Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Farewell to Douchebags

(Sorry; I know I promised to stay away...)



It seems so apropos that Butterqueen Crowley is the first one you see.

They will be counting down in Crawford in a few hours...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm confused. Was Gerald Ford hanged?

I wasn't particularly troubled by his pardon of Richard Nixon, but to execute him for that seems overly harsh.

Perhaps I'm mixing up my mainstream media propaganda campaigns.

Why are the flags at half-staff for Saddam's passing? Is there a reason why January 2nd is being declared a federal holiday for James Brown? When will CNN go back to their regular programming: Britney's beaver shots and the latest in the life of Brangelina?

Maybe I ought to just stick to the bowl games, you say? Pass.

Now I'm really outta here until next week.

Post-Christmas postpourri

-- Thanks for the memories, Saddam. You were good for us -- some of us, anyway. Though like any other dysfunctional relationship, you weren't good to us, and that's why we had to find someone new.

-- As an ice shelf 25 square miles in size breaks off from the Canadian Arctic, Bush's former interior secretary, Gale Norton, takes a job at Shell.

I'm so old I remember when this kind of cronyism generated outrage.

-- In other science news, the National Park Service is not allowed to give an estimate of the age of the Grand Canyon so as not to offend religious fundamentalists. You can also buy a book at the national park which explains how Noah's flood created the canyon. Really.

-- We're going to watch the Rockets play on New Year's Eve, a tradition we started back when they were still playing at Lakewood Church.

See you next year.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

You may have noticed

that John Edwards declared. It's been omni-blog-present.

He sent me the embed code for this YouTube of his announcement (me and about a hundred billion other people):



Before that, he sent me an e-mail -- dated December 23 -- asking me to tell him what I thought about his Possibly Running for President. It was just simple text; no flashy pictures, the same kind of e-mail I would send to you -- and he signed it "Your friend, John."

He also has links from his website to MySpace and Facebook and an RSS feed and a blog and podcasts and a contribution page at ActBlue. To say that he hired some web-savvy people in the past five days (after asking me if I thought him running for president was a good idea) is a little understated.

In the video above -- it's filmed in New Orleans' 9th Ward -- he even worked in a slam on "the McCain Doctrine" of increasing troop strength in Iraq.

I like John Edwards a lot; he's certainly in my top three prospects (the other two are Wesley Clark and Al Gore). In fact I think he will very probably be on the ticket in 2008. He has the unqualified support of the biggest dog in Texas Democratic politics, Fred Baron.

John Edwards has kicked off the 2008 race in earnest, and will factor strongly in the Democratic nominee's selection.

One way or another.

Yao-za

It's so f***ed I can't believe it
If there's a way I wish we'd see it
How could it work just can't conceive it
Oh what a mess it's best to leave it


-- Dinosaur Jr., "Freak Scene"

So right after I posted this, Yao breaks a leg. Then The Truth went down, T-Mac made a comeback but still has a bad sacroiliac, and AK-47 impersonated Rocky Balboa. J-Smooth caught a hernia, The Answer couldn't catch a flight to snowed-in Denver, and nearly everybody else in the NBA caught the flu.

Ron Artest has sore knees. Ray Allen has a new baby. Saddam is going to be hanged any day now.

Oh wait, he's not in the Association ...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"I am a Ford, not a Lincoln"

Nobody failed to get the joke.

Here's some from the WaPo on the passing of Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States and the only one never elected:

In the 2 1/2 years of his presidency, Ford ended the U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, helped mediate a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Egypt, signed the Helsinki human rights convention with the Soviet Union and traveled to Vladivostok in the Soviet Far East to sign an arms limitation agreement with Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet president. Ford also sent the Marines to free the crew of the Mayaguez, a U.S. merchant vessel that was captured by Cambodian communists.

On the domestic front, he faced some of the most difficult economic conditions since the Great Depression, with the inflation rate approaching 12 percent. Chronic energy shortages and price increases produced long lines and angry citizens at gas pumps. In the field of civil rights, the sense of optimism that had characterized the 1960s had been replaced by an increasing sense of alienation, particularly in inner cities. The new president also faced a political landscape in which Democrats held large majorities in both the House and the Senate.


What I remember Ford for was the "WIN" buttons he advocated for the nation. He wore one pinned to himself. WIN stood for "Whip Inflation Now."

This of course demonstrated Ford's understanding of monetary policy. Even my dad -- no financial whiz himself -- laughed at the idiocy of a lapel button helping the nation's economic ills.

More excerpts from the NYT:

He was a man more fundamental than flashy, more immutable than immodest. He served undefeated through 13 elections to the House of Representatives and rose to be its Republican leader, yet in 25 years in Congress he did not write a major piece of legislation. He was overwhelmingly confirmed as vice president, the first to be appointed under the 25th Amendment, yet he owed his selection by Nixon to the likelihood that he would prove inoffensive in the job.



The Warren Commission. Ford is at right.

Ford's presidency was an extension of his own political personality: reactive rather than activist, instinctive instead of intellectual, humanistic but within the fiscal limits of conservative dogma.

(Jerald) terHorst, the biographer, puzzled over the seeming contradiction between the president's personal and professional philosophies: "The problem with him — he doesn't like to be kidded about it — but the fact is, this guy would, if he saw a schoolkid in front of the White House who needed clothing, if he was the right size, he'd give him the shirt off his back, literally. Then he'd go right in the White House and veto the school lunch bill."

John Hersey, after spending a week in close observation of the president, wrote in The New York Times Magazine of April 20, 1975: "What is it in him? Is it an inability to extend compassion far beyond the faces directly in view? Is it a failure of imagination? Is it something obdurate he was born with, alongside the energy and serenity?"



Chief of staff Dick Cheney and Ford '76 chairman James Baker with the president (announcing his bid for re-election from the golf course). Again, a personal aside:

Ford ran for election in 1976, narrowly defeating a vigorous primary challenge from former California governor Ronald Reagan. During the election season in 1975 Reagan gave a speech at a dinner restaurant in Beaumont, Texas where I worked as a busboy. I had been promoted to waiter solely for the occasion since we were short-staffed, and just minutes prior to the event we all struck for an extra .25 an hour (management caved to our demands). I was 16 years old, an active Optimist Club oratorical contest participant, and as the old actor addressed the two hundred attendees for 45 minutes, I stood at the back of the room and listened, enrapt.

The room was completely still. No one coughed, not one fork clinked against a plate.

That was the night I became a Republican. Reagan fell short of the nomination of course, but my first presidential ballot was cast in 1976 for Jerry Ford.



Rumsfeld, Ford, Cheney. From the AP:

When Agnew resigned in a bribery scandal in October 1973, Ford was one of four finalists to succeed him: Texan John Connally, New York's Nelson Rockefeller and California's Ronald Reagan.

"Personal factors enter into such a decision," Nixon recalled for a Ford biographer in 1991. "I knew all of the final four personally and had great respect for each one of them, but I had known Jerry Ford longer and better than any of the rest.

"We had served in Congress together. I had often campaigned for him in his district," Nixon continued. But Ford had something the others didn't: he would be easily confirmed by Congress, something that could not be said of Rockefeller, Reagan and Connally.


And this:

While Ford had not sought the job, he came to relish it. He had once told Congress that even if he succeeded Nixon he would not run for president in 1976. Within weeks of taking the oath, he changed his mind.

He was undaunted even after the two attempts on his life in September 1975. Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, a 26-year-old follower of Charles Manson, was arrested after she aimed a semiautomatic pistol at Ford on Sept. 5 in Sacramento, Calif. A Secret Service agent grabbed her and Ford was unharmed.

Seventeen days later, Sara Jane Moore, a 45-year-old political activist, was arrested in San Francisco after she fired a gun at the president. Again, Ford was unhurt.


And this:

In office, Ford's living tastes were modest. When he became vice president, he chose to remain in the same Alexandria, Va., home — unpretentious except for a swimming pool — that he shared with his family as a congressman.

After leaving the White House, however, he took up residence in the desert resort of Rancho Mirage, picked up $1 million for his memoir and another $1 million in a five-year NBC television contract, and served on a number of corporate boards. By 1987, he was on eight such boards, at fees up to $30,000 a year, and was consulting for others, at fees up to $100,000. After criticism, he cut back on such activity.


Ford was also the subject of parody for his clumsiness, both physical and verbal. Chevy Chase made his initial fame by portraying the president as a chronic stumblebum on 'Saturday Night Live'. LBJ described the House minority leader as unable "to chew gum and walk at the same time", a phrase that entered pop culture as the generic description of an idiot.

But Ford very likely was the perfect man for the job in August of 1974, when the United States was suffering its most extreme constitutional crisis. Even Ford's pardon of Nixon, which cost him re-election, was viewed in hindsight as the tonic for the nation's psychological ills.

Godspeed to Gerald Ford and prayers of condolences to all of his family.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

"If you strike the king, you must kill him"

The Speaker of the Texas House gets a challenger. Muse and many others led with the news that broke on Christmas Eve.

Rick Casey has these insights:

There is a consensus that if the vote for House speaker were secret, no plotting would be necessary. Craddick would be a former speaker soon after the session opens Jan. 9. But it is a record vote. And nobody wants to take a chance on publicly opposing Craddick unless it's clear he will lose.

The speaker not only can deny opponents any meaningful committee assignments, he can also make sure none of their pet legislation sees the light of day. So, as the saying goes, if you're going to plot against the king, you'd better bloody well kill him.


Tom Craddick became the first Republican speaker in Texas history, replacing Pete Laney when the GOP became the majority in 2003. Since that time his tenure has been pocked with controversy: record state budget deficits, corrosive political machinations regarding congressional redistricting, an inability to find a solution to public school financing -- the list goes on. But what really has him in trouble is his iron-fisted rule. Casey again, also with the whip count:


"Craddick is very good at breaking arms," said one House member. "That's why if it's going to pop, it has to be at the last minute, when spouses are present and many of the members have their children sitting in their laps. The only time you can neutralize the speaker is when it's done in front of a thousand people."

...

Needed are enough Republicans — 10 or more moderates and conservatives — to join the overwhelming majority of the House's 69 Democrats to deny Craddick the 76 votes he needs for re-election.

Why would Republicans do that? What has Craddick done? Here are some of the things that are cited:

• He failed at what is considered the first job of a speaker: to protect his members. When the state Republican Party ran polls to see how vulnerable some moderate Republicans were, Craddick did nothing to stop it. Then San Antonio billionaire James Leininger spent more than $2.5 million to target five moderate Republicans in the primary because they had voted against school vouchers. Leininger-backed candidates won two of the five races.

Craddick gave lip service to supporting the incumbents, but it is widely believed he could have sent signals that such a bald attack on incumbents was not considered civilized behavior and would make it harder for Leininger to get a hearing next session.

• He pressured members to vote "against their districts" on key issues. One technique: his lieutenants would gather around members who voted wrong and suggest that their button had malfunctioned. Not-so-subtle threats of, among other things, well-funded opposition in the next primary were sometimes conveyed.

Among Republicans who lost to Democrats or more moderate Republicans were Kent Gruesendorf, who chaired the education committee, Houston's Martha Wong, who lost partly because of her votes on children's health insurance, Todd Baxter and Toby Goodman.

"Tom has been one of the best Democratic organizers we've had in a long time," said one Democratic member. He noted that the Republican margin in the House has shrunk by half in the four years since Craddick was elected speaker.

• Craddick's relentless drive in 2003 to champion Tom DeLay's mid-decade congressional redistricting destroyed a long-standing bipartisan culture in the Legislature. Members on both sides of the aisle have talked about a decidedly unpleasant loss of collegiality. "It's not fun anymore," said one member. "It's mean."


The speaker's most recent legal dilemma comes by way of a judge's order that he produce an appointments calendar from his campaign office to determine whether it contains references to state business -- a no-no in Texas.

Neither Governor MoFo nor Lite Gov. Dewface are pals with Craddick. In fact, the only friends he seems to have are corporate lobbyists. Indeed, there are few Speakers that have avoided corruption scandals just in my lifetime (Laney is exceptionally noted, serving at a time when the Texas was going from blue to red and he was forced to work with rabidly partisan conservatives). Gus Mutscher, Bill Clayton, Gib Lewis -- again, the list is lengthy. They seem to get fouled by one-party rule and lengthy terms, though Craddick has gone bad in record time.

I'll be in the gallery in the Capitol on January 9, watching to see if the Republicans can kill the king.

Papa's truly got a brand new bag


His music was sweaty and complex, disciplined and wild, lusty and socially conscious. Beyond his dozens of hits, Mr. Brown forged an entire musical idiom that is now a foundation of pop worldwide. ...

(His) stage moves -- the spins, the quick shuffles, the knee-drops, the splits -- were imitated by performers who tried to match his stamina, from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, and were admired by the many more who could not. Mr. Brown was a political force, especially during the 1960s; his 1968 song “Say It Loud -- I’m Black and I’m Proud” changed America’s racial vocabulary. He was never politically predictable; in 1972 he endorsed the re-election of Richard M. Nixon. ...

Brown was born May 3, 1933, in a one-room shack in Barnwell, S.C. As he would later tell it, midwives thought he was stillborn, but his body stayed warm, and he was revived. When his parents separated four years later, he was left in the care of his aunt Honey, who ran a brothel in Augusta, Ga. As a boy he earned pennies buck-dancing for soldiers; he also picked cotton and shined shoes. He was dismissed from school because his clothes were too ragged. ...

Amid the civil rights ferment of the 1960s Brown used his fame and music for social messages. He released “Don’t Be a Dropout” in 1966 and met with Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to promote a stay-in-school initiative. Two years later “Say It Loud -- I’m Black and I’m Proud” insisted, “We won’t quit movin’ until we get what we deserve.”

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in 1968, Brown was due to perform in Boston. Instead of canceling his show, he had it televised. Boston was spared the riots that took place in other cities. “Don’t just react in a way that’s going to destroy your community,” he urged.


Heaven, like Earth, is never going to be the same now that the Godfather of Soul is performing there.

Update (12/28): Brown lies in state at the Apollo. HouStoned has the wrap.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Landover Baptist interviews Mrs. Joel Osteen

An excerpt:

After 72 hours of unsuccessfully attempting to decipher a secret message to al-Qaeda, the Department of Homeland Security released to the public today an audio-taped telephone conversation between Mrs. Harry (Heather) Hardwick, of Landover Baptist Church, and Mrs. Joel (Victoria) Osteen, of some church in Texas. The government had secretly wiretapped the December 20, 2005 exchange pursuant to the Patriot Act based on officials’ well-founded belief that Mrs. Osteen’s outburst aboard a Continental jet earlier in the day constituted a terrorist threat by a couple with suspected al-Qaeda ties. ...

Heather: ... Apparently, there remains a patchwork of folks who still believe in those obscure New Testament verses that say we should give our money to the poor -- or, at the very least, not take money from the poor to make ourselves rich. They obviously don’t understand contemporary Christian capitalism.

Victoria: It chaps my hide, Heather! Joel has worked his rump off, wining and dining book publishers and construction investors. We built the largest church in the country so we could be rich and fam---

Heather: Second largest, dear. I know it’s tempting to exclude Landover Baptist from the list, given that churches like yours aren’t even remotely in the same league in terms of size or quality. You can, however, claim to be the nation’s largest non-denominational church with a non-message.

Victoria: Pardon me?

Heather: Let’s face facts, love. You have a large following because your hubbie doesn’t preach anything that could be deemed even remotely controversial to anyone. I loved his leap into network television when Larry King asked his opinion on abortion and homosexuality, and he refused even to condemn those vile acts, responding with a line typically reserved for hair stylists and florists: “I don’t go there.” He even refused to affirm that only Christians will go to Heaven. Some may call that blasphemy, but I refuse to judge, particularly since I rarely have occasion to travel to abandoned sports arenas in Texas to do my worshipping.

Victoria: We have a positive message, Heather. We teach people that as long as they love God and have faith in themselves, they can lead the best life possible now.

Heather: While that kind of line may work in Susan Powter infomercials and dime store psychology books principally sold in rural Wal-Marts, it is hardly enough to sustain an operation as ostentatiously gargantuan as yours. Since your so-called message is little more than the opening minute of an Oprah special, you have to ensure that your congregation worships and idolizes you. There can be no more slip-ups, Vi!

Victoria: But many opinion leaders have backslid in their private lives, and their followers forgave them.

Heather: That is because they committed to definite positions, hon. Because a man of God like Rush Limbaugh condemns everyone who isn’t a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, wealthy, heterosexual male, he can become a hillbilly heroin/hydrocodone addict and his fans don’t mind, because they love his message of hate and animosity too much to abandon him, no matter what his indiscretions. When Brothers Falwell and Robertson say something utterly ridiculous (which is a fairly regular event), we overlook it because these devout leaders condemn everyone who isn’t like us.

Victoria: But we want to embrace everyone, Heather.

Heather: That’s apparent, Vickie. To ensure that as many people as possible join your “Church of the Generic Message,” you stand for nothing substantive, thereby making certain you don’t alienate anyone (except people wise enough to recognize the absence of substance). To accomplish this in the long-term, you must make yourselves so loveable and beyond reproach that people embrace you despite your complete lack of ideology. Pulling a Leona Helmsley on a commercial airplane just won’t cut it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Eve-Eve drive-by blogging

Since we'll all be busy living our lives offline for the next few days, here are some tide-me-overs ...

-- In Oaxaca Mexico, they're taking time off from the recent strife to celebrate Noche de RĂ¡banos; Night of the Radishes. Do NOT miss seeing the pictures.

--
"Flogs", blogs that are actually promotional campaigns for products, stores, even opinion influence, are lately all the rage. They happen to be a violation of federal law, specifically the Federal Trade Commission guidelines protecting consumers against misleading information.

-- Yesterday's holiday weekend document dump included the admission that the Department of Homeland Security violated the Privacy Act -- back in 2004 when it was first caught by the GAO -- by collecting too much information from US airline passengers.

Do you feel safer yet?

-- It appears that a US president did have bin Laden in his gunsights, as the ABC docu-drama "Path to 9/11" revealed, but the president was Bush and not Clinton.

-- I give our local paper a hard time, but they have some interesting news up lately (these links will be good for a week or two before the Chron moves them into the pay-per-view archives) ...


-- Barack Obama isn't considered by many African-Americans as "one of us". A startling and somewhat fascinating opinion here (from a white boy's POV, anyway) . I don't know whether this is insightful deconstruction or a destructive whisper campaign. I cannot imagine that this sort of thing would keep anyone from voting for him, but I would still be interested in the responses to this article from African-American readers of this blog.

The Great Wall lays down the smack

Our man just keeps on improving, his game and his English.



Tip of the backwards cap to HouStoned.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fox News to surge forces in War on Christmas

"FNC will present a three hour primetime O’Reilly Factor Christmas Marathon beginning on Monday, December 25th at 8PM EST," a Fox News release states. Also, Shoutin' Sean Hannity will host a one-hour special, "A Nashville New Year", starring several of country music's leading Republican freaks.

Under the President's directive to "go shopping more", Orally will no doubt release some casualty figures related to victory, such as ...

-- the number of credit card accounts maxed out

-- the percentages of parking lot capacities at shopping malls around the country during the week before Christmas, and

-- a panel of pundits predicting the amount of the next rise in interest rates by the Fed due to inflation fears.

The day after (the trade, the election, the rest)

-- So after the Philadelphia 76ers swapped their malcontent superstar to the Denver Nuggets yesterday, it appears that Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony might be headed for a *ahem* rocky relationship. The league's two leading scorers forced to share the ball? The Answer, the perpetual adolescent -- rebellious, sullen -- suddenly recast as thirty-something sage and imparter of been-there, done-that wisdom to Melo?

"A.I. will love it there for the next 14 games," one Eastern Conference official laughed on Tuesday afternoon, a reference to the suspension Anthony is serving for fighting in Madison Square Garden last week.

Carmelo will return to the court on January 20 in Houston against the Rockets, and the problems could start as soon as he takes the floor with Iverson that night. That's when the question first gets asked: "Whose team is this?" In these selfish times, the answer is probably not "ours". The dynamic of Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets changed dramatically last Saturday night in New York; Anthony showed himself to be a flawed young man with that sucker punch, an error in emotional judgment compounded with the way he swung and started running back on defense in a sight never seen before in his basketball career.

Just a guess, but I don't think Melo is going to like fitting into A.I.'s game. This was Carmelo Anthony's ball and his team until he gave Iverson the opening to take it away.

-- The runoff in HD-29 will be between two Republicans. Anthony Di Novo and his gang of volunteers -- including Hal, muse, and K-T (multiple postings from the field at each of those locations)-- worked hard, but the blue wave was turned back by the Texas red levee again.

Perhaps some of these conservatives can be dispatched to New Orleans to help with flood control. That is, if they don't choose to help serve their President in Iraq.

-- Judith Regan, the book publisher who green-lighted OJ Simpson's "If I Did It", was fired by HarperCollins over the weekend. You may recall her previous co-starring role as the girlfriend of slimy former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik. She seems perfectly suited for a position in the Trump organization counseling wayward girls, don't you think? Second chances and all?

-- If Fidel Castro is reported to be dead sooner or later, officials fear a mass exodus from Cuba. Even here in Houston they are preparing for it.

Preparations are underway for the traditional Cuban celebration of Noche Buena in my father-in-law's household. About ten of us with Cuban and Salvadoran roots will gather and celebrate. Here's a good description of the celebration, complete with the roast pig.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Knicker-boxers (and other news)

I hope it was worth it. The sucker-punch that Carmelo Anthony threw -- after which, it should be noted, he vanished to the opposite end of the court as quick as if he was on a fast break -- has cost him a significant portion of his reputation and season. I'm all for sticking up for your teammates, but if there's a proper way to go about it, his actions would have to be the complete opposite. The league's leading scorer on a less-than-average team now gets to sit and watch for a tad over 25% of his team's remaining games. Way to go, Melo.

Fights in basketball used to be as common as they still are in hockey, as HouStoned reminds.

-- Today is Election Day in HD-29, the statehouse district covering a few counties south of Houston. Lots of mi compadres have been covering the race to replace deceased representative Glenda Dawson. The Democratic candidate -- he lost to Dawson in November -- is Dr. Anthony DiNovo and he could move on to a runoff in January with one of the three Republicans vying for the job. Pearland is a GOP-freaky place, so to steal a seat away from them here would be schweet. It's all about today's turnout.

-- This news is nothing short of huge for diabetes sufferers, of which I am one. If it turns out that an injection of pepper juice cures it, Big Pharma is going to be pissed.

-- These are the rules of presidential primary season blogging.

-- Eugene Robinson:

Here's an idea: Let's send more U.S. troops to Iraq. The generals say it's way too late to even think about resurrecting Colin Powell's "overwhelming force" doctrine, so let's send over a modest "surge" in troop strength that has almost no chance of making any difference -- except in the casualty count. Oh, and let's not give these soldiers and Marines any sort of well-defined mission. Let's just send them out into the bloody chaos of Baghdad and the deadly badlands of Anbar province with orders not to come back until they "get the job done."

I don't know about you, but that strikes me as a terrible idea, arguably the worst imaginable "way forward" in Iraq. So of course this seems to be where George W. Bush is headed.


Yes, that's about right.

-- Like Dick Cheney's shooting (and Dick Cheney's health, and Dick Cheney's still-undisclosed location), the White House kept Laura Bush's cancer a secret at long as they possibly could. Note to the First Lady: now would be a good time to stop smoking.

-- The administration, presumably under the direction of its new Defense Secretary, is sending another aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. This is meant to send a message to Iran. It has no other intention, so go back to watching American Idol.

-- You didn't miss the Sunday Funnies, did you?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

TIME's Person of the Year? ME!


And you, too.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.

And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos -- those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms -- than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.


Congratulations, you wild-eyed rebel.

Basketsprawl


Things erupted when the rookie Mardy Collins committed a flagrant foul on the Nuggets’ J. R. Smith, who was going for a layup. In seconds, Nate Robinson and Smith appeared to tackle each other, and a scrum formed behind the baseline.

Anthony then punched Collins in the face, sending Collins to the floor and escalating the fight.

Several other players also threw punches, and Anthony is almost certain to draw a suspension from the league. The Knicks’ Jared Jeffries had to be restrained as he chased Anthony. Several players, coaches and security guards ran onto the court trying to end the fight.

With all 10 players who were playing at the time of the fight ejected, the game was delayed for several minutes as the three referees tried to sort out what had happened.


Another black eye (pun intended) for the NBA.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Baggy bags it


Bagwell didn't finish with 500 homers or a .300 average, but he needs to go into the Hall of Fame, probably on the first ballot. In 15 seasons, he hit .297/.408/.540 with 449 homers, 1.529 RBI and 1,517 runs scored. His OPS ranks 24th all-time, and much of his production came in the Astrodome, a pitcher's park. Over a two-season span in 1999-2000, he hit 89 homers, scored 295 runs and drove in 262. His 152 runs in 2000 is the highest total anyone's managed since Lou Gehrig in 1936. However, he was at his absolute best in 1994, hitting .368/.451/.750 with 116 RBI in 110 games before a broken hand ended his season even before the strike could. He was the unanimous MVP that year anyway, and he also finished second in 1999 and third in 1997.

Weekend Postpourri

-- James Gandolfini is slated to be the King of the Krewe of Bacchus at this year's Mardi Gras.

-- An e-mail addy that expires after ten minutes. Perfect for those invasive registration sites.

-- Speaking of spam, have you been getting more lately from people whose names sound vaguely familiar, offering you stock tips, knock-off Rolexes, and Windows Vista downloads? There's a reason.

-- The SEIU janitors won again, this time against the nation's largest mall management company. Link via Matt Stoller at MyDD, the leading source for this news.

-- There continues to be lots of news regarding the pending sale or breakup of the Tribune Co., which owns the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, New York Newsday, the Chicago Cubs baseball team and a host of other media properties. Entertainment kingpin David Geffen sold his Jackson Pollock painting "No. 5, 1948" for $140 million to raise money to buy the Times, which he bid $2 billion for yesterday. The Chandler family, whose forbear founded the paper, built a media empire called Times-Mirror then sold it to Tribune, are divided over whether to get back into the business or not. Other multi-millionaires want part or all of the company.

-- I made it on time to the "frenzied groupthink" party, but I was late to the after-party. Eileen is always better at responding to this sort of hysterical rant than I am, anyway.

-- Poaching Kuffner's turf: these two posts from Tory Gattis and Christof Spieler are interesting as an Inner-Looper. Tory introduces me to the acronym TOD, or transit-oriented development. Christof has the excellent mobility take, as always.

-- Right of Texas and Paul Burka break down Henry Bonilla's ass-whipping in the 23rd. Update (12/16): P.M. Bryant pulls together a much better compendium of links and analysis.

-- Since I'm not a gamer I don't need or want a Wii, but if it's on your Christmas list for you or someone else, you better be careful with it.

Moneyshot Quotes of the Week

"I never understand that question, you have a President that's in deep shit. He got us into the war, and all the reasons he gave have been proven invalid, and the whole electorate was so pissed off that they got rid of anyone they could have, and then they ask, 'What is the Democrats' solution?'"


-- Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), quoted by the New York Observer, when asked what the Democrats should do about Iraq


"I must tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume."

-- President Bush, in an interview with People magazine


"I don't think I would have called it the war on terror. I don't mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word 'war' conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn't going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a 'war on terror.' Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and (through) a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So 'war on terror' is a problem for me."


-- Donald Rumsfeld, 12/12/06

Also from Rumsfeld, the following:

(T)here has been comment in the press of late about whether or not we’re even engaged in a war on terror, or whether our purpose might be better explained in a different manner. Let there be no mistake, we are a nation at war, against terrorist enemies who are seeking our surrender or our retreat. It is a war." 8/2/05

"I would like to say that Iraq is really one of the battle grounds in the global war on terror." 4/24/06

"Iraq is the central front of the global war on terror." 12/16/05

Q: My argument is that we are fighting the war on terror in Iraq. Back me up a little bit on that, Mr. Secretary.
RUMSFELD: Well, you're absolutely right. 8/3/04

"(Iraq is) part of the global war on terror; let there be no doubt." 9/10/03

Q: Do you feel that the Administration by turning its attention onto Iraq would be leaving the job undone a bit too soon?
RUMSFELD: Oh, no. Indeed that’s part of the global war on terrorism, Iraq. 12/4/02


"Well, I'm not a very good writer. I have the ideas, and I have somebody else put the words together."


-- Tom DeLay, talking about his blog


"He underwent successful surgery to evacuate the blood and stabilize the malformation. (North Dakota Senator Tim Johnson) has continued to have an uncomplicated post-operative course. Specifically, he has been appropriately responsive to both word and touch. No further surgical intervention has been required."


-- US Capitol physician Adm. John Eisold. You may send a get-well-soon greeting to Sen. Johnson at this link.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Duck, it's Dick, and he's the Bum Steer this year

But none of these antiheroes measure up to the man we’re here to honor. A politician and a sportsman. A man who’s a real blast to go hunting with, who this year gave the country (and his friend Harry Whittington) a shot in the arm, among other places. He may be number two in the White House, but to us he’ll always be number one with a bullet. Or a pellet. Come out from that undisclosed location, Dick Cheney. You’re our Bum Steer of the Year.


Thank you, Texas Monthly, for this free look at your annual edition of the best/worst things Texans said and did in the past year. A couple of my favorites:

DAVYCROCKETT1836: DO I MAKE YOU A LITTLE HORNY?
SANTAANNA: A LITTLE.
DAVYCROCKETT1836: COOL.

Amid calls for speaker of the U.S. House Dennis Hastert to resign over his handling of the Mark Foley matter, U.S. congressman Joe Barton, of Arlington, compared Hastert to the defenders of the Alamo.

ANOTHER INSTANCE OF KATRINA “WORKING VERY WELL” FOR SOMEONE

Former first lady Barbara Bush made a donation to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with the proviso that part of the money be spent to purchase software from her son Neil’s company.

OF COURSE, IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE LIFELESS HUMAN BODIES, WE RECOMMEND A TEXANS HOME GAME

After two Houston museums simultaneously mounted exhibits featuring posed human cadavers, the CEO of the Health Museum remarked, “If there’s a city in the United States where two exhibits like this could happen … it’s Houston.”

Don't miss this.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

St. Arnold needs a ride to Austin

Tonight's Tex-blogosphere conference call featured Brock Wagner of the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, who asked for our help in advancing a worthy cause. Specifically, revising the TABC code to enable microbreweries like his around the state to sell beer on a retail basis from their facility.

The craft brewery industry in Texas once featured 19 different microbreweries around the state, but today only five remain in business. (Many of us in Houston can remember when there was a brewpub on every corner of Richmond Avenue in the Nineties.) The struggles can be traced in part to the arcane alcoholic beverage laws in Texas, many of which date to the Prohibition era, that restrict certain sales activity. For example, if you go to a St. Arnold's brewery tour on a Saturday afternoon, you cannot purchase a six-pack of their beer from them.

So because the industry is on a beer budget when it comes to publicity, the publishers -- and readers -- of Texas blogs from the left and the right can all agree on one thing: when it comes to pilsner, we're all in this together.

Wagner and the other brewmasters of the craft breweries in Texas -- besides St. Arnold, they include Rahr and Sons of Fort Worth, Real Ale of Blanco, Independence and Live Oak of Austin -- hope to get a legislator to carry their bill in the coming 80th session of the Texas Lege. Wagner's lawmakers at the brewery's location in northwest Houston are Rep. Jessica Farrar and Sen. John Whitmire, and he is busy soliciting their help (when he's not busy running the brewery, that is).

Visit St. Arnold Goes to Austin to stay current on this effort, or better yet drop a line to your rep and ask them if they would sponsor the legislation to change the TABC code, and while you're at it, take the St. Arnold brewery tour some Saturday afternoon and support the local economy.

Update (12/14): Kuff and Houstonist add more.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ciro returns to Congress


Congratulations to everyone who walked, called, donated and helped return Ciro Rodriguez to Washington.

To quote Henry Cisneros (speaking to Henry Bonilla):

"Ya basta, ya cabamos, ya vete!"

Nick Anderson is really on a roll

Here are his two most recent toons, both skewering the Texans over last Sunday's loss to in-Vince-able:


No curtain call for the Great Caruso

One of Houston's landmarks of theatre burned early Sunday morning. Kuff, Houstonist, our local ABC affiliate, and HouStoned (easy on the snarky sauce, guys) got to it ahead of me.

My family has attended shows there over the years and recently tried to make reservations for their holiday revue, but they were mostly booked for the day we set aside. (Instead we chose the Stages production, Five Course Love.) That old place was truly a marvel inside -- small, tight, narrow stairways, old antique furniture and works of art.

I feel bad for the actors and waiters and other workers who find themselves suddenly unemployed two weeks before Christmas.

Here's to wishing better fortune for everyone connected to the Caruso in the new year.

Back to the old balls

(I recently joined this site as a contributor, so you'll be seeing the occasional basketball opinion here. )

The NBA -- David Stern, that is -- told the league's players that they would get the old leather balls back starting January 1st.

Reaction was muted snark. Mavs owner Mark Cuban:

"They scrapped it?" Cuban said in an e-mail. "I guess if I have to hear about a final decision in the media that says it all. I guess I missed the class where they were discussing the pros and cons of the new ball and the impact of making a change midseason."


Celtics coach Doc Rivers:

"It's just like the park. That's what it's going to feel like. Whoever brings the ball on Jan. 1, that's the one we're going to play with."


Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy:

"When they told me they were going back to the old ball, I said I've never brought this point up, but I know this: if you bounce it straight down, that thing will not come up in a straight line. You have to play like you're playing at the old Boston Garden, looking for those dead bounces. You just have to be sure you have to keep the ball close to the ground."


Lebron James:

"I'm very excited. You see my smile, right? If we've got practice tomorrow, I'll be shooting with that (old) ball tomorrow."


Tim Duncan:

"They should have done a little more testing the first time so we wouldn't have had to go through this. Hopefully, they have corrected their mistake, and everything will be good."


Paul Pierce:

"The players, it was just tough on them because I think (the NBA) kind of just sprung the ball on the players instead of giving them fair warning."


Pierce was the player's representative when the new ball was introduced last summer. At that time he predicted turnovers would be down this season because of the new ball. They have been, but that couldn't outweigh things like the fact that it gets slippery when wet, sticks to the rim, lodges between the rim and backboard more frequently and actually dries out players' hands to the point they suffer cuts on their fingers.

PETA, I suspect, will be pissed by this flip-flop.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A touch of bloggerhea

-- Two new blogs of special note: Bonddad has his own place, and so does the esteemed former Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives, Tom DeLay. Well, he did for awhile anyway. Thanks to the magic of the Google you can still read it, including all 100+ comments he received before someone shut it down for him.

-- Gasoline prices continue to rise during the holiday season, baffling "experts". The Chronic also weighs in to tell us it's no big deal (yet, they helpfully caution).

-- The Big Dog came to San Antone yesterday for Ciro. B and B has pictures and Muse has video. Election Day for TX-23 is tomorrow.

-- The Houston Texans 2006 draft theory was disproved in the laboratory yesterday. Twice. I would have paid the value of a luxury box for the season just to see the look on Bob McNair's face when VY scored the game-winning touchdown.

Ten more years of in-his-face just like yesterday. Maybe twelve, maybe fifteen.

-- An iconic piece of Houston's East End gets ready for a little makeover. And also underground downtown, and in the Village as well.

-- Smoke-filled rooms in Washington die hard (if they die at all).

-- Financial wisdom I may be beating Bonddad to: consider turning your IRA into a Roth. Really.

-- Some good Sunday Funnies here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Get up early tomorrow, go outside, look at the planets

Stargazers will get a rare triple planetary treat this weekend with Jupiter, Mercury and Mars appearing to nestle together in the pre-dawn skies. About 45 minutes before dawn on Sunday those three planets will be so close that the average person's thumb can obscure all three from view.

They will be almost as close together on Saturday and Monday, but Sunday they will be within one degree of each other in the sky. Three planets haven't been that close since 1925, said Miami Space Transit Planetarium director Jack Horkheimer.

And it won't happen again until 2053, he said.

"Jupiter will be very bright and it will look like it has two bright lights next to it, and they won't twinkle because they're planets," said Horkheimer, host of the television show Star Gazer. "This is the kind of an event that turns young children into Carl Sagans."

...

The way to find the planets, which will be low on the east-southeast horizon, is to hold your arm straight out, with your hand in a fist and the pinky at the bottom. Halfway up your fist is how high the planets will appear above the horizon, Nichols said.

Jupiter will be white, Mercury pinkish and Mars butterscotch-colored.

"It is a lovely demonstration of the celestial ballet that goes on around us, day after day, year after year, millennium after millennium," said Horkheimer. "When I look at something like this, I realize that all the powers on Earth, all the emperors, all the money, cannot change it one iota. We are observers, but the wonderful part of that is that we are the only species on this planet that can observe it and understand it."

Moneyshot Quotes of the Week

"I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day."

"That is absurd. It may even be criminal."


-- Gordon Smith, the latest Republican Senator to get off the Kool-Aid

"It's bad in Iraq. That help?" (heh-heh-heh)


-- Bush, when asked by a British reporter if he was 'still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq'

"It shocked me that (the Astros) would not continue to go up, when the Yankees continued to push and push and pursue and they (the Astros) really didn't do much."


-- Andy Pettitte, pissing and moaning about his $16 million contract with the New York Yankees. The Houston Astros offered him $12 million.

"The absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our gross state product of $17.7 billion."


-- Texas comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn

"You have these cheap shots coming at you, but you still need to move forward. Obviously, when people are spreading falsehoods and lying about your character and who you are, it's much more aggravating. ... If you lose by one point in a game, you can look back on every single play of the game ... (one) can say, 'gosh darn, if we only had made that block, if we only didn't jump off-sides, if we only had recovered that fumble, if we hadn't thrown that interception. If the referees didn't screw us on that play.' "


-- former Senator George Allen of Virginia, on why he lost

"I just didn't feel there today, the president in his words or his demeanor, that he is going to do anything right away to change things drastically. He is tepid in what he talks about doing. Someone has to get the message to this man that there have to be significant changes."


-- Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry Reid, after an Oval Office meeting

"Nope, nobody sang 'Kumbaya'."


-- outgoing UN ambassador John Bolton, asked about a 'healing process' with outgoing UN Sec.-Gen. Kofi Annan at a White House dinner attended by both

Friday, December 08, 2006

Pettitte, Astros playing chicken



This is the most recent news I can find on the 'will he or won't he'/'here or there' cat-and-mouse being played by Andy Pettitte and the Astros:

The Yankees have opened by offering Pettitte $15 million. They've also told him they'll improve that, perhaps to $17 million, which would top the $16.5 million he made in 2006. The Yankees also said they'll give Pettitte a second year if he so desires. The Astros are way behind financially, at $12 million (and one season).

Even so, interested parties have seen the competition as a 50-50 proposition.

"Certainly, we have a geographical edge,'' Astros general manager Tim Pupura said. "And certainly, you have to expect the Yankees to have a financial edge.''


The author, Jon Heyman of SI.com, continues ...


Feeling slightly uncertain about which team Pettitte will choose, the Astros went ahead and agreed to a deal Thursday morning to obtain Jon Garland from the White Sox for three young players -- Willy Taveras, Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz -- only to see it fall through when, according to sources, the White Sox became concerned with the health of Buchholz.

We can't forget that Pettitte left the Yankees three years ago feeling somewhat slighted by his own team when it reduced their offer to him from a three-year contract to a two-year contract. So it's reasonable to wonder whether Pettitte felt the least bit slighted at the news that the Astros had a deal for a pitcher to replace him.

And indeed, Garland would have been replacing him. Purpura said it "would have been very difficult'' to employ both Garland and Pettitte and said they will continue to seek a top starter. If they can't resurrect a deal with the White Sox, they will look for another one.

"We have to pursue other options,'' Purpura explained. "He's talking to other clubs, and we're talking to other clubs."


I thought the 'Stros did well with the Carlos Lee and Woody Williams signings (even if the market dictates they had to overpay for them) but if they miss Pettitte not over a few million dollars but because he's easily piqued, well ...

... too bad. He started this charade with his Clemens-like shilly-shallying, and now if he has to go back to the Big Apple to work, gee that's too bad for his lovely family in Deer Park.

Make up your mind already, you big redneck.

Update (minutes after this posting): Pettitte is New York-bound.

Andy Pettitte has chosen to re-sign with the New York Yankees, reaching a one-year $16 million deal with a player option for another $16 million in 2008.

If he gets hurt, he won’t take his option.

“I had offered the Astros $14 million and an option,” Randy Hendricks said. “But they wouldn’t take it. Both teams know that if Andy gets hurt, he won’t take the option. The Astros flat turned me down.”

Feingold, Bennett put the ISG on notice

Each in their inimitable way, of course. First, Russ (from Countdown):

The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report.

Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy that goes for a global approach to the war on terrorism. So this is really a Washington inside job and it shows not in the description of what's happened -- that's fairly accurate -- but it shows in the recommendations. It's been called a classic Washington compromise that does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan, and in Somalia which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq.

This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.


And then Bill:

Who are these commissioners and what is their expertise in Iraq — or even foreign policy? ... The entire report is contemptuous of the military, spoken of as pawns on a chess table, barriers, observers, buffers, and trainers. Never as what they are trained to be: the greatest warriors in the world. Would it have been too much to ask that one general, or even one outspoken believer in the mission from the get-go, be on this commission?

Perhaps the most systemic problem with the report is it didn't tell us how to win; it answered how to get out. The commissioners answered the wrong question, but it was the one they wanted to answer.

In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible.


I think Bennett is jealous because he wasn't picked for the commission. Or maybe he's just having severe slots withdrawal.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pearl Harbor Day remembrances


Today is the 65th anniversary.

There's no personal connection to the day; my dad shipped out to Pearl (he boarded a train at the old Union Station railway downtown; it's now part of Minute Maid Park) but got there just as the war was ending, so he never saw any action. He spent his enlistment doing the beginning of peacetime maintenance.

The surviving veterans will gather at the USS Arizona memorial for the last time. Most of them don't expect they can attend a 70th, if there is one.

The Arizona had been loaded with millions of gallons of heavy fuel oil the day before it was sunk in the Japanese attack. That oil has leaked slowly out of it ever since. There has long been concern that the deteriorating condition of the rusting ship might suddenly release what remains of its trapped cargo, causing an environmental disaster. People have been studying ways of dealing with, or preventing, that occurrence.

And in Fredericksburg, the hometown of Admiral Nimitz, they will commemorate the anniversary with the usual speeches and 21-gun salutes, but also with a sale of Texas Historical Commission bonds to expand the facilities there.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Kossacks like Edwards, Obama, Clark

... but Gore a lot more, if he would only declare. Almost 16,000 respondents from the progressive netroots voted in the poll that did not include the former vice-president and the three named in the headline finished 28-28-26 respectively; 57% of almost 14,000 made Gore a runaway winner in the poll with his name on the ballot. The three leaders leaked away much of their support to him.

Summary:

... But keep in mind, winning the "blogosphere primary" gets these guys nothing. It's all about activating, energizing, and mobilizing hardcore political junkies to evangelize and work their campaigns.

Let's say, conservatively, that 5 million people read liberal blogs. You get 10 percent of those, you're looking at 500,000 activists working on your behalf. What campaign wouldn't kill for that sort of interest?


The corporate media meme remains, of course, Hillary and Obama. Frankly, I don't think the Democrats can win back the White House with either one of those two at the top of the ticket. My choices today would be Gore, Clark, Edwards -- and not necessarily in that order. Greggie-Poo the Blue Pooch will be shocked, shocked if the ticket in '08 isn't Clinton-Warner.

I think that premise is absolutely hilarious. OTOH, I'll have to vote Green if he's so much as half right.

Update: Kos calls the cattle.

Update II (12/7): And the cattle prod for the Republicans. My take, posted there, is ...

McCain is sucking all the oxygen out of the room. It's currently him alone in the first tier.

Second tier: Giuliani, Romney, Brownback.

Hizzoner has star power but is much too moderate to move up. The fundies need someone to rally 'round; my guess is it will be either Mitt or Sam.

Third tier: Hagel, Gingrich, Pataki, Huckabee, Tancredo, Hunter, Thompson.

Hagel is McCain Lite, with the exception of being out front in opposition to Iraq. This still doesn't seem to be the popular thing to do if you're a conservative, however. Gingrich will attract a southern conservative following and can't be discounted. Pataki gets lost among the other nor'easters (and is the blandest of this bunch; makes Frist seem like Elvis). Tancredo has one issue to run on. Hunter, Huckabee and Thompson don't even have that.

Could go nova by just announcing and move into the top tier: Jeb, Condi. Not sure how either can run a campaign of 'change' in 2008. Bush fatigue would ultimately doom either one in the general.

Blogs force Rep. Truitt to blink

The legislation filed by Rep. Vicki Truitt -- summarized here -- has been withdrawn by her.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the story:

Texas bloggers: Retract your claws. Vicki Truitt means you no harm.

The Keller state representative has been public enemy No. 1 for bloggers for the past three weeks because of a bill she pre-filed relating to defamatory comments on Web sites.

It turns out Truitt had meant to file a much narrower bill that was not directed at bloggers. She now plans to enter substitute language in January.


I don't really buy this premise of Ms. Truitt's, but let's continue:


Truitt filed House Bill 129 on Nov. 13, the first day lawmakers could file bills for the legislative session that begins in January. The bill specified that the author of defamatory statements expressed on the Internet would be subject to the same libel limitations as the author of any other statement "in any other written or graphic form."

Outrage on the blogosphere was quick.

Eileen Smith, editor of Austin-based InThePinkTexas.com, ripped into the bill two days later in a post titled "My Other Blog is Yo Mama." The post now appears on the first page of a Google search for "Vicki Truitt."

More than 30 readers commented on the post, many heckling Truitt. Noting that if the bill passed it wouldn't go into effect until September, reader Roaring Gnome suggested, "I think you should dedicate all posts after Sept. 1, 2007 to making fun of Vicki Truitt's absurdly big hair. It would NOT be a false statement, so I think you'd be covered."

More than 10 other blogs ultimately wrote about the bill in the ensuing weeks. Some latched onto the notion that they were free to say whatever they wanted about Truitt until the bill passed.


I didn't think there was nearly the blogswarm we needed on this in order to get the desired response. That Rep. Truitt backed off so quickly suggests she is an avid blog reader and was intimidated by our enormous power.

Or that she doesn't know a blog from Bergdorf Goodman (and is intimidated by our enormous power). Continuing:


Vince Leibowitz of Grand Saline analyzed the bill's wording on his blog CapitolAnnex.com. He suggested that even though Web sites are already subject to libel limitations, the legislation could ultimately strip bloggers of the basic protections against libel charges that traditional media enjoy.

That prediction worried other bloggers, some of whom suggested organizing opposition to the bill.

"This is just another way to silence the little guy/gal," wrote Michael Davis, who blogs at dallasprogress.blogspot.com.

"I blog. You decide. Truitt sues," added a blogger on bayareahouston.blogspot.com.

...

Truitt's legislative director, Dan Sutherland, said that legal advisers had suggested broadening the bill's language to include all defamatory comments, but that stifling bloggers or anyone else on the Internet was never their intention.

"In the conversations I had with legislative counsel, we never talked about blogs," Sutherland said. "Apparently the people who write blogs think it was targeted at them, so we're trying to clarify it."

Sutherland described the blogger reaction to the bill as "amazing" but noted that allowing public comments to help reshape proposed legislation is part of the democratic process.

"It's not unusual for any representative to file something, and once people start reading it, they bring things to our attention they hadn't thought of or got lost in the translation," Sutherland said.

Truitt said she didn't intend the bill to be viewed as a way of silencing free speech on the Web, especially for those writing about public figures.


Once again, I doubt it. Nevertheless:

Smith, of InThePinkTexas.com, expressed surprise that Truitt's broadly worded bill was intended to be about something so specific as identity theft. Regardless, she said the furor over the bill has helped spark a dialogue about how blogs should be treated compared to traditional media.

"It has brought up interesting questions about how legislators are going to view blogs as vehicles of information," Smith said. "It's actually a good discussion platform for everyone to have anyway ... even if it wasn't what she intended."


And there you have it. The blogosphere just gained a little street cred.

2006's Texan of the Year: Blogger Style


... not a Republican (like last year) but also not necessarily a Democrat, either (though they endorsed several of them in the November elections).


It's Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Texas Parent PAC was founded in 2005 by Boyle, a former public relations executive well-known in the Capitol as an advocate for Texas public schools.

"Carolyn Boyle and Texas Parent PAC proved that you don't have to be a prominent, wealthy donor to make positive changes in the Texas political landscape,” said San Antonio's Matt Glazer, senior writer for Austin-based Burnt Orange Report and founder of Just Another Blog. "Overnight, Parent PAC became the most sought-after endorsement in Texas politics," Glazer continued.

"This election cycle, Carolyn Boyle and Texas Parent PAC showed that soccer moms and PTA dads speak as loud as the James Leiningers and Bob Perrys, and that the folks those guys have been helping get elected all these years aren't doing the job when it comes top public education," said Vince Leibowitz of Grand Saline, publisher of Capitol Annex.


Congratulations to Ms. Boyle and Texas Parent PAC.

Just cleaning out my del.icio.us pages

-- The Times put out their Ten Best list, none of which I have read. I did just complete John Grisham's The Innocent Man, and I think that ought to be on anyone's list.

-- the retail diamond industry is concerned about the effect of the movie "Blood Diamond" on its holiday sales.

-- Greg Abbott doesn't believe that carbon dioxide is harming the planet:

Twelve states are squaring off against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which they say has failed to do its job by refusing to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas.

But in Texas, where the state climatologist says global warming is a pressing concern and scientists say the Gulf Coast could be flooded within the century, the attorney general has joined a smaller coalition of states that sides with the EPA, which says the gas is not a dangerous air pollutant.

The Texas attorney general's office did not even consult the state's environmental agency before signing onto the legal brief submitted to the high court, according to one of the agency's commissioners.

"The State of Texas' intervention in this case wasn't derived from any formal request" from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said Larry Soward, one of three members of the commission. "This agency did not ask the attorney general to intervene in the lawsuit on our behalf, nor have we been involved.

"It's routine or common course for the agency with regulatory authority to be integrally involved. And that hasn't been the case."


I'm going to send the OAG a copy of "Inconvenient Truth" for Christmas. How about you?

-- Wal-Mart has added a new benefit for its long-time employees: if you work there for twenty years, you get a polo shirt.

-- student loan regulation is about to change substantially, to the benefit of students and the detriment of the lenders, who in the most recent cycle gave most of their campaign contributions to two Republicans. One of them was John Boehner, the incoming House minority leader.

-- William Wayne Justice is probably the most valuable Texas jurist of my lifetime. It's not too fantastic to imagine him on the Supreme Court, having been appointed by Clinton in the Nineties and surviving a bruising confirmation, and beating the living daylights out of Fat Tony the Fixer and Slappy Thomas.

What a wonderful world it would be.

-- Christof and Kuffner have previously reported on the Trans-Texas Corridor propaganda campaign already underway. Paul Burka calls the TTC potentially the "the worst public policy fiasco" of his lifetime. Many of the 2006 Democratic statewide candidates campaigned hard against the boondoggle and will likely continue that effort. Other smart, ambitious Democrats might do the same. This is an issue still crying out for organized opposition.

-- Electronic voting machines ought to be tossed into the harbor. Or the lake, or the gulf, or the ocean, or the nearest, deepest, saltiest body of water. That's not my opinion but that of the federal agency that advises the US Election Assistance Commission.

-- all the way from last week, the president-elect of the Christian Coalition resigned when the board refused to allow him to expand the mission of the organization beyond opposing gay marriage and abortion, to include poverty and environmental issues. "That's not our base," they said.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The NBA's new balls


The composite microfiber basketball adopted for use in the NBA this season has been greeted with scorn by many star players.

Last week, the NBA Players Association filed a labor grievance against the league regarding the use of the new ball (as well as the "zero-tolerance" referee's whistle policy).

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander's newly ex-wife Nanci, an avid animal-rights activist, could be responsible for the league's switch to the synthetic game ball, according to talk show host Joe McDonnell of AM 570 KLAC in Los Angeles.

As far as a hot rumor goes this certainly qualifies, and "word on the street" is that Nanci Alexander was able to convince her good friend, David Stern's wife Dianne Bock, into selling him on replacing the leather ball.

The leather trade is indeed brutal.

This showdown appears likely to be resolved by expensive litigation (or at least the threat thereof).

Update (12/6): the Commish prepares to capitulate ...

“I won’t make a spirited defense with respect to the ball,” Stern said. “In hindsight, we could have done a better job. I take responsibility for that.”

Update II: and Les Alexander debunks ...

"Do you think David Stern would even think about that?" Alexander said. "It's ridiculous. She asked him all the time when she saw him. He's not going to respond to that. David's got a lot of things on his mind. He's going to listen to that? She wanted everything removed that was leather. This was not going to be one of his priorities. If it was, we need a new commissioner."


Sunday, December 03, 2006

A few of my best and worst of 2006

As summoned by -- and previously sent to -- Vincent:


Texas
' candidates this year had a lot to say. What was your favorite "soundbite?" (A soundbite is something a candidate repeated frequently or something a candidate said only once that you felt was particularly memorable).


Early on in the election cycle, Rick Perry said "Adios, MoFo" to a Houston television reporter. Despite the T-shirts available for sale at Pink Dome, the phrase rarely came up again -- except on the blogs -- after the governor apologized for it, but the words linger as a symbol of the arrogance of this man.

Texans are demonstrably weary of his act, and it's a shame we (that is, Texas' Democrats) couldn't take advantage of Perry's weakness as both politician and person.


Of all the political commercials that ran in Texas this cycle, which one do you believe was the best commercial that exhibited a candidate or campaign in a positive light?


Chris Bell's "Big as Texas". Republicans tried (and failed) to poke fun at it, but it was by far the most effective I saw at introducing a candidate to the electorate.


What do you think was the best negative political advertisement of the 2006 election cycle?


The website slamming Strayhorn that was done by the Perry camp ("Grandma's Attic" or something).


What do you believe was the worst TV or radio commercial by any candidate this election cycle?


Any of Greg Abbott's; he relentlessly ran commercials in every single TV market across the state every thirty seconds, day and night, in the month before the election.

You could not avoid his ads. They were everywhere.

The one where he is surrounded by laughing children -- they were there to hide his wheelchair from view -- was bad, but the one using taxpayer dollars to pay for the video of agents arresting an alleged online predator was the worst. It was a prime example of his publicity-hound nature amplified by his politically corrupt actions.


From Chris Bell's use of the governor's mansion electric bill to Fred Head's use of Susan Comb's steamy romance novel, candidates up and down the ballot had some unique attention getting techniques this cycle. Which one was your favorite?


Tie: the Van Os Courthouse Whistlestop Tour and Bill Moody's 1000-mile walk across Texas.


What race do you believe represented the biggest upset of 2006? (Primary or General election).


Another tie: Borris Miles over Al Edwards in the primary in March. Juan Garcia over Gene Seaman in November.


What do you think was the best political news story of 2006?


Democrats slowly (very slowly) begin to take back Texas.


What do you believe was the worse gaffe by a political candidate this election cycle?


"Ni**er eggs", Kinky Friedman. Hard to choose a single of Friedman's mistakes since they were so numerous.


What, during the course of 2006, do you believe was the most overrated thing when it came to Texas politics? (It can be a candidate, a group, a story, anything!)


An exciting, knock-down drag-out Governor's race, trumpeted as early as 2005. Turned out to be incapable of matching the hype. Perry stayed low and mostly out of sight, Strayhorn blew up on the launching pad, Bell never caught fire, and Kinky ... well, Kinky made a complete fool of himself.


If you had the chance to name one Texas politician the "Biggest Political Prostitute Of 2006," what candidate would you give that title to?


All of the Republican incumbents at the statewide level are high-dollar whores, but Greg Abbott tops even Rick Perry and Tom Craddick in his ability to pander to the lobbyists in exchange for a five-figure campaign contribution.

Abbott raised millions of dollars from the largest corporations in order to run nonstop TV ads against his opponent, and will do the same thing all over again when he runs for higher office in four years.

He is the absolute worst of a really bad lot.


Of all the political news and events of 2006, what (or who) do you believe was the biggest political 'bomb' of the year?


Sadly, Chris Bell. A good candidate with the right message, but was unable to compete because so many gave up on the Democrats so long ago. From the donors with the heavy checkbooks, to the strategists advising the Texas Democratic Party, through the mainstream media which picked up on the defeatist mentality of the movers and shakers, all the way down to the local activists and even the voters -- especially the minority blocs -- almost nobody thought they could win anything big. And sure enough, they didn't.

So maybe it would be more accurate to call the Texas Democratic Party the biggest bomb. The blue tsunami which washed across the United States stopped at the Red and Sabine rivers. As Paul Burka suggested, it was a once-in-a-generation opportunity squandered.


What's the dumbest statement a politician uttered this election cycle?


"Susan Combs wrote a pornographic novel", Fred Head. This statement actually should have gotten some traction in this too-conservative state, but Combs flipped it against him, rallying romance authors (and liberals) everywhere to her persecution -- err, cause. Head would have been far more competent as state comptroller than his Republican rival and should have focused his message on his qualifications and experience.

Moral: never try to out-righteous a Republican.


What Texas newspaper, reporter, television station, etc., do you believe had the best overall political news coverage in 2006?


None. Oh, there were a few things that were good: Peggy Fikac wrote some top-notch entries for the SAEN/HC blog "Texas Politics"; KPRC had a very good resource page for politics, campaigns and candidates which included archives of video snips. But the newspapers barely did their reporting jobs, and the TV stations repeatedly failed to do theirs: WFAA produced but declined to air a followup to their own report about the Attorney General's misuse of taxpayer funds for his video department in the week before the election.

KTSA in San Antonio deserves two kudos, one for a fine job in interviewing candidates (going all the way back to an in-studio face-off between Nathan Macias and Carter Casteel in the spring primary season) and one for Radio Agonist, which is apparently the only local progressive radio program in the state.

But the blogosphere trumped them all. Even the ones on the right.


What Mainstream Media Outlet do you believe had the worst political news coverage for 2006?


The Houston Chronicle. Too slow and too sparse. The Houston Press article on Jim Henley is but one example of their sloth. The Chronic barely ever mentioned the CD-07 race, much less Henley's name.

They exceeded their already spectacularly bad reputation for lousy political reporting.


What Texas blog do you believe is the best Texas Politics blog on the web? (Note: you cannot vote for Capitol Annex).


Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff did yeoman's work. By himself, with a full-time day job and raising a young child, he ran circles around the lazy slobs working in the mainstream media. McBlogger followed Ag Commissioner candidate Hank Gilbert (and his opponent Todd Staples) closely. This blog obviously focused on the Van Os campaign and the foibles of the incumbent Attorney General. Dos Centavos tracked the Poe/Bindarim CD-02 contest along with the three statehouse races in the Kingwood/Spring region. Red State followed the victorious Juan Garcia, and did an excellent job revealing the corruption of Gene Seaman. Burnt Orange Report reported on the statewide contests consistently and gave good insight into the various Travis County races. Musings was seemingly embedded in the Lampson and Matula campaigns and also delved into the corruption and haplessness of their opponents, Shelley Gibbs and John Davis. She played tag-team with Bay Area Houston here, who also posted vigorously on Perry's incompetence and Abbott's corruption.

Capitol Annex did -- does -- a masterful job of analyzing the policy. And really ought to be allowed to get a few votes here.

Kuffner's comprehensive effort, from the podcast interviews with candidates to his seemingly every-race-in-Texas coverage, has to win the prize. Truthfully, none of the rest of us came close.


What Texas politics blog covering a specific region (i.e. San Antonio, Fort Bend County, Harris County, etc.) was the 'best' in 2006?


Muse's Musings, covering all aspects of the Fort Bend County Democrats and their races. Followed closely by Burnt Orange and Travis County.


Don't lie: you know you read Texas Republican blogs, too...just to know what the other side is saying. Which Texas right-wing Republican blog is your favorite?


Lone Star Times. Matt Bramanti showed up at a Sheila Jackson Lee rally and had his picture taken with her.


That wins the Chutzpah Award, at least.