Zippidy Doo Da

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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat

Democracy Coming to the USA?

I just came back from the local library branch, returned “Three Cups of Tea,” the second season of “The Wire,” and picked up the latest George Pelacanos novel. Our branch has been an early voting location, the lines this week have been longer than I’ve ever seen them. Today, the last day of early voting, they’ve been even longer, wrapping up and down the entire front of the building and around again back to the front entrance. These folks must be waiting hours to vote.

Something new this year. Early voting is usually a GOP thing, with the God, Guns, and Gays crowd clutching the slate cards they got at church. This time, 42% were Democratic primary voters, and only 20% voted the Republican primary.

Might be that even Texans are ready for some regime change.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

700 Billion Some

We’ve heard that number a lot, lately. I heard of an astronomer complaining about figures being called astronomical, saying that the universe isn’t that big, and that henceforth we should refer to impossible numbers as being “financial.”

But the number 700,000,000,000 is coming up all over these days.

It’s the number of dollars that Boone Pickens says we put in the pocket of tyrants and dictators every year to finance our oil habit.

It’s the amount of our annual trade deficit.

Congress has appropriated $700 billion so far for the Iraq war.

And, of course, it’s the original number requested in Henry Paulson’s bailout plan. I hear that the number doesn’t add up to anything in particular, but that they chose it because it sounded impressive. For this and three pages they worked six months?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Not sold on Cornyn's white hat?

I can't believe that the Chronicle endorsed Rick Noriega for U.S. senator. That's two major endorsements you have recently made on behalf of Democrats. Haven't you seen Sen. John Cornyn's great ad, in which he overlooks some pretty Texas scenery while he's wearing a really cool white cowboy hat and the announcer says "a lifetime of conservative values"? Pointy-headed liberals may want a few more specifics regarding how he intends to govern, but that's enough for us conservatives. The Chronicle's clearly gone off the deep end. Next it'll tell us we have no business putting kids or adults with an IQ of a turnip on death row!



Friday, October 24, 2008

Straight Ticket?

A front page story in Thursday’s Chronicle tells that straight party ticket voting has been growing; from 47% of ballots cast in 1996, to 53% in 2000, and 64% in 2004.

Reporter Alan Bernstein suggests one reason is that our ballot is long, crowded with the many judicial races. Many states have systems to appoint judges and then retain them by an up or down vote. U of H political scientist Richard Murray says that only 10% of voters in judicial races cross party lines with knowledge of most of the contenders.

This election of judges is a hangover from reconstruction, along with the Texas constitution itself. Texas voters have approved 456 of the 632 amendments passed by the legislature since 1876. Only Alabama’s constitution, with 800-some amendments has more patches on it.

Anyways, only 17 states provide a spot on the ballot for straight ticket voting. I’ve always been appalled to think of people doing this, but of course regular readers may recall me advocating that prospective voters pass a civics exam before being allowed to vote.

There’s always a smattering of scoundrels on the ballot, and I take pride in sniffing them out and voting against them. Likewise, if I find a race that I know nothing about, I consider it thoughtful to abstain from voting that contest.

But this year is a little different. I’ve looked over the sample ballot and so far I don’t see anybody from the GOP enticing me to cross over. I find myself encouraging others to vote a straight ticket, a practice I’ve heretofore considered contemptible. Paradoxical? I don’t mind that. Sometimes the truth lies beyond logic. That’s why I’m charmed by Zen.

And payback’s a bitch. The GOP majorities of recent years have abused their power, sewing up the lobby and locking out the opposition, while they appoint foxes to run the henhouse. The wars, the economy, the justice system, education and the environment; the way things are, the Republicans have a lot to answer for, and so deserve a long stretch out in the wilderness. Let’s let ‘em have it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Few Words From Sen. Obama

You gotta be kidding me!

You take all the money for eight years or more; concentrate it in the hands a few; give away a trillion dollars to rich bankers, car makers, and airlines - and then call me a communist?

Your friends bomb the hell out of everybody, killing innocent women and children, killing 4000 soldiers; wounding 40,000; deny them benefits, medical care - fly nukes over the country, let Pakistan give away nuclear secrets; leave Osama Bin Laden alone; make every country hate out guts - make patty cake deals with North Korea, and beat the drum for even more senseless wars - and then you call me unpatriotic?

You own 13 homes, your wife spent 750,000 dollars in credit cards in one month. You own nine cars. You graduated from West Point as the spoiled man-child of famous warriors. You've never held a real job in your 72 years on earth, but that's not the topper:

Your ignorant, white trash, religiously-insane, 2nd place regional beauty queen you call an excuse for a vice presidential nominee spent $150,000 dollars in department stores since August,

and you guys call me an elitist?

I need a cigarette, a glass of scotch, a nice hit of chronic and a good long nap. Call me November 5th.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dear Congressman Lampson,

I realize that you are a Tory Democrat trying to hold on to a seat that Tom DeLay drew up for himself, but I would like to raise a bit of heresy here in the hope that you might take it up come January.

I’m sure that you’ve noticed that along with all the recent troubles, the price of a barrel of oil has fallen back to room temperature; bringing the price at the pump down below three dollars a gallon.

Doubtless this seems like good news to hard strapped drivers, but I want to suggest that we enact legislation to keep the price from falling further.

This fall in prices will result in the resumption of our outsized appetite for energy at a time when our climate is pressured by carbon fuel emissions and our economy is taxed by our unsustainable trade imbalance.

If we institute a carbon tax to keep a floor under gas prices, we can damp demand while we reduce pressure on the environment, furthermore, we could dedicate any revenues to subsidize efforts to reduce energy use, develop renewable energy sources, and build mass transit systems.

This may sound like a hard sell in difficult times, but we are going to be facing many difficulties in the days ahead. I would be proud to see my congressman out leading on these issues.


Charly Hoarse

Friday, October 17, 2008

Levi Stubbs, 1936-2008

Levi Stubbs, the talented baritone who sang lead vocals for The Four Tops, died today after a long illness. The Tops signed with Motown in 1963 and brought us Baby I Need Your Lovin, I Can’t Help Myself, It’s the Same Old Song, Reach Out I’ll Be There, Standing in the Shadows of Love, Bernadette, and Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got).

He was preceded in death by Tops Lawrence Payton and Obie Benson.

I trust that Clineice, his wife of forty-eight years, their five children, and surviving Tops Duke Fakir and Theo Peoples know what joy The Four Tops brought us these past decades.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat:

-Remember earlier this year when Countrywide Mortgage cratered and the news came out that Texas Governor Rick Perry had given them $20 million from his private slush fund –no, make that Texas Enterprise Fund, to create jobs in a deal that would actually pay the company millions even if they failed to create any jobs.

Well I missed one last month, in the news of Washington Mutual being seized by federal regulators and sold off to JP Morgan Chase for $1.9 billion. Turns out that Rick Perry gave them $15 million to create 4,200 jobs in Texas, 3,000 of these in a San Antonio call center.

This reminds me of Amy Pohler on Weekend Update running the logos of all the banks and insurance companies that have crashed lately and said that basically if you advertise on televised golf tournaments, you’re up a creek. Our Republican Governor Rick Perry sure knows how to pick ‘em, don’t he.

-The City of Houston has announced that they have collected 76,000 truckloads of storm debris. This effort has forced them to suspend the curbside recycling program. I say good riddance. This is an opportunity to dump this unsustainable program and go with a carrot and stick approach.

I say that we encourage citizens to use the 10 existing drop off locations by charging for trash pickup according to the amount of trash generated. Let’s educate the public to the mantra of “reduce, re-use and recycle” by making those that won’t get with the program pay a premium.

Likewise, let’s stop the issuing of plastic bags with every retail transaction by mandating a charge of five cents per bag. After the winds and floods, there are literally millions of these bags stuck in trees and fences all across South East Texas. Looks way ugly, not to mention the millions of barrels of imported oil used to manufacture them.

-I heard Professor Lance Compa from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations on Amnesty International’s Human Rights Show speaking about labor conditions in China. He said that the American Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying the Chinese government against new rules liberalizing workers rights there.

Whatever happened to the idea that we could be a good influence when doing business with totalitarian regimes?

To their credit, Nike and Alcoa Corporations have refused to go along with these efforts, though this is no doubt because their corporate citizenship has been questioned enough. Somebody ought to tell the Chamber of Commerce that just because union busting is the national sport in this country doesn’t mean we must export the practice.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Company They Keep

I've heard disturbing reports that a certain candidate for high office is guilty of close association with a notorious terrorist. Such relationships spit in the face of America and I am bound to call the patriotism of that candidate into question and ask, "why do they hate America?"

Yes, Sara Palin has been cozying up to the last century's greatest war criminal, Henry Kissinger. Yes, I know that was way back in the 60's when Hank was on his reign of international terror, and now he is a beloved Nixon-era elder statesman. Sure he, like William Aires, was never officially legally prosecuted for any crime due to technicalities. On the other hand, Prof. Aires (released on the legal rule of "The Fruit of the Poisoned Tree," since Nixon illegally spied on him to gather evidence) can safely fly to other countries without fear of arrest, unlike Mr. K.

There are a lot of people still mad at our old friend for nasty genocide, and worse. His crimes are manifold:

Christopher Hitchens' Trial of Henry Kissinger: A Review By Mike McGlothlin ...

Hitchens presents a rather straightforward argument that establishes two seemingly undeniable propositions: on at least one occasion, Henry K. conspired to commit murder, and that on numerous other occasions, Henry K. was the primary force behind certain acts that could quite plausibly be considered war crimes. The case for Henry K. as murder conspirator is what Hitchens calls a "lay-down" case, i.e., one that stands out for its clear facts and clear law. The murder victim is General Rene Schneider, who was the Commander in Chief of the Chilean Army, whom Hitchens misidentifies as the Chilean "Chief of Staff."; According to Hitchens (and the 09 September, 1970 minutes of the "40" Committee, the Kissinger chaired secret panel that oversaw U.S. covert operations), the Chilean military had a strong tradition of neutrality in political affairs, a rarity on the South American continent. General Schneider was known as an officer committed to upholding the Chilean constitution and therefore opposed to the rumored incipient coup against newly elected Socialist President Salvador Allende by a right wing would-be junta of current and former Chilean military officers. Using U.S. Government communications cables from the CIA and documents from the State Department, and White House, Hitchens relates the facts of Kissinger's direct involvement in the direction, planning, financing, and general support by the organs of the U.S. Government in the plot to remove General Schneider.

LA Weekly: WLS Review: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Kissinger

How You Can Do What the Government Won't: Arrest Henry Kissinger - Manhattan's Milosevic, The Village Voice, Week of August 15 - 21, 2001

... bring Henry Kissinger to justice for crimes against humanity. Consider, though, what happened to the last people to talk even jokingly about plans for a citizen's arrest of the real-life model for Dr. Strangelove. ... An indictment of Henry Kissinger for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes would include (but not be confined to) the following. ...

Henry Kissinger: War Criminal or Old-Fashioned Murderer? - Welcome to the "Henry Kissinger: Unindicted Terrorist" file! ...

Incredibly, Henry Kissinger—the man who rivals Pol Pot for the dubious honor of being the person responsible for the death of the largest number of innocent people in South East Asia (and far surpasses Pol Pot in criminality when one factors in Kissinger's various levels of responsibility for wholesale slaughter and repression in other parts of the world)—still wields significant power in the United States; but his role as eager facilitator of mass murder, totalitarian repression and other atrocities is never discussed in polite society.

Masterminded the murder of as estimated 600,000 peasants in Cambodia (the "Secret bombing")

Pol Pot And Kissinger On war criminality and impunity by Edward S. Herman

President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger gave the go ahead to Suharto's invasion of East Timor and subsequent massive war crimes there, and the same Kissinger, who helped President Nixon engineer and then protect the Pinochet coup and regime of torture and murder, and directed the first phase of the holocaust in Cambodia (1969-75) ...

The time was September 11, 1973. The country was Chile. The event was the bloody overthrow of a democratic government. And the criminals were Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, The CIA, and Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet. Pepsico, ITT, and other large U.S. corporations were also guilty parties in these crimes against the State and against The People of Chile. The Pornography of Power

TOBY HARNDEN, TELEGRAPH, LONDON: Washington reacted furiously to a request by Chilean judges for Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, to answer questions about an American journalist killed during the 1973 coup in Chile. A Bush administration official condemned the Chilean supreme court decision to send questions to Dr Kissinger, saying the move increased unease about the proposed International Criminal Court in The Hague. The administration source said: "It is unjust and ridiculous that a distinguished servant of this country should be harassed by foreign courts in this way. The danger of the ICC is that, one day, US citizens might face arrest abroad and prosecution as a result of such politically motivated antics."

I don't have enough time and space to even delve into all the Vietnamese babies McCain might have napalmed. Or the international war crimes of George W. Bush, John's BFF. History will sort this stuff. Unfortunately, that's all we can rely on to eventually see any kind of justice. But let's resolve to skeptical when someone calls someone else a traitor.

Healthcare a Sleeper Issue?

In the VP debate Palin raved about McCain’s healthcare plan, which Biden quickly labeled “a real bridge to nowhere,” leaving me to wonder how familiar people were with McCain’s Republican “market-based” solution to the cynical boondoggle that is our healthcare delivery system.

I think that it is safe to say that no American family has been untouched by this unjust and irrational system that at three trillion dollars a year, costs us more per capita than any developed country on earth, while leaving nearly fifty million citizens without coverage. These uninsured people, most from working families, find medical care unavailable or unaffordable, resulting in less than positive outcomes, such as death and bankruptcy.

It seems obvious that the 30% the insurance industry spends on administration (that is, denying claims,) should be able to buy universal coverage. The Medicare system administrative costs run 3%. I favor a single-payer plan such as that offered by Dennis Kucinich, which stops just short of the death penalty for PHARMA and the HMOs. More attainable was John Edwards’ hybrid plan, which while preserving private insurance, would over time attract a migration of consumers to a single payer plan. These candidates didn’t survive the nomination process. Senator Obama has, as a centrist candidate, offered a less ambitious plan with the laudable goal of universal coverage for children. If we elect him and equip him with the coattails to bring along working majorities in the Congress, we might see a more comprehensive solution.

But McCain calls for a $2,500 individual or $5,000 family tax credit with which to buy private health insurance. At the same time, he would strip away the business tax deduction that employers get in exchange for providing health insurance to their employees. In Paul Krugman’s column this week, he cites nonpartisan studies that estimate that under McCain’s plan 20 million Americans would lose their employer provided health insurance, leaving them with their $5,000 credit to shop for a family policy that now averages over $12,000 a year.

Krugman wraps up his column with a quote from an article that McCain published just last month:

“Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

So there you have it folks. Who in their right mind would vote for that?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Chupacabra Report

News that gets my goat..

-If you read the op-ed pages you’ll recall that Kathleen Parker, songbird to The Eagle Forum, recently called for Sarah Palin to step down as McCain’s running mate. This week she detailed the thousands of “angry, vicious and threatening” responses she’s received from the rabid partisans that until now have been her bread and butter.

How do you like your right-wing nuts now, Mrs. Parker?

“Readers have every right to reject my opinion. But when we decide that a person is a traitor and should die for having an opinion different from one's own, we cross into territory that puts all freedoms at risk. (I hear you, Dixie Chicks.)”

-I’d been waiting for Rachael Maddow to get her own show, but of course now that she does, it runs opposite Jon Stewart and Jeopardy. Nuts. Anyways, I saw her the other night and she went to town on Sarah Palin’s debate performance. She found that:

The Reagan quote Palin used came from 1961 when he was shilling for the AMA against the original Medicare bill before Congress.

The line about how “we grow good people in our small towns” came from Westbrook Pegler, a pro-nazi writer from the 30’s so extreme he was bounced from the John Birch Society.

Palin wrongly claimed that we have fewer troops in Iraq now than before the surge.

And she confused General David McKiernan, the US commander in Afghanistan, with John McClellan, the Union General whose ineptitude prolonged the Civil War.

Caribou Barbie aside, the fact that 70 million people tuned in to this event makes me think that we may be in for something special November fourth.

-And finally, Pat Robertson has predicted that Israel will strike Iranian nuclear facilities between Election Day and Inauguration Day, triggering Russian nuclear strikes against US coastal cities. He has issued an urgent call to prayer that God might prevent this, as He has prevented all the other wars, terror attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes that Crazy Pat has predicted.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hit The Road, Punks!

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

John Kenneth Galbraith

Although I haven't come right out and said it here, I've tried to make it plain that I don't support the bail out. And unlike the proud members of congress, the "10% Gang" who profess they are voting no for deeply philosophical reasons that claws at their consciences, my objections are purely visceral and almost Bolshevick in countenance. But since our leaders are urging citizens like me to support this piece of shit for the purely patriotic notion that it is for the very welfare of the nation I love, I've decided to be more thoughtful about rejecting a bail out. I listened to Obama's speech today from LaCross, which I found very moving and powerful; I doubt he could be stopped in the election right now. However, the likelihood that Barry will be the next president just serves to reinforce my feeling that the current lame-duck, National-Socialists remnants of the GOP should have absolutely no in-put or control over this deal. They've done enough stealing for a million political life-times. This could wait a couple of months, and then a Democratic House, Senate (purged of vichy swine like Joe Leiberman) and Executive could carve out a bill that better serves the interest of working people.

Besides, professor Krugeman distills, as usual the principle of the matter in his blog today:

No deal

I hate to say this, but looking at the plan as leaked, I have to say no deal. Not unless Treasury explains, very clearly, why this is supposed to work, other than through having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets.

As I posted earlier today, it seems all too likely that a "fair price" for mortgage-related assets will still leave much of the financial sector in trouble. And there's nothing at all in the draft that says what happens next; although I do notice that there's nothing in the plan requiring Treasury to pay a fair market price. So is the plan to pay premium prices to the most troubled institutions? Or is the hope that restoring liquidity will magically make the problem go away?

Here's the thing: historically, financial system rescues have involved seizing the troubled institutions and guaranteeing their debts; only after that did the government try to repackage and sell their assets. The feds took over S&Ls first, protecting their depositors, then transferred their bad assets to the RTC. The Swedes took over troubled banks, again protecting their depositors, before transferring their assets to their equivalent institutions.

The Treasury plan, by contrast, looks like an attempt to restore confidence in the financial system — that is, convince creditors of troubled institutions that everything's OK — simply by buying assets off these institutions. This will only work if the prices Treasury pays are much higher than current market prices; that, in turn, can only be true either if this is mainly a liquidity problem — which seems doubtful — or if Treasury is going to be paying a huge premium, in effect throwing taxpayers' money at the financial world.

And there's no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving.

I hope I'm wrong about this. But let me say it again: Treasury needs to explain why this is supposed to work — not try to panic Congress into giving it a blank check. Otherwise, no deal.

The idea that Republicans even matter, much less should have the power to force a compromise that includes roll-backs on capital gains, or further slashes taxes on the wealthy few makes me want to vomit. As much of a disgrace as Harry Reed has turned out to be for putting the rules and comity (i.e. fellating the GOP) of the Senate before the interests of the country at-large, I would prefer new leaders take a look at this in January. Otherwise, we are submitting to national blackmail all over again. Battered America, we will have a restraining order soon, let's wait for our abuser to move out before making a community property settlement.