Category Archives: Rick Perry

Caveat Emptor

the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. – Google search result

A few days ago it was announced that Hillary Clinton will attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States. Of the groups I belong to where this was posted, almost no one took the tack that I would think made sense in the kind of weather we are about to be facing. Most people lauded her for being big enough to go to the swearing in for the victor in the election she most wanted to win. I believe the complete opposite. I don’t think she should go. I don’t think anyone should go. Trump should have to pay attendees to show up. He should have to pay for the judge to swear him in. That is how we should hold him to account for all the bills he’s never paid, and for all the bills he’s going to make us pay.

We have reached that point in US politics. That precise political instant where it will profit us to understand what the words Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware really mean.  Donald J. Trump is a successful businessman as so many of his supporters insist. He is his own biggest booster. He talks about himself incessantly, Tweets pictures of himself constantly, congratulates himself publicly for things that he thinks he’s done whether he has actually done them or not.

But he is a businessman, that much is true.

There are many different kinds of businesses. One might easily argue that there are as many different kinds of business as there are people doing business; however the real estate developer is a special kind of business animal. They ain’t quite like any other form of business on the planet, these real estate developers. Their business is selling their delusions. Delusion is an essential part of the psyche of the real estate developer, and it helps if he is a charismatic delusional because he has to infect the people he talks to with his delusion. He has to infect them with his delusion, or they won’t give him their money, their property, their effort.

Let’s say you want to re-purpose a downtown Washington D.C. post office, just to pull a random location out of thin air. We’ll pretend we’re going to take this random location and turn it into a hotel. Not just any hotel, but the most fabulous hotel you’ve ever seen. I mean beautiful, you know? The first thing you need to do to start this project is actually not what you might think. No, the first thing you do, before anything else, is get money for the project. If you have money, then you can influence people to see things your way. You can say “you see my investors over here? They believe in me. They’ve promised me money, so this is going to happen one way or the other and I know you want to be part of this.”

The problem is getting the money for the stake, for the start of the process. People don’t give you money for nothing, not even if you are trustworthy and you ask real nice. No, you only get money if you have collateral, something you can promise to the lender in exchange for their capital investment. Now, depending on who has the money and where the money came from, what your collateral can be is very flexible.

It is a dirty little secret in the real estate business, especially development and construction, that a large portion of real estate development is done for the purposes of laundering money. It isn’t merely happenstance that some of Donald J. Trump’s business partners are a little on the shady side. That is the kind of money that a big developer needs access to. Liquid capital, and lots of it. The people with dirty money know they are going to lose at least half of their money just making it clean anyway, so they really aren’t interested in tight accounting practices. They just want their share when the clean money starts coming back in.

In New York City back in Trump’s starting days, you didn’t do business in real estate without being friends with several of these types of people, and Trump knows and dealt with them for as long as he was active in real estate there. What do I know precisely? Nothing. I don’t know anything about his business and the sad part that fact is this; all of us should have demanded we know before electing him to the highest office in the land.

Sign the petition

I can tell you that the reason we never saw his tax returns is he doesn’t want anyone to know how much money came in, how much money went out, and who the money went to. How much money he currently has, and how much debt is stacked against it. Those are the things no one can know aside from his bookkeeper, and I guarantee you that person isn’t talking to anyone. The one thing bookkeepers are paid for is discretion and they know it.

When Savings & Loans were a thing, I worked for a few different real estate developers. I was the guy who had to make the developer’s delusions look real. I was the draftsman/graphic artist and eventually a staff architect in several different firms of architects. But back in the S&L days I was just a flunkie newb draftsman and what I did was what the developer told me to do. If he wanted letterhead for a new company, I made new letterhead. If he wanted art for a cover, I drew or found better artists to draw convincing art to sell his delusions, his dreams. My drawings were my stock in trade and my drawings were masterpieces of illusion, because very few of them were ever built. But damn they did look good when I was finished with them.

I have actually lost count of the number of different proposals I worked on back then. It was one every few months at least for several years. The number of sales pitches I’ve heard really aren’t important for this story. But the charisma? Oh, yeah. They all had it in spades. You’d believe any damn thing they told you while they were talking to you. It was only later that you would kick yourself for agreeing to do whatever stupid thing they asked you to do. But invariably the dream of getting paid would be too much and you’d do the thing on the off-chance that the crazy guy could sell it, and damned if they didn’t generally get something for their effort.

When I say they got something for their effort, I mean the real estate developer got something to show for our efforts. They usually made off like bandits. As a paid flunkie draftsman I punched a clock and I got paid, even paid time and a half for time over forty hours a week. You don’t work less than forty hours a week if you are drafting for someone who wants drawings ASAP.  So the pay wasn’t bad compared to the minimum wage I had been making previous to studying drafting. But what I made was chickenfeed next to what they banked, and you’ve never heard someone whine so hard about writing you a check until you’ve had a developer by the balls, him needing his next drawings, and you won’t give them up till the check is in your hand.

That is rule number one when dealing with a developer. You don’t do jack shit until at least half the money is in your hand. If you do work on contingency for a developer, you are working for free.  You are working for free because he never has to tell you whether he made money or not, which generally means not. Not for you, anyway.

So let’s say you’ve been around the block a few times. You’re pretty savvy. You know your contracts and your in’s and out’s. You know to get money up front and to get signed contracts before doing any work and all that business school stuff they teach you or you learn from hard knocks along the way. None of that means a thing to a developer like Donald J. Trump.

Nope. That’s what shell corporations are for. The best (and when I say best, I mean wealthiest) architects in the business also use shell corporations. You create this legal fiction and you make it responsible for all the contracts you sign as a businessman. This is all completely legal and above board even though it is a fiction you are engaged in. You pay all your employees and rent and utilities on your place of business through that corporation; but don’t forget the important part of this equation. You also pay yourself a salary.

In fact, you can be paid a salary from all the corporations you own at the same time. All you have to do is justify the expense to the board, and if it is a shell corporation the board is probably you or someone you appoint to say yes to the things you want. So spend a half-hour a month, make a half-million dollars. No one will complain because no one will know except you and your bookkeepers.

I left the best part for last. When you pay yourself too well (and Donald J. Trump does this in spades) you just get to walk away from your contracts. The business you created and hopefully sold beforehand (that is the important part) will go bankrupt, sure. But that really isn’t your problem. You paid yourself a salary and that debt comes before paying contracts. Designers and craftsmen, engineers and architects; everyone who signed contracts and aren’t working for a wage, they get the scraps. You and the investors walk away smelling like roses with freshly laundered money in your pockets.

It is a neat financial trick, one that Donald J. Trump has repeated 6 times now. He has been sued more than 4,000 times. You don’t rack up that many bankruptcies or get sued that many times unless you are doing something bordering on illegal. Bordering on illegal is still legal though, and that is what counts.

Ruthlessness and business acumen only get you so far. You still fall prey to the same failures to predict the future that everyone else does. The crash of the gaming industry nearly did him in. Even he didn’t understand just how big the financial bubble we were all sitting on was, and got caught flat-footed just like everyone else as the Wall Street money dried up and Atlantic city’s gaming industry cratered. But hey, that is when the charisma that someone like the Donald has really comes in handy.

If you’re good at it (and Trump is very good at it. Just ask him, he’ll tell you) you can turn yourself into a TV star if you work hard enough at it. He hawked himself onto every media outlet that would have him, spending so much time on radio that he became the butt of several jokes in the New York area radio business. But it paid off in the end, just like he knew it would deep in his delusional heart. The only reason he has any money today is because The Apprentice and its spin-offs have made money, and he made money just like everyone else who works in TV does, successful or not. If you are working you are making money in television. And if your show has ratings you make lots of money. Producers can make more money than anybody and they do less work if they know what they are doing. The Donald talked his way into a producer’s percentage, and he still gets paid to this day for producing the show that he no longer works on.

But down deep in his rotten heart, Donald J. Trump is still that delusional little kid that thought a million bucks gifted from his father was a pittance. The same guy who took dirty money from shady characters in NYC to finance his early projects. The same guy who believes every single lie he’s ever told just to make the next buck in a nearly endless line of billions of bucks. Believes those lies and every single conspiracy fantasy he’s asked to put stock in by people like Alex Jones and Breitbart news. He believes them but knows they are false. It doesn’t matter, because the charisma makes him the next buck, and the next buck is what really matters.

That is why we as citizens of the United States need to understand caveat emptor, and we need to understand it now. It would have been better if we had understood it before November 8th, but that deadline passed and we were #MAGA in a big enough percentage in the wrong places. He’s going to be sworn in as the leader of our country on January 20th, with a congress willing and able to do his bidding, if actions and trends are to be believed.

h/t @JuddLegum

He will have the keys to the White House soon, and we need to understand that this life-long con artist is about to pull off the biggest con of his life.

…and that he has no idea how to do the job we’ve given him.

The wealthy believe that they shouldn’t be governed by the same laws as the rest of us. The lives they lead are almost unbelievable to those of us who have never had more money than we could spend on a single purchase.  Trump is one of these people. He has always lived that lifestyle.

Trump has no intention of doing any of the things his predecessors in office have done in order to earn our trust while they are in office. He will not be selling off his businesses, he’s pretending his children will run them without consulting him. He will be in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution from the moment that he takes his oath of office; because he will be paid by someone staying in one of his hotels, visitors from foreign governments, on the same day (probably within the same hour) that he swears his false oath.

His contempt for our system goes far beyond simple greed, his need for more money and more fame. He’s hired relatives to run parts of the administration in violation of nepotism laws. He’s named appointees for cabinet seats that have clear conflicts of interest. He’s named appointees who have declared their intention to destroy the department they will be in charge of, pretty much across the board. He’s been bought and paid for by billionaires across the country who are counting on him to deliver on the promises he’s made to roll back clean energy and approve expanded drilling and pipeline proposals.

Robert Reich asked Facebook What do you think? in the wake of Trump’s pick of former Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. What do I think? I find it impossible to take anything about this election seriously; which is weird, because I was one of the people who took Trump seriously from the beginning and discounted his chances with the voting public because he was demonstrably unqualified for the office he was seeking.

Every. Single. Thing. Every Single Thing. Everything that he has done since the election has demonstrated, again and again, just how unqualified he is financially, mentally, temperamentally.

He can’t be president.

…and still the media people act like he can be president and “aren’t you outraged about this?” I’m well beyond outraged now. The surreality of the approaching cataclysm, surrounded by the same old news organizations parroting the same old garbage news as if there would be a United States for us to live in if this dangerously deranged person were to be allowed to take and hold the office of the president for the next 4 years has me all but convinced I’m the only real person in a video game gone horribly wrong.

He can’t be president. If they make him president anyway the US won’t be here for long if we don’t remove him and may not survive his removal if we do. You may well say “that can’t happen” but I guarantee you the average inhabitant of the USSR never thought that they would be reliant upon the truncated government of Russia and the other severed states of the former Soviet Union, either. But they did all the same; and if you think that isn’t Vladimir Putin’s favored dream, the end of the USA, then you really don’t understand the mind of a former KGB agent turned dictator like Putin.

Caveat Emptor; Buyer Beware

Donald J. Trump is going to step up to take that oath in less than 24 hours now, and you as an American citizen need to understand that you are about to buy into something with no warranty and no guarantees, and you had best inspect each and every proposal put forward by these delusional people as if your very life depended on it because it very well might.

He will come into office with a House of Representatives packed with delusional people who think they can spend money and cut taxes at the same time (it worked for Bush. Temporarily) and there is only so much more of our debt that the Chinese will be willing to buy. Willing to buy from His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump, that is. He has insulted the Chinese more times than I can count now. Apparently no one has told him that the Chinese have been the biggest buyer of American debt for several years now.

That debt load the country has been carrying? That is about to come due. Guess who will have to foot the bill for paying it? We will, the citizens of the United States. That bill and all the money Trump spends or puts in his pocket during his brief term in the White House. We have to pay that. Us, our children, or grand children and their grandchildren. But not Donald J. Trump and his family. No, they don’t pay taxes, because they are smart. So they won’t be paying the bills, at least not directly and not in a way they would notice. The currency will inflate and those of us with the least will go hungrier than we are now. We’ll lose property to foreign investors spending dollars we’ve convinced them to buy as debt. Federal lands will be privatized and sold. Federal programs will be privatized in the name of cost-cutting.

The latter will go as well as the private prisons did; private prisons that will once again be approved by the Justice Department under its new leadership. Public schools will disappear into voucher programs which won’t cover the cost of teaching poor children who won’t even be able to feed or cloth themselves properly because there won’t be jobs for their parents (automation being the reasons low wage, low skill jobs are disappearing. It isn’t outsourcing and immigrants #MAGA once again) and there won’t be welfare for them to rely on. There certainly won’t be any healthcare unless you are wealthy or lucky enough to qualify under the newly restrictive measures imposed on that program.

Don’t believe me? Remember that wall the #MAGA wanted Trump to build, the wall he said he’d make Mexico pay for? We’re going to pay for it. But trust Donald J. Trump when he says he’ll bill Mexico for the cost of the wall. The wall that there will already be tunnels under when it is built.

Illusions are important when you are trying to sell someone on your dream of pocketing that next dollar.

In reality, Trump’s administration is a rebuke to the very notion that the public interest diverges in any way from private ones. The Labor Department will be run by a man whose interest in the field is dominated by a mania for cheap labor; the Environmental Protection Agency will be run by a virtual pass-through for fossil-fuel interests. Trump’s government will make policy by and for the rich and well-connected. As Politico reports, “the extent to which donors are stocking Trump’s administration is unparalleled in modern presidential history.” As Kudlow makes clear, Trumpism regards the fear that government might favor capital over labor or some other public interest as inherently nonsensical.  

New York Magazine ‘The Wealthy Would Never Steal’ — A Credo for Trump’s Party By Jonathan Chait


Waking Up With Sam Harris #54 – Trumping the World (with James Kirchick)

Since Obama’s election in 2008 it has become fashionable amongst the conservative elite to pretend that they never were in favor of anything government might do. Anything a government headed by a black Democratic president might do which equates to not in favor of government, embracing anarchism from behind. Too bashful to look anarchy in the face, but heading down the road to anarchism all the same.

Now they find themselves with the reigns of power, all of the reigns of power, unexpectedly in their hands. These people have clearly voted for what they believe is a strong leader. People who want that leader to ignore the constitutional limitations on the office of president. People who want desperately to pretend that their opponents are the bad guys. The brownshirts. The people who want to destroy America. The truly surprising thing about the current crop of conservative Republicans isn’t that they are ignorant; as in, they don’t know that fascism was a right-wing ideology. That strong central leadership is one of the defining attributes of dictatorship. No, the surprising thing is that they know what the truth is, but simply deny it because they want the opposite to be true.

Willful ignorance.

I’ve seen this type of willful ignorance applied to atheism, to evolution, to climate change. But I never thought I’d see the day when they denied their own political ideology, their worship of the strong leader as being anything other than what it truthfully is. This is newspeak/newthink on a really frightening scale. They have to know that they are being false, but they simply lock that knowledge away and blithely pretend that white is black and black is white. I don’t know of any way to deal with this level of insincerity (I first noted in conservative pundits like William Kristol and Pat Buchanan) no way to deal with this level of denial of reality short of eradication. Open warfare. I’d love to hear a way to get through to people who have voluntarily shut their brains off. Please let me know if I’m missing something here.

I mean, they can’t be reasoned with. They simply redefine everything to mean the opposite of what it is for their own convenience. They not only lie to everyone around them, they lie to themselves and believe the lies. This is why Donald Trump is their current leader. He is the king of liars, leading a host of liars.

After eight tedious years of one wild-assed glassy-eye conspiracy theory after another, after nearly a decade of endless birthers and a parade of truthers and more goddamned lame-ass Benghazi reboots than the Batman franchise, after robot alien reptiles in rubber human suits, after Obama is a Muslim, Obama is gay, Obama went to Mars (no really, there are people who believe the CIA teleported Obama to Mars as a teenager, twice, and those silly sons of bitches write me letters), Obama killed Antonin Scalia, Obama has 39 different Social Security numbers, Obama secretly worships Satan, Obama is going to invade Texas, Obama was adopted, Obama’s wife is a man, Obama’s kids were stolen from Africa (because Obama’s wife is a man), Obama is a commie, Obama is a Nazi, Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Obama is a time traveling super-villain here to gayify white Christian babies with his Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo, and etcetera, and etcetera, and etcetera up to the part where conservatives are actually floating the idea Obama is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to kidnap kids for some world-spanning Soros-funded pedophile wholesaler operating out of a pizza joint in Washington D.C (which they’ve figured out from “clues” they “deciphered” by reading John Podesta’s emails which were stolen by Russians and fenced via an international criminal organization run by a guy who actually is  wanted on sexual assault charges), after 8 years of that, let’s not resort to the same defective Creation-Science based reasoning here. Please.  

Jim Wright, StonekettleStation – Resolutions

The problem with #MAGA, this indefinable need to take America back to a previous era; is that America was never the place they believe it was. The problem is also deeper than that. America has a near-terminal case of amnesia when it comes to its own history.

America became someplace else after WWII. Before WWI, before the crash in ’29; before all of that, the US was mostly farms and light industrial manufacturing focused on delivering products to Americans who needed them. There were no interstates, no giant airports, no Military Industrial Complex. There were just farms and farmers and a few scattered cities that corresponded to centers of government or industrial manufacturing.

After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us. Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit. Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80’s, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren’t going to keep buying our debt.

The system which worked following WWII has come to it’s functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don’t think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don’t think we can afford to wait, either. This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it’s servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick’s stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real. It is almost as if we didn’t win WWII. It is almost as if we… lost?

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
— Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951)

Don’t be shy. Step right up. And tell me in detail, point by point and line by line, why I have set an impossibly high standard. Tell me why liberals can’t compromise their sacred principles when it comes to abortion or gay rights or the goddamned endangered snail darter or some pipeline in North Dakota, but you just can’t bear the thought of not being able to call Melania Trump an orange cum-guzzling whore on my Facebook page. 

Jim Wright, StonekettleStation – No Middle Ground

If the Democrats had not let the Clintons control the party the way they did, if Hillary had allowed real competition at the top of the party and ticket, not forced an outsider to challenge her, if the people who want justice and equality from their system get up and join their local precinct meetings now, if the Democratic party itself embraces new technology to ramp up inclusion; then we’ll get candidates with a broad base of grassroots support rather than the crop of power brokers we currently have to pick through.

But that just deals with the open question of who to vote for in 2018 and 2020. That doesn’t get us through the next two years. Doesn’t get us through the harrowing times that await us on the other side of January 20th.

With The Art of War firmly in mind; Rather than meeting your enemy on their battlefield, pitch your tents where you want to fight. Make them fight on your battlefield, out in the open where greater numbers (and we have greater numbers than they do) will turn the tide of battle and we will be able to win handily.  That observation relies on the vast majority of Americans to take an interest in their own government. I’m not holding my breath on this occurring since Americans getting off their couches and doing anything proactive in the realm of politics would be an unprecedented act in the history of human governance.

Which is why I repeat the title of this post again, one last time.

Caveat Emptor; Buyer Beware

I have practiced this principle almost by rote for most of my adult life, having pretty much always been poor since leaving my hometown in Kansas. I can’t afford to be taken to the cleaners by shady dealers. I prefer to think of caveat emptor more as due diligence; ensuring that what is being promised is reality, making sure that what you are buying is actually what the seller claims it is. When money is tight and purchases are made on promises and shoe strings, you have to know that what you are buying is actually going to do the thing you want it to do.

I say all this, every single word of it that I’ve written on the subject of Donald J. Trump or his 3am rage tweeting alter-ego The Orange Hate-Monkey over this past year with the personal knowledge I have gained through experience. That we have elected a con-artist to the presidency.  That when you are forced to deal with a con-artist you keep your hands on your wallet and don’t agree to anything without seeing it first in writing; and even then, don’t let go of those purse-strings. Keep your legal representation on retainer and make a point of running every single thing the con-artist says to you past your counselor before responding in any fashion to him.

Above all, understand that you’ve already bought whatever it is he does while he has the office of the president in his control. If that knowledge keeps you up at night, then you are just beginning to glimpse the nightmares I’ve been having since November 8th.

I’ll see all of you at the polls in 2018. I hope.

Huckabee, Cruz Embrace a Democratic Official

The last political piece I wrote for this blog was titled Pharisee vs. Christian and it was about the Kim Davis farce that continues to play out in Kentucky.

I’ve apparently pissed off some people on this subject.  Not the religious people that the wife said would firebomb us for the title; no those people really can’t seem to care one way or the other (as I’ve noted over most of my life, the vast majority of people who identify as christian are reasonable, sane, and capable of rational discussion even on the subject of religion. There are exceptions as there are in any group) no, the group that I appear to have pissed off is Democrats.

Why? Well, Kim Davis is a Democrat.

The most frequent response I get from this observation is that conservatives can be Democrats, stated in a voice that seems to drip with disdain for requiring them to state the obvious.  This isn’t news to me, nor is it the point that I’m trying to make when I bring this fact up, although I could have worded my initial comment more clearly.

Specifically the fracas emerged on a Facebook post on Jim Wright’s wall. Jim rightly notes that the comparison that Huckabee is making (go to the link and read about it, I don’t care enough to even try to summarize it) really doesn’t hold water for various reasons; mostly because Huckabee is a grandstanding buffoon competing with Donald Trump for air time. Huckabee and Ted Cruz (another buffoon) are now embracing Kim Davis as their poster child for the persecution of christians. But I’d still like to point out to these two Republican Presidential hopefuls that they are defending a Democrat as being the best example of conservative christian in office.

A Democrat. A Democrat who refuses to do her job.

Now, I’ve been active in political circles for a long time.  There was a time when fraternizing with the opposition was commonplace, but that was before Newt Gingrich and the birth of FOX news. These days having anything nice to say about a Democrat spells disaster for conservatives who are trying to out-conservative all the other conservatives.  To this day the most telling criticism that can be leveled by conservatives at fellow conservative Governor Chris Christie is that he hugged President Obama. His hand in costing the state of New Jersey uncounted man-hours with the George Washington Bridge fiasco barely registers outside his own state.  Now these two buffoons are hugging a Democrat on national television.

This Democrat might be conservative, I don’t know.  She hasn’t changed her party affiliation, something that former Democrat and former Governor Rick Perry can tell you is easy to do. So her claim to be conservative doesn’t equate to her huggability as a Republican by other Republicans. She is demonstrably not acting in a christian manner, so I doubt very much that she really qualifies as a christian.  She is acting in a way that the homo-obsessed religious-right lead GOP embraces, I get that part of the equation. Homophobia equals conservative in that light, if conservatives want to go there that is their business. If the GOP wants to endorse homophobia as a plank in their party platform, more power to them.

But what will this little farce look like in a year, a month before the 2016 elections?  That really is the question.  What will the optics be in the rear-view mirror?  I imagine that neither of these two will be on the dais debating whoever the Democrats end up nominating, but just how will the GOP attract votes from any group outside of the aging white demographic of the religious right when they’ve gone out of their way to embrace lawlessness, racism and homophobia all in the space of the campaign for selecting their nominee?

Texas Trying to Secede. Again.

Hanging around the fringes of Texas politics as I have off and on over the last 20 years, you hear a lot of strange ideas. Texas is conspiracy fantasy central in many ways, and Austin being the capitol of Texas means that the conspiratorial currents all lead to the vortex located at 15th and Congress.

Since the clean sweep that the GOP experienced in 2014, the wackos have come out of the woodwork and aren’t embarrassed to let their freak flag fly. Over the last year we’ve had the whole Jade Helm 15 teapot tempest, the newly elected governor calling out the Texas Guard to defend Texas against the largest military on the face of the planet; the US military, with troops already stationed in Texas (not to mention Texas citizens in the service of the US Army) included in the training exercises.  We’ve seen the governor’s replacement in the office of Attorney General arrested and booked while embroiled in a scheme to deny marriage certificates to gay couples who wanted to get married in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

Texans are also suffering due to continued resistance to the ACA by our sitting legislature and governor.  It may be the law of the land according to the federal government, but the overwhelming majority of Texans spit at it as Obamacare; while at the same time whole segments of the Texas population who can’t afford to buy health insurance are left without any healthcare options because they make too much money to get Medicaid under the old rules, but are still supposed to have health insurance or face penalties.

Since all of this is Obama’s fault, it should be no wonder that a perennial favorite of the Texas conspiratorial fantasists is making the rounds again. Yes dear readers, we are faced with the dreaded initiative to secede from the Union. Again.

As I said previously, those of us who’ve been paying attention are not surprised to learn that the beast has raised it’s ugly head again. The history of the Texas secession movement is both long and checkered. I’m not going to go through all of it (the wiki page does a decent enough job of it) but it bears mentioning that many shady people for many long years have declared not only that Texas should secede, but that it probably isn’t legally a state of the Union. 

Help, help we’re being repressed!

Texas not being a state would be news to the rest of the United States since Texas manages to pretty much have its way with all sorts of things that affect other parts of the country. Make no mistake, the rest of the US knows that Texas is a state, much as many of them might rather it wasn’t.

The problem is, most Texans can’t be bothered to read;  and those that do read really can’t make heads or tails out of the Texas Constitution.  Or maybe it isn’t a problem with reading.  Maybe it’s a problem with who writes the books, especially the text books. In any case, these factors have lead to a number of interesting fantasies considering the nature of Texas’ relationship to the rest of the nation, as well as its status as a state.

Most Texans have heard the 5 states story, I’m sure.  The theory that Texas could be split up into 5 different states? The first time I heard it, the provision was in the Texas Constitution; which would be quite a feat I quickly discovered.  Upon the briefest of searches I learned that Texas has had seven constitutions since she left Mexico. So it isn’t in the Texas Constitution, not that we can tell among the nearly 500 amendments that have been passed (second only to Alabama. Saved again, Texas) The provision was actually imposed by the US Congress (those imperialists!) in their legislation which annexed Texas into the Union.

“Wpdms republic of texas” by Ch1902 – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

This is the tidbit that most people have probably never realized.  Texas has already been split into 5 states. There are pieces of Texas in Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Wyoming; and while this may not have been the intention of the drafters of the legislation, Texas was paid for the severance of these lands, and they are no longer part of the state.

So, yes. Texas could be subdivided; and those crazy plans to have Texas dominate the Senate by breaking itself into 5 or 6 more states that would somehow still vote in lockstep are all too late.  It has already been done.

Another one of these fantasies is that Texas has permission to secede from the union.  This feature would be a truly curious development considering that all the slave states re-acquired by the union after the civil war were required to renounce any intention to leave the union again as a condition for re-admittance as states, as well as adopt the 13th and 14th Amendments. Most scholars agree that there is no basis to assume that a State could secede from the Union; it would be hard to see how this would be possible outside of the failure of the United States as a political entity and a military power.  These facts didn’t stop Governor Rick Perry from voicing his opinion that Texas could secede at a rally full of supporters chanting for secession.  This wouldn’t be the first time that Rick Perry was in error, especially when it comes to the subject of law.  I wouldn’t put too much stock in his remembering facts about secession, or evolution, or whatever that third thing was…

…in hindsight Rick Perry’s governorship feels like a walk at the wildflower center compared to the level of crazy currently ensconced in the capitol building. Between Governor Abbott’s blatant hypocrisy as a disabled person who was uniquely situated to keep other disabled person’s from taking his road to wellville, his trumped-up war on Planned Parenthood, his initiative to remove local control from Texas cities, and the legislature’s rejection of a minimum wage hike, it’s hard to imagine how life could get more grim than it currently is for the average Texan.  Which goes a long way towards explaining the desperation present in movements to secede as a political entity from the United States. Again.

A side word here for my fellow Texans;  Ya’ll might want to go back and read my piece on Greece in Perspective (hint, it really isn’t about Greece) and ponder at the level of desperation that you feel today and just who really is to blame for that.  Is it at all possible that that blame currently resides in a white house a good bit closer to you than Washington D.C.?

I’ll end with the words of Governor Sam Houston as he was forced out of  office by confederate zealots;

Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas….I protest….against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.

Texans have once again been lied to and betrayed; not by Washington, but by the leadership of the conservative religious power base that dominates all of Texas politics.  They are lied to nightly by the talking heads at FOX news, in the hopes that we will blame each other rather than the leadership in this state that has brought us to this impasse. From the moment that conservatives declared that science was a matter of opinion, that critical thinking was something to be avoided,  their entire ideology became a house of cards which could be blown down by the slightest breeze.

Imagine Sam Houston’s outrage at the knowledge that in a park that bears his name, in the city that bears his name, stands a monument to the folly that he gave up the leadership of Texas for rather than embark upon.  What would he think of the even more foolish notion that Texas could or should leave the union again?

I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. – Sam Houston

Labor Unions; Disinfectant for Corporate Largesse

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the new right-wing Republican star. He came in a strong second to Rand Paul in the CPAC straw poll (while Jeb Bush came in a mediocre fifth, and former Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie, and former governor Rick Perry were even further behind). What’s Walker’s allure? For one thing, he hates unions. Walker compared his own crackdown on teachers and other public employee unions to Ronald Reagan’s 1981 firing of 11,000 air-traffic controllers, and he’s ready to sign a so-called “right-to-work” law approved by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate that would ban private-sector workers from being required to join a union or pay dues.

Walker is the opposite of his predecessor more than a century ago, “Fighting Bob” La Follette, who as Wisconsin governor from 1900 to 1906 led America’s progressive movement against the growing dominance of big corporations over government. La Follette fought for worker’s compensation, a minimum wage, progressive taxation, women’s suffrage, and more direct democracy – including the right to recall public officials. Scott Walker survived just such a recall — with the benefit of generous funding supplied by Charles and David Koch. – Robert Reich on Facebook

The part of free-market capitalism that most capitalists these days don’t understand is that the government largess towards corporations takes the ‘free’ out of it. If the playing field were truly level, the market truly free, there would be no corporations. Individuals would have to own businesses directly with all the liability that entails.

When you suggest this to modern day freemarketeers they either a) screech in horror at being required to be responsible for their businesses actions, or b) don’t understand the amount of liability actually involved in conducting business in today’s world and so think that’s a great idea.

In either case the corporation is here to stay, and so unions should be as well.

Facebook status update backdated to the blog. 

Our Hearts Weep for You West, Texas

Being Liberal on Facebook

Yes, I KNOW that this is a cheap shot, but I simply cannot resist. On April 17th, 2013, a fertilizer storage facility exploded, killing fifteen people and injuring more than 160. The people of West deserve more than to be remembered as the point of a political meme, but this example of corporate largesse begs to be stated as bluntly as possible.

For the last 40 years, corporations have successfully brainwashed the voters, most of whom now believe “regulation” is a bad word, and believe that governments who want to prevent corporations from maximizing their own profits, regardless of consequences, are evil. How many times have you heard the mantra that OSHA interfered with my business? Staffing and funding OSHA has been demonstrably reduced because of calls for deregulation.

Corporations are not evil any more than government is evil. However, they do exist to make profit, for themselves and for their stockholders, and they exist for no other purpose. It is up to government to ensure that corporations function within the parameters of protecting the environment and ensuring the safety of innocents who just happen to live nearby. It is long past time that we stop viewing government regulation as a bad thing. What the current US and Texas state governments needs to embrace is the notion of smart regulation, regulation that serves the higher purposes embraced by the majority of humanity. This includes protecting the environment and public safety, something wholly lacking in current Texas regulations.

The Senator from Canada and the congressional rep for West, Texas and the surrounding area have made the issue a political football because of their stands against Hurricane Sandy relief, while simultaneously asking for aid for this. This hypocrisy cries out to be corrected.

Facebook Status and related edited comments backdated to the blog. A h/t to a Facebook friend is also in order here. As of this posting (04/23/2018) changes to the regulations that lead to this disaster in West have been completely inadequate to keep another such tragedy from occurring. The state government still doesn’t know where these kinds of storage hazards exist. Roger Williams remains the representative for West, Texas and my representative here in Austin. Here’s hoping both he and Ted Cruz are replaced in the upcoming midterms. Changes made to the US regulatory codes by the Obama administration following this disaster have been weakened by the administration of the Orange Hate-Monkey.


Texas Standard, Five Years After the Explosion in West, Texas, Very Little has been Done to Prevent Another One

Multi-Level Marketing; No, It Doesn’t Pay.

Still going through the back issues of Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. In addition to noting the passage of Perry DeAngeles (who’s unique take on the subject of skepticism marked the early episodes so powerfully) and running across the odd bit of trivia, the interviews are the things that keep me listening.

In episode #135 the interviewee is Robert FitzPatrick.  I wish I had run across this guy and his invaluable information before I signed up for Amway way back when; I would have saved myself a lot of pain, worry and expense.  Luckily the Wife and I are pretty savvy when it comes to counting pennies (I only wish I was that savvy when it comes to sales pitches. I’m getting there) and it only took a few months before we realized that the cost of the goods from Amway and their online presence Quixtar, even at the ‘discounted’ rate, was more than equivalent quality products available from any big box retailer.

So many of the things that Mr. FitzPatrick related in the interview reminded me of my experiences with my ‘upline’ and Amway, that I kept getting chills thinking about how close I was to buying into the whole twisted mindset of selling people something that I needed them to buy, simply because I needed them to buy it. It really is a cult mentality; and they are hardly the only group I’ve gotten in with that, when looked at through the lens of hindsight, look suspect on that score.

To this day, every time I’m confronted with a direct-selling scheme, I cringe. There are far, far more of them out there now than there have ever been in the past, and the internet appears to be the vehicle allowing these ‘businesses’ to flourish.  We’ve come a long way from the days when the Amway guy could show up at your door, selling soap at a price where, in rural America, it seemed like a bargain since you didn’t have to go out and get it.  Amazon may not pay me to buy products from them, but it’s hard to argue that their prices are driven by anything other than fair market value.  More than I can say for most direct sell products.


I wanted to add a shameless plug for Mr. FitzPatrick’s site Pyramid Scheme Alert.  It really is too bad that no one takes the subject of these schemes seriously.


John Oliver does his usual best take-down of MLM here.

Ever wonder what is in all those self-storage units? Think about it for a bit.

The Delusional Governor of our State of Texas

This may become a regular feature for me. I can’t seem to get away from this. Apologizing to the rest of the world (or at least the nation) for the paucity of intellect displayed by our sitting Governor; the longest sitting governor for the State of Texas (I’d be ashamed, but I’ve never cast a vote for the man. The rest of you, though…) Sometimes I wonder if this man ties his own shoes in the morning, or if he has to have someone else do it.

Case in point. I’m watching Hardball last night (as I do virtually every night) and I nearly fall out of my chair as the Governor tells a New Hampshire child on national television (!?) that we teach creationism alongside evolution in Texas.


(courtesy of TFN and NPR)

Now, I know that this has been his goal for about the last decade or so, it’s why he’s appointed a series of young-earth creationists to chair the SBOE; but apparently he hasn’t kept track of what his appointed cronies have been forced to accept recently. The entirety of intelligent design (aka, creationism) has been rejected by the SBOE in a unanimous vote. There will be no creationism taught in Texas schools. There cannot be, no matter how many times he appoints creationists to the SBOE, as it is a violation of the separation between church and state.

The Governor’s campaign for the White House is a train wreck, and an embarrassment to thinking Texans (and yes, we do exist) everywhere. The national political pundits are probably drooling at the chance to have a real circus to report on; it’s good for ratings.

[I can only imagine what the behind the cameras dialog was like when McCain ran against Obama or Dole ran against Clinton; “Where’s the drama? I’m supposed to attract viewers with this?”
]

The kind of divisive political piety that he displays (and is detailed here for those who haven’t been paying attention) Will play well in certain areas of the nation, but be alienating to the majority of voters. He’ll do great in the Midwest (and a good portion of the old South) he will not favor well anywhere in the Southwest outside of Texas, and won’t play at all in the North.

The outcome that the administration is hoping for is facing off against a Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann. That campaign they’ll be able to phone in since neither one of them is even acquainted with “Mainstream America”, and will be easy to trip up on the most basic of scientific inquiries (young earth creationists generally are) not to mention their willingness to gut all social programs, especially health care programs, in the name of fiscal responsibility. It will be the simplest of matters to rally the middle in lukewarm support of an Obama second term in the face of that kind of challenge.

The only thing Obama is terrified of is the jobs numbers not getting better; perversely, it’s the only thing the opposition has to hope for, since they can’t seem to find a candidate that will satisfy the crazies (Like Chris Christy points out in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=y83z552NJaw) and be marketable to the rest of us.


Jon Huntsman knows where the center is;

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another contender for the GOP presidential nomination, took to Twitter almost instantly, seeming to mock Perry for the creationism comment, as well as for his recent statements on climate change: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

(courtesy Texas Tribune)

Doubt seriously that the Republicans will give him the time of day, though.

Perry’s Religious Road to the White House?

Before the rest of ya’ll learned to despise the man who served as the 43rd President of the U.S. (not to be mistaken with his father, a man of the same name) George W. Bush was a lauded Governor of Texas. I didn’t have much of an opinion of him, one way or the other. I’m not into sports, so W’s ownership of the Texas Rangers meant little to me, and that single fact (combined with his father’s having been President) seemed to gain him the governorship.

I thought Ann Richards a better governor at the time, although his wife was visible doing good things for education in Texas. I’m not sure what he did to be lauded as governor. I never saw him do much more than make feel good speeches and cut ribbons (kissed a few babies, too) There were rumors of his drinking and whatever use even then, but he seemed to be pretty harmless in the scheme of things (little did we know) willing to be the figurehead that is the sole job of a Texas governor.

His Lt. Governor was a little-known climber by the name of Rick Perry; a literal political chameleon who changed party to Republican when he saw that it would give him an ‘in’ as Governor of Texas when his predecessor moved up to the White House. Not only did he change parties but he became a devout, embracing religious right causes calculated to win favor amongst his supporters; a man that has wielded religion as a cudgel at every opportunity, to the detriment of the state. Instead of being the figurehead that governors are relegated to by the Texas constitution, He’s subverted the office by orchestrating the creation of a tollway commission which he controls, a foreign run for profit company that charges Texans to drive on roads that they pay to build with their own taxes.

I could go on painting this picture, but you probably get my point already. As much disdain as I have for W; I’ll take a coke-sniffing, drunken buffoon of a governor over an actual crook and hypocrite any day of the week.


So it should come as no surprise that the same Rick Perry that changed parties in order to secure the governorship, and that has found religion useful in holding the governor’s office in Texas for longer than any other governor in history, is intending to use religion as his vehicle to run for the White House.

From a TFN insider blog article;

New reports of closed-door meetings and conference calls indicate that religious-right kingmakers are coming together in support of a presidential bid by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. One of those closed-door confabs occurred two weeks ago, when Gov. Perry spoke before a virtual “who’s who” of religious-right leaders gathered in the North Texas city of Euless (just outside Dallas), EthicsDaily.com reports.

Given that he’s consistently used religion to gain political favor during his several terms as governor, it should be no surprise to Texans that their governor is planning to use religion to attempt to gain the White house. The next step on this road appears to be a prayer meeting scheduled for August 6th (TFN has an open letter you can sign on to if you want to stand in opposition to this event) The no-holds-barred blurb for the event runs like this;

We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.

According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene. The Response will be a historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America.

Of course, when you rent a stadium, and plan on filling it with the devout on the pretense of praying for the future of America (that future America being lead by one President Rick Perry, no doubt) calling your event a prayer meeting sounds like pious bullshit.

What Governor Good Hair has failed to take into account is that there are laws against using religion this way in the US (one might be forgiven for not knowing this, considering how often religion is misused in this fashion) and has been sued over his event’s blatant mixing of church & state;

The federal lawsuit seeks to declare Perry’s participation in the prayer rally and his proclamation unconstitutional, to enjoin his further involvement, and to order corrective action. FFRF seeks to stop further publication of the proclamation, to declare the use of the official state seal of Texas unconstitutional, to order the governor to withdraw permission for the AFA to use his written and videotaped promotions (“Gov. Perry’s Invitation Video”) and radio recordings at their website, to remove links from the governor’s website, as well as enjoining Perry from issuing and disseminating further Day of Prayer proclamations or designations.

(from the FFRF press release)

Here’s hoping they have better luck with this one than they did with the National Day of Prayer lawsuit. Thankfully it won’t be up to the elected (and resultantly biased) courts of Texas. This is a federal issue, it will go to federal court. Yes, I imagine he’ll make hay over being told he can’t use religion to win the White House. Whatever it takes to shoot this pretender down, I’m all for.


The case has been dismissed;

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s lawsuit challenging Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s sponsorship of an Aug. 6 prayer event at Reliant Stadium in Houston was dismissed July 28 by U.S. District Judge Gray Miller, who ruled that the plaintiffs lack standing.

FFRF and five of its Houston members sued to block Perry from continued endorsement of the Christian event titled “The Response.” Miller (appointed in 2006 by President Bush) declined to grant a restraining order against the governor and dismissed the suit, saying that the plaintiffs had not been coerced into attending the rally. The judge did not address the merits of the case.

FFRF plans to appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals or to reconfigure the case so that it may be heard again. FFRF maintains that coercion into a religious practice is not required in order to bring suit under the Establishment Clause.

“Government endorsement of one religious view that excludes other religions and nonbelievers is enough,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.

Suits brought against the government are routinely dismissed on standing these days. It has become nearly impossible to even bring a suit against the government and not have it dismissed on standing, much less win a case against the government.

…Which is why they are planning a protest the day of the event at Reliant Stadium, since Gov. Good Hair is still making noises like he’s planning on attending as the governor, not a private citizen.

NOT Endorsing Governor Good-hair

I got an ‘alert’ in my inbox today from Empower Texans (I’m canceling that subscription, by the way) letting me know I need to vote in the primary tomorrow. I’m probably going to sit this one out, but I haven’t decided yet. I may go get my card stamped Libertarian again; but then again, I may not bother. I’m becoming convinced it’s all a waste of time. More on that later.

In the ‘alert’ they are sure to tell me that they have endorsed candidates for the races, so click on over to the Empower Texans website and they’ll be sure to let you know who to vote for. Just for the fun of it, I clicked on over to peruse the list of suggestions; and sure enough, bottom of the list is an endorsement for Rick Perry. Exactly how does endorsing the sitting governor Empower Texans? a governor who has exceeded his gubernatorial authority time and time again; has created private road systems that put dollars in foreign companies pocket, disenfranchised whole segments of the population with his bible-thumping rhetoric and whose influence over the SBOE has threatened the future of education in the State of Texas?

Around this house we call him Governor Good-hair. That’s the sum total of his positive contribution to this state, in our lowly opinion.

Let’s get past the basic waste of time it is to endorse any sitting politician in this day and age. With re-election rates in the mid-90’s for incumbents, why bother? Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter; why not endorse someone who actually favors Liberty in the Lone Star State? If it has to be a Republican, why not Debra Medina? Why not the Libertarian candidate? As Libertarians, they’ve got to be more ‘liberty’ oriented than any candidate the other parties might run.

I get so fed up with political ads in Texas. “The REAL Conservative Candidate” (you can hear the capitol letters) as if conservatives haven’t run this state, and the federal government for the last 8+ years. If we aren’t happy with what’s going on in the state, maybe we don’t need REAL conservatives. Maybe we need a Democrat. How about the former mayor of Houston, Bill White? Houston is notorious for its hands off approach to development and business. What about Farouk Shami? any man brave enough to run for governor with that name has got to have what it takes to run this state.

How about we pull ANYBODY off the street and endorse him, instead of endorsing Governor Good-hair? They’ve got a better than even chance of doing a better job.

FFrF Radio: Atheist in an Iraqi Foxhole

Podcast link.
November 24, 2007Atheist in an Iraqi Foxhole

Theocracy Alert. Pat Robertson. Can you find anything to like about this guy? (Answer: not really) Rick Perry campaigning for Rudy Giuliani. That worked out well. Now we just need to get rid of Perry.

Freethinkers Almanac. The King of Ragtime – Scott Joplin, Jodi Foster & Voltaire. Want more info? Check the calendar.

Jeremy Hall finally gets on the air (Mikey Weinstein spoke in his place previously) Here’s this guy, putting his life on the line for his country, and he has to be given a body guard because of threats against his life from inside our own military; all because he’s an Atheist and simply wants to talk to other Atheists where he’s stationed.

Land of the Free?


“Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.” -Abbie Hoffman

2006 Archive episode.
November 25, 2006Ron Reagan on Stem-cell Research

Elton John on religion. Salk Conference.

Ron Reagan. This episode reveals that much of what was said on the first nationally aired episode was contained in this previous interview. This interview seems a bit more fresh, almost like he’s given this interview too many times since this aired.

The interview is about a lot more than stem cells.

Freethinkers Almanac. Lydia Maria Child & Voltaire.