Zippidy Doo Da

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What You Can Do to Stay Healthy

There are everyday actions people can take to stay healthy.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

-Remember how Bobby Jindal mocked stimulus spending for volcano prediction, and a few weeks later Alaska suffered a major eruption?

The same thing happened here, Republicans stripped $870 million in public health spending from the stimulus bill, a provision written by a smart Democratic Congressman who realized that an influenza pandemic would be disastrous for our fragile economy. And the GOP has held up confirmation of Obama's choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services. So the post is held by a Bush administration hold-over who is an accountant by profession.

Forget the nineteenth century, these Know-Nothing Republicans are trying to take us back to the dark ages.

Monday, April 27, 2009

U.S. Now 21% Rep, 35% Dem, 38% Ind.

That was an ABC/Washington Post poll and it's better than that.

The ones that are left are nuttier than ever. It's all about God, Guns, and Gays with these people, and they're all busy preparing new litmus tests to separate the sheep from the goats. Their numbers are heading into Know-Nothing or Whig territory.

If their people in Congress succeed in holding up the Obama agenda in hopes of making off-year gains in 2010, I believe that our smart President will be able to tie their obstinacy around their necks like a dead chicken on a bad dog. Then they'll be able to caucus in a phone booth.

RE: to Kool Aid fwd.

Remember when Bush was taking the country to war and people who asked questions were vilified? Remember that Phil Donohue and Bill Mahar lost their TV shows because they allowed opposing viewpoints to be expressed? The word treason was used, and the line "either with us or against us."

What is so different today?Our president was elected (with a majority in the popular vote and the electoral vote) to address monumental problems inherited from the previous administration, and before he was even sworn in the hacks on Fox News are screaming and crying and calling names.

Our stupid governor, Rick Perry jumped on the wingnut bandwagon with Glen Beck, Chuck Norris, and Pat Boone and is giving aid and comfort to the right wing militia gun nuts talking about revolution and secession.Perry is doing this because he faces a tough opponent in a Rep. primary next year. I don't know what's wrong with those other people, but I expect that it has something about which side their bread is buttered on.

Did you see my post on April 15th? I noted that my federal income tax bill this year equals three months health insurance premiums for our family of four.I do not look to the GOP for help on this front. They had their chance. Most Americans agree and voted so last fall.

I have been working to get my representatives to support the president's efforts to get this country out of the ditch, lest this recession become a real depression.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Put the Right People in Jail

All the torture news this past week reminds me of when the Democrats won back the House a few years ago. I felt that to impeach Bush would be to sink to the level of the other side. Only later as the list of crimes grew and grew did I come to the conclusion that Bush and Cheney should face the constitutional remedy for high crimes and misdemeanors, if only to deter the next would-be executive evil-doers.

Now Obama has released Bush administration torture memos and announced that he will not prosecute CIA officers who acted under them. He said that he would not stand in the way of the Attorney General or Congress should they decide to investigate or prosecute those behind these crimes.

Good. This fish stinks from the head down. The timing is significant as these abuses began when the administration was trying to order up intelligence reports to prove that Saddam was connected to Al Qaeda in order to justify the Iraq war they wanted.

A bit of unfinished business first. Eleven U.S. soldiers were convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. One soldier, Army Specialist Charles Graner is still in prison serving a ten year sentence. The defense in these cases was that these soldiers were following orders from higher-ups. Turns out now that yes, this torture, kidnapping and killing was approved at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

President Obama should pardon the Abu Ghraib Eleven. Then we can watch the Congress and the Justice Department sort out who should really be in prison.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Light At the End of the Tunnel

The news tends to cheer lead these days about things looking up, and silver linings - lights at the end of the tunnel, and so forth. There might be some good in keeping the sunny side up, as it were, but the truth is good too.

I don't know that anything will be the same, in fact, I'm afraid that things will be the same, again. Making everybody think it's OK to go back and spend us into the next oblivion seems like a bad outcome.

When Gordon Geko said that greed was good in the mid-eighties it launched an attitude change in America that resulted in more than bad hair, clothes and music. It led to people thinking of themselves first and other people later. It gave rise to the "single combat warrior" Susan Faludi wrote so well about: the Rambos, the Superstars, cribs, and ballers and me-to-isms that made us isolate each other and wish we were someone else. I have seen signs of change.

Lately, America has reached out to the classical anti-hero of old times. This is John Doe. The Clark Kent, who in secret mind you, dives into the phone booth to become the super hero that saves us all. As in man-kind, collectively, from the dangers of the world and outer space.

A guy that against all odds lands a jet in the Hudson and saves 60 lives, and then takes no credit as a hero. He was just doing what he trained for, he says. No big deal. The captain of the ship that sacrifices his own life for those of his crew, braves certain death by pirates, and even attempts an escape by hurling his bound body into the Indian Ocean, only to be rescued later by anonymous SEALS, who take no credit and seek none. He refuses to be labeled a hero and insists on giving others the credit because he, "was only doing what he had trained to do."

When I am trapped listening to the "self-made man" tell stories about his boot-strapped rise to wealth and greatness and all the sacrifices made in pursuit of riches, I want to run away. But when I hear about others who do great things for their fellow men and women, often against great challenges, those are the people I want to be like.

The Great Crash

Dabbling in economics, it lately came to my attention that the late John Kenneth Galbraith wrote a book on the stock market crash of 1929. It was recently my pleasure to read his “The Great Crash,” which has been in print continuously since first published in 1954.

In the forward to the more recent edition that I borrowed, Galbraith told how he judged the success of his books by whether he saw them show up on the shelves of airport bookstores as he travelled. Missing this book, he finally asked a shopkeeper about it and was told that airport bookstores don’t like to stock books that have the word “crash” in the title.

This bit of humor was a good introduction to this author, who made this excursion into the dismal science entertaining as well as informative.

He notes that Winston Churchill was on the floor of the exchange on Black Thursday, and notes that he had been the British Chancellor of the Eschequer who returned Britain to the gold standard in 1925. This move caused a credit crunch in the US that year. The subsequent moves here to ease credit made possible the speculative buying on margin that brought about the crash. Small world even then.

Galbraith details the unraveling of the stock bubble that would eventually bring the national economy to a grinding halt. He introduces the personalities, runs the numbers, and exposes some long held myths. He is an economist writing as an historian..

“In the first week the slaughter had been of the innocents. During this second week there is some evidence that it was the well-to-do and the wealthy who were being subjected to a leveling process comparable in magnitude and suddenness to that presided over a decade before by Lenin.”

“On the whole, the great stock market crash can be much more readily explained than the depression that followed it.

“Economics still does not allow final answers on these matters. But, as usual, something can be said.”

What I’m doing reading this stuff; I look to history to inform myself about current events. Galbraith says something of the causes of the depression, listing..

-Trade imbalance; back then the US used to manufacture goods and depend on foreigners to buy them.

-Bad banking structure; bankers and businessmen mostly hate regulation, needed or not. One key reform, federal deposit insurance, was not passed until 1933.

-Corporate larceny.

-Top heavy income distribution; in 1928 one third of all income went to the top 5% of the population. When those folks took a bath, there wasn’t all that much other spending to keep the economy afloat.

-Finally, we come to what Galbraith calls economic intelligence. When this crisis hit, many experts and authorities stepped up to do exactly the wrong things. Treasury Secretary Mellon wanted to “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” Franklin Roosevelt ran on a platform of balancing the budget. At least he proved to be flexible when confronted with reality.

Then, as now, people saw the trouble as a sign that it was time to let the market forces do their magic, to cut spending, balance the budget. This is what the dead-end Republicans and the blue dog democrats seem to be saying these days. Lucky for us we have cooler heads in charge now. The safety nets have not been all dismantled or sold off. We now have Social Security, Unemployment, farm programs, and other measures to stop this recession from becoming a depression.

That is, if we muster enough economic intelligence to see our own self-interest, and make sure we don’t let the yahoos take over the Congress next year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chickens for Colonel Sanders

Well, the silly tax day protests are almost over, and I’m hoping that this could be a teachable moment. The phony grassroots (Astroturf) teabagging was of course promoted, funded and orchestrated by the same hard right plutocrats that brought us to this hard place.

Please; a populist movement brought to us by Koch Oil, Steve Forbes and the Coors family? The funding behind these events reads like a who’s who of billionaire think tanks, the same folks that keep Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, and Tom DeLay flying first class.

When you see those shills on Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network, remember who they’re working for; the operable term is plutocracy, government control by the wealthy.

If Fox had devoted as much coverage to the anti-war protests of the last decade as they have to this dog and pony show, some hundred thousand service people could be home with their families by now.

CSPAN3 has been broadcasting the World Health Care Congress this week, a gathering of health care professionals, insurance executives, public officials, and CEOs all looking to improve US healthcare, which while the costliest on earth, lags other developed countries in most indices.

Last night, I saw Safeway’s Steven Burd, who urged businesses not to wait on government, telling how they reined in costs for their 200,000 people by managing care, (like the HMO’s were supposed to do) and giving incentives for healthy living, eating well, exercising, smoking cessation, weight loss, etc.

I’ve seen my tax returns and my benefits package lately and you know what? My federal income tax last year came to less than two months premiums for our family HMO coverage.

You want to hit the streets about them apples, say when; I’ll be there with you.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Last month I reprinted Susan Bankston’s proposal that the legislature allow citizens to carry firearms in the House and Senate Galleries. Yesterday the Chronicle had letters from five readers opposing Rep. Jeff Wentworth’s campus concealed-carry gun bill, here’s a sampling..

Arming students on college campuses is an idea so thoroughly loathsome that it would not deserve comment except that this is Texas and the idea has the support of a sizable number of state legislators (“Campus guns bill gaining in House,” Page A1, Friday). If the sponsors believe their bill will have a deterrent effect making campuses safer, then I challenge them to apply the logic to their own environment and allow citizens with licenses to bring concealed handguns into theHouse and Senate galleries. Of course they will not.

— Thomas Fowler, Lake Jackson

I have a suggestion for the Legislature. I firmly believe that the proposed legislation to allow concealed weapons in the classrooms should include allowing concealed weapons in all the rooms in the state Capitol building, including when the Legislature is in session. This would force the legislators to consider the seriousness of this bill.

— James E. Dimmett, Humble

Maybe we need to deal with some of the lobbyists for the gun folks who coax our legislators into passing such “bills of death.” All their yummy, fancy dinners, lunches and trips are not worth even one innocent life. The “bad guys” will always get their weapons, but let’s not make it too easy for nut cases, who will be with us forever.
Pray, folks, pray.

— Jean McClintic, Houston

The Texas Legislature needs to hear that allowing concealed guns on college campuses is a very bad idea. Similar proposals have failed in 19 other states. Young men and easy access to guns are a bad mix that is likely to lead to violence.
College campus police patrols are all that students need for security.

— Jimmy Dunne, Houston

If the Legislature wants to force colleges to allow guns on campuses, they should add an amendment to allow firearms in the Texas Capitol. Then people in the galleries could defend themselves from the bad senators and representatives in the Legislature.

— Wayne Derrick, Houston

And Charles Kuffner in writes “I still can't read about it without thinking of something Molly Ivins wrote way back when the concealed-carry law was being debated. She suggested that everyone who was carrying be required to wear a propeller beanie so the rest of us would know who we're dealing with.”

Most college administrators, faculty and students oppose this bill. The police chief at one local college risked his job by sending a letter to the whole community urging all to contact their legislators and make their opposition known. Tell them that if they want to extend the concealed carry law that they should start be extending it into the State House and Senate Galleries and see how they like it. As Jean McClintic wrote, “nut cases will be with us forever.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tom Tomorrow Watches Glenn Beck So You Don't Have To

Home Improvement

Sunday night the water heater at my place on Mermaid Lane (home of The Sirens) gave up the ghost. I cleared my schedule and set about looking for a replacement.

As part of my online shopping, I researched the stimulus package and found that yes, there was a tax credit for installing energy-efficient water heaters in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. I was pleased to see this, thinking that with 30% of the cost coming back to me, I might spend more to buy a better heater, something cheaper to feed that would last longer, maybe I could even pay somebody else to deliver and install it.

I read that not all appliances that meet the federal Energy Star guidelines qualify for credits, but I printed out a nine-page ASHRAE listing of approved manufacturers models, and started shopping around.

Nothing on the Lowes or Sears sites qualified. I don’t usually shop Home Depot because they’ve sponsored Bill O’Really, but I checked their site too, same deal.

Next morning I called local plumbers and supply houses to no avail. Everybody had cheap contractor models for sale, but if I wanted something more than 80% efficient, I would have to special order it and be taking cold showers while I waited.

Same thing happened to me with central heating and AC. If I had installed a new efficient system in 2007, I could have had a nice tax break on the deal. There is also a credit for equipment installed in 2009. We put ours in last year. No tax credit. It did save us from being hosed when electric rates shot up last year. We had a contract with DynaWatt run out and they dumped us in a plan that charged $0.27/KW.

But beyond the vagaries of tax law, and the whims of the wind-blown sluts in Congress, this is another example of shortsighted American business planning. When Toyota and Honda were developing hybrid vehicles Detroit was lobbying Congress to subsidize sales of 5,000 lb. sport utility vehicles.

While Americans use twice the energy per capita as people in Western Europe or Japan, Congress and the energy lobby are sandbagging Obama’s energy legislation as if we can go on like this forever. (Shell Oil and Conaco-Phillips are exceptions, partnering with the Environmental Defense Fund to find and implement best practices to reduce carbon emissions. Guess where I’m gassing up.) We can’t afford this. It’s a drag on our economy, it skews our foreign policy, and it’s changing the weather.

As the late great Frank Zappa said, we’re “dumb all over, a little ugly on the side.”

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

State leaders can be so stimulating

By RICK CASEY Houston Chronicle

Great news! The political leadership of Texas has decided to call on the best minds in Texas and beyond to make sure that the massive infusion of federal stimulus dollars is spent to launch the state into the new 21st century economy.

Task forces from the private sector will work intensely with government leaders to try to use a good portion of the expected $16 billion to propel the state into national leadership in health care, renewable energy production and education.

It’s almost like when FDR called in Houston business genius Jesse Jones to help shape the Depression recovery plan.

In other words we will, as I hoped, be spending our children’s and grandchildren’s money to make their lives better.

If you believed a word of this, I’m afraid you are an April Fool.

If you go to, the federal Web site on the stimulus money, you can link to a map of the United States. Click on any state and it will take you to that state’s Web site.

But when you click on Texas you don’t even get the governor. You get a page from State Comptroller Susan Combs’ “Window on State Government” site. Because her job is to tell you not how the money should be spent but how it was spent, the headline is “Tracking the Texas Stimulus.”

The governor’s only concern seems to be that we not accept $500 million to enhance jobless benefits for laid-off workers. As far as we can tell he hasn’t spent a whole lot of time worrying his nicely covered head about the other 93 percent of the federal funds. (I asked his press office about whether he would be making any proposals. They seemed confused, assuming that federal “strings” dictated how all the money would be spent, which is not true.)

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted out an unimaginative budget that uses federal stimulus money to replace general funds.

If the governor is worried that the state will suffer pain when the $500 in federal unemployment benefits ends, what about the impact when we have to replace $6 billion in general revenue money or cut budgets?

This is not a happy prospect. We have a bureaucratic culture in Texas where the only major original idea in decades is to build statewide toll roads to be run by a Spanish company.

No, that’s not April Fools