Zippidy Doo Da

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat:

In an editorial titled “Gravy train: Reject salary supplements” the Chronicle calls for an end to private foundations boosting the salaries of public officials. They cite the CPRIT Foundation, which supplements salaries at the state-funded Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, and TexasOne which funds Rick Perry’s corporate recruiting trips. Donors to both orgs seem to be rewarded for their philanthropy with grant money or tax breaks. If these are such worthy programs we ought to fully fund them instead of falling back on private slush funds. This should be a no-brainer when you consider that government corruption is generally bought at a rate of around ten cents on the dollar.
The city section of today’s Chronicle had a bit of holiday glurge about the County courts being set-up to make it easy for folks called for jury duty to donate their jury pay to several charities that work to aid the justice community, such as CPS, Crime Stoppers and the Victims of Crime Fund. I’m grateful to these outfits for the good work that they do, but would like to take the opportunity to suggest that $6 for showing up or $28 a day for serving on a jury is hardly adequate compensation for people to take off work to travel downtown just to observe the local clusterfug. Maybe the charities would get more contributions from better-paid jurors.
At least now the courts draw from a bigger pool than just the voter lists; it used to exasperate me to hear that people didn’t register to vote because they didn’t want to be called for jury duty. This reminds me that Texas state legislators are still paid $7,200 a year. Remember ‘you get what you pay for?’

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat:

Sick as I am of hearing about the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I’m still thinking about what our response should be, and have been listening for ideas that might bring more light than heat.

I won’t put up a bunch of graphs or statistics here, there’s plenty available though; I like some of the reporting Mother Jones has done on the subject, and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is a good source. On the other hand, the National Rifle Association has one of the slickest websites I’ve seen anywhere. The problem is that the two sides seem to operate off two different fact sets, and then, there’s the problem that people get emotionally invested in causes and become immune to facts altogether.  

 As a radical centrist, I’m looking for common ground. I think I heard some tonight from the Harvard School of Public Health’s David Hemenway on Public Radio International’s “The World.”

Hemenway says our kids are not more violent, aggressive or depressed than other kids around the world but with so many guns in their environment they are many times more likely to be victim of murder, suicide or accidental shooting.  When people hear about gun control they think that somebody’s going to take their guns away but when you ask about specific policies such as universal background checks or one gun a month rules, to keep guns from high gun states from going to low gun states, that most gun owners, even most NRA members, are in favor of such policies. So it’s not a matter of people’s preferences but rather it’s our political system, it has to do with the single-issue lobbies.

The NRA spent over twenty million dollars on campaign contributions, lobbying and outside spending in the last election cycle. The Brady Campaign spent $65,800.

Lobbying, campaign finance and concentration of media ownership; the three-headed monster:  after a tragedy such as this, we of course look for ways to do better, if not for solutions. But as we debate the issue, these forces combine to do what they’re designed to do, and we end up with the usual product from the sausage factory. The NRA public relations machine might be lying low this week, but their fundraising operation is probably going into overdrive, and gun sales will probably hit another peak as the year runs out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Amedeo Modigliani, Girl with Blue Eyes, 1918. Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 ¼ in. Collection of the McNay Art Museum

Paul Gauguin Self-Portrait 1893 Another treasure from the McNay collection. Maybe he really did look like Anthony Quinn.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Chupacabra Report

-I heard Forbes’ Joel Kotkin on NPR tonight talking to Robert Siegel about two-percenters who favor tax hikes for households earning over $250,000. Seems that most of those who would be affected live in areas of the country that tend to vote Democratic. Kotkin’s article is titled “Blue State Suicide Pact.”

“I think they're basically saying, in order to carry out, you know, the sort of agenda of saying taxing the rich, we're going to actually tax people who are actually in many cases are not very rich. You know, a family of four with an income of 250 living in Brooklyn, New York, is probably not what you would consider rich. You very high rent. You have high taxes. You have high utility bills. It just gets to be very, very expensive but they are being tagged as the rich.

“And I think we're going to see, I think, some of the representatives from the Democratic Party beginning to say, well, maybe the level should be a little bit higher because I've got an awful lot of constituents who will be hit pretty hard by this.

“You know, is there some tipping point where some of these people who may be very well intentioned and essentially liberal certainly on social issues, where they will say, you know what, I don't want to pay 50 percent of my income. This is, by the way, the most recent analysis I've seen is we are now, in the state of California, between state and the federal, approaching a 50 percent tax rate over 250,000.”

This is a complete turnaround from the way Reagan Democrats used to vote against their own interests. Just goes to show that there are no easy answers. Kotkin speaks of uncertainty among small business owners. Good one: these aren’t some Wall Street chiselers or trust fund babies paying the capital gains rate, the IRS is liable to look at their whole cash flow as taxable income. For all the happy talk about ‘Main Street,’ there hasn’t been much help for these ‘little guys.’ What we’re more liable to hear are proposals for tax holidays to repatriate offshore profits, or calls to abolish the inheritance tax. Our best hope, I think is to bend the curves and work for something more sustainable, and not be trying to squeeze all the air into one side of the balloon. That’s just more phony cost-shifting like has been going on forever in the healthcare economy.

While we’re having compassion for struggling people in the tony zipcodes, let’s remember that half the folks in this country are trying to get by on ten or twenty percent of that income. And that we spend twice as much on corporate welfare than we do helping poor Americans. Again, the key word is sustainable. We’re never going to have the world by the balls again like we did at the end of the Second World War, when we had a muscular infrastructure and industrial base competing with a world of rubble. But we are still blessed with resources, ingenuity and productivity that are the envy of the world. May we find a path to a prosperity available to all, not just the endowed and the predacious, and a security that does not depend on spending two billion dollars a day meddling around the globe.

-Maureen Dowd’s latest column as much as laughs at the Romney campaign’s recent announcement that they raised $85 million in the last weeks of the race, “making its fundraising effort the most successful in Republican Party history.”

“The Mayans were right, as it turns out, when they predicted the world would end in 2012. It was just a select world: the GOP universe of arrogant, uptight, entitled, bossy, retrogressive white guys.

“Outside the Republican walled kingdom of denial and delusion, everyone else could see that the once clever and ruthless party was behaving in an obtuse and outmoded way that spelled doom.

“The GOP put up a candidate that no one liked or understood and ran a campaign that no one liked or understood -- a campaign animated by the idea that indolent, grasping serfs must be kept down, even if it meant creating barriers to letting them vote.

“Who would ever have thought blacks would get out and support the first black president? Who would ever have thought women would shy away from the party of transvaginal probes? Who would ever have thought gays would work against a party that treated them as immoral and subhuman? Who would have ever thought young people would desert a party that ignored science and hectored on social issues? Who would ever have thought Latinos would scorn a party that expected them to finish up their chores and self-deport?”

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Pablo Picasso, Crouching Woman, 1958. Oil on canvas, 50 ¾ x 38 in. Collection of the McNay Art Museum

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Chupacabra Report

Public Support for Panetta-Burns Deficit Reduction Plan

This from a survey released today from Public Policy Polling:

“-As much of an obsession as Bowles/Simpson can be for the DC pundit class, most Americans don't have an opinion about it. 23% support it, 16% oppose it, and 60% say they don't have a take one way or the other.

“The 39% of Americans with an opinion about Bowles/Simpson is only slightly higher than the 25% with one about Panetta/Burns, a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo we conceived of to test how many people would say they had an opinion even about something that doesn't exist.

“Bowles/Simpson does have bipartisan support from the small swath of Americans with an opinion about it. Republicans support it 26/18, Democrats favor it 21/14, and independents are for it by a 24/18 margin. Panetta/Burns doesn't fare as well with 8% support and 17% opposition.”

I don’t know about you, but I going to write my congressman and tell him that I want him to get behind this proposal which may, as some wags have suggested:

-Taxes the debt.

-Balances the budget by taxing Canada.

-Increases spending to 33% of GDP in order to purchase every American a unicorn.