Friday, March 30, 2007
New view (also the TMC, from the west looking east):
We traded up a little, indeed.
Regular posting to resume in short order.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
-- OSHA don't come around here no more (which is probably why the refineries blow up so frequently).
-- The connection between the US attorney purge and the Texas Youth Commission sexual abuse scandal is noted by Czolgosz at DU: the president's appointees in the US attorney's office dropped the indictment in connection with the failure of oversight by the governor's appointees at the Texas Youth Commission, where minors in state custody were raped.
Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski explains:
"... I decided to file the case federally. An assistant US attorney in San Antonio and one from Washington D.C. came down and interviewed the victims. Following that," (the DoJ attorneys) "prepared an indictment but had to pass it up the chain of command for approval to prosecute. In the end, they didn’t get that approval because in essence, they could only be charged with misdemeanors under federal law. Federal law requires ' bodily injury' to make civil rights violations a felony".
Here is the actual email he sent setting out the sickening background. (It's a .pdf file.)
The assistant US attorney for the Western district of Texas, Bill Baumann, further explained that he dropped the indictment because "a felony charge under 18 U.S.C section 242 can also be predicated on the commission of 'aggravated sexual abuse' or the attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse. The offense of aggravated sexual abuse is proven with evidence that the perpetrator knowingly caused his victim to engage in a sexual act... by using force against the victim... Although none of the victims admit that they consented to the sexual contact, none resisted or voiced any objection to the conduct."
Yes, I'm sure that's true. More lurid details of this case here.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was informed about the sexual abuse, but his men were busy peeking in little old ladies' bathroom windows (.pdf). The governor's office knew about the sexual abuse as early as
This is truly the worst yet, and it touches all the elements. And all the criminals, in both Washington and Austin.
-- On a lighter note, there is more evidence that Sheila Jackson-Lee just can't stay outside of the camera frame.
-- My soon-to-be-former state representative Borris Miles (only because I'm moving out of his district) threw gasoline on the controversy he started by removing art he deemed objectionable from the Capitol's hallway last week. I called his office and registered my complaint with his active censorship. I found that response more objectionable than the artwork in question, but there are several of my kindred progressive spirits who disagree.
Moving this weekend, so light posting ahead. I'm exchanging representation across the board as a result: trading Cong. Al Green, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, and Miles for John Culberson *puke*, Kyle Janek *meh*, and Ellen Cohen *yay*.
In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantánamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible. Mr. Gates’s appeal was an effort to turn Mr. Bush’s publicly stated desire to close Guantánamo into a specific plan for action, the officials said. In particular, Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo’s continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.
Mr. Gates’s arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said.
As Mr. Gates was making his case, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice joined him in urging that the detention facility be shut down, administration officials said. But the high-level discussions about closing Guantánamo came to a halt after Mr. Bush rejected the approach, although officials at the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department continue to analyze options for the detention of terrorism suspects.
The base at Guantánamo holds about 385 prisoners, among them 14 senior leaders of al Qaeda, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who were transferred to it last year from secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Under the Pentagon’s current plans, some prisoners, including Mr. Mohammed, will face war crimes charges under military trials that could begin later this year.
“The policy remains unchanged,” said Gordon D. Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
Even so, one senior administration official who favors the closing of the facility said the battle might be renewed.
“Let’s see what happens to Gonzales,” that official said, referring to speculation that Mr. Gonzales will be forced to step down, or at least is significantly weakened, because of the political uproar over the dismissal of United States attorneys. “I suspect this one isn’t over yet.”
Pressure mounts on another front, but the prezdent will just go for a bike ride while Dick handles it (meaning he's reloading his shotgun). These people are mostly impervious to this sort of thing.
But I don't think Dick has enough birdshot to stave this one off.
Abandoning habeas corpus and torturing "detainees" are war crimes, plainly and simply. And a couple of this administration's vilest criminals understand that. They will be pursued by rogue elements of democratic justice for as long as they live, long after this administration is removed from power.
But like every other roach in the cupboard, they'll run and hide as long as they can.
Or as long as we allow them to.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
(T)he emails released by the Justice Department seem to have a gap between November 15th and December 4th of last year. ...
The firing calls went out on December 7th. But the original plan was to start placing the calls on November 15th. So those eighteen days are pretty key ones.
I would say this comparison is priceless, except it's just not funny. To be clear, this controversy is largely of the administration's own device. A Gonzales resignation or firing would have quelled it, and though the AG's base of support has eroded to a single person, it's the only one that counts (The Decider). And the talking points for the VRWC include personal attacks on Charles Schumer, but that's simply a smear that will fail to gain traction any place but FreeRepublic.com.
Even Howard Kurtz, long the sycophant to the Bushies, is getting off:
Some anchors and commentators described Bush at his brief news conference yesterday as "angry," but I thought he was trying to sound reasonable. Of course Karl Rove and Harriet Miers will be happy to chat with Democratic investigators, but no troublesome details like transcripts (so the rest of us can find out what was said) or being under oath (to avoid any Scooter Libby problems). And no "partisan fishing expeditions" (unlike the high-minded approach that congressional Republicans took with Bill Clinton, when Dan Burton fired shots at a pumpkin to test his Vince Foster-was-murdered theory.) And please, no Stalinesque "show trials."
Not angry, not defiant. The president was screechy and unhinged yesterday in his press conference regarding the prosecutor firings. Candidly, it frightens me that this man is making decisions about wars, ongoing and imminent. Bush badly needs a diversion, and I hope it doesn't involves bombs.
Update: Anna succinctly provides the looming constitutional crisis.
Update II: Make that "nasty and bumbling".
Monday, March 19, 2007
GONZALES: I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons or if it would, in any way, jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it.
When asked on Meet the Press yesterday morning if he "had any evidence that a U.S. attorney was removed and that removal jeopardized an ongoing investigation," Sen. Chuck Schumer said he does and that the evidence is "becoming more and more overwhelming."
This is why the prosecutor purge is a genuine scandal. Former AG John Ashcroft had a standard spiel for new U.S. attorneys: "You have to leave politics at the door to do this job properly." Maintaining that independence without fear of repercussion is the bedrock principle at stake here.
As the top law enforcement official in each of their jurisdictions, these federal prosecutors have the power to destroy reputations, careers and even lives. They're political appointees, but they're supposed to follow the evidence wherever it leads, without fear or favor. Not only is there clear evidence that the firings were unprecedented and purely politically motivated, but Alberto Gonzales lied about it under oath (see the video entry for January 18) and the White House keeps changing its story.
What conclusion can we draw from this other than they have something to hide?
Namely, that these eight prosecutors were selectively fired because they did not sufficiently politicize their offices -- nor did they succumb to pressure to do so -- only later to be fired for "performance-related" reasons despite receiving exemplary evaluations.
Scooter Libby should have thought to remind Gonzales that it's never the offense but the cover-up that gets you. Every. single. time.
This week there are vigils all across Texas to peacefully protest the continuation of the war in Iraq.Thousands of Christians prayed for peace at an anti-war service Friday night at the Washington National Cathedral, kicking off a weekend of protests around the country to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq.
Afterward, participants marched with battery-operated faux candles through snow and wind toward the White House, where police began arresting protesters shortly before midnight. Protest guidelines require demonstrators to continue moving while on the White House sidewalk.
John Pattison, 29, said he and his wife flew in from Portland, Ore., to attend his first anti-war rally. He said his opposition to the war had developed over time.
"Quite literally on the night that shock and awe commenced, my friend and I toasted the military might of the United States," Pattison said. "We were quite proud and thought we were doing the right thing."
He said the way the war had progressed and U.S. foreign policy since then had forced him to question his beliefs.
"A lot of the rhetoric that we hear coming from Christians has been dominated by the religious right and has been strong advocacy for the war," Pattison said. "That's just not the way I read my Gospel."
The ecumenical coalition that organized the event, Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, distributed 3,200 tickets for the service in the cathedral, with two smaller churches hosting overflow crowds. The cathedral appeared to be packed, although sleet and snow prevented some from attending.
"This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong — and was from the beginning," the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of the event's sponsors, said toward the end of the service to cheers and applause. "This war is ... an offense against God."
In his speech, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, lashed out at Congress for being "too morally inept to intervene" to stop the war, but even more harshly against President Bush.
"Mr. Bush, my Christian brother, we do need a surge in troops. We need a surge in the nonviolent army of the Lord," he said. "We need a surge in conscience and a surge in activism and a surge in truth-telling."
Sunday, March 18, 2007
At the lowest moment in the highest law enforcement office, with criticism pouring in from all sides, including from the president who appointed him, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales made a rare reference last week to his difficult past, speaking defiantly of his determination to weather the controversy over the firing of eight federal prosecutors.
“Let me just say one thing,” Gonzales said. “I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles in my life to become attorney general. I am here not because I give up. I am here because I’ve learned from my mistakes, because I accept responsibility, and because I’m committed to doing my job.”
Gonzales has rarely spoken of the turmoil that has shadowed his family, emphasizing instead an inspirational biography that takes him from a boyhood in a cramped house that lacked hot water all the way to the elbow of a president.
The story is indeed impressive. Gonzales’ parents, Pablo and Maria, met as migrant farmworkers in Texas and settled in Humble, a town north of Houston. Pablo Gonzales worked in construction and later as a maintenance man. He was a hard drinker but a good provider, the story goes, who, with two brothers, built a twobedroom house in which he raised Alberto and seven other children.
The reality, however, as reflected in public records and interviews, is grittier and more tragic. Gonzales’ family members have repeatedly stumbled, creating a bleak counterpoint to his dazzling rise to become the nation’s first Hispanic attorney general.
Gonzales’ father was arrested for drunken driving five times in 17 years, covering much of Gonzales’ childhood and adolescence. Pablo Gonzales died in an industrial accident in 1982 when Gonzales was at Harvard Law School.
A younger brother, Rene Gonzales, died under mysterious circumstances in 1980. In 1991, the same year Alberto Gonzales became one of the first Hispanic partners at the white shoe Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins, his younger sister Theresa pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. Nine years later, while Gonzales was on the Texas Supreme Court, his mother and another brother signed over their houses to a bail bondsman to raise bail for Theresa after she was charged with the same offense.
Most of these details did not arise in his Senate confirmation hearings, even though they might reasonably have been thought to affect his views about crime, drug and alcohol policy, and sentencing — all issues overseen or influenced by an attorney general.
Their omissions illustrate the remarkable extent to which Gonzales, 51, has managed to control the telling of his life story and the impenetrability of his outwardly mild and friendly manner.
They are also a function of Gonzales’ peculiar rise to power, an official whose career in government, first in Texas and then in Washington, has been under the protective wing of a single man. Since 1995, Gonzales has worked exclusively in jobs given to him by George W. Bush.
Sort of clarifies why the Constitution has become so shreddable, doesn't it? The ulitmate lapdog in the penultimate position of protecting his master.
Bush made him, and he can break him just as easily. So far though, the prezdent is acting "pugnacious":
Republicans close to the White House tell CBS News that President Bush is in "his usual posture: pugnacious, that no one is going to tell him who to fire." But sources also said Gonzales' firing is just a matter of time.
The White House is bracing for a weekend of criticism and more calls for Gonzales to go. One source (says) he's never seen the administration in such deep denial, and Republicans are growing increasingly restless for the president to take action.
If Gonzales is not fired, then he should be impeached. Forthwith.
Along with Dr. Frankenstein.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Hillary will be here in Houston tomorrow.
The Republicans are currently being led by the cross-dressing Rudy Giuliani, followed by John McCain, who seems to be fading fast. Romney, Gingrich (who still hasn't declared) and Brownback trail them in single digits.
-- A topic which has received much attention in the blogosphere has been the erupting scandal at the Texas Youth Commission. Incarcerated young people were routinely sexually abused, the entire board of directors has resigned, and now the US Department of Justice is threatening legal action against the state of Texas. Kuffner and Leibowitz have been updating this regularly.
-- Valerie Plame is testifying today on Capitol Hill.
-- Karl Rove and Harriet Myers are also implicated in the firing of federal prosecutors for political purposes. They will likely be subpoenaed by Sen. Patrick Leahy to testify before a Senate committee. The right-wing talking point on this scandal is: "Clinton did it, too!" Not only is it typically disingenuous, it's just pathetic that six years into the Bush Maladministration the conservatives are still bleating about the Big Dog.
Find a new whine, goonbats.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
This surprises me. After reading Booman's take that Abu Attorney General would never resign, I was in complete agreement until reading the account from ThinkProgress, and also the paragraph at the bottom of Dana Milbank's report -- that even Senator Box Turtle has taken out the long knife. That's probably so that he can be first in line to replace him.
And that would create a free-for-all for the vacant Senate seat on both sides. In other Senate news, Rick Noriega was outed by the lads at Texas Blue. Bad move by them, in my opinion. That sort of thing engenders enmity among his House colleagues at a time when he is advancing important legislation.
Lots more to come on several fronts, and I hope I have time to write about it.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Sue's mother was transported to the hospital early Saturday morning (as Sue prepared to depart for Miami and her father's funeral) and remains in ICU with congestive heart failure and possibly pneumonia. Sue's sister -- undergoing her own chemotherapy for lymphoma -- collapsed yesterday in the hospital and was taken a few steps over to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with dehydration and a fever (she went home last night).
This is all the family she has left, and they are having a rough go of it right now. Please keep a warm thought for them in your heart.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Sixty-five teams, three weeks, endless empty brackets and countless hours watching all the action. So you need a primer.
Here are the Sweet 16 things you need to know as the NCAA tournament gets set to tip off.
1. Repeat Gators
Since the John Wooden era ended at UCLA in the mid-1970s, only once has a team repeated as national champions – Duke in 1992 and 1993. There have been some close calls – Georgetown reached the finals in 1985, Arkansas in 1995 and Kentucky even went to overtime in the title game in 1997.
But for the most part, college basketball has been the land of the no-peat. And with the trend of top college players making immediate leaps to the NBA, there was a school of thought that it might never happen again.
Enter the Florida Gators, the defending champions with all five starters back and, after bulldozing the SEC tournament, the No. 1 seed overall. They even have, in the Midwest Region, what appears to be a favorable bracket. ...
2. The four most important players in the tournament
(There may be better players out there, but none are so valuable to their team's fortunes.)
Kevin Durant, Texas -- (more on all four)
Greg Oden, Ohio State
A.J. Graves, ButlerDarren Collison, UCLA
3. Cinderellas (13 seed or worse that are capable of an upset)
Wright State (vs. Pitt) – The Raiders finished the season 23-9, but they started 3-5 as they adjusted to new coach Brad Brownell. Since Christmas, this has been one of the hottest teams in the country. Wright State finished by winning 12 of its final 13 games, including two over Butler, and both the Horizon League regular season and tournament championships. This team is much better than a No. 14 seed.
Davidson (vs. Maryland)
Holy Cross (vs. Southern Illinois)Oral Roberts (vs. Washington State)
And the other thirteen things you need to know are also here.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Friday, March 09, 2007
His family emigrated from Turkey to Cuba sometime after the turn of the century, and he and his wife left Cuba in 1962, carrying only my future wife and a bag of diapers. He left behind a comfortable life -- manager of a rayon plant, a large home with domestic help, sizable assets -- and went initially to Brooklyn, where his double doctorate in chemistry and pharmacology was at first only good enough for a janitorial position in a small pharmacy. By the time he retired in 1982, he was a manager of a chemical plant in Orange, TX and even after, his old employer Allied Signal (now Honeywell) sought his consultative services at the rate of $1,000 a day.
He leaves behind his loving wife, Nilda (they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last month) and two daughters, Nilda Hassell and Sue Dorrell. He will be interred in Miami, Florida.
Vaya con Dios, Papi. Te quiero mucho. Hasta luego.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Brannan had enlisted in the Marine Corps right after high school, learned honor and courage and commitment and Semper Fi, heard bullets whiz by his head, seen friends die, lost his left pinky to a flash-bang grenade. He had lived "in the Bible times," as he liked to say, so for a moment he allowed himself to appreciate the fortuity of this, him, here, sun and grass, in the uniform of a completely different kind.
"You still remember how to put that stuff on?" said Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting.
Brannan nodded. He was weaning himself off "yes, sir" and "no, sir," learning to address his superiors by their first names and nicknames.
The last piece of the uniform was his hat. Brannan, 22, slipped it on nice and snug so it would cover his high-and-tight haircut. Officially, he is still a Marine until he receives his honorable discharge on May 31, so he'll stay clean-shaven and hang dog tags in his locker. The Corps is allowing him to complete his duty with the Padres as an ambassador of sorts, proof that there can be success after war.
"This is about the military," said San Diego CEO Sandy Alderson, a former first lieutenant in the Marines and the man responsible for Brannan being a Padre. "This is about all Iraq veterans. This is about people who are wounded. This is a story that makes everybody feel good.
And it's predicated on the fact that he can actually throw the baseball."
You may have to move past the fact that Cpl. Brannan is being used as a propaganda tool by the military and just appreciate the determination of a proud young man; a patriot, a pitcher.
That is what spring, the time of renewal, is all about. This is the season of Purim, and of Lent. Even as the buds and blooms begin to show their little heads, the cold winter just past (still with some of you, I recognize) reminds us that out of the bare dark nothing comes the beauty of hope, the excitement of unbridled possibility.
Wait a minute; are we still talking baseball?
Monday, March 05, 2007
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Friday, March 02, 2007
-- I rarely recommend our local right-wing blogs, but this is a great posting for Texas Independence Day.
-- Paul Burka has the latest on Debra Danburg and her recovery from cancer.
--via blogHouston, also mostly never recommended, is some detail from KHOU on the high-rise residential construction boom inside the Loop. Another big one downtown broke ground this week. We're in the market for a new abode, with the addition to our family, and this is precisely the style of living we love. Of course, the whining about mobility from the right is already under way. They don't want anything but more and wider lanes for their SUVs and they don't even want to to pay enough taxes to pay for that.
Really, it's kind of hilarious that people who live in Spring can feel any justification whatsoever in complaining about light rail in Houston. Just stay out there in the suburbs, you hicks.
-- Will we execute child molesters in Texas? Maybe, maybe not. Vince has multiple postings live-logging the debate in the Texas House (scroll down to the HB 8 series). In any case, the law's changes won't affect Jon Matthews, unless he is so sick that he can't stop his sexual predation even after he leaves prison in a few years.
-- The guy in Katy who had the pig races across from the mosque was on the Daily Show, and somehow I missed it. Anybody have a link?
Charles Kuffner made a plausible theory out of Markos Moulitsis' postulate regarding the prospects for dumping Senator Box Turtle. Most everything has already been said already, but here's two more cents' worth:
I'm pretty confident that Bill White would rather run for governor than for anything in Washington except the White House. He's a CEO, not a member of the tribe. And even though they are not usually the kind of Democrats we elect in Deep-In-the-Hearta, there are only a few people mentioned who meet the definition of "people-powered candidate". And of those, Lloyd Doggett is likely the guy Kos has in mind. Doggett has won a statewide race in the not-so-distant past (state Supreme Court) and he's sitting on a pile of money. Doggett would be an excellent candidate and an even better Senator.
Though my very first choice would be Rick Noriega.
Which reminds me that I haven't been as supportive -- online or off -- of Melissa's race for Houston city council as I intended to be.
This woman is a political powerhouse in her own right. She could have easily had the career in public service that her husband has, had that been her choice. There are some people who are just lifted by circumstance to serve, and Melissa is one of those people.
Besides that, we just need to put more women in office across this country. We'd probably have a lot more compassion and a lot less meanness if we did. We'd certainly have fewer wars.
James Rodriguez, with whom I lunched yesterday, is similarly a thoughtful and capable person who is standing for Houston city council. He was quick to point out that there is no such word as 'patrona' in Spanish. I hope to sit down soon with John Marron, who has labor backing and the endorsement of county commissioner Sylvia Garcia. Several heavyweights whose opinions I respect are in support of both men, so this race will be spirited and could be contentious. I don't get a vote in District I, and it's possible that I would endorse two men for the one job. Truth to tell, we need both of them in public service.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Abbott's getting some coverage for opening and then closing and then opening and then closing our county clerk's office. We aren't the only ones talking about an ill thought court ruling. KXAN points out, this recent republican flip flop would have taken years for all 254 counties to comply with.
Abbott failed to realize that by issuing this opinion he would hamstring any company or organization that needs daily access to land records. County clerks across the state were presented with the choice of continuing to provide online land record services and garnering a misdemeanor warrant every time someone got access to another person’s personal information through the system that they support, or shutting off public access to their records. So they shut off public access to the records.
It's ridiculously stupid things like this that compelled me to work so hard to defeat him. Texas simply has the worst attorney general money could have bought (and did).
-- Yesterday's "Prevention First!" lobby day at the Capitol was a real treat in a variety of ways: from seeing Alison Bell among our group, to bumping into Kirk Watson getting coffee in the cafeteria (and thanking him for sponsoring the legislation in the Senate), to visiting with Valinda Bolton in the hall between floor sessions. Borris Miles' legislative aide Camille Foster was generous with her time and attention, and Rodney Ellis' staff member Kaitlyn Murphy likewise met a group of over one hundred of his constituents.
And what a difference two years makes. Last time several middle-school girls met with Martha Wong, who was mostly obnoxious and occasionally hostile. This year: Ellen Cohen. How refreshing is that?
BOR has the details of the two bills. Things look good for passage.
-- Today Teddi goes back to the vet for another round of shots and this evening is her first day of school (obedience training). I'll also have a bloglunch with James Rodriguez, who's running for Houston city council, and then go to a Kucinich Meetup tonight. We'll be among several hundred people greeting him in San Antonio next weekend as he keynotes the annual meeting of the Texas Progressive Populist Caucus. This weekend, the DFA Training Academy comes to Houston. I'll be assisting.