Zippidy Doo Da

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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dewey Wins! CNN and Fox (of course) called it wrong. That’s why current events is not history.

Well, I wouldn’t have bet that the Supremes would upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act, and I certainly wouldn’t have picked John Roberts to be the deciding vote. Gobsmacked! Maybe Roberts has been watching the consequences of their Citizens United v. FEC and wondering if ruling to please The Heritage Foundation and The Club for Growth might break the country.

So now it will be up to the voters in November whether they elect a candidate, Windsock Willard, who has pledged to repeal the act, styled after the Massachusetts plan he signed into law as Governor, or give a second term to President Obama to see the law completely enacted and work out the inevitable bugs.

The one ruling in favor of the plaintiffs is the one making it easier for states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion that is to include individuals and families earning up to 133% of the poverty level. This could be bad news in Texas, the state that is preparing to decline the 90% of women’s reproductive health funding they now receive in order to cut Planned Parenthood off the provider list. Governor Perry insists that the state will be able to provide these services without Federal money but I haven’t heard anybody from the healthcare community explain how this is possible. Presently, the income limit for Medicaid in Texas is $2,094, which works out to five dollars and change everyday. I’d say the biggest health threats to people in that income bracket are starvation and death from exposure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chupacabra Report

This story started out with an e-mail forward about a contractor who hired somebody in a sort of ‘affirmative action’ but in tough times laid off that same worker for poor performance. This was meant to draw an analogy to the President’s job performance.

Next came a flurry of replies from people offended by the racial angle, in defense of the sender (‘my cousin is not a racist,’) requests to be spared further such messages, and my favorite, a call for all to ‘cool down,’ sent with ‘love.’

After about three days of this, I decided to add my own reply to the mix..

Wow, this one’s still percolating. Maybe we can learn something from all this and take the opportunity to rise above our insularity and derangement. I have experienced such indelicacies from older folks who grew up in America under apartheid and often come to overlook sticky situations that truly misrepresent the qualities of character of those who speak them.

Yes, I know there are haters out there, and within us too, but most days I trust in the “better angels of our nature.” My favorite comment so far was the “calm down” sent with “love” from Ashley. Thank you Ms. Ashley.

I would suggest to all of us that we make more effort to get out of our bubbles, turn off the TV sometimes and take a break from the sensationalized ‘news’ coverage that is really only preaching to the choir. We know that this is really driven by big media trying to up their ratings. If it bleeds it leads; who needs it? Maybe take the time to read something a little out of our comfort zone. We may find ourselves less at odds if we understand each other a little better. I’ve always said that this country can’t fly on just one wing.


Charly Hoarse

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Obama Sticks It to A&M –oh, wait a minute..

By Eric Berger Houston Chronicle

“The Texas A&M University System has won an immense federal contract to become a national hub of vaccine production and bioterror preparedness.

“The federal contract to create a Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing in College Station is likely worth at least $1.5 to $2 billion over the next 25 years.

“"It's the biggest federal grant to come to Texas since NASA, quite frankly," Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said.

“Politically it comes during an election year, from a Democratic administration, to the alma mater of Gov. Rick Perry, who has made much political hay by pillorying President Barack Obama.

“"They played it right straight down the middle and gave it to the people who were best qualified, even if it's from a state and university that's not considered very Democratic," Sharp said.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat..

CSPAN has been running Jamie Dimon’s appearance before the Senate Banking Committee, where he’s been asked to explain their recent $2 billion trading loss. I heard reporters on Marketplace saying that the Committee has gone easy on him. He’s popular on The Hill and at the White House.

As one cartoonist explained, Morgan had credit default insurance on these trades, but since the loss was covered, there was no loss to cover and they were out $2 billion. Who figured?

Dimon, like most on Wall Street opposed strict regulation of derivatives trading by FDIC insured banks, rules that might have prevented trading such as the $2 billion hickey J.P. they took this year. Marketplace later noted that sixteen of twenty-two Committee members have received campaign contributions from J.P. Morgan Chase.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Promises to “repeal Obamacare” have been big applause lines at GOP gatherings this year, but I wonder if the folks applauding are ‘being careful what you wish for.’

An AP story today quotes health policy experts on the ripple effects expected if the Supreme Court decides to overturn the Affordable Healthcare Act this month.

“"At the end of the day, I don't think any of the major players in the health insurance industry or the provider community really wants to see the whole thing overturned," said Christine Ferguson, a health policy expert who was commissioner of public health in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor.”

“Better Medicare prescription benefits, currently saving hundreds of dollars for older people with high drug costs, would be suspended. Ditto for preventive care with no co-payments, now available to retirees and working families alike.

“Partially overturning the law could leave hospitals, insurers and other service providers on the hook for tax increases and spending cuts without the law's promise of more paying customers to offset losses.

“The coverage for young adults up to age 26 on a parent's health insurance is a popular provision that no one's arguing about. A report last week from the Commonwealth Fund estimated that 6.6 million young adults have taken advantage of the benefit.

“Because the benefit is a winner with consumers, experts say many employers and insurers would look for ways to keep offering it even if there's no legal requirement to do so. On Monday, UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation's largest insurer, is announcing that it will continue to offer coverage to young adults even if the health care law is struck down.

“But economist Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute says many parents would pay higher taxes as a result because they would have to pay for the young adult's coverage with after-tax dollars. Under the health care law, that coverage now comes out of pre-tax dollars.”

-Two points not mentioned in the article are that the law now prohibits insurance company exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and requires insurers to spend at least 85% of premiums on actual healthcare.  These are big changes that would go away if the Court overturns the law or if we were to elect a Congress  and Executive pledged to “repeal Obamacare.”

One Perfect Shot

I was surprised to see a new title from Steven Havill on the mystery shelf of the new arrivals section last week. I’ve enjoyed his Posadas County Mystery Series for years, but  he lets his characters age with time and his Undersheriff Bill Gastner retired several titles ago, taking part time work as a county hide inspector and seeing his protégé Estelle Reyes take over as Sheriff.

 I may have missed a recent release or two and figured that Gastner had finally succumbed to high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis brought on by his penchant for green chili burritos. Fooled me. This latest one is a prequel, from twenty-some years ago, and Gastner is just showing the ropes to the newly-recruited Estelle Reyes. What fun, like finding one I’d missed the first time around. Havill’s novels are pretty straight police procedurals set in New Mexico’s border country. His Undersheriff Gastner takes up the latest mystery to disturb the sleepy desert hamlet, usually something that crossed the border or rolled off the interstate, and taps the colorful local characters as he gets to the bottom of it all.

 Gastner is at bottom a sweet and decent guy; a no-nonsense, law and order type but a solid pragmatist, who knows where it is that he lives and wisely lets many things pass without being duped. Evil may rear it’s head here, but the locals are basically good people who may occasionally do sad and dumb-ass things.

The novels aren’t sexy, and they omit the gratuitous violence that seeps from many of the more hard-boiled series. Gastner is no action hero; his super power is the insomnia that sends him prowling in his LTD, coffee-fueled, along the empty roads beneath the desert stars where he does his best thinking. He has no dangerous sidekick that is a staple of many mysteries, though the local lawmen are able to take care of what rough trade comes their way.

Havill tells plausible stories with credible characters in a beautiful landscape. What’s not to like? His books aren’t roller coasters of suspense, they’re murder mysteries that are simply interesting without creeping you out or making you nauseous. Havill is an author that I have no problem recommending to my mother-in-law, unlike a lot of the grisly stuff I read.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Chupacabra Report

Some thoughts about the May 29th Texas primary election. Can’t feel too bad about being a week late with this after the election itself was delayed ninety days while the state disputed the court’s rejection of the latest GOP gerrymander. Funny, might Rick Perry’s campaign have turned out differently with a big Texas win back in March? Maybe we should be thanking the legislature and Attorney General Greg Abbott.

I would say that the biggest disappointment was in the turnout. Only some five hundred thousand Democrats voted the primary, demonstrating why they haven’t won a statewide race in eighteen years. This paltry 4% turnout allowed Kesha Rogers, a member of the Lyndon LaRouche cult to win the nomination for the 22nd Congressional District for the second time in a row, and perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver, who admits that he only runs to drum up business for his law practice, to beat a respected young Assistant D.A. running for the Harris County District Attorney. This last is a pity as voters in the GOP primary turned out the present D.A, Pat Lykos, who though prickley, showed herself willing to reform the abuses of her ethically challenged predecessor and turn from the ‘hang-em-high’ scalp-hunting mindset that has been a costly embarrassment to Harris County and the State of Texas. Harris County voters have been deprived of a November choice between being tough on crime and being smart on crime.

Of course that doesn’t mean that they would make a smart choice. With one hundred and fifty or two hundred contests on the ballot, nobody can be informed on every race, leading to odious straight-ticket voting or folks voting slate cards somebody pushed on them. Texans could probably elect the Unabomber and still not stop voting in races they know nothing about. I love to leave blanks on my ballot. I hope some candidates are insulted by the ‘undervote’ in their tallies.

Here’s a letter the Chronicle ran last week:

“Regarding "Primary picks" (Page B13, Sunday), for years I have taken your recommendation list to the voting booth with me. There are a few races that I understand well enough to make my own judgements - president, governor, U.S. Senate. But Railroad Commissioner? Criminal Court Judge? County Attorney?

“I want to help elect good candidates, but how can I know a lot about all the candidates for all these offices?

“Clearly, there are too many elective offices in Texas, but that's another issue. I just appreciate your staff giving me the benefit of their knowledge.” - Dan Fox, Houston

-Well, I look over the Chronicle endorsements too, before I vote, but I remember that the Chronicle is a Hearst newspaper, the guy who brought us the Spanish-American War. That paper endorsed the GOP candidate at the top of the ticket eleven times in a row between Lyndon Johnson and Barach Obama. The Editors that make the endorsements do have the advantage of getting to meet and speak to all the candidates, but, I’m not always ready to take their word for it. And they only endorse candidates in a fraction of the races. This time some of them didn’t even get published until the week-end before election day, after more than half of the votes were already cast in early voting.

Darn, is that my gripe? ‘People vote stupid, and not enough of them vote at all.’ That’s like “this food is awful, and such small portions!” –No, I’ll go with ‘better turnout should bring better candidates and better results.’ I hope so..