Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The Godfather of the West Side
I keep a little legal services clinic on the West Side of San Antonio. It is the oldest barrio in the country, as far as I'm concerned, with the culteral stamp of uniquiness and originality one would experience in Little Italy or Chinatown. Someone from the outside could not beg, borrow, or steal one of the modest old homes around here, which pass from generation to generation. It is such a closed enclave of latinos that I am not surprised when I meet old and young people alike who don't speak English (don't want to) and have left the few square miles of urban jungle only a handful of times.
The neighborhood is plagued by drugs, poverty and gang violence. There are no jobs, and I'm sure that the young have little sense of opportunity for a future with good jobs and schools. 58% of live births in Bexar County are paid for with state Medicaid funds, and on thw West Side, that figure is, no doubt, significantly higher. Children here are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses that attend poverty often, like asthma, and developmental problems originating in early childhood. Most kids are born at Santa Rosa Hospital; run by the Catholic Church. But also, the kids here are more likely to need special education services to help with learning difficulties endemic in all poor, minority populations.
The people of the West Side are heavily dependent on Food Stamp supplements, and require a disporportionate amount of free housing. A mother of five with a 7th grade education, and no prospects, at some point would probably need a place to stay for her and her family - that's who is in housing; old people, too. The alternative is homelessness.
They need transportation for medical services, job training, mentors, Big Brothers, legal aid, continuing education and GED programs, prison transition programs, after school programs, parenting classes, nutrition education. They need homeless shelters, free clinics, veterans assistance, voter education. They even need caring people to donate and distribute toys at Christmas for children who would not otherwise have anything.
My friend, Fred Gonzales, who is a social worker here, has been helping this community with these things for 28 years. He was born to poverty, and lived with his large family in a colonia on Guadalupe Street where the streets were unpaved and water came from a communal well, all in the shadow of downtown - just a few blocks away.
Fred has helped literally thousands of folks in need for everything from housing to adoption services. Right now he needs help.
The state has sliced his contract, and they did it in such a way that appears political. The state sent a cadre of "investigators," into the neighborhood to dig up dirt, and when they couldn't readily find any, they made stuff up.
To me, it is a strong-arm effort to get rid of important social work operations under contract and then assume these court-ordered services themselves. If anybody has ever spent an hour, or more, waiting on the phone, only to hang up in disgust, or just have them hang up anyway, then it is easy to imagine the quality and efficacy of any new service, such as this, would be in the future under state control.
The individuals that soldier on on the service of humanity are almost never recognized for their self-sacrifice, and the small group of dedicated men and women who persist in helping others beyond a six-month grant, or a grad student project don't spend a lot of time seeking recognition. However, some of these folks are the proverbial, "cannary in the coal mine," and once they are lost, sometimes we lose everything.
This week, as Albert Brooks gets rave reviews for playing the heavy in “Drive,” I’ve been reading his novel, 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America.
Brooks paints an alarming dystopia, the elements of which are all in evidence today. Dirty bomb and smallpox attacks strike the U.S., India and Pakistan fight nuclear war, and a 9.2 magnitude earthquake sends the west coast back to the Stone Age. Climate change can no longer be denied as the eastern seaboard suffers summer- long heat waves of 105 degree temperatures. Medical science has cured cancer, which triples the senior population, the upkeep of which bankrupts the country. Our healthcare system grows more widely divided between the haves and have-nots and income disparities grow vast. On the plus side, America finally elects a Jewish president, though the job is no longer worth even a bucket of spit, electric cars safely drive themselves and billionaires fly in pilotless private jets. And thanks to advanced pharmaceuticals and cosmetic surgery, seniors look fitter and more youthful than they did in middle age.
Brooks, who according to Wikipedia changed his surname from Einstein to avoid confusion with the famous physicist, acquits himself well here, telling us a lot about our times with his witty and insightful imagining of the future. I’ll be burning the midnight oil to see how this turns out.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
-In the wake of Talk Like A Pirate Day comes news from Berlin where upstart Pirate Party candidates have won fifteen seats in the Legislature. The Pirates won 8.9 percent of the vote with their Internet freedom platform, calling for “liquid democracy” with participation beyond merely voting in elections. The editorial board of liquiddaddy blogspot will meet in a liquid summit conference this weekend to formulate our response.
-In economic news The Chronicles Loren Steffy quotes Sandy Leeds from U.T’s McCombs Business School on the Feds efforts to boost the economy, while the congress can’t even agree to provide aid to victims of hurricanes and wildfires.
“When we’re voting against emergency relief funds it’s a reminder of what a terrible political situation we’re in.”
“Monetary policy isn’t going to solve the problems that we’re in.”
“We tend to want quick solutions. There are some things that can’t be solved quickly.”
Steffy wraps up: “With the Fed out of options and congress hopelessly ineffective, the threat of another recession now looms larger than ever.”
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Don't Slap Him Like That - Do It ike This!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Juanita’s post today at The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon about Louisiana Congressman John Fleming trying to make ends meet when he’s only netting $400,000 a year drew a comment from A Conservative Schoolteacher (!) calling her out on class warfare and socialism, to which she ably replied herself, of course. All good fun, and then I visited the schoolteacher’s site to see what they’re putting in the water up there in Michigan to turn chickens into Colonel Sanders fans.
There I found a post quoting the GOP National Platform from 1936. It sounds familiar as they decry New Deal waste, fraud and abuse, over-regulation, deficit spending and loss of liberty. They call for drastic and immediate spending cuts to balance the budget, elimination of unnecessary and hampering regulations and other measures to furnish a chance for individual enterprise, industrial expansion, and the restoration of jobs.
Back in 1936, the American people weren’t buying it. The Republicans ran Kansas Governor Alf Landon against Roosevelt. Landon was a banker and millionaire oilman who actually supported most of the New Deal. He lost forty-six states, prompting Democratic Party Chair James Farley to quip “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”
Landon’s candidacy was really ‘Plan B’ for the plutocrats of the day. Late in 1934, retired Marine General Smedley Butler alerted Congress to a Wall Street plot to install a fascist dictatorship in Washington. The businessmen raised three million dollars and asked Butler to lead a private army of 500,000 ex-soldiers to march on Washington and install General Hugh S. Johnson as dictator. A special committee of the House of Representatives concluded that “ certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist organization in this country...There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient." I wonder if the “Conservative Schoolteacher” teaches this story in social studies class.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Today I would like to direct your attention to the latest column by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.
No, don’t go away; this is not about government stimulus of a moribund economy as John Maynard Keynes would advocate. And this is not about Joseph Stiglitz’s three trillion dollar estimate for the cost of the Iraq war.
Krugman today says that a little more than a year from now, Americans will be making a statement about what sort of country we want to live in; whether we will continue the progressive movement that started during the Theodore Roosevelt administration and got legs during the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt, or if we will forego the social contract forged over the last century and revert to a “crueler, harsher nation” with a devil-take-the-hindmost mentality where life outside the gated compounds resembles a Mad Max movie. (At least until that “Masque of the Red Death”)
Again, our story begins with a moment from the Tea Party debate last Monday. This, from Krugmaan..
“Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Paul replied, "That's what freedom is all about - taking your own risks." Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether "society should just let him die." And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of "Yeah!"
“Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed - or at least they would if they hadn't been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that's a fantasy. People who can't afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have - and sometimes they die as a result.
“The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Blitzer's hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.
“So would people on the right be willing to let those who are uninsured through no fault of their own die from lack of care? The answer, based on recent history, is a resounding "Yeah!"
“Think, in particular, of the children.
“The day after the debate, the Census Bureau released its latest estimates on income, poverty and health insurance. The overall picture was terrible: The weak economy continues to wreak havoc on American lives. One relatively bright spot, however, was health care for children: The percentage of children without health coverage was lower in 2010 than before the recession, largely thanks to the 2009 expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.
“And the reason SCHIP was expanded in 2009 but not earlier was, of course, that former President George W. Bush blocked earlier attempts to cover more children - to the cheers of many on the right. Did I mention that one in six children in Texas lacks health insurance, the second-highest rate in the nation?
“So the freedom to die extends, in practice, to children and the unlucky as well as the improvident. And the right's embrace of that notion signals an important shift in the nature of American politics.
“In the past, conservatives accepted the need for a government-provided safety net on humanitarian grounds. Don't take it from me, take it from Friedrich Hayek, the conservative intellectual hero, who specifically declared in The Road to Serfdom his support for "a comprehensive system of social insurance" to protect citizens against "the common hazards of life," and singled out health in particular.
“Now, however, compassion is out of fashion - indeed, lack of compassion has become a matter of principle, at least among the GOP's base.
“And what this means is that modern conservatism is actually a deeply radical movement, one that is hostile to the kind of society we've had for the past three generations - that is, a society that, acting through the government, tries to mitigate some of the "common hazards of life" through such programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
“Are voters ready to embrace such a radical rejection of the kind of America we've all grown up in? I guess we'll find out next year.”
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The music around here is made up of artists and musicians (some more one than the other) who get together for whatever happens to need doing. These disparate projects go under various names that sort of catagorize the type, tempo, style, etc.
For instance, festivals and parades: Night Train. Parties with covers: Black Market Surf: Tiki Torches....and on
Originals were mostly Driftwood territory. That project (very much a writers lab) persisted for almost ten years, and was a huge labor of love for me and Nails - an enormously talented lyricist and all-around creative fellow, including graphic artist, musician, producer, engineer, etc. For the others - not so much.
Our web presence, which included the sonic and musical achievments to date are gone now after all these years. So, I have taken the links down so as to rid the site of pathetic reminders of that stage in our life.
Why is Driftwood no mas? I'd love to act puzzled, but I suspect it was a matter of neglect and a lack of respect for Nails - things seemed to plow along without his presence or input. His music was being used without proper credit being rendered, or permission being sought. He was not consulted at times when he most deserved to be.
I don't blame him if such a thing occurred. I'm not sure I'm right in my assumption because I don't speak with him much. To imply he did something wrong is not my purpose here, but rather, I'd really like to personally apologize to him for not being the friend, and colleague I should have been, whether the stuff was still up, or not. Nails, whose name is Gary, will always be my brother whom I love. I will look forward to hearing from him some time - I hope soon.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
News That Gets My Goat..
-One of the funnier moments of the GOP debate last night happened when Michele Bachmann suggested that Rick Perry ordered that Texas schoolgirls get the HPV vaccine because Merck Pharmaceutical gave thousands of dollars to his campaign. Perry answered that Merck donated only $5,000 of the $30 million he raised, and that “if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000 I’m offended.” Susan Bankston at Juanita Jean’s The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon asks “Well then, what is your price, Governor? Because most estimates put it at $200,000.”
-Mitt Romney laid out his plan for middle-class tax relief: eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for people making under $200,000. This is rich coming from a silver-spoon vulture capitalist. Most sources consider households making from $35,000 to $100,000 to be middle class. As one in the middle of that demographic, my interest income most years is in the tens of dollars, and taxes on dividends and capital gains is not a problem either. I wonder if Romney remembers how many houses he owns.
-Libertarian Ron Paul was soundly booed by the audience when he made a rare foray into the realm of good sense during the foreign policy segment of the debate. After all the recent noise about “the lessons of nine-eleven,” I see little evidence that we’ve learned anything. See what you think..
“There's a lot of room to cut on the military, but not on the defense. You can slash the military spending,” Paul explained, “We don't need to be building airplanes that were used in World War II -- we're always fighting the last war.”
“Most of the danger comes by our lack of wisdom on how we run our foreign policy,”
“We're under great threat, because we occupy so many countries. We're in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world. We're going broke. The purpose of al Qaeda was to attack us, invite us over there, where they can target us. And they have been doing it.”
“Al Qaeda has committed “more attacks against us and the American interests per month than occurred in all the years before 9/11” -- because the U.S. is “occupying their land.”
“This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this, and they're attacking us because we're free and prosperous, that is just not true. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda have been explicit... They wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians fair treatment, and you have been bombing and killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for 10 years. Would you be annoyed? If you're not annoyed, then there's some problem.”
Tea Party Express debate
I missed the part where the candidates told Wolf Blitzer “what I would bring to the White House," so I’ll take the liberty of answering for them..
Michele Bachmann: Sixty foot cross
Herman Cain: Fast food restaurant
Newt Gingrich: ATM machine
Jon Huntsman: Subscription to Scientific American
Rick Perry: Shooting range
Ron Paul: Child labor
Mitt Romney: Business plan to lay off the help and sell off assets
Rick Santorum: Pink triangles
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The Gore Nightmare
• Here's a column from the Wall Street Journal I remember from 10 years ago. I believe it, considering how well the GOP is following Grover Norquist's directive to "make it impossible to govern as a Democrat."
“Share, for a fleeting moment, Al Gore's daily dream: that what counted in Florida a year ago was the intent, rather than the actual practice, of voters. And today he's the one running the White House.
“The truth is that in the aftermath of Sept. 11 we're probably better off, in the short term, with George W. Bush. But not for the reasons usually cited.
“The Bush foreign-policy team gets exceptionally high marks. But a Gore foreign-policy team -- Dick Holbrooke at State, Sam Nunn at Defense, Leon Fuerth as national security adviser and George Mitchell as a roving troubleshooter -- would be equal in experience, expertise and resolve. They also would be bolder.
“Today's basic policy formulation -- state-building, a strong reliance on the United Nations, and multilateralism -- all were articulated during the 2000 campaign by the Democratic candidate. "Bush has bought into the Clinton/Gore policy," notes Democratic Rep. Barney Frank.
“A Gore economic team -- Larry Summers, former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson and Wall Street whiz Steven Rattner -- would be vastly superior to Mr. Bush's team, as would their policies. Certainly, a Gore administration would have pushed a more coherent and comprehensive homeland security initiative.
“A President Gore would micromanage the terrorist crisis but would be more knowledgeable. The imponderable would be whether Mr. Gore, in a time of crisis, would be inspiring and constructively challenging, or unctuous and pedantic.
“But the real reason a President Gore would have more difficulty, under identical circumstances, is that the political right wouldn't have given him the leeway and support that President Bush has received.
“In the same situation, the vocal right in Congress would have blamed Sept. 11 on the "weakness" of the Clinton-Gore policies. Jesse Helms would be ranting about the crippling of the CIA that began with Jimmy Carter and accelerated under Bill Clinton. (Somehow the Ronald Reagan, Bill Casey and George H.W. Bush years don't count.) The critics would go on to assert that capitulating to the Chinese with a semi-apology when they downed a U.S. plane only encouraged Osama bin Laden.
“If President Gore had waited almost four weeks to militarily respond -- as President Bush prudently did -- does anyone doubt the congressional mullahs would have embellished the "weakness" charge with protests about the pitiful state of the American military? (Remarkable, isn't it, how quickly this administration turned a decaying mess into a lean, mean fighting machine -- just like the Kennedy administration 40 years ago when it rapidly closed the missile gap.)
“Recent history provides a guide to the response of the congressional right once a conflict starts. In 1999, House Republicans refused to support the Clinton/NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo after it was launched. The GOP House and Senate whips, Tom DeLay and Don Nickles, both suggested the atrocities in Kosovo were more the fault of Mr. Clinton than war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. A few months earlier, when the U.S. bombed Saddam Hussein, Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott said it was done to deflect from President Clinton's impeachment problems -- presumably with the complicity of Defense Secretary Bill Cohen and Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
“On homeland security there has been some criticism of President Bush, but it has been relatively mild. But suppose it had been Democrat Seth Waxman as attorney general and Robert Mueller as the new Gore-appointed FBI director when the same hijackers did exactly what they did.
“Nawaq Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, who drove the plane into the Pentagon, were on the CIA's "watch list" of potential terrorists; Almihdhar, the government knew, met with the al Qaeda in Kuala Lumpur nearly two years earlier. Yet this information wasn't shared and both men came into and traveled freely around the U.S. In August, the Justice Department turned down a request to search the computer of a Minnesota man -- who sought to learn to fly a plane without takeoffs or landings, and who was labeled a terrorist by French intelligence. He now is suspected of being an accomplice.
“Perhaps all this is unavoidable in an open society. But envision the harangues from Orrin Hatch about the administration's ACLU mindset that gave the terrorists free rein.
“Top House GOP sleuth Dan Burton, no doubt, would have found some Arab contribution to the Gore-Lieberman campaign and launched a new round of headline-grabbing witch hunts. When that fizzled -- all Burton investigations do -- he would have turned to a government that, eight weeks after anthrax attack, still couldn't tell us whether the culprit was foreign or domestic.
“The full-moon crowd would have gone into conspiracy hysterics if these anthrax-laden letters had been sent to Dick Armey and a handful of radio talk show hosts.
“Then there would have been the economic stimulus package. In addition to extended unemployment benefits, temporary tax cuts, New York City rebuilding aid and bailouts for the insurance industry, the Gore White House might have overreached for items like more highway security (building roads), or have placated labor allies by proposing collective bargaining rights for all public safety workers.
“The DeLay-Armey criticism would have been vicious. Yet the Bush White House, under the guise of economic stimulus, is trying to pay off all of the campaign contributors and K Street lobbyists who didn't get a piece of the earlier tax cut, a move that is far more injurious and costly.
“There would have been constructive critics in the Republican ranks. Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel and John McCain would have been every bit as honest in any critique of Democratic war plans as they are today. Lawmakers like Fred Thompson would have avoided cheap-shot hearings and House Speaker Dennis Hastert would have sought the same bipartisan support that Democrats Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle are offering today.
“There is a need for legitimate argument and disagreement over economic policy and the criminal-justice approach, and certainly over sending young American men and women into harm's way. Such a debate will escalate in the coming weeks and months, just as it did during previous conflicts.
“But if Al Gore had been president, the narrow right would have turned that desirable debate into a vindictive, petty one.”
Thursday, September 08, 2011
The Ripple Effect
I’ve been reading Alex Prudhomme’s book “The Ripple Effect.” This book is all about water; drought, flooding, groundwater, surface water, drinking water, wastewater, water treatment, management and mismanagement.
A friend saw this and called it a ‘gloom and doom’ book. I suppose so, but it’s a fascinating read on a vital subject. Water is an “axis resource,” meaning it is essential to the production of other necessities, such as food and energy. With Texas experiencing the worst drought in fifty years, we’re starting to see how essential it really is. Lack of rainfall has clobbered agriculture and drawn reserves down to sixty percent of normal levels, prompting water restrictions across the state. If the drought holds through next year the situation will be desperate. With smoke from wildfires darkening the Houston sky, this is a good time to consider how we think about this precious resource.
I don’t have a three-page screed ready today but in a nutshell I’d say that water is another thing that we use in an unsustainable manner. Hydrologists use the term “water mining” to describe the practice of drawing water from the aquifers faster than it can be replenished. Prudhomme speculates on which will be the first “ghost city” to empty out as its water supply becomes untenable. He gives examples of tax averse citizens voting down needed water projects and lays out the pros and cons of possible solutions. There are no easy answers, and costs will go nowhere but up.
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Come to Texas, everybody!
It's a miracle!
I know this because the TV says so. And, Rick Perry, that strong, handsome, man's man - he's got all the answers.
If governments would just follow his lead by not having any taxes, cut all government services, sweep all the debt under the "rug," (of course, blame everything on homos, "illegals" and liburals) and then give all responsibility for any bad stuff to the imaginary clowd Being - everything would be just fine.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Great letter in the Chronicle today responding to an op-ed from former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who wants to be a Senator:
“In Leppert's world, boldness is not addressing the deep structural problems at the heart of America's economic woes but in trotting out the very policies that created the problems in the first place and boldly proclaiming them as a cure.
“Since the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan somehow redefined the country's government as the country's primary problem, top marginal tax rates and capital gains taxes have been cut in half.
“In the 1990s, welfare was pretty much reformed out of existence, reducing cash benefits to a life-time limit of five years. The number of federal government employees as a percentage of total population is at its lowest since the 1950s. There have been massive rollbacks in government regulation of the energy, communication, transportation and finance industries.
“The end result of this 30-year tax-cutting, deregulating, privatizing experiment is a collapsed housing market, enormous income inequality, ruined pensions, decreased access to affordable healthcare and a child poverty rate of 20 percent.
“Whereas Leppert presents his plan as something new, it is anything but. Rather than a blueprint for rebuilding America's economy, it merely represents a continuation of the dismantling of the American dream, already 30 years in the unmaking.”- Hugh Sample, Pasadena