Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the reddest part of the red state

Thursday, October 31, 2013

New developer for convention center hotel


Amarillo’s Local Government Corp. announced a revised deal for the development of a downtown convention center hotel Thursday.

In an orchestrated presentation, Chuck Patel from NewcrestImage and Costa Bajjali, of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, told the ALGC and gathered guests that Patel’s firm will take over the financing and development of a new hotel. NewcrestImage’s predecessor firm developed the Courtyard by Marriott in the Historic Fisk Building.

But, while the soil sampling and site work is going on now, the financing isn’t completely nailed down, according to Patel, who gave a short interview here. Bajjali’s interview, in which he said the firm has met contractual requirement with the city of Amarillo and the ALGC, can be found here; and, city Manager Jarrett Atkinson’s clarification can be found here.


The full meeting is here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Is another failure for downtown development coming? - corrected headline

One of the nice things about being retired is that I can blog — nor not — as I am so inclined. I posted a few things in the past two weeks, but nothing extensive. In part, it’s a conflict between maintaining a sense of peace and expressing an opinion or clarifying what is generally false information spread by the Amarillo Globe-News. The latter task lately would be a full-time job. I’ll pass on the critiques for the moment. Should I choose to pursue those more vigorously, I can do so at my own pace.

But, we do having something brewing for which I’d like to give my readers a “heads-up.” On Thursday (Oct. 31, 2013), the Amarillo Local Government Corp.’s agenda calls for a discussion of a co-developer for the convention center hotel. The financing for that hotel was to be in place by Nov. 1 as part of the $113 million deal that master developer Wallace Bajjali put together with the City Commission in November 2010. It’s not clear if The Amarillo Independent’s warning to the City Commission, which was kludged around through the panel’s own form of denial, will lead to an “I Told You So” column.


To prepare for whatever comes out of the ALGC meeting tomorrow, I’ve posted two videos to The Amarillo Independent’s YouTube channel. The first is the Nov. 9, 2010 City Commission work session at which Melissa Dailey and David Wallace pitched the commission; and the second is the Nov. 16,2010 work session at which the City Commission backed off on immediately awarding Wallace Bajjali a contract after the commissioners saw the Independent’s vetting of Wallace Bajjali,.

As you watch these videos, note how the project has evolved and how, despite promises, taxpayer money has been arabesqued into the deal. You’d know that if you follow the media coverage on the project since then. In addition, note that Ron Boyd, when he was a commissioner, implied that the citizens would get to vote on this pojrect.


We’ll report here tomorrow to let you know what happens. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Another business screw up

The next time someone bashes government and problems signing up for the Affordable Care Act, take note that business can screw up "better." From TechCrunch.com, "Yahoo Mail has been experiencing a major bug, following its revamp earlier this week.
According to a number of reports, the service has been automatically forwarding emails to users’ “alternate,” external email addresses – a setting that was switched on without users’ permission. Yahoo has replied to some help requests via its Twitter account @YahooCare, but it hasn’t replied to help requests on its UserVoice forum, nor has its Customer Care site offered a solution to this problem."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

When will the Globe-News stop lying to readers?

Sometime in 2005, I don’t remember exactly when, I decided that I could no longer work at the Amarillo Globe-News. It wasn’t because I disagreed with the paper’s political stances on the editorial and op-ed pages. It was because it committed what I feel is the worst of ethical breaches — publishing a story in which known facts are excluded so as to change the story itself or (in the same vein) refusing to publish a story to suppress facts. It is now clear to me that slanting the news and spreading falsehoods on the editorial and op-ed pages are part of a concerted propaganda effort. Here is the story in the New York Times.


An example of the first that I experienced firsthand was a story about a disagreement between orthopedic surgeons and Baptist St. Anthony's Health System over how the doctors should be paid for emergency room coverage. I had gathered information that made the case that clinical factors should determine who and when a doctor would be called into the hospital off-hours, typically the middle of the night. None of the information got into the published version of the story, which portrayed poor little ole BSA as the victim of doctors’ greed. It’s as if the article’s author was BSA itself.

The second story also involved BSA, this time one documenting a failure to meet legal charity care requirements under Texas law in place in 2005. The executive editor at the time wanted to run the story but the publisher, who is still at the paper, wouldn’t let it run without a personal review of the information. The publisher never could find time for a meeting, so thanks to passive-aggressive avoidance, the story never made it into the Globe-News.

I concluded that Amarilloneeded honest journalism, which is why I established The Amarillo Independent. Amarillo still needs honesty from its paper of record and, while editorials express opinions, editorial writers have a moral and ethical obligation to use facts to back up the opinions. On Oct. 1, the Globe-News ran an editorialthat flat-out lied by repeating a Tea Party talking point about the Affordable Care Act. I called out the paper and the editorial page editor, Dave Henry, on it.

So, here we are Oct. 6 and the Globe-Newscontinues — as it always will — to paint a false picture of a situation. It would be forgivable were these falsehoods done from ignorance. But they aren’t. As I said, they are part of a concerted propaganda effort and, in this case, it’s to be an apologist for the boorish behavior of a Tea Party Republican.

“This isn’t some damn game.”

This was a quote from U.S. House Speaker John Boehner this past Friday — and the speaker is correct.

Unfortunately, the shutdown of the federal government is a game to some in Washington, D.C. — and the nation’s veterans, primarily those of The Greatest Generation, should not be used as pawns.

If that’s the case, then the entire government shut down shouldn’t be a pawn for trying to derail the Affordable Care Act. Accept it’s the law and work through legitimate channels to modify it.

West Texas lawmaker Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, took some heat this past week for confronting a National Park Service employee when barricades were erected at the World War II Memorial in Washington — preventing access for members of The Greatest Generation, at least temporarily.
Does Neugebauer deserve to get dinged? To a degree (a federal employee was the wrong target), but those who think the congressman from Lubbock is the only one deserving of such treatment need more than a partisan perspective.

Neugebauer is exempt from approbation to a degree? He was a hypocritical, boorish and arrogant piece of political offal, and so far the only one to vent his vomit-like spleen on a helpless employee. There is no “partisan perspective” for common courtesy and decency.

The closure of the WWII Memorial, even temporarily to veterans, was an act of gamesmanship — pure and simple.

And shutting down the federal government by refusing to pass a clean continuing resolution isn’t? You can’t have it both ways and the GOP and the Globe-News are making pawns out of the visitors to the WWII Memorial.

The big picture:
■ As syndicated columnists Charles Krauthammer and Diana West pointed out (AGN Media ran their columns Saturday), the $182 million memorial was paid for with $197 million in private funds, with the extra money in a memorial fund.

And then turned it over to the National Park Service to run. Sort of like the center for performing arts was turned over to the city of Amarilloand is now run by the city’s rules.

■ Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved three bills for national parks funding, but Democrats balked.

Of course they balked. So did the GOP on the ACA. Good for goose, good for gander.

■ For crying out loud, the WWII Memorial is open-air, how much of a presence is really required by the National Park Service to staff this facility? And how much taxpayer money was used to trot out those ridiculous, if not offensive, barricades?

See above.

■ It also interesting that the federal government found the money to send U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry to Japan this past Thursday to “pay their respects” (according to The Associated Press) at a national cemetery in Tokyo for Japanese soldiers who died in World War II.

This was part of a bigger picture which the Amarillo Globe-News conveniently but not surprisingly leaves out.

The federal government — if not the White House — can write a check for whatever it wants, and in this case, the WWII Memorial, if not the nation’s veterans, was used to score political points.
Again, we’re not letting Congressman Neugebauer off the hook. His scorn was directed at yet another pawn in this political power play (a federal employee), and he should have known better.
However, those who want to pile all the blame for the shutdown of the federal government on the congressman are just as misdirected.

You are letting Neugebauer off the hook. Not only are you making excuses for him, but you’re throwing out a red herring. No one is “piling all the blame for the shutdown” on this lackluster back-bencher. The condemnation is for his boorish behavior and being a hypocrite for attempting to blame a lowly employee for something the Lubbock-based political hack supported.


Politicians can't be allowed to backtrack on their stupidity

“Misspoke” and “out of context” have become the common excuse of politicians trying to make an excuse of being openly stupid. It is, in the jargon of people who think themselves Beltway
cognoscenti, an attempt to “walk back” remarks that clearly embarrass them. Or, maybe it’s that they’re so arrogant they don’t embarrass, so it’s them following the instructions of their handlers to retract remarks.

Two recent examples come to mind, one of which we’ve already mentioned on this blog. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, perhaps unknowingly because of his mental deficiencies, mistreated a National Park Service employee, trying to blame her for the government shutdown that he supported. The encounter, caught on videoby the NBC station in Washington, was a stunning insight into the plutocratic yet deficient mentality of a Texas politician.


The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that Neugebauer claimed the video was out of context because “the encounter followed a visit he and other members of Congress had investigating why the National Park Service installed barricades around the open-air memorial that usually does not have controlled access.”

The A-J, which is owned by the same right-wing corporation that owns the Amarillo Globe-News, didn’t post or link to the NBC video. But readers of this blog can find it here. Judge for yourselves whether Neugebauer is being treated unfairly in the media. Or, by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which filed a complaintagainst Neugebauer, for bringing discredit to the United States House of Representatives.

Another example is from one of the least mentally capable people and another Texas politician — Rick Perry, currently suckling at two public tits, one a salary for government and another pulling down retirement funds. During a visit to New Jersey, Perry tried to criminalize the Affordable Care Act and the mandate to enroll people in the program. According to NJ.com, Perry said, “If this heath care law is forced upon this country, the young men and women in this audience are the ones who are really going to pay the price. And that, I suggest to you, reaches the point of being a felony toward them and their future. That is a criminal act, from my perspective, to put that type of burden on them — to mortgage their future like that.”

A day later, the Houston Chronicle reported that “Perry also tempered a remark he made earlier this week in New Jersey, when he said the implementation of the president's national health care overhaul was ‘a criminal act.’ Perry said Friday that he used the word figuratively.”


The United States Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, the president signed it and the Supreme Court ruled the measure was constitutional. What part of all this does Perry not understand? Either none of it, reflecting his ignorance or, more likely and even worse, all of it but spinning it to cater to the right wing base that supports him and similar politician like Red Cruz and Neugebauer.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Analysis of shutdown requires looking at the big picture

On Friday, I bloggedthat my day started a little differently — veering toward a place of peace. I tried to stay away from politics until late in the day. Then, a thread on Facebook became active. I thought the comment I posted to the threadwas more peaceful and neutral than an advocacy position I would normally hold.


Then, a former employee of the Amarillo Globe-News chimed in and did exactly what I said was unproductive. He claimed I was strategizing on how to hurt Americans and blame it on the Republicans. You can read the comment at the end of the thread.

My main point yesterday was this, “This government shutdown is a battle for the hearts and minds of Americans. It is a crude attempt to get at this question: What should be the role of the federal government in American lives?

The rise of the Tea Party since 2008 has triggered this crude battle in our country. It seems the Tea Party activists and libertarians want government’s role to be so minimal as to almost destroy government itself. The role of the government would reflect in the starkest possible terms the invisible hand of an amoral free market, even if the very structure of a market segment doesn’t accommodate the free market-capitalist paradigm. If one looks carefully at the right wing conservative positions on what should and shouldn’t be part of the federal government’s role, the positions amount to two major directions: Remove government from regulating large corporate interests; and, continue to feed the military-industrial complex, which would flow money back through the corporate ruling structure.

Even in his latest essay, the esteemed Bill Moyers in his Friday musings, missed somewhat the overarching role of the corporatist takeover of the United States government. Moyers didn’t totally miss the point. He recognized that one of the goals of the Koch-inspired (if not led and financed) Tea Party is to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s no wonder that the right-winger conservatives, who perseverate the inability to think critically, overlook that their populist view of the Tea Party movement is sadly misplaced. How ironic.

And the evidence to buttress my position about the lack of critical thinking and intellectual dishonesty, the trigger for the Republican-led shutdown is the futile attempt to kill off the Affordable Care Act (who can honestly dispute that as the proximate cause of the shutdown?). While much of the resistance to the act is based on disinformation (or should I say outright lies?), the final version of the law has something for every big-money corporate health care interest. The pharmaceutical industry won price protection. The medical equipment industry (and the hospitals and hospital administrators with edifice complexes) on a national level continue spend capital dollars even if the new toys and buildings are not needed. And the biggest winner, the insurance lobby, gets to be the conduit for coverage even when the more efficient Medicare system could be the more efficient system for insuring Americans.

I can’t gainsay what another Facebook poster noted, although he seems to have pulled his posts since making the statement that both parties are complicit. And so are the voters. I’ve long and often said we get the government we deserve.


Still, what is more important to me at this point is seeing the big picture. Being mentally anchored in the Texas Panhandle gives a skewed view of that picture. The view of the role of government in this reddest and more religiously conservative part of red-state Americais far different than other parts of our vast nation. I won’t condemn people for having and adhering to their beliefs, but I will condemn them for not recognizing others have different beliefs. And more, I condemn the Republican-Tea Party politicians for their slanted view leading to this shutdown.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Channeling peace this Friday

I started my day as I normally do: I checked my email, floated over to Facebook to see what is happening on my newsfeed and then over to the 15 or so news sites I normally peruse. But my direction shifted when my “Unapologetically Episcopalian” postingnoted that Oct. 4 commemorates St. Francis of Assisi. Along with the text posting, Unapologetically Episcopalian linked to a videoof “Make me a channel of your peace,” also known as the Prayer of St. Francis, sung by the Choir of Chester Cathedral, England from the album “Sing for Joy - Cathedral Praise 2.”


The music put me in a different frame of mind today and sent me on a search for the text, or lyrics, for the music. As it turns out, the history of the prayer and the music, are interesting and, according to Wikipedia in a well-sourced article, the attribution to St. Francis came hundreds of years after his death. So obviously, several versions of the original prayer and the lyrics exist, with one version of the song on YouTube showing the lyrics as the tune is sung clearly. I am particularly touched by this today, and so I also sought the wording for this prayer in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the United States being:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is
hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where
there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where
there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where
there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to
be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is
in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life. Amen.

Does that mean the news and behavior of some politicians out there aren’t bad enough to rile me up? Yes and no, but in the spirit of trying to channel peace, I am going to express sadness at the tone of the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people.


I have things to say and I’ll be back later.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pure & Simple: Rep. Randy Neugebauer is a jerk

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a Tea Party wannabe who sided with the rest of the right-wing crazies on the government shutdown, displayed such an egregious lack of class toward a federal employee who here.
was trying to do her job. The report of the the incident is on video

I guess I've gotten used to politicians being inveterate liars and mealy-mouthed jerks, but my blood pressure jumps to great heights when I see this kinds of hypocrisy. It's hard to get directly to politicians of Neugebauer's ilk, but I am putting a print out of my email to him in the snail mail as well. A photo of it is to the left.



I doubt this jackass will every see it or even care, but maybe if we get enough to his staff, he might admit he "misspoke." Of course ,that will be another lie.

Who's with me?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Defense cuts should be targeted

A friend of mine in Los Alamos, NM makes an interesting point on Facebook. He wrote:

"Attached is a pie chart I put together of US Budget for 2010 (the most recent year for which I was
able to find complete data). The three big things that we spend money on are: social services, the military, and interest on the debt, which in total accounts for just over 80% of our national spending. Everything else that the government does (e.g. - NIH, NEA, DOE, NASA, NSF, FAA, DOI, etc...) falls under the remaining 20%. Now, let's compare this with our income: in 2010, our government had a revenue of $2.16 trillion, and they spent $3.45 trillion. Thus, even if we eliminated the 'Everything Else'category of our expenditures, we would still be overspent by $600 billion.



"The point of all of this is that (it) greatly amuses me when our elected officials start talking about the need to balance the budget, but state that we can't reduce spending on social services or the military."

Now, if my math is right, we have $64.515 billion tied up in "defense" spending, with many of the programs devoted to feeding the military-industrial complex that the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about. I am not going to break this $64 trillion down, but I would point out that former Vice President Dick Cheney's Halliburton and other well-connected firms have profited directly from the Middle East adventurism. Our country's ability to wage war far exceeds our need to wage war.

As we endure the immature, kindergarten-like behavior from the 535 politicians who, more than any other government class, suckle at our taxpaying tits, we should keep in mind where the money goes and who is hurt by where it goes.

I don't know where we're going with this government shutdown, nor do I know the repercussions for the nation and for the leeches in Congress, but I can only hope that the backlash in the mid-term elections will be severe, wide-ranging and devastating to the incumbents who are owned by the military-industrial corporatist plutocrats who "get theirs" at the expense of the least of us getting anything.




Guv race could be closer than you think

Democrats may not need to be so pessimistic about one of their taking the Texas governor race after all.
Abbott at AC with his
taxpayer-supplied
video crew.

According to a Texas Lyceum Poll as reported in the Texas Tribune, state Rep. Wendy Davis has is only 8 percentage points behind Greg Abbott, the putative Republican nominee, in a hypothetical race for Texas governor. Those 8 points are more significant when viewed in context. First, in the overall polling, fully half the respondents were undecided, meaning it could be anyone’s race. Then, there is the gender gap, and Abbott suffers from it.



“Abbott’s lead shrinks to 2 points, within the margin of error, when only women are counted. In that slice of the electorate, Abbott had 25 percent and Davis was at 23 percent, with 51 percent undecided,” the Tribune reports.

Davis holds sizable leads in the black and Hispanic population, but suffers among independents — until the 74 percent undecided segment in the latter groups is considered.

The Tribune cites that Davis’ biggest deficit is in the size of the Abbott war chest, said to be $22 million while hers sits at less than 5 percent of Abbott’s.

But what the Tribune isn’t reporting, and so far none of the other media eight now, is how much of his staff on the state payroll are pumping out his public relations pieces to buttress his run for governor. When The Amarillo Independent last covered Abbott on a visit to Amarillo, it was to Amarillo College for Abbott to tout his war on sexual predators. He had several of his own camera and sound crew and it was clear this was a public relations event for him.

All that said, if the Democrats want to capture the top spot in Texas, it’s time for fund-raising in high gear now and time to go negative often and early on Abbott. He is plenty vulnerable.

High school students show kindness and class

Sometimes I have to take a break form the political fray and look at the brighter side of life. A story on this morning’s Houston Chronicle website gave me the chance to do so. And, it restored some faith in the younger generation.



It seems that Libby Klein, a 19-year-old student at Fredericksburg High School, was crowned homecoming queen this past Saturday night. What made this high school ritual different is that Klein has Down syndrome. But, as the story notes, this wasn’t a sympathy vote. It was recognition that Klein was kind, outgoing and upbeat.

I hope that the students at Fredericksburg High School are proud of themselves for showing class and kindness in a world that sometimes seems too focused on just the opposite. And I hope that this honor for Klein and for all who support her is an inspiration for further achievement and excellence.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stop Lying

In my previous post (below), I refer to the false balance that affects — or should I say, “infects” — journalism.

I must, for he sake of conscience and what truth there may be in public discourse these days, take my discussion a step further. In Amarillo, the Amarillo Globe-News goes far beyond false balance and peddles lies. Here is a quote from today’s editorial, “While a government shutdown is not going to help Republicans (and won’t derail the federal government’s takeover of health care), there is a simple but legitimate question we ran across recently related to Obamacare that puts the problem in perspective.”


First, the Affordable Care Act is not a government takeover of health care. As I’ve pointed out on many occasions, the ACA restructures many of the mechanisms for financing health services, but it is not a “takeover.” As Winthrop Quigley so clearly and brilliantly points out in his Albuquerque Journal column today, “As it happens, Obamacare has very little to do with health and everything to do with finance. It is an attempt to rescue the nation’s for-profit health-care financing system from itself.”

In short, Dave Henry and Les Simpson you two are either too stupid to understand what the act is about or you do understand and you continue to spread disinformation. That makes you liars, but it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve either shown abysmal ignorance or mendaciousness.

Henry and the AGN editorial goes on to ask, “What reason is there for optimism that a government-mandated takeover will work, now or in the future?”

If you define “government takeover” as the Veteran’s Administration or the military medical services, then I share your pessimism. Those are not the shining lights of systems that consistently and across the board deliver the best of American medical care. Oh, some places do, especially those affiliated with university-based training programs; but those are the exception.

On the other had, if you define “government takeover” as the financing mechanism, then the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services far outshines any of the private insurance firms. As I’ve pointed out, the retention rate for Medicare is generally around 2 percent, far more efficient than the administrative and overhead costs of the private insurance companies.

At the end of the disinformation — maybe we should refer to the AGN as Amarillo’s Disinformation Station — the editorial almost incoherently states, “Don’t forget, there is a reason this country is $17 trillion in debt, give or take a few trillion or million, which shouldn’t be a problem for the federal government.”

Well, Dave, some of us haven’t forgotten why we’re this far in debt. It’s because the former Republican president and his corrupt and lying vice president and defense secretary lied the United States into two Middle Eastern wars. And, because they turned their heads on the corrupt acts of the Wall Street bankers who triggered the Great 2008 Recession.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan pointed out, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Congressional Turds

Last night’s midnight deadline came and went without Congress agreeing on the budget and the debt
ceiling. Try as I might, I can’t think of a civil thing to say to the 435 United States House members who have allows this to happen.

Thanks, however, to the New York Daily News, I am aided in my communication to the right wingers who have visited this upon our nation and on the taxpayers. What is gratifying to me about the Daily News’ front page today is that it says (perhaps a bit more gently than I wish) what I feel and perhaps what many others feel today too. But because it’s the Daily News, it will be hard for those inhabiting the Beltway Bubble to avoid seeing the disdain we the people have for them. At this level of exposure, I suspect it’s difficult, if not impossible, for the members of Congress to miss this message.


Whether these bought-and-paid-for folks care is another matter altogether. Most are smug in their cocoons, protected from the wrath of their lowly constituents. First, unless you pay to play by making big contributions, these parasites don’t give a damn about your position. Second, they really never see the negative communications they get from constituents. Those are handled by staffers who vomit form letters that duck the issues and ignore the lowly concerns.

We are in our own civil war in the United States. It’s a war being fought for the hearts and minds of voters using the most sophisticated propaganda techniques known to man. In fact, I am going to start using a term that I’ve only recently learned: “false balance.” Also known as the balance fallacy, false balance gives equal weight to both sides of an argument, implying either that the truth is somewhere in the middle or that both arguments have equal weight.

We know, at least in journalism, or news media terms, false balance occurs far too often. It’s our job as journalists to fact-check and in doing so, we eliminate false balance. But if you’re either lazy or part of the propaganda machine, like the corporatist news media is, people aren’t going to see the false balance.

Which brings me back to the picture. As much as House Speaker John Boehner is to blame, it’s false balance to not include all the Tea Party members of the House and most of the Republicans. And some blue dog Democrats, too. Still, the part that’s right is calling them, all too gently, “turds.”