Zippidy Doo Da

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Star Island

“Jimmy Campo and his partner had been summoned to treat a twenty-two-year-old white female who had swallowed an unwise mix of vodka, Red Bull, hydrocodone, birdseed and stool softener – in all respects a routine South Beach 911 call, until now.”

This is from the opening to the latest Carl Hiaasen novel “Star Island.” When the library notified me that my copy was in, I ran right over and grabbed it, because I was almost through with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Are you a Hiaasen fan yet? I suggest you check him out. But don’t just take my word for it, the great and funny Dave Barry, when asked if he was writing a new novel, said no, but it’s OK because you can read Carl Hiaasen’s books instead. He writes comic novels set in Florida, perennial contender for the craziest state in the union.

If this book runs true to formula, a pair of hapless strangers will be thrown together in conflict with a nasty ex-spouse, an evil developer, and some stupid crooks. They will probably find love, save some near-pristine wildlife habitat and turn the tables on the bad guys in the end.

Don’t miss it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chupacabra Report

In my inbox:


By Wayne Allyn Root, June 6th, 2010

“Barack Obama is no fool. He is not incompetent. To the contrary, he is brilliant. He knows exactly what he's doing. He is purposely overwhelming the U.S. economy to create systemic failure, economic crisis and social chaos -- thereby destroying capitalism and our country from within..”

Reply to all:

-Well Carl, this Root guy isn’t as whack as some of the folks Fox puts on, I can go along with a lot of his Libertarian ideas. He’s anti- the wars, (Congress has not exercised its Constitutional duties in my lifetime) he doesn’t want to bomb Iran yesterday like John Bolton, the “state tax” system sounds intriguing, if unworkable, and as to the states deciding social issues locally, I could maybe like that too, within limits; the Old South still couldn’t go back to slavery for example.

But I still don’t buy that Obama is a secret Muslim who will chop off our heads. He is a centrist like all the presidents we elect. Nobody who gets that far is going to rock the boat so much that the plutocrats fall overboard. The left is as pissed at him as the right is, and that, to me is a sign of a good politician.

I wish the Johnny-come-lately deficit hawks could have a sort of George Bailey moment and see what shape this country would be in without the TARP and AR&R act. We’re still on thin ice, but I think things could have been much worse. I’ve studied what Jessie Jones and FDR did during the depression, and think they did alright, putting people to work, saving banks, businesses, farms, and homes: Keynes was on to something. I wonder where these sudden "fiscal conservatives" were when Reagan added $2 trillion to the debt, or when Bush added $4 trillion.



Pakistanis Tell of Motive in Taliban Leader’s Arrest


Published: August 22, 2010

“ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — When American and Pakistani agents captured Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s operational commander, in the chaotic port city of Karachi last January, both countries hailed the arrest as a breakthrough in their often difficult partnership in fighting terrorism.

“But the arrest of Mr. Baradar, the second-ranking Taliban leader after Mullah Muhammad Omar, came with a beguiling twist: both American and Pakistani officials claimed that Mr. Baradar’s capture had been a lucky break. It was only days later, the officials said, that they finally figured out who they had.

“Now, seven months later, Pakistani officials are telling a very different story. They say they set out to capture Mr. Baradar, and used the C.I.A. to help them do it, because they wanted to shut down secret peace talks that Mr. Baradar had been conducting with the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.

“In the weeks after Mr. Baradar’s capture, Pakistani security officials detained as many as 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying the protection of the Pakistani government for years. The talks came to an end.
“The events surrounding Mr. Baradar’s arrest have been the subject of debate inside military and intelligence circles for months. Some details are still murky — and others vigorously denied by some American intelligence officials in Washington. But the account offered in Islamabad highlights Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan: retaining decisive influence over the Taliban, thwarting archenemy India, and putting Pakistan in a position to shape Afghanistan’s postwar political order.

““We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.” “

-This illustrates the eddy currents in the mire we’ve waded into. We’re paying Pakistan to help us fight the Taliban, even though the Taliban are, and have always been, Pakistani surrogates. You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and there’s no scorecard to be had. It’s like the “surge” in Iraq where we put both sides on the payroll. In 19th century America, we made little distinction between friendly and hostile Indian tribes; we made war on both. Today we have “collateral damage.” It is hard to win the hearts and minds of people when you are dropping bombs on them.

This story reminded me of Teddy Roosevelt going to the 1888 GOP Convention that took eight ballots to nominate Benjamin Harrison. Roosevelt saw some black delegates sell their vote over and over because the white folks couldn’t tell them apart. In India, some missionaries practice checkbook evangelism, paying poor people to come to Jesus. The next year, they might come back and pay the same people all over again. Aren’t we doing the same thing in Southwest Asia?

How do we get mixed up in these tinderboxes? India/Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, North Korea/South Korea; are we the “blessed peacemakers?” or is there something else going on here. The cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars will consume $170 billion of this year’s $700 billion Defense budget. U.S. troops are stationed in over 150 countries around the world. Is this neocolonialism? Megalomania? Can we sustain this expense and bloodletting? Is it wise? Is it right? Does it make us safer, or are we making tomorrows enemies today?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bwana Bill Klaus 1937 - 2010

Dr. William G. Klaus passed away last week in East Aurora New York; he was 72. Sometimes news is slow to reach us ex-pats, I heard it a week late on Facebook, (thanks Spencer.)

When I was a kid growing up there, the history teachers were always my favorites: Clack, Hoover, Glass, Gomlak, but Bwana was the finest kind. I read that he ended up being the department head, which is funny considering that he always seemed to be in hot water. His classroom was usually in a state of insurrection and his apartment was often under invasion. So many of us tried his patience and tried to wear out our welcome. Generations of students outraged his neighbors and the school administration.

The legends were legion. A Fulbright Grant trip to Africa became fodder for scandal, and then there was Claudia the girlfriend, allegedly chauffeured around in a U-Haul. Bwana endured it all with humor, even if his ears turned a little red.

I took classes from Bwana, I took his electives. He taught history and world affairs and managed to make it stick for many of us. For years we would try to trick him into giving up an opinion in class, but that came easier after hours when he had a few Buds in him.

I see that he chaired the East Aurora Democrats, sorry to have missed that. I was one of the first flock of eighteen-year-old voters, and with the draft nipping at our heels, you can bet that we got mobilized. Being a Democrat in tory Toy Town was like joining the insurgency. We had a small but close-knit group, bickering, hopeless, but not without enthusiasm. Bwana would roll his eyes when the pipe-chomping and prolix Phil Kadett took the floor. I recall a Party picnic with Bwana, Dave Daniels, and a cast of dozens. I rode to the post-party with C.C. Laidman, and she put her truck in the ditch, launching the truckload of kegs and cases across the countryside. A swell time.

I’m surprised not to find an obit in the Buffalo News after all the copy he furnished them over the years. What will Olab Fuzz do for a quote now?

So now Bwana has moved on to the next world. I imagine him there still teaching, organizing, fighting the good fight, and later sitting down at the poker table. His students are grown now, and have no doubt taught their own progeny to ask questions, get informed, and go after it. Well done Dr. Klaus.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

DeLay ‘Cleared’ in Abramoff Case

That was the Chronicle’s page one headline today. I had always thought that the Justice Dept. had enough small fish that somebody would rat him out. Maybe the investigation ran out of steam once they let Bush and Rove off the hook.

DeLay told reporters “"I know this is the price of leadership, but frankly, it doesn't have to happen this way. I hope people will look at my case and decide the criminalization of politics and the politics of personal destruction is not beneficial to our country or our system.

Funny, that. He is certainly an authority on the “criminalization of politics.” He said another funny thing..

"It's hard to make a living, and politically, people don't want to associate with you," DeLay said. "When people call me wanting my endorsement, I talk them out of it because it's not smart politics."

-Can’t argue with that either.

Delay still faces state charges over illegal corporate campaign contributions. The question is whether his co-defendants will roll over on him. Jim Ellis and John Colyandro face sentences of up to five years for conspiracy and up to twenty years for money laundering.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chupacabra Report

News that Gets My Goat..

The Chronicle today ran an editorial titled “Hot Times –As global warming becomes a given, solutions seem ever more distant.” They quote NASA climatologist James Hansen saying “The climate system is on the verge of tipping points. If the world does not make a dramatic shift in energy policies over the next few years, we may well pass the point of no return,” and urge lawmakers to overcome partisanship and special interest lobbying to address this threat.

Of course, not to rock the boat, in the same section they ran a piece by geophysicist and Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham titled “Climate change alarmists ignore scientific methods.” He claims that the theory that human generated CO2 is responsible for global warming “has gained little acceptance among legitimate scientists,” and that “human-caused global warming is simply not a threat to be concerned about.”

Cunningham writes for The Heartland Foundation, a right wing think tank whose sources of funding, now secret, in the past have included the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Scaife Foundations, (think Koch Industries and Gulf Oil.) According to Sourcewatch, their causes include “common sense environmentalism,” genetically engineered crops, privatization of public services, school vouchers, deregulation of health insurance, and opposition to tobacco control measures.

When I first saw this article I thought that I’d write about it, and I wondered how I would dispute the word of a real geophysicist. Turns out that it’s no problem. The few facts he presents seem legit, the problem is the conclusions he draws from them.

In these days of record temperatures, receding glaciers, melting sea ice, and anomalous weather, I find it ridiculous to maintain that human activity is not changing the climate.

Sure, there are cycles of solar activity and variations in the earth’s orbit driving the climate. But rising greenhouse gas levels demonstrate that our emissions are outstripping the ability of the oceans and forests to lock up atmospheric carbon in a “carbon cycle” that generally takes about a century. The “global dimming” effect of soot and particulate pollution probably mitigates the warming effect of greenhouse gases to some degree, but is hardly to be counted on as these cycle out of the atmosphere in about a weeks time. Scientists have an imperfect understanding of the forcings and feedbacks that drive the earth’s climate. As one who considers conservation to be a conservative value, (take that, crazy dominionists) I don’t see how we can continue to interfere with systems that are as indispensible to us as they are incomprehensible.

Besides the lunacy, there is a moral issue in that the effects of climate change are expected to hit hardest in Africa, island nations, and delta regions, where poor and powerless people will be hard pressed to adapt to changing conditions. We should tell a billion people living on the margins that they will drown, starve, dehydrate, or otherwise perish so that we can carry on business as usual? No wonder the Pentagon considers this a major issue.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fishing Report

A good trip. Little Spanish mackerel chopping up my mullets, caught one. Lots of sand trouts and some specs 16-18". Reeled in one sandtrout that came back chopped in half. Stepped back to shallower water. It's about time for shrimp to be in the surf, and that can attract the pompanos. Steady action kept me in the surf about five hours. Getting to the best time of the year.

Monday, August 09, 2010

A Message from Congressman Pete Olson

I was reading some trash today. It was one of the slick mailers new Congressman Pete Olson sends to constituents. The theme of this one is debt, (last time it was about the poor oil companies not being able to drill in the Gulf until they get the rules and liabilities straightened out.) and he’s not talking about the massive debt run up by GOP presidents since Reagan by expanding federal spending while cutting the top tax rates. He has listed seventeen items proposed by the states that were selected for funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 0f 2009.

I thought that I might check his sources, see if maybe he was simply sending out the latest Frank Luntz ‘Talking Points for GOP Dummies.’ First one I picked was a $1.239 million deer underpass in Wyoming. The first reference I found was Fox News, which figures, maybe that’s where he’s getting them. Oh yeah, here it is in fine print, from ‘Waste 102’: The Final List – I don’t trust those Rupert minions, so I found a bit from the Wyoming Dept of Transportation, here’s some..

”On US 189, the project is located at the Dry Piney Creek area southeast of Pinedale; where10 crossing structures with deer fencing would be installed from MP 85.69 to 101.43 north of LaBarge. Between 2004 and 2008, WYDOT removed 1 moose, 1 pronghorn, 1 white-tailed deer and 349 mule deer carcasses from this road section.

”The plans calls for the placement of an overpass and seven underpasses structures to be placed on US189 between I-80 and Kemmerer, along with 26 miles of deer fencing. Between 2004 and 2008, WYDOT removed 1 elk, 18 pronghorn and 238 mule deer carcasses from this road section.

”On I80 between MP 18.56 and 25.23, six wildlife underpasses would be installed along with 10 miles of deer fencing. This project has the potential for improving the interchanges at the Bar Hat (MP 23.11) and Coal Road (MP21.75) on I80 with the placement of the wildlife underpasses. Between 2004 and 2008, WYDOT removed 3 elk, 3 moose and 80 mule deer carcasses from this road section.

”Also on I80, two underpass structures would be placed in the Elk Mountain area and two underpass structures in the Wamsutter area. Between 2004 and 2008, WYDOT removed 1 black bear, 2 white-tailed deer, 6 moose, 32 antelope, 42 elk and 275 mule deer carcasses from these sections.

”The risk to motorists is an important concern. Every year, about 1,800 collisions with wildlife are reported on the state’s highways, causing an average of 149 injuries and 2 deaths a year during the past decade. The number of animals killed is in the thousands, and unknown amounts of collisions go unreported each year.”

-So rather being some outrageous boondoggle, this is a project wanted by local people to save lives of themselves and that of local wildlife, which they value too.

Next I looked at the first on the list, “$2.4 billion to demonstrate how carbon greenhouse gases can be safely removed from the atmosphere”

• Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage ($1.52 billion): Funding will be available for large-scale demonstrations of carbon capture and storage; concepts to reuse the captured CO2 for beneficial purposes, such as growing algae for biofuels; and concepts to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.
• Clean Coal Power Initiative ($800 million): This existing program will get a major infusion of government co-financing for projects to cut emissions from power plants

-is how MSNBC described it. Fox is preaching to the climate change denier congregation, of course. The folks who were scoffing last winter when all that snow fell, maybe not realizing that global warming means climate instability, not just warmer temperatures. Haven’t heard much of that this summer with triple-digit temperatures along the east coast. Europe too is sweltering under a record heat-wave, as Chili and Bolivia have a record cold snap. The big story is Moscow, where the July average high temperature is 73 degrees. A month of 95 degree days has sparked hundreds of wildfires that have killed dozens of people, creating smog that has tripled the level of air pollution as it grounds air traffic. Authorities have warned people to stay out of confined spaces where elevated levels of carbon monoxide can kill. Scores have drowned while trying to cool off by swimming.

Climate scientists have estimated the “tipping point” for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be, variously 350 to 450 PPM, above which the climate would be expected to rapidly change in unpredictable ways. As the arctic sea ice is melting already, it appears that the present level of 390 PPM is bad enough.

And the U.S. Senate, lacking sufficient supermajority to close debate, has given up on passing a cap on carbon emissions. Maybe when the greens turn brown at John Boehner’s country club..

When Pete Olson ran for Congress, he said he was a good fit for the 22nd district. Maybe he was looking at the Fox news ratings when he said that.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Chupacabra Report

A little serendipity this week. First, today’s Chronicle ran the Don Wright cartoon above.

And I just read Andrew Bacevich in “The Limits of Power” advocating a return to the military draft, although he adds that it will never happen with today’s Congress.

Charley Rangel is all over the news because the House Ethics Committee is shocked, shocked to think he has his hands in the cookie jar. That may be, but I’ve been pleased to see him introduce legislation every year to return reinstate the draft. I think he’s trying to end the present volunteer army because it is in effect an “economic draft,” with today’s volunteers, guard, and reserves serving multiple tours of duty to make up for lack of numbers. (BTW, do you find it funny that a House investigation of Rangel gets more news play than an FBI investigation of Senator John Ensign?)

And tonight on CSPAN2, I see Edward Renehan with his book “The Lions Pride –Theodore Roosevelt and his Family in War and Peace” talking about Roosevelt’s call for universal military training.

T. R. wrote that “There is no more thoroughly democratizing agent than the dog tent. Under such a system of universal training all the young men of the nation would for several months do the same hard, healthy work, and live together on the same terms. The son of the railroad president, and the son of the brakeman, the son of the farmer and the son of the lawyer, the son of the bricklayer and the son of the banker, would all have the same training, the same chance; and the officers would be chosen squarely on their merits from the boys best fit for the jobs.”

Now, T.R. was a warmonger who never doubted himself until he had one son killed and another maimed in “The Great War.” But I like this idea for other reasons. As U.S. service members overseas are disproportionately Southern and rural Americans, many of us don’t even know anybody who is serving. This contributes to a military/civilian divide that cuts against the American tradition of citizen soldiers.

For example, only a handful of the 535 Members of Congress have children fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In past wars, politicians would give up their seats and enlist. Think they might vote differently if they were hearing from more than Pentagon liaisons and defense contractors? I think that this would make for hard sledding for the next president calling for war to stop the latest “Hitler.”

If we were drafting people into the army, I expect that the streets would be full of young people, and their parents too; protesting. Voter turnout would double. This would encourage Congress to take back their power to declare war, and to fund or de-fund it. With these checks on overseas adventures, we should see less “blowback” from disgruntled foreigners.

Sunday, August 01, 2010