Sunday, April 30, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908 - 2006

Nearly 40 years after writing "The Affluent Society," (economist John Kenneth) Galbraith updated it in 1996 as "The Good Society." In it, he said that his earlier concerns had only worsened: that if anything, America had become even more a "democracy of the fortunate," with the poor increasingly excluded from a fair place at the table.

Galbraith likely was distressed, as much as any of us, by the kudzu-like spread of the most obnoxious and appalling aspects of conservatism across the American political and social landscape.

A major influence on him was the caustic social commentary he found in (Thorstein) Veblen's "Theory of the Leisure Class." Mr. Galbraith called Veblen one of American history's most astute social scientists, but also acknowledged that he tended to be overcritical.

"I've thought to resist this tendency," Mr. Galbraith said, "but in other respects Veblen's influence on me has lasted long. One of my greatest pleasures in my writing has come from the thought that perhaps my work might annoy someone of comfortably pretentious position. Then comes the realization that such people rarely read."

I'll pause for a moment while you acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with Veblen. He's worth a post all to himself, but I try to keep it light around here.

Galbraith's seminal work was written the year I was born:

"The Affluent Society" appeared in 1958, making Mr. Galbraith known around the world. In it, he depicted a consumer culture gone wild, rich in goods but poor in the social services that make for community. He argued that America had become so obsessed with overproducing consumer goods that it had increased the perils of both inflation and recession by creating an artificial demand for frivolous or useless products, by encouraging overextension of consumer credit and by emphasizing the private sector at the expense of the public sector. He declared that this obsession with products like the biggest and fastest automobile damaged the quality of life in America by creating "private opulence and public squalor."

Almost fifty years ago, and before that by Veblen 107 years ago. How far we have come.

And the call to arms:

"Let there be a coalition of the concerned," he urged. "The affluent would still be affluent, the comfortable still comfortable, but the poor would be part of the political system."

Rest in peace, Mr. Galbraith.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

This Week in Felons

-- I've been remiss in following the trials of the two Enron scoundrels Skilling and Lay. You've got many sources who have been doing the yeoman's task, and I trust you're already aware that the two men have employed the Sergeant Schultz defense, which I believe will be a losing one.

Update (5/2/06): Houstonist summarizes Lay's bipolarity.

-- Karl Rove is on the verge of indictment for perjury. Will he resign if he is, or continue working to repair the GOP's political fortunes for November? I suppose Fitzo de Mayo sounds as good as Fitzmas.

-- Rush Limbaugh made an arrangement to avoid his drug charge. He smiled broadly for his mugshot, as did Tom DeLay. This appears to be an extraordinarily lax penalty: 'stay clean for a year and a half and we'll drop the charges', essentially. Does it seem as if the state of Florida has really lenient narcotics law enforcement -- or does this only apply to Republican addicts?

-- Finally (for the time being), the Republican lobbying mega-scandal seems to have lately taken a sexual turn. Who could the "one person who holds a powerful intelligence post" be?

Porter Goss, CIA director, whoremonger? What's that likely to mean for national security? If you recall, Goss (in refusing to investigate the Plame leak case) said, "Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation." So I suppose we can anticipate a potential case made on the basis of hands-on physical evidence.

You know, photos, call logs, credit card transactions, that sort of thing.

Who cares about $3 gas? The Texans drafted WHO!?!

Bob McNair better hope Mario Williams is real good, real fast, or there will be blood in the streets of H-Town, and not over trivial matters such as immigration or the legislature failing to fund public education or even the exorbitant price of gasoline.

Osama ain't got nothin' on Casserly if this turns out bad.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Net Neutrality (and why you should care)

Sean-Paul Kelley has been leading the charge in the battle to keep the Internet wild and free despite the whining of corporate titans like AT&T's Ed Whitacre, who would rather make us all pay dearly for the privilege of using his "pipes".

(A personal shoutout to Big Ed: I just upgraded my service with you despite the fact that you signed off on the most massive invasion of privacy in recorded history. If you keep trying to shaft the entire world, you'll force me to drop my DSL like a bad transmission and encourage all ten of my loyal readers to sign up with Time Warner Cable. Capice?)

Little would have come of this had it not been for five Democrats in the House, two of which sold out extraordinarily cheap: San Antonio's Charlie Gonzales and Houston's Gene Green. Charles Kuffner, as usual, has the best summary and linkage.

Please go and follow them -- his links, and his suggestions.

Some days I think that the Romans really were onto something

It's been a couple of weeks since I last mocked out the Christians, so let's laugh first at what Lisa sent me:

God Hates Shrimp

... and then at one of the archived "Jesus of the Week" features:

You can’t read it at this size, but the little sweetsie cutesie cross-stitched pillow (go here to see it) next to this fine white lady says “Awaiting Christ’s Return.”

Well, turn around and try not to flip off the porch swing! He’s right behind you!

Is there room for two on that bench?

Please take note of the Son of God's perfectly blow-dried, Aqua-Netted coif in the photo linked above. Never in his entire life has Rick Perry had a hair day that good.

And Christ's Commandant has the last word for Shelley Malkin.

Update (4/29): Pete details how the Christian marketing effort has spread into throwback jerseys.

This Land is Mi Tierra

Thanks for the header and the artwork, Houston Press.

You can get it on a T-shirt, and maybe in time for the Brownout on Monday.

Update: And don't miss this week's "Ask a Mexican".

Update II: Does anybody still care what this stupid bastard thinks about anything?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Other takes on the past week's events

David Sirota on his visit to Deep-In-The-Hearta:

When I boarded the plane this past Friday to head to Austin, Texas, I didn’t know what to expect. As I told some folks while I was down there, usually when I think of Texas I think of George W. Bush - not a great image. But now that I am back from the weekend, I am inspired - there is some real progressive energy down there, both in Austin, and in Texas as a whole. You can see some video here and hear some audio here from the big panel event the Texas Observer held for Hostile Takeover - it featured me, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Molly Ivins, author Robert Bryce and Texans for Public Justice’s Craig MacDonald.

During the weekend I had a chance to meet progressives like David Van Os, the Democratic nominee for Texas Attorney General, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, and the hard-working members of the Progressive Populist Caucus. The disgust with what the right-wing is doing to Texas is palpable - and I came away from my Lone Star State experience feeling hopeful that that state does not have to stay red forever.

Joy Demark, via Vince Leibowitz, on the SDEC meeting where Boyd Richie was selected interim chair of the Texas Democratic Party, also in Austin this weekend past:

It is painfully obvious that most Republicans are planning to starve public schools out of existence in Texas. They are going about it in a most vicious and systematic manner.

The Texas Young Democrats met and elected officers in Austin this weekend -- that was the third thing happening.

DKS, posting at the new Texas Kos, on the Filibuster for Education (just a week in the rear-view mirror):

Imagine yourself just after sundown, sitting on the grass in front of the steps of the state capitol, and a country lawyer is talking about the state constitution. Soon, he asks a question of you, wanting to know what you think of a particular point, or wanting to know if you have a story about what he's discussing. You find, after a few second's thought, that you do have something to say, and you slowly begin to articulate an idea or experience, or even another question. Something very deep inside you begins to emerge, and you find that what you have to say in response, opens up a spring in others. You feel intensely engaged; learning, teaching, questioning. You are not there to score points, to show how smart or informed you are. You along with the 20 or so others and that country lawyer, are, you suddenly realize, practicing democracy. Then it hits you - Elliot Shapleigh is over there on the grass, listening, as is Maria Luisa Alvarado, a tourist from Pakistan, a capitol guard, a few students, a bag lady, and sundry assorted folks - they're all listening to you. And the warm, breezy dark is like a caress, the bottle of cold water somebody hands you is like the finest bourbon, you can smell newly-mown grass, and you remember that this is the real world you want to make better; protecting this for the future is why your presence is so important to these others, yourself and our posterity.

Vince also has a nice summary of public school financing in Texas, and has been live-blogging the special session. Don't miss it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Back to Austin today

for a little party business, a meeting with a leading progressive blogger (and one of my personal favorites), and some of that Sixth Street magic.

More with pictures to come.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Best and Weirdest from the Filibuster

Best Moment:

Jim Dillon, a local self-employed carpenter who has attended both Filibusters, always brings a bullhorn but it is rarely used; David prefers no microphones, no soapboxes -- in a word, no grandstanding, just exercising his right of free discourse on public grounds, like the way it used to be.

But Governor Goodhair himself came out the front door of the Capitol around noon on Monday, headed for his black SUV, and Dillon turned on the bullhorn and accosted him verbally for the twenty-seconds-or-so walk from the steps to the vehicle.

In a polite way. "You're going to have to answer to the voters of Texas for your incompetence, Governor. Do you have anything to say to the citizens gathered here?" And stuff like that.

Governor MoFo only scurried faster to his car. He didn't stop or take questions.

Second Best Moment:

David railing about the "silk-stockinged corporate lobbyists" as said lobbyists strolled past, trying not to look at us. This happened at least half a dozen times.

Weirdest Moment:

The afore-mentioned Jim Dillon -- his business card says that he is a "Christian Patriot" and a"Master Craftsman" -- announced his candidacy as a write-in candidate for Governor of Texas, and he filibustered the Filibuster until we asked him to stop. I don't think he mentioned anything about education during his 10 or so minutes, but he did recoin NCLB as "No Child's Behind Left Alone".

Update (4/20): Go see the gallery of photos from the Filibuster for Education here, or a small but full-size selection here (warning for dialup users; both clicks load slowly for you).

Day Two was cooler

(cross-posted here)

... at least it wasn't 101 degrees, anyway.

After I live-blogged Monday evening, Senator Eliot Shapleigh stopped by with us for about a half hour. And I believe I saw Senfronia Thompson also, with a group that paused for a few moments after leaving the Capitol. Was that you, Rep. Thompson? (I just want you to know that you're one of my heroes.)

We had a lively group well after dark, maybe twenty or so, and I lost altitude and crashed on the lawn, and Snarko got pictures -- I'm guessing with drool coming out of my mouth -- and we drew our first warning from the DPS for me being asleep on the grounds (a violation of city ordinance, or maybe state law).

I can sleep almost anywhere. I'm like a dog in that respect. But I also sleep like a cat, which is to say that after a few minutes of rest I awake -- or am awakened -- alert and refreshed. So we soldiered on to dawn, and I got David to tell us a little Texas history regarding the founder of public education in Texas (and the namesake of my alma mater), Mirabeau B. Lamar.

You can read more at the Wiki link, but here are the things I did not know:

  • Lamar and Sam Houston were bitter political enemies.
  • Lamar sent five men to scout for a suitable location for the capital of the new Republic of Texas. His conditions were a place of natural grandeur, one which was suitable for commercial water transportation, and a spot on the western frontier (which mostly ruled out the coastal areas). Two scouts returned with selections along the Colorado River-- at that time it was navigable all the way to the Gulf of Mexico -- and Lamar chose the one named Waterloo. It was very near where the Congress Street bridge, the Mexican freetail bats' winter home, crosses what Austinites call Town Lake today.
  • The place named for the first true statesman of the fledgling Republic was indeed on the eastern edge of Comanche territory, which extended all the way to what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Comanche didn't care much for the white man and his settlements. Legend has it that Stephen F. negotiated a peace treaty with them and other tribes who had raided the area at the location where now stands the Treaty Oak.

Anyway, I digress. Go to the links for more.

I gave in to Dr. Somnambulus around six a.m. and went back to the campaign office and flopped 'til about 8:30, then rushed back over to the Capitol with breakfast. David had regained strength and momentum and was railing about being dissed by R.G. Ratcliffe, who had walked past us a few minutes earlier and apparently pretended we weren't there. Colonel Ann Wright and a group of about half-a-dozen Cindy supporters passed, heading inside, and we all waved at each other.

As we approached the twenty-fourth hour, a lecturn and sound system was prepared on the south steps for the education rally hosted by The Metro Alliance and the Interfaith organizations of Texas. We joined their rally, where this impressive list of your favorites in the House all spoke:

They all visited with us and several greeted David warmly.

We wrapped around 12:30 --I missed the Feingold-Courage event, but Karl-T live-blogged it -- went to the scene of the big rally that night for lunch, and then I drove home, barely keeping awake.

The Statesman has a couple of snarky paragraphs here. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the The San Antonio Express-News blog also allegedly have posted something, but I cannot find either mention. If anyone does, send it and I'll update this post.

Back in a few minutes with a Best and Weirdest Moments.

Update: Here's a snip from Lisa Sandberg's post:

"People have come to see themselves as consumers or spectators of politics when in fact they're producers."

Van Os, who came dressed in jeans, a blue shirt, a navy vest and a white Stetson hat, is not one for soundbites. A guy who begins a speech on education by reading from the Texas Declaration of Independence of 1836 isn't likely to voice a quick fix for the state's school funding problems.

He's got plenty of well-wishers. He said Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, dropped by to see him, as did Rep. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio and Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio.

Update II (4/20): And Kelly Shannon of the AP, via the Startle-Gram:

On Monday, GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's gavel fell apart when he banged it to call the Senate to order. "I hope that's not a reflection on the session," he quipped.

Outside the Capitol, Democratic attorney general candidate David Van Os started what he called a 24-hour filibuster to pronounce that Texas legislators are failing when it comes to complying with the Texas Constitution's section on education.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Just in from Austin. ...

... and I'm too tired to do anything but direct you to the one liveblog post here, and tell you I'll have another one later. After I rest. So it will be a post-liveblog post. Or something.

Good night.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Why are we building an embassy in Iraq the size of the Vatican?

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

"We can't talk about it. Security reasons," Roberta Rossi, a spokeswoman at the current embassy, said when asked for information about the project.

A British tabloid even told readers the location was being kept secret — news that would surprise Baghdadis who for months have watched the forest of construction cranes at work across the winding Tigris, at the very center of their city and within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days.

The embassy complex — 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations report — is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified "Green Zone," just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial.

Bold emphasis above is mine. So how much is this costing? Is Halliburton involved?

"Embassy Baghdad" will dwarf new U.S. embassies elsewhere, projects that typically cover 10 acres. The embassy's 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington's National Mall.

Original cost estimates ranged over $1 billion, but Congress appropriated only $592 million in the emergency Iraq budget adopted last year. Most has gone to a Kuwait builder, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, with the rest awarded to six contractors working on the project's "classified" portion — the actual embassy offices.

Higgins declined to identify those builders, citing security reasons, but said five were American companies.

Who still thinks we're going to pull troops out of Iraq in our lifetime?

Christ vs. Christians

Two excellent pieces to celebrate Easter. First from Tom in Lake Jackson, commenting on this news from Houston:

If you think Jesus will be lurking up in the rafters of Minute Maid Park for this appalling display of extratheological fluff, I would make you a small bet that, instead, he will be out in some park with the kids looking for the eggs the bunny left for them.

He may even help hide the eggs.

The Christian church that has gone bats over abortion and homosexuality while turning a blind eye to war and poverty still manages to have a good time worshipping entertainers and celebrity. I find it nauseating.

And "If I were a Christian":

If I were Christian, I'd have to guess that Christ doesn't care what the heck you call yourself, Republican, Democrat, Boy Scout, Muslim, Hindu or even atheist; it's your deeds that count, your actions that matter, and your character that defines you. Good people are identified as good by the good deeds they do, while evil people are identified by doing evil deeds. I'd point out clearly that arguing for the cult like worship of any human being, in any nation, as an inerrant God like leader, praising warfare or terrorism, the repression and bombing of innocent civilians, arguing that torture or murder or genocide is a good thing, and defending the wealthy and powerful, is completely at odds with what Christ clearly taught.


If I were Christian I would be filled with pride and wonder that my blood, organs, skin, and hair, are made from the elements cooked inside of ancient stellar furnaces. That the mortal coils we each inhabit were bequethed to us via countless generations of living things and exquisite constructs, from primate to bacteria, from organic protien to cosmic proton. And I would weep with the glorious knowledge that I am made of star-dust.


If I were Christian, I'd have to guess that Christ, who was after all beaten to a bloody pulp and then nailed to a cross to die a horrible, lingering, death, for our sins, wouldn't think very highly of a (political) party, a faction, a group, a pharaoh, a Caesar, or a President, that thinks they should be able to legally whisk people off to torture chambers to foreign shit-holes run by despots, with no trial or charges ever held for them! And were I a Christian, I'd have to guess that any beliver would and absolutely should be very nervous about being associated with torture in any way, shape, or form.


But I'd also have to guess there is one huge difference between Christ and me: I have little patience for folks that use religion as a tool of manipulation. And for the mad bombers and their enablers, whether they justify their killing sprees with passage's or sura's, I wouldn't mind if they spent the rest of their days in prison mumbling holy hatred to themselves while strapped to a gurney in a straitjacket. Christ was an inspiring example, and that's true regardless if the underlying theology is accurate or not. But I'd have a hard time living up to His standard. It would be challenging for me to forgive some of those people, including I'm sad to say those that are destroying this nation from within and without. But I'd pray for the strength to do so, if I were Christian.

Read the entire post here.

Senator Kay Bailey Hypocrite

Anna and Vince have done the research; just go read them.

Eric reminds us how Senator Perjury Technicality managed to avoid Ronnie Earle's long arm not so long ago.

We CAN get rid of this kind of crap without sending it to D.C., you know.

Starting in November, at the top of the ballot.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Anybody else missing Jeff Bagwell?

I'm enjoying the opening month of baseball season as much as always. Just seems to be a void.

When Baggy trotted out to receive his ring last week, the first thing I noticed was how small he had gotten -- his arms and shoulders were, well, shriveled compared to years past.

My wife was quick to point out that his ass hadn't gone down any.

Anyway, here's a pretty good article from former Astro reliever and current Tiger DL resident Todd Jones on closers, hitters, and their intro music:

Mariano Rivera has one. Billy Wagner does, too. The same one, in fact. Chipper Jones has one. Trevor Hoffman has the best one. I'm talking about intro songs. Music is everywhere in the big leagues, and why not? It gets the fans going, and the players dig it.

Don't think that heavy-metal song you hear when Chipper Jones comes to bat was just pulled out of a hat, either. Guys give their intro music more thought than I'd like to admit. Kevin Millar has been known to change songs -- quickly -- if he goes a series without any hits. Some guys get to know guys in bands, and they come out to their buddies' band's song. That's why Johnny Damon rocks to Sevendust when he comes to the plate.

Music also is a good way for old players to keep up with the young guys. The most popular music in big-league clubhouses has got to be rap. After a win, most teams have a set CD that's played in the clubhouse. As a rule, if you lose, no music.

For batting practice, the resident computer geek often is the one who burns CDs that combine several guys' favorites. Those CDs can get old quick, and when they're not changed from day to day, guys can come to know what time it is by what song is playing. If the lineup doesn't change and the B.P. groups stay the same, the same guy will end up hitting with the same song playing. It can get monotonous.

Few guys keep the same songs for their whole careers. If you play long enough, the song gets played out and you get sick of it. But there are some staples. Luis Gonzalez is a Collective Soul man. Todd Helton likes to hit to Disturbed. Chipper hits to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train." Rivera and Wagner enter to "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.

Hoffman sets the gold standard for intro music with AC/DC's "Hells Bells." It's worth a trip to Petco to hear. It's not just the song, either -- it's the scene. They take all the graphics off the video board until Trevor hits the door coming out of the bullpen. When he begins his slow jog to the mound, it's exclusively Trevor Time. Everyone in the park seems to be singing, and Trevor is oblivious to it.

What makes it so cool is that Trevor hardly ever blows a save. Let me assure you, that atmosphere provides a big advantage for him. Hitters are out before they get into the box. Matter of fact, Trevor is so recognized by "Hells Bells" that if it ever is played in another park, guys will say, "I didn't know Hoffman got traded."

Finally, when Adam Dunn is slumping, he has been known to come out to the chorus from a Toby Keith song that goes, "I Ain't As Good as I Once Was." Guys can be pretty creative.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Russ Feingold, Cindy Sheehan, Jim Hightower and David Van Os are all in Austin next week

Austin is the epicenter for Democratic and progressive activists next week.

David Van Os' "Citizens' Filibuster for a Fair and Constitutional Education" begins Monday April 17 at high noon for 24 hours straight on the Capitol grounds -- the same day that the Lege goes back into session for the fifth time (or is it the sixth?) in order to solve the pressing dilemma of funding public education in Texas.

You can catch Cindy Sheehan at the UT east mall (near the statue of MLK) between 11 and 12:15 on Monday the 17th for a rally with the Cameo anti-war folks.

And Senator Russ Feingold will have a listening session with CD-21 candidate John Courage at the UT Student Union Quadrangle on Tuesday, April 18 at 12:30 pm, and a rally beginning at 7:30 pm for Courage supporters at Jovita's, 1619 S. First Street, where Jim Hightower as well as Feingold and Courage will speak.

All these are open to the public and free of charge. I'll see you at all three events next week. Stop by and say hi to me.

Update: A correction to the "free" notice above... The evening rally with Feingold, Courage, and Hightower is a fundraiser, includes musical entertainment South Austin Jug Band, The Grassy Knoll Boys and Texas Youth Word Collective and costs $25.

Update II (4/13/06) : sonia in the comments notes Senator Barack Obama's event on Tuesday the 18th as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Victory is sweet.

Just returned from the parties for Barbara Radnofsky and Borris Miles, and I have to tell you, as sweet as March 7 was, tonight was even better.

Lyn and I were on the BAR live webcast tonight again, joined this time by Mrs. Diddie (it will be archived tomorrow for viewing; I'll update this post then) and even before it began, the AP had called the race for Barbara. So it's on to November, and some reckoning with Senator Perjury Technicality. Kay Bailey Rubberstamp hasn't had much in the way of a respectable challenger in her time in the Senate, but all that changes now.

As the webcast continued and Lyn got some returns fed into her Treo, we rushed over to the Sheraton by the Astrodome to party with the Miles crew and the rest of District 146's elated constituents. Borris had pulled ahead as the returns closed on the finish line, and within the ten o'clock hour Rep. Edwards conceded. When the Representative-elect finally made an appearance, he was something I haven't seen before: humbled. And a little bit awed by the incredible dedication and hard work of his supporters.

A special shout-out to my blog podnah Greg Wythe, who poured everything he had into this race and looked as worn out and happy as Borris' mother did. And there's a thousand others, and I hope their enthusiasm can carry over to all the other races we must win in November, from Chris Bell to BAR to my man David, and Hank Gilbert and Fred Head and Maria Luisa Alvarado (congratulations to her on her victory today as well) and Ellen Cohen and Kristi Thibaut and Hubert Vo and all the rest.

I salute Rep. Al Edwards for his 28 years of service to the district and the state of Texas. But I am thrilled that I will have a real Democrat representing me in Austin.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ten thousand marched for justice in Houston today.

That's about ten thousand people who filled the streets of downtown H-town this afternoon to make a statement about justicia para todos, like the pledge says. Even I-45 ground to a standstill with cars trying to get to the march and cars stopping to watch. I saw the flags of the United States, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, Honduras, and El Salvador. I saw signs that said "Outlaw Ignorance" and "We're workers, not terrorists". I saw mariachis and Uncle Sam on stilts and Lady Liberty and palenta and taleta and chicharron vendors.

Here's a photo from Austin also worth sharing:

The Republicans are getting nauseous about the genie they've let out of the bottle, but the local conservatives remain angry and bitter. This is going to end badly for them, they know it, and it's only going to make them more insufferable to live with (as if that was imaginable).

Today. In Houston.

This is yesterday in Dallas. That's 350,000 -- no, wait, maybe half a million people -- marching for the rights of immigrants in the United States. Not immigration reform, mind you, and certainly not in favor of a penalty-laden piece of racist, classist legislation that not even Box Turtle Cornyn or Kay Bailey Perjury Technicality thinks goes far enough.

Immigrants' rights. Because there's no such thing as an illegal person.

St. Louis, also yesterday.

Today, in Houston, beginning at 1 p.m. at Guadalupe Plaza at the corner of Navigation and Jensen, and proceeding to Allen's Landing at Commerce and Main.

Join us.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Another really bad week for Republicans

Because I was under the weather most of this past week, I didn't really get to blog about all this:

The Hammer hammered himself, a "breakthrough" immigration bill broke down at the last minute, the House budget blew up, Bush hit another low in the polls, and the President was revealed as the Plame leak in the White House.

Some are calling it "a staggering collection of misfortunes and failures", but I think I'll just consider it a good start toward the end of our long national nightmare.

Once I don't have to watch that jaunty little jerk swinging his arms as he walks, and instead shows a little humility -- like he has suddenly become aware of what a mess he's made of the entire world -- then I'll really feel like we're getting somewhere.

Immigration? Minimum wage? No, poverty

Yes, quite a bit went on this week and I didn't feel good enough to document it until now, so I'll play some catchup.

DeLay cut and run, his goons are acting like bitter-enders in their death throes, and apparently no special election will be held. Republicans and the rest of us (well, Kuffner) are trying to figure out what it means.

Turns out the President is the leaker. Imagine that. Will he fire himself now?

But to get back to the headline of this post, I attended a breakfast meeting Friday morning hosted by councilman Peter Brown on poverty (defined by a family of three with an annual income of $16,000) in Houston. Here, his statistics speak for themselves:

  • Of the 2.1 million people living in the city of Houston, over 500,000 -- one quarter -- live at or below the poverty level. That is is the highest among Texas cities.
  • There are 14,000 documented homeless person in Houston, but the actual number is probably twice that.
  • The poverty rate among Houston's Hispanic immigrants affects over 150,000 people; poverty among African-Americans numbers nearly 200,000.
  • 49% of those Houstonians who receive food stamp assistance are Af-Am and 34% are Hispanic.
  • 34% of Houston families whose head of household is a single female live below the poverty line. That number is 41% if that family has a child under the age of 18. And 29.5 % of Houston children under 18 live in poverty.
  • 27% of Houstonians who live below the poverty line never graduated from high school and 32% are unemployed.
And some Texas statistics (so that we don't need Rick Perry to remind us again how proud he is):
  • 28% of Texas workers between 18 and 64 are without health insurance. Texas is 50th -- that would be dead-ass last -- with regard to the number of its residents without health care insurance. Maybe Governor MoFo can follow the example of his good-haired comrade and get a law passed making this illegal. Oh yeah, 200,000 children in Houston have no health insurance either.
  • Texas has the highest number of minimum wage workers in the nation. That's not first place either, Governor. One out of every nine minimum wage earners in America lives inTexas.
So there's this little issue -- you'll see some more protesting about it tomorrow -- about why people -- and let's be clear: no human being is illegal -- come here, and that's so that they can almost make it to the poverty level, which is waaay better than they can do in their own countries.

Immigration? Minimum wage? No health insurance? I see a wholesale dismantlement of the American middle class. A destruction executed by Republicans in Washington and Austin but advocated and funded by the real culprits in New York and Houston: big business, middle-sized business, and small business. Corporations of every size, run for the most part by the good folks who "need" cheap labor, whether it's in their factories or their shops or their backyards. And who vote straight-ticket Republican, of course.

Is there a quick answer to all of this? Of course not. But there is a relatively easy task for those of us who are alarmed by these statistics can get started on, and that's organize, join, or enable the rebirth of the labor movement in this country.

A collective bargaining agent empowered by its members would, in comparatively short order, acquire a living wage and health benefits for its members, making decent housing more affordable, lifting even people of limited education above the poverty line and increase everyone's standard of living (except those who don't scrub their own toilets or wash their own clothes... unless they go into rehab, as Bill Maher noted Friday night).

The Service Employees International Union organized janitors in Houston, who have -- soon to be 'had' -- the lowest wages and benefits of similar workers in the United States. This isn't something I'm trying to get started; it's already happening. It's gathering momentum, and it will change my city and state and return this nation to a prosperity which began with the Industrial Age but was decimated by the simultaneous metastases of Big Bidness and the Republican Party that bega in the '80s. (Which was enabled by the fundamentalist Christian Right, of course, but even those poor fools can't continue to delude themselves much longer about the Samaritan intentions of the GOP.)

A revitalized union movement will change things for the better for most all of us quickly, but it's going to terrify that association of rich and powerful currently in charge.

The corporate executives will quake. The silk-stocking set will grit their teeth and then starting writing five- and six-figure checks to the PACs. (Follow the money and you'll eventually find Tom DeLay in his new career. He won't be the first but he WILL be the fattest pig at this trough, mark my words.) The small businessmen, through their own collectives, will whine and bitch and grouse and then bribe and intimidate the Republicans to protect their way of life.

That alone is reason enough for me to help a Wal-Mart employee contact a union representative.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

It seems like a dream, but it's real: Tom DeLay is quitting the race for Congress and changing his residence to Alexandria, VA in order to trigger a special election for his seat. That appears the only way to utilize arcane Texas election laws to the GOP's advantage.

"Even though I thought I could win, it was a little too risky," DeLay said.

How noble. How gallant.

Kuffner summarizes and links extensively so I don't have to. Sugar Land mayor David Wallace has all but announced for the coming special.

There'll be more to say about this later; for now, that DeLay has chosen to suddenly cut and run speaks volumes about the true character of this so-called Christian. He's been plotting this withdrawal for quite some time now, obviously, and took this action not just to try to keep his seat Republican but to have a (typically heavy) hand in anointing his successor. Apparently he had no use for those who dared challenge him in the primary less than thirty days ago.

La Cucaracha Grande is nothing if not a master manipulator. He will no doubt transition seamlessly into a lucrative career lobbying Congress on behalf of various corporate and Christian causes, losing none of his influence while quintupling his income.

And he may accomplish his goal of staunching the GOP bleeding and lessening the November losses in the House -- beginning at home with TX-22 -- but that fate now lies more with Democratic efforts that it did yesterday.

Go back to work, people.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

In honor of Opening Day

The first Monday in April is one of my favorite evenings to be at a sports bar; it's when the NCAA men's basketball championship is decided, and also the beginning of the professional baseball season. In honor of the tipoff to the boys of summer's season, some excerpts from Frederic J. Frommer's "The Washington Nationals: 1859 to Today" on the presidential tradition of throwing out the first pitch:

For most of the last century, when Washington was home to a baseball team known as the Senators, presidents typically took center stage on opening day.

Starting with William Howard Taft in 1910 and continuing through Richard Nixon in 1969, every president threw out at least one opening-day pitch. After the Senators left town, presidents headed north to Baltimore for the duty.


At the beginning, the president threw the ball to the starting pitcher or even the umpire.

Later, from his box in the stands, the chief executive tossed the ball over a scrum of photographers into a crowd of players from both teams. Whoever caught the ball brought it over to the president for an autograph.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed for White Sox outfielder Jim Rivera. According to a report years later by Chicago Tribune writer David Condon, "Jungle Jim" immediately demanded a more legible signature.

"Do you think I can go into any tavern on Chicago's South Side and really say the president of the United States signed this baseball for me?" Rivera said. "I'd be run off."

Laughing, the young president agreed to sign the ball more legibly. "You know," Rivera replied, "you're all right."

In the days before luxury boxes, Senators' owner Clark Griffith arranged for Woodrow Wilson to watch the game from his car parked in foul territory, outside the right field line. Griffith made the arrangements because Wilson had been partially paralyzed by a stroke. Griffith even stationed a player in front of Wilson's car to protect it from getting hit by foul balls.

Sometimes, the star power of a president would lead to mishaps on the field. In the 1910 opener, Washington outfielder Doc Gessler was daydreaming about hitting a grand slam and talking to Taft about it. A fly ball quickly brought Gessler back to earth. Backing up, Gessler tripped over a fan (spectators could stand on the field behind a rope back then) and the ball dropped for a double. It was the only hit that pitcher Walter Johnson surrendered that day.

At the 1936 opener, Senators pitcher Bobo Newsom and third baseman Ossie Bluege converged on a bunt. As Bluege fielded the ball, Newsom took his eye off the play to glance at President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the stands. Bluege's throw to first nailed his distracted pitcher in the face, leading to a broken jaw.

Roosevelt threw out a record eight opening-day pitches — and made one crucial at-bat on behalf of baseball during World War II. On Jan. 15, 1942, little over a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt told the baseball commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, that the season should go on despite the war.

"There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before. And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before," FDR wrote in what became known as the "Green Light Letter."

FDR's successor, Harry Truman, had one of the worst receptions ever. His appearance at the Senators' home opener on April 20, 1951, came shortly after he had fired General Douglas MacArthur as Far East commander — and just one day after MacArthur went before Congress and uttered his famous line, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."

The crowd at Griffith Stadium booed Truman loudly. The Air Force Band tried to drown out the jeers with "Ruffles and Flourishes" and "Hail to the Chief."

Richard Nixon was probably the greatest baseball fan to occupy the Oval Office — with the possible exception of Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, who had originally played in Washington.

In 1972, just a few weeks after the Watergate break-in that ultimately led to his resignation, Nixon wrote an article for The Associated Press that listed his all-time All Star teams.

In 1959, on the eve of then-Vice President Nixon's opening day pitch, Truman sent Griffith this telegram: "BEST OF LUCK TO YOU ON OPENING DAY AND EVERY DAY. WATCH OUT FOR THAT NIXON. DON'T LET HIM THROW YOU A CURVE. YOUR FRIEND, HARRY TRUMAN."


After the Senators announced they would move to Texas following the 1971 season, Nixon met with Washington Mayor Walter E. Washington to discuss prospects of a new team.

In a taped Oval Office conversation on October 13, 1971, the president mentioned the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians as possible replacements. Nixon also teed off on the Senators owner, Bob Short, who had been a chief fundraiser for Nixon's 1968 opponent, Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey.

"Short is a jerk," Nixon declares. "... I sat behind him at games, and I can tell you — moaning and bitching all the time."