Zippidy Doo Da

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

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I motored out to Aggieland yesterday under partly sunny skies; much better-than-expected weather. The bright day softened the culture shock for me until I stopped to browse in an army surplus store and found where all those stars and bars bumper stickers come from. If you’ve ever thought about ‘white flight’ and wondered where they all fled to, this might be the place. I stopped to visit Dickie Flatt but he wasn’t home, at least I didn’t see him around. Maybe he took me for a revenooer, come to ask him about that Swiss tax shelter Phil Gramm sold him.

On the way home, I pulled off the highway to look at an historical marker, and it was a doozy. Here’s the text..

Primus Kelly
A faithful Negro slave. Came to nearby Courtney, Grimes County in 1851 with his master, John W. S. West from North Carolina. West was a prominent and wealthy pioneer planter and landowner. At the outbreak of the Civil War, West sent Kelly to take care of his three sons-- Robert M., Richard and John Haywood-- who joined the famous Terry's Texas Rangers, where they served with distinction. Kelly was not content to wait on his charges but joined them in battle, firing his own musket and cap and ball pistol. Twice Kelly brought to Texas the wounded Richard, twice took him to the front again. After war, bought a small farm near Marse Robert, raised a large family and prospered. Died in 1890s. The courage and loyalty of Kelly was typical of most Texas Negro slaves. Hundreds went to war with their masters. Many operated the farms and ranches of soldiers away at war, producing food, livestock, cotton and clothing for the Confederacy. Others, did outside work to support their master's families. They protected homes from Indians, bandits and deserters and did community guard and patrol duty. At war's end, most slaves, like Primus Kelly, became useful and productive citizens of Texas.

-This marker is a piece of history in and of itself: I can’t imagine such a thing today anywhere north of Paraguay. The real ending of the last line is implied, something like “useful and productive citizens of Texas, not like that troublemaker Martin Luther King.”

I found another sidetrack on the way home, stopping at Cut Rate, the world’s largest tackle shop. I got to talking to one of the sales crew, a retired gent who once fished with Bob Brister, granddaddy of the Houston Chronicle Outdoors staff. I heard some stories and tried to mine him for fishing tips. He pointed out the window at a formation of fighter planes flying low over the south beltway, and then moved on to help another customer. I finished up my window shopping and headed home.

Driving down the Gulf Freeway, I saw a mess of brakelights ahead of me and exited on Scarsdale to Old Galveston Road to avoid the slowdown. This took me past Ellington Field, where The Blue Angels, the U S Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron were preparing for the Wings Over Houston Air Show. I pulled off the road and watched for a half an hour. Those six planes were everywhere, appearing and disappearing, converging and diverging at supersonic speed, rattling windows throughout Clear Lake.

An awesome show. A reminder of why the U S economy of today is unsustainable, but also of what George Orwell was talking about when he said “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Plug I

I'm going to spend this weekend catching up on music reviews I am behind on which includes interesting bios and background stories from a handful of artists that I really enjoyed listening to.

It's funny after all the windmill tilting ZDD has done it's funny to recall that this place was originally built (ha!) as a band site for the Driftwood Artists Collective. They've been through major changes together; forging a new business model for the future and producing music to be proud of. Right now, things are in a kind of crisis stage that I hope ends soon with everyone in sympatico and fully syncronized.

Judge Hoarse is very good at distracting us from the fact that he is an extremely talented artist in many disciplines. Nails, Hank Floyd, and Dos Pachangas keep creating in spite of this mean old world. Frank N. Stein has hit his mind-blowing peak as a player. My mission to improve the lives of vulnerable young women everywhere continues, even with my ankle bracelet. And then there's our favorite, Lucy Hill.

Lucy Hill has an engagement at the historical Olmos Bharmacy on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 8:00 p.m. No cover is required. I'll be there, probably with lots of left over, slightly used Pixie Sticks and shiny apples to pass out. Her rhythm section will be the notoriously bad-ass Loaded. No cover. Check out their site on the right.

Please try to make it. Share the love.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chupacabra Report

The lead editorial in today’s Chronicle applauded the fact that Harris County has agreed to stop denying the vote to tens of thousands of eligible citizens. County officials of course deny any wrongdoing, but promise heretofore to process voter registration applications in accordance with state law, and to notify applicants in a timely matter if and why their application was rejected so that they can amend their application and re-apply.

The County further agreed that employees of the tax office, such as the voter registrar, will no longer be allowed to moonlight as partisan political consultants, as happened under re-elected-then-resigned Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, who worked to bring about this settlement, praised it as ensuring that “everybody who fills out a valid registration application will be certified to vote.”

This settlement has been OK’d by the county commissioners, and now must be approved by the US Justice Dept.

Interestingly, the GOP lost ground in last year’s elections, despite their disqualifying more than 60,000 likely Democratic voters.
Let’s hope these thieving trogs really get their asses handed to them next year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Break Out Your Brickbats

Just gimme some old time populist politics.

The state of the economy has finally caused folks to express some populist outrage. Thousands marched against the big banks in Chicago over the past couple of days, and Senate leaders are assuring a public option with a wink. Someone's been calling the switchboard.

A disturbing aspect of this is that Ron Paul Revolutionaries, Glen Beck 912-ers, and people of that ilk are in common-cause with a lot of people on the left especially with regard to monetary policy. Alex Jones calls this, "breaking the left/right paradigm." The difference is that the neo-libertarians on the right have a more, "what freedom is in it for me"-kind of attitude, whereas the left believes in political and economic justice.

However, there has not been a flamboyant fire-brand like Alan Grayson in the public eye since maybe Adam Clayton Powell, but certainly since the Kingfish. He keeps getting under the skin of conservatives by not being a weak blind salamander. I have taken huge portions of the following AP story from Huffpo because I thought the uninitiated should have a taste of what somebody who believes he's right (and probably is) looks like when they stand up to power:

WASHINGTON — The Florida Democrat who said Republicans want sick people to "die quickly" is again facing criticism for his rhetoric – this time for calling a senior Federal Reserve adviser a "K Street whore" in a radio interview.

Rep. Alan Grayson hurled the insult at Linda Robertson last month on the Alex Jones Show, a syndicated talk radio program, while discussing the Fed's resistance to stronger congressional oversight. Robertson is a former Enron lobbyist and Clinton administration adviser who was hired by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke this summer to help with congressional relations.

Grayson took exception to Robertson's role, saying she has criticized congressional efforts to increase oversight.

"Here I am the only member of Congress who actually worked as an economist, and this lobbyist, this K Street whore, is trying to teach me about economics," he said.

Grayson never identified Robertson by name, saying he couldn't remember her name, but he made clear whom he was referring to from her background and job.

His spokesman, Todd Jurkowski, defended the insult Tuesday.

"She had the audacity to attack a congressman who used to be an economist," he said. "She's a career lobbyist who used to work for Enron and advocates for whatever she gets paid to promote."

Grayson, a liberal firebrand, drew strong criticism last month for saying that Republicans were ignoring sick people who die without health insurance, and that the GOP's health care plan amounted to wanting people to "die quickly" when they get sick.

He stood by the comments, leveraging the attention to do a series of national television appearances in which he ridiculed Republicans as "knuckle-dragging Neanderthals." He boasted that the attention has helped fill his campaign coffers.

Grayson did apologize for later likening the deaths of Americans without health coverage to a "holocaust." He then set up a Web site called "Names of the Dead," inviting people to list the names of loved ones who have died for lack of health care.

Andy Sere, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, called Grayson "a vile and vulgar man."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Crooks and Liars has a post today about N.Y. Dem. Rep Anthony Weiner calling out 55 GOP Members of Congress who oppose federally funded single-payer healthcare even though they receive it themselves through Medicare. .
"Weiner: And why not have that type of a system that has lower overhead, lower costs and you don’t have to deal with the 30% of profits and overhead that insurance companies take. So we compiled this list largely to point a bright light on some of the hypocrisy of this debate, but also I hope it gets people thinking—if Medicare is good enough for 151 members of Congress, why shouldn’t a program like it be created for those who want to go out and buy insurance?
You have members of Congress thumping their chest how they’re against government health care, against government control of health care, socialized medicine and yet when it’s time for them to accept Medicare, they’re like, ‘Sign me up!’"

-You can add to that list former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who has Medicare coverage, but is suing the US government to get his gold-plated congressional coverage back. Armey is now pulling in $500,000 a year as head of the corporately-funded Astroturf lobby “FreedomWorks” that organized tea baggers to Mau-Mau members of congress at their hometown town hall meetings on healthcare this summer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thanks, BartCop

Why are we still in Afghanistan? by Gene Lyons
Excerpt One of the enduring oddities of the American foreign policy debate is that asking the most obvious questions is all but forbidden. For example, how does Afghanistan pose a threat to the United States?
Certainly not in any military sense. The impoverished, largely illiterate Afghans have no army, no air force, no navy, no offensive military capacity whatsoever.
From the U.S. perspective, Afghanistan is the absolute end of the earth. Indeed, it's not a nation at all. The idea that well-intentioned Westerners can create an efficient central government on, say, the Swiss model, where none has ever existed, much less one acceptable to Afghanistan's many warring tribes, sects and ethnic factions, is almost certainly a delusion.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nobody Sleeps for Free

I have mixed feelings about the Salvation Army. Any criticisms I have appear unseemly; like labeling Mother Teresa a gang mol such as the likes of Christopher Hitchens are content to do. The "Army's" basic service infrastructure, and the fact that they are committed to an evangelistic mission, certainly leave the public with an impression that they are doing good with the homeless people who are their client base. However, they have established practices that bother me, namely:

1. After three nights, Salvation Army charges homeless men a fee of at least $10.00, but in some cases more. No one is exempt, no exceptions are made, although they will extend the time for no fee if a homeless person has verifiable income and is between checks. This practice was verified by the director of one for their local men's shelters.

2. In some cases, the homeless are required to turn over their food stamp supplement card over to the shelter for reasons they cannot explain.

3. The homeless are required to work in the thrift center operations and provide labor for free. After a number of weeks, they are paid seven dollars a week. This is in the adult rehab program, who are charged 80 dollars a week. This practice is also acknowledged by the Army.

4. It is alleged by a number of homeless people to me that the Army requires men to assign their SSA benefits to the shelter and are provided only $20.00 from their benefits. This was emphatically denied and then acknowledged as standard in their "SSI Unit."

Last time I looked, the Salvation Army was the third highest charity recipient of individual donations amounting to $800,000,000.00. Plus they receive federal and state/local grants, plus proceeds from their thrift shops, plus extortion money from homeless guys as deliniated above. There are other shelters where I live. Two that I know of don't have this practice of shaking down homeless people for $300.00 a month in rent. In fact, the Safe Haven program doesn't even turn away people who have been drinking, which I strongly endorse as more compassionate. Salvation Army requires breathalizer tests performed nightly.

The SAMM shelter provides the following statement on their website:

"SAMMinistries has a 330 bed capacity in its downtown Commerce Street shelter. Every guest is offered meals generously prepared and served by our collaborative partner, St. Vincent de Paul Society. We also offer access to social services, medical care, mental health care, opportunities for spiritual nurturing and growth, legal assistance, support groups for substance abusers, life skills training, and nurturing parent training, available to all guests. All these services are provided at no expense to our guests with the intent of helping them to obtain employment and then moving them into longer term transitional living or affordable permanent housing."

For some reason, Salvation Army does not provide many of the services that SAMM and other homeless programs offer. They do have a transitional program that offers small apartments in two units run by the Army under a HUD grant - they collect the rent.

The shelter is a mean place I am told. Everyone is thrown out during the day where they get hassled by the police, are victims of crime, and right next door is a park where drugs can be readily purchased.

I'm not sure what they are trying to accomplish. Perhaps "tough love"? Whatever it is sounds lucrative. And they way things are nowadays, they're going to have a lot more customers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chupacabra Report

Early voting started Monday for the November Third Election. Houston has three or four viable candidates competing to be the next mayor, and so; our ballots will decide the fate of eleven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, because our turnout will be less dismal than that of the rest of the state.

As usual, I will be voting against most of these amendments on the principle that having to amend the constitution every time we need something done is no way to run a railroad. The Texas Constitution of 1876 has already been amended 456 times, with another 176 amendments passed by the legislature but then killed by the voters. At least we don’t have a crazy iniative and referendum process to allow citizens to put half baked ideas before the voters, or worse, to let moneyed special interests hoodwink the TV-watching public into passing on their pet projects. This is what has recently put the state of California into the ditch.

The Legislature actually convened 35 years ago to write a new constitution, but never produced a draft to put before the public, so we hobble along with this hash job cobbled together out of Napoleonic Law by way of the Louisiana Constitution.

Nevertheless, there are a few propositions that I support..

Prop. 4 would establish a “national research university fund” to aid seven Texas universities, including The University of Houston and U.T. San Antonio in becoming Tier 1 Research institutions. I think that this would be a good move for our state, which is coming close to spending more on incarceration than we do on education.

Prop 9 would put the Texas Open Beaches Act into the state Constitution, where it would be safe from assaults such as the pending lawsuit brought by California’s Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of a California woman who lost two Galveston beach houses to Hurricane Ike.

And Prop 11 would protect property owners from losing their land through the power of eminent domain because the state decided that some private developer could use it better. This could come in handy should Rick Perry someday decide to spend some of his Enterprise Fund money to build a Starbucks where your house is.

And that’s all folks. The other issues are warm and fuzzy sounding measures concerning military bases and veterans benefits that are properly the responsibility of the Federal Government; or else further rearranging of the deck chairs on our sinking state tax system. The hacks and shills in our state legislature ought to do better than that lot. The heck with ‘em.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The Honorable William Wayne Justice, the maverick justice of the Eastern District of Texas died Wednesday at the age of 88, and will be mourned by folks like us because he was the last of the breed of judges who sought broad reform from the bench because it was the right thing to do. He presided over the desegregation of Texas public schools and the measures needed to change Texas prisons into a relatively humane institution. Although Texas is constantly attempting to backslide into its plantation days, major change was brought about by his mighty hand.

Speaking of Texas prisons. Texans loves them some executions, hmmmmmmm hmmmmm hmmmmmmmm.
However, it seems like Gov. Goodhair might have had a hand in officially snuffing out a certain innocent man and has been caught covering up. As others have noted, it remains to be seen how Kay Baily Hutchison will make political hay from this when Texans love killing prisoners about as much as football, and folks probably expect a few to slip through the cracks being not guilty-like.

Will somebody explain to me how seemingly the entire right wing of the country can't understand what is racist about condemning the press as race-baiters while at the same time demeaning a professional athlete because of his skin color? I'm gonna pass on a little lesson I learned when I was a kid: if everybody you know is trying to take your keys away because you're drunk - you're drunk, No amount of arguing about your pristine sobriety while you're pissing your pants, or heaving on people's shoes is convincing.

I saw Michelle Shocked tonight at Casbeers. If there where fifty people there, I'd be surprised. She mentioned that her manager quit recently and she considered herself a victim of the recession. I wish that club owners would stop putting pressure on struggling bands to fill seats when nobody has any money or goes to see live music much anymore to the point that big names can't even fill small venues, (or sell CD's).

God Bless Balloon Boy. Have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Armed Citizen

Been reading about Meleanie Hain of Lebanon Pennsylvania, the pistol-packing soccer mom who last week was shot to death by her corrections officer husband Scott Hain, who then turned his gun on himself, leaving three orphaned children.

Meleanie’s mother, Jenny Stanley of Lancaster Pennsylvania told The Philadelphia Enquirer that Scott Hain was upset because Melanie was leaving him.

Meleanie made the news in 2008 for carrying her Glock handgun to her five-year-old daughter’s soccer games. She said she carried despite requests from other spectators and league officials because ‘there is low-income housing on the other side of the field,’ ‘to keep pedophiles away from the children,’ and ‘because her husband’s line of work made her a greater than average target.’

The Lebanon County Sheriff then acted upon complaints by revoking her License to Carry Firearms. A judge later restored her license, and she sued the Sheriff for emotional distress and loss of customers to her home childcare business.

According to, no drinking water stations with addresses in Lebanon Pennsylvania have violations reported…

I read a comment in a libertarian site saying that statistically, most people are better off never knowing a gun, but that collectively, we are safer in our homes if some of our neighbors are armed. This writer went on to suggest that statists ought to favor laws requiring all citizens to be armed in the interest of public safety.

This made me think of Israel, where all (but yeshiva students) are required to serve in the military. Maybe there’s an Uzi in every house, but at least they’re in the hands of people with some training. Mrs. Hoarse responded saying that we’d be even safer if none of the houses had guns in them. True but..

This reminded me that at the company health fair last month, after the labwork and the weights and measures, they had lifestyle questions to alert me to other risk factors besides the usual diet and exercise. The questionnaire asked if I wore seat belts, a bicycle helmet, and if there were any guns in my house..

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Time To Go

She couldn't let go.

Maybe all of us should not ever let go?

The time to end the never-ending war against... I'm not sure who anymore, has arrived. In fact, it has been here for some time now.

The President should send enough to get our people out safely, and declare "victory." The people who oppose him have always opposed him, and always will, and they tend to be the ones who are too old or afraid to fight anyway.

Enough is enough. No more war.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Pete Olson against stimulus before he was for it

Twenty-eight members of Texas’ thirty-four member congressional delegation delivered a letter to President Obama today asking that funds from this year’s economic stimulus package be spent on NASA’s manned space program. All twenty-one Republican signers of this letter voted against the stimulus bill.

Last year, voters in Tom DeLay-drawn District 22, home to the Johnson Space Center, elected former Phil Gramm staffer Pete Olson over five-term Congressman Nick Lampson, a member of the House Subcommittee for Space and Aeronautics.

Ironic that Olson would ask for funding through the American Recovery and Investment Act after he voted against it and made hay denouncing it? Not at all; he’s Grammstanding. For years he saw Phil Gramm come back to Texas and take credit for things that he voted against in Washington. Now he’s trying to do the same trick himself.

As Susan Bankston at said, “Pete Olson can’t speak when Phil Gramm drinks water.”

Imus back on TV

I was looking at the TV listings early and saw Imus in the Morning listed on Fox Business News. Tuned in and saw his first broadcast. Not much new, at first, the glasses were thicker, and the hat was so big he looked like Bozo Texino in a Carharts jacket but it was still Imus, with Charles and Bernard there belittling him mercilessly about his cancer and weight loss. They then proceeded to pile on Dave Letterman. It looked like the old Imus show except that they kept breaking to the Fox business news twerps reporting all the important news that happened while the markets were closed all week-end, which was none.

Imus had Glen Beck as a guest. Too bad, I would have enjoyed Kinky Friedman. He and Beck talked about when they were drunks, and mostly the crew made nice with Beck. This was sad for me as I was watching for them to rip him a new one. Imus and friends have always been venomous, and I was quite disappointed to not hear them call him a pathetic shill for corporate criminals. Of course, Beck is a hot property for Fox and Imus might not last long at his new gig if he starts out biting the hand that feeds him, but hell, he probably won’t last long there anyways.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Rev. Moon shares his life in words

By Jennifer Harper, The Washington Times

“He has been on the planet nine decades, and he is buoyant of spirit and sure of step.

“The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was in Washington on Thursday to publicly introduce "As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen," his much-anticipated autobiography that recounts the joys and challenges, the teachable moments and the monumental experiences of his life - much of it spent as a spiritual leader.

“A 20-piece Lovin' Life Ministries Band with a chorus of young people clad in svelte black raised the roof from a stage bedecked in flowers and bathed in ivory and peach-colored light.

“"Louder and louder, and we'll run for our lives," they sang, to a jumbo-sized audience of people who were appreciative and dressed in their Sunday best.

“There was some speechifying from Liberian Ambassador Milton Nathaniel Barnes and Washington's the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, plus written congratulatory greetings from Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent; former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and former President George H.W. Bush - handwritten and hand-delivered by his son Neil Bush.”

-Doesn’t this make you just want to puke? The Washington Times is the official news organ of the Republican Party, after Rupert’s Wall Street Journal. Some treat them as a legitimate news outlet, ignoring the fact that Moon has poured $3 billion of his ill-gotten gains into it, even as he bankrolls Republican politicians such as the Bush family. This is Sun Myung Moon, Korean cargo-cult religious charlatan and convicted felon. The self-proclaimed messiah who claims that his teaching has saved Hitler and Stalin and helped them be reborn as new persons; yeah, probably Beck and Limbaugh.

-The following letter offers a glimpse of another world, like maybe Canada. I'm not sure it's possible though in a country with 200,000,000 firearms.

Control mind-set

Law enforcement's priority of control over constraint is confrontational, backward, selfish and prone to tragic consequences. That is a major reason for excessive use of force, including police shootings. Officers need to back off in most situations as they now do in auto chases.

Allowing officers to act with impunity to gain control of a minor situation is a prescription for abuse of power. Officers need to be mindful that the general public oversees law enforcement; otherwise, America becomes a police state.

The openly discriminatory nature of misplaced loyalty to the fraternity of law enforcement, which is cops first, civilians second, reinforces the notion that cops are in charge. Officers mistakenly believe they put public welfare first by putting themselves in danger but just look at the overwhelming response to an officer injured in the line of duty versus little interest in people harmed by excessive police force.

Abandoning the control mind-set, putting civilians first and checking power and personal accountability would limit collateral damage of law enforcement actions.

John King, Houston

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cunningham's Climate

Today’s Chronicle Outlook section includes an article headed “science” titled “Let experts take lead on climate challenges.” In it, former NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham takes issue with Paul Krugman’s recent articles calling measures to reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere necessary and affordable.

Fair enough; Cunningham is a geophysicist and worked at the Rand corporation, I read on to see if he can teach me anything.

I’m still looking. Through the first twelve paragraphs or so, all I really see is him slapping the name Krugman down every few lines, deploring the fact that an economist who won a Nobel Prize for studying world trade patterns would dare to write about the paths pollutants take following this commerce.

Finally, in the last quarter of the piece, Cunningham lists factors that influence our climate, the Earth’s tilt and orbit, sunspots, atmospheric heat retention, and land mass distribution, above and sub-sea. Here I finally learn something, a word, “albedo," describing the ratio of light reflected from an object compared to the light that falls on it. This is what NASA’s Dr. James Hansen is quantifying when he speaks of “watts per square meter” of solar energy falling on the earth, warning that if we don’t reduce carbon emissions yesterday, this energy will soon skew our weather in frightening ways.

Well, next I had to Wiki Cunningham to see what sort of axe he has to grind. The article described him as a climate change skeptic, and cited a Launch Magazine article that “contributed to the magazine’s demise.” The article was followed by many insightful comments, like this one..

“Yes, even large numbers of scientists have gotten it wrong on occasion in the past. But not that often, and not much after the decades of research that now stands behind the current science. Where should policy-makers base their policy deliberations on? An overwhelming majority - or a small minority?”