July 10, 2015

Wacoans, and dead mammoths, say Thanks, Obama!

Waco Mammoth Site/National Park Service
I've blogged before about Wacoans desire to make the Waco Mammoth Site a national monument, about their attempts to patiently first try to work within the Congressional approval system, and about wingnut Rep. Bill Flores' monkey-wrenching of such attempts, along with his refusal to even meet with National Park Service officials when they were in Waco last fall — even though he was in Waco that same day!

Well, Wacoans finally decided to go the presidential designation route.

And, today?

President Barack Obama rewarded their work!

The Waco Mammoth Site is one of three new national monuments, AND ...

It's not part of BLM or something; it's part of the National Park Service.

Which will include Park Service marketing and more. Like already having its own webpages in the NPS website.

Wacoans' patience is explained as part of this pre-annoucement overview:
City leaders throughout the 2000s worked with congressional delegates to get the national designation through Congress, but fell short. Last year, the city began working for an executive order with the help of the National Parks Conservation Association, which advocates for national parks.

Yep, that's you, Bill Flores, helping Waco fall short.

As for what the site has? 
Since 1978, the remains of 24 Columbian mammoths have been discovered at the site, dating back some 65,000 years. The remains include the nation’s only known “nursery” herd of mammoths, and more remains are thought to be in the area.
But, the “pro-business” Republican Flores hates Obama, hates anything even remotely associated with the environment, hates any millimeter-sized expansion of the federal government, and so, has been anti-business.

Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. talks about that:
Mayor Duncan said the federal involvement will “increase exposure, attendance and awareness at the site.” 
“As long as the city was in charge of promoting it with Baylor, we had limited exposure,” he said. “With the arrowhead (sign), we’ll get much more national recognition and should increase tourism and visitation. It should also give us access to a lot of research from other paleontologists.”
Note that “business-related” stuff in there?

Bill Flores refused to see it. As for how much of a boost? Texas Highways says nearly 25 percent more visitors in the first year, then building on top of that.

None of this is stopping Bill Flores from trying to be a gloryhog. Want to call him on his bullshit? Give him a Tweet.

Rep. Rob Bishop, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, meanwhile is claiming that Obama showed "disdain" for Texas (and Nevada and

Further #oilprices slippage may be ahead — and is Shell the new BP?

The International Energy Association is following on the thoughts I expressed in a blog post earlier this week and saying that oil could slump more before it has a longer-term rebound.

I personally don't expect oil prices to drop below $50/bbl (that's for West Texas Intermediate) for an extended period of time, but I do expect them to stay closer to there than to $65 for the rest of this third quarter, at least.

Meanwhile, Chris Tomlinson of the Houston Chronicle salutes Shell for warning that climate change is real. I advised him to take that with a grain of salt. I said that grain of salt is about 6 years old, and its name is British Petroleum. I mean, Beyond Petroleum. I mean BP.

You get the idea.

The decline and fall of #Walmart

Much has been written the past few years about how Walmart stores are getting every more ... slovenly is the right word ... on stocking shelves and various other things. I need provide no links.

Six-eight foot high pallets of oil, two-liter sodas and everything will remain stacked, wrapped in plastic shrink wrap, for two, three, or even four or more days after being wheeled on the floor. Sometimes, it takes a couple of days for those pallets just to get to the section of the store where they belong.

Most Walmart managers don't care, to be honest. And, I know this from my own professional background.

They make bonuses, in addition to base salary, based on percentage of net profits. Most of them figure the easy way to do that is hire fewer people.

The problem is actually worse, in some ways, or potentially so, in small towns. After all, in a bigger city, I can go to another WallyWorld. Or Target, for many things.

In a small town, my only option other than Walmart is Family Dollar or Dollar General. And, they have a more limited selection on many things.

Again, I know this from experience — professional as well as personal.

Take automotive. In many small towns, Walmart's the only place besides new car dealers to carry new tires. On things like oil changes, it vastly undercuts local repair shops and such.

If?

If?

If you can get the tires or oil change.

On the professional side, our delivery driver went to Walmart a couple of weeks ago to get new rear tires.

Out.Of.Stock. He was told they weren't likely to have that size in stock for a couple of weeks. Nothing that special on the tire size — back tires for a Dodge Caravan.

I went to Walmart Tuesday, at about 6:45 p.m., for an oil change. The one guy working the bays was closing the doors.

"It's almost 7," he said. Yes, but a routine passenger car oil change doesn't take more than 15 minutes, and besides, you're supposed to be open.

Yesterday, I went at 6 p.m.

Doors.Already.Shut.

I'll get my oil changed at a wrecker and small repairs shop a half block away from our office.

On the tires? Walmart's road hazard warranty sounds great, right? But, if you blow a tire, really blow it and not just puncture it, and the nearest Walmart doesn't have a new one in your size, it doesn't really mean much, does it?

Next time I need tires, I'll probably go elsewhere, too.

Yeah, it's bad enough in bigger cities, but, in many a small town, Walmart the corporation knows that it's run old department stores out of town. Low/no growth small towns may still be loyal to local repair shops, but they — thanks to Wally — may have higher overhead on many things.

July 09, 2015

#Oilprices keep on slogging

Remember just a week or two ago when oil bears — most of whom are commodities speculators playing with oil prices in the first place — said the lower levels of the sky, at least, might once again be the limit?

Well, it looks like you're wrong. Sadly, that's even as new drill rigs were cranked up in the Eagle Ford last week. And, with the US economy remaining relatively strong compared to much of the world, including the Chinese stock market imploding, prices are likely to stay muted, for the rest of this quarter and probably the rest of the year.

I don't have too much schadenfreude for Texas oilmen, especially independents, though those of you with some knowledge of shale geology knew what you were getting into.

I have plenty of schadenfreude for commodities speculators. Feel free to keep getting burned.

And, readers, feel free to vote in the poll at right.

July 08, 2015

Let's enliven the #AllStarGame with A-Rod!

Given Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk using a Jon Paul Morosi column saying no Alex Rodriguez in Cincinnati is no big deal as a cudgel for all things A-Rod again, let's go further.

We could change so much else related to entertainment and baseball honors at the All-Star Game, just to honor A-Rod!

A-Rod ex Madonna is the perfect choice for either the National Anthem or God Bless America, right? (Actually, the perfect choice for God Bless America is getting rid of the damn thing, but that's another story.)

As for the Franchise Four having a run-off for tossing the first pitch, well, history's greatest living player is actually in pinstripes, isn't he?

We don't need a fight between Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax to throw out the first pitch.

It's A-Rod, isn't it?

(Suggesting A-Rod replace Ken Griffey Jr. for the first pitch of the Home Run Derby might set Reds fans off too much, so we won't do that. Besides, maybe Bryce Harper could magically have his dad get well and take care of that that way.

July 07, 2015

A couple of #Grexit and #Eurozone jokes — and #grexit_songs

First, have you heard about the hot new mixed drink sweeping Central Europe?

The Berlin Boomerang is the hot new drink replacing the Moscow Mule.

It’s composed of two parts schapps, a dash of sauerKraut juice and a double pinch of bitters.

It's a favorite of Angela Merkel, the Iron Chancellor 2.0.

It’s often an apertif drink with the new Athenian dessert, Brokelava.


Brokelava? It’s just like baklava, but with a few differences.

You follow a baklava recipe, but cut out 30 percent of the butter and don’t add the almonds or pistachios.

After it’s baked, you relayer it, add the nuts, but then take 90 percent back out.

Germans love its austere taste; Greek tax collectors love it after they chase it with three shots of ouzo.


Meanwhile, the European Union has recognized that a weak financial union looks like the United States’ old Articles of Confederation. Some folks are pushing for fuller unification.

To start it off, they have proposed a new “national” anthem for the Eurozone.

Euro, Euro über alles,
Über alles in der Welt,
Wenn es stets zu Schutz und Trutze
Brüderlich zusammenhält.
Von der Maas bis an die Memel,
Von Ebro bis Ägäisch,
Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
Über alles in der Welt!
Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
Über alles in der Welt!

(Translated, first the original, then mine:

Germany, Germany above all things,
Above everything in the world,
when, for protection and defense,
it always stands brotherly together .
From the Meuse to the Memel,
From the Adige to the Belt,
Germany, Germany above all things,
Above everything in the world!
Germany, Germany above all things,
Above everything in the world!

Euro, Euro above all things,
Above everything in the world,
when, for protection and defense,
it always stands brotherly together.
From the Meuse to the Memel,
From Ebro to Aegean
Germany, Germany above all things,
Above everything in the world!
Germany, Germany above all things,
Above everything in the world!)


Voila! European Union! Best pictured when sung by the Iron Chancellor 2.0.

(All images via Wikipedia.)

July 06, 2015

TX Progressives cover #SSM fallout, #FourthOfJuly, Bernie

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates the USWNT on its awesome FIFA Women's World Cup win as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff reports that thousands more Texas state employees are now eligible for spousal benefits thanks to the SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos observes that it should be obvious the state's government has become a gathering place for crooks, crony capitalists, religious fanatics, homophobes, racists and misogynists. Texas Governor Cruel.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at American exceptionalism, and the subject of counterfactual history, to produce some musings about the Fourth of July and American independence.

There are two things that will probably keep Sen. Bernie Sanders from acquiring the Democratic nomination for the US presidency, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs in the first of two posts on the topic.  Clue: one of them isn't money, and the other isn't the questionable intelligence of the average American voter.

============

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Lunch Tray updates us on her "pink slime" legal case and her use of Texas' shield law.

Eric Berger explains why some rocket launches fail.

Elizabeth Rose has no trouble reconciling her Christian faith with same sex marriage.

Cody Pogue finds no good reason to oppose same sex marriage.

Two Houston Tomorrow interns share their bus-riding experiences.

Grits for Breakfast writes about the rigged criminal justice game in the Waco bikers shootout.

State Impact Texas takes a lot at what's next after HB40, the Lege's ban on local fracking bans.

And Fascist Dyke Motors had a much more interesting holiday weekend than you.

#Obamacare and no cost controls coming home to roost

Even without the factoring in of planned, proposed, or passed mergers of health insurers, they want to stick it to "the man" — the federal government, namely, your and my tax dollars at end – with Obamacare premium increases of 20-40 percent.

The problem is, though, that "the man" on controlling insurance rate increase requests is state insurance departments. Not only did the thoroughly neoliberal and Internet 2.0 Obama insist that "the market," through techie things such as electronic patient records, would control costs (Note: EPR hasn't), he refused to put in other costs controls, like a federal bureau of insurance regulators inside HHS.

Speaking of, here's Dear Leader on that:
President Obama, on a trip to Tennessee this week, said that consumers should put pressure on state insurance regulators to scrutinize the proposed rate increases. If commissioners do their job and actively review rates, he said, “my expectation is that they’ll come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.”

Yeah, right. This is why, two weeks ago, I blogged about the black cloud of mergers.

Does he really believe such stupidity like this, or is it more about protecting the tattered remnants of the Obamacare part of his legacy, since a good one-third of it has been put off from becoming law anyway? Probably about 50-50. And, thus, already tentatively thinking about "legacies," just as Shrub Bush is not "the worst" president in history, and arguably not even in the bottom five, Obama's arguably right at average.

Back to the main theme, though.

And, O-care suffers from everything else Americans have come to hate about health insurance, like in-network vs non-network doctors, the PITA of changing insurers and thus networks and more.

This all is why we need a single-payer health care system, but even more than "just" that, we need a British-type National Health System for full cost control.

I know, I know, a lot of Democrats don't like hearing Obamacare get bashed, and, after last week's second Supreme Court decision in its favor, would probably prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.

However, as I've noted before ,we've only implemented about two-thirds of Obamacare, and the unimplemented parts have all been put off by executive order of Dear Leader himself. We may find out that they're never going to work that well and that, at the same time, existing parts of Obamacare are in part predicated on those other parts coming into action and working well.

Finally, per the quote, shock me that an Internet 2.0 neoliberal would tout online activism — which often descends into slacktivism — as the first action on this issue. Maybe we can call that "electronic patient records 2.0."