Zippidy Doo Da

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chupacabra clip file

Well, I've been too busy working, goofing off, and fish wrestling to write much. Have a look at a couple of letters I clipped from the Chronicle;

-Ships can look elsewhere

Ship owners show a lot of gall to ask for U.S. naval action off the Somali coast when they refused to pay for it for years. Most at-risk vessels are registered in Liberia or Panama so their owners can avoid taxes and work rules. Let these tax dodgers rely on the Liberian navy instead.

W.D. Moore

-Right-to-fire state

In regards to Joseph W. Gagnon's anti-union article about Texas being a "right-to-work state," I think he has it wrong. (Please see "Meet the union organizers / Stealth labor campaigns may be coming to such right-to-work states as Texas," Outlook, Sunday.)

All states are right-to-work states. Texas is a right-to-fire state, which means that an employer can fire an em-ployee without reason, cut his pay without reason, demand that he work long hours for substandard wages, provide no health care, no vacation pay and no pension plan.

Gagnon also stated that campaign donations are obtained from union dues. Being a lawyer, he should know that is against the law. All donations are voluntary, no different than the PAC fund he may donate to in his law firm. Another thing Gagnon didn't mention is that he belongs to and pays dues to a closed-shop union called the State Bar. If a lawyer does not belong to the Bar, he does not practice law in Texas.

Unions have brought working folks a decent wage, health insurance, pensions and safe working conditions.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bound for Grapes of Wrath

Crooks and Liars linked to this piece by John Quiggen, a political scientist in Australia. Haven’t seen much like this in the papers. Could it be that our news is dumbed-down? Or maybe somebody doesn’t want to worry us.

And now we return you to coverage of the financial crisis

By jquiggin November 21, 2008 from

The failure of Citigroup, which looks increasingly likely to happen in the near future, would mark the end of the beginning of the financial crisis. Until now, the prevailing view has been that the crisis and recession will pass in a year or so, after which things will go back, more or less, to the way they were, with a few less financial institutions, and a bit more regulation. A Citigroup failure would put paid to that idea.

Citi is not only too big to fail, it’s too big to rescue with any of the half-measures that have been tried so far. Only outright nationalization is feasible, and that will probably require joint action by a number of governments; Citigroup’s global operations are too big for the US to handle alone. After that, the kinds of tinkering discussed at the G20 last week will be irrelevant. It’s now unsurprising to read (on CNBC!) predictions that all US financial institutions will be nationalized within a year. That’s probably an overstatement: as long as the economy doesn’t really crash, there are plenty of small banks and credit unions that will survive, but few of the big names will be among them.

Not only major institutions but whole national economies are up for grabs now. The national bankruptcy of Iceland seems likely to followed by something similar for Switzerland. As Citi itself points out, UBS and Credit Suisse are bigger, relative to the Swiss economy, than Kaupthing was for Iceland. Felix Salmon (also predicting doom for Citi, has been all over this).

Given a failure and rescue, Switzerland would probably have to follow Iceland in a rush application to join the EU (which might have its hands full rescuing some of its own members). It’s a safe bet that the end of secret bank accounts, “wealth management” through tax minimisation and the like would be part of the price. The UK isn’t quite as vulnerable, but seems likely to be forced into the eurozone before long (for a contrary view, see Martin Wolf) And this will be accompanied by a big structural shift away from the dominance of these economies by the financial sector.

If even part of this plays out as it seems likely to, the financial system that emerges from the crisis will be radically different from the one that went in: massively smaller, with far fewer institutions and products, and tightly regulated where it isn’t under outright public ownership.
But before we can even get to that point, we’ll have to survive a global recession which is already the worst in decades, even though it’s still in the opening phase where unsold inventories pile up on wharves. Obama’s inauguration is going to look a lot like that of FDR in 1933.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chupie file

The Houston Chronicle, an organ of the Hearst Corporation, the people that brought us the Spanish American War, surprised me with two Outlook articles that gave me hope of change for the better in our foreign policy next year.

The front page has a piece from Charles V. Pena, from the libertarian Cato Institute calling for a cutback in military spending. He suggests that we might be more secure if we didn’t spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year to keep hundreds of thousands of US troops in over one hundred and forty foreign countries.

And back on page four is an article by CIA-ex John Kiriakou, who tells of growing Iranian influence and investment in Venezuela, which it has been arming, Paraguay, whose president has appointed a Hezbollah-friendly Foreign Minister, and Bolivia, where Iranian citizens may now travel without a visa.

Kiriakou winds up the piece with policy proposals to deal with these developments. He says that the US must engage Latin America diplomatically to improve political and economic relations. We must pay attention to the region, invest money there, negotiate trade agreements; and come up with new immigration policies to win over Latin Americans.

I believe that ideas like this will be important as we try to get out from under Cheney and company. Democrats have long been vulnerable to charges of being squishy on defense, and we must keep the pressure on them lest they pull troops out from Iraq only to be sending them off to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Carjackistan, etc.

I’ve been listening to Andrew Bacevich speak about how the unintended consequences of military operations often outweigh any good outcomes; and reading Tim Weiner’s CIA history has me thinking that often the things we do in secret ought not be done at all.

We’ve sent a government off to Washington next year that’s equipped to do something beyond gridlock. Let’s see that it goes in the right direction.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Roy Hamilton RIP

We are beyond words to express our collective grief and severe shock upon learning that our dear friend and fellow tribesman has passed away last night from the advanced stages of cancer.

Our prayers and offers of support are with Roy's surviving sister and niece.

We feel so badly for Sr. Dos Pachangas who stayed by Roy's side throughout his hospitalization until the end, and wish him solace and comfort.

Roy was 48.

EDIT UPDATE: Roy's wake/memorial was last night. I moved by the occasion which was sweet and simple like the man himself. We'll miss you, Roy.

Lucy introduced me to a fine photographer doing great work in Texas currently that we've come to admire, Sarah Sudhoff. If you are not familiar with Sarah's work - Get to Know Her!: (see the links under favorite people) The image at right is just an attempt to get close to her work without actually robbing her.

She wrote wrote about their connection on her blog, which I wanted to share:

Dedicated to a Brave Woman

Its been over a week since I posted. Luckily I've been busy shooting editorial assignments for Texas Monthly and working as a contract photo editor but it hasn't afforded me the time to post.

For the last week I've also been preparing to photograph a hysterectomy which is taking place tomorrow. I was given the green light by both the hospital and the patient yet the doctor denied me access. I understand and don't want to interfere in any way in the procedure but I can't pretend I'm not very disappointed to get so close and not be able to be there when the surgery takes place.

This all came about when I was forwarded an email from another artist friend based here in Austin. The subject of the email read "Free Uterus with Tumor". I was immediately interested and began corresponding with a woman who was scheduled to undergo a hysterectomy. I found the PR contact at the hospital, had the patient fill out the release form and the surgeon was also faxed the release form. Yet this particular doctor did not understand my interest in photographing the surgery and the significance for someone, an artist, to photograph this specific procedure.

I don't doubt at some point in the future all the lights will be green and I'll be able to photograph and film a hysterectomy or cervical procedure. For whatever reason it was not meant to happen this go around. My thoughts are with this brave woman and her family. In a silly way I felt better with the idea of me being there in the operating room with her, watching over her, making sure her uterus was taken care of and looked after by someone other than a doctor.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The election hangover has about worn off, (Come on, Senator Franken!) and I was wondering what I had to post about, when there it was in my inbox, a forwarded piece by Paul Harvey about lawyers and atheists taking away our right to pray.


First of all, about three-quarters of religious Americans are Christians, but that leaves out some ten million Americans that practice other religions. When we celebrate the pilgrims, who came to America to avoid state interference in their church, I think that we should remember to be careful not to let anybody’s church interfere with our state.

And as for how folks worship in other places, some of those places are intolerant of other faiths. In some parts of Israel, people will throw rocks at you if you drive your car on Saturday. And proselytizing in Islamic countries can get you killed. I think that we’re bigger than that. We ought to be, it’s written into the Bill of Rights, in the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The founding fathers were products of The Enlightenment, an age of science and reason. Some of the founders were Deists, believing that God created the world, but seeing no evidence that He took an active part in man’s affairs. Jefferson wrote his own Bible, telling the story of Jesus the philosopher, without the miracles. Washington went to church, but sat in the back row so that he could slip out early; not fully participating, but without offending. Franklin gave money to all the local churches, but never belonged to one. I see such Deism in JFK’s line that “God’s work must truly be our own.”

But I think that the best response to Harvey’s bit is Matthew 6: 5-6.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keep The Babies Warm

I was super lucky to get an advanced copy of the new record from The Service Industry (TSI) called "Keep the Babies Warm" due for release on November 18th.

I give it a rating of 10 1/2 shaved spam bunnies wrapped in steak-ums. It's that yummy!

The playa's: Mike McCoy, Hunter Darby, Andy Thomas, Robbie Araiza, Julie Lowery, and Travis Garaffa. They are from Austin (whatever that means) but I've a sneaking suspicion they might be from Smithville, down the road.

People, I need to preface my remarks by reminding that it's real hard to make a record album that incorporates everything a record can be; that is, concept, message, and execution.

Keep the Babies Warm, reminds me at times of Apples in Stereo, The Lemonheads, The Byrds with moments of rock n roll played authentically with great passion. But to throw down labels for this group is to suggest their sound is derivative of a genre that often leaves listeners reminded of shopping for lawn furniture on heroin. A pleasant experience, but ultimately not something very substantial in terms of its residue.

So, what is delightful to me is that TSI has found a way with excellent results to create lush (and at times) meaty arrangements as the underpinnings to their concept and message: we're screwed (Liquid Meat; Filing Deadline), and while we are at it, maybe we should take a look at how we got to this point (Oh I; My Rise to Greatness; Tool; Keep the Babies Warm), and who we'll miss once it happens (Churchy; Sea World).

It is interesting how we discover this truth, because Keep the Babies Warm cover art and graphics suggest a light-hearted send up, Uranium Savages style - a novelty record to make us snicker, but this evident silliness is misleading; that's not what we get once inside of Mr. McCoy and Co.'s music and lyrics.

I am reminded of the anonymous co-workers, man and woman, trapped in the twin towers, surrounded by flames and smoke, high above the city, jumped in tandem; holding hands. I'd like to think they did not know one another, rather were bound together by their humanity, and were able to fly away - and in so doing delivered the greatest lesson: we always transcend bad stuff by embracing our humanity.

This is the third record for TSI. Keep making records, guys - you're good at it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Chupacabra Report

News that gets my goat..

The Thursday Chronicle had a story about Metro facing $14 million in default payments over lease agreements with several banks.

In these deals, Metro leased trains, buses, and other assets to the banks, who them claimed tax deductions for the depreciation of these assets.

These agreements were guaranteed by insurance giant AIG, whose fallen credit rating has triggered these defaults.

Paper pushing like this is increasingly common as the US economy is financialized. They’re called non-productive transactions.

It’s like our former senator Phil Gramm, who retired as chair of the Banking Committee to take a position as VP at Swiss banking giant UBS, lobbying Gov. Rick Perry to sell The Texas Lottery for an up-front payment in return for future proceeds, or pitching a scheme to take out life insurance on retired schoolteachers with the state collecting the benefits when they die.

Rick Perry also had a scheme for the state to build a warehouse and distribution center to lease out to WalMart. And of course there’s that deal he tried with Spanish company CINTRA to lease state highways and collect toll revenues.

Is there any difference between this and what a crooked stockbroker does when he churns your account to make commissions? You might make some money on the deal, or you might get burned; mostly it’s a chance for some sharp operator to get his hand in the till and leave you munching on your seed corn.

I like a “wall of separation” between church and state, and one between business and government too. Most privatization schemes I see look like they’re privatizing the profits and socializing the costs. As I see it, stock is falling in the “church of the market.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

U.S. Elects First Muslim President

Americans prepare to turn in their guns, the US Mint is ordered to remove the word “God” from all currency, the IRS has instructed The Gideons to place Korans in all hotel rooms or risk their tax-exempt status, Clerics warn chicks to wear tents and guys to grow beards, and remember; no music or kiteflying.

Darn, I should’a known.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What? Another letter?

I know, this is the third letter to the editor I've pasted up here this week. Give me a break here, it's Election Day. I'll take every sign I can get of the American People's good sense and sense of humor. Check this one out..

"In Sunday's Outlook, Patrick J. Buchanan in "Come step inside 'Obamaland' " painted a bleak feature of politics dictated by the Democrats' lust for power and the electorate's desire to vote itself the keys to the Treasury. Buchanan needs to lighten up a bit and show a little faith in the American people, who understand that change does not mean moving to the politics of self-destruction."

EMILY LICHTENWALTER 11th-grader, Klein Collins High School, Klein

Monday, November 03, 2008

More Dismal Science

I saw a Washington Post article today about the effects, or rather lack of effects from the 25% rise in the value of the Dollar since August against the Euro and the British Pound.

In other years, a strengthening dollar would mean increased exports for Europe and an increased flow of American tourists. Not this year.

The article quotes He Fan, an international finance researcher at the Chinese Institute of Social Sciences: “The rise of the exchange rate is temporary, like a momentary recovery of consciousness just before death.”

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Studs Terkel called in to the live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion last night and told Garrison Keillor that reports of his death were exaggerated. He said that he was in California with Julie Christie, that they had rented a beach house for the week and would see how it went after that.

Tony Hillerman 1925-2008

Tony Hillerman, decorated combat veteran of WWII, journalist, professor of journalism, and author died this week in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is best known for his novels about Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police.

I had read of these popular novels, and eventually one fell into my hands, probably off my mother-in-law’s bookshelf. About that time, Robert Redford produced films of Hillerman’s books for PBS starring Wes Studi, and I was hooked for good.

Set in the four corners area of Arizona and New Mexico, Hillerman goes heavy on the background, laying on the tribal culture and traditions until you’re acclimated; you start to wake up facing the east, in a world bordered by the sacred mountains.

Leaphorn was a savvy detective who didn’t believe in witchcraft, but saw that like whiskey, it still had a potential for evil. His protégée, Jim Chee on the other hand trained as a Navajo “singer” and healer, trying to balance his native ways with his role as a policeman.

I heartily recommend “The Blessing Way” to any lover of mysteries, expecting that you’ll go on to read the other seventeen novels in the series.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Liberal media strikes again

Once again the liberal mainstream media has determined the outcome of a contest. The winner of the event would have been different if not for the obvious bias of the press.

I am speaking, of course, of the World Series “win” by the Philadelphia Phillies over the Tampa Bay Rays.

The liberal media reported on all the errors of the Tampa Bay team while all but ignoring the gaffes by the Phillies. Also, how about all the reports about how the Phillies had scored more runs than Tampa Bay. And one national TV“sportscaster” went so far as to say the Tampa Bay team used to be known as the “Devil” Rays. Was that really necessary?

I think I speak for all real Americans when I say that if the TV networks had been fair and balanced, Tampa Bay would have easily swept the series.

John Powers