Good hair and the inexact science of compromise

BACK IN TEXAS — Coy seems to be the watchword these days among the growing crowd of would-be candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Pundits and GOP talking points distributors have thrown themselves all into a big ol’ tizzy this week over the on-again off-again presidential ambitions of Sarah Palin, a.k.a. Caribou Barbie, suddenly switched into the on-again position. A piece of interesting journalism from The Christian Science Monitor poses the intriguing question: Will Palin face her “mini-me” in Michelle Bachmann should the almost one-term Alaska governor decide to run? Meanwhile, our good-haired boy Gov. Rick Perry — between denouncing the federal government and asking for its help — is thinking of throwing, at least his coquettishness, into the presidential ring again.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets ready to lead the secession

These GOP politicians who otherwise take up valuable air on this planet are, of course, joined by declared candidates his Mormonesque Mitt Romney, his Newtwitishness Newt Gingrich, his Weirdness Ron Paul and other well and less well known Republicans such as pro-Pot former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and pro-anything that works at the time former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Coy. The rest are being coy. Coy can be cute. But it’s not so much in this case.

Soon you will need a program for the players. And, I am not talking about a television program hosted by his Donaldness Donald “The Donald” Trump.

Such a wide-open field makes for a more-interesting race sometimes. In this case, the race might evolve into a contest in which  of the biggest harebrain crackpots might be nominated rather than the traditional GOP “good party man.” If this next presidential challenge doesn’t finish off the Republican Party as we know it, then I don’t know what will.

But what if the dog actually catches the car? What will Fido do with it?

My prediction is that a Republican president taking office in 2013 will not be the cure-all for all those, supposedly, long-suffering GOP and/or Tea Party boosters. An example is the furor over the state of Texas failing to receive a major disaster declaration from Spring wildfires.

FEMA rejected a request earlier this month by Gov. Good Hair for a declaration that would help reduce the state and local fiscal burden for those wildfires that have scorched more than 2.2 million acres across Texas. Perry said at the time of the rejected request: “It is not only the obligation of the federal government, but its responsibility under law to help its citizens in times of emergency.”

This is the same governor who shocked millions of Americans by saying Texas could secede if it wanted to do so.

“We are very proud of our Texas history; people discuss and debate the issues of can we break ourselves into five states, can we secede, a lot of interesting things that I’m sure Oklahoma and Pennsylvania would love to be able to say about their states, but the fact is, they can’t because they’re not Texas,” Perry said.

The governor must have been tossing back cold Lone Stars at the Dixie Chicken when Texas History was being taught during his college days at A & M.

An 1845 joint congressional resolution annexing Texas allows, theoretically at least, the state to divide itself up into five states. That doesn’t mean Texas would leave the United States. The Civil War took care of that notion. That was after Texans turned their back on one of its most revered figures, then-Gov. Sam Houston. The leader whose troops defeated Mexico at San Jacinto and who was later president of the Republic of Texas and a U.S. senator for Texas — before Texas he also served as governor of and a U.S. representative from Tennessee — was removed as governor because of his strong opposition to secession.

Knowledge of Texas history  aside, Perry has appealed the ruling for no disaster declaration and the Obama administration’s contention that almost $40 million in grants to help battle Texas wildfires was sufficient.

In addition to the millions already granted to Texas, federal help has come in the form of wildland firefighters from 35 states. Many of those who have helped battle fires across the state are from so-called “hotshot” crews which come from three federal agencies, Native American tribes as well as from the states of Alaska and Utah. The U.S. military has likewise lent assistance in the form of helicopters and air tankers.

Having the federal government take an additional burden of the funding for fighting these fires would be welcome and might have been readily deliverable to the state. Unfortunately, Perry and his faux secession act as well as a number of Texas congressional members made that declaration a non-starter.

An increasing number of Republicans were elected to the U.S. House from Texas over the past decade. Yet, few of them have found access to power and have spent more time obstructing and less time working with the administration. Congress members from the state with more tenure and more oomph might have grabbed the president’s ear or found ways to, as that great scholar Larry the Cable Guy says: “Git R Done.”

Sometimes it takes a little more than just sending someone to Congress who is of your party preference. Also, the notion of a House member serving only one or two terms is ridiculous. It takes that long just to find your way from the Capitol to the congressional office buildings.

It seems cruel to say that voters who think the federal government should fork over millions every time their governor says: “Go,” only have themselves to blame. But that is about the gist of it. People who want ideologues in office and get them are often disappointed. Life isn’t easy to stand for your principles unbending. I have seen the word politics defined as “the art of compromise.” Perhaps it is more an inexact science. Although, “compromise” remains an essential particle.

When it comes to picking the next nominee to run against President Obama, perhaps something more substantial than nice hair and a pretty smile might be entertained by Republican voters.

Watch the soap: “As The Government Turns”

The machinery of the federal government is gearing down toward a halt. I know this from personal experience, but I will not go into it just because. No, I could relate some of that familiarity but I see no reason to, it being fairly pedestrian. Besides, we still have more than eight hours to go even though I don’t believe in miracles — at least when the federal government is concerned. By federal government, I include Congress.

Give us your tired, your poor and your idiots, the latter of whom will make our laws.

Military men and women aren’t happy campers, reports Navy Times, for the same reason I am not doing cartwheels. The threat of no pay sometime down the road is on our minds. The American Federation of Government Employees, a mighty fine labor organization I might say, a.k.a. AFGE, is seeking an injunction which would prohibit military and other federal workers who are deemed essential from having to work without pay. The AFGE says they have the Constitution to back them up.

“Hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be required to work during a shutdown, and there’s no guarantee that Congress will keep the administration’s promise to pay those employees once the shutdown is over,” AFGE National President John Gage said.

The suit charges that the Obama administration is violating the Appropriations Clause and Thirteenth Amendment by requiring federal civilian employees to work without pay during a period of lapsed federal appropriations.


Really, there isn’t anything to do but sit back and watch all the foolishness and silliness in this gargantuan soap opera played out by the people who govern the “greatest nation on Earth.”

For a little insanity not directly related to the government shutdown: BP has bought an eastern-facing beach of Cat Island, a barrier island in the Mississippi Sound. The part of the beach is the top of the “T” of the T-shaped island that is about eight miles south of Gulfport, Miss. Parts of the island were long in private hands. So, says a BP press flak,  it would be easier for the company to clean up the beach, due to the massive Deepwater Horizon explosion-caused oil spill which happened one year ago this month, than to have to deal with the regulatory niceties of cleaning up private property. You break it, you buy it, I guess. Candy, I bet. S**t, I reckon.

On that note, I know I am off from my part-time job until at least Tuesday. We shall see if it is longer than that, and if I will be back to begging for donations on the blog if the threatened shutdown materializes.



110 years ago today in our town — 110 years later in our world

” … and up from the ground came a bubbling crude, oil that is, Black Gold, Texas Tea.”  From “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” written by Paul Henning

That description of good fortune found by Jed, of “The Beverly Hillbillies” fame, fits to a “tea” what happened in real life about three miles from where I live. The crude began bubbling — exactly 110 years ago today (January 10, 1901) — at place known as “Spindletop.” A very informative article about the history of Spindletop that was written by Robert Wooster and Christine Moor Sanders, and published in Handbook of Texas Online describes the pivotal moment of the World’s most important oil gusher ever:

“The startled roughnecks fled as six tons of four-inch drilling pipe came shooting up out of the ground. After several minutes of quiet, mud, then gas, then oil spurted out. The Lucas geyser, found at a depth of 1,139 feet, blew a stream of oil over 100 feet high until it was capped nine days later and flowed an estimated 100,000 barrels a day.”

It is pretty safe to say nothing of such far-reaching magnitude ever occurred since in Jefferson County, Texas, located on the easternmost Gulf Coast of the Lone Star State. Although I wasn’t around for Spindletop, I bet that not even Janis Joplin’s triumphant return in 1970 to her 10th graduation anniversary at Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur could have matched Spindletop as a colorful and raucous event. And, from what I saw on local TV, Janis coming home freaked out a lot of folks.

The geyser, simply stated, started the modern petroleum industry as we know it. Some of the world’s most important oil companies had their start within a 25-mile radius of Spindletop: The Texas Company, later Texaco; Magnolia, later Mobil and even later ExxonMobil; Humble Oil, later Exxon and ExxonMobil, Gulf Oil, Sun. The companies read like a who’s who list of the petroleum industry.

Some who share my occasional liberal thoughts seem to believe “oil” is a four-letter-word. But the truth is not even those people can with any type of ease live without the fruits of hydrocarbons. While the oil industry made some people filthy rich and others just filthy, many modest livings — read: above average middle class — came from refineries, drilling and other facets of the petrochemical world. Why yours truly has made even a very modest amount of dough off oil and gas wells that I inherited. Certainly not much, albeit the low five-figure range over 25 years.

Most of the folks in the area I grew up in certainly knew the worth of oil as the industry paid for a lot of those people’s pickup trucks, bass boats, nice houses and for the most part a comfortable life. But other than immediate jobs, those who lived in the area I am from and now live in had no clue 110 years ago how Spindletop would transform the worldwide economy.

Those were certainly heady times, back in 1901.

But all was not quiet.

In September at a state fair that year, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt first mouthed his foreign policy mantra: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Four days later, President William McKinley was shot at the Pan American Exhibition in Buffalo, N.Y. He died eight days later.

McKinley’s assassin, 28-year-old Leon Czolgosz, was an avowed anarchist although none of the known anarchist groups would claim him as a member and some reportedly thought him to be a spy for the government. Before the month of September was out, a jury convicted Czolgosz. In really swift justice he was executed in the electric chair at New York’s Auburn Prison about a month later, his last words being: “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people – the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.”

The new Republican president, Roosevelt, showed that year that he would not be  easily buttonholed as a politician when it came to his actions. There was  his bully pulpit rhetoric about carrying a big stick, but after becoming president he also told Congress he wanted trusts curbed reasonably and he also invited noted African American Booker T. Washington to the White House. The latter sat off riots and other unrest in the South.

On Saturday, January 8, 2011, almost 110 years to the day Spindletop blew in, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, allegedly shot almost two dozen people at a congressional meet and greet outside a Safeway store in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. The target of the shooting appeared to be U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat. Giffords was shot in the head and remains in critical conditions although doctors say she shows encouraging signs that could signal improvement.

Loughner has left a lot of crazy writings behind as he sits in jail. The alleged assassin appears to be anti-government but like Czolgosz  also appears to be a lone nut job.

Perhaps in the days ahead we will learn just what were the motivating factors behind these shootings. Was the act because Giffords is a Democrat, or that she is Jewish, or that she supported President Obama’s health care plan even though she supported tough immigration measures and is pro-gun? Did the relentless cacaphony of political argument that passes for entertainment on cable news and talk radio play a part in driving Loughner over the edge?

We may never know. But just as the world turned 110 years ago today in the town in which I reside, giving rise to the world’s most important — although sometimes exasperating — industry so does our planet keep revolving where it seems no amount of good can ever completely snuff out the anger that lives in mankind.

I am painting broad brush here. But sometimes it does a body good to look at the world through the macro lens inward. Perhaps one must speak softly and carry a big magnifying glass.

Andre Johnson scores while Barack Obama fouls out

There is so much to rant about today but I will limit it to just two topics: The federal salary freeze proposal made by President Obama and the donnybrook Sunday between Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson and Tennessee Titans defensive back Cortland Finnegan. Two very disparate topics, granted, but perhaps there is some connection there. Rather than my ranting, which seems to do no good for anyone, I will just provide some links that may be read so that if someone is interested they can decide on their own, like they’ll do that.

First, the president announced a freeze for two years on increases for federal workers. I think this is boneheaded, wrongheaded, or any other kind of headed move and illustrates what a cheap political ploy that Obama has chosen. It is public relations and perhaps a little payback for all the federal workers who didn’t get out enough to support Democratic congressional candidates. Of course, federal workers can’t do that supporting on their work time, it’s against the Hatch Act. So that leaves all those other hours federal employees have to spare such as those who may have to travel home from work daily in Washington into the heart of Virgina, Maryland, Pennsylvania or wherever.

The debate which has kind of laid beneath the whole issue of federal wages gained steam during the candidacy of  Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, the nude model who won the seat previously held by Sen. Ted Kennedy. Brown claimed the average federal worker makes twice what the average public sector employee receives for pay. That is hooey.

Federal statistics do show government employees with higher average wages than their public sector “counterparts.” The trouble with those statistics is that comparing the two is most often apples and oranges. Throw in the mysteries of federal compensation such as locality pay and how those government workers who are supposedly paid a salary are really paid by the hour and you have got an incomprehensible analogy. Let’s take, for instance, a part-time federal employee with a salary of  almost $35,000  who works 28 hours a week, that is with the “Rest of the U.S.” locality pay sector. That employee would actually gross about, $10,000 per year less than that individual’s official salary. Well, that’s just a part-time worker, you might say, that’s comparing apples to oranges. My point exactly. That also does not account for what scant overtime one might get, or benefits, although a part-time employee may or may not opt for all benefits such as the insurance.

Well, for not writing a lot, I sure have written a lot and this is only Part Uno.

As for Part II, the Texans shutout the Titans 20-0 Sunday, which is especially pleasing for me since the Titans once were the Houston Oilers until owner Bud “The Jackass” Adams moved his team to Nashville. During this game a fight broke out between star Houston receiver Andre Johnson and cornerback Cortland Finnegan of the Titans.

Press accounts show Finnegan, who some call the “dirtiest player” in the NFL on the “dirtiest team” in the NFL, was dogging Johnson all day. That is to be expected. However, Finnegan became increasingly aggressive and, say Texans on the sideline, deliberately provoked Johnson by jamming him in  the face mask. Johnson ripped off Finnegan’s helmet and proceeded to punch him several times “about the head and shoulders” as the old saying goes. The zebras threw Johnson out of the game while a smirking Finnegan stood on the sidelines. However, he too was ejected and walked to the dressing room with the ever-present smirk on his face.

The reputations of both players show that there could not be more different individuals to face each other on the field. Finnegan is short and lightweight, and relishes trash-talking or any other way he can get under a receiver’s skin. Johnson is tall, like a solid immovable mass, who is known for his quiet and humble demeanor while letting his playing do his talking for him. Johnson apologized to the fans and his team after the incident, acknowledging he lost his cool and that he expects the league to punish him for his part. Late news reports, not yet substantiated, indicate Johnson will be fined but not suspended.

Although I am not, have never been and most likely will never be a brawler, I could see myself punching Finnegan if I were in Johnson’s big shoes (I am assuming he has big shoes, I’ve never seen people his height with tiny feet, much less someone who is one of the NFL’s best receivers.) One can say what they want about football. Especially pro football is a very aggressive and a very punishing game. When you start  dealing with your own fortunes and that of your teammates in the millions of dollars as well as your ability to project the kind of aggression needed in the game, you damned well better possess the ability to defend yourself. That is what I saw Johnson doing.

So, apology accepted, Andre.

As for Barack, I supported him and continue to support him. But I think his federal pay freeze proposal is just wrong, wrong, wrong. And I don’t expect an apology from him.

A bloodless coup for suckers. Time to call the plumber.

Shellac to have a nickel? Shellac to have a dime?

The word of the day, boys and girls, is “shellac.” Even the president says that his Democratic party took a “shellacking” in Tuesday’s general elections. It wasn’t because voters had an unabiding affection for the Grand Old Party. Perhaps it is closer to the description written by John Dickerson of Slate, saying that the election was not so much a victory as it was voters throwing their hands up in the air.

But what are voters so pissed off at? Is it big government? Is it the deficit? Is the taxes raised by Obama? To begin to answer these questions, one must ask: Do you go to bed at night worrying about big government? Ditto the deficit. I bet it keeps millions up all night long. And the taxes. What taxes?

Welcome to America — Land of the All-Day Sucker!

The candidates selected Tuesday elevate the electorate from All-Day Sucker to All-Term Sucker.

This election has probably been the greatest propaganda job since Dr. Joe Goebbels and Kristallnacht. It started with the 24/7 saturation of anti-health care reform commercials on cable. Of course, you have the conservative talk machine on radio and Fox News as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. The Tea Party was invented and the national media jumped on it like stink on s**t. The national news media had a ready-made drama and since they don’t like searching for the real Mr. Bigs of the operation they have plenty of Mr. Littles. The nuts, who mostly and thankfully weren’t elected, were just what the media needed for the Miracle Whip on top.

Hyperbole was the watchword of the day this mid-term election. And drama. News can no longer be explaining policy, it’s the drama that’s important. The public wants to know if Paris Hilton went panty-less last night so they also require something that will keep them entertained, but mostly worry, worry about politics. The national media chases the drama. Their suits chase the money. Oh my God, so much money, that the candidates spend on TV ads. Except at the local level, you hardly ever see a “My name is Joe Schmoe, I have done this and now I want to do that. My name is Joe Schmoe and I approve of this message.” Instead, you see a story that looks like it is real and may have some basis in reality, but is played by actors on the commercial, which is paid for by some entity of which you’ve never heard called “Americans for Growing a Sound and Sane Government.”

The voters have been suckered, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, Charlie Brown fell on his butt trying to kick the elusive football held by Lucy. You think you’d learn.

A good many voters were convinced Obama’s health care plan was heavy-handed or would change their current insurance plans, which continue to rip their customers off left and right. Others may have liked parts of the plan but were leery about how it was to be implemented.

Big money, big business, the  U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who now seeks to rule America, seized upon the unhappiness with so-called “Obamacare.” It didn’t help, of course, that the recovery from the greatest economic panic since the Great Depression was way too slow for the Americans who expect everything to be done yesterday. The powers that be, along with Goebbels’ own modern-day ideological ancestors, made the concerns and fear into their own little Holy War. “I want my country back,” says Clueless McEuless. Uh oh, where’d it go. Where’d they put my country?

This all sounds like a lot of paranoia, I know. Rightfully so. I can’t confirm all that is going on behind the scenes among the folks who engineered what in some countries might be called a “bloodless coup.”

Maybe it is paranoia but unlike those people who don’t sit up all night worrying about the deficit or big government, I have to sit up at night worrying if this Congress will try to take away my Veterans health care or at least put it in the hands of some Third-w0rld country. Am I ever going to see that damn orthopedic specialist or am I just supposed to walk around until my knee melts into a big lump o’ protoplasm?  I also worry whether those  who made threats of shutting down the government will do so, which will really make me stay up nights, wondering if the government will pay what they owe me or will my creditors run roughshod over me?

There is really nothing I can do about it now. Obviously, the politicians will not listen to me. People like my congressman for the last four or five years, Rep. Ted Poe,  surely aren’t listening. Our governor sure as Hell won’t listen, but he’ll probably run for president in 2012. Good Hair for President! Maybe a Moose Lady Sarah Palin–Good Hair Rick ticket. That would be perfect. The reality is that with Republicans in charge of our state government and the U.S. House, I am pretty much disenfranchised, in all but certain matters which require the assent of the Senate.

The onus is on you my friends. That is “onus” with an “o” an not with an “a.” You are the ones who wanted to “throw the bums out.” So you have to do your part to participate in government, or else, the government goes down stinking (yes, I said “stinking” and not “sinking” although I could see both terms applicable.) Save us from the big bad, government my opposition friends. Save us from ourselves.

Oh, and when you wake up some day and see what a mess that has been made by the bozos you elected, don’t despair. We all make mistakes. Some only cost us dollars. Others cost us dignity. Still others, like some folks who recently departed after almost a decade, cost us lives. It’s your problem now. It’s your time to call the plumber.