Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Being well-informed is not always comfortable

I spend a lot of time on my computer, but one of the benefits of reading at least 15 news websites each day is I learn things. In the past 12 hours, I have learned two things by reading the Dallas Morning News website. And both are distressing.

First, a group of entrepreneurs is trying to build a high-speed train route between Dallas and Houston. The plan would use the Japanese Bullet Train technology to zip people between these cities. You can read about the plan itself on various sites. Just Google “Texashigh speed rail” and follow the threads down the rabbit holes. Some legislators want to derail this plan, which is privately funded and asks for no public money. In a Dallas Morning News column, Steve Blow points out, “Opponents of the train are using the boogeyman of eminent domain to try to kill it. A bill passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee would strip that right from the project.”

One of those voting to remove the power of eminent domain for this company is Sen. Bob Hall, R-Canton, who, according to Blow, said eminent domain is “probably the most horrific power that the government has.” More than capital punishment.

So, what are the lessons here? One is that Hall doesn’t know the difference between taking a life and taking property, which raises the question of whether he, and those who would agree with him, are smart enough to handle public policy issues. Another is that some people in the Legislature would take from the Texas Central Railway the same power they have given over the years to other private firms. A third lesson is that capitalist hypocrisy trumps free market rhetoric. One thing I haven’t learned is whether Southwest Airlines is repeating its opposition to competition and using the easily influenced state government to profit from its oligopoly.

The second trouble lesson came Sunday morning when the DMN published Dave Lieber’s investigation that showed the state is selling our private information to firms so they can market their wares to us.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety sells your name and address off your driver’s license to data mining companies, insurers, tax-collecting law firms and electricity companies, to name a few,” Lieber writes, noting that private companies are required to notify us of their information sharing policies. The state government, not so much.

So, now you know from where that junk mail and those robocalls originate. What’s to be done about it? Well, in true public service fashion, Lieber gives the names of two Texas lawmakers who want to rein in this practice. Here they are:
Rep. Gary Elkins — Email:
Address: Room 4N.3, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg — Email:
Address: Room 1N.7, P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 76768

If you want to contact any other state official about either of these issues, here is a fulldirectory, courtesy of the Texas Tribune.