Zippidy Doo Da

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

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chupacabra Report

News that gets my goat..

You’ve heard about Alvin Green of South Carolina winning the Democratic Primary to run against Sen. Jim DeMint, (R-Flypaper) raising questions about how this unpolished, unemployed stealth candidate came up with the $10,000 filing fee, and why he thought he ought to run for the Senate, or more accurately, who put him up to it.

Now we have a suspicious development in the race for Texas Governor involving a candidate from the Green Party. It seems that Garret Mize, of the Texas Green Party, was paid $12,000 by Rick Perry’s former Chief of Staff Mike Toomey to convince his party leadership to accept $350,000 from out-of-state Republicans to hire a petition drive to place a Green candidate in this year’s race for Texas Governor.

So far there’s been no comment from Governor Perry about his crony’s actions to place a third party candidate in the race to draw votes from former Houston Mayor Bill White.

But to observers of the Texas GOP, this is nothing new. It seems that vote suppression, illegal campaign finance, and dirty tricks make up the Tory strategy for winning elections.

I just hope this story has legs. How many people realize how Tom DeLay’s TRMPAC packed the statehouse using illegal corporate campaign spending, so that they could usurp the Texas congressional delegation with an off year redistricting? In recent years Republican elected officials denied or disqualified thousands of the voters over tens of questionable votes. The Harris County Registrar had a staffer who used his access to voter info to run a consulting operation, GOP Senator Dwayne Bohac’s Campaign Data Systems, selling data to GOP campaigns. And lets not forget how the Republicans in the Legislature bollixed-up the last session trying to pass a Voter ID law, and promise to do the same in the upcoming session; like Texas doesn’t have enough pressing business.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Texas gets wise to Rick Perry

Poll shows Perry, White with 43 percent each in Texas gubernatorial race

By DAVE MONTGOMERY Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AUSTIN -- Giving Texas Democrats a boost before their state convention in Corpus Christi this week, a new poll shows that former Houston Mayor Bill White is now in a tie with Gov. Rick Perry in his bid to become the first Democratic governor since the mid-1990s.

The survey by Public Policy Polling, released Tuesday, shows White, a Democrat, and Perry, a Republican, with 43 percent each, erasing Perry's 48-42 lead in the group's survey four months ago.

White picked up more independents and crossover voters than Perry did, the pollsters said.

"Bill White has the potential to give Democrats their biggest bright spot on what will probably overall be a bad election in November," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy. "A win in the Texas governor's race would be huge for the party and instantaneously make White one of the most prominent Democrats in the country."

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis tells the story of Steve Eisman, a stock analyst who ran a hedge fund at Morgan Stanley, and Michael Burry, a neurologist turned value stock investor, each of whom perceived that Collateralized Debt Obligations constructed of subprime mortgage loans, the hottest derivative product on the market by the year 2005, were AAA-rated Ponzi schemes destined to blow up.

As they researched these CDOs, they discovered that nobody in the business really knew any more about these toxic financial instruments than they did; the players were blinded to the risk involved by the millions in commissions to be made. In 2006 for example, J.P. Morgan profited a billion dollars selling these CDOs, about twenty percent of their total that year, and were planning on doubling that in 2006.

Eisman and Burry, looking for a way to short this market, started buying credit default swaps on these bonds, paying a fraction of a percent in premiums every year for insurance in order to collect when mortgage defaults made these bonds worthless, which was only a matter of time, specifically, two years into the loan period when the low, “teaser rates” went up and the folks with these no-doc “liar loans” went into default.

This all happened right on schedule, bringing Eisman and Burry a return on their investments of over 800%, as investment banks on Wall Street and around the world lost hundreds of billions of dollars, crashing financial systems around the world.

This story does not support the often-heard meme that the housing crash happened because people bought houses that they couldn’t afford. This crash was predator-driven.

This book gives examples such as a Mexican strawberry picker in Bakersfield with an income of $14,000 per year who was lent $724,000. A Jamaican cleaning lady from Queens bought a townhouse. The value of the townhouse rose, and the lender came back suggesting that she refinance and take out $250,000. She used the money to buy another, and so on until she owned six townhouses when the market fell and she couldn’t make any of the payments.

When Eisman heard Wall Street people argue that the crash was caused by “the mendacity and financial irresponsibility of ordinary Americans” he said “What – the entire American population woke up one morning and said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to lie on my loan application’? Yeah, people lied. They lied because they were told to lie.”

And of course the players in this business all made money. Howie Hubler, a bond trader at Morgan Stanley, lost more money than any trader in Wall Street history, but still got to keep the tens of millions he made. Winners, losers, people who bankrupted their companies or were saved by federal bail outs, all got rich.

Me, I’m just happy to be back near where I was two years ago. And we’re not out of the woods yet. Remember that the crash of ’29 happened three years before FDR was first elected, and he wasn’t even New Dealing yet. At that time he was proposing the same sort of austerity fix that the GOP and the teabaggers are calling for now.

As Bette Davis said, “hold on to your seats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

DeLay sought for July 1 execution


A Conroe man scheduled to die by injection on July 1 has filed a petition seeking a reprieve because he says there's new evidence — a confession and flawed autopsy testimony — that proves he did not commit a 2001 murder.

Attorneys for Michael Perry, 28, filed paperwork this week, asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend to Gov. Rick Perry that he grant a 180-day delay or a commutation of their client's sentence.

Attorney Jessica Mederson, with Vinson & Elkins in Austin, is representing Perry, who has been on death row since March 2003 for the slaying of 50-year-old Sandra Stotler on Oct. 24, 2001.

Mederson declined to comment on the case, but said more documents will be filed next week.

Disputing date of death

According to the petition, the new evidence comes from a medical examiner hired by the attorneys to review Stotler's autopsy report. The review showed that her death occurred Oct. 26, not Oct. 24. Perry was in jail on a traffic offense Oct. 26, making it impossible for him to have committed the murder, the petition said.

The new date of death also contradicts the testimony of then-Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Paul Shrode, who conducted the autopsy. During the trial, Shrode could not give an exact time of death and did not dispute the prosecution's assertion that Stotler was killed Oct. 24, the petition said.

The filing also notes that Shrode's credibility and expertise have come under fire in last few months. In May, he was fired from his job as medical examiner of El Paso County for falsifying his qualifications. Also, on June 4 an Ohio death row inmate received clemency because of faulty testimony from Shrode, who conducted the victim's autopsy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

GOP Convenes in Dallas

The Texas Republican Party had their convention in Dallas this week, approving a party platform that is good for laughs if you’re not stricken with queasiness.

San Antonio Express-News reporter Gary Scharrer had this exchange with one of the attendees..

“Houston GOP delegate Stuart Mayper said he's concerned about the party's relationship with Latino voters.

“We must reach out to these people. If we don't, it's a big mistake,” he said.

"But he said the party shouldn't water down its principles.

“Learn English in this country. I don't like going into Wal-Mart and seeing Spanish,” Mayper said.

"He wants to see troops on the border.

“Close the border. I am not against any Mexicans or anything. Let's slow down the tide. I'm not saying send anybody back,” Mayper said.”

-So this guy flunks the ideological purity test because he doesn’t want to seal the border, he merely wants to “slow the tide,’ and “not send anybody back.” That, and he objects to bi-lingual signage at Wal-Mart. Considering that Wal-Mart gets all their stuff from China, maybe the labels should be in Chinese.

The platform calls for “making American English the official language of Texas and the United States,” and makes their usual call for “Urging Congress to evict the United Nations from the United States to rescind U.S. membership.”

In one plank, they call for repeal of the Real ID Act, which “creates an unconstitutional and privacy-inhibiting national ID card.”

In another plank they “Urge the Legislature to require Voter ID.” Would a state ID card be constitutional and respectful of privacy?

Maybe they’ve abandoned logic to distance themselves from “President Spock.”

Logic in no obstacle to these folks, who, if Texas is a one-party state, make up the equivalent of the old Soviet Politburo. These activists are the ones who turn out for the Republican primary elections and select the candidates we’ve been giving a pass to for twenty years.

The convention featured a booth from the John Birch Society, denounced fifty years ago by Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley after they called Dwight Eisenhower a Communist. The Birchers opposed the Civil Rights Act saying the civil rights movement was communist inspired, Got that Rand Paul?

Another booth touted Ted Nugent for president. I hope his campaign literature features a picture of him reporting for his draft physical smeared with feces and freaked on speed.

The convention takes on the education system, opposing automatic college admissions rules, such as the top 10 percent rule, calling for the repeal of the No Child Left Behind law and the U.S. Department of Education, and for removing the tenure system for Texas state colleges and universities.

Phew, that’s a lot coming from those folks that are always raving about “government schools.” Maybe they ought to ‘home college’ their youngsters, to keep them away from those commie professors.

They call for the repeal of the state lottery and oppose any further legalization of any type of gambling. This cuts against Rick Perry’s scheme to sell off the lottery to an international syndicate. Maybe these fans of privatization would let the mob bid on this deal. Remember the “blue laws?” How would these folks feel if their local Wal-Mart was closed on Sunday. Of course under the establishment clause of the First Amendment, we ought to close the stores on Saturday, and Friday, too.

And what would any GOP platform be without sex? The platform calls for legislation requiring a sonogram for each pregnant woman seeking an abortion, and creating a felony offense for anyone who performs a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple.

So that’s today’s wish list from the nut farm. Now what we need to do is tie it around their neck like a dead chicken on a bad dog.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

SpaceX launches first Falcon 9 Rocket

Private company Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, launched their Falcon 9 rocket yesterday, in a successful test of the vehicle which has already been awarded a $1.6 billion contract to deliver supplies to the international space station.

The rocket carried a mock-up of their Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry crew and cargo into earth orbit. SpaceX has twelve supply missions to the International Space Station scheduled from 2010 to 2015.

SpaceX projects the cost of flying to earth orbit with their re-useable rocket to be $45 million. The Russians charge $300 million, and the average cost to fly the Space Shuttle is $450 million.

I know the Clear Lake community has circled the wagons to push back against the Obama administration’s course change for NASA. This is understandable with thousands of jobs at stake, but as I read beyond the franked material I get from our congressman, Pete Olson, I find that there is some support for Obama’s plan in the space community.

(With his solid voting record against the administration, Olson is on track to become as irrelevant as his neighbor Rep. Ron Paul, known as “Dr. No.” for his bizarre voting record)

Apollo 11 lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin supports the administration plan to send humans to visit a nearby asteroid and travel to Mars in the 2030s. So does Apollo 9 astronaut Russell Schweickart, who said "Instead of being on a path toward the goal we all seek, i.e. to regain our leadership position in human space exploration, we must recognize that we are (and have been) on a path to nowhere. We are confronted with arguments to ignore the clear signs of this sad situation and even encouraged to accelerate along this futile path."

I found this from Leland Stone at NASA’s Ames Research Center; “NASA will be reinvigorating its Science, Aeronautics, and Technology Development Missions. That strategic shift undoes the terrible decision by the previous Administration to dismantle and cannibalize much of NASA's long-term R&D efforts to support an under-funded Human Spaceflight program.”

President Obama has budgeted an additional $267 million for NASA next year and a total increase of $5 billion over the next five years.