Zippidy Doo Da

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat:

-Just in time for Memorial day, House Republicans defeated a bill that would have increased bonus pay for US servicemen and women serving “under hostile fire’ or “in imminent danger” from $225 to $325 per month.

-The House also defeated an amendment to the fiscal year 2012 Military Budget that would have given President Obama 60 days to improve on his plan to begin troop withdrawals from Afghanistan beginning this July, and to set a date for completing the withdrawal. The vote on the amendment was 204 for and 215 against. That’s a six-vote margin. Just think, if we had defeated just six Republican or Tory Democrat candidates last November, thousands more US troops would be home for Christmas. Shame on us.

-The Daily Beast ran a column last week by retired Army Colonel and Boston University Professor Andrew Bacevich titled “How America Screws Its Soldiers.” In it, he makes the same point that Sebastian Junger did in his Afghanistan book “War,” that “for some reason, the closer you are to combat the less inclined you are to question it, but someone must. That evaluation, ongoing and unadulterated by politics, may be the one thing a country absolutely owes the soldiers who defend its borders.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The CCA Anglers Rodeo kicked off at dawn Saturday and I was in West Bay at sunrise netting up bait. I had picked this spot to get out of the 20 kt winds that had the surf head-high at the beach. Pretty morning but for the wind, but only hooked up a croaker on shrimp, a blue crab, and a royal tern who wanted the mullet I was flogging.

I fished topwaters on the Seabrook flats and back bay this morning, trying for a big bite while the holiday crowd around me fed bait to the panfish. No bite, but I did get to christen my new belt, a ski belt rigged for wading. Swims better than the vests I’ve been wearing, and looks sharp too (yeah.)

The STAR tournament is great incentive to get in the water, what with boats and trucks for prizes. The CCA membership is always one of my favorite checks to write. They’re the fisherman’s lobby, working for conservation, research, restocking, and to counter commercial interests on behalf of the rod and reel guys. I used to enjoy paying my license fee too when the monies were dedicated to conservation and enforcement, but recent legislatures trying to ‘starve the beast’ have long since raided those funds.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jammin at Moe's Garage with Night Train

This is a shot of us in our 7th Artcar Parade. This year we broke off from the Venus mother ship and pulled our own weight. The usual last-minute preparations were complicated by a balky generator, sparky inverter and buggy trailer lights; always something.

This list included some originals, featuring ‘Hello Hopeville,’ classics “Night Train” and “I Feel Good,” we covered “Watchin the River Flow,” and Miss Lucy channeled Lucinda on “Can’t Let Go.” The crowd of 300,000 was kind enough to clap, wave, dance and sing along. We had a good time and nobody fell off the float. Whoo-hoo!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thinking About Things.

I have spent the better part of my life since mid-2009, with my tear bucket. It makes it hard to write; very frustrating.

I've back-logged so much writing that I feel a bit more of a fraud in all things than I usually do. As mentioned in the past, everybody has been up against it.

Beto is doing OK, but my brother had a heart attack a few days later that has kept him hospitalized since three weeks ago. He still isn't out of the woods. Your thoughts and prayers are welcome.

Fortunately, we are all still here last time I counted heads. Good things still happen, just not as frequently.

For instance, the Houston Art Car Parade is on Sunday. Many factors have changed this year that makes me hope it will change our luck. It used to be on Saturday, so the crowd I had estimated as maybe twice as large as usual (350K?) might be somewhat smaller on Sunday - some people still go to church. Plus, for many years there were no vendors to speak of, but last year the funnel cake and worthless stuff-crowd showed up. In fact, there might be somewhat of a rift between old-timers and new blood in the Orang Show organization. We'll see if this traditionally weird, (and fairly nationally obscure event) turns into something bad.

We broke official ties with Venus this year, so the Hairse is no longer the mother ship. Act-wise, Night Train is going old school by way of a garage band-themed set of old standards. Wish us luck. Last year, Beto got stuck in the Pot 'O Potty when the parade started and things kind of went down hill from there.

In politics, here's wishes that I could return to my '67 borders.

In a day and age when hookers know more about politicians than reporters do, I find myself avoiding keeping informed.

God's Speed to the Teamster's Pionier Flour strike. I see them everyday and honk my horn in solidarity. They are fighting just not be any further behind than they are now. Lucy lived through a lot of strikes - it hits worker families hard.

We'll see you Sunday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I am tapping with sticks
on a plastic spackle bucket
humming your name
and wishing for you
a bird in a tree
a dream of music from outer space
a feeling of love
and nothing to prove
for your birthday

-That's from N.Y. artist Robin Winters. I haven't seen him in 30 years and he facebooked me a poem. This may explain why he has thirty times as many friends as I do. Thanks Robin.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Common Ground?

As a radical centrist, I’m always looking to find common ground with unlikely allies. I like nothing better than to praise Republicans, Conservatives, or Teabaggers when they land on the correct side of an issue. So, I have to applaud Paleo-Conservative Senator Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, for joining with Democrat Diane Feinstein to call for an end to subsidies for corn ethanol. We will spend around $6 billion this year on a $0.45 per gallon tax credit for ethanol use, and protect producers with a $0.54 per gallon tariff on imports.

The biggest problem with producing ethanol from corn here is the ‘energy balance.’ With the fuel, fertilizer and pesticides used in farming and distilling, it takes one gallon of oil to produce 1.3 gallons of ethanol. In Brazil, they make it out of sugar cane and come away with an energy balance of one to eight. They started 30 years ago and have phased out their subsidies. Vehicles run on 25% ethanol there; the world’s only sustainable biofuels economy.

To do that here, we’ll have to raise hell with the lobbied-up corn and sugar producers, as well as the oil companies. It’s almost election season and no candidates want to face Iowa Caucus voters and tell them they want to cut ethanol subsidies. And they want those big campaign checks from Archer Daniels Midland. Professional tax bitch Grover Norquist, bagman for Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed, is calling any cut in ethanol money a ‘tax hike.’

But our situation is ridiculous, loaded with perverse incentives. Maybe the stars will align and give some in Congress the nuts to take on the status quo. After all, we are literally paying in blood for oil.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Redlight Cameras

Interesting bit in the Tuesday Chronicle about how car crashes are down at intersections where the red light cameras were turned off. This could be an important finding because almost as many Americans are killed in auto accidents as by gunfire every year.

This phenomena makes sense; drivers were accustomed to running redlights, but modified their behavior when threatened with a camera-generated tickets. This made for lots of sudden stops, and lots of people got rear-ended. Now that the cameras are turned-off, fewer panic stops, fewer collisions.

Myself, I voted to keep the cameras. I can think of two people I knew who might be alive today but for somebody running a red light. But when the referendum to remove the cameras passed, I was pleased too because I spend a lot of time waiting at redlights in this city, where the lights still aren’t all repaired from the last hurricane. So now when there’s no traffic I’ll go back to disregarding the signals. With caution.

Does this story speak to the law of unintended consequences, the ‘be careful what you wish for’ syndrome? Maybe not; given time, we may have seen less carnage as people learned to observe and obey traffic signals. It’s not always true that “government governs best which governs least.” In a city of 3 million people, anarchy on the roads would be tragic.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat..

Chronicle News Services report that Aetna has raised its earnings forecast for 2011 after first quarter net income rose 4% to $586 million. In related news, my Aetna HMO coverage for our family of four will cost my employer and me $24,000 this year. Apparently the Medical Loss Ratio provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have yet to come into effect, and Americas Health Insurance Plans have moved to maximize profits in the meantime. I’m waiting to see how Medicare clients react to Paul Ryan’s plan to throw them to these wolves.

The 82nd Texas Legislature, with Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate is struggling to pass a budget. The $27 billion revenue shortfall, along with their pledge to not raise taxes, has led to estimates of 100,000 schoolteachers, and as many state employees, losing their jobs.

I see that the Ways and Means Committee of the Texas House approved HB262, the bill to extend the $1,000,000 Business Franchise Tax exemption. The exemption is scheduled to expire this year making the tax apply to businesses with revenues of over $600,000. This is the tax that was supposed to make up revenue lost when the Lege cut property taxes in 2006. Instead, we’ve been operating with a ‘structural deficit’ that left state budget writers $27 billion in the red this session.

Even more ridiculous, if possible, is the bill by Representative John Davis to forego sales tax on the sale of yachts priced over $250,000. At the same time, the Lege is looking to make up revenue by discontinuing the annual sales tax holiday in the summer for purchases of school uniforms and supplies.

In other news, The Chronicle reports that a coalition of ministers, charities, advocacy groups and legislators are pushing for regulation of payday and auto title lenders, who have spent $3.8 million this session to forestall such measures. We’ll see if this effort brings a break with lawmaker’s usual practice of afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable.