Zippidy Doo Da

I'm not stupid, I'm from Texas!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I mentioned the other day that one of the Republican proposals to solve the current financial crisis is to suspend the capital gains tax. Here are more loopy ideas from the right wing, courtesy of Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post:

“The first is one of those "carryback" provisions long favored by lobbyists for all ailing industries -- allowing companies to apply those massive losses from this year and next, and "apply" them to the massive profits made over the past five years, generating a humongous tax rebate.

Just imagine it: Next April 15, checks for billions of dollars will go out from the U.S. Treasury to Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America (Countrywide), J.P Morgan (Bear Stearns, WaMu) and the Swiss bankers of UBS and Credit Suisse. Think of it as a small token of our gratitude for having done so much to create and sustain our innovative and efficient financial system.

And while they're at it, Republicans aim to free up capital that is now "trapped" in such tax havens as Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands by allowing hedge funds and big corporations to bring it home tax-free. As Republicans see it, that money will be plowed back into a financial system now starved for investment capital. Should they make any profit from those investments, they can stash it back in Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands until the next financial crisis.”

-Crosses, garlic, wooden stakes, silver bullets, none of that will work on these bloodsuckers. What we’ve got to do is show up and vote them out of office.

The President's Saturday Radio Address

Good morning Americans across America. If you've seen more of my ass lately, don't blame me! Before I dust you chumpses off like greased lighting to the Bushco compound in Desmuchados, Paraguay with my pardon stamp still warm, (not too long from now, God willing) I'm having to do a few last minute things for some asshole buddies of mine. I was happy just to bide my time in the secret sub-terrainian rec room set up to my special Doctor-Strangelovian specifications, see, and make my own history, if you know what I mean.

But the other day, Hanky Paulson and Benny the Weasel Bernanke come slithering into my rumpus room all shaky and piss-panty, telling me "Mr. President, the money's all gone. Not a dime is left in the treasury - just some moldy cheese and a couple of IOU's from Karl. What are we gonna do?!" I said, "look, Hank, I thought you were the chairman of Golden Sacks. Pull yourself together. If we need some money, just print it up. What's the problem?"

He says it's more complicated than that - we need tons more money. Everybody we know has been spending the money on so much worthless stuff that we're all broke again. I said, "how much you need?"

See, I got this gettin' stuff down pat. I'm telling you little people out there that if we don't get 700 bil toot sweet everybody in this whipped pooch of a country is gonna be livin' in tar paper shanty's and eatin' Gains Burgers for supper. So, break that check book out, America, and let's get busy. Together we can make this happen.

God Bless you, and have a nice day.

Seven Sharks in the Tank

Well, it’s Friday again already and I still haven’t written about Bill Moyers' Journal. Do you remember Moyers? He’s a Texas reporter who was a press flack for JFK and LBJ. According to Tim Weiner’s Pulitzer-winning “Legacy of Ashes,” Johnson asked Moyers to Chair the “303 Committee” that oversaw CIA covert operations. Moyers wisely declined that post and went on to work for NBC, CBS, and now PBS, where he does a weekly news show Friday nights.

His show last week was about the US economic meltdown and one of his guests was Kevin Phillips, a former Nixon staffer and author with a reputation for predicting the future stemming from his 1969 book “The Emerging Republican Majority.”

Phillips spoke with authority. Actually, he had me when he described Phil Gramm as “appalling.” He called the financial crisis the “denouement of a twenty-five year debt build-up,” and detailed how the US has bailed out the financial sector since the 1980’s, even as it left the manufacturing sector to fail. He said the current crisis will be “on a par with the 1930’s,” predicting a fall of 20-30% in the value of homes with similar losses in our retirement accounts. He decried “consumerism pushed to the Nth degree," and said that “we have never had such polarization of prosperity.”

Phillips said that there is no one answer to this crisis because there is more than one problem, “there are seven sharks in the tank:”

-Financialization (meaning that the business of America is mere accounting tricks)

-Debt buildup (that would be public and private)

-Falling home prices

-Soaring commodity prices

-Flawed economic stats (like when you figure the price of buggy whips into the Consumer Price Index)

-Peak oil (unlike other commodities, oil really becoming scarce)

-Collapsing dollar

Phillips rightly blamed politicians of both parties for our predicament, but he did mention that “McCain has said that he doesn’t know economics, and what he says proves that on a daily basis.”

He did say that he’d been impressed by Obama, because “when I met him, he told me that he’d read my book.”

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Return to School After the Storm

Wednesday’s the day I usually drive down to the Gulf to fish, but I knew that I wouldn’t get across the causeway this week short of subterfuge. Instead I drove eight miles over to my local fishing spot on the bay. The wind was gusty and the water sandy so I just had a look around. The harbor looked normal and the boardwalk looked ordinary until I noticed that there was a lot more daylight between the buildings than there used to be. When I got to the little back bay where I often match wits with the local flounders, I found that the wall of a house had landed in the brush there. The tree branches were loaded with junk carried there by wind or water. I walked over to the bayshore to find more junk, an institutional jar of salad dressing, a package of mahi-mahi, part of what was a walk-in cooler. This is debris from what was a thriving restaurant row.

As I drove on south to Bacliff, to see a friend’s house, things got messier. I went to look at the park by the old HL&P spillway but it was full of cars and trucks, people were lined up to get food, water, and ice. In my neighborhood the roads are lined with cut-up branches and tree trunks, but as I got to San Leon the roads were lined with boards, timbers, siding and roofing. Some lots were bulldozed already, others just looked that way. One large bayfront house appeared to have survived intact, but it had a shrimpboat in the front yard.

I drove on south until I got to the Texas City Dike. It was closed, for a while I hear. Looking down the road, I could see that all the bait camps are gone, not a stick left. They must be all out in the bay somewhere.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Presnit Bush Addresses Nation

Don't you feel more secure now knowing that he can still read a teleprompter?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paulson Plan

As one who’s been warning of such a meltdown for months, if not years, I’m not eager to sign on to any hasty initiative from the Bush administration. (Did you hear that Treasury started working on this plan SIX MONTHS AGO?)

But aside from quashing golden handshakes and parachutes for the authors of this debacle, seeing that taxpayers get a piece of the action when the economy gets back on the uptick, and putting some checks on Paulson, I do see the need for prompt action. Bush is enough like Hoover already.

And consider the alternative, Senator Jim Bunning, R.-Paleolithic, says this is socialism and un-American, calling instead for a market-based solution, such as suspending the capital gains tax.

Save me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I often hear people repeat the old cliché “I don’t vote for the party, I vote for the person.”

This year is no time to think that way. In recent years, Republican ideology has put this country in the ditch. We have been abusing our Armed Forces personnel, making new enemies around the world, running up unfathomable amounts of public debt, and driving our society apart with politics of fear and division along lines of class, race, and religion.

We keep a million people behind bars while we attract desperate foreigners in to take jobs “that Americans won’t do.”

The past decades have seen our manufacturing economy disappear as the system is restructured to sell off anything for the fastest buck.

The farm economy too has been destroyed in favor of the multi-national monopolistic business model that has left our very food supply susceptible to toxins, tampering, adulteration, and of course, interruption.

The very air and water that we depend on have been degraded so as to be a threat to health, but also made scarce, so to become a fungible commodity, for those with the means to exploit it.

Our society, our culture, our country has sustained grievous damage in recent years. It’s time that we turn this mess around. As Hillary Clinton recently put it, “sending Republicans to clean up Washington is like expecting the iceberg to save the Titanic.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chupacabra Report

News that gets my goat..

-While we were busy getting ready for Ike last week, bad weather of another sort was blowing down Wall Street. I actually heard an economist the other day on NPR say that “things today aren’t as bad as in 1929.” Is that scary or what?!

Yesterday the Dow Jones average crawled back up above 11,000 on news that Treasury Secretary Paulsen was looking to resurrect the Resolution Trust Corporation to manage the debris from this financial meltdown. Remember the RTC? It was created by Congress to manage the Savings and Loan Crisis, a greed-fueled scandal from the Reagan era that ultimately cost taxpayers one hundred and twenty-five billion dollars ($200 billion in 2008 dollars.) This new round of bail-outs will easily surpass one trillion dollars, making this the most expensive week in American history. This is a hangover that will last for years.

-I recently heard Senator Obama promise to crack down on predatory lenders. I think this issue could get legs. Predatory lenders have been a key GOP constituency for years. Think pawnshops and payday lenders, who have their own Republican legislators in the Texas Statehouse. Hell, our Governor Rick Perry gave millions from his tax-funded Enterprise Fund to Countrywide Mortgage, the biggest sub-prime lender of them all, to create telemarketing jobs pushing onerous mortgages on unsophisticated homebuyers. Back when Countrywide was circling the bowl, they sent me a mailing offering to refinance my mortgage into a forty-year loan. Sure!

Fasten your seatbelts folks, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Gramm and McCain

From Mother Jones Magazine:

McCain Blasts Wall Street Failure, Neglects To Mention His Adviser Helped Cause It

As the news broke of the Lehman Brothers meltdown and the rest of the latest financial crisis, John McCain, speaking at a campaign rally in Florida on Monday, angrily declared,
We will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. This is a failure.
And in a statement released by his campaign, McCain called for greater "transparency and accountability" on Wall Street.

If McCain wants to hold someone accountable for the failure in transparency and accountability that led to the current calamity, he should turn to his good friend and adviser, Phil Gramm.

As Mother Jones reported in June, eight years ago, Gramm, then a Republican senator chairing the Senate banking committee, slipped a 262-page bill into a gargantuan, must-pass spending measure. Gramm's legislation, written with the help of financial industry lobbyists, essentially removed newfangled financial products called swaps from any regulation.

Credit default swaps are basically insurance policies that cover the losses on investments, and they have been at the heart of the subprime meltdown because they have enabled large financial institutions to turn risky loans into risky securities that could be packaged and sold to other institutions.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Let's Talk About People; Less Broken Stuff

The following is a first-hand account of the destruction of Galveston Island by Hurricane Ike by Mark Collette, former Tyler Paper reporter, who lives there with his wife, Rhiannon Meyers, also a former Tyler Paper reporter and now a reporter for the Galveston County Daily News.

Collette sent an e-mail, from which this information was included, to let friends and family know they are doing fine.

The island, as a whole, looks like a war zone. The structures that weren't destroyed have been ruined by water. Fire destroyed at least 17 buildings. One entire apartment building collapsed.

Every structure built over the water in front of the Seawall was destroyed and left little trace, except for the Flagship Hotel, which was severely damaged and separated from the island.

Some people are believed to still be inside but cannot be reached immediately because the pilings on the building were damaged, so a helicopter can't land on top.

Much if not most of the property on the Bolivar Peninsula is now debris. Homes on the West End of Galveston Island that used to be behind the dunes are now over open water. The Seawall was covered in chunks of concrete that weigh hundreds of pounds.

Authorities are still in search-and-rescue mode. About 24,000 people didn't heed evacuation orders. Rescuers are leaving the dead in houses and moving on to look for the living.

Unlike in New Orleans after Katrina, they are not spray painting a giant "X" on a building when they find bodies. Instead, they are putting discrete stickers on the buildings. On the one hand, government officials seem to be trying to keep the media from portraying the true extent of the disaster, but on the other hand officers are tipping off reporters about deaths and rescues.

Rhiannon said the amount of buildings reduced to rubble suggests that more bodies will be found and the magnitude of the disaster will become clearer in the coming days.

A couple thousand have probably been rescued, a couple thousand have left the island on buses since the storm. Thankfully, for those who remain, the government has arrived with food, water and ice, and the weather has cooled so that people can stay comfortable just with open windows.

Rhiannon said those now choosing to remain on the island are mostly poor, homeless, sick and/or elderly. One guy on Bolivar refused to leave because rescuers refused to accommodate his pet lion. The folks on the peninsula are a different breed.

Boats and other debris crashed into the causeway linking the island to the mainland. Construction on the new causeway was almost complete before the storm, but the southbound side was still a section or two short of reaching the mainland. Now, the lanes of the northbound side that were being used for southbound traffic are inaccessible because the road buckled in the storm.

Because of that and lack of services, it's going to be a while before anybody is allowed back on the island. There's talk that the city plans on letting only residents back in on Tuesday, and even then making them return to the mainland by nightfall. I doubt this will happen by Tuesday because of the ongoing search and rescue efforts.

As for our first-floor apartment (located a few blocks inland from the Seawall), there were 8 inches to a foot of water inside. This means water at street level was at least waist deep, and it also means there wasn't any part of the island's surface that didn't get submerged.

The walls in our apartment that are parallel to the Seawall had watermarks as high as three feet, suggesting that waves rolled through the building somehow, even though the windows didn't break. Rhiannon said the smell is awful. But we have renter's insurance, and I took all the photos and most of the other keepsakes with me when I evacuated.

At the top of a fence at a school near our apartment, Rhiannon saw debris that got caught when the water was at or above the fence. That means that area was under at least 8 feet of water.

(During the hurricane) Rhiannon and about 800 other reporters, city officials and emergency workers holed up in the San Luis Resort hotel on the Seawall. The hotel is built atop an old military bunker and is probably the highest point on the island.

The storm surge never made it into the lobby, but rainwater penetrated the upper floors, drained through the walls and bubbled into the lobby, covering the floor by a few inches.

Before the wind got too strong, Rhiannon was on the 15th floor with a group of firefighters who watched fires burn around the city and were unable to do anything about it because most of the island was already under water. When the wind picked up, everyone went downstairs.

She and the rest of the newspaper staff have been resilient. The newspaper's normal disaster plan calls for establishing a temporary copy desk in Houston while some reporters stay on the island at the Daily News, a super sturdy building with huge generators.

No one counted on water rising high enough to flood the generators. Editors were cut off from reporters, and reporters from each other, so for the first day following the storm, the reporters were basically operating on auto-pilot with very little coordination, but you wouldn't know it from the stories they filed.

Many thanks for all your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike and Relate

As I predicted, Hurricane Norman ravished Houston last weekend, leaving the cityscape looking like the victim of a bad haircut. After two days of cleanup, the cut tree limbs line the streets rowed up four feet high like green snowbanks. Our power was restored after about 48 hours, but probably half the city will still be dark tonight. Luckily, we’ve had two days of bluebird weather, with nighttime lows in the 60’s, suitable for sleeping with the windows open.

Thing One and I both were in the city riding it out, while the other two Sirens sheltered in place on Mermaid Lane. They were able to save my guitar, but may have done so in anticipation of some firewood shortage.

I can tell you that the hurricane sky shows green when lit by lightning.

There must be thugs and grifters at work out there, but I’ve seen nothing but love going around from family and friends, neighbors and co-workers. For somebody who wonders if our future includes handbasket conveyance to nether regions, this is a sign of hope for us if we were to face economic collapse or ecological disaster.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Few Words With Terri Hendrix

I think the most sublime testament to a person's greatness is their ability to remain human despite their legend. Behold the Great Terri Hendrix:

q. You seem to have always been an active participant in your own career on all fronts, including business. I notice you have recently started "Goat Notes" and a personal blog. Why two different forums in addition to your home page and Myspace?

“A webmaster costs around 75 an hour ... using free formats like Myspace and Blogs cuts down on expenses. I am a creative person and like to write. I also have mailing list of folks that like to read about the shows I'm playing. So I started the blog for them so they could go on the road with me vicariously. As for the GoatNotes ... that's a way to post the calendar and have fresh content so to speak once a month. I'm on the process of compiling those old GoatNotes that had actual writings into a book with music business information too. I'm noticing that folks are too busy to read the writings in their emails so eventually I'll post the writings in the Goatnotes area along with the calendar rather than in the physical email my mailing list receives. “

q. By managing CD sales by advance orders, and the rest of the business innovations you have stood ahead of the curve on, do you feel like you are pioneering a business model for artists in the future?

“I am so happy I am still able to do this. As I get older, I feel more "ready" on all accounts. I feel so good playing live and feel more experienced playing different venues and festivals across the country. This all plays into the business too as I see that whole indie grass roots method of keeping my masters and releasing records independently as a means of communication without any "suits" in my way. I would hope that I inspire other artists to carve their own paths and realize that you can have a career and fly under the radar and be quite happy. It's about the journey and not so much the destination and that's been my approach. I would have to give credit where credit's due though and say both Ani Difranco and John Prine laid the groundwork and I was a copycat. “

q. Are there any limits you impose on your public persona, and if so, is that and maintaining your private life a difficult balance?

“I have become extremely active politically and find this hard to balance. I have been told to "just sing." Well, I can't do that as I feel that would be unpatriotic. I have to stand up for what I believe in and being a musician is part of this as well. As far as private life, I don't go to bars or hang out with folks before or after I play. It's a choice I implemented a long time ago. I feel keeping a good reputation has proven valuable to my career. I play ... then I drive to my next destination. When I want to socialize, I do so with friends at my house or theirs. “

q. It's been written that Marion Williamson was a musical and perhaps personal, mentor of yours. Please tell us how he influenced you in this regard?

“Marion was such a big influence I can't even begin to write about it in one paragraph. She was a great guitar player and totally changed my life with her involvement in my music. She taught me how to set up a PA and go for all I wanted to go for in my life. “

q. Winning the Grammy Award for songwriting in 2003 must have been an honor for you. Did it change your life?

“Lucking into having a cut on a multi-platinum selling record enabled me to solidify my finances. Going to the Grammies, dressing up, having my sister there with me ... was the opportunity of a lifetime. I'd like to go back!”

q. Writing as you do about social/political issues on you mind, such as "What is the Color of the Soul" and "Jim Thorpe's Blues", do you feel it's possible for artists to remain strictly apolitical. If not, is there a method to express such views without seeming preachy or doctrinaire?

“As I touched on earlier, this is hard. I'm interested in politics and therefore it infiltrates the songs I write. I feel as long as I'm honest and truthful with my music I'll be okay. It's important for me though, to keep my shows entertaining. Unless I'm booked at a political rally, I try and balance the politics with my other songs. I also use humorous songs to hopefully keep those in the audience entertained as well. On a different note (pun intended ... smile), I think artists have to decide what they stand for and how they wish to present themselves in regards to their political beliefs. At some point, if you do this as a living, you'll have to decide if that "high paying gig" is really worth doing if it goes against the grain of your conscience. You can't put a price tag on your soul. “

q. In "Prayer For My Friends" - on of my favorite songs of yours, you seem worried about them. Do you find that the older we get, the more complicated and perhaps unhappy our life-long friends become? I see you give these things to a "higher authority." Comment?

“I wish I wrote this song! It was written by Jeff Barbara and Sara Pirckle. I have great friends and loved ones and I keep them in mind at all times. Especially when I travel.”

q. You have a feel for rhythm and blues that seems to almost come from African-American heritage. Do you feel an artistic tug in that direction musically?

“I love that style of music and especially jazz. We are working on a jazz and blues record right now. I've been wanting to do this for years. I'm finally following through with it. Mississippi John Hurt, Ella Fitzgerald ... Nina Simone ... Peggy Lee ... lordy, the list in endless.”

q. I hear you are a sucker for weinee dogs. Is that true?

“My Mom used to be a breeder, owner, handler of weenie dogs! I'm the owner of 3 mutts. A 11 year old, 12 year old and 3 year old ... “

q. Finally, are you still comfortable in your Two Dollar Shoes?

“More than ever! I am very happy with the way my career has been and look forward to the future. Thanks so much for the honest questions and for listening to what I do. I appreciate it. Take care! Best wishes, Terri H”

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Chupacabra Report

News That Gets My Goat

-I watched all I could take of the Tory Convention. Those people drive me nuts. Could almost write some of those speeches myself from memory. “Liberal media, eastern elites, Europeans, San Franciscans, civil libertarians" -these folks are running against everybody.
Some of them seem to think that they can continue to win elections like that. Can’t wait.

Hearing all that happy bullshit from Minneapolis, I keep remembering the McCain that I once admired, before he swerved right to win over the phony conservatives that own the Republican Party. In recent years he’s done a 180 on tax cuts, offshore drilling, immigration, reproductive freedom, and torture. He let Abramoff and Scanlon skate past his Indian Affairs Committee without implicating the higher-ups, Bush and Rove, that made all the scams possible. And he keeps gushing about the success of the troop surge in Iraq, which holds as long as we pay the insurgents a million dollars a day to not shoot at our people.

-After last week’s report of China dumping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that Bush and the Fed are moving now to bail them out. The Times report said “tens of billions of dollars,” and that will be borrowed money, right? I hate to think what happens when this ponzi economy fails to defy gravity.

This could already be happening. Nine percent of home mortgages are now in foreclosure, and this country has been shedding jobs for eight months in a row now.
Better hold on to your hats.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Fair Game?

Well, it looks like there was some fire under all that smoke with all the stories about Alaskan Republican family values last weekend. Obama said the right things about playing nice, and that he’d can any of his people that didn’t. Too bad he can’t can Rove.

Apparently McCain can’t can Rove either, and he’s the one that got smeared with the black baby story in South Carolina eight years ago.

The difficulties faced by children in the White House are evident. I wouldn’t presume to add to them except that in this case the point is moot. Sarah Palin is a Feminist For Life since 2006, opposing abortion and, (get this, platform committee) capitol punishment. I find mixed reports as to the FFL position on birth control, but hear some echoes of the Bush administration plot this summer to have the Department of Health and Human Services define most forms of contraception as abortion. Palin is on record telling The Eagle Forum that she favors abstinence only education and that “explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.”

So why is this story fair game? Because if abstinence only sex education and the rhythm system lead to risky middle age pregnancies or to risky teen age pregnancies, the voters might like to have a say about whether this is a way we’d want to lead the country.

You know? I ain’t no Diana Moon Glampers, but I enjoy seeing a candidate I can relate to come down the pike. There is a lot to like in Palin’s backstory, if it’s on the level. They’re all over like Forrest Gump, got moose burgers, teen pregnancy, mean brother-in-law, drunk driving conviction. I might could be comfortable with all that. Leadership as harried as America.

Remember Thomas Eagleton? Anybody know is Sarge Shriver available?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Belive Me, It Will Get Worse


By Mark Silva

ST. PAUL - Sen. John McCain knew that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's teenage daughter was pregnant when he picked her for his running mate - he had learned about it in a private conservation with Palin last week, according to McCain's chief campaign strategist.

But campaign chief Steve Schmidt, calling it a "private family matter,'' says the campaign only decided to disclose the pregnancy when "smear'' rumors started surfacing on the Internet. He suggested somewhat ruefully today that once word got out, the media could not be trusted to handle the matter with "decency.''

It should have no bearing either on the race or Palin's ability to serve as vice president, he said.

"Life happens in families,'' Schmidt told reporters crowding around him in the basement of the arena where the Republican National Convention is opening today. "If people try to politicize this, the American people would be appalled by it.''

The campaign was forced to disclose the information, the manager suggested in his talk with reporters here.