Zippidy Doo Da

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

President Kennedy Assassinated!

Well, had enough of the hagiography already? Between the idiot media and the family PR machine it’s enough to make even a history buff ready to hurl. The City of Dallas, with the co-operation of the Kennedy family, has thousands of visitors attending it’s first-ever memorial in Dealey Plaza and is thrilled to finally be shedding that old label “the city of hate” (I prefer JFK’s appellation; “nut country.”) It is nice to see David Brinkley on the tube again; reminds me of his parting shot on Clinton in 1996 and his hilarious World War II memoir “Washington Goes to War.”

But as long as we’re looking at him and hearing about him, we might as well think about who he was and what he meant to us. Like the rest of us, Kennedy was a walking bundle of contradictions.

The Senator Kennedy who ran for re-election in 1958 flogging a non-existent “missile gap” signed, as President, a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water. This, at the height of the cold war, when mushroom clouds were a tourist attraction in Nevada and nuclear fallout was raining down on upstate New York.

This elected plutocrat, whose father famously told him not to buy one more vote than was needed because “I’m not paying for a landslide,” may have been the first “trickle-down economist.” Remember “a rising tide lifts all boats?” Funny though, the Revenue Act of 1964 ultimately passed under LBJ lowered top income tax rates from 91% to 70%, and corporate rates from 52% to 48%. How many of today’s tax protesters could get their minds around rates like that. In those days corporate taxes were twice the share of revenue they are today; goes to show who’s running the country now that corporations are ‘people’ and money is ‘speech.’ Contrary to predictions, tax revenue as percent of GDP actually increased after these cuts, and unemployment fell. Unfortunately, tax cutters in decades since then have had no such success. A funny note from one of the bios on PBS; Kennedy said that he first learned of the Great Depression studying history, that he was unaware of it growing up in the 1930’s.

The Cold Warrior who went along with the Bay of Pigs invasion, Operation Mongoose and other horrors found another way when the Joint Chiefs advised that he respond to Soviet missiles in Cuba with a nuclear first strike on Russia and China (why China? –‘because we could.’)

And then there’s Vietnam. Biographer Richard Reeves quotes Kennedy saying in 1963: “We don’t have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. Those people hate us. They are going to throw our asses out of there at any point. But I can’t give up that territory to the communists and get the American people to re-elect me.” Lyndon Johnson continued this hopeless escalation because to end it would have been bad politics. So did maybe a million people die because of the illusions and ambitions of the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations? -And people call the assassination a tragedy.

And last, there are the foibles. Not just talking Marilyn here, or the college girls the Secret Service snuck into the White House swimming pool; Kennedy had affairs with a Soviet spy and a Mafia mistress. His staff and the press may have covered for him, but J. Edgar Hoover had his number. This may be a product of wealth and privilege, or his upbringing; Joseph Kennedy was linked to silent movie star Gloria Swanson. Maybe the fact that JFK grew up almost dead had something to do with it. By the time he turned forty years old he had been administered last rites three times. Who can say. It is scary to think that this sex-addicted risk-taker, gravely ill, nearly crippled and injected with all manner of steroids, speed and painkillers was at times charged with the fate of the free world.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

News from Congressman Stockman

My Congressloon, Steve Stockman has been on the front page of The Chronicle twice this month. The other week it was because he fired two campaign workers, one his campaign treasurer, after the Federal Campaign Commission found that they had made illegal campaign contributions in the name of straw donors. They may have done this out of desperation, as his campaign fund is over $100,000 in debt.

“Stockman spokesman Donny Ferguson told the Chronicle Thursday that staffers Jason Posey and Thomas Dodd had been terminated. Posey had worked with Stockman since the mid-1990s, and was his 2013 campaign treasurer.

“In April 2013, Posey filed a report that falsely attributed three donations totaling $7,500 to a relative, Donnie Posey, in Mississippi, and another three, also totaling $7,500, to Dodd's mother. Then last month, Posey filed an amended report disclosing that he and Dodd actually had made the contributions originally attributed to their respective relatives, FEC records show.

“Under federal law, it's illegal to attribute contributions to "straw donors" - people other than the actual donors - or to knowingly file federal campaign reports with false information.”

Today the story is that Webster Texas’ Fire Marshall and city building officials ordered Stockman’s office closed and the electricity shut off for violating fire code and safety regulations. Stockman has used the steel building as a campaign headquarters since 2012 and bragged that campaign workers were sleeping on the floor and eating MREs three times a day.

Last month he sent me an e-mail claiming that staffers in his D.C. office voted unanimously Tuesday to reject enrollment in the District of Columbias Obamacare exchange.

Everyone in our office voted to reject enrollment.  We will not use taxpayer money to bail out a program that subsidizes abortion, said Stockman of the D.C. exchange. Obamacare is a failing Ponzi scheme that can only work if it overcharges young people and denies care to older people.”

So Stockman has staffers with no health insurance, and staffers who are sleeping on the floor in an old motorcycle shop. They’re working for a guy who fudged his resume and used to live in his car. Stockman’s guest at the State of the Union Address was loon Ted Nugent, who beshat himself and took speed on the way to his draft physical (but now is a foremost chickenhawk and gun nut.)

-Boy, I glad that I don’t work for this guy. Actually, I’m perplexed to think that he supposedly works for me. This guy is an embarrassment, and is ripe to get bumped-off by Michael Cole, a schoolteacher from Orange who is running against him in the 36th Congressional District next year.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

George Pelecanos

I got to see George Pelecanos at a Murder by the Book event a couple of weeks ago and it’s about time that I wrote about it.

Pelecanos is a hero of mine because he has writing and producing credits on the two best television series I know; those being The Wire and Tremé. Looking at his Wiki page, I see that he has written least twenty novels, which is happy news for me because that means that I’ve missed a few. His books are set in and around Washington D.C, featuring bartender/private investigator Nick Stefanos, black P.I. Derek Strange, owner of Strange Investigations, who wears a Leatherman tool, a Buck knife and a Maglight on his belt (his friends make cracks about this, calling him Batman,) and now his latest, Spero Lucas, an Iraq vet Marine-turned-investigator. Pelecanos is out on a book tour behind The Double, the second Spero Lucas novel, says a third book is on the way, and that he hopes to sell Spero to television.

He spoke of his latest collaboration with David Simon, The Deuce, a tale of mobbed-up Times Square in the bad old days before it got Disneyfied, that they are going to produce for HBO.

He said that HBO was kind to give them a third season contract for Tremé, even for just six episodes, because the ratings just weren’t there. They had planned to end the series with the post-Katrina Saints in the Super Bowl. He loved making the series, lived in the warehouse district and “walked everywhere;” he wants to live there now.

Pelecanos wasn’t seven feet tall, as I had imagined him. He was a trim, fifty-something guy, friendly and well-spoken. Asked about taking-up or retiring characters, he paid homage to the greats: ‘nobody can write twenty-seven good books with the same character, unless you’re John D. McDonald. And if you haven’t read him, you should.’ He added that James Lee Burke was still going strong with twenty Dave Robicheaux novels. And Burke, like Elmore Leonard, was a sweet guy and a real gentleman. (Oh, gosh; this guy has met James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard both! Well, at least now I’ve met George Pelecanos.)

In the Q&A I got to comment that he was in Houston, and had lived in both D.C. and New Orleans, so was no stranger to humidity, so I found it interesting that so many of his characters drove big Detroit V-8 cars without air conditioning. He said that he liked American cars, owned Jeeps, and had just bought a “Bullitt” model Mustang, “a good car, and the same price as an Accord or a Camry.” He said that he had always been a MoPar guy, and “was no fan of air conditioning.” He grew up working in his father’s Greek diner, listening to the music his black co-workers tuned into on the radio; so his experience in race relations and bar-and-grill culture is come by honestly. He spoke wistfully of the days when pop hits on the radio could come from any of several genres, when ‘everybody played everything.’

I hung around through the book signing and he spoke to me again, the last guy there. I said that I could about tell which episodes of The Wire he wrote because he always touched on the local cuisine and name-checked his favorite restaurants. He confessed to being a foodie, and when I asked where they were feeding him dinner in Houston (hoping I might get to take him to Valhalla for a beer on our way to Pappadeaux,) he told me that he was staying at Hotel Zaza and was to have dinner at the restaurant there.

So I’m charged now. I’ve just re-read The Cut, and now my copy of The Double is in. Next I’ll likely take a break from my review of the works of Ed McBain and Dutch Leonard and read the Pelecanos novels that I’ve managed to miss. He’s not only a great writer, but ‘a sweet guy and a real gentleman.’

Thursday, November 07, 2013

An interesting column in the sports pages of todays Chronicle from former Astro and Astros broadcaster and manager Larry Dierker. He was writing about Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsing on the field at Reliant Stadium in the middle of last Sundays football game.

Dierker has been called upon to comment on this because fourteen years ago, while managing a Houston Astros game he suffered a grand mal seizure and was carried off the field to undergo emergency surgery.

Dierker was a pitching phenom, a star broadcaster, and a fine manager. He is a student of the game, and has written good books about it. I can recommend his first, “This Ain’t Brain Surgery” as interesting, informative and flat-out funny. Here’s a bit of his column today, which addresses much more than sports:

“In my view there is something very disturbing.. Sports fans are losing their minds. What bothers me as an insider looking out is the societal outrage in sports. It’s not just in Houston and, indeed, not just in sports.”