Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pre-Lobby Day postpourri

-- Don't worry; Dick's OK. Apparently he set a world record in the 100-meter dash, but nobody was injured in his escape.

-- The stock market had a meltdown today. It was the worst single-day retreat since 9/11, and it was due to a belief that Chinese economic growth will be limited by an inability to secure raw material (as well as the lemming-like fear that stocks are over-valued). Since my business is driven by stock-market contrarians, if this trend continues I'll have another good year.

-- Robert Eckels is being threatened by the king of all Republicans in Houston:

"This decision (selecting the next judge of Harris County) is extremely important to whether the base will get behind Eckels if he runs for higher office," said County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill.


Pop some corn. This ought to be a hoot. More:

Alice Rekeweg, a precinct chair from Kingwood, said some GOP activists are so upset that Eckels appears to be backing Emmett as his successor that they would not support the county judge in a run for statewide office. "It's a possibility some people will hold a grudge," she said.


No, it's not, Alice. You're all as full of shit as a Christmas turkey; you'll fall in line behind whoever is the standard-bearer just like you did when Shelley Sekula-Gibbs ran for Tom DeLay's -- nevermind.

Is that popcorn ready yet?

Update: Houston Consigliere has more.

-- Jon Matthews goes to jail. Once one of the most rabid right-wing talkers in Houston, even his longtime sycophants locally have finally been forced to abandon him.

-- We are raising an entire generation of narcissists. What a shock.

-- Tomorrow I'm in the state capital for Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day. Here's our report from two years ago (the last time the Lege was in session). Update: Sam Jones has more on the "Prevention First!" legislation filed by Rep. Mark Strama and Sen. Kirk Watson.

Friday, February 23, 2007

What to do in Houston this weekend

-- See all of the Oscar-nominated films tomorrow on a $30 AMC pass. Babel is first at 11 a.m., and Little Miss Sunshine wraps up the marathon at 9:45 p.m. Since that's more than 12 hours of movie-viewing, the theater chain will throw in a large popcorn and soft drink, with free unlimited refills all day. Passes are available at amctheatres.com or the box office of any of the AMC multiplexes around Houston.

-- Go to the MoFA and see French masters Picasso and Degas, on loan to the only gallery outside of New York for a very limited time.

-- Support one of the bars and restaurants in the downtown entertainment district. They're having a rough go of it.

-- Take in the touring production of Twelve Angry Men, with John Boy Walton and Norm from Cheers, at the Hobby Center. The Houston Press even liked it.

Update (6 pm): To those of you have inquired about my father-in-law's surgery, it was successful. He's out of recovery and in ICU.

The Kos cattle call: Clinton, Obama, Edwards

My own thoughts after hearing Obama last night is that there is a slight little something missing -- I don't know, call it 'gravitas', without the negative connotation the word has always had for the current White House occupant, who remains a lightweight to this day. The senator from Illinois is a very good speaker but not a powerful one; his "rock star" reputation precedes his actual onstage presence IMHO, but he has the competence and quiet confidence to be the man. In any case, Markos has the cogent insight:

... (his) take on where these candidates sit in the race today. My long-term prognostication remains -- I think Obama will win this all by the time votes are counted. But what do I know?

Last month's rankings: 1) Obama, 2) Edwards, 3) Clinton, 4) Richardson, 5) Clark, 6) Kerry, and then everyone else.

THE TOP TIER

1. Hillary Clinton

Her announcement rollout was masterful. She leads in the national polls which, while not indicative of much, is helpful for fundraising and media buzz purposes. She leads all early New Hampshire polls and several of the Iowa ones (though numbers are all over the place suggesting that no one knows how to poll these early states, this far out).

Iraq is already giving her fits, and will present a long-term problem for her campaign. But for now, most people are blissfully unaware of her Iraq record.

2. Barack Obama

He has parried off the early attacks skillfully and is getting a great deal of traction on Iraq. He's drawing thousands to his rallies, hinting at a Dean-like popular phenomenon in the makings. He's got huge support in the Facebook world, and is he's neck and neck with Edwards in the Daily Kos straw poll showing strong and growing netroots support.

Oh, and the money will be there. Lots of it.

3. John Edwards

Boy, that blogger stuff wasn't his campaign's finest hour. They betrayed a lack of preparation, foresight, and basic vetting. They were pushed into "bunker" mode by the rantings of Bill Donahue, giving little confidence they'd be able to withstand a serious attack from the VRWC. Then, the campaign leaked like a sieve -- were the bloggers fired or not? Then, the campaign did the right thing and held tight on the bloggers, but didn't tell them they shouldn't blog elsewhere. A couple of days later, the bloggers resign anyway, giving the right wingers a scalp.

The good thing is that this happened so early that it won't register as even a blip in a few months. And hopefully the campaign learned some good lessons out of this.

Otherwise, the Edwards campaign appears to have been overshadowed by the battle of titans between Hillary and Barack. It's not a bad thing for Edwards to see the two front runners beat the shit out of each other while he safely stays out of the fray.


THE SECOND TIER

4. Bill Richardson

Put aside his hokey desire to have the candidates make a pledge to campaign only positively (those things never survive the heat of battle), Richardson is quietly building up support and raising money. In the dKos straw poll, he's the only candidate to gain every one of the last five polls. (Of course, when you start at 1 percent, that's easier to do...)

Of all the announced candidates, Richardson has the greatest potential to break into the top tier.


THE REST

5. Tom Vilsack

Coming out in favor of social security price indexing was rather odd for a Democratic candidate.

But he's the former governor of Iowa, so that might count for something.

6. Joe Biden

His announcement week was a nightmare.

7. Chris Dodd

His remarks at the DNC and AFSCME cattle calls were generally well received.

8. Dennis Kucinich

Ugh.

9. Mike Gravel

I'm not sure what Gravel thinks he's bringing to the table that isn't being covered by other, viable candidates.

10. Wesley Clark

He's not even in the race, has no operation, and his public profile is fading as the rest of the field takes center stage. This is the last time I include him in either the straw poll or cattle call unless he announces. He's bleeding support in the Daily Kos straw poll as people lose interest and move to other candidates. Given that his big mistake in 2003 was waiting too long before entering the race, it's crazy to think that he's going to make the same mistake again (and the race is definitely accelerated this year). So I'm starting to assume he's not going to run.


Some of this I agree with wholeheartedly, some -- as with his dismissal of Kucinich -- is just typically arrogant Kos. I'm not as certain as he that Obama will be the nominee as I write today. Biden ought to be the first one to drop out, even ahead of Gravel. Vilsack will quit after his home state loss and endorse Hillary (surprise). Update (10 am): LOL --or maybe a bit sooner.

At this point I don't know what General Clark could be waiting for, either.

Update II (3 pm): Chris Cillizza's line is nearly identical. He places Dodd in fifth, and ranks the Repubs McCain, Guiliani/Romney tied for second, then Brownback and Huckabee.

Update III (4 pm): Kos explains his "ugh".

Remembering DJ


Dennis Johnson skywalking in 1979, with the Seattle SuperSonics.

He passed away yesterday outside a basketball court in Austin, stricken by an imponderable illness for an athlete who spent most of his life in top aerobic condition.

In 1987, against the Detroit Pistons in game 5 of the conference finals, "Bird stole the ball!" but it was DJ who took the feed and put in the layup that won the game and broke the Pistons' backs.

He won three rings, one with Seattle and two in Boston, and was the MVP of the Finals in '79. Larry Bird said he was the best he'd ever played with.

Considering Bird played with HoFers McHale, Parrish, and Walton, that's a pretty high compliment.

Following his playing days he became a coach, for a short time with the Clippers in Los Angeles but with the Austin Toros of the Developmental League when he suddenly collapsed following the team's practice. The Statesman has more on the life of Dennis Johnson.

Rest in peace, DJ.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Yes, it's a pretty crappy picture

And how close did you get to Barack Obama this evening?

John and Martha got just as close and with better cameras. When they post one of their pictures, I'll link ya. Until then ...

Update: Here's Martha's. Hal was there, too.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday bloggerhea

My father-in-law will have spinal surgery this afternoon. Say a little (whatever you say in this case). Update -- 4:30 pm: Surgery rescheduled for Friday morning.

--These are the photos of ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff's injuries and rehabilitation. Not too graphic.

-- Texans can contact their state representatives through this link and call for a moratorium on the death penalty. I believe even those who support capital punishment would not be in favor of executing innocent men, as Texas has probably done at least three times (their names were Cameron Willingham, Ruben Cantu, and Carlos de Luna).

-- Like Joe Wilson and FBI translator Sybil Edmonds, Jesselyn Radack was targeted by the Bush administration as an enemy of the state. Her offense was that she advised the Justice Department about the ethical restraints that applied to their pursuit of "the bad guys". Bush (and conservatives) like to say they're fighting the "war on terror" there, so we don't have to fight it here. The reality, as Radack makes clear, is that they actually are conducting a war of terror against American citizens here.

--
Senator Tim Johnson has left the hospital and entered a rehabilitation facility, where he will continue his recovery from a brain hemorrhage. My mother Jean, who had her knee replaced last Thursday, has likewise made the same transition from hospital to rehab this week. Now with both a bionic knee and hip, she will soon be able to kick Lindsay Wagner's ass.

Let's go for a walk soon, Mom.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Tuesday postpourri


Tony Soprano, King of Bacchus.

Since I'm an XM subscriber, I hope this is good news.

How dare they expect justice?

D.C. news: A Fort Worth girl makes good. Meanwhile, net neutrality continues to be high-profile. And a military amputee was purposely left off the invitation list to an event with the president because he might have been photographed by the media.

Even John McCain thinks Don Rumsfeld sucked. Of course, McCain is a confirmed flip-flopper, so who knows how long he'll believe this.

Another reason why I'm glad I never had children:

In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunchboxes, they found that one in five contained amounts of lead that medical experts consider unsafe — and several had more than 10 times hazardous levels.

But that's not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that they found "no instances of hazardous levels." And they refused to release their actual test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.

That data was not made public until the Associated Press received a box of about 1,500 pages of lab reports, in-house e-mails and other records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed a year ago.


Which of these things is not like the other?


Fucking moron.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Obama, Edwards, Richardson/Clark, Other (probably Gore)

Hillary waaay behind. Biden in last, behind Gravel (LMAO). Clark needs to hurry up and declare before Democrats get enamored with another choice.

Differences between the MyDD and Daily Kos straw polls include a much weaker showing for Clark, a much better showing for Obama, a slightly weaker showing for Kucinich, and a slightly better showing for Edwards. How much of that is due to random error, taking the poll one week later, or the differences in our readerships is difficult to tell.

Four candidates have more last place votes than they have first and second place votes combined: Biden (-30.3), Gravel (-27.7), Kucinich (-11.7) and Clinton (-2.7). Two other candidates, Vilsack (+0.2) and Dodd (+0.9), are just barely positive. Clark comes in at a healthy +19.5, and Richardson is slightly better at +21.1. Edwards finishes in second at +53.2, while Obama places first with +57.2.

Edwards and Obama have such large leads in both first place and second place votes, that it appears either would become the clear netroots frontrunner if the other were to drop out. This certainly makes one wonder if the so-called "anti-Hillary" vote is being split, both online and offline.

Obamarama coming to H-Town

Sunday Funnies

(click to read a larger view)






Homophobia and the NBA

The NBA came into full bloom this past week (or is that came out). The quotes from Tim Hardaway, John Amaechi, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, and David Stern, in that order:

"First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room."

When show host Dan Le Batard told Hardaway those comments were "flatly homophobic" and "bigotry," the player continued.

"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people," he said. "I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."


Hardaway apologized but was removed from any NBA-related activities for this weekend's All-Star game.


"I'm actually tempted to laugh. Finally, someone who is honest. It is ridiculous, absurd, petty, bigoted and shows a lack of empathy that is gargantuan and unfathomable. But it is honest. And it illustrates the problem better than any of the fuzzy language other people have used so far.... His words pollute the atmosphere. It creates an atmosphere that allows young gays and lesbians to be harassed in school, creates an atmosphere where in 33 states you can lose your job, and where anti-gay and lesbian issues are used for political gain. It's an atmosphere that hurts all of us, not just gay people."


Amaechi is an impressive man. (I might have said 'articulate' if this had happened a few weeks ago.) Barkley:

"You don't think we've all played with gay guys? Of course we have. It has never been an issue. America, the more I live in it, the more I realize how full of it we are. If we're not bombing the wrong country, we're not fixing hurricane-relief areas. America is homophobic. It's so easy for (reporters) to say the other jocks won't like it."


Shaq:

"If he was on my team, I guess I would have to protect him from the outsiders."

And finally Commissioner Stern:

"This is an issue overall that has fascinated America. It’s not an NBA issue," Stern said, pointing to the ongoing debate over gay marriage at the state and federal levels. "This is a country that needs to talk about this issue. And, not surprisingly, they use sports as a catalyst to begin the dialogue."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

February is Black History Month

Worthy of reminder until we get it right. I corrected a couple of misspellings but only wish I could write this well:

In what has been aptly described as the greatest speech of the 20th century, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in part, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood." Dr. King was cruelly cut down by an assassin's bullet too soon to learn that science would give great weight to his stirring vision.

Within our cells are tiny organelles called mitochondria. They reproduce asexually, one indication of a possible origin as free living bacteria. Mitochondria are passed on to human children by the mother. Geneticists have analyzed that mtDNA use techniques that compare and contrast similarities in the individual letters of the genetic code. This molecular clock is one method to gauge how closely or distantly we are each related to one another. And it turns out that all humans alive today can trace their mitochondrial ancestry back to a single female who lived about 150,000 years ago. She's been dubbed Mitochondrial Eve.

MT Eve is not the only female ancestor shared by all humans. She's our most recent common ancestor exclusively via matrilineal descent. You have the DNA of your father's mother in your nuclear genome -- it's a fair bet we picked up an allele here or a sequence there from archaic hominid populations living around the same time -- but mitochondrial DNA comes from the female line, ultimately converging on Eve. Fossil evidence independently supports the idea that anatomically modern humans come from a small band of people that evolved near Kenya about 160,000 - 200,000 years ago.

February is Black History month. We honor the contributions of African-Americans and reflect honestly on the challenges many still face in fully securing the rights and privileges that others take for granted. But black history could also be accurately cast as Human History. Because biology reveals that we descend from such a small clan in the geologically recent past, the 'sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners' are brothers. The emerging scientific consensus is that each and every one of us belongs to a single African family, surname H. sapiens.

As a family, we have yet to reach the promised land of complete social equality that Dr. King envisioned. It is regrettable to say the least that some of our siblings still happily stoke the fires of prejudice for even a glimmer of political profit. But other family members have made great strides toward creating a just society, where our children are judged 'not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character'. Here's to hoping we swiftly finish making one African's Dream a reality for all.

Friday, February 16, 2007

There goes the judge

As we suspected, Harris County Judge Robert Eckels pulled the chain yesterday:

"A friend once told me, 'You never become what you want to be while remaining where you are.' Harris County is moving forward, and it's time for me to do the same."


I think that's "who" you are, Bob, but nevermind. Before we say goodbye (and don'tletthedoorhitchawheretheGoodLordsplitcha) let's note that we probably haven't heard the last from you:

He was set to run for attorney general or lieutenant governor last year if U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison had decided not to seek re-election and those top state officials sought her job. Instead, she sought and won another term, as did Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Eckels said he still aspires to statewide office and could run in 2008 or 2010 while working in the private sector.


"I'll be seeing you
in all the old familiar places ..."


Speculation may now center on his replacement. A few days ago a front-runner surged:

The three (Eckels, Jerry Eversole and Steve Radack, all Republicans) told the Chronicle last week that Ed Emmett (scroll to second entry) a transportation consultant and former state representative, was a possible consensus candidate for the post. But today, the judge also mentioned District Clerk Charles Bacarisse as a candidate for the job.


Houston's most diminutive blogger announces that former HCDP chair David Mincberg will run in 2008. Hat tip to the ubiquitous Off the Kuff, who blogs onward with his now-two young daughters in tow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Valentine's Day Teddy


Teddi, to be precise.

Chow mix, 8 weeks old, wonderful disposition. Going to get her shots in about two hours, then a bath. That's why she's pouting.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"It's not a bug, it's a feature"

Today the Texas Democratic Party filed suit against the secretary of the state of Texas, Roger Williams, claiming voter disenfranchisement. The electronic voting machines used in many Texas counties, called e-Slates, have routinely counted undervotes on straight-ticket ballots -- in effect subtracting a vote -- when a voter would additionally pick a Democratic candidate on their ballot. You can read the announcement here.

I want to separate this paragraph from the press release for some greater examination:

On the eSlate machines, when a voter chooses a straight-ticket vote and then continues to select candidates of the same political party to “emphasize” their vote, the machine actually records the vote for that race as a no vote. This is inconsistent with the tabulation of absentee paper ballots in those counties, as well as electronic voting machines used in other counties across the state. The irregularities relating to the eSlate voting system have affected the outcome at least one race, located in Madison County. However, there are 101 other Texas counties that employed these machines in the 2006 election.

Additionally, the Secretary of State’s office is required to test all voting machines used in Texas elections and knew of the irregularities related to the eSlate machines, which are manufactured by Hart Intercivic. Yet Secretary Williams allowed the machines to be used anyway.


Hart InterCivic was an old-fashioned printer for the state government before they got into the e-voting business. They got into that business shortly after Tom Hicks -- Bush Pioneer and owner of the Texas Rangers, aka the man who made Dubya rich -- invested heavily in the company in 1999.

Here's where things get interesting:

Hart representatives have always claimed that emphasis voting is not a programming error but a standard function of e-Slates. That explanation still puts their machines in violation of Texas election law, which states that votes must be tabulated and recorded "uniformly" throughout the Great State. Hart, though, is not named as a defendant in the litigation; Secretary Williams, as supervisor of elections, must certify the voting mechanisms in Texas. All of them, whether paper ballot or DRE. Thus the heart of the matter, and the basis for the voter disenfranchisement complaint.

The Office of Attorney General will defend Williams in this filing. There'll be more to say here as the case goes forward.

And some days it lifts you up

-- Dixie Chicks CD sales were up 1641% in the 24-hour period following Sunday night's Grammys, which they swept. On tap: Al Gore's Oscar for Inconvenient Truth.

-- The Washington state legislature wants to be the first (among many) to compel the US House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings. Against both the president and vice-president.

-- I had the luxury of watching some college baseball in Houston this weekend; specifically the tops-in-the-nation-ranked Rice Owls and the #5- ranked Vanderbilt Commodores. Suffice it to say that the Owls won't be ranked #1 again for some time. The Houston Press has a great story on everybody's All-American, Joe Savery.

-- "Why is Texas red???" I don't think it will continue to be much longer.

-- A special linky-dink for my regular commenter Bev. The de-geeked version (and yes, Bev and I are mad geeky about this) is: a vendor shill who gets to write voting system standards for the whole damn country -- with the EAC's blessing, of course -- is being investigated by the IEEE because some of the good guys, who are also IEEE members, wrote to them and complained. If the bad guys are sacked, there will likely be less opposition to e-voting standards that require simplified and standardized audit ability, reliability and that sort of thing.

More later today on what Texas Democrats are doing about their DREs.

-- apologies to James Blunt, but I agree with Weird Al that he's pitiful:

Never had a date
That ya couldn't inflate
And ya smell repulsive too
What a bummer bein' you

Well ya just can't dance
And forget romance
Everybody you know still calls ya
Farty Pants

But you always have a job well I mean

As long as you still can work that Slurpie machine

You're pitiful
You're pitiful
You're pitiful
It's true

-- muse's excellent Science Behind Driving to Florida in a Diaper is a Valentine's Day don't-miss.

Some days the news will bring you down

-- Amanda Marcotte has resigned from the John Edwards campaign. There's going to be some major payback for this. Update (today, p.m.): And now Melissa McEwan as well. We're going to the mattresses, you right-wing freaks.

-- North Korea appears to have rolled over on its nuclear program. It wasn't all a bluff, was it? Did they reach critical mass and then decide to cash in on some Western concessions, figuring they can restart quickly anytime they need to?

-- Ari Fleischer just might be the source of the CIA/Plame leak, at least according to the WaPo's Walter Pincus. Of course, he's been granted immunity, so ... so what? Novacula claims it was Karl Rove and Richard Armitage. Moneyshot quote from Patrick Fitzgerald, to NYT reporter David Sanger: "I believe you're the third Pulitzer prize winner to testify this morning."

-- A scathing indictment of the media by Sheila Samples. Leading off from Hunter S. :

Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits - a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage."


-- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Oh yesss, there's more:

If the Bush administration and the US mainstream media are united on any one issue, it's an absolute refusal to rock the political boat as they sail mercilessly through the seas of corporate profit on the good ship Terrorbush. For the most part, each group is an incurious lot -- undead creatures who neither care, nor dare, to glance over the side of the ship at the bloated, swirling bodies in the blood-red water below. From the beginning, their mission has been to perform so fantastically against a backdrop of such violent, explosive madness on so many fronts that we watch hypnotically but do not see -- listen intently but do not hear.


I can't add a thing. Read it all. Greg also has some less coarse but still worthy linkage on this subject, but per usual you have to rapidly scroll past his Hillary cheerleading.

-- an article in the Toronto Star ponders the "management" of environmental collapse.

-- the FBI is still losing laptops and weapons:

"Most troubling, we found that the FBI could not determine for 51 additional lost or stolen laptops whether they contained sensitive or classified information," the report said. "Seven of these 51 laptops were assigned to the counterintelligence or counterterrorism divisions."


You don't suppose someone could be selling them to someone else, do you? It's almost as nauseating as this:

But what was said to be an effort to protect the United States became a tool by which the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Pat Roberts (R-KS) ensured there was no serious investigation into how the administration fixed the intelligence that took the United States to war in Iraq or the fabricated documents used as evidence to do so.


-- and as the evidence accumulates that the White House is cooking up a similarly bad batch of intelligence on Iran, the media outside the United States report that we are almost ready to begin the air strikes.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tex-centric scattershooting

... while wondering whatever happened to all those morons who hated on the Dixie Chicks ...

-- I disagree with Greg more often than not on matters of political candidates we favor, but we agree on Barack Obama (just for different reasons initially). Obama will speak in Austin on February 23rd.

-- Charles Kuffner's new baby, Audrey, is born. Pictures.

-- the lawsuit by the Texas Democratic Party and against the Attorney General of Texas, the Secretary of State, and others for e-voting irregularities and illegalities may finally be filed this week. A press conference is slated for tomorrow to publicly discuss the case.

-- one of my favorite people (not to mention bloggers) is managing the campaign of Melissa Noriega for Houston city council. Noriega's husband Rick serves in the Texas Lege, was the commander for the city's Katrina-related evacuee efforts, and while serving in Afghanistan as a reservist asked his wife to mind his House seat. She did so well she earned "Freshman of the Year" honors from her colleagues. She's running to replace the odious Shelley Sekula-Gibbs on council; there's a fundraiser this Friday in Fort Bend county.

-- a report with pictures on the "Stop the Coal Rush!" rally yesterday at the Capitol.

-- my man David is still fightin' 'em -- on the ice, in the rain, out back in the alley, and everywhere else he can find 'em. Read the latest installments here or at Texas Kaos.

-- via Texas Moratorium Network, I learned about and attended the opening of the Death Penalty Art Show at M-2, an art gallery in the Heights on Saturday. The exhibits are thought-provoking and emotional. If you can go see it this week, then by all means do so. Update (2/13): People are talking about it.

Vindication

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Feith-based intelligence

Marty Kaplan will never work on a presidential campaign after this: "If only Doug Feith had big tits."

More moneyshot quotes this week ...

"I don't want my 17-year-old son to have to pick tomatoes or make beds in Las Vegas."


-- Karl Rove, who apparently didn't get the memo about the robust US economy

"Why are you making these statements?" (vice presidential counsel David) Addington asked White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

"Your boss is the one who wanted" them, Bartlett replied, referring to Cheney.

...

"We're a day late in getting responses to the story," Rove told a staff meeting, according to Libby's notes.

"Get the full story out," Cheney told aides, according to Libby's grand jury testimony.


-- Testimony this week from the trial of Scooter Libby. Addington is the fellow who replaced Libby, and who also has provided the legal opinion that Dick Cheney is above the law.


"I'd like them to stop. They should do a show where torture backfires."


-- Army Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, about the hit television show "24", which routinely depicts the use of torture to extract information to prevent terrorist attacks. Update (2/13): More from ThinkProgress.

"I thought about calling in sick, but my bosses would figure it out pretty quickly. 'Oh, you were sick, were you? I saw your picture. Nice try.'" Besides, "I've been to enough fashion shows to know how fun they are," she said, rolling her eyes ever so slightly. "My first show ever was Heatherette when I was a freshman and Amanda Lepore came out naked, wearing just lipstick. I'm completely spoiled. Every time I see a show now, it's like, 'Really? That's all you're going to do? You just want me to look at the clothes?'"


--eldest Bush twin Barbara, on skipping New York fashion shows because she had to work

Friday, February 09, 2007

Burn vouchers, not coal

The education elites in Texas are preparing another frontal assault on public schools. They had a rally, they've got support from Governor 39% and Lite Governor Dewfus, and the Republicans in the Lege are going to try again to get something done on vouchers. My blog hermanos push back. Capitol Annex:

I double dog dare Leininger to approach some African Americans or Latinos who lived through the Civil Rights Movement in Texas and tell them how vouchers are a civil right. If he comes out alive, I’d love to hear what he has to say.


Burnt Orange (Sam Jones):

Yes indeed; those poor, poor children. I know it must be terrifying for some to think of sending their kids through the public school system. With the failing test scores, prevailing presence of drugs and gangs, and the underpaid teacher force, it's a wonder that any of us went to public school at all...


Texas Kaos (lightseeker):

Texas yearly per pupil spending is $1,239. The schools are supposed to get 60% of that from the state and the rest from local property taxes. The state has consistently underfunded their part. This is one of the reasons for the endless increases in local property taxes. In addition, the state has continually tacked on more and more unfunded mandates on the local districts, further complicating their funding woes.


Charles Kuffner:

It's just a shame that no one ran against State Sen. Kyle Janek, who will be filing a pro-voucher bill, last year. Maybe he'd have met the same fate as some of Leininger's other minions. Some people need the message delivered to them personally, I guess.


South Texas Chisme:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation responds using Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, data. These people don't believe in pre-K education.


Hal at Half Empty:

I think it’s time for James Leininger to take stock of his grand plan. He has fewer supporters in the legislature in this session than last, and the vote just isn’t there. Besides that, he has just illustrated for us one of the less obvious reasons why school voucher programs are a bad idea. What if someone pulls the plug on the voucher system, like Leininger plans to do with his program? Private schools will turn out their voucher students by the thousands, leaving them no choice but to go back to the public schools, which will have no choice but to admit them. These will be schools that will have been underfunded for years because the voucher system redirected funds from public schools to private schools.

And another reason to rethink school vouchers? No one wants them.


So my solution is that we gather up all the vouchers and use them to generate the electricity that TXU wants to build coal-burning plants for. Speaking of rallies, "Stop the Coal Rush!" will be the fun one this weekend.

And when we finally run out of those, we can burn James Leininger and his sycophants in Austin, because that natural gas will last for centuries.

Diaper-free, Anna-free edition

The media is simply so fixated on human foible this week that I am forced to turn it off. Here is some news that really matters:

-- A young woman died and you won't hear about her on your teevee. But you ought to. Update: Make that two young women.

-- An interrogator of Iraqis gets paid back with his nightmares:

The lead interrogator at the (division interrogation facility) had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.


This fellow's war wounds are about the best a veteran could hope for.

-- Dick Cheney was expected to testify for the defense in the trial of Scooter Libby, but now it is believed that he won't, because a cross-examination by Patrick Fitzgerald would likely damage their case beyond repair. Following Tim Russert's testimony an old report surfaced with this quote: "Integrity is for paupers."

This case has revealed the worst about the lies of this administration and the corporate media that protects them.

-- Both the House Sergeant-at-Arms and the White House press secretary have refuted Republican whining about the airplane Speaker Pelosi is to use. Yet they still whine.

-- Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to be court-martialed for refusing to fight in Bush's War, got a mistrial this week. Apparently the judge panicked. And the case will be argued as double jeopardy if a re-trial proceeds as planned.

-- New Orleans residents (the middle class Caucasian ones this time) are bailing out.

-- Ellen Goodman reminds us that global warming may not be able to change the Washington political climate:

I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future. ...

The folks at the Pew Research Center clocking public attitudes show that global warming remains 20th on the annual list of 23 policy priorities. Below terrorism, of course, but also below tax cuts, crime, morality, and illegal immigration. ...

This great divide comes from the science-be-damned-and-debunked attitude of the Bush administration and its favorite media outlets. The day of the report, Big Oil Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma actually described it as "a shining example of the corruption of science for political gain." Speaking of corruption of science, the American Enterprise Institute, which has gotten $1.6 million over the years from Exxon Mobil, offered $10,000 last summer to scientists who would counter the IPCC report. ...

Whatever we do today, we face long-range global problems with a short-term local attention span. We're no happier looking at this global thermostat than we are looking at the nuclear doomsday clock.

Can we change from debating global warming to preparing? Can we define the issue in ways that turn denial into action? In America what matters now isn't environmental science, but political science.

We are still waiting for the time when an election hinges on a candidate's plans for a changing climate.


--and something to laugh at: Cheney and Rumsfeld combined means two heads, but still one giant asshole.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Weather forecast: heavy shitstorms over Edwards

-- John Edwards has put himself in a world of pain regarding his campaign's mishandling of le affaire' bloggereuite. I read Sean-Paul and Kuffner, then went to Amanda's Pandagon and Melissa's Shakespeare's Sister, and back and forth between MyDD and Kos and then over to the Edwards blog (this diary by Uncle Jimbo was particularly confusing at first) and for the life of me, I still cannot determine if the women were fired or not, or whether they may have been rehired if they were fired.

That meets my definition of a clusterfuck.

Ian summarizes the choice for Edwards (and for me) well. This won't be over until the candidate himself clears it up. And it may be over for him even then.

Update (12:55 p.m.): The weather's clearing up. Like Chris, I thought this went too long and still isn't quite hitting the right note, but is certainly the right move. McBlogger has his usual flattering response, with which I also concur. And the Times has an adequate summary also.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Edwards, Obama, Clark, Other/No Freakin' Clue

With nearly twenty-five thousand unique respondents in the monthly straw poll at Daily Kos, that's the order of finish. In a head-to-head face off, John Edwards bests Barack Obama 51-42% with 5% picking neither (15.5 thousand votes).

Dennis Kucinich is favored slightly over Hillary Clinton, both with about 4% of the tally. General Clark will probably get a bump in this poll next month when he finally announces.

In traditional polling in Iowa, Clinton leads Edwards and Obama 35/18/14 with Gov. Vilsack running fifth in his home state, behind "undecided" at 13%. ARG has the GOP race Giuliani, McCain, Gingrich 27/22/16 with 15% undecided, Romney in fifth at 11%. And in the Granite State, it's currently Hillary 35, Obama 21, Edwards 16, Undecided 14. Al Gore is fifth with 8%.

This is the only time of the election cycle I find polling really interesting, because its one-use-only effect (similar to that of toilet paper or a certain Supreme Court decision) is even more pronounced. It's really like handicapping a horse race within the first fifteen seconds or so, about enough time for them to reach the first turn. Which is to say it's kind of ridiculous (but still fun).

And while the Republican candidates have begun using Houston and Texas as their ATM early, the Democratic candidates are staying away in droves. Except for Kucinich, who will be in San Antonio next month as the guest of the Progressive Populist Caucus, the Progressive Democrats of America, and the Progressive Action Alliance.

Who do you favor at this early stage of the game?

Update (2/9) The candidates tracked back since July '05.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Explosive bloggerrhea

-- Republican presidential hopefuls invade Houston, carry off giants wads of money.

-- Space News: This is what happens when astronauts flip out. Apparently their training is just like high school; whooda thunk? I've had some recent experience with adult diapers ( with my poor in-laws) and I find it a little unsettling that anyone would voluntarily don one for a long road trip.

Also, we've littered our upper atmosphere with thousands of pieces of junk. One of the thirty-six ways to know when your empire is crumbling is when the guys that are gearing up their empire to replace yours start blowing up satellites in space.

-- Twenty questions answered about impeaching a vice-president. I have three words for this: Git 'er done.

-- The US attorneys across the country who were recently pink-slipped by Abu Gonzales shed some light on the reasons behind their firings.

-- "It is a cross between rotten cheese, dog poo and something dead." No, not Cheney's undisclosed location, not even that crazy astronaut's diaper, but the Corpse Flower. And it's blooming early.

-- I have written about my wife's family previously, but have not written about their Jewish ancestry. My father-in-law's name is Israel; his mother is buried there. His brothers in New York and New Jersey are mostly Orthodox. One of them even goes so far as to keep pareve toothpaste in the house. This article tells about the fate of Jews in Cuba since the rise of Castro.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Super Bowl postpourri

-- There is a case to be made for the impeachment of Dick Cheney.

-- Global warming news: The world's leading scientists, evangelical Christian groups, and even the CEOs of BP, DuPont, GE, Duke Energy and others all asked Bush to require limits on greenhouse gases this year, but he has refused. The intergovernmental report on climate change that was panned as too cheery even before it was released was also undermined by a conservative think tank: scientists were offered bribes by the American Enterprise Institute.

-- Joe Biden is going to establish a new land speed record for shortest presidential campaign. He is the Apollo I of White House wannabes (all apologies to Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee). Then again, however he thought it possible to out-DLC Hillary -- and Tom Nutsack, for that matter -- should have been a red flag on his political acumen. At least he won't be plagiarizing anyone's speeches.

Al Sharpton told him he bathed every day. Priceless.

-- The 2008 federal budget strips $1.3 billion out of Louisiana's levees, prompting outrage even from Republican senator and Cajun right-wing freak David Vitter:

"I am deathly afraid that this vital emergency post-Katrina work is now being treated like typical (Army Corps of Engineers) projects that take decades to complete. We will not recover if this happens."


-- Watching some of the old Super Bowl highlights on ESPN this time of year is a real treat. Regarding this year's game, I like the Bears to shut down Peyton Manning and cover the 6 1/2 point spread, if not win outright. If the Texans can do it, the Bears sure can. As it has been all season, it comes down to how well Rex Grossman plays.

In the vein of football-on-the-brain, here's a few of the people we are all bound to encounter at our Super Bowl parties this Sunday. "Fantasy Football Guy" manages to show up at mine every single year. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, a sad article from Dan Wetzel on the steep price NFL vets have paid, both in terms of disability and for playing the game when the money was lousy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Commissioners Court Shuffle

The third largest county in the United States may soon have a vacancy at the top of the food chain:

Harris County Judge Robert Eckels said Wednesday he is mulling offers from the private sector and can't rule out walking away from the four-year term he just won in November.

An early resignation would create a political whirlwind in county government, where officials serve without term limits and open seats are rare.


Eckels, a Republican, has political ambitions extending beyond these on-the-table offers to make a big pile of money; his name was mentioned frequently in the DeLay-apalooza last summer. But his current job gives him oversight which spans all or part of seven congressional districts, so his interest is likely as a statewide candidate. Houtopia (much better connected than me) handicaps the potential replacements:


Some names that have surfaced on the GOP side as possible replacements are Jerry Eversole, Ned Holmes, or Paul Bettencourt. Eversole would seem more of a placeholder. If he left his Commissioner's seat to take the job, there would likely be a wide-open Republican primary for County Judge in 2008, whether Eversole wanted to keep the position or not.

Holmes, a longtime party donor, hugely successful businessman and former Port Authority Chairman, if appointed, would be a daunting opponent for 2008 challengers. First of all, he could self-fund, he would be a smooth, telegenic candidate, and he has a ton of favors to cash in -- the guy's raised money for or given to every candidate and elected official in town. Nobody wants to take him on in a GOP primary.

Then there's Bettencourt. The darling of the anti-tax conservative crowd (ironic when you think of to whom you write your enormous property tax check each year), the current Tax Assessor-Collector has one rather large obstacle -- (Commissioner Steve) Radack. That's right folks, they too are mortal enemies. So, the interim appointment is probably out for Bettencourt, though he may well look at 2008.


Keir also slips in a mention of the Democrats' chances:

After all, the average downballot countywide Dem candidate got about 48.5% of the vote in 2006, with terrible base voter turnout and absolutely no coordinated effort. All signs point to Harris County tipping back to the Democrats in the near future, so they would be crazy not to mount a serious challenge for this seat in 2008, particularly considering the dramatically higher base Democratic voter turnout in a presidential year. ...

The two names most often mentioned are former City Council Member Gordon Quan and former Party Chair and real estate investor David Mincberg. Both would be strong candidates.


Local politics could get a lot more interesting if Judge Eckels decides to bail.

"How the hell has Condoleeza Rice got away with it for so long?"

Cragg Hines, DC bureau chief for the Chronic (I love him mostly because he drives these people batshit) serves:

A cheeky Brit pol is ragging on the bearer of the Vestalian aura within the Bush crowd, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

What's more, the guy is a leading light in the Conservative Party, once such great chums with Bush's Republicans. ...

And the incipient backbiting I'd hope this guy's screed generates could make the dust-up between Rice, incensed professional woman, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California flamer-mother, look like the sitcom episode it was.

Actually, Johnson's extended paragraph could have been dictated by any number of Rice's erstwhile allies in the American conservative movement. Johnson knows some of the same folks I do who have been dishing Condi's intellectual capacity and judgment from the get-go.


Here's the extended paragraph he refers to, from the blog of MP Boris Johnson (bold emphasis added to make it easier to read):

It is one of the great mysteries of modern geopolitics. How the hell has Condoleezza Rice got away with it for so long? There she is, Secretary of State of the United States and one of the most powerful people on the planet. It is Condi Rice who leads on behalf of you, me, the entire Western world, in waging this deepening Cold War with Iran. She is the girl who threatens Ahmedinejad with Armageddon, or whatever our policy is. And yet if you read State of Denial by Bob Woodward (as you must) it is clear that she was the most stupefyingly incompetent National Security Adviser in the history of that office. She was warned, in some detail, about 9/11. The CIA made a special trip to see her on 10 July 2001 to say that al-Qa'eda was planning something huge and imminent, and that a 'strategic' response was necessary. Uh-huh, said Condi, and did zip; and at every stage in the catastrophic 'War on Terror' her behaviour is characterised by this same weird zen-like passivity. Soon after the invasion the question emerges: should the US send many more troops? Condi somehow fails to offer an opinion. The Americans' first hapless proconsul, Jay Garner, asks her before setting out what the game plan is. Where is power to reside? he asks. Who do we want to run the country? You might have thought this was a fairly crucial question, but 'Rice said nothing.' When Garner's successor, Jerry Bremer, makes the appalling mistake of de-Baathifying Iraq, she doesn't seem to grasp the significance of what is going on. And yet she was so important in the decision-making process that she was one of only two people consulted by Bush before he made his decision to go to war. The whole thing is terrifying. I absolutely refuse to take seriously any American urgings to get tough on Iran as long as she is still part of the show. Rumsfeld was demonised until Bush finally whacked him. Colin Powell was whacked. How come Condi is still flying around telling us what to do? One of the many reasons for regretting the death of Robin Cook, Labour's conscience over Iraq, is that he never had the chance to interrogate her. I was all set to write the headline, 'Cook Turns Up Heat On Rice.' It's about time someone did.


At every critical point in her administration tenure Rice has been out to lunch, literally or figuratively; shopping for shoes and attending Broadway plays while New Orleans drowned being the most obvious and appalling example.

She initially forgot about a briefing from George Tenet on July 10, 2001 regarding the al-Qaeda threats in advance of 9/11, but later on when her recall improved she also remembered that she had asked that former AG John Ashcroft receive the same briefing one week later. (He also currently disavows recollection of his briefing, yet something happened during mid- to late July -- six weeks before the World Trade Center towers were hit -- that scared Ashcroft so badly he ceased flying commercial aircraft.)

She confused Bush as being her "husb..." even though she's never been married.

Finally, when Bush asked Rice to focus on Iraq when she was still at NSA he said her job was "to help unstick things that may get stuck, is the best way to put it. She's an unsticker."

Now there's an unsettling visual.