Zippidy Doo Da

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

State high court backs money laundering indictments in DeLay case

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today upheld the money laundering indictments against James Ellis and John Colyandro in a political ethics case tied to former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

DeLay was not directly involved in the appeal, but his trial had been postponed while the indictments against Colyandro and Ellis were on appeal.All three men have been indicted on charges of illegally laundering corporate money through the Republican National Committee in exchange for individual contributions to help Republican state House candidates in the 2002 elections.

The men have maintained that they did nothing illegal.Colyandro and Ellis were indicted in the case before DeLay. They had already begun appeals of their indictments prior to the indictments being returned against DeLay.More specifically, they have maintained that the Texas money laundering statute did not apply in their case. The Texas Third Court of Appeals had agreed, but the state's high criminal court overturned that opinion today.

The opinion by Judge Sharon Keller said the lower appeals court had "Inappropriately" over-stepped its bounds in a habeus corpus hearing by determining the money laundering law violated Ellis and Colyandro's First Amendment rights of free speech. Keller, writing for the unanimous court, also said the state's election laws are not unconstitutional.

The ruling, barring the usual motion for a re-hearing, clears the way at the state level for a trial to begin for DeLay, Ellis and Colyandro. However, lawyers for the three have indicated in the past that if they lose at the state level they will raise constitutional issues in federal court.

The men are accused of raising $190,000 in corporate money through Texans for a Republican Majority and then sending the money to the Republican National Committee, which in turn sent $190,000 in money raised from individuals to seven Republican legislative candidates. Texas election law makes it illegal to donate corporate money to campaigns for elective office.

DeLay was indicted in the case in 2005. He stepped down as majority leader when the indictments occurred and then later resigned from Congress.

Posted by R.G. Ratcliffe at April 28, 2010 12:37 PM

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Sluts cause earthquakes."

From The Associated Press:

A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes. “Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes,” the cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Mr. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday Prayer leader. Women in Iran, one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, are required by law to cover from head to toe but many, especially the young, ignore some of the stricter codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair.

“What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Mr. Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon on Friday. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Rule of Holes

The NYT’s Alissa Rubin wrote a story this week about the US withdrawal from Korengal Outpost in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, after four years fighting and hundreds of US casualties. This story made me think of the old rule of holes; remember? “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

“Closing Korangal Outpost in Kunar Province, a powerful symbol of some of the Afghan war’s most ferocious fights, and a potential harbinger of America’s retreat, is a tacit admission that putting the base there in the first place was a costly mistake.

“There were never enough soldiers to crush the insurgency, and after four years, it became clear that there was not much worth winning in this sparsely populated valley.

“Fighting for isolated mountain valleys like this one, even if they are hide-outs for clusters of Taliban, was no longer sustainable. It did more to spawn insurgents than defeat them.

““There’s never a perfect answer,” General McChrystal said as he visited this outpost on April 8 for a briefing as the withdrawal began. “I care deeply about everybody who has been hurt here, but I can’t do anything about it. I can do something about people who might be hurt in the future.”

-As far as Ben Franklin was right in saying that “there is no good war or bad peace;” I wonder how many other no-win situations we might extract ourselves from.

Coastal Bend

I want to know what happened to the kittens. "Innocent as two kittens in a thunderstorm," is the metaphor Tim Hudson uses to describe two lovers who struggle to keep their love intact despite the storm of challenges that taint its purity in his ballad, "Stillborn Romance."

I'm a sucker for kittens in trouble. My wife's library for children she keeps at school has a book about an innocent kitten in a thunderstorm (I forget the name) that I spotted one day - that I had to read to know the end (the kitten was eventually rescued). Even this story for readers in the first grade (and retarded adults) had a dark aspect that reflects the pervasive truth that faces us all: the experience of the negative force majure of life always takes a little innocence away. The mere act of getting out of the storm into a dry place makes us different after the first time this happens, even if someone helps us to get there. And every struggle serves to make innocence increasing impossible to hold on to.

This metaphor used a little differently applies to the musical journey taken by Costal Bend through their two fine CD's Souls From Victoria, and Victoria Days, available at Instead of the thunderstorm as the antagonist; for artists like Costal Bend, the apt phrase might be, "innocent as kittens with very unsafe plushy toys," or, "innocent as kittens on extremely dangerous playground rides." Musical artists imagine producing work within a certain segment of American culture that looks like fun but is programed to pierce their flesh or shatter bones in extreme examples. Fortunately, Costal Bend has merely fallen victim to minor injuries.

Their first record, Souls From Victoria is outstanding. Concept records are my fave, although Souls is somewhat different in that the thread that weaves the songs together; Texas, Victoria specifically, in the somewhat misunderstood genre of "Texas Music," and all that stuff is fairly well-traveled territory for me to get excited about. What is stand-out to me is the epic that dominates the entire offering, "Souls From Victoria," which superbly defines what I think Texas Music truly is about as well as any song I've ever heard; the biplor nature of its people and culture, that is both sublimely loving and horrifically, senselessly violent.

It is now more common for the corridos of la frontera del norte to chronologue the BIG events in little people's lives. Proper Texas music strives to tell a story about heros and villians often done very badly, as in the all the times I've heard Willie-wannabe's story of the Alamo, or hat bands like Pat Green's simpering odes to blue bonnets and keg beer. Tim Hudson hit gold on 'Souls; the story of the 19 gentes from Mexico that smothered to death while trapped in a tractor trailor parked in Victoria. They were as innocent as kittens in a thunderstorm. The yearly tragedy of people who try to cross the desert pampas of south Texas only to die from thirst and exposure is only one of many such sickening dramas unique to this state that keep the pens of writers busy all the time. Only people that can imagine their suffering cries and can make music can play a tribute that is so grand in its humanity as this, and do it in a way that doesn't rape the dead for song fodder.

Even though 'Souls is the kind of narrative the greats Billy Joe Shaver, Steve Earl, Robert Earl Kean, James McMurtry and other like the late Towns Van Zant used to famously traffic in, the other songs on Souls also are remarkable either in fashion or performance. "Fast Road to Austin" is the kind of should-be standard that Pecan Street drunks can smash store-fronts and light dumpsters on fire to, and is performed in such a way as to bring credit to the honky-tonk bona fides of the group. "Hallmarks of Progress" is a thoughtful yen to a greener earth - a theme that is often done in a maudlin or cloying way - that is both well-writen and performed with feeling and committment.

Jeffery DiLeo's tele-style guitar mayhem on 'Fast Road is impressive. Matt Wickham is a staggeringly talented drummer, and as my friend, I am once again reminded of how proud I am of him. Dan Easton's bass work is yoemen enough in the somewhat restrictive style he is playing in for him to avoid being killed in a combination bus-airplane accident or spontaneous combustion.

I had to mention this expressly for readers and listeners that Angie Caraway and Dee Dee Hudson are especially gifted musically, and are terribly under utilized in this group. I hope they get more play on projects coming up.
I even hear my close friend, Debbie Copeland playing flute, who is not mentioned in liner notes.

Tim Hudson as the leader of Costal Bend is firmly in control, it seems. The question is whether or not he can he can realize his potential. He has a strong and distinctive singing voice that reminds me of Warron Zevon. His writing is capable of greatness. One would imagine that we would have to look no further than the next album to see this artist flower. But back to the kittens.

When Coastal Bend made Victoria Days their second effort and recent release, demons must have been whispering in their ears: "be more commercial"; "improve production"; "CD art, graphics and concept are too expensive"; "make your writing more main stream." Because, despite obvious achievement in those areas, and even more that ostensibly increase the chance people will listen (according to folks who know about these things) I found this record less charming, moving or interesting than 'Souls.

It isn't that Victoria Days is not a fine album; it is. The writing is solid as are the performances, and indeed the production and engineering is improved, but it lacks the "soul" of its predescessor. "Victoria Days," is equal to the bands potential, and "Stillborn Romance" supplies the human staple, but for some reason the work does not connect with my definition of Texas Music in that what's beautiful is sometimes hard to look at, and this enigma is difficult to express on this band's musical and personal jouney.

I can hear DiLeo, whose playing had sounded as if he just got through scraping cow shit off his boots attempting (albiet compentently) to make Big Rock leads as an example of where the band left behind its identity and authenticity. The music does not make a song powerful unless it is combined with subjects and illiteration that are up to the aspiriations of the other. Indeed, sometimes music cannot fly except on the wings of soaring lyrics. Thematically, I believe Costal Bend can do better than this.

Actually Victoria Days will probably make Costal Bend more popular and successful. All the songs rock harder live than anything on Souls. I just wish the subjects were more about serial killers, matricides, eccentrics, and racial strife. Maybe Costal Bend had to change a little as a result having to survive the maelstrom. It sounds corny, but I feel the best way to make great music is to be follow one's human compass. I expect great things from Costal Bend, and look forward what's next from Tim and the rest of this intriguing band.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

N.Korea leader sets world fashion trend: Pyongyang

-from France24 International News

AFP - The trademark suit sported by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is now in fashion worldwide thanks to his greatness, Pyongyang's official website said Wednesday.

Uriminzokkiri, quoting an article in communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, said the modest-looking suits have gripped people's imagination and become a global vogue.

"The reason is that the august image of the Great General, who is always wearing the modest suit while working, leaves a deep impression on people's mind in the world," it said.

"To sum it up, that is because his image as a great man is so outstanding."
The article quoted an unidentified French fashion expert as saying world fashion follows Kim Jong-Il's style.

"Kim Jong-Il mode which is now spreading expeditiously worldwide is something unprecedented in the world's history," the stylist was quoted as saying.

The suits consist of an overall-style zipped-up tunic and matching trousers, usually in khaki or blueish-grey.

The 68-year-old leader wears them even when receiving foreign dignitaries.
During his outside "field guidance" trips in winter, he also dons a shapeless anorak and fur hat.

Kim and his deceased father Kim Il-Sung are at the heart of a personality cult that borders on religion, with near-magical powers ascribed to the younger Kim.

Rainbows supposedly appeared over sacred Mount Paekdu where Kim Jong-Il was allegedly born, and he is said once to have scored 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Chupacabra Report

News that gets my goat..

In a column last week, Lisa Falkenberg cited articles in the Dallas Morning News last month about Gregg Phillips, former Deputy Director of Health and Human Services getting no-bid contracts to help fix the mess caused by the privatization scheme the GOP spawned in the 2003 legislative session.

Phillips helped write the bill, HB 2292, which awarded a billion-dollar contract to Bermuda-based Accenture Corporation to administer the states’ Medicare, Food Stamp, Temporary Aid to Needy Families, Long Term Care, and Childrens Health Insurance Programs.

He then quit his state job and went to work for Accenture’s sister company Maximus to get in on the gravy train he had created.

The contract was a disaster. Thousands of children lost their health coverage, and the state employees who had administered these programs lost their jobs. Thousands of Texans were denied benefits for which they were eligible, callers experienced twenty minute on-hold times, and in one incident, over one hundred long term care applications, containing social security numbers and medical records, were accidentally faxed to a warehouse in Seattle.

Accenture was dunned $50 million for work not done in 2006. The next legislature terminated the program and Texas was left with a broken safety net in time for the great recession. Last year the USDA singled out Texas for having the worst food stamp program in the country, including U S territories.

So now we learn that the state has brought back Phillips, with his latest company “Autogov,” to work on applicant screening for the food stamp program, even though their computer system only works on about 20% of the cases.

I found a post by Kuffner that tells that Phillips did the same thing ten years before in Mississippi! As Director of Human Services, he awarded a company an $875,000 contract to manage the welfare system there, and then quit his state job to go to work for the same company.

I know a lot of hard-working Texans get hot on the subject of welfare, but it’s a shame that people vote for demagogues that pander to them only to turn around and dole out corporate welfare to their cronies.