Friday, November 30, 2018

The Blue Tide


















Election day finally came and even though there were disappointments, I found myself feeling better and better as the days turned into weeks. Taking over the house, the Dems look to gain 40 seats.  Democrats also gained 250 seats in state legislatures.  They took functional control of seven legislative chambers while the Rs only took control of the Alaska House.

All in all, Dems won over 53.4% of the vote and the Rs got  44.8%.  This margin of  9.7 million votes  is greater than the 8.6 million vote victory after the Nixon resignation in 1974.

And even though the Dems captured an equal margin of Senate votes, Republicans gained 2 seats. But they lost Arizona and Nevada, thus making the  populated West more and more blue.  Democrats are now the party of choice in our populated areas where Republicans are the party of choice for the rural areas.  That gives the R's an advantage in the Senate where North Dakota has the same amount of senators as California.

Dems also gained 7 governorships.

Democrats gained enough seats to deprive Republicans of supermajorities in Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. This will keep Republicans from having enough votes to override the vetoes of Democratic governors in those states.  Meanwhile, Democrats achieved supermajorities for themselves in seven chambers.

So, don't spend any mental energy debating whether or not this was a wave.

It  clearly was and is a Blue Tide. Which I think is a better metaphor.

And we should be grateful that Nancy Pelosi will soon be third in line to the presidency.

Here in Texas, we watched Beto raise almost 70 million dollars in his close loss to his sneering McCarthy look-alike opponent, but his excitement brought down-ballot dividends.  Even in  Red (neck) Texas, all of the large cities are are now blue. Ed Emmett, the 11 year incumbent Republican county judge in Houston, lost to a 27-year-old newcomer named Lina Hildager. And Dems won a host of real judges.

Democrats in Houston won all 59 seats that were on the ballot leaving only Democrats on the bench in civil, criminal, family, juvenile and probate courts.

At the state level, Democrats flipped 12 seats, bringing their numbers in the House to 67 in a House where 76 votes brings control. Dems also gained seats in the Senate. In the  judiciary though, Texas Dems cleaned up flipping the four influential state appeals courts that serve Austin, Houston and Dallas.  Democrats now hold majorities on seven of the 14 appeals courts.  Before the election, they held seats on just three.

And finally, Democrats flipped two congressional seats, returning the 7th district to the Democratic column since it was first flipped to the R's with George H W Bush in the late sixties. And veteran Pete Sessions was retired by Colin Alred.

If you are a real geek, check out the Tribune for actual semi-offical numbers.

So even as POTUS in his usual reality challenged way tried to whistle through his election day graveyard, that Russian thing just keeps unfolding like a Venus fly-trap.  Here is what we know thanks to Axios.

  • We now know several Russian officials reached out to a half-dozen Republicans very close to Trump and his campaign, including his eldest son, his closest adviser, his lawyer and his campaign manager. We now know they took the meetings, often enthusiastically, during and after the campaign. 
  •  
  • We now know Russia offered in those chats campaign assistance — “synergy,” they called it. We now know no one around Trump alerted the FBI of this effort to subvert our elections. 
  •  
  • We now know that 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted for hacking the DNC and systematically releasing material for the purpose of hurting the Clinton campaign via WikiLeaks. 
  •  
  • We know that Trump associates Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi attempted — successfully, in some instances — to get in touch with WikiLeaks and that they are under investigation for whether they had advance knowledge about the email dumps.
  •  
  • We now know Donald Trump Jr. and others took a meeting with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. We now know Don Jr., when approached with the promise of dirt, wrote: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
  •  
  • We now know Trump was negotiating a Trump property in Moscow during the presidential campaign — and hid this from the public and lied about it. We now know Mueller believes, based on his court filing, the “Moscow Project was a lucrative business opportunity that sought, and likely required, the assistance of the Russian government.”
  •  
  • We now know every arm of the U.S. intelligence community concluded Russia sought to systematically influence the election outcome. We now know this was an unanimous conclusion, save one dissent: Trump. 
  •  
  • We now know Trump officials continued talking with the Russians during the post-election transition. We now know Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions failed to initially disclose any contacts with Russians on their government forms. 
  •  
  • We now know Jared Kushner suggestedsecret backchannel with the Russians, which had it happened, would have been free of U.S. eavesdropping.
  •  
  • We now know Trump soured on FBI director James Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House counsel Don McGahn in part over their handling of the probe. 
  •  
  • We now know Paul Manafort, who ran the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, lied about his Russia contacts, was indicted and is going to jail.
  •  
  • We now know Flynn lied about his Russian contacts, was fired and pleaded guilty, after agreeing to become a key witness in the investigation.
  •  
  • We now know Cohen lied about his Russian contacts, was indicted and then flipped to become a key witness against Trump. 
A friend of mine told me over Thanksgiving that he only gives this administration another six months before it falls under the enormous weight of its own corruption, the unending lies, the incompetence, and its treacherous use of a foreign power to gain power.

I took the bet.

And will hope that a luminescent Blue Tide returns in 2020.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Make American Sane Again

















As Chairman of the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, I write a brief statement in the monthly newsletter.  Here is my October statement where I gave the Good News:

"Our mission statement to guide and accelerate the adoption of electric transportation in all its forms in the most cost effective way providing maximum benefit to the citizens of Texas" stands on its own whether or not you accept that mankind is changing the climate.

Moving to a transportation future that is unified with the stationary generation grid just makes good sense with or without the issue of climate change.

But of course, there is climate change and the new IPCC report is pretty blunt.  Here is my deep edit on the actual report from the IPCC.

“Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

Reflecting the long-term warming trend since pre-industrial times, observed global mean surface temperature for the decade 2006–2015 was 0.87°C higher than the average over the 1850–1900 period. Estimated anthropogenic global warming matches the level of observed warming to within ±20%.

Estimated anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C per decade due to past and ongoing emissions

Warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic. Warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean.

Trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected over time spans during which about 0.5°C of global warming occurred.

Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts but these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C

Anthropogenic emissions up to the present are unlikely to cause further warming of more than 0.5°C over the next two to three decades or on a century time scale. “

So the good news is we have not cooked ourselves yet.


Of course the operative word here is YET

And in the spirit of the country western song where falling feels like flying for a little while, good news this bad is hardly worth celebrating.

Because the Bad News is we really have to be good from now on or we won't be just cooked, we'll be well done.

According to the New York Times story:

"A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The Report issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population." (clip)

Avoiding the most serious damage requires transforming the world economy within just a few years, said the authors, who estimate that the damage would come at a cost of $54 trillion. But while they conclude that it is technically possible to achieve the rapid changes required to avoid 2.7 degrees of warming, they concede that it may be politically unlikely."

For most of the month after this shattering pronouncement, the leader of the so called free world stoked the fires of fear with his subjects by proclaiming that a dangerous army of women and children fleeing climate change and the politics of fear were invading our borders.  As they walk from their Central American homes and villages, he sends 5,000  troops to the border.

In Bob Woodward's new book Fear, Woodward  reports that our fearless leader 's response to the question of "what is power" was FEAR.


Creating fake fear while ignoring real danger is crazy.


I need a Make America Sane Again hat.


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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Micael Priest (1951-2018)



























*

Weirdly, Micael Priest finished his walk with us this September on the 11th as another 9/11 memory gets burned into our collective history. He was born on October 11th.

His public life is pretty well known by folks in the music scene here in Austin.  Here's the opening from the Austin Chronicle story:

"Micael Priest, whose poster art remains deeply representative of Austin music, passed away yesterday at age 66. He had been suffering from multiple health issues, including diabetes and a bad heart.

Micael Priest was the most prolific of the Armadillo Art Squad,” says South Austin Museum of Popular Culture Director Leea Mechling, referring to the legendary in-house team at the Armadillo World Headquarters, which included Jim Franklin, Guy Juke, Danny Garrett, Bill Narum, Henry Gonzalez, Kerry Awn, G.L. McElhaney, Ken Featherston, Nels Jacobson, and Sam Yeates. “Known for his iconic laconic style of drawing, his work was unmistakable. Quick witted and with an incredible sense of humor, Micael drew his way through life."

But my story is a little more personal.

I first met Micael when my housemate over on Grooms street knew of someone who had a Volkswagon bus.  We were moving a refrigerator.  Turns out that the guy who had the bus was Micael Priest.  At the time, I was working on putting together a pants store over on Koenig street.  After seeing Micael's drawings, I asked him to do a logo for the shop.  He ultimately drew murals in each of the dressing rooms.  He also acted as the art director in our painting scheme.

It was then that I learned that he was color blind.

Several months later, Micael moved back to the Fort Worth area to work at a professional illustration studio called the Sketch Pad run by Don Punchatz.  It was there that Micael did the work on a national magazine cover for a 1984 story.  (it was probably 1970)  Micael had turned the three dimensional numbers into military tank like figures with large battleship rivets.  It was truly a great illustration that he never got credit for due to his employ with Don.

There in Fort Worth, Micael lived with Paula his young beautiful wife and his very young son.  He was trying to live the normal life.  But Micael was no where close to normal.  He at the time was one of the most unusual people I had ever met.  And, perhaps more importantly, we shared a lot of beliefs about the nature of reality and other metaphysical constructs. And his language was unique.  I still say "horse pistol" instead of hospital.

Within about a year, my work developing jean shops morphed into a small advertising agency called Directions Company.  

After getting several accounts lined up like Mother Earth and Castle Creek, I went to see Eddie Wilson at the Armadillo.  As he says in his book, I got the account because of my last name which is identical to Eddie's middle and original last name.

I needed someone to do the poster work, so I made my way up to see Micael.  I told him it would make him famous. His marriage was headed for the rocks at the time and so he said yes, moving almost immediately back to Austin, living in the refurbished attic of the advertising agency.  It was barely that, but we did get a bathroom up there. Given that the ceiling was a giant orange parachute, it would have made a perfect scene in Slacker.

Over the next few years, as Directions Company became more prominent as the place for posters and high quality radio spots, Micael was a drawing machine.  We became brothers of a different mother. But we were busy, so we brought in other poster artists like Ken Featherston, Guy Juke, Danny Garrett, Kerry Fitzgerald, Sam Yates and others.  And because of the increased concert load, we brought in Joe Gracey to cut spots in our private recording studio.

It was there that we cut the spots for Willie's first big picnic.  We even cut the spots for Lloyd Doggett as he ran for state representative as a very young man.

As Directions Company went Everwuchawe,  (literally) Micael and our stable of artists moved to the art studios at Armadillo where he and his fellow artists would draw and create the memorable hay day of  Austin Music scene art. It has since found a home at the museum of culture on South Lamar over the last several decades.

Many years later, Micael and I reconnected again as he moved for a time to Real de Catorce, our little Mexican town 9000 feet in the mountains in the state of San Luis.  We spent many hours together riding the altiplano.  Micael never really did drive.  It was just too much for him to keep together.

His good friends managed to get him on social security so he could survive in the public housing that he passed away in.  There, friends would check on him and take him out to lunch.  He stopped drawing a decade ago. Some of us tried to get him to Nashville for the Armadillo show at the Country Music Hall of Fame this summer, but it never worked out.

I was thinking of Micael just the other day, actually marveling at his tenacity and love for life that he possessed.  The next day,  Rock n Roll Jimmie called me to tell me he had been found by Bobby that morning.

Micael was the first person I knew who would say "Weird with a Beard".

And he was that and so much more. He was more than unique.

He was extraordinary.

Micael had a brother named Al and I presume his son is around.

I look forward to seeing them at Threadgills on November 11th for his special service.






























Directions Company 1973

Here is a rather remarkable video produced by Bob Simmons about Micael:



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*photo courtesy of the Austin Chronicle


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Friday, August 31, 2018

Driving Electric





















There is something to driving electric that is more than the sum of its parts.  Sure, they are faster (generally), they are quieter, you don’t have to breath dangerous chemicals to make them go, and there is some comfort in the fact that if you accidentally fall asleep in your car while parked in the garage, you actually will wake up.

Most electric cars are smarter than their smoking hillbilly cousins and they are definitely cheaper to drive.  Want to pay a dollar for gas...drive electric.  Want to never again spend $129.00 dollars on an oil change, oil filter, and air filter again...drive electric.  Tired of waiting for your car as your mechanic finishes that brake job on your 3 year old car... drive electric.

Plus, you might experience what I experienced several months ago.  I was driving east on Hwy 290, a little faster than the speed limit, when this huge “dually” truck  (four tires on the rear axle) comes roaring around me.  It’s a real fancy black truck with shiny dual vertical chrome exhaust pipes running up on both sides of the cabin. There was probably some stickers that I didn’t read but I suspect that the long-haired driver was a member of a political class that rhymes with bumper.

So this guy passes me, then abruptly slows down in front of me. Then, with the flick of some switch, he zooms off leaving a huge noxious black cloud of smoke in his tracks, with me in those tracks...I mean thick black smoke like a locomotive in a western movie.

I had been “smoked”.

And yes, that is a thing.

Surely, I deserved it in his eyes, I was driving the fastest, smartest car on the road in my judgment, and he needed to communicate his unhappiness with that. It was a first amendment thing.

So watch out for those smokers.

Personally, I’m on my second electric car.  The one I have now is all electric, and the one I had before was a plug-in hybrid. The plug-in hybrid went about 40 miles on electric fuel, and then if I needed to travel, the on-board generator would kick in.  There was zero range anxiety and as a cultural transition vehicle, it is pretty smart.  A plug-in hybrid embodies the 80/20 rule quite nicely.  With 80% of trips under 40 miles, then make those emission free trips.  When you drive to Memphis, do that with gas.

I don’t have that option with my “S”.  If I’m traveling out of town, I need to do a little planning.  Fortunately, the computer makes that easy.  One night I got down to about 25 miles before I pulled into the high-speed charger behind the discount mall at mile 202.  Within a few minutes, I had 120 miles again, and Austin was only 30 miles away. Most of the time I charge overnight and wake up to a car that is almost always full and ready to go.

But electric driving is different.  You don’t think of getting a fill-up.  You think of getting home.  Because, unlike a gas car, you get most of your “go” at home.

Electric Car sales are gearing up so to speak.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “cumulative passenger EV sales worldwide are set to hit 4 million this week.  Including electric buses, the 4 million threshold has already been reached. At the end of June, there were more than 3.5 million passenger EVs sold globally and about 421,000 electric buses, bringing the total number of EVs sold to 3.97 million.

Sales were driven in large part by China, which is responsible for around 37 percent of passenger EVs sold around the world since 2011 and around 99 percent of e-buses.”

Bloomberg goes on:
 
"Setting e-buses aside, we expect cumulative passenger EV sales to reach 4 million units before the start of September 2018. There are several new EV models that we expect to come to the market before the end of 2018, which should help increase sales numbers globally.

The next million EVs will take just over 6 months. We expect the five-millionth EV to be sold in March 2019."



There is a professor at Texas A & M who considers himself an electric car expert.  He doesn’t believe that we will ever replace the advanced gasoline cars of today because they are just so good.

He also doesn’t drive an electric car.

He also doesn’t believe that climate change is a transcendent problem.

That in order to get the carbon out of our world, we will need to run our cars on wind and solar.  And with enough electric cars, we will have enough stored energy to do it.

Driving Electric is more than the sum of its parts, because electric transportation is the building block to a carbon-free world.

September is a good a time to start because it’s Drive Electric Week from the 8th to the 16th. Here in Texas, there will be events in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin.  The Dallas event is in Grapevine on Sept 8th, and the Austin event is on the 15th.

Join us in Austin on Electric Drive Saturday, September 15th, and climb into the driver’s seat of the newest electric vehicles available. There will also be the latest scooters, motorcycles, mopeds, buses, skateboards and bikes. Grab lunch from one of our food trucks and enjoy the live music, workshops and activities for kids!

Sponsored locally by Public Citizen, the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TxETRA), Austin Energy, and SmartCharge America, it might be your opportunity to become part of the solution.

Hopefully, it will help keep us all from getting “smoked”.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Quorum Card

















It is generally thought that the Democrats can basically do nothing about the upcoming confirmation of another Supreme Court Justice, the second appointed by a president who currently is under investigation for conspiring with a foreign government to undermine and subvert the election process by abetting  the theft of campaign documents and strategies of his opposition, by actively soliciting  "dirt" from foreign agents, and knowingly encouraging further lawbreaking in public statements.

These charges are not speculative, they are undisputed facts. A former CIA director has publicly stated that the behavior we saw in Helsinki is "nothing short of treasonous

And they alone make this president and his actions as president  illegitimate.

The D's seemingly have no power to stop the appointment of a Justice who might very well be the 5th vote in deciding whether the president must respond to subpoena or face a grand jury.  At present, the Supreme Court is down to 8 Justices due to the retirement of Justice Kennedy at the end of July.  A four four tie would leave the decision of the lower DC Court of Appeals in place.

So not confirming this fifth judge is crucial.

This from Wikipedia:

In legislatures, a quorum call is used to determine if a quorum is present. Since attendance at debates is not mandatory in most legislatures, it is often the case that a quorum of members is not present while debate is ongoing. In many bodies, motions such as amendments, introduction of new legislation, and recommitment may be approved in the absence of a quorum, provided no member then present objects.

A member wishing to delay proceedings (for example, to allow other members time to get to the chamber in order to join debate) may request that the presiding officer determine whether a quorum is present. If a quorum does not appear to be present, debate is suspended, as the only business allowed without a quorum is to adjourn, recess, summon absent members, or compel their attendance if the body has the power to do so.

In the Senate, if any Senator "suggests the absence of a quorum," the Presiding Officer must direct the roll to be called. For practical purposes, a quorum call is a delaying measure that permits the Senate leadership to work out some difficulty or to await a Senator's arrival.

The Constitution requires a majority of Senators (51) for a quorum. Often, fewer Senators are actually present on the floor, but the Senate presumes that a quorum is present unless the contrary is shown by a roll call vote or quorum call.

Right now, Republicans have a slim edge in their control of the US Senate with 51 votes. With Senator McCains's absence, they can break a tie vote with the Vice President if they only have 50 votes. But they cannot use Vice President Pence to make a quorum.

And without a quorum, they cannot conduct business or confirm a nomination.

The Republicans stole a Supreme Court appointment by not giving Merrick Garland a hearing.

They stood strong.

Now the Democrats have their chance.

Imagine this scenario.  Republicans begin their panzer-like effort to ram their candidate through the confirmation process just weeks before the election; Senate D's in red states are nervous because they know that their vote will only be used against them in the campaign. They know their vote will be closer to hara kiri than a meaningful political statement.

But if they knew that their refusal to allow a quorum would actually stop the process, then the Republicans and this illegitimate president would be forced to summon them to the Senate Chamber. And if they did not appear, they would be compelled to appear.

And if they did not cooperate, they might be jailed....but that still would not get the Senate in session.

In the meantime, the D's win the house handily, and amazingly they win control of the Senate.

And in a stroke of courage and solidarity, the illegitimate Manchurian President is made to testify before the grand jury, and the fifth radical judge is not confirmed, and rule of the minority over the majority is ended.

That would be a midterm election that would rock the world.

And it would make some Democratic Heros

Because they played the Quorum card.

Lord knows we need some.

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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Why Didn't I Know That?























I read. A lot. I suppose you do too.

I watch MSNBC and CNN.  I look forward to Rachel but I often watch the whole line-up.  If there is a commercial, I flash over to CNN.

I listen to NPR almost every morning and afternoon.

And I spend a lot of time on the WEB, probably too much time.  I follow Talking Points Memo, The Huffington Post, Crooks and Liars, The Raw Story, Politicus, Politico, Think Progress and lots of other sites.

But I feel like I'm a little starved for the real stuff.  That's why I go to the Bill Moyer Russian investigation time line. And when I learn something there that isn't everywhere I wonder,  Why didn't I know that?

Like, Why didn't I know that Paul Manafort was partner with childhood friend Roger Stone way back in the dirty glory days of Nixon Republican politics.  And that when they weren't doing slimy campaigns with Republican operatives like Lee Atwater, they were doing slimy gambling casino work for a New York mafia connected developer named Donald Trump.

Why don't I know that the father of the former Russian Ambassador Kysliak, who was brought back to Russia last year after meeting with Trump campaign officials, was the head of the KGB for decades?

Why don't I know about Donald Trump's trip to Russia in 1987 when he was still married to the east European Ivana, and that the Russian government arranged and paid for the whole trip, including staying in the KGB Hilton right next to Lenin's tomb which has more bugs in it than an east Texas cottage without screens.

Why don't I know that Donald Trump's banker at Deutchebank is the son of a soon to be retired Supreme Court justice, who seems to have retired at the optimum political moment.

Why don't I know that 100s of millions of dollars in real estate sales of Trump properties were made to Russians for cash?

Why don't I know that Donald Trump used the New York Mafia to construct the Trump Tower, the home of Donald Trump and Paul Manafort.

And why don't we all know about Donald Trump's taxes?

And why don't all of us see that Donald Trump's positions to weaken NATO, offer money to Macron to leave the European Union, put tariffs on our allies and trading partners, add Russia back to the G8,  recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and generally do everything else are the signs of Russian puppeteer strings ?

We do know that over 20 of Trump's campaign officials have had contacts with Russian Agents before, during, and immediately after the campaign.

We do know that the Senate committee investigating Russian influence in the 2016 concurs with our Intelligence Agencies that the Russians worked to elect Donald Trump and to damage Clinton.

We do know that Russian agents broke into the National Democratic Party's computers and that those stolen emails were released by Wikileaks and that Roger Stone, Trumps meta-advisor knew of it before most. And we know they were released soon after the Trump pussy tape was revealed.

We do know that Trump is a serial liar.

We do know that Trump is racist.

We do know he was abusive to his first wife.

What I don't know, is

How is it that this Manchurian President gets to appoint another supreme court judge while under criminal investigation for collusion with a foreign power?

And why don't we all know that an illegitimate President 

cannot make legitimate appointments.


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