Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow . . . Sierras . . . Spectacular

I've been remiss in making postings every day and now I can explain why. I've been traveling and not being a creature of mobile technology I don't do postings very well unless I have a dinosaur desktop in front of me. A couple of days ago it was a desktop that kept eating minutes off my MasterCard.

I need to get a laptop.

Anyway today I made it back to my most favorite place on the surface of the earth, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and specifically to a little glacier-cut cleft in it called Yosemite Valley.

It has been raining in California for days upon endless day, most recently on Christmas Day in most of the state. So that translates to SNOW above 4000 feet above msl.

And this was a first for me. Snow in Yosemite.

Here is where we had to pull over and put on the snow chains. Snow chains aren't actually chains anymore. They are wire cables with steel cylinders ingeniously held on the tire with a little keyhole thing.

Here are my companions in a winter wonderland.

Yosemite Valley is just about the most striking geomorphic feature I have ever seen. Sheer glacier-cut granite cliffs border a valley floor carpeted in meadows and forests.

Neat, huh?

Half Dome is that granite dome you see off in the distance. Here it is a little closer.

I've been up to the top of Half Dome twice in my life. Hopefully there is another trip up there left in me.

Finally, just before losing the light we visited my old friend Yosemite Falls. It was fairly full. Not as you see it in the spring, but compared to when you usually see it in summer, it was a torrent. And a loud one at that.

"I must return to the mountains—to Yosemite. I am told that the winter storms there will not be easily borne, but I am bewitched, enchanted, and tomorrow I must start for the great temple to listen to the winter songs and sermons preached and sung only there."

John Muir in a Letter to Mrs. Ezra Carr (November 15, 1869)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 2010

So it's Christmas again.

Ralphie is still shooting his eye out. Mr. Potter is still bilking the hard-working citizens of Bedford Falls, and Starbuck's is still serving peppermint mocha flavored coffee.

And millions of Americans are attending church services, some of them for the first time this year, in order to celebrate a hijacked festival. A festival of the Invincible Sun that was celebrated by Christians and pagans alike in a Christian Roman Empire of the 5th century. A festival that morphed into Jesus' birthday one year, and changed how we view the Christian religion ever since.

I was very much taken by the recent comments of a Roman Catholic Cardinal who defended the celebration of Jesus' birthday on Decenber 25th, a defense in light of rising objections based on emergent historical records. His defense? Why, the festival of the Annunciation, where the Virgin Mary was visited by angels and impregnated with the essence Savior of the World, is celebrated on March 25: 9 months to the day before December 25th. Since all human gestations take exactly 9 months, Christ must have been born on December 25th.

Trouble is, the festival of the Annunciation was first celebrated in the 6th century. Around 100 years after Christmas was hijacked by the Catholic Church.

Funny how that works.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Civility Goes on Holiday in Belarus

When George Bush’s campaign fired the opening salvo in what became Bush vs. Gore, a lawsuit that became a landmark Supreme Court decision when it awarded the presidency to the Texas governor, probably no one expected very much repercussions. This is America, after all, and America takes its civil discourse, well, civilly.

Then George Bush became president, because Americans are a civil people.

Then George Bush turned a country at peace with a budget surplus into a country with two wars of aggression and in hock up to its armpits, if America had armpits, that is.

Makes you wonder, huh? And it makes you wonder now that we see ultra conservatives carrying guns to political rallies, when we hear of candidates refer to their plans to win elections as a 2nd Amendment solution. Makes you wonder if civility will come to an end as it apparently has in the former soviet republic of Belarus.

In Belarus, in Minsk, they just held a presidential election, and the sitting president won another term in office.

Except the opposition candidates say the election was rigged.

And 10,000 of them turned out on Election Night to protest. And one of the opposition candidates was attacked by government riot police and he spent the night in the hospital as a result.

In Belarus, you see, civility has given way to survival of the fittest. And in Belarus, like in America, the fittest have all the guns.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hell Freezes Over and DADT is Repealed

Well you could knock me over with a feather. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a monstrosity of a policy that was about as useful as a sack of snot has finally been repealed by a lopsided vote in the Senate.

All 57 Senate Democrats voted for the repeal of a law that promoted nothing less than blackmail and gay bashing in the military, and they were joined by 6 Republicans.

Gays and lesbians in uniform are still being told, however, not to make any public declarations just yet. Not to come out of  the closet, not yet anyway. This is because the way the law was structured it simply enables the President and the military to inform congress that they have “reviewed the findings of a Pentagon study regarding an end to the ban and that the Defense Department has drafted the policies and regulations necessary to stop enforcing it. Those changes must not impact troop readiness, cohesion or military recruitment and retention, according to the law. ”

And even then it’s not gone. Another 60 days must elapse after receipt of the written notice.

And like not setting a timetable for bringing the longest war in US history to a close, they are not setting a timetable for the end of second-class citizenship for gays in the military.

Why put things off I wonder? My guess is that even when change is for the good, we fear change nevertheless.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Politifact’s 2010 Lie of the Year

Yes, Time Magazine has their “Person of the Year” (used to be Man of the Year), some guy named Mr. Blackwell has his Ten Worst Dressed list every year and now, come to find out, Politifact has its own claim to fame: “Lie of the Year.”

This year’s lie of the year, naturally, goes to Republicans who ginned up a perfectly huge whopper of a lie that was sold to voters in such a big way that exit poll after exit poll revealed that November general election voters were there to cast their “No” vote on the government takeover of healthcare..

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen ‘government takeover of health care’ as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.
Ironically, it was my sincerest wish that the healthcare reform bill that was considered this past year actually be the government takeover of healthcare that was promised, complete with “the public option”. That it wasn’t, and that it will make health insurance companies even richer because they can now insure another 30 million Americans because of this reform bill is truly galling.

But now icing on the cake is that when opponents billed it as a federal takeover, they did such a thorough job of spreading this lie that it is going to be very difficult for the healthcare insurance industry to debunk it.

Something that they are now going to have to do or risk losing billions in profits.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Terry Lakin Gets 6 Months in the Federal Pen

Remember Terry Lakin? The birther Army lieutenant colonel who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because he questioned whether President Obama was the lawful President of the United States because he suspected he was not a natural born citizen of the United States?

He said that if Obama is not President, then any order he issues is illegal.

The “Birther Doctor” just got his wish it seems. He will not be deployed to Afghanistan, instead he will be deployed for six months in a federal prison.

The prosecution in his court martial asked for 2 years. He got a quarter of that as well as a severance from the military.

“The prosecutor said Lakin had other options such as resigning or asking not to be deployed if he had issues with his orders. Instead, he used his deployment earlier this year as a political ploy, O'Beirne said, going to great lengths to create a "spectacle" by informing people of what he was doing.”

“‘He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it anyway,’ O'Beirne told the jury, asking members to send a message with their sentence and telling them they could ‘write the headline’ that appears in papers about Lakin.”
Like how he politicized the whole thing in this You Tube video:

Yes, he could have resigned, but he opted for the politics of the moment to get him out of going to the war zone. Too bad. He had a better shot at getting out of going to Afghanistan if he had just gone to his commanding officer and propositioned him. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was in full swing, and it still is despite the wishes of a President, a Secretary of Defense, a Joint Chiefs of Staff, 70% of all military service people, and the majority in the House of Representatives.

And a majority of Americans.

In the Senate there are 61 filibuster-breaking votes that can get the bill to repeal DADT to the Senate floor. What are the chances that it will come to a vote once and for all before those filibuster-breaking votes go away in January?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Feds Sue BP and Eight Others for Macondo Blowout

Finally someone got off the dime in DC and started filing a civil lawsuit against the corporate monsters who ruined the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico this past April.

From Fuel Fix:

“The civil lawsuit asks that the eight companies be held liable without limitation for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. They include BP, Anadarko, Transocean, Moex (a division of Mitsui) and two related entities and QBE underwriting (a division of Lloyd’s of London that insures Transocean).”

Halliburton, the company that cemented the casing, is so far not on the civil suit list. Halliburton is the company that did the cement job on the well. A cement job that ran awry when there was a failure to test the integrity of the cement job – a textbook procedure that anyone with 2 weeks experience on a drilling rig knows that you do this.

“The suit alleges the companies failed to take the necessary precautions to secure BP’s Macondo well before it blew out, failed to use the safest technology to monitor conditions and failed to use all available equipment to ensure the environment and workers were protected.”

Said Attorney General Eric Holder:
“These violations caused or contributed to the massive oil spill and the defendants therefore are responsible  . . .  for government removal costs (and) economic penalties.”
You know, I can see where they are going to go with this. Now that the beaches are open and evidence of further pollution is no more, the companies are going to say “Huh? What damage?”

So it is timely that we hear of recent deep sea submersible investigations in the deepwater of the Gulf Coast. There are now reports of large accumulations of oily sludge at the bottom of the Gulf. A mass that is turning a normally ecologically diverse deep sea floor with luxuriant deep sea biota into a sea floor resembling a barren lunar landscape.

From WBEZ:

We see this brown stuff on coral fans, hit like pine trees along a dusty dirt road. More slimy brown stuff hangs over some of the odd formations of frozen natural gas here half a mile below the surface. Crabs here normally pick at worms that actually live in this methane ice.
What do you call BP executives and those of 8 other oil service companies buried up to their necks in deepwater sediments soaked with Macondo oil?

A good start.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Setting the Standard: Flores Gets 5 Years Probation

So today Democratic State Rep. Kino Flores was sentenced to five years probation in his state ethics charges. The Rep had failed to report income on what was reported to be 10% surcharges on contracts that he was involved with. He is also known to have used his campaign funds for personal benefit. He is one of the few sitting State Reps to be tried and convicted of a felony. Prior to this sentence former State Rep Terri Hodge (D-Dallas) got a year in the federal slammer for a similar offense.

So much for Tom DeLay’s and his lawyers’ assertions that a Republican can’t get a fair trial in Austin.

And doesn’t this now set a standard by which we can expect sentencing on DeLay’s case?

Flores, after all, was ethically challenged in that he took money for services rendered, a reported required 10%, and then didn’t report it on his TEC forms. He was in it for himself, and maybe to augment what is arguably the lowest paid job in the state, that of a part-time citizen-statesman as we like to call them.

But not Tom DeLay. He took not a cent of the TRMPAC money. He had it laundered by the RNC and then saw that it got to the seven State Rep candidates whose districts he had targeted in order to regain the State House majority in 2002.

Paving the way to a twice in a decade congressional redistricting that netted DeLay and congressional Republicans with a larger majority in 2004, and more power for him in general.

In short, where Kino Flores took some kick backs, Tom DeLay subverted an entire democratic process. Where Kino Flores maybe got himself maybe a nice new pair of Nocona alligator skin boots, Tom DeLay enabled what is has ultimately become the sale of congress to the highest bidder.

For what Kino Flores did, he got five years probation and a fine of ten large. Oh, and 400 hours of community service – supposedly without getting a 10% kickback for services rendered.

So the standard is set and you can be sure that there will be people out there taking note of what kind of sentence is handed down to Tom DeLay early next year. There are still those of us who feel that the punishment needs to fit the crime. And now that a five year probation is the punishment that fits Flores’ crime, it seems that some time in the slammer for Tom DeLay would not be out of bounds of what is fair punishment.

121 months. Minimum.

Monday, December 13, 2010

School Closure Remains an Agenda Item In Fort Bend ISD

As reported at the KTRK website, the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees will hold yet another workshop on redistricting this evening. One of the agenda items, according to the notice is to consider the closing of a middle school and a high school, both of which are currently under-enrolled. Not mentioned in that article, but certainly on the minds of the parents of hundreds of Colony Bend Elementary School students is the possibility of closing that school. That possibility has alternately risen and then dropped below the radar.

The possibility of this closure is now found only here.

But I have to say that based on what we are seeing coming out of the State Comptroller’s office, the likelihood of an elementary school closure seems more and more probable.

Susan Combs, who in the past made herself felt in Texas schools as the State Agricultural Commissioner when she issued edicts that forever changed the rules on access to “junk food” in public schools, is at it again, once again making her presence known in Texas public schools.

Susan Combs wants to trim $558 million from the state’s education budget simply by increasing the statutory class size limit from 22 in the state’s Kindergarten through 4th grade classes. In doing so, this would require the services of 12,000 fewer specialists in early childhood pedagogy, also known as elementary school teachers.

So Fort Bend ISD, in considering an elementary school closure, and consolidation of classes in a redistribution of Colony Bend students, appears to be ahead of the curve.

Ahead of a curve that, arguably, decreases student performance, only because student performance increased when the lower class size limit was instituted all those years ago.

So should Fort Bend ISD parents be concerned? Undoubtedly. What can they do about it? How about step up? Now that we have a super-majority Republican presence in the state house, including a bunch of something for nothing Teabaggers, Fort Bend parents, if they want to maintain the current quality of education that their children currently enjoy, need to step up as the Republican majority in the House, and the Republican-dominated executive branch, including the TEA and the Comptroller’s office find a way to step back.

Step up or accept mediocrity.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ritter Beats Peña to the Punch

Perhaps because of the news that was broken by Burka, or perhaps not, State Rep Allan Ritter (D-(for now) Nederland), of the 21st house district has announced that he will be the 100th Republican in the 2011 legislative session, giving Republicans a clear two-thirds majority. A majority that guarantees their being able to pass a constitutional amendment with no Democratic votes. A guarantee that they can now raid the “Rainy Day” fund without a single Democratic vote.

Peña must be pissed. While he sat and pondered in an out-of-state location, while he promised an announcement this Tuesday, Ritter acted. Ritter acted and in doing so turned the keys to the kingdom over to the Republican Party.

Yes, it’s true. The keys to freedom and the treasury in Texas have just been delivered into Republican hands for the first time in history.

Imagine a voter photo ID requirement not being just a new law that can be overturned. Imagine if it were part of the Texas Constitution. Imagine the “Rainy Day” fund simply going “Pfffft” next year. It is, after all rainy – at least it is as a result of failed Republican tax policies that practically guaranteed a magnified shortfall during economic hard times.

Imagine all of that and now you live in my world: the Half Empty world where things are definitely going to get worse before they get any better.

In Ritter’s defense, this was an inevitability. The only reason Ritter got re-elected this year was that there wasn’t a soul on the ballot opposing him in the past election. Why that is I cannot fathom. Ritter’s district, HD-21, voted for McCain over Obama by 55.4% to 43.6% in 2008. In 2010 every successful judicial candidate that ran for office was a Republican. HD-21 is solidly Republican so now it has a state rep that is one as well.

Not so Aaron Peña. Peña’s district is, was, and always has been a Democratic stronghold. Peña’s promise to switch rather than fight has evolved from another species, it seems. Peña’s promise can be seen only as one from an insider Austin politician. A move to kick it with the cool kids. The kids with all the marbles. The kids holding all the cards.

And now the wind seems to have disappeared from his sails, hasn’t it?

Oh well. Maybe there’s some political capital that can be gained by claiming to be Republican Number 101.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Aaron Peña and the Politics of Being Irrelevant

With the current head count in the Texas State House, currently at 99 Republicans to 51 Democrats, now we have one of those 51 Democrats seriously considering switching parties in order to regain relevance.

From the Texas Tribune:
Peña  explains that with a near-two-thirds majority, how does the Democratic Party function in the State House without being irrelevant? By joining the majority, he hopes, he can better serve his constituents.
“Speculation is growing that state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, will soon switch parties, giving the Republicans the supermajority they were barely denied on Election Night. Paul Burka blogged about the possibility earlier this week, pulled the post and then put up something tonight after Peña called him from out of town to say that he was indeed contemplating his options.”

Peña  is no stranger to serving himself and his constituents over serving his party’s interests. As one of the Craddick Democrats in the 80th Legislature, Aaron Peña  was able to secure for himself a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee as well as being appointed by the Speaker to the chairmanship of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee all because he threw his support to conservative Republican Tom Craddick to serve another term as House Speaker. It will be well-remembered that this particular legislature nearly dissolved in open revolt as it wound to a close in May 2007.

But this kind of thing, Peña  must think, is not in the cards this time. Democrats will not be able to have that much effect in the politics of legislating this year. Not with Republicans occupying nearly 2 out of 3 House seats. So rather than pondering how to stay relevant in the face of two to one odds, Peña  is simply considering ratting out on his own party.


So this comes as not much of a shock to me, nor should anyone else be very surprised.

The surprise, you could say, will be if Pena’s constituents will send him back to Austin in 2012, should he run for re-election – as a Republican. Hidalgo County, you see, has never elected a Republican to any office. Peña  has always run unopposed on the general election ballot, but has had primary opponents in the “two Eddies,” Eddie Saenz (twice) and Eddy Gonzalez (once).

If either or both of these Eddies don’t see an opportunity here, now that would surprise me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekend With Bernie

Bernie Sanders is making a very long speech. He started today at and was still going strong 6 hours later.

Here is how it begins:

Barack Obama is just dead wrong here. He caved when caving was not what the American people want. Republicans want a tax break for their super-rich supporters, a tax break to be paid for by our children and grandchildren.

Bernie Sanders is my kind of US Senator.

Teabaggers, where are you now when the thing you were tearing at your clothes about last year is happening with wild abandon?


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Louisiana Rejects Teaching Creationism in Public Schools

You’ve got to be kidding.

As an educator, I know that when a teacher tries to relocate from Louisiana to Texas they are seriously scrutinized. Louisiana, says the common wisdom, simply doesn’t hold a candle to the level of instruction that takes place in Texas’ classrooms. Its teachers, are not exactly responsible for this, it’s the system that they are forced to teach within.

Enter stage left: the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this week rejected the critiques of evangelical Christians that demanded that evolution be taught as one of several explanations for speciation. That evolution is merely yet another attempt to make sense of scientific observation. This week they rejected all of these arguments and adopted a science textbook whose sole explanation for “the story of life” is in evolutionary theory.

The Louisiana Coalition for Science, a more focused lobby group, but similar to Texas’ Texas Freedom Network, released the following statement on this coup:
“We are pleased and proud that the board has done the right thing. As a result, students in Louisiana public schools will have the most current, up-to-date information about biology, including the theory of evolution, which is the strongest explanation of the history and development of life on Earth ever constructed.”
More current, I might add, and more up-to-date than students in neighboring Texas will receive now or in the future.

Texans take note: Louisiana has taken the lead here in the deep South and is forging on ahead of you and your school system.

At some point, I expect, Texas teachers, especially biology teachers, will have to be seriously scrutinized if they ever decide to move to Louisiana in order to ply their trade. Because if you are trained to say that evolution is merely a theory that is on par with the theory that Earth, the universe and all life was created on a 6-day creation schedule, and this soon followed by a catastrophic flood that destroyed the dinosaurs, you tend to lose your edge.

And your brains tend to turn to mush.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Dallas Baptists: Religious Diversity is Anti-Christian

Have you ever said “Merry Christmas” to a Jew? How about a Muslim? How would you like it if a Muslim said to you “Eid Mubarak” (عيد مبارك) wishing that you have a blessed Eid ul-Fitr?  

And you don’t celebrate Eid ul-Fitr, don’t know anyone who does, and don’t even know what you do to celebrate it?

Like it or not, this is a diverse nation. More diverse than when my ancestors made the trip from the old country, and their religion, and everyone else’s for that matter, was some form of Christianity.  But back then there was enough of a difference between the Christian sects, and such religious persecution, that it caused my European ancestors to leave their homeland in search of a country that was more tolerant of religious differences.

And now we seem to have come full circle. We are now where Europe was in the mid-19th century, and we are now persecuting those who exercise some religious tolerance, persecuting those who exercise some consideration for those of us who have differing religious views.

These new persecutors, among others are the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. The next Torquemada of the next Inquisition.

The First Baptist Church of Dallas has taken it upon itself the task of having people leave messages on their website turning in businesses who take diversity seriously and try not to offend those among us with differing, that is, non-Christian religious (or non-religious) points of view.

Their point is, I take it, that Christmas is all about Jesus the Savior of the World, and to deny Him the celebration of His Birthday is . . .what . . . anti-Christian?  Anti-American?

Anti-something, anyway.

They identify businesses as “naughty” and “nice.” Naughty businesses scrupulously avoid wishing their customers “Merry Christmas,” preferring “Happy Holidays.” Other businesses sell Christmas ornaments, or should I say Xmas ornaments, but not the kind that have Jesus in the manger or angels or religious sentiments.

“Nice” businesses do all of that.

The idea is to get like-minded Christians who deny the validity of any other religion not to shop at these “naughty” shops. Sort of like how the Taliban takes a dim view of Infidels or how Saudis don’t want our soldiers to drink beer while in their country.

So where did they get “naughty” and “nice?” Could it be from that seasonal holiday song about a mythical elf that bestows toys upon all the children of the world (or at least the Christian children, anyway) on Christmas Eve?

The song that more than any other, is responsible for the secularization of Christmas?

And I hate to break it to my Christian brethren, but history runs very much counter to the whole Jesus being born on December 25th thing. Christmas may have been hijacked by Free Enterprise in the 20th century, but originally Christmas was hijacked by the 5th century Roman Church when they saw their members celebrating the festival of the Invincible Sun – a three-day H-E-Double Hockey Sticks raiser that centered around the Winter Solstice, and a celebration of the sun returning on its journey back to the south with the promise of warmer days to come.

Put Christ back into Christmas? How about putting Sol back into the Solstice?

And how about getting back to the principles of our Founding Fathers and practice a little religious tolerance. Now more than ever because we’re not all Christians anymore, are we?

Ah, The Grinch, that green-skinned creature mentioned in the Book of Mark. Or was it the Book of John?

The Book of Seuss?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tea Party Federalism: A New Meld of Whacky Ideas

Only property owners should be able to vote.

If that sounds like something out of the 18th century you would not be wrong in thinking so. This is actually a point of view that was once quite prominent in American politics and policy making.

John Adams, our 2nd President, thought it was a grand idea:
“John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and later president, wrote in 1776 that no good could come from enfranchising more Americans:”

“Depend upon it, Sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. New claims will arise; women will demand the vote; lads from 12 to 21 will think their rights not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”
But now we are hearing from the Teabaggers that this is pretty much what they think also:

“Judson Phillips, President of the Tea Party Nation recently stated he believes that only property-owning individuals should have voting rights.”

“Phillips made the case that the original intent of the founding fathers was to only grant voting rights to property owners. His reason: “If you’re a property owner, you actually have a vested stake in the community.”
Now here’s the rub and the irony. Adams, who Phillips apparently agrees with, was a Federalist. When he was President he sat as the leader of the Federalist Party. The Federalist Party, it might be recalled, was the party of a strong central government.

Federalism was anathema to those of purported to support “states rights,” a well-known plank of the Tea Party platform.

And if that doesn’t underline the wackiness of the Tea Party movement, nothing does. Teabaggers simply have no knowledge of politics, government or policy. The only thing that they seem to take seriously is anything that any Founding Father said or thought.

Anything. Even if it runs counter to the central core of their philosophy.

But then that may yet be another definition of insanity.

Or at best, blind ignorance.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Tax Cut Compromise: Sell-Out or Shrewd Politics?

President Obama was on the tube a few minutes ago announcing some of the aspects of the bipartisan deal that was struck today with the Republicans in the Senate. At stake was a renewal of unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans whose unemployment insurance was about to run out right at Christmas, and whether the rich and super-rich could continue to take home a few more hundred thousand dollars per year in tax breaks, all financed by loans made to us by the Chinese.

And the result: Bob Cratchit will have a goose and plum pudding for his family again this year, and Tiny Tim gets to hobble on his withered leg for another 13 months, and Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to sock his sovereigns in his mattress for another 2 years.

Charles Dickens had no idea of how bad it could get, did he?

Some say that Barack Obama sold out to the rich. Obama himself says he doesn’t like that part of the deal but had to deal with a congress that was going to hold starvation over the heads of millions of Americans if their rich friends didn’t get their lucre.

Others say that Barack Obama has given Republicans an edge in that should employment pick up in the coming months, Republicans will take credit, saying that it was the tax cuts to the rich that spurred the hiring.

On the other hand, if hiring doesn’t upsurge, Republicans lose the argument, don’t they? Well, they do if the long-term political memory of American voters lasts longer than 6 weeks, which it never does.

Truth to tell, it is my suspicion that the game is rigged. I have often wondered why banks are sitting on a trillion dollars without investing it, stimulating growth and jobs. I have wondered if they have withheld funds intentionally in order to keep growth in employment depressed. I wonder now whether they will open the flood gates now that this deal is struck, giving Republicans a victory whether they deserve it or not.

Still and all, there is a shrewdness to what Obama did, selling out or not. Republicans now do not have a dog in the hunt of the blame game on how Obama’s policies are destroying the economy, unless, of course, they cook up something else. They are also now responsible for the addition of hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt because of this rich/super-rich tax break.

The main problem is perception. It always is. American political opinion based on long-term memory always works against those with thoughtful arguments and discourse based on the facts. And it is always easily swayed by those who shriek the loudest with their own manufactured facts because they don’t actually rely on long-term memory.

So what was the point of this?

I forgot.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Perry/Palin in 2012

What do you call it when you put a state governor who has spent too much time in that office on the same presidential ticket as a state governor that couldn’t even serve out her full first term as state governor?

A dream ticket.

A dream ticket, that is, for Democrats.

Rick Perry is running for president. He hasn’t declared it, not yet. But actions speak louder than words. When Rick Perry ran for re-election in this past mid-term election he didn’t debate his Democratic opponent or anyone else for that matter. And that, as it turns out, was not because he was afraid of what Bill White could do to him, although he would have been turned into mincemeat by a more thoughtful debater, it’s because Rick Perry wasn’t running against Bill White in the past election.

He was running against Barack Obama.

His landslide victory was not a result of a Texas electorate that was elated over his record as governor – they had no idea what his record was – it was about how Perry took up the battle cry of anti-federalism. Rick Perry is a “Tenther” of the first order – a states’ rights proponent of an order that we haven’t seen since the Lincoln-Douglas debates. And this hits an emotional chord with Teabaggers.

Teabaggers and Texans.

And now, according to this article in the Chron, Perry is taking his argument with the Feds to the national stage.

From the Chron:

“Perry is preparing to revamp the Republican Governors Association to focus more on policy and energize states' push-back against the federal government.”

“‘There's just no question that Rick Perry views his upcoming term as chairman as an opportunity to raise his issues and his national profile,’ says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University.”

Rick Perry is running for president.

And nipping at his heels for the role of the populist candidate of greatest appeal to Teabaggers is former semi-governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. Her well-timed book signing tour will keep her in the forefront of Teabagger politics as we head toward the inevitable hat-tossing contest that will occur early next year. With the Iowa Caucus only 14 months away, we will soon see the field of GOP candidates emerge. And you can bet that Perry and Palin will be there at the forefront.

Now Sarah Palin scared the bejesus out of independent voters in 2008. She is sure to do so again. Should Rick Perry be his party’s choice to run against Barack Obama in 2012 he would be insane to include her on his ticket. But who knows, that’s a year and a half away. Lots can happen.

What would happen, for example, if Rick Perry gets the nomination and chooses “Anyone but Palin” to be his running mate? Would this be enough to inflame his base and cause the schism in the GOP that I have been expecting?

Tax cuts for the rich that run up the deficit. Earmarks. Medicaid cuts. All of the things that Teabaggers are against Republicans seem to be for, but so far there has been no organized opposition to the Republican agenda by Teabaggers. But this would personify it for them.

Facts and issues don’t concern Teabaggers. But slighting Sarah Palin, the darling of the poor-spelling wearers of teabags and tricorn hats just might be the spark that we Democrats have been anticipating for some time now.

Friday, December 03, 2010

An Apology

I am sorry to my six readers that I was unable to make a posting today. It was a family emergency.

One that I wish I had more often.

I am a genealogy freak and have been tracing my family roots for some five years now. Tonight my efforts saw fruits. I got to meet my 4th cousin. An unemigrated cousin from Europe. How cool is that? All of the cousins I have met talk like I do. Eric has an accent. A lovely accent.

We shared beers, chicken wings, and family stories. Eric, if you are reading this, thanks.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why Education is Poised on the Brink of Disaster and No One Cares

It’s all here at FortBendNow. Fort Bend ISD, a local school district held a workshop meeting this week in which the discussion was going to be based on redrawing school zone boundaries to meet the fluctuations in school populations.

Parents were arrayed all over the board room sporting printed T-Shirts that they had paid to put forth their own agendas.

“FBISD Don’t Divide New Territory,” read one. Yet another pleaded with the board to “Keep Sienna Together.” New residents in the Telfair community sported T-shirts that said, alternately,“Don’t Divide Telfair” and “Choose Telfair High School Number 12.” Yet another wore the shirt that asked them to“Be Fair To Chelsea Harbor.”

School boundary lines, it seems, evokes strong feelings among the parents in the community.

Board President Sonal Bhuchar, seeing the array of beshirted people decided to try and let them know what it is that they were concerned with, as opposed to what the parents seemed mightily concerned with: the budget.

From FortBendNow:
“Before we open up discussion, I want to take two minutes to explain what I think the board understands very well, but to explain to the community the framework within which we are trying to work. Rezoning is a very, very difficult situation – always stuck between a rock and a hard place. As we go into this I want to make sure all in this room know we are not drawing arbitrary lines. As a board I want to remind everybody that we are working with a very severe budget crisis.”

She went on to make the projection that state funding coming to Fort Bend ISD, according to one projection, could fall by $26 million each year. This is if education cuts face the same chopping block as other areas of the state budget.

Now this school district has been running a deficit for three years, and has recently laid off 463 teachers in order to avoid a 21 million dollar shortfall. Since the school district is already running lean, it is difficult to see where other cuts could be made. Another reduction in force is inevitable it seems.

But parents are not very concerned with that. Not as much as they are concerned with their children getting to go to the school of their choosing.

They don’t realize, it seems, that it’s not the school building that delivers the education, it is, however educators that do that job.

This is why education is doomed for a pasting in the next couple of years. Parents, that is, taxpayers haven’t yet gotten the fact that if they don’t step up and take up the slack that the state seems to be willing to extend to local districts, their schools, and the education of their children, will suffer.

Most telling is a remark by the district superintendent. The district, ironically, has funds to build more schools. They just don’t have any money to operate them (for that, read pay teachers).

And as long as parents are more concerned with what school their children attend than they are about the actual education that they receive, education faces looming disaster.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Soak the Poor Republicanism is Back in Vogue

I’ve been silent about this looming insanity because I have been waiting for someone in the media to finally get some Republican talking head to finally admit that they are bringing back the old Republican saw of “Soak the Poor.”

Or words to that effect.

But no, the hypocrisy is rampant. Republicans are using the millions of out-of-work Americans to justify not raising taxes on the richest among us because, they say, it is the rich that create jobs. But you know, that is one of their biggest whoppers. Trickledown economics is a theory, like Intelligent Design, that cannot be proven. Cannot be proven because there are no hard facts that cutting taxes on the rich creates jobs.

As a matter of fact, the only thing cutting taxes on the rich is sure to accomplish is to run up an already staggering deficit even higher, something Teabaggers and Republicans have been screaming about at the tops of their lungs for a couple of years now – ever since Bush left office.

But amazingly enough, the one thing that can help our unemployed, extending unemployment, at a much lower cost than shoveling money at the rich, the Republicans are dead set against that.

In effect, the Republican plan, if you could call it a plan, is to soak the poor and the middle class and give it to the rich, running up the deficit even higher.

Msidooh Nibor.

Robin Hoodism in reverse.