been."

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, supported Craddick. He got a $600,000 matching grant for renovations at the Sylvester Turner Park in Houston. Turner says renovations to the 27-year-old park are needed, including new bathrooms to replace portable toilets.

Rep. Helen Giddings is another Democrat who supported Craddick. She helped the South Dallas suburb of DeSoto get $500,000 to buy the historic Nance Farm, a plantation home built in the 1850s.

Border area Democrats, a key bloc of support for Craddick's re-election, did particularly well in the $153 billion budget.

Democratic Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City got an $800,000 matching grant for a new park in his small border town and a new rural technology center for vocational skills training. A zoo in Brownsville and a soccer complex in Kingsville will get almost $700,000 combined for renovations. Another $10 million was set aside for Harlingen's South Texas Hospital and $1 million for a border security technology and training center in McAllen.

Democratic Representative Aaron Pena of Edinburg helped bring the city $3 million for a new drug treatment center and $750,000 for the Will Looney Legacy Park and a museum of South Texas history.


Copyright 2007 Associated Press, All rights reserved.
 

___________________________________


Gingrich: US on Verge of 'Golden Age of Freedom'
By Evan Moore
CNSNews.com Correspondent
August 03, 2007

(CNSNews.com) - America is on the cusp of a "golden age of freedom and prosperity," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a speech Thursday before a group of young conservatives.

No doubt, America faces "enormous challenges," Gingrich told the crowd. But he predicted that the young conservatives in attendance, along with conservatives nationwide, would lead America to a brighter future.

Gingrich was speaking at the Young America's Foundation's 29th National Conservative Students Conference, held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Other speakers at the week-long conference included former Virginia Sen. George Allen, talk-radio host Michael Reagan and syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

Gingrich told the assembled students they were the potential leaders of the next great wave of American reformers, in the tradition of the Jeffersonians, the Lincoln Republicans and the New Deal Democrats.

But for that wave to sweep across the country and help build a better America, young conservatives need to reject the current modus operandi in the political and social culture, he said.

Disdain for the system

America today, according to Gingrich, is divided. There is "the world that works," exemplified by the success and accomplishment of private enterprise, and there is "the world that fails," typified by the "old decaying bureaucracies" of Washington, D.C. -- the remnants of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs.

The old bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all model is slow, inefficient and wasteful, said Gingrich. On the contrary, companies such as FedEx and UPS, for instance, can track millions of packages they are shipping in real time, while the federal government has failed to locate the millions of illegal immigrants living in American society, he said.

Gingrich then quipped that his solution to ending illegal immigration would be to mail packages to those illegal immigrants, store their addresses and then round the immigrants up.

The former House Speaker said he was "troubled by the failure of both major parties" in correctly addressing the issues and problems Americans face. Democrats, said Gingrich, are "trapped in a fantasy world" and the "party of unionized bureaucracy" while Republicans refuse to admit the nature of the systematic failure of big government.

Gingrich cited the example of Detroit -- which he had previously discussed on Fox News Sunday -- as an indicator of this failure. Detroit epitomizes the failure of the bureaucracy-based approach, he said. The Motor City has lost nearly half its population over the last 60 years. Its residents now have a per-capita income that is ranked 62nd in the nation. In 1950, Detroit ranked first.

Today, only 25 percent of Detroit's high school freshmen eventually graduate on schedule. And a majority of those who drop out of high school, said Gingrich, are likely to end up in jail. "How can we tolerate systems more likely to send people to prison than to college?" he said.

As for President Bush's global war on terror, "none of you should believe we are winning this war," said Gingrich. "There is no evidence that we're winning. ... This is a phony war."

Further, the failure to swiftly detect and deal with the terrorist cell members involved in the planned attack on Fort Dix, and the lawsuit of the "flying imams" against US Airways revealed that "our system is broken," said Gingrich, and that "something is fundamentally wrong."

To defeat the threat of radical Islamists, America must devote more resources to its intelligence, defense and foreign relations services, he said, adding that Web sites and religious services that incite Muslims to commit jihad should be shut down.

"For us to be serious about winning this campaign is going to require a dramatically more serious strategy and a dramatic overhaul of our bureaucracies, and a significant increase in resources," said Gingrich.

Presidential ambitions muted

There has been speculation that Gingrich may run for president in 2008. He has fueled that speculation by dropping hints to the media and expressing disdain for the current conventional means of running for president.

While Gingrich did not discuss his views on running for president at the conference, conservative and author Craig Shirley told Cybercast News Service that he shares Gingrich's disdain for the enormous fundraising and bureaucratic operations prevalent in contemporary presidential campaigns.

"The permanent power structure in Washington is the national media, the K Street lobbyists and the campaign consultants," said Shirley. "Politicians are merely vehicles in which to have fun and profit.

"The candidates come and go. The congressmen come and go. The senators come and go. But the media and K Street, and the campaign consultants are here forever. They take over. They're like cockroaches that come out in the middle of the night, and they take over."

Shirley emphasized that the means to break the hold of Washington's "consultant-ocracy" rests with the American public. "The consultants are not the gate-keepers to the nomination," he said. "The voters are."

Goldman Sachs guru warns of America becoming a global credit risk!

Goldman Sachs Guru Warns of War-Debt Failure

Monday, July 30

Is America becoming a global credit risk? How to get back on track

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
Published: 07-30-07

Will Moody's downgrade America's debt next? Actually, that's already happening; our credit rating is collapsing with the dollar.

Foreign banks are dumping dollar reserves, while we gorge on , cheap toys and bad pet food. Actually, our biggest "terrorist" threat is internal: Distorted values are downgrading our nation's "creditworthiness." We're like out-of-control kids with stolen credit cards, spending our future with no plans to repay.

Recently Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs (International), appeared before the U.S. House Budget Committee to "discuss an issue of great economic, financial and national security importance to our country -- the growing dependence of the United States on foreign capital." Currently we import $1 trillion new debt annually, with no repayment plans. That's a historic break from over two centuries of American policy.

Hormats was in Washington with warnings from his brilliant new book, "The Price of Liberty: Paying for America's Wars." He traces the history of American wartime financing from the Revolution through the War of 1812, the Civil War, the two World Wars and the Cold War to the present.

Conclusion: "One central, constant theme emerges: sound national finances have proved to be indispensable to the country's military strength" and long-term national security.

1776 to Iraq, national security demands fiscal responsibility
America's long tradition of war financing began with Alexander Hamilton: "In January 1790, Hamilton, by then the country's Treasury secretary, confronted the American people with a stark fact: the nation had run up a huge debt fighting the Revolutionary War. This debt, he wrote, was the 'price of liberty,' and the new government had to repay it.
 

The future creditworthiness of the United States, and ultimately the security and ability to finance future wars, would depend on how successfully and faithfully this was done."

Hamilton's principles have kept America's credit strong through every war since the Revolution ... until the Iraq War. Since then, "although U.S. leaders have warned that the war against terrorism could last for decades, the country lacks a multidecade financial strategy to address the challenge."

Iraq tossed the lessons of history out the window. Hormats says that despite the oft-repeated remark that 9/11 "changed everything, in the area of fiscal policy, however, it changed nothing. The country is pursuing a pre-9/11 fiscal policy in a post-9/11 world." That assessment comes from someone who worked inside Washington for over a decade before joining Goldman Sachs in the 1980s.

Unsustainable debt is weakening national security
America's new faith-based guns-and-butter policy is hurting both guns and butter. The war is costing us $12 billion a month. Hormats examined the Congressional Budget Office's projections for domestic costs: "In 2006, spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the federal debt amounted to just under 60% of government revenues" and "if they continue on their current path, they will account for two-thirds by 2015."

• Social security from $550 billion to $960 billion
• Medicare from $372 billion to over $900 billion
• Medicaid from $181 billion to $390 billion

Worse yet, these commitments will continue skyrocketing in later decades. The CBO projects the federal debt rising from 40% of GDP to 100% in the next 25 years: "Continuing on this unsustainable path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security."
Hormats warns of the risks of this gross departure from Hamilton's principles: "Of late, the precedents and experiences of past generations have been cast aside. The 9/11 attacks were seen by many legislators as a license to spend more money on non-security programs, and Americans have not been called to make sacrifices. Tax cuts and spending increased on politically popular security-irrelevant domestic programs have been enacted as if there were no expensive defense programs to be funded."

Turning point in Iraq, where 'deficits don't matter'
In my opinion, the turning point occurred in late 2002. Remember, the Afghan War was hot. America was in recession and a bear market. The surpluses of the 1990s rapidly disappeared. Corporate scandals were damaging our global standing. Washington was pushing a second round of tax cuts. And the Iraq invasion was imminent.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, true to Hamiltonian principles, warned the White House of a coming fiscal crisis. The vice president retorted: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." (Hormats tells me Reagan never said that.) Soon after, Cheney "fired" O'Neill ... and Hamilton's principles of sound war financing were dead.
Unfortunately, Washington's radical new faith-based financing is sabotaging national security. America's unsustainable deficits are making us extremely vulnerable to terrorists whose goal is to "attack the United States, perhaps with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons capable of killing enormous numbers of people and seriously disrupting the American economy," targeting a "major port or transportation center."
Hormats says America is now "relying on faith over experience, hoping that sustained growth will erase deficits and that the ballooning costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be manageable in the coming decades without difficult reforms."

Yet economists now estimate these entitlements can only be "reformed" by either a cut in benefits or an increase in taxes greater that 40%. In short, today's faith-based economics is failing us.
The current Treasury secretary also appears to be supporting this new approach: Henry Paulson, former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, recently told Fortune that "this is far and away the strongest global economy I've seen in my business lifetime."

Well, that sure sounds to me like yet another rejection of Hamiltonian principles in favor of the new faith-based policy, which assumes that global economies will always be strong and, therefore, foreign capital will indefinitely bankroll America's war machine at a low cost.

The danger is, it also assumes that American taxpayers will be able to indefinitely pay the interest costs of our burgeoning foreign debt ... on top of exploding unfunded domestic entitlements in Social Security and Medicare.

Time to rediscover 'Hamilton's gift' of war financing
Hormats was being much too diplomatic in summing up his warning to the House Budget Committee: "If government debt continues to pile up, deficits rise to stratospheric levels and heavy dependence on foreign capital grows, borrowing the money will be very costly. If America remains on its dangerous financial course Hamilton's gift to the nation -- the blessing of sound financing -- will be squandered."

The truth is, America's leaders have already squandered "Hamilton's gift," and along with it, more than two centuries of experience, replacing it with a new "faith-based" policy: "Deficits don't matter."

No wonder Main Street Americans have a "gut instinct" that we're a disaster waiting to happen. Not only are we "transferring an inordinate burden to future generations," says Hormats, Washington's undisciplined spending and total lack of a financial repayment plan is undercutting our national security and exposing America to the worst-case scenario: Another domestic terrorist attack that would trigger a "massive disruption of our economy" and a meltdown of America's credit rating throughout the world.

The truth is, America desperately needs a new "Hamilton" who understands that in calculating "the price of liberty," not only do deficits matter, Americans must have a plan to repay our debts ... if we want a strong credit rating that insures our national security for future generations.

Hunter-Kaptur amendment to STOP funding of NAFTA Superhighways overwhelmingly passes House

Late Thursday evening, on July 26, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Hunter-Kaptur amendment to the Transportation Appropriations Bill (HR 3074) by an overwhelming margin, 362-63. The amendment was introduced by Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). In a total repudiation of NAFTA, our failed trade policies, and the Bush Administration's unilateral and aggressive fast tracking of the NAFTA Superhighways, the House successfully moved to de-fund them. Now it heads to the Senate.

Read more about the amendment within this story where Vice President Dick Cheney denies the NAFTA Superhighways.

Cheney chimes in to deny NAFTA superhighways despite preponderance of evidence

Link to article here.

In one way, I agree with Cheney: there is no SECRET plan to construct NAFTA Superhighways (the first being the Trans Texas Corridor TTC-35). It's being done in the WIDE OPEN for those who know where to look. However, it's being done WITHOUT the approval of Congress and the American people and under the radar of the majority of the national press. The more they try to deny it, the more they heap coals of fire on their heads.

Now Cheney chimes in: Ain't no superhighways
VP latest to make official denial, some call it 'gaming semantics'
By Jerome R. Corsi
July 29, 2007
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


Vice President Cheney
Despite evidence to the contrary, Vice President Dick Cheney says there is no "secret plan" to create a continent-crossing superhighway to help facilitate a merger of the United States, Mexico and Canada.

"The Administration is not engaged in a secret plan to create a 'NAFTA super highway,'" asserts Cheney in a recent letter to a constituent, according to a copy of the message obtained by WND.

The vice president's letter quotes an Aug. 21 statement from the U.S. Department of Transportation that, "The concept of a super highway has been around since the early 1990s, usually in the form of a claim that the U.S. Department of Transportation is going to designate such a highway."

DOT then refutes the claim, stating, "The Department of Transportation has never had the statutory authority to designate a NAFTA super highway and has never sought such authority."

The DOT statement then retracts the absolute nature of that statement, qualifying that, "The Department of Transportation will continue to cooperate with the State transportation departments in the I-35 corridor as they upgrade this vital interstate highway to meet 21st century needs. However, these efforts are the routine activities of a Department that cooperates with all the state transportation departments to improve the Nation's intermodal transportation network.
 
The DOT statement cited by the vice president seems to model the denial recently fashioned by the North America's SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc., or NASCO, on its website.
There NASCO states, "There a no plans to build a new NAFTA Superhighway – it exists today as I-35."

The coalition continues to distinguish its support for a North American "SuperCorridor" from a "NAFTA Superhighway," asserting that a "SuperCorridor is not 'Super-sized." The website then claims NASCO uses the term "SuperCorridor" to demonstrate "we are more than just a highway coalition."

In a July 21, 2006, internal e-mail obtained by WND under a Missouri Sunshine Law request, Tiffany Melvin, executive director of NASCO, cautions "NASCO friends and members" that, "We have to stay away from 'SuperCorridor' because it is a very bad, hot button right now."

As WND previously reported, Jeffrey Shane, undersecretary of transportation for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation got into a spirited exchange in January with congressmen after he asserted to a House subcommittee that NAFTA Superhighways were an "urban legend."

In response to questioning by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, before the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Shane asserted he was "not familiar with any plan at all, related to NAFTA or cross-border traffic."

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., then questioned aloud whether Shane was just "gaming semantics" when responding to Poe's question.

In June 2006, when first writing about NASCO, WND displayed the original homepage of NASCO, which used to open with a map highlighting the I-35 corridor from Mexico to Canada, arguing the trade group and its members were actively promoting a NAFTA superhighway.


NASCO's original map highlighted the I-35 corridor from Mexico to Canada
In what appears to be the third major revamping of the NASCO website since WND first began writing articles about NASCO, the Dallas-based trade group carefully removes identifying NASCO with the words behind the acronym, "North America's SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc.," which the original NASCO website once proudly proclaimed.

The current NASCO homepage displays a photo montage of intermodal highway scenes, presumably taken along I-35, but without any map displaying a continental I-35 super corridor linking Mexico and Canada.

NASCO currently relegates the continental I-35 map to an internal webpage that describes the North American Inland Ports Network as a "working group" within NASCO that supports inland member cities who have designated themselves as "inland ports," seeking to warehouse container traffic originating in Mexican ports on the Pacific such as Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas.

WND has also previously reported that in a speech to NASCO on April 30, 2004, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta referred to Interstate Highways 35, 29 and 94 – the core highways supported by NASCO as a prime "North American Super Corridor" – Mineta commented to NASCO that the trade group "recognized that the success of the NAFTA relationship depends on mobility – on the movement of people, of products, and of capital across borders."

WND has also reported Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., a GOP presidential candidate, introduced an amendment to H.R. 3074, the Transportation Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008, prohibiting the use of federal funds for participating in working groups under the Security and Prosperity Partnership, including the creation of NAFTA Superhighways.

On July 24, Hunter's amendment passed 362 to 63, with strong bipartisan support. Later, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3074 by a margin of 268-153. The bill has been sent to the Senate with Hunter's amendment included.

According to Freedom of Information Request documents obtained by WND, Jeffrey Shane has been appointed by the Bush administration to be the U.S. lead bureaucrat on the North American Transportation Working Group under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.

On July 23, 1997, the NAFTA Superhighway Coalition was formed to promote continental highway development in association with the Ambassador Bridge.

Anti-corridor Ron Paul wows crowd at Alamo!

Presidential Candidate Texas Congressman Ron Paul greeted an energized crowd yesterday at the Alamo. At least 500 people turned out to support his agenda of limited government, low taxes, and personal liberty, including the freedom of mobility about to be stripped by toll road proliferation. Paul got raucous applause when he called for an end to the NAFTA Superhighways, (aka- Trans Texas Corridor), the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), and the North American Union (NAU). Dr. Jerry Corsi's new book, The Late Great USA, documents the coming merger with Canada and Mexico, the SPP, and NAU.

Dr. Paul himself has been pleasantly surprised by the massive groundswell of support for what he's dubbed "the freedom movement." Post-debate polling showed he nearly won the second debate where Rudy Giuliani tried to rebuke Paul for his opposition to the Iraq war. His campaign clearly has had momentum ever since. He noted his position on Iraq hasn't hurt him with those fighting the war in Iraq. He says his support from active duty soldiers outnumbers all the other candidates 3 to 1.

Massive grassroots support for Ron Paul
The bulk of his support isn't gauged by traditional campaign markers like BIG MONEY supporters, BIG endorsements and press coverage, but even Paul surprised the jaded political pundits when he turned up with more campaign cash on hand than top tier candidate John McCain (and that was before McCain steady decline). Paul's massive group of un-paid, committed grassroots volunteers also indicate the strength of the "freedom movement."
Many call Paul the "last hope" to preserve America, restore the Constitutional Republic (of, by, and for the PEOPLE), reclaim America's financial independence, and protect her sovereignty.

Internet Sensation
No candidate has more support or buzz on the internet than Ron Paul. The only candidate to come close is Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Barrack Obama who has 10,000 "meet-up" groups. Paul has a stunning 27,000! Dr. Paul noted he has seen a steady increase of young people coming into his office in Washington with their parents lauding Paul's love for and vehement protection of the Constitution telling him they share his love for the Constitution and have contributed to their parents becoming Ron Paul supporters.

Republicans... wake up!There's also a campaign afoot to wake-up the Republican Party to Ron Paul's message at next month's Texas Straw Poll. We'll continue to watch the "Ron Paul Revolution."

Citizens blocked from holding a conference on SPP ahead of Quebec summit

Public forums denied on upcoming SPP Summit
By: Patrick Wood, The August Review

At least two highly visible citizen's organizations that intend to expose the activities of the Security and Prosperity Partnership may have been effectively shut down for the upcoming SPP Leaders Meeting in Montebello, Quebec on August 20-21.
The Council of Canadians, after renting a public facility in the Municipality of Papineauville (about 4 miles from Montebello), were bluntly informed by the hall’s management that the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), SQ (Security Quebec) and the U.S. Army will not allow their meeting even though it is scheduled on the day before the SPP meeting! (See Police nix meeting near world leaders)

In fact, these security officials allegedly declared that they intend to enforce a 25 kilometer (about 15 miles) blackout around the Chateau Montebello where Bush, Harper and Calderon will be meeting to advance their agenda of "deep integration" of Mexico, Canada and the United States.

“It is deplorable that we are being prevented from bringing together a panel of writers, academics and parliamentarians to share their concerns about the Security and Prosperity Partnership with Canadians,” said Brent Patterson, director of organizing with the Council of Canadians. “Meanwhile, six kilometers away, corporate leaders from the United States, Mexico and Canada will have unimpeded access to our political leaders.”

From the U.S., The Coalition to Block the North American Union is planning a similar meeting, but now it won't be within 15 miles of Montebello.

The latter organization is a coalition of dozens of influential U.S. organizations such as the American Policy Center, Eagle Forum, Conservative Caucus, Freedom 21, the John Birch Society, World Research Library and many others.

As has been previously pointed out, the SPP is a stealth vehicle to facilitate harmonization of regulations that are necessary for the introduction of the North American Union (NAU), the merger of Mexico, Canada and the United States. There is no legislative authority for SPP to even exist, and hence, there is no congressional oversight.

The Council of Canadians and the Coalition to Stop the NAU are hardly a physical threat to anyone, so security is not the issue here: This should be taken as a blatant attempt to stifle legitimate public inquiry and debate that would threaten to bring to light the nefarious agenda of the SPP and its perpetrators.

Conversely, corporate or media representatives who are favorable to the Security and Prosperity Partnership will not be subject to the 25 kilometer limit.

Toll revolt in New Hampshire

Merrimack calls for toll revolt
By JIM KOZUBEK
New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent
Friday, Jul. 27, 2007

MERRIMACK – An initiative by Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli to give residents in the 03054 ZIP code two free passes daily through the E-ZPass toll system is going nowhere, and the town is calling for a day of revolt.
The town council last night voted unanimously to declare Monday, Aug. 27, Merrimack Toll Revolt Day; all residents are asked to throw only pennies in the tolls on that day.

Anti-toll campaigners backed the Pignatelli strategy this spring after years of trying to win support for toll reform in the 400-member House. The House can add or remove tollbooths, or call for systemic changes such as uniformity of pricing among tollbooths, while the Executive Council has traditionally governed toll rates and discounts.


E-ZPass use proposed for Merrimack toll relief

Pignatelli learned from Gov. John Lynch's legal counsel last week, however, that the House had passed legislation to strip the Executive Council of its power to regulate toll rates and discounts in 2005.

"New laws have been passed by legislators that stop our ability to give discounts, and this power grab by the Legislature is disheartening," she said.

Council Chairman David McCray promptly called for a day of revolt.

"You people in Concord," he said. "You son of a gun. I am going to Sovereign Bank to get myself a roll of pennies."

Schlafly, Hunter address Freedom 21 National Conference in Texas

Link to article here.

SELLING AMERICA TO COMMUNIST CHINA

By Cliff Kincaid & Andy Selepak
July 24, 2007
NewsWithViews.com
In remarks on July 20 to a Freedom 21 conference in Dallas, Texas, conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly declared that the Chinese communists intend to exploit development of a North American Union in order to bring more cheap goods into the U.S. and destroy more American jobs.

 

The Freedom 21 conference, organized by Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center and Cathie Adams of Eagle Forum of Texas, was devoted to highlighting the erosion of American sovereignty through an ongoing process that aims to economically and politically integrate the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum, highlighted the role of Democratic Party foreign policy specialist Robert Pastor in the unfolding plan. Pastor helped lead the campaign to surrender U.S. control of the Panama Canal through the Panama Canal Treaty, a development that has taken on added significance in view of the fact that a Chinese firm, Hutchison Whampoa, now controls not only the ports at both ends of the Panama Canal but ports and terminals in Mexico. The company has close ties to the Chinese regime.

Speaking at the same conference, Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican presidential candidate, said unfair Chinese trade was decimating America’s industrial base and that the communist regime was using “crisp new American trade dollars” to build up its war machine.

Schlafly came close to endorsing Hunter for president, declaring, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have him in the White House?” She said he was “right on every issue” and “he’s the only one of all the candidates who talks about the jobs issue, and I think that is the coming big issue in the next election.” Her remarks followed Hunter’s speech.

New Book Highlights Threat

She strongly recommended Jerome Corsi’s new book, The Late Great USA, which argues that a North American Union would provide China another “economic advantage” over the U.S., with ominous national security implications.

Indeed, Corsi comes close to arguing that China is the ultimate power broker behind the scheme, saying that “In order to solidify its economic superiority over North America, Red China is working to restructure the North American transportation infrastructure.”

It also turns out, according to information presented at the conference by Oklahoma activist Amanda Teegarden, as well as Corsi’s book, that a Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary is a major investor in a firm, Savi Networks, that has developed a radio technology to track and manage cargo shipments. Hutchison Whampoa owns 49 percent of the firm, with 51 percent owned by U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin. In 2006, Lockheed Martin was the top contributor among military contractors to candidates for federal office and national political parties. Fifty-eight percent of its money went to Republicans.

Schlafly also attacked so-called “patent reform,” now moving through Congress, which she said would benefit China by forcing Americans to put information about their inventions on the Internet where it could be stolen. And she warned against President Bush’s plan to “to put all the illegal aliens in Social Security,” a scheme called “totalization,” which would “break the bank.”

Several speakers at the Freedom 21 conference were activists from Texas and Oklahoma opposed to the building of corridors or “NAFTA highways” through their states to bring goods from Mexico to the U.S. Organizations represented at the conference included Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise, Corridor Watch, and Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom.

“The purpose is to bring in cheap goods from China,” Schlafly declared. “The plan is to bring the cheap Chinese goods and the containers across the Pacific and then dock at the Mexican Pacific port Lazaro Cardenas and then bring them up on the railroad that’s already in place, put them in the Mexican trucks and bring them up the NAFTA highway. And they will never be inspected until they get to Kansas City.”

Schlafly said that we are witnessing the unfolding of a plan that is based on a series of steps, including passage of “free trade” agreements, creation of a common market and a monetary and economic union, the establishment of international trade tribunals to govern trade and other disputes between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and the use of a single currency for North America.

“Their model is the European Union,” she said.

North American Institutions

Accuracy in Media has confirmed this, having reported on a Washington conference on development of a North American legal system where participants were told of proposals to create North American institutions, including a “North American Court of Justice” with the power to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court. Robert Pastor, who claims to be in favor of a North American “community,” not a union, presided over the conference.

Robert Pastor, who also runs the Center for North American Studies at American University, helps facilitate model “North American Parliament” meetings where students play the role of delegates to a trilateral legislature. One of his students, Marlon Brown, has written about Pastor’s personal vision and plans for a “North American Parliament.”

The White House, which claims the North American Union is a myth, has announced that Bush will travel to Montebello, Quebec, Canada to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico at the “North American Leaders’ Summit” on August 20-21. “The leaders will review progress and continued cooperation under the Security and Prosperity Partnership, as well as discuss hemispheric and global issues,” the White House says.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership is seen by critics as a key part of the North American Union (NAU) plan. The SPP, an executive branch initiative, has never been approved by Congress but has nevertheless resulted in the creation of dozens of working groups involving officials from the U.S., Canada and Mexico meeting to “harmonize” the laws and regulations of the three countries. The public interest law firm Judicial Watch has been forced to go through the Freedom of Information Act to get information about the activities of these groups.

Opposition Developing

In the House, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 40 opposing the NAU. No formal opposition has yet surfaced in the U.S. Senate. Conservative Caucus chairman Howard Phillips has announced that opponents of the NAU will hold a press conference on August 20 in Ottawa, Canada, on the occasion of the upcoming SPP meeting. The press conference will be held at the Marriott Ottawa from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Schlafly was the first national commentator to write about the prospect of a North American Union, noting in a July 13, 2005 column that the influential Council on Foreign Relations had just issued a report urging an “integrated North American Community.”

Schlafly, who almost single-handedly stopped passage of the so-called Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, urged participants in the Freedom 21 conference to vigorously oppose the North American Union, which she noted has received little media coverage, save for Lou Dobbs of CNN. She also noted that some members of Congress claim not to know anything about it or dismiss it as a conspiracy theory.

However, Schlafly said, there are certain facts that “cannot be disputed,” and that when you “connect the dots,” people will get the big picture.

She said some of the key dates in this process were:

April 2001. President Bush endorses the “Declaration of Quebec City,” featuring a commitment to “hemispheric integration.”
March, 2005. Bush and the leaders of Canada and Mexico announce the Security and Prosperity Partnership.
May 2005. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) issues its report endorsing creation by 2010 of a North American economic and security “community” with a common security “perimeter,” open borders to facilitate the movement of trade, capital and people, and a North American “tribunal” to resolve trade disputes.
June 2005. Former Carter Administration official Robert Pastor presents the plan to a sympathetic session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then-headed by Senator Richard Lugar.
March 2006. Bush and the leaders of Mexico and Canada hold another meeting, calling it the “first anniversary” of the SPP.
May 2006. Bush gives speech calling for “comprehensive immigration reform.”
2007. The Senate immigration bill is introduced, with a provision calling for the acceleration of the SPP.
Schlafly said the only explanation for the determination by the White House and congressional liberals to pass immigration “reform” is that the “powers that be” want the economic integration of North America. She identified them as belonging to powerful organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, whose membership once included top State Department official and communist spy Alger Hiss.

Speaking to the assembled activists and concerned citizens, Schlafly said, “Something terrible is happening to our country and it’s up to people like you to stop it before it’s too late.”
© 2007 Cliff Kincaid - All Rights Reserved