Saturday, August 24, 2013

Linda Ronstadt has Parkinson's

And it has left her unable to sing.

The 67-year-old singer, who will publish her memoir, Simple Dreams, next month, revealed her condition Friday in an interview with AARP.

The singer of such '70s and '80s hits as You're No Good, Hurt So Bad and Don't Know Much now uses poles to assist her when walking on uneven ground and travels with a wheelchair. She says she was diagnosed with the neurological disorder eight months ago, though she began experiencing symptoms, including hand tremors and trouble controlling the muscles that let her sing, several years ago.

Linda was the first woman -- not girl, woman -- I ever loved (OK, crushed on).  That Livin' in the USA album cover up there, coming out in '78, nearly knocked me over. But it was obviously her pipes that finished me off. Here she covered Gershwin...

...but she could also do country.

Her hits defined the '70's and '80's as much as anybody's.

"I think I've had it for seven or eight years already, because of the symptoms that I've had," the 11-time Grammy winner tells interviewer Alanna Nash. Ronstadt's last album was 2006's Adieu False Heart with Cajun musician Ann Savoy.

"No one can sing with Parkinson's disease," she says. "No matter how hard you try."

Color me a deep shade of melancholy at this news. One more, with my two favorite songs (interspersed with the 1978 comedy flick FM and Martin Mull).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Still waiting for that shame to show up

Lisa Falkenberg at the HouChron on the disintegrating civility in the mayoral tilt.

Already, (Ben) Hall and (Annise) Parker are trading jabs about everything from personal income to the definition of a debate. I'm sure allegations of illegal campaign signs will be next, especially with prospective also-ran Eric Dick in the mix.

But I was most interested in asking Hall one question: What the heck are you doing?

Given that Parker is a relatively well-regarded incumbent who managed to avoid major scandal and any resounding cries of incompetence, why is Hall running? Why throw good money - mostly his own - after bad odds?

"In fact, the odds are that I'm going to win," Hall responded, making it clear that he also disagreed with my "ludicrous" assumption that Parker is generally doing a good job. He most often mentioned her "pension fund neglect" and "mismanagement of assets" in the budget, and her silence on the problems in Houston schools.

You guessed it: God is his co-pilot and political adviser.

As to his reasons for running for mayor, Hall explained that he wants to give voters a real choice. It was a decision he made several years ago, he said, but he had to pray for God's guidance in choosing the right time and to give his reluctant wife "a spirit of acceptance" about the idea.

"Several years ago", but apparently not two, when Roy Morales nearly forced the mayor into a runoff, and not four when Gene Locke did so. Hall seems to have the same problem with the words that come out of his mouth that Greg Abbott has with his Tweets; neither are thought all the way through. Here's the reveal...

When he visits "the barrios and the bayous and the neighborhoods," Hall said, "I don't see where she gets her votes. She made 50.04 percent against no significant competition last round. She's gotten no more popular over the last two years." (For the record, the Chronicle reported 50.08 percent.)

Hall believes part of the problem may be Parker's "strident" leadership style, a bit of which he's experienced during his few private encounters with her. The first time they met, at a University of Houston event, Hall said, the two shook hands and he recalls the mayor saying " 'It's nice meeting you. I'm going to whip your ass so bad that you'll never run for public office again.' " At which point, Hall said, "I immediately told my friend, 'My goodness, I now know what's wrong with the city.' "

Hall then described a later exchange after the Juneteenth Parade. After introducing himself again, Hall says Parker responded, "I'm glad you keep introducing yourself to me because I keep forgetting who you are."

Asked whether Hall's recollections of the exchanges were accurate, Parker spokeswoman Sue Davis said in a statement: "Ben Hall needs to man up. The mayor did not use those exact words and she certainly didn't curse. But it's not surprising that Mr. Hall's response to a confident woman leader is to call her names. Yesterday, Mr. Hall sent out a public statement calling the mayor a liar. What kind of leadership is that?"

Well somebody is certainly not telling the truth. The truth probably does not rest entirely with one account or the other, either.

"Strident" is actually one of the nicer words I would use to describe Madam Mayor. To say that a Dale Carnegie continuing education course would be well worth the investment is understating her case.There just aren't going to be any charm offensives launched out of City Hall in this cycle.

Sue Davis is one of the few consultants who is worth a damn in this city. She's also my neighbor (we live in the same precinct). So I want to say this as nicely as I can, because I like her and respect her: this is poor service to your client, Mayor Parker. Turn down the flames. Stop trying to demonstrate who's the bigger dick in the race. One Dick is one too many already.

Personal attacks are not addressing the legitimate challenges to Mayor Parker's record, aren't increasing voter interest in the election, will NOT boost your vote tally. There is a considerable body of evidence that this sort of thing reduces all those, and worse yet, it gives the appearance that Mayor Parker simply wants to run out the clock on the campaign. Stonewalling the debates to the bare minimum in number and in who gets to participate, discussion in 'forums' that focus on issues that aren't the most pressing (such as crime for example), and other stalling tactics do not serve the best interests of Houstonians.

The underlying assumption here, of course, that it is the intention of Mayor Parker's campaign to serve the citizens of Houston in a positive manner, so perhaps my premise is flawed. If the ad hominem continues, I'll have to revisit and revise it. Back to Falkenberg for the finish.

I have to say, the not-cursing claim was a great disappointment. It seemed kind of an Ann Richards-on-a-Harley thing to do. The "man up" response was even less inspiring.


When I asked how Hall believes he differs politically from Parker, a fellow Democrat, he said: "I think I am a futurist. I don't think she has that skill set. For me, elemental government is balancing the budget. That's elemental. For her it seems to be an accomplishment."

Hall does seem a formidable politician. In a conversation, he'll use your first name a lot. He's loyal to the script. His oscillation between insulting Parker and then pledging the "positive campaign" mantra could use a little grease. But he's a likable guy with an inspiring rags-to-riches story. His name, Ben Hall, conveniently rhymes with "for all." He's had a bit of trouble paying property taxes on time and he spent too much time living in Piney Point.

But I do believe he genuinely wants to make Houston a better place. And whether or not he wins, he's already made this a better race.

Ben Hall runs strange ads and is just too 'revival minister' for my taste. He's also being managed by Republicans, which ruins his credibility as a Democrat. But Falkenberg is correct; for all of the Hall campaign's unfocused dream-state qualities and inability to find an issue that resonates (hint: it ain't pensions, no matter what Bill King says) there remains a large window of opportunity that Parker and her team have left open to exploit. She is simply not a pleasant and decent enough person in word and deed for her management skills to overcome.

She's like that boss who brags about meeting every quarterly projection even as the workers in his department -- or her company -- tell you what an asshole that guy is. That act may still pay dividends in the corporate world, but if the voters reward similar behavior in the public sector, we'll only get more of it. And we have far too many assholes in both worlds as it is.

So on the theory that Ben Hall is the lesser asshole... he's winning.

There are other people running for mayor who aren't assholes at all, and they deserve consideration from an electorate that would be motivated by that quality. Their only chance to make that case, and for the voters to make that choice, is in the first round in November. So I hope they choose wisely.

In the meantime I'll keep waiting for Godot humility to make an appearance. Respect, empathy, and kindness are not weaknesses. Only Republicans think that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dewhurst ends political career

One last self-inflicted wound.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst personally called police and asked to talk to the highest-ranking officer about getting a relative out of jail, Allen police said.

He also asked for the cellphone numbers of a judge and the Collin County sheriff, which a sergeant declined to give him.

The relative, Ellen Bevers, an Allen elementary school teacher, was jailed on charges of shoplifting at a Kroger’s grocery store on Aug. 3, police said.

Police released an audio recording of the phone call late Wednesday after a request from NBC DFW under the Texas open records law.

Go to the link above and listen for yourself.

"What I would like to do, if you would explain it to me, sergeant, what I need to do is to arrange for getting her out of jail this evening and you can proceed with whatever you think is proper," Dewhurst said on the call.

In the call, Dewhurst described Bevers as his sister-in-law but police said the woman was married to Dewhurst's nephew. In a short statement later Wednesday, Dewhurst referred to her as his niece.


Dewhurst said he had known Bevers for 30 years and described her as "the sweetest woman in the world."

He's known her for 30 years, but he's still confused about how he's related to her (by marriage). You would think he could've at least gotten that straight before he placed the call.

Naturally, Dan Patrick pounced.

"The fact that David Dewhurst believes he and his family are above the law is the height of arrogance and recklessness," Patrick said. "This blatant abuse of power would be stunning coming from any elected official.  However, it is particularly disturbing coming from the Lieutenant Governor of Texas.”

Yes, even a blind state senator/talk radio host can find an acorn once in awhile.

I was fairly confident that with the three right-wing freaks running against him in the primary, Dew could still find enough of the so-called moderates to lift him into the runoff. Not any longer.

Place your bets on Dan "Pussycats" Patrick versus Jerry "Gunhole" Patterson, ladies and gentlemen, because Todd Staples' Tweets, though entertaining, aren't going to be enough to get him any higher than third.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rick Perry negotiates to accept some Obamacare funding for seniors, disabled

(The Texas governor), an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, is in talks with Obama administration officials to accept an estimated $100 million in care for the elderly and disabled through Obamacare, Politico reported Tuesday night.

Texas health officials are seeking to enroll in the so-called Community First Choice program available via the law's Medicaid expansion. Perry officially declined to enroll his state in the program, saying in April that expanding the program for the poor would make Texas “hostage” to the federal government.

From the Politico piece...

Perry health aides are negotiating with the Obama administration on the terms of an optional Obamacare program that would allow Texas to claim stepped-up Medicaid funding for the care of people with disabilities.

The so-called Community First Choice program aims to enhance the quality of services available to the disabled and elderly in their homes or communities. Similar approaches have had bipartisan support around the country. About 12,000 Texans are expected to benefit in the first year of the program.

"It's not Obamacare money! We are NOT hypocrites!"

“This is not entirely accurate,” (Perry spokesperson Josh) Havens said by email. “This has nothing to do with Obamacare. The state of Texas has been providing these types of services via Medicaid waiver for decades, and we are continuing to provide this service.”

My embarrassment in being represented by people so ridiculous is overcome by my desire to see the least among us assisted, no matter what pretzels of rationalization the governor has to twist himself into.

Just get it done, you morons.

Update: Snarkier from Egberto.