Monday, October 31, 2005

Bush nominates conservative for Supreme Court

From the Houston Chronicle:

This time, though, Democrats have threatened to oppose, and possibly filibuster, any nominee deemed too far out of the mainstream. Alito, who is often derided as "Scalito," in reference to the Supreme Court's most vocal conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, has a mixed record on abortion rights.

And

Alito was the lone dissenter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case in which the 3rd Circuit struck down a Pennsylvania law that included a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses.

"The Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems — such as economic constraints, future plans or the husbands' previously expressed opposition — that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion," Alito wrote.

The case ended up at the Supreme Court where the justices, in a 6-3 decision struck down the spousal notification provision of the law. The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist cited Alito's reasoning in his own dissent.

But in 2000, Alito joined the majority that found a New Jersey law banning late-term abortions unconstitutional. In his concurring opinion, Alito said the Supreme Court required such a ban to include an exception if the mother's health was endangered.


Click here for the rest.

"Mixed record on abortion rights?" Well, his decision on "partial birth" abortions is nice and all, but the Planned Parenthood v Casey decision essentially hands over partial ownership of a woman's body to her husband: that's a massive regression in terms of civil rights--no woman belongs to anybody. Period. This guy clearly meets the "extraordinary circumstance" standard established by the Senate "moderates" who brokered the deal that averted the so-called nuclear option doing away with the filibuster. In other words, if the Republican "moderates" back this guy, then they've broken the deal.

Time to filibuster this nomination like there's no tomorrow. Bush is weak. The time is now.

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THE SHOW I'M IN: WE MADE THE PAPER
Play's timely theme: Seeking refuge

From the Baton Rouge Advocate:

"Prior to Katrina, running and seeking refuge was not a big issue," said Jane Drake Brody, who is directing George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man for Swine Palace Productions.

"After Katrina, we now have evacuees who have seen a side of life that is so real, so authentic. These people know life is serious. That is a theme of this drama, but it is full of comedy too."

Shaw's play, which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, tells the tale of a mercenary soldier fleeing from a battle which his side lost.

"He seeks refuge in the home of a wealthy young girl and her parents," laughed Brody. "This play is so great, and so funny. It finally comes down to a couple of love triangles."

Click
here for the rest.

This article is timely, too: we're in tech rehearsals right now, and I'm in that state of exhaustion that precludes any thought or writing. Anyway, it's a nice little write-up. Go check it out.



Major Sergius Saranoff, played by Mark L. Jaynes, left, squares off with

Bluntschili, played by Reuben Mitchell, in Arms and the Man.
Photo courtesy of the Advocate.

Needless to say, the above two guys are my classmates, both great actors. Actually, all six of my classmates are pretty great. It's an honor to be working with them.

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

HAPPY HALLOWEEN
Who believes in ghosts? We do.

A couple of weeks ago in the intro-to-acting class I teach at LSU, somebody said something about a haunted house, which I asked about, which morphed into a quick discussion about ghosts. It struck me that I seemed to be the only skeptic in the room so I made sure: I asked, by show of hands, how many people believed in ghosts; apparently, most of the class are believers. Pretty weird I thought, and these aren't even weirdo theater majors--they're mostly non-majors picking up a fine arts credit. I later asked my own MFA classmates what their views are, and, again, most of them believe we live in a universe filled with the spirits of the dead moving among the living.

I'm now wondering if my unscientific study of people I know in any way reflects the national opinion on this. I wouldn't at all be surprised if most Americans now believe in ghosts, and I seem to remember seeing some poll somewhere a while back that suggests as much.

What's going on here?

Personally, I'm very much of the opinion that ghosts are like God in that, because you can't really prove or disprove phenomena about which you have no evidence one way or the other, it's really got to take an individual leap of faith to believe in them. So, okay, ghosts might exist, but I've never, never, ever had any experience which pushes me in that direction. Really, I'd love to encounter a ghost, but I never have. UFOs and Bigfoot, too, for that matter. All these weird In Search Of phenomena, I just love 'em, and believe that they would definitely make existence more interesting if true. Frankly, I'm a bit envious of the ghost-believers: their universe is a bit cooler than mine.

But I just can't get on board simply because I think it's cool. I've never even heard a compelling ghost story. Generally, so-called "eye witness" stories seem to have an element of something unexplained, but the conclusion that ghosts are at the bottom of the weirdness never works for me. So, somebody sees some weird lights, and experiences a change in temperature, and feels a "presence." Okay, maybe that's true. But why conclude that you saw a ghost? Why not conclude that you had a "close encounter" with an alien? Or met God? Or that the air conditioner was broken, which caused a power surge creating strange flashes of light, which creeped you out, making you feel a "presence?" And why the hell haven't I ever seen a ghost?

My very conservative buddy Stephen once wisely observed that aliens and ghosts only appear to people who already believe in them. That's something to chew on. Clearly, many people have a predisposition to believe in such things, and when something happens that seems to fit these pre-existing beliefs, that then becomes, to them, a supernatural experience. Or that's just what I think. Who am I to attempt to disprove that which cannot really be disproved?

At any rate, I think it's damned bizarre that so many Americans seem to believe in ghosts. What can that possibly mean? When I was a kid in the 70s it seemed like the prevailing philosophical notion was skeptical: there are no ghosts; that's all just old-fashioned superstition. What is it about today that's turned that notion around? My guess is that it has something to do with fundamentalist Christianity and its strange notions of spirit wars between the agents of God and Satan going on around humanity all the time, but there's probably more to it than that. Maybe people are so disaffected from the concept of participating meaningfully in society that they need to indulge in ghost fantasies. I don't know. But something is up.

Anyway, happy Halloween. Here are the ghosts I prefer:



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SINATRA'S "WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE"

When I was in my teens and twenties, it seems like every time I bought an album, I would make a concerted effort to become intimately familiar with it. Especially if it was really good. Consequently, I'm still able to recite some of what the background voices say on Dark Side of the Moon, or anticipate each succeeding note of Jimmy Page's guitar solo on "Stairway to Heaven," or Larry Carlton's solo on Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne," or the chord changes on Miles' "So What." Somewhere along the line, the way I listen to my records, or "CDs" in that youthful newspeak we hear so much of now-a-days, changed: now, I buy an album, play it a few times and forget about it. Generally, I find myself listening to streaming jazz from the 'Net while sitting at my computer, but because the songs are always changing, there's no chance to become as familiar with the music as I used to be. Well, that's not entirely true; sometimes these jazz sations become enamored with a particular song and play it to death--that's why I've really been grooving on Ella's "How High the Moon" lately.

Anyway, the long and the short of this is that I've got tons of CDs with which I am only passingly familiar, which means that there are hidden treasures among them, treasures that I don't yet know exist. A couple of weeks ago, with this in mind, I put together a jazz sampler and tried to focus on albums I haven't been listening to. One of those albums was given to me for Christmas three years ago by my old pal Kevin, Frank Sinatra's In the Wee Small Hours from 1955. Here's a bit of review from Amazon's editorial staff:

The first of many artistic milestones in the long and illustrious collaboration of Frank Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle that began at Capitol Records, In the Wee Small Hours is a first in other notable ways, as well: it was the pair's first 12-inch LP; their first album devoted entirely to ballads; the first "concept album," a program of songs designed to be heard in a particular sequence that sustains a mood and suggests a story; the introduction of Sinatra's definitive "saloon singer" persona; and the first flowering of Sinatra's mature artistic sensibility. Oh, and it's a masterpiece, too. The cover portrait suggests the mood of late-night desolation almost as effectively as the music, with Sinatra in the corner, smoking a solitary cigarette on deserted street illuminated only by the a foggy, blue-green glow of lamplight.

Click
here for more.

The album is, indeed, great. But there is one track in particular, "What Is This Thing Called Love," written by Cole Porter, that just blows me away. It's a song I've known for years, played by numerous different musicians, but in the hands of Old Blue Eyes, it reaches haunting and chilling perfection. Apparently the entire album was emotionally inspired by Frank's then recent breakup with knock-out babe actress
Ava Gardner, and it shows--this is the most melancholy of Sinatra's work, and "What Is This Thing" is the most melancholy song on the album. Indeed, the swaggering tough guy persona that the world most associates with Sinatra is present, but he is broken down, deeply saddened, incredibly vulnerable. This is absolute proof that Frank wasn't simply a great entertainer with killer chops: he was an artist, willing to delve deeply into his own soul and publicly reveal that which secretly tortures us all.

It's so strange to see a musician I've loved for years in a brand new light. It's like learning that the Beatles were actually better than I already knew, or that Casablanca was far more sophisticated. Frank's "What Is This Thing Called Love" is that good. You'd be a fool to not check it out.



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Saturday, October 29, 2005

TWO COURTESY OF BUZZFLASH

We're currently in technical rehearsals for Arms and the Man, the show I'm in at LSU which opens next week. The bad news is that we were at it from ten this morning until around 8:30 this evening. The good news is that the show's looking good. However, the usual consequence of so much rehearsal in one day is that I can't think straight at the moment, which means that my writing skills aren't too good, either. Consequently, here are some excerpts and links courtesy of BuzzFlash.

From the Chicago Tribune, some political analysis:

Charges invite reopening debate over going to war

In nearly five years in office, the president and his administration have been able to avoid the taint of scandal. Now criminal charges have been lobbed just a short walk from the Oval Office, and while the president was not implicated, his vice president certainly is a central character in anything that happens to Libby.

As such, what had been a crucial strength of the Bush White House--its solidarity--could now be a weakness. The administration will have to spend time deflecting questions about what Cheney, and even the president, knew about the actions of Libby and of Karl Rove. Rove, the president's political maestro, is in a curious state, under investigation but not under indictment, neutering him for the time being as a political force.

So the White House goes into a debate about the war that it cannot welcome, though it cannot avoid it. Underlying the Libby charges--and Democrats already were making this claim in a loud and public way--is the suggestion that the administration's unofficial war council would do almost anything to advance the cause of the war, to the point of deceiving the public.


Click
here for the rest.

And from the Huffington Post via Yahoo, an essay from former Clinton advisor Paul Begala:

The False Moral Superiority of the Bush White House

And yet George W. Bush campaigned on a pledge to "restore honor and decency to the Oval Office." He spoke of moms and dads on the campaign trail who showed him photos of their children and asked him to give them a president their kids could be proud of.

We all knew what he meant. With a wink and a nod he told us he wouldn't cheat on Laura. And after he took office Mr. Bush and his henchmen smeared the Clintonistas, falsely accusing them of vandalism and theft. They told the press that in this Oval Office the gentlemen would wear suits, the ladies, skirts. And no more paper coffee cups. Nothing but the finest bone china. The Bushies even claimed moral superiority because of their punctuality. Everything was designed and marketed to stress the virtue of the Bushies and the vice of the Clintonians. And it worked. In the first year of George W. Bush's presidency, one major media figure told my wife and me to our faces that the difference between the Clinton crowd and the Bush team was that, "They're just better people than you are. They're more loyal to their President, more patriotic, less self-interested and ambitious. They're just better people."

Now we learn that these Better People have turned the White House into a criminal enterprise. And that the purpose of that enterprise was to mislead the country into going to war. 2,000 Americans killed. 15,000 horribly wounded. $200 billion gone. And a Muslim world -- and a non-Muslim world, for that matter -- that hates our guts. Al Qaeda is recruiting terrorists faster than we can kill them. And there is no end in sight.

But thank God there were no blow jobs. They really are Better People.


Click
here for the rest.

I'll try to have something intelligent to say tomorrow.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

THE FIRST SHOE DROPS
Libby indicted, resigns post

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., was indicted today on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in the CIA leak investigation, a politically charged case that will throw a spotlight on President Bush's push to war.

Libby, 55, resigned and left the White House.

Karl Rove, Bush's closest adviser, escaped indictment today but remained under investigation, his legal status casting a dark cloud over a White House already in trouble. The U.S. military death toll in Iraq exceeded 2,000 this week, and the president's approval ratings are at the lowest point since he took office in 2001.


And

The grand jury indictment charged Libby with one count of obstruction of justice, two of perjury and two false statement counts. If convicted on all five, he could face as much as 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

Vice President Dick Cheney was mentioned by name in the 22-page indictment and several officials were identified by title, but no one besides Libby was charged.


Click
here for the rest.

I'm speechless. I mean, I know that this has been expected for several weeks, but now that it's happened, I'm simply amazed. The article points out that a lot of White House dirty laundry regarding Iraq will necessarily come out during Libby's trial, so this particular aspect of the storyline is far from over. And the investigation continues: who did hand out Plame's name to the press? Rove? Some as yet unknown player? At any rate, as John Kerry observes, this indictment of Libby makes plain for all to see that there is corruption at the very highest levels of the executive branch. Of course, we already knew that, but it's going to be pretty hard for conservatives to dismiss this as "the criminalization of politics." The reality is that the Republicans themselves, for their own reasons, criminalized politics long ago, and now their stolen chickens are coming home to roost.

This almost makes up for the Astros losing the World Series. Almost.

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Star Trek's Mr. Sulu declares his homosexuality

Oh-my-god.

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

George Takei, who as helmsman Sulu steered the Starship Enterprise through three television seasons and six movies, has come out as a homosexual in the current issue of Frontiers, a biweekly Los Angeles magazine covering the gay and lesbian community.

Takei told The Associated Press on Thursday that his new onstage role as psychologist Martin Dysart in Equus, helped inspire him to publicly discuss his sexuality.


Click
here for the rest.

I am SO surprised. Who could have ever imagined that Mr. Sulu, the epitome of 23rd century manliness, is a big raging queen? I just can't believe it.



On second thought...

Hey, guess what else? I've also heard that, get this, famed piano virtuoso Liberace was gay, too. I guess I just don't know anything about gay people. Next thing you know they're going to be telling me that Elton John is gay as well. Well, that'll be the day...

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FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Frankie



Phil



Paz



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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers withdraws nomination

From the Houston Chronicle:

White House counsel Harriet Miers, whose nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court sparked a bitter dispute within the Republican Party, withdrew her nomination today. President Bush said he will quickly name a replacement to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Miers, 60, a longtime Bush friend and lawyer from Dallas, said in a letter to the president that answering bipartisan calls for White House documents demonstrating her experience in constitutional law would conflict with a longstanding administration practice of keeping such information private.

And

The news came as senior White House aides awaited word on possible indictments in the CIA leak case and the administration fended off criticism over the war in Iraq after the U.S. military death toll reached 2,000.

Click here for the rest.

Well, secret documents or no, it's completely clear that conservatives, not liberals, killed this nomination. What that amounts to is a virtual no-confidence vote for the President from his own party. Conservatives, as a whole, no longer trust Bush to govern the country--to be sure, there are conservatives who support the White House, but that support can no longer be counted on for various policy initiatives and executive actions. In other words, Bush is now the lamest of lame duck Presidents. As far as politics goes, he's a non-entity, even a liability for some Republicans: it will be fun to watch GOP Congressmen trying to distance themselves from Bush while running for office next year; it'll be like the Democrats back in '94 trying to distance themselves from Clinton. Oh, the irony is delicious!

Also, as a caller to Air America's Majority Report show observed today, the Oval Office may very well be using all the conflict over Miers nomination to make some news with a new nomination. That is, pretty soon we're going to hear just who, exactly, will be indicted in the White House CIA leak case. That news will utterly dominate the headlines and 24/7 cable news cycle: a new Supreme Court nominee will drown out that domination a bit, sparing the White House from the worst of the oncoming political firestorm.

Speaking of irony, this whole drown-out gambit, if that's what's actually going on, is probably Karl Rove's idea. Irony is delicious. Yum.

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WHITE SOX SWEEP SERIES
We're Number Two!!!

From the Houston Chronicle:

A crowd of 42,936 saw Series Most Valuable Player Jermaine Dye drive in the winning run off reliever Brad Lidge, the losing pitcher in two of the Astros' four defeats, with a two-out single in the eighth inning. Backe shut out the White Sox for seven innings, and he still couldn't save the Astros from becoming the first team to get swept in its Series debut.

''A lot of these games could have gone either way," said Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who waited 18 seasons to get to his first World Series. ''We just couldn't catch a break. I think it's fate."

Astros manager Phil Garner couldn't have asked for more from Backe, a Galveston native.

Or less from the Astros' offense.

One night after a 14-inning Game 3 defeat that lasted a Series-record five hours and 41 minutes, the Astros' offense proved to be a bluff. The Astros went hitless in 11 Game 4 at-bats with runners in scoring position, striking out five times. In the final 19 innings of the Series, the Astros' lineup produced one run on six hits.

Click here for the rest.

I was talking to my Dad last night before the game started. It was his birthday yesterday, and after wishing him the best, I told him that I was sorry that it was starting to look like the 'Stros were going to blow it--he's been a fan since before they were called the Astros back in the 60s. I also told him I was kind of mad a Lidge, the relief pitcher who seems to keep losing playoff games for Houston. My father had a very uplifting response: it's wonderful that they made it there at all, and even though Lidge has been choking big time lately, he's part of the reason that they got there. Of course, he was quite right. It is wonderful that the Astros won the National League pennant. It is wonderful that they finally made it to the World Series. And they played well. Even though they were swept, they didn't fall over and die; it's just that the Sox played better. The Astros made them earn their championship.

For this expatriated Houstonian, that's something worth celebrating. Number two ain't so bad at all.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

FEMA extends Brown's contract for 30 more days

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today defended FEMA's decision to extend former director Michael Brown's post-resignation employment by another 30 days.

"It's important to allow the new people who have the responsibility ... to have access to the information we need to do better," Chertoff told The Associated Press as he flew to view Hurricane Wilma's damage in Florida.

"We don't want to sacrifice the real ability to get a full picture of Mike's experiences; we don't want to sacrifice that ability simply in order to make an image point," Chertoff said.

Click
here for the rest.

So why is "Brownie" still on the Federal payroll? Oh yeah, that's right: he's staying on with FEMA as a "consultant." Of course that brings up another reasonable question. Seeing as how it's been common knowledge for some weeks now that Brown was not only incompetent in his role as FEMA chief, but that he was also wildly unqualified in the first place, and appointed only because of his political connections, what real value does he have as a consultant? Obviously, none. Clearly this contract extension is more of the same political cronyism that got him into FEMA in the first place, and it stinks to high heavens.

Lame, very lame.

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DeLay failed to report defense fund contributions

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Rep. Tom DeLay failed to comply with House requirements that he disclose all contributions to a defense fund that pays his legal bills, the Texas Republican acknowledged to House officials.

He wrote officials that $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 was not reported anywhere. Another $17,300 was included in the defense fund's quarterly report but not in DeLay's 2000 annual financial disclosure report — a separate requirement. Other donations were understated as totaling $2,800, when the figure should have been $4,450.

It was during that period that DeLay was the subject of several House ethics investigations.

Click
here for the rest.

Wait a minute: DeLay's trying to get out of trouble, right?

To be fair to the talking lizard, however, which is much more than he's been willing to do over the years with people who don't share his conservative world view, I must admit that the former bug exterminator from Sugarland brought this financial boo-boo to the House's attention himself. I suppose he's trying to clean house, trying to make sure that no unexpected skeletons fall out of the closet when his case eventually makes it to trial. Good idea. However, to me, this financial reporting "mistake" simply lends credibility to the notion that the former House Majority Leader has been playing fast and loose with the law for years, walking that razor thin tightrope between legal and illegal like an acrobat who's been convinced by his circus' fortune teller that he's invulnerable, and a fall won't really hurt him. I guess we'll eventually see whether or not that's the case.

Heh.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

U.S. military death toll in Iraq reaches 2,000

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Earlier today, the U.S. military announced the deaths of two unidentified Marines in fighting with insurgents last week in a village west of Baghdad. The deaths raised the Associated Press tally of military fatalities to 2,000 in the Iraq war, which began in March 2003.

President Bush warned the nation to brace for an even higher casualty count as the mission has more work remaining to be successful.

"The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we have ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of common humanity and by the rules of warfare," the president said in a speech before the Joint Armed Forces Officers' Wives' luncheon in Washington. "No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead."


And

The Iraqi death toll is unknown, but estimates range much higher.

Iraq Body Count, a British research group that compiles figures from reports by major news agencies and British and U.S. newspapers, has said that as many as 30,051 Iraqis have been killed since the war began. Other estimates range as high as 100,000.


Click
here for the rest.

I've been railing away here at Real Art at how illegal, immoral, and unnecessary this awful war is since before it began, nearly three years ago. Those were weird days: anti-war folk were branded by many as being only a stone's throw away from treason; many more believed opposing the invasion was anti-American or stupid at best. Now, most people know better, but the killing and dying continues. Today's milestone is really only a numerical symbol. The killing and dying goes on every day. I'd be sickened if I hadn't become so used to it.

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WE'RE NUMBER ONE!!!
Texas jumps ahead of
Southern Cal in BCS poll

From the Houston Chronicle:

Southern California was dealt its first loss of the season Monday.

Texas slipped past USC for the No. 1 spot in this week's Bowl Championship Series rankings for the first time. By a paper-thin margin. UT moved into the top spot with a .9763 total percentage; USC is No. 2 with a .9756 percentage.

The difference of 0.007 is the slimmest margin between the top two teams in the eight-year history of the BCS.

"It's a compliment, because it's a place we haven't been in a long time and it sets our standard even higher," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

"We also understand that the percentage points and the rankings can change weekly. What we have to do is concentrate on winning. That's the only thing we have control over. It's only October, and what we want to do is to be one of the top two teams in December."

The top two teams in the final standings play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 for the national title.

Click
here for the rest.

Okay, so I don't even really like the BCS all that much, and I know it's only a razor-thin margin, and I know that Texas' weak end-of-season schedule will most likely result in USC regaining the top position soon, but...this is pretty cool, anyway. I mean, Texas is ranked number one! Is this what it felt like back in the day? Back when Darrel Royal was a coach instead of a stadium? I still kind of feel like a sports loser--just look at how the 'Stros are doing in the World Series, but this is nice, and I'm really enjoying it.

Woo-hoo! Number one! Yea!

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Poll: Majority Reject Evolution

From CBS courtesy of my old pal Bronze Johnson, who once had a blog, which
no longer exists:

Most Americans do not accept the theory of evolution. Instead, 51 percent of Americans say God created humans in their present form, and another three in 10 say that while humans evolved, God guided the process. Just 15 percent say humans evolved, and that God was not involved.


Click here for the rest.

I must admit that I, as something of a Deist, tend to fall into that thirty percent category that believes that evolution was guided by God. Nonetheless, these poll results are disturbing. A simple majority of Americans now rejects evolution outright. That's pretty nutty: as cosmologist Carl Sagan once said, "Evolution is a fact; it really happened." Indeed, there is no debate about about evolution. It's a fact. Fact. That means undeniable. There is absolutely no rational position from which an individual can argue that humans didn't evolve from an earlier primate species. The upshot of this is that America is now a society in which truth and knowledge themselves are under attack, and the attackers are having great success. I don't think I need to go into great detail as to why this is bad. Suffice it to say that when what passes for truth is controlled by self-appointed holy men, anything is possible. That is, there is no longer any standard for morality or ethics: if "God" says it's so, and the holy men insist it's what God says, then murder, torture, all manner of abuse become thinkable. Oh wait. That's what's happening right now. Did I mention that a culture that abandons science is also abandoning technological advancement? Well, that's happening, too. We're in big trouble.

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FAREWELL ROSA PARKS

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Rosa Lee Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights movement, died today. She was 92.

Mrs. Parks died at her home of natural causes, said Karen Morgan, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Mrs. Parks was 42 when she committed an act of defiance in 1955 that was to change the course of American history and earn her the title "mother of the civil rights movement."

At that time, Jim Crow laws in place since the post-Civil War Reconstruction required separation of the races in buses, restaurants and public accommodations throughout the South, while legally sanctioned racial discrimination kept blacks out of many jobs and neighborhoods in the North.

The Montgomery, Ala., seamstress, an active member of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was riding on a city bus Dec. 1, 1955, when a white man demanded her seat.

Mrs. Parks refused, despite rules requiring blacks to yield their seats to whites. Two black Montgomery women had been arrested earlier that year on the same charge, but Mrs. Parks was jailed. She also was fined $14.

Speaking in 1992, she said history too often maintains "that my feet were hurting and I didn't know why I refused to stand up when they told me. But the real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long."

Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system organized by a then little-known Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who later earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

"At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this," Mrs. Parks said 30 years later. "It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in."


Click
here for the rest.

There are two enormous problems with the way the Civil Rights Movement is taught in public schools today.

First, the schools tend to water down the actual politics of key leaders. For instance, when teaching Martin Luther King, the "I have a dream speech" is pretty much the centerpiece of the unit. It's all about little black and white children holding hands on the playground and how wonderful it is that we can all be friends now. While true and uplifting, such a skewed narrative completely misses the true substance of Dr. King's philosophy and leadership. So, too, with Rosa Parks. She is often portrayed as something of a victim, a tired, middle-aged, working woman who simply needed to sit down, but, unfortunately, the only open seat on the bus was in the white section. Parks was no victim, no sweet little woman who accidentally kicked off the Movement. Rather, she was a deliberate activist, trained in activism at the Highlander Folk School, and completely conscious of the political ramifications of her actions. If all you know about Parks is what you were taught in school, then you might infer that the whole Civil Rights Era came about by happenstance. Not true. Parks was looking for a fight and she got it. And she won.

Which leads to my second point.

It wasn't really Parks who won the civil rights fight. Nor was it King, or Medgar Evers, or Malcolm X, or Stokely Carmichael, or any of the other scores of charismatic leaders lionized by history books. It was tens of thousands of individuals doing the dangerous, often life-threatening shit work of organizing, demonstrating, and keeping up pressure on the corrupt system of American apartheid in the South for years and years. Movements aren't really about leaders. They don't create movements: people create movements--leaders simply lend their faces and voices, speaking for the many. But public school history units are absolutely enamored with leaders. Again, if all you knew about the Civil Rights Movement is what you learned in school, you'd think that a few key individuals were able to whip up anger and resentment, and rode those feelings toward real social change. History, as taught by the schools, suggests that we have to wait for change until strong leaders come along. Not true. Change can happen right now, if only the people insist on it. And Rosa Parks would have been the first one to agree.

Farewell, Ms. Parks.



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Sunday, October 23, 2005

BARBARA EHRENREICH INTERVIEW
Working Hard or Hardly Working

From
AlterNet:

[ALTERNET:] Yet, a New York Times study found that 80 percent of Americans believe it's still possible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Did your experience in Bait and Switch and Nickel and Dimed give you any sense of why that belief still persists?

EHRENREICH: There is a tremendous American theme about positive thinking. We have a hard time dealing with truly bad news and discouraging information. Throughout my experience trying to get a white-collar job, I was encouraged to think positively. You are supposed to see your job loss as some great break, your chance to move on to something bigger and better. The reality is that 70 percent of people who lose their jobs and do get rehired, are rehired at a lower pay. But to criticize the system, or to be negative is considered "un-American."

It was a similar attitude that drove me crazy when I was dealing with breast cancer. Despite study after study showing there was no correlation, everyone kept telling me that my outcome would be better if I had a better attitude.

What's so offensive about that insistence, whether in relation to illness or job loss, is the implication that the victim is at fault.


Click
here for the rest.

A few years back my father was very surprised by my insistence that all able-bodied Americans ought to work. He raised an eyebrow and said, "really?" The implication was that he was confused by a liberal expressing such a seemingly conservative attitude. I quickly dispelled his surprise by telling him that I got the idea from Karl Marx.

Indeed, it seems utterly obvious that civilization doesn't function unless citizens work--I think conservatives have been so busy for so long bashing liberal support for welfare that they've begun to believe their own rhetoric: liberals support free money for the poor, and think that the government owes them a living. Unfortunately, liberals seem to have been cowed by such thinking, and are often falling over themselves to prove to skeptical conservatives that they don't believe in free money for the poor, which unfortunately is expressed often in terms of support for our current unjust economic system. Kind of like how Cold War Democrats felt they had to prove their pro-war credentials to skeptical Republicans. History repeats.

Consequently, the political establishment is stuck in a dynamic such that examination of American citizens-as-workers is all but impossible. That is, there is no public discourse about how people are being continually raked over the coals in terms of their employment or lack thereof. Nobody in polite society even thinks to fault the system. Nobody dares suggest that business' attitude toward workers is unjust, and such a problem might be solved by (gasp!) regulating business.

I think the overwhelming majority of American citizens want to work for a living: however, this is becoming increasingly difficult, and it has nothing to do with laziness or welfare; it has everything to do with corporate America's decision to treat their employees as less-than-human pieces of capital, to be discarded when desired. The consensus of US business is that there is no longer such a thing as responsibility to employees. We're on our own, whether we're willing to work or not, and too bad if you can't find a job, too bad if you have to work three or four jobs in order to pay the rent.

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THIS MONTH'S STAR TREK CALENDAR PICTURE IS...



Kirk looking down the barrel of an 18th century pistol held by my favorite Star Trek villain, the flamingly flamboyant Trelane, a child energy-alien in an adult human body.

"Where are your weapons? Don't you display your weapons?"

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

"WELCOME TO DEATH VALLEY"

So I've been here at one of the largest college football hubs in the nation for a year and a half, but haven't yet managed to make it to one of the games--this grad school thing has kept me extraordinarily busy, and I haven't really tried to score any Tiger tickets yet; I just figured it would be a big hassle. Consequently, I haven't yet seen all the hooplah surrounding home games here at LSU. Sure, I live near campus, and have inadvertantly gotten caught up in game traffic a few times, but I haven't really made the attempt to wade into the football madness. Until today, that is.

We open up Shaw's Arms and the Man in a couple of weeks, which is being produced by LSU's professional theater company,
Swine Palace. The cast is essentially the seven members of my MFA acting class, our first real show together as a company of players. Apparently, as part of pregame festivities, certain LSU events are announced on the field about forty five minutes before kickoff, complete with key event participants standing between the hash marks at the fifty yard line while a camera visually beams their images up to the enormous TV screens on the two scoreboards at the two end zones. In other words, it's free publicity that Swine Palace's marketing guy got us in on.

That's right, earlier this evening I went and stood on LSU's football field with my classmates and waved to the crowd. "Weird" doesn't even begin to describe the experience. My buddy Reuben, who plays the male lead in our show, told me a couple of days ago that he would be bringing his camera. "What a great idea," I thought, "that'll be my blog entry for Saturday night."

And here it is, Saturday night.

I mentioned game day traffic above. It's BAD, worse than anything I've ever seen. Becky tried to take me to the theater where I would join my class before hiking over to the stadium, but she only got a block before we realized that our planned route had been barricaded by the BRPD. So I had to walk for half an hour, which was actually a good thing because I got to see the tailgating festivities. LSU is one of the most spirited universities of which I know: they're like Texas A&M on crack and meth and coffee. It's wild, man.



In the picture above, a grassy patch I walk through on the way to class was converted into something of a mini-carnival and or barbeque. And this is only one tiny slice of it all. Take the above scene and multiply it by, say, a thousand, and you might get the idea. The whole campus is partying down:



Of course, we are in the South, and the "Southern heritage" idiots were out in force:



Yes, that's right: it's a Confederate battle flag, but in LSU colors. This damned symbol, which historically represents an ideologically driven white-power regime economically based on the enslavement of another race, that is, the CSA, causes no end of controversy here. Personally, I think these morons, who may or may not actually be racists, enjoy pissing people off. At any rate, "heritage" or not, this thing is just plain offensive. I think there are plenty of other ways to celebrate one's culture without referencing positively that culture's brutal past, but, no, they've gotta go with what, for me, amounts to an American swastika.

It's funny. While I was snapping the above picture, the people with the flag were loudly playing Hank Williams Jr.'s "Family Tradition." I love the song, but it just seemed so utterly stereotypical, you know, the racists playing their loud, down-home tunes. Speaking of stereotypes, check out this shot:



A pick 'em up truck sporting the offensive banner. Not surprising at all. Not that there's anything wrong with pick 'em up trucks; it just seems like support for the Confederacy kind of walks hand in hand with pick 'em up truck ownership in some parts of the country. Like here, for instance.

Anyway, after assembling at the theater, off we went into the abyss:



It's kind of like Mardi Gras, only everytime there's a home game. Maybe not as much drunkenness, but there are masses and masses of wild Louisianians running around all freaky like.

Finally, we got onto the field, which is nicknamed "Death Valley." And just to make sure that visiting teams remember where they are, one of the huge scoreboards reminds them:



By the way, the Applebee's ad is one of the two TV screens they put us on as we waved to the crowd. But that didn't happen just yet. Once we got there, we first had to wait on the sideline for twenty or thirty minutes until our moment in the limelight, which was a great opportunity for me and my camera to document the overall event.

Like the student section (background) and news photographers (foreground):



Or some pregame team drills:







There's something about football and butts that I haven't figured out: players are either patting each others' bottoms, or sticking them out all the time. What's up with all that?


Not that there's anything wrong with it.

I tried to get some shots of our quarterback
Jamarcus Russell, who is my classmate Derek's student in the intro-to-acting class he teaches, taking some practice throws, but it was hell to get something worth keeping. Sports photography is much harder than it looks.

I also got some shots of these guys who were very clearly former players there to cheer the Tigers on:



After I got home, I did my damndest to get some info on these guys, but couldn't find anything. The man on the left is named Williams, I think, and the middle guy is named Broha, and the shorter younger guy is named Buckels. Anybody know anything about them? I'm very curious.

Here's the marching band for today's opponent, the Auburn Tigers. Cute, huh? Tigers versus Tigers.



This was cool:



The guy in middle of the frame is wearing a purple shirt with gold lettering that says "Beat Oklahoma." Of course,
I love to see something like that. It's hard to read at this size, but if you click here, you'll see it quite clearly. Obviously, the shirt was printed a couple of years ago when LSU played OU for the national championship, beating them convincingly, but not enough to silence critics who thought USC should have been in the BCS championship that year. Whatever, beating OU is fun no matter what the circumstances. Heh. "Beat Oklahoma." Now that's a welcome sign for a Longhorn if ever I've seen one. And frankly, I really did need such a sign: while I was hanging out in Death Valley, I was having to miss the second half of the Texas versus Texas Tech game on TV--fortunately everything worked out okay with that.

Finally, it was time for us to take the field. I couldn't take any pictures of that; we were just supposed to stand there and wave while the camera moved past our faces as each of our names and hometowns were announced over the PA system. Two of my classmates are also from Texas: quite nice to hear the word "Texas" spoken three times right smack dab in the middle of "Geaux Tiger" country. Hee-hee.


And then it was over, just like that, anti-climactic at best, but still pretty cool overall. After all, there were still a few more shots on my camera's card. Like the gun guys:



I must admit that these military uniforms are much snazzier than the traditional wild west costumes the guys who deal with the cannon for UT games wear. I also got this cool shot of the stadium filling up as I was heading out:



Yeah, that's right: "as I was heading out." The publicity package did not include free tickets for the game. So I missed the second half of Texas blowing out Tech, and I missed the entire LSU game, which was broadcast on ESPN, which I don't have. Ah well, at least I watched some of the Astros game, but even that was kind of a bummer because they lost. Ah well, there are more games in the future for everybody.

Finally, I took some shots of my fellow actors on the way out. Here's Reuben, the guy who brilliantly suggested photographing all this:



Here are the women, Kesha, Anna, and Nikki, and Reuben manages to get into this one, too:



Here's Mark and, once again, Reuben:


Mark has the mutant super-power of super speed.

And here's Derek, from Austin, a city I obviously love, who, as mentioned above, teaches our team's starting QB:



And last, but not least, on the outside side of the stadium:



I'm happy to report that the Tigers, the LSU Tigers that is, did indeed, "geaux:" we beat Auburn in overtime by a field goal. Very cool, very cool. Wish I'd gotten to see it.

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Texas tops Tech 52-17

From the Austin American-Statesman:

The top-10 showdown Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium lived up to the hype — for 1 1/2 quarters.

That's when the Texas Longhorns scored the first of four consecutive touchdowns and began to pull away from previously unbeaten Texas Tech en route to a 52-17 victory.

With Rose Bowl officials watching from the press box, the second-ranked Longhorns (7-0, 4-0 in Big 12) easily won what figures to be their toughest regular-season test in the second half of the season.

Click
here for the rest.

For some years now, I've gotten nervous when the Longhorns play Tech, especially during the current Red Raiders' pass-happy era. Tech is not an incredible team, but they are consistently good, and fully capable, on any given day as they say, of beating the best Division I teams in the nation. They've come close against Texas more times than I can count, and, I think, beating them a couple of times. However, today was not at all one of those days. This is just how I like it, totally lopsided in favor of the 'Horns. None of that nail-biting stuff for me, no way.

It's been a weird season. Texas is doing everything it's supposed to do to make it to the National Championship game, and they're doing it very convincingly. As you probably know if you take the time to read the posts coming from the Real Art sports desk, I'm quite used to losing, or coming up just short of the big win, that sort of thing. But this looks pretty real. Kicking the number ten ranked Red Raiders' ass so dominantly is making me think that maybe this is it. I'm just on the verge of believing that this latest version of the Texas Longhorns might be the best in the nation.

What will it feel like for to be on the side of the national champion? This is uncharted territory here.


Whooping up on Tech, courtesy of the Statesman

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Friday, October 21, 2005

QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"

These things are just falling in my lap lately. Today's Houston Chronicle had three stories of note.

Officer accused of sexually abusing transsexual

From the AP:

Dean Gutierrez, 45, was indicted Tuesday on a charge of deprivation of civil rights by committing aggravated sexual abuse while on duty. The 16-year veteran of the police force was arrested Thursday.

Gutierrez is accused of forcing Gabriel Bernal, 22, who prefers to be called Starlight and a woman, to perform sex acts the night of June 10. Police reports and court documents allege Gutierrez forced Bernal into his police car after picking her up.

Click
here for the rest.

Yet another in the creepy-pervy cop category. This reminds me of rumors I used to hear when I was a teenager about how the Harris County Constables, who were contracted to patrol Kingwood before it was annexed by Houston in the mid 90s, would offer to not give tickets to teenage girls for MIP's or speeding in exchange for sexual favors. Of course, these were just rumors, but some of those Constable guys were in Willem Dafoe or Christopher Walken territory with their sense of sexual creepiness: I wouldn't at all be surprised if such things actually happened.

2 police officers indicted over use of force

Two police officers accused of using excessive force on a Spring man while arresting him at the scene of a minor motor vehicle accident last month now face criminal charges.

A Montgomery County grand jury indicted Shenandoah Police Officer Jeremy Klammer on charges of aggravated assault and official oppression and his partner Officer Heath Romeril on a charge of official oppression, said Shenandoah Police Chief John Chancellor.

A videotape of the Sept. 25 incident shows Klammer striking a man with his fist and then tackling him from behind and forcing him to the ground to be handcuffed. The video also shows Romeril pepper-spraying the man, Chancellor said.


Click
here for the rest.

This sounds like your garden variety police brutality case, which is just plain wrong and unacceptable in a civilized society, but I must give credit where it's due:

Petersen did not file a complaint against the officers. The department initiated it's own investigation based on information from a supervisor called to the scene to investigate use of force, a department policy.

After command staff reviewed the videotape, both officers were placed on administrative leave and the case was turned over to the Texas Rangers to investigate because of possible criminal wrongdoing, Chancellor said.

This doesn't sound like a police department trying to cover it's own ass; rather, this strikes me as a situation where the people in charge are trying to do the right thing. Good for them. Really, I think the vast majority of police brutality could be a thing of the past if police chiefs and commissioners throughout the nation made it a major priority to do so, which means that, ultimately, police corruption is a political problem: mayors and city councils have to get the right people, and then continually insist that they do their jobs.

Officer who stole from vending machine reinstated

Firing was too harsh a punishment for a police officer who stole two 50-cent bags of snack chips by shaking a vending machine, city civil service commissioners said.

The commission on Wednesday overruled police Chief Danny Castillo's decision to fire Officer Randy Reyna, recommending he instead be suspended for 90 days.

During a hearing with the commission, police department attorney Mark Sossi showed a videotape of Reyna lifting and shaking the machine. Sossi said Reyna committed a crime of "moral turpitude."

"He's expected to know the law," Sossi said. "He's expected to set an example."


Click
here for the rest.

Hmmm. Two bags of chips, huh? Not enough to amount to a firing offense? This strikes me as absurd: two bags of chips is enough to lose a restaurant or convenience store job, and the people in those positions aren't the ones who are supposed to enforce the law. That is, cops should be held to at least as high of a standard as the lowliest McJob worker is held to. Sorry, if a cop rips off anything, especially while at work, he needs to be fired. Period.

Along the same lines, cops who turn on their lights in order to run a red light they're too impatient to deal with should be ticketed for it. Period.

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FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Phil



Frankie



Paz



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Thursday, October 20, 2005

BACK TO THE BIG EASY
Guest Blogger Becky

In a nowadays-rare spontaneous move, I went to New Orleans last Sunday.

As I came over the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway at the southwestern edge of Lake Ponchartrain, I saw a couple of fishing huts moved from their foundations, and some of the beautifully eerie dead trees that pierce the swampy water listing at unnatural angles. Further on in populated Kenner were blue roofs, commercial buildings with smashed and missing glass, and the beginnings of what would become significant trash on the shoulder.

By the time I exited onto Esplanade, I had to maneuver to avoid debris. On the boulevard, I was amazed that most of the big oaks are still standing, albeit heavily pruned (and at the wrong time of year.) There’s a lot of trash yet to be removed (think Manhattan during a garbage strike), along with the dreaded refrigerators. A small crowd was gathered outside the Port of Call bar, but they didn’t look right. I realized they must be government employees: much too plain and clean cut for the average New Orleans tourist.

After a good dousing with mosquito repellant, we walked through Debbie’s Bywater neighborhood and into the Fauborg Marigny (which borders the French Quarter.) I saw more trash waiting to be cleared and more refrigerators and lots of flies. I smelled a vague stench in the air, but tried not to think about it. We saw stoic soldiers on watch. A few people sat on their porches and greeted us, and a couple of houses seemed to have parties in progress, but most homes sat silent.

We headed to Washington Square Park where modern-day hippie volunteers offer free food, clothing, information and camaraderie to those in need. I talked to an elderly gentleman who had finally left almost two weeks after the storm. His only impetus for evacuating was the threat of being forcibly removed by the National Guard. He told me about his friends, who finally agreed to let soldiers transport them. They spent two days at the airport, and were then herded onto an airplane, with no idea where they were going until the cabin doors were locked. They then made their way home.

From the helpful hippie encampment, we walked into the Quarter to go to a party. I noticed that our late night cheese-fries-stop Checkpoint Charlie’s was open, but only a couple of patrons were inside. We saw more militia. Along Decatur, several bars were open, but the French Market was dark. After a few stops to chat, and one to buy a drink, we arrived at the party address.

This might have been the first and last time I ever see the inside of a French Quarter private residence, completely and beautifully restored and furnished. Weird that I ended up there now when everything outside is in such disarray. We were served vodka lemonades by our charming hostess (who declared that they decided to turn lemons into the proverbial cocktail.) Most conversations around us were the same as at the park: How’s your house? When did you leave? When did you come back? What about your job? I met a man named Marcus who owns a shop called The Garage that I’ve frequented. He told me that he paid his rent for September, in an act of good faith because he likes his landlady. Plus, he was concerned that if he didn’t, he might lose the space his vintage store has occupied for many years.

So many stories, the same yet different, and I tried not to feel sad.

We walked down Bourbon Street where the crowd looked like the one at the bar on Esplanade. Even though many were toting drinks, they lacked the decadence and abandon of the usual visitors. More feds of various types I guessed. We talked to a stockbroker who lives uptown. He still has a job (unlike so many), and told us he spent the day clearing his yard, and had found extra work grinding tree stumps.

With curfew approaching we caught a cab. The driver (a Croatian of all things) lamented his few fares, and inability to cash in on potentially abandoned lease spaces. It seems his relative owns various properties in the Quarter, one of which is Marcus’ shop. Small world. Then again, I heard someone say they estimate that there are currently only 10,000 people living in New Orleans.

Debbie’s neighbor Clint came over for awhile, and related his story of leaving, returning and the subsequent damage to his home. He had recently, painstakingly refinished his original, barge-board floors. The rain from a hole in the roof made worse by Rita buckled them.

I slept for a few hours, but woke up before dawn to an awful smell. It took me half the morning to figure out what it was: the toxic stew, dried up but still lingering, in spite of a lovely crisp autumn beginning to the day. All too familiar to any resident near I-10 in Texas or Louisiana: the petrochemical stench of gasoline alley, but in this case, its not airborne, it’s on the ground.

I drove home in a daze, amongst heavy traffic and numerous dump trucks with their contents blowing out onto the already littered highway. I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t go back for a long time, at least until Halloween.

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DeLay fingerprinted, mug shot taken

Houston Chronicle



U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay dodged reporters and photographers awaiting his arrest in Fort Bend County today to surrender to Harris County sheriff's deputies on conspiracy and money laundering charges.

DeLay, accompanied by lawyer Dick DeGuerin, arrived shortly after noon at a Harris County Sheriff's Department facility at 49 San Jacinto, said sheriff's Lt. John Martin.

The Sugar Land Republican was fingerprinted, photographed, taken before a judge, posted $10,000 bail and left shortly before 1 p.m. His lawyer told reporters DeLay was put through the process because of a political vendetta by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, the Democrat who brought the case.

"Now Ronnie Earle has the mugshot he wanted,'' DeGuerin said.

"I wanted to avoid the circus,'' DeGuerin added. "He wanted a perp walk, and we did not want to do it.''

The defense later today asked Judge Bob Perkins to step aside and for the trial to be moved out of Travis County. Perkins has donated to causes and people opposed to DeLay, and his impartiality might be questioned, the motion said.

The change-of-venue motion cited media attention and noted that Austin, widely perceived as a liberal town, is "one of the last enclaves of the Democratic Party in Texas."

DeGuerin said the Harris County site was selected in part because his own offices are based in downtown Houston. But the surrender in Harris County allowed DeLay to avoid news media coverage. Journalists had been staking out the Fort Bend County sheriff's office since Wednesday.

Although the indictment was issued in Travis County and DeLay's home county is Fort Bend, Martin said state law allows defendants to surrender in any county, and DeLay received no special treatment.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Milton Wright said DeGuerin had asked Wednesday if DeLay could come in and out of the sheriff's office unnoticed.

Wright said he told DeGuerin that even if DeLay could come in through a back door to avoid the media, "he would have had to come out the front."

Since the first day DeLay was indicted by a Travis County grand jury last month, his attorneys had been trying to avoid a public spectacle of him being arrested.

But Travis County prosecutors had played legal hardball Wednesday by having an arrest warrant issued for DeLay. DeGuerin said it was retaliation for their accusations of prosecutor misconduct.


Can't wait to see that smile get wiped off his face.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

ASTROS WIN NL PENNANT!!!

From the Houston Chronicle:

ST. LOUIS -- Finally. After 44 years of waiting.

The Astros reached the team's first World Series with a 4-2 NLCS series victory after dominating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-1 in Game 6 tonight.


Houston fans have watched the Astros get close many times, moving within one victory of the World Series in 1980 and again last year. The 1986 Astros also came close, although that club didn't have the NLCS lead the 1980 and 2004 Astros lost.

In the franchise's 44th season, Roy Oswalt and Co. provided the ending nobody could have expected in June. They gave the city of Houston the celebration it expected Monday night, last year and in 1980.

On this wild night of celebration, the Astros owed it all to Oswalt. He took their dreams, hopes and gritty resolve and pitched his teammates into their first World Series with help from Craig Biggio.

Click
here for the rest.

Okay, so Tom DeLay was booked today, which was very amusing, but really only routine--nothing to see here, folks; move along. On the other hand, my hometown's professional baseball team is going to the frickin' World Series for the first time in the club's history!!!!! I'm blown away, especially because they were playing for shit during the first half of the season--I mean, really, they were below .500; this is the most amazing season resurrection I've ever heard of. Okay, there was something like it back in 1914, but who cares? I didn't get to see the game because I was at rehearsal, which isn't so bad because I would have been too wound up to really enjoy it, but, man. I'm blown away.

Onto Chicago! Those White Socks don't stand a chance.

Here's an essay I wrote about the Astros and baseball in general a couple of years ago.

Here's a pic, courtesy of the Chronicle, of the celebration:



Did I tell you I'm blown away?

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Houston Astros are 2005 National League Champions



I've watched this team get built from the ground up. I've followed these guys carefully for years. Last year was supposed to be it, and then heartbreak. Then this year, Game 5 - one of the most devastating defeats in postseason history. But they bounced back, and this is the year. Chicago won't know what hit 'em!

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Guest Blogger Miles

Arrest Warrant Issued for Tom DeLay

via Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — Today a Texas court issued a warrant for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking, where he is likely to face the fingerprinting and photo mug shot he had hoped to avoid.

Bail was initially set at $10,000 as a routine step before his first court appearance on conspiracy and money laundering charges. Travis County court officials said DeLay was ordered to appear at the Fort Bend County jail for booking.
The warrant was "a matter of routine and bond will be posted," DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said.

The lawyer declined to say when DeLay would surrender to authorities but said the lawmaker would make his first court appearance Friday morning.
The charges against the Texas Republican stem from allegations that a DeLay-founded Texas political committee funneled corporate money into state GOP legislative races through the National Republican Party. Texas law prohibits use of corporate money to elect state candidates.

DeLay is charged with conspiracy to violate state election laws and money laundering, felony counts that triggered House Republican rules that forced him to step aside as majority leader.
Two separate indictments charge that DeLay and two political associates had the money distributed to state legislative candidates in a roundabout way — sending it from the political action committee in Texas to the Republican National Committee in Washington and finally back to candidates' campaigns.

DeLay has denied wrongdoing.

The effort had major political consequences, first by helping Republicans take control of the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections. The Legislature then redrew congressional boundaries according to a DeLay-inspired plan, took command of the state's U.S. House delegation and helped the GOP retain its U.S. House majority.


Not exactly "COPS" material, but here's hoping Ron makes the mug shot his home page picture.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

TWO FROM WORKING FOR CHANGE

Yes, yes. I'm working hard on a show right now...so just check out these two cool essays.

GOP in power uses Clintonian tactics to evade justice

Those who thought investigations were a wonderful thing when Bill Clinton was president are suddenly facing prosecutors, and they don't like it. It seems like a hundred years ago when Bill Clinton's defenders were accusing his opponents of using special prosecutors, lawsuits, criminal charges and, ultimately, impeachment to overturn the will of the voters.

Clinton's conservative enemies would have none of this. No, they said over and over, the Clinton mess was not about sex but about "perjury and the obstruction of justice" and "the rule of law."


The old conservative talking points are now inoperative.

Click here for more.

Religious right tries to claim 'March
of the Penguins' in culture war

As for intelligent design, penguin males balance an egg on their feet through months of an Antarctic winter. If that is intelligent design, the Big Guy has quite the sense of humor. Under natural selection, at least they would have a shot at evolving a lifestyle that doesn't require 70-mile marches to and from the food supply.
Still, this anthropomorphic battle has me waddling all over the terrain where science is a fighting word.

In the Grand Canyon, for example, you can actually sign up for "alternative" rafting trips. One paddles with geology and sees a space created over 550 million years by shifting faults. Another looks through what the leader calls "biblical glasses" and sees a place carved 4,500 years ago by the Flood.

Click here for more.

I hope to have more time tomorrow night to be outrageous or witty. Maybe both.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

The Black Panthers Revisited

From
CounterPunch:

If one reads the Ten Point Program of the Panthers, they will not see a radical document that calls for the installment of a dictatorship of the proletariat or a program to install a racially designed anti-white regime. No, the demands merely demanded fairness and some reparations for the historic enslavement of African-Americans by the white-skinned rulers of the American colonies and the early United States. Sure, the Panthers saw the situation of black people in the US as comparable to that of a colony, but that perception is still not that much of a stretch even today, thirty-four years after the founding of the Party. One can argue the various theoretical inadequacies of this perception, but the general truth of the economic status of most African-Americans in today's world is this: they own little property; they are subject to the whims of the major capitalist and political powers that work hand in hand to keep power among the rich who are also mostly white skinned; in those arenas where they do produce goods or services, the control remains with the colonial (or neocolonial) power; and in terms of the culture of the colonized, it is expropriated, manipulated, and exploited.

The Panthers were the targets of the most concerted governmental internal counterinsurgency effort while they existed, if not in the entire history of the United States. After they began observing Oakland police by following them around as they performed their duties the Party began to incur the cops' wrath. It was because the Panthers carried loaded guns during their observations that the California State Legislature outlawed that practice in California. The sight of Black men with loaded guns was too much for the fearful white culture. In April 1968, one of the first members of the Panthers was killed by Oakland police. Sixteen year old Bobby Hutton was shot down in a confrontation that also saw the arrest of Eldridge Cleaver, who had joined the party after his release from prison in 1967. Cleaver then went into exile after being released on bail. His theoretical differences with some of the original party members, especially Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, would be exploited by FBI agents and others involved in the counterinsurgency campaign waged against the Panthers. This campaign was a major part of the COINTELPRO program and involved everything from infiltration to murder. Bobby Hutton's death was but the first of many.

Click
here for the rest.

I know that the Panthers ultimately fell apart in a haze factionalism and drug use, but then who's to say that wasn't spurred by the Federal Government, who spent millions of dollars to illegally undermine the completely legal political organization? I love the Black Panther Party, the original one, not the wonky and politically opportunistic so-called "New" Black Panther Party. Their philosophy of worker empowerment, their social programs, their no-nonsense embrace of the concept of self-defense coming from an understanding that the racist white power structure was (and still is) literally out to kill and exploit black people, hell, even their kickass black leather jackets and revolutionary spirit all excite me to no end. They were a group that wanted justice, and they wanted it now.

Their just radicalism is a far cry from the armchair liberalism of today, which insists that leftists support Democrats, who do nothing. Okay, they do something: they enable the corporate forces that are incrementally making slaves of us all. I'm sick of watching this country going to hell. I'm sick of liberals reminiscing about the marvels of the Clinton era, which was in reality a very conservative, pro-corporate time. Is it any wonder that the Black Panther Party seems larger than life to me? America needs them again, if only to shake up all the bullshit. Nothing like the image of a righteous black guy with a gun to send the weirdos scurrying like the rats they are.



Right on!

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