Monday, October 30, 2006

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

That's right: I've found the video on YouTube! But first, this from Wikipedia:

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a critically-acclaimed and very popular animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.

The special depicts one Halloween night in which Linus Van Pelt, Charlie Brown's security blanket-toting best friend, eagerly awaits the arrival of "the Great Pumpkin", who Linus believes to travel around the world each Halloween giving toys to all the good little children (in the manner of Santa Claus each Christmas).

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was the second Peanuts special to be produced and animated by Bill Melendez. Its initial broadcast took place on October 27, 1966, on the CBS network; CBS re-aired the special annually through 2000, with ABC picking up the rights beginning in 2001.

The program was nominated for an Emmy award.

Click here for more.

Along with the Christmas special and the Thanksgiving special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown rounds out the great trilogy of Peanuts holiday shows from the 60s. I don't have a personal favorite because they're all great, with their fantastic Vince Guaraldi cool jazz soundtracks, and a modernist sensibility about the animation--it's really hard to say "this is the best." I suppose it depends on the time of year, so, for the moment, I'm into this one most. Then it'll be Thanksgiving, but not just yet. Anyway, who couldn't be emotionally affected by Linus' fatal fight with disillusionment? Who couldn't have some sympathy for Charlie Brown only getting rocks in his trick or treating bag or his badly botched ghost costume? If you don't like this, you're an inhuman monster.

Click here to watch it.

Happy Halloween!


Pentagon memo reveals launch of new PR war

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The Pentagon is buttressing its public relations staff and starting an operation akin to a political campaign war room as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld faces intensifying criticism over the Iraq war.

In a memo obtained by the Associated Press, Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said new teams of people will "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and "correct the record."


Ruff said today that the reorganization, spearheaded by Smith, will help the department "set the record straight" and provide accurate, timely information.

He denied that the effort was set up to respond to the eroding public support for the war, or that it was aimed at helping in next week's elections. He also said he would not call it an "information operations" program, which generally refers to a propaganda-type campaign.

Click here for more.

From Merriam-Webster Online:

public relations: the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution

propaganda: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause
You know, in the media saturated culture in which we live, it only makes good sense for any large institution to have an office of some sort for dealing with the press. On the other hand, this new Pentagon thing is something entirely different; it's "akin to a political campaign war room," which means that the military is getting into the business of politics. That's very disturbing. There are some extraordinarily good reasons that our founding fathers deliberately made the military obey a civilian commander-in-chief. First and foremost is the fact that the armed services are an incredible concentration of power, highly organized and efficient. We've seen throughout history numerous instances when such concentrations of power simply take over, and why not? They've got the strength to do it. By design, the US military is totally banned from any interference in the civil political system. It's too much of a slippery slope--how much interference is too much? Clearly, the people who established our nation believed that any interference is too much. After all, once you've crossed one line, what's the difference in crossing the next one? Rumsfeld is playing with fire here. This is really fucking dangerous.

Never mind the fact that Pentagon PR is bound to be just a bunch of feel-good, pro-war bullshit.


GAO chief warns economic disaster looms

From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:

Why is America so fiscally unprepared for the next century? Like many of its citizens, the United States has spent the last few years racking up debt instead of saving for the future. Foreign lenders — primarily the central banks of China, Japan and other big U.S. trading partners — have been eager to lend the government money at low interest rates, making the current $8.5-trillion deficit about as painful as a big balance on a zero-percent credit card.

In her part of the fiscal wake-up tour presentation, Rogers tries to explain why that's a bad thing. For one thing, even when rates are low a bigger deficit means a greater portion of each tax dollar goes to interest payments rather than useful programs. And because foreigners now hold so much of the federal government's debt, those interest payments increasingly go overseas rather than to U.S. investors.

More serious is the possibility that foreign lenders might lose their enthusiasm for lending money to the United States. Because treasury bills are sold at auction, that would mean paying higher interest rates in the future. And it wouldn't just be the government's problem. All interest rates would rise, making mortgages, car payments and student loans costlier, too.

A modest rise in interest rates wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, Rogers said. America's consumers have as much of a borrowing problem as their government does, so higher rates could moderate overconsumption and encourage consumer saving. But a big jump in interest rates could cause economic catastrophe. Some economists even predict the government would resort to printing money to pay off its debt, a risky strategy that could lead to runaway inflation.

Click here for the rest.

The above excerpted article reports that there is only one tonic for all these economic woes, cutting social services and raising taxes dramatically, which is pretty much all I ever hear anyone in the American mainstream suggest as far as curing the deficit goes. That's pretty weird because there is one very easy and rather painless solution staring us all right in the face. I mean, it really is an elephant in the middle of the living room: cut defense spending massively. The bottom line is that, while we do need some kind of military for protection, what we have now is so insanely huge that it can only be used for imperial purposes. That is, we just don't need it anymore, and imperial wars these days, as amply illustrated by first the Vietnamese and now the Iraqis, are by and large unwinnable, and therefore a waste of money. Besides, with so many arms on hand, the temptation to use them is seemingly overwhelming. It's time to end America's role as defender of corporate globalism and start tending to our needs right here at home. Hell, we don't even have to say goodbye to the corporate system: all we have to do is start working in tandem with--gasp!--other nations to ensure business security.

Face it, our huge military is a near total waste of money, and it threatens the entire economic system that it exists to protect. Christ, our leaders are so fucking stupid.


Workers' Rights Are About Dignity As Much As Wages

From AlterNet, an essay by Nickel and Dimed author Barbara Ehrenreich:

Something similar goes on in the case of the laid off and unemployed, thanks to the prevailing Calvinist form of Protestantism, according to which productivity and employment are the source of one's identity as well as one's income. Not working? Then what are you? And to put the Calvinist message in crude theological terms: Go to hell.

In case anyone fails to feel their full measure of shame over unemployment, there is an entire shame industry to whip them into shape: the career coaches, self-help books, motivational speakers, and business gurus who preach that whatever happens to you must be a result of your own attitude. Laid-off and coming up empty on your job search? You must be too negative, and hence attracting negative circumstances into your life. To paraphrase one career coach I encountered during my research for Bait and Switch: We're not here to talk about the economy or the market; we're here to talk about you.

Click here for the rest.

Yeah, well, obviously it's not all thanks to Protestantism, although its pre-existing strain infecting our culture made fertile ground for what's really going on: all these motivational speakers and career coaches are just one part of a massive propaganda campaign to make individual economic circumstances all about you, the individual, rather than about the overall economic context. That is, how many times have you heard someone say that labor unions were once a very good thing, but that their time has passed? That's the conventional wisdom shared by countless journalists, politicians, and pundits, which dominates the US political discourse. The corporate news media simply don't cover labor issues, at least, not in the way they cover business issues--one half of the equation is simply off the table. Add to all that the fact that the labor movement and the importance of collective bargaining are always taught in public schools in the most boring ways possible. I vaguely remember covering labor in the US history class I took when I was a junior in high school; I remember very clearly, however, all the war stuff, and what badasses Americans are when they shoot foreigners.

If you're out of work, or suffering in a low-paying, no-benefit job you hate, there's a very good chance it isn't your fault: most likely, you're a pawn caught up in a power game waged by people who don't give a rat's ass whether you live or die. I mean, if you're a lazy fuck who just resents having to work, well, go to hell; I'm not talking about you. But if you're honestly trying, trust me, you're getting fucked over, and it's not your fault if you feel like you're failing.

And voting for Democrats probably isn't going to do much to help you.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Democrats Get Late Donations From Business

From the New York Times courtesy of AlterNet:

Corporate America is already thinking beyond Election Day, increasing its share of last-minute donations to Democratic candidates and quietly devising strategies for how to work with Democrats if they win control of Congress.

The shift in political giving, for the first 18 days of October, has not been this pronounced in the final stages of a campaign since 1994, when Republicans swept control of the House for the first time in four decades.

Though Democratic control of either chamber of Congress is far from certain, the prospect of a power shift is leading interest groups to begin rethinking well-established relationships, with business lobbyists going as far as finding potential Democratic allies in the freshman class — even if they are still trying to defeat them on the campaign trail — and preparing to extend an olive branch the morning after the election.

Click here for the rest.

No surprise here. The corporations don't really care which party is in power as long as they're beholden to corporate interests. Bunch a fucking sleaze bags. But just because it's no surprise is no reason not to worry. The GOP dominated Congress' biggest problem isn't that they are conservative, although that is a problem: their biggest problem is that they absolutely depend on corporate campaign contributions in order to stay in power; obviously, such money comes with many strings attached. Democrats are no different. They need that money, too, so they'll take it. And, once elected, they will continue to need that corporate money continually coming in, which means that they won't do anything to offend their money tree. In other words, we may be looking at the seeds of Democratic self-destruction, which is something that they're pretty good with all by themselves. And you can bet your butt that the Republicans aren't going to be as timid as their opponents when it comes to attacking the majority party on corruption. If the Dems take over, it could get pretty bad.

At least I'll have plenty to blog about.



From the AP via ESPN:

Every four years for the past 12, Texas had left Lubbock a loser.

It looked like that trend might continue Saturday night when Texas Tech jumped out to a three-touchdown lead in the first half.

But the No. 5 Longhorns overcame four turnovers and erased the big deficit to beat the Red Raiders 35-31.

"This team doesn't know how to quit," said Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns. "We just kept hanging in there. We are determined and we fight to the end."

The Longhorns (8-1, 5-0 Big 12) won their 20th straight conference game and 17th consecutive road game.

here for the rest.

Man. Looks like I missed another nail-biter. I don't even know if this was on television, but it doesn't matter because I was in rehearsal all day long. It's probably just as well that I didn't watch. I'm pretty much always nervous about Texas Tech. They don't always show up for a game, but when they do, they're pretty great, which means there's always a chance they can beat the Longhorns, especially in Lubbock. Ordinarily, I would probably be worried that Texas didn't manhandle an unranked opponent, but, like I said, Tech has massive and weird potential--I suppose they're always fired up against Texas.

Anyway, after last week's comeback against Nebraska, and this massive comeback against Tech, I'd say that young Colt McCoy, who I've taken to calling "the Doctor," is the right guy for the QB job. And that's pretty important because Texas may get another shot at the national title: #3
USC lost today, and #2 Michigan has to play #1 Ohio State in a regular season Big Ten game on November 18th--obviously, only one of those two teams is going to walk away still ranked in the top five. If Texas can win out, which isn't a gimme, but is probable, they've got a very good shot at the #2 slot, which would put them right back in contention for defending their title.

I'd love to see the Doctor get a second chance to give a sedative filled hypo to Ohio State. Or Michigan. Whatever.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Economic growth worst in more than 3 years

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Economic growth slowed to a crawl in the third quarter, advancing at a pace of just 1.6 percent, the worst in more than three years.

The latest snapshot of the economy, released by the Commerce Department today, showed that the slumping housing market figured prominently in the economy's dramatic loss of momentum. Investment in homebuilding was cut by the biggest amount since early 1991.

The reading on gross domestic product was weaker than the 2.1 percent pace many economists were forecasting.

"The housing bubble burst and that really knocked down growth," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.

Click here for the rest.

Of course, it's not all about the housing bubble: the article goes on to mention a host of issues, including inflation, that are making the overall economy sluggish. And that's exactly what the economy has been since Bush became President, sluggish. They say that you can't really blame the President one way or another for economic performance, but Bush is a special case. He's had Congress completely in his pocket for five and a half years now--they generally take his lead on most issues, especially the economy. That is, Bush wields more power in this area than pretty much any of his predecessors. That's why it's safe to say that this is all his fault.

And really none of this is surprising. Like I said, the US faces some pretty complicated economic problems, but Bush has gone after them with single-minded simplicity: cut taxes for the wealthy. I'll be the first to admit that some tax cuts can provide some stimulus for some parts of the economy. That is, tax policy needs to be in terms of incentives, wisely targeting cuts like a surgeon cutting out a tumor. Bush, on the other hand, lives in right-wing fantasy land, where handing over big sacks of money to the already wealthy somehow results in good times for all. Obviously, things don't work that way in the real world. Tax cuts are not a miracle cure for the economy. We need to be doing much more.

So, expect this kind of sluggishness to continue. I think that White House economic policy probably is capable of getting some short term growth going by its gratuitous use of smoke and mirrors, which is what's been happening since 2001, but it always falls short, and any gains made are always erased. What we need is some serious economic policy, that takes into account the fact that economics is complicated business. Sadly, the last word anyone would ever use to describe President Bush is "complicated."



Frankie and Sammy



Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging!


Cops crash a country show at Walter's

My buddy Adam over at Shattered Soapbox, a musician now studying music at the University of New Orleans, who has gigged around H-Town with his punk band, and knows Walter's well, weighs in on the infamous cop raid there a couple of weeks ago:

Here's how it plays out in my head: you're up on the stage playing your guitar, the bright stage lights make it difficult to see anyone in the crowd, you seem to be ignoring the cop because you CAN'T FUCKING SEE HIM, so he gets up on the stage and approaches you; if you're facing away from the crowd (to the side in this case), you probably can't see him even after he comes up onto the stage so you accidentally run into him as you turn back to face the crowd.

Basically, if Stephens really did run into that cop first, it was quite likely just an accident, and this cop flipped out.

Click here for the rest.

That's pretty much my opinon, too, but it's good to get the perspective of a guy who's in a position to better know the overall context. Indeed, the overall context actually makes the cop look worse. I had forgotten the kind of sensory mayhem that takes place onstage during a live music show, but that fact alone makes it clear that these musicians were probably more confused by what was going on than anything else. They certainly weren't the aggressors here. Which makes Officer Rodriguez a big fat liar.

And an asshole, to boot.



Mood music here.

From the Niagra Falls Reporter:

The skit, which was well known on the vaudeville circuit, goes something like this: A bedraggled man buttonholes a stranger and tells him a tale of betrayal and vengeance. A rogue seduced his sweetheart. He trailed the miscreant from town to town, finally catching up with him in Niagara Falls, where he pummeled him mercilessly. The hearer of the story haplessly says the magic words, "Niagara Falls," causing the man to turn on him and mete out the same punishment.


That same year, the Three Stooges incorporated it into their short feature, Gents Without Cents. In this episode, the Stooges are out-of-work actors who meet three dancing girls in similar circumstances. They all get a job in a show, where they perform the routine. The Stooges marry the ladies and honeymoon in (where else?) Niagara Falls. This time, Curly is the Stooge who exclaims "Niagara Falls!" making himself the target of Moe and Larry's wrath.

Click here for more.

Without a doubt, this is my favorite Three Stooges sketch of all time. Granted, I'm not a huge fan of the comedy trio, but then, hey, who doesn't like the Three Stooges? "Slowly I Turned" wasn't an original--it's actually an old Vaudeville routine performed by the likes of Lucy and Abbot and Costello. In my opinion, however, the Stooges did it best: you can just see their comedic craft executed extraordinarily well, honed for years in seedy burlesques and nightclubs. Since I first saw it when I was a young child, maybe four or five, the phrase "Niagra Falls" has meant much more to me than simply a romantic vacation getaway. It means wacky revenge, which is, obviously, the best kind of revenge.

Now, thanks to my buddy Mike over at This is not a compliment, you can see on your computer the greatest Three Stooges sketch of all time. Click here to watch.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

N.J. court grants rights to gay couples

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

New Jersey's highest court ruled today that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, but that lawmakers must determine whether the state will honor gay marriage or some other form of civil union.

Advocates on both sides of the issue believed New Jersey posed the best chance to become only the second state after the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to legalize gay marriage because its high court has a history of extending civil rights protections.

Instead, the Supreme Court stopped short of fully approving gay marriage and gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include gay couples or create new civil unions.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, this isn’t quite the same thing as Massachusetts, where gay marriage was straight up deemed to be a civil right, but it’s pretty darned close, so I’m considering this yet another miraculous step in the right direction. Each state that legalizes gay marriage slightly alters the overall fabric of legal precedent in this area, which means that a few more states, at least, are bound to follow suit within the next few years, which will, in turn, pressure the rest of the country. Ultimately, a gay married couple is going to sue for legal recognition of their union in one of the more homophobic states, like Texas or Louisiana. That’ll almost certainly make it to the US Supreme Court: the Constitution clearly states that contracts made in one state are legally binding in all fifty states. Furthermore, there is already strong precedent coming out of the Lawrence and Garner v Texas case that homosexuals are guaranteed equal protection under the law, which, of course, must necessarily include the right to marry.

This is a ticking time bomb. We will see gay marriage in all fifty states within my lifetime, and it doesn’t matter one bit what all the homophobes think or feel. Heh. I love it.


Existing-house prices drop at a record rate nationwide

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The median price of a single-family home fell to $219,800 last month, a drop of 2.5 percent from the price in September 2005. That was the biggest year-over-year price decline in records going back nearly four decades.

Housing, which had set sales records for both new and existing homes for five consecutive years, has been rapidly loosing altitude this year, as consumers were battered by rising mortgage rates, soaring energy prices and a slowing economy.

However, economists with the Realtors said they believed the housing decline could be hitting bottom.

Click here for the rest.

Yeah, well, it's no surprise that economists working for realtors think they're hitting bottom--their livelihood depends on good forecasts.

I prefer economists who are a bit removed from the middle of things. This price drop is definitely the sound of a bubble bursting. All of this has been predicted for at least a couple of years now, if not more. Princeton economist Paul Krugman has been talking about it for quite a while, insisting that what’s been keeping the US economy afloat since 9/11 has been the over inflated housing market, spurred on by artificially low interest rates coupled with psychotic no-interest and adjustable rate mortgages. And that means lots of people will soon have to make ridiculously high payments on ridiculously overvalued property, many of whom won’t be able to do it, and since the GOP rammed finance industry written bankruptcy “reform” through Congress…well…one wonders if the press is even going to cover all the financial bloodshed.

You know, if Krugman is right about how the economy has been driven these last few years by housing, then there may very well be another recession in the works. Frankly, I just don’t understand right-wing economics anymore.


Hunting Gays In Iraq: How the Death Squads Work

From ZNet:

"Every gay and lesbian here lives in fear, just pure fear, of being beaten or killed," says Ahmad, a 34-year-old gay man, via telephone from his home in Baghdad. "Homosexuality is seen here as imported from the West and as the work of the devil."

Ahmad is masculine and "straight-acting," he says. "I can go out without being harassed or followed." But that's not the case for his more effeminate gay friends. "They just cannot go outside, period," he says. "If they did, they would be killed." To help them survive, Ahmad has been bringing food and other necessities to their homes. "The situation for us gay people here is beyond bad and dangerous," he says.

Life for gay and lesbian citizens in war-torn Iraq has become grave and is getting worse every day. While President Bush hails a new, "democratic" society, thousands of civilians are dying in a low-level civil war -- and gays are being targeted just for being gay. The Badr Corps -- the military arm of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI for short), the country's most powerful Shiite political group -- has launched a campaign of "sexual cleansing," marshaling death squads to exterminate homosexuality.


All Hussein thinks about is getting out of Iraq. "Things were bad under Saddam for gays," he says, "but not as bad as now. Then, no one feared for their lives. Now, you can be gotten rid of at any time."

Click here for the rest.

We already knew that democracy and freedom in Iraq are a big joke, but this is very disturbing news indeed. Apparently, it's open season on homosexuals in over there, and, as the article notes, many of the death squads are working within the government. The government we created. This is truly fucked. Imagine Fred Phelps' gang of psychos taking control of the US. But this is worse. Phelps is an idiot and an incompetent, good only for pissing people off: the SCIRI is the exact opposite; they're efficient, cold, and brutal killers.

We're responsible for this shit--like the man says, it was bad before, but not like this.



A new one from the Progressive:

Q: You’re a veteran of World War II, the so-called good war. Would you recommend to a young person a career in the armed forces in the United States?

Vidal: No, but I would suggest Canada or New Zealand as a possible place to go until we are rid of our warmongers. We’ve never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It’s as though we are evil. We strike first. We’ll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.

But our media has collapsed. They’ve questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there’s nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can’t have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed.

Q: You’ve called the country “The United States of Amnesia.” Is this something in our genes?

Vidal: No, it’s something in our rulers. They don’t want us to know anything. When you’ve got a press like we have, you no longer have an informed citizenry.

I was involved somewhat with Congressman Conyers on what happened in Ohio during the last Presidential election.

Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and he went up there with a bunch of researchers. They went from district to district, and they found out how the election was stolen. He wrote a report that was published by a small press in Chicago. To help out, I said I’d write a preface for him on how the election was stolen. We were thinking that might help. But The New York Times and The Washington Post were not going to review the book about how we had a second Presidential election stolen. They weren’t going to admit it.

A huge number of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. You have a people that don’t know anything about the rest of the world, and you have leaders who lie to them, lie to them, and lie to them.

It’s so stupid, everything that they say. And the media take on it is just as stupid as theirs, sometimes worse. They at least have motives. They are making money out of the republic or what’s left of it. It’s the stupidity that will really drive me away from this country.

Click here for more.

No sparkling commentary from me on this: Vidal speaks very clearly for himself, which is why I like him so much, and anything I might say would be like drooling gibberish compared to his wonderful use of the English language. However, I would add to his statement about the press and how the ruling elite don't want us to know anything that the schools play a key role in the creation of American ignorance as well, of which I'm sure Gore is quite aware. But I don't have any more to say than that. Really, I'm just posting this interview because he so clearly and concisely articulates the major problems facing the US today that it is well worth the read.

I mean, what can one say about the man who once pissed off conservative godfather William F. Buckley so much that he threatened to "sock [Vidal] in the goddamn teeth" live on national television? What a mighty good man!


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


From the Houston Chronicle:

"This is not an easy decision,'' Lake said. "Sentencing is the most difficult and least pleasant part of my job Mr. Skilling has a family who loves him.''

He added, however, "His crimes have imposed on hundreds if not thousands, a life sentence of poverty."

Lake's sentence, more precisely 292 months, also ordered Skilling to participate in alcohol and mental health programs. He also approved the forfeiture of $45 million to be distributed to Enron employees.


To others, the timing of Skilling's sentencing, after most of the other large corporate scandals such as WorldCom and Adelphia have played out, brings a tidy end to an era of white-collar crime.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, I can accept this as justice. I mean, how do you really determine what amount of time ought to be served for giving "hundreds if not thousands, a life sentence of poverty?" I suppose life wouldn't be out of line. Certainly not death: I don't approve of that for anybody, no matter what their crime. Still, twenty four years is a long time, especially for a guy at Skilling's age. And it's hard time--the judge rejected Skilling serving out his sentence in one of those cushy mimimum security prisons. The forfeiture is icing on the cake, but won't do nearly enough to help out the investors and employees that he robbed. So cool. I guess.

But what bugs me about this is that anyone at all thinks this means the end of "an era of white-collar crime." That's just so fucking stupid. The GOP Congress passed only what amounted to window dressing in terms of reform after all the scandals broke, which means that, legally, the stage continues to be set for more fraud. Sure, yeah, the capitalist crowd is being more careful these days--the only reason all these guys got busted in the first place was that the conventional wisdom was such that they had all the authorities in their pockets, and would never be held accountable. Well, guess what? They still have all the authorities in their pockets and the Enron induced fear over Wall Street is only going to last another couple of years at most.

None of this even addresses the fact that the vast majority of immoral corporate acts are already perfectly legal because they've written all the laws! The era of white-collar crime has only just begun.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
has done more for politics than poverty

From Working For Change, the Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman:

Abroad, a recent Boston Globe series on foreign aid showed how, through a series of executive orders, religious groups have obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding -- 98.3 percent of it to Christian charities. Your tax dollars are at work, sometimes changing the message that comes with American aid, even promoting the healing powers of a Christian God.

In one hospital in the ultra-sensitive Muslim turf of Pakistan, the X-ray machine, the blood bank refrigerator and the radiology computer bear the USAID sticker, "From the American People." In the waiting room of this underutilized hospital "The Jesus Film" is shown.

At home, The New York Times reported at length that religious organizations are not only exempt from taxes but increasingly from civil rights laws. A church may now use its tax-free dollars to build retirement communities where the average resident's net worth is $1 million.

Finally along comes David Kuo, once the No. 2 man in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In his book, "Tempting Faith," he recalls how the stars in the religious right's firmament were described by White House honchos as "nuts," "goofy," "boorish." He confesses that the office did more for politics than poverty. How values voters were valued only for their votes.

Click here for more.

"Compassionate conservatism" was a joke from the moment the term was coined. After all, compassion has never been something that conservatives have really ever mixed with their politics, making the concept a bizarre oxymoron at the very least. But that didn't make it okay. My problem with the whole faith-based thing was that, by its very nature, it would serve as a major erosion of the separation between church and state.

Of course, the thing I never understood until lately is that Bush was never serious about it. That is, he wasn't serious about it in terms of actually doing what he said he was going to do: "compassionate conservatism" is simply a political ploy, a chunk of red meat thrown to fundamentalists in order to get their votes. So, yeah, some money has been diverted to religious charitable organizations, not nearly as much as the White House promised, but just enough to be able to say that they were helping out their zealot-brothers in faith.

Fortunately for the nation, the faith-based initiative didn't turn out to be the intermingling of government and religion that I had feared. Unfortunately for fundamentalist voters, they've been played for fools. Somehow, it's not very easy for me to feel sorry for them.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Did VA Hide Figures Showing 1 in 4 US Veterans
of Iraq and Afghanistan Disabled From Service?

From Democracy Now:

PAUL SULLIVAN: It means, in simple terms, that it appears the administration was playing a definitions game. Right now, if you read the report, Amy, from the Veterans' Benefits Administration, it says that there is actually no official definition for the global war on terror. The global war on terror, or GWOT, has several other names: the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom. So, depending upon how a reporter asked the question, the administration has a tremendous amount of flexibility in what kind of answer they want to provide.

Let me give you an example. Right now, the Department of Defense, if you ask them how many service members are in Iraq, they’ll answer 150,000. However if you ask the question, “How many service members are now deployed to the global war on terror, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?” the number is actually 250,000. The higher number takes into account service members in places like Kuwait, Qatar, Diego Garcia and the nations surrounding Iraq and Afghanistan and aboard ships. So, what VA and DOD are doing is they’re playing a definition game. If someone doesn’t ask for exactly the right kind of report and the right kind of statistic, then the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs can simply say the report doesn’t exist.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Sullivan, what does this mean for costs? What does it mean for all of the disability costs?

PAUL SULLIVAN: What it means is, in terms of how much money the Iraq and Afghanistan war will cost taxpayers, the war will cost billions per year well out into the future.

Click here to watch, read, or listen to the rest.

The conventional wisdom is that the lessons coming out of the Vietnam are something along these lines: have clear, achievable goals, use massive force, don't attempt to "nation build," and have a full understanding of what you're getting into. Or something to that effect. The White House, however, clearly is working out of a different textbook. Their Vietnam lessons: don't let the US public know how bad it really is by keeping the press far away from actual fighting or the returning bodies of dead soldiers, playing numbers games with dead and wounded, and plain old fashioned Nixonian lying. This report from Democracy Now isn't surprising at all. In fact, it's totally in keeping with what we've seen from the Oval Office thus far.

What surprises me is the figure: one out of every four Iraq/Afghanistan vets is now disabled. One out of four. That boggles my mind. I've seen a few TV reports about how field medicine is so advanced nowdays, that hundreds of soldiers who would have died on the battlefield in past conflicts actually survive in this one. But the other side of that success seems rarely discussed: they live, yes, but they're coming back home with disabilities. That's just not acceptable. We're crippling--what?--thousands of young men. What, exactly, are the numbers on this?

Maybe the anti-war movement should start talking about all these disabled vets when they're talking about how many soldiers we've lost. It seems significant.



From the Houston Chronicle:

Kingwood stonewalls 2-point try, beats Humble

Kingwood upset No. 5 area-ranked Humble with defense as the Wildcats failed on a 2-point conversion with 55 seconds left in regulation and then missed a 45-yard field goal with 10 seconds left.

Click here for the rest--there's not much more, but you can read about how Baytown Sterling, where I used to teach, lost to Beaumont Westbrook. Here is the box score.

Well, in the grand scheme of things, the Mustangs are no LSU or UT, but they are the team I used to root for when I attended Kingwood High School back in the 80s. And the Humble Wildcats were the team we always wanted to beat; they were, and still are, the big cross town rival. Unfortunately for Kingwood, Humble is in the middle of something of a dynasty, highly ranked in the Houston area for these past seven or eight years, usually making the playoffs--Kingwood, on the other hand, only occasionally puts together a winning record these days; indeed, this win against the Wildcats brings the Mustangs to .500 for this season.

But what the hell! We beat Humble! This must be what it's like to be an Aggie for one of those rare wins against the Longhorns. Actually, it feels pretty good.

Go 'Stangs!


I Won't Support Hillary Just Because She's a Woman

From AlterNet:

I don't think it's the height of feminism to have a woman president. I think it's the height of feminism to be able to look at presidential candidates as people who will or will not meet our needs and serve our interests. Regardless of whether those candidates are men or women, black or white, Hispanic or Asian.

And looking solely at Mrs. Clinton's political credentials, she's not the candidate for me.

She's too centrist. I'm a bleeding-heart, borderline-socialist, anti-war liberal who believes corporate wealth is the source of most of the country's problems. Hillary never met a credit card company lobbyist she didn't like, she won't push for legalization of equal rights to marriage for all, she concentrates her attention on a culture of sex and violence in the media instead of on the culture of corruption and violence in Washington today.

She represents a Democratic ideology of the past. The 1990s were fun. I was in college then, and I enjoyed the tech boom that had people fighting for my job skills when I graduated. I loved that period of my life. But it's over, and so is the political climate that made her and her husband's bipartisan compromising palatable to most Americans.

Click here for the rest.

"Centrist?" Uh, try "conservative" instead. Not conservative like the near-fascists who make up today's GOP leadership, but old school conservative, like Nixon or Goldwater. I, too, had great affection for Hillary back in the 90s, back when I just assumed that Rush Limbaugh was right about her lesbian-loving, spell-casting ways. I even wrote a cute little song praising her. I figured that she was liberal and that her association with the pro-corporate DLC was simply due to political expedience. But her antics in the Senate have really made me reevaluate that point of view. She votes and talks like a corporation lover, and her support for the war, which everybody thinks is about shoring up her security credentials for her inevitable presidential run, is, at this point, unconscionable. Today, I have no idea why anybody, let alone right-wingers, thinks she's liberal.

Well, fuck her. Her chameleon-like politics sicken me. And her "liberal" smugness gives me gas. For my own reasons, I now join with millions of conservatives by declaring that Hillary's just a big bitch. There's no fucking way I'm voting for her for dog catcher, let alone president.


Saturday, October 21, 2006


From the AP via ESPN:

Horns slip past Huskers on walk-on kicker's game-winning FG

The Huskers were on the verge of pulling the upset after taking a 20-19 lead with 4:54 left. But Texas caught a huge break when receiver Terrence Nunn fumbled as the Huskers were trying to kill the clock. Marcus Griffin recovered at the Nebraska 44 with 2:17 left.

Colt McCoy, with a 20 mph wind in his face, snow flurries swirling and Vince Young looking on from the sideline, drove the Longhorns to the Nebraska 5 .

Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) tried to ice Bailey when coach Bill Callahan asked officials to review the previous play to see if the Huskers may have intercepted a pass by McCoy in the end zone. Replays clearly showed that the ball bounced on the ground, however, and Bailey didn't seem to mind the delay.

After getting a good-natured slap on the helmet from Brown, he trotted back out onto the field and calmly made the kick.

Click here for the rest.

Sounds like it was a great game. Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize it was an early game and didn't turn on the television until there was, well, only 2:17 left on the clock. Yeah, that's right, I started watching right after Texas recovered the fumble that allowed them to win the game. So no anxiety for me, no thrills, no nail-biting. Just the very satisfying feeling that we had it in the bag. I mean, those last couple of minutes were somewhat exciting. The announcers kept going on and on about how the Longhorns' starting kicker had blown it three times already. Then Coach Brown brought in the walk-on guy, and Nebraska's coach used his time outs to try to ice him. But, you know, he kicked from like the seven yard line. It wasn't that exciting.

But, what the hell, it's a win against a conference opponent, in the snow, and Nebraska's pretty damned good this year. I'll take it.

Again from the AP via ESPN:

Bowe ties LSU receiving record in rout of Fresno State

Dwayne Bowe caught a 58-yard touchdown pass to tie the LSU record for career scoring catches and ice the No. 14 Tigers' 38-6 victory over Fresno State on Saturday night.


JaMarcus Russell was 15-of-19 passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns, playing into the fourth quarter at home for the first time this season.

LSU (6-2) has registered lopsided victories in all six of its home games, but this one was closer than the others for the better part of three quarters.

Fresno State kicker Clint Stitser made field goals of 35 and 29 yards, the second one getting the Bulldogs (1-6) as close as 17-6 midway through the third quarter.

But the Tigers responded with a six-play, 67-yard scoring drive capped by Broussard's score as the Tigers began to pull away. Bowe scored on LSU's next drive, then Russell hit Davis to make it 38-6 with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Click here for the rest.

So it was a blowout, but not until the fourth quarter. Fresno State was in it until close to the end. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see this one either. Totally blacked out on TV here in Baton Rouge, and I'm still not sure how the ticket lottery works here anyway. So I just kind of kept track of the score online. You know, I'd bitch about how LSU keeps playing these lesser opponents, but, apparently Fresno State was pretty good a couple of years ago. I suppose who ever does the scheduling was expecting a better match. Oh well, it's a win.

Just not an SEC win, and the Tigers sure could use a few more of those.


We refuse to work for homosexuals

From the Houston Chronicle:

At 9:08 a.m. Farber, who together with her husband, Todd, owns Garden Guy Inc., a landscaping company on Hillcroft, hit "send" on a message that delivered a painful blow with the verbal equivalent of a smiley face.

"Subject: Cancel Appt - Garden Guy

"Dear Mr. Lord,

"I am appreciative of your time on the phone today and glad you contacted us. I need to tell you that we cannot meet with you because we choose not to work for homosexuals.

"Best of luck in finding someone else to fill your landscaping needs.

"All my best,


Click here for the rest.

The article notes that the owners of Garden Guy are Christians, and their website has a statement about how "the God-ordained institution of marriage is under attack," complete with a link to an anti-gay marriage site. So I guess the Farbers' understanding of the Bible is that homosexuals ought to be shunned.

Hmmm...let's see. Jesus dined with tax collectors, who were hated and reviled throughout Judea. Jesus befriended prostitutes. Jesus rescued an adulteress from a psychotic mob of fundementalist weirdos. Jesus told the parable about the good Samaritan--Samaritans were the Palestinians of their day, hated and reviled even more than tax collectors. Jesus associated with lepers, who were even more shunned than AIDS patients were in the 80s. As he was dying on the cross, Jesus told the criminals who were being executed next to him that they would stand beside him in Heaven when it was all over. In short, Jesus was constantly reaching out to the most marginalized people in society, especially those who were universally condemned by the moral authorities.

I'm so sick of this shit. These Farbers aren't followers of Jesus, no matter how they self-identify: they're simply prejudiced assholes.

I'm personally certain that there is no such thing as Hell because no just God would ever create such a place. But sometimes I like to fantasize that there is, and the most satisfying part of such a fantasy is imagining the look on the faces of people like the Farbers and the Falwells and the Dobsons and the Robertsons when they realize how badly they'd fucked up right before fire and brimstone make their heads melt like that guy in the first Indiana Jones movie.

From the Book of Matthew:

21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Heh. I love that passage.

(Thanks to my old pal Anne, a fellow former Southern Baptist, and theater goddess of my Houston art-home, dos chicas, for sending this story my way.)


Friday, October 20, 2006






Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging!



From the Houston Chronicle, a classic tale of cops and rock and roll:

Noise complaint at bar leads to melee

McDuell said Stephens, whose guitar was hanging from a neck strap, then used a sexual obscenity and shoved the officer with his shoulder.

McDuell said the officer then tried to arrest Stephens for assault and forced him to the stage floor of the stage.

Stephens, a 25-year-old from San Francisco, said that is "absolutely" not what happened.

Stephens said he was sideways and singing on the stage just before he turned around and saw the officer, who then shined a flashlight at him and said, "Stop."

Stephens, who denied shoving the officer, said he responded, "Why?"

He said the officer moved closer to him and yelled, "Stop!"

Stephens said he again asked why and that the officer then grabbed him by the neck and forced him to the floor.

Accounts vary, but apparently several people then charged the stage, there was a lot of pushing and shoving, and the officer called for backup.

HPD's McDuell said several people were grabbing the officer from behind when he felt someone grab his pistol.

Click here for the rest.

Wait. Now, what happened? The main thrust of the Chronicle article is that nobody can really say at this point who's at fault, despite the fact that there were dozens of witnesses, some of whom were taking photos and shooting video. Frankly, I think the Chronicle, in a misguided attempt at "balance" isn't really doing the kind of reporting it ought to be doing. Here's my version of "balance," another account of the incident from the music news site Pitchfork courtesy of the Houston Chronicle's music scene blog Handstamp:

Two Gallants Speak Out About Houston Incident

According to McDuell via the Houston Chronicle, Stephens "used a sexual obscenity and shoved the officer with his shoulder."

"There's no way I shoved him at all," Stephens said. "I think anyone with a little bit of reason, if you just picture the situation, we're there to play music, not to attack police officers. We're playing music and a cop comes in, we had no idea what was going on, why in the world would we immediately attack a police officer for walking into a venue while we're playing? We're not on tour to take down law enforcement. It's just ridiculous to me that someone would make up that rumor, because why would anyone do that? He completely took the first offensive move by throwing us to the ground."

Vogel said, "I never pushed that guy. Neither did Adam. We were just so confused about what was going on. We didn't have time to be angry or want to start a fight."

"All I remember being on the ground was trying to get back up," Stephens continued. "I didn't swing at him. I remember trying to push him up off of us, because there was no reason we should have been on the ground. We didn't do anything at all! I still feel like it's in my right to defend myself if I feel like I've done absolutely no crime. I didn't swing at him, I didn't do anything in any way to attack him. But I think we were doing what anyone would have done in that situation, just trying to get back up, try to get back our footing."

The Chronicle also reported that Rodriguez "suffered bruises and cuts on his arms," which Two Gallants deny. "He had blood on his shirt, but that was from me," Vogel explained. "I cut myself a lot when I'm playing, so my hands were bleeding when he pushed me. And when we were down at the jail, waiting for everything to be processed, we saw him hanging out, going about his business, and nothing was wrong. He wasn't hurt at all."

Click here for more.

Yet another account posted on a myspace site alleges this: "An Ex-Walter’s employee claims Rodgriguez 'always came around with a chip on his shoulder, being very confrontational to patrons of Walter's shows.'" For me, that pretty much encapsulates what was really going on.

Forgive me for jumping to conclusions here, but given the fact that none of the people involved in the "melee" are actually criminals, and that they were obviously just trying to play a gig, the burden is on the Houston Police Department to explain why things went so badly. I mean, a fourteen year old kid who wasn't even inside the venue was tasered, for crying out loud! And it's not like these were hardcore punks or death metal rockers; this was a mellow country band. For that matter, the cop version of the story just reeks of CYA--"felt someone grab his pistol" ranks right up there with "I thought I smelled marijuana." Further, even if the cop story is absolutely true, what the hell did they think they were doing sending a single officer into what they say they believed was a crazed and drunken crowd of wild rock and rollers? It doesn't add up. Their version is bullshit at face value.

Clearly what happened was that a dick cop came in there to throw around his au-thor-i-tay. When band members, who were right in the middle of a song, didn't immediately get down on their knees and suck his big hard cop dick, he freaked, going into typical cop manly-violence mode. This kind of thing happens all the time. It's just that such stories aren't usually in front of masses of witnesses and on videotape, and cops who are often drunk on their own sense of power and self-righteousness are able to get away with it scot-free. Events like this are inevitible because pig-headed police attitudes are heavily encouraged by police culture. I think it's safe to say, however, that, eventually, Rodriguez is going to be in a bunch of trouble--too many people saw what happened.

But it will happen again. And again and again. The only thing that can stop it is to require an overhaul of the culture in which cops operate. The "us versus them" attitude has got to end. The cult of authority-worship has got to end. The "code of silence" that requires good cops to look the other way when bad cops do bad things has got to end.

I've said many times before that society needs police protection, but not from guys like this. Goddamned pig.

Two skinny, vegan, 100 pound band members "assault" a 250 pound cop from underneath him

Click here or here for video.


Thursday, October 19, 2006


Busy tonight. But I am linking to, via AlterNet, an interview with and essay by radical historian Howard Zinn, who changed everything for me about what it means to be an American.

Howard Zinn on Our 'Addiction to Massive Violence'

What is an issue on which your opinion has changed, and what have you learned from the change?

Certainly my opinion changed from the time I was a bombardier that there was such a thing as a good war, and I now know that there is no such thing. I also thought we had a democratic society and government, with checks and balances. I now believe only in the movements of the people that can change history.

Are popular resistance movements different now than in the past?

I think that the mobilization of people is not fundamentally different. Very often, people will get frustrated that the movement isn't succeeding in stopping the war. They think there must be a better way, that there must be some magic new way to organize, but it takes time and patience; there's no magic to it. There's no cause for despair that we have not yet seen results yet; it's a matter of continuing to do it because people are basically decent and don't want war.

Should there be limits on free speech in higher education?

Professors and students should be express whatever opinions they want. Our culture is dominated by certain ideas: the ideas of patriotism, nationalism, ideas of capitalism and success in terms of wealth and prestige; students are already exposed to all sorts of ideas. Professors should be free to express their ideas because it serves as an example to students. For them to bring their ideas into the classroom is to bring their own cart to the marketplace of ideas. Professors need to express those opinions; when a professor holds back and is timid, he is setting an example of timidity in the classroom.

Click here for the rest.

War-Mongering America Terrorizes the World

There is something important to be learned from the recent experience of the United States and Israel in the Middle East: that massive military attacks, inevitably indiscriminate, are not only morally reprehensible, but useless in achieving the stated aims of those who carry them out.

The United States, in three years of war, which began with shock-and- awe bombardment and goes on with day-to-day violence and chaos, has been an utter failure in its claimed objective of bringing democracy and stability to Iraq. The Israeli invasion and bombing of Lebanon has not brought security to Israel; indeed it has increased the number of its enemies, whether in Hezbollah or Hamas or among Arabs who belong to neither of those groups.

Click here for the rest.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Ghetto Fabulous" Parties: the New Face of White Supremacy

From CounterPunch, my favorite journalism professor, UT's Robert Jensen, on the administrative reaction to a racist party thrown by some University of Texas law students:

Racist, sexist, and heterosexist images and words are a problem not merely because they offend but because they help keep non-white people, women, and lesbians and gays in subordinated positions. Framing the problem of oppressive systems as a question of offensiveness often leads people to argue that the solution is for the targets of the offensive speech or actions to be less sensitive, rather than changing the oppressive system. Sager's email doesn't suggest that, but it could play into that common feeling among people in the dominant classes. We live in a world in which the legitimate concerns of non-white people about racist expression and actions are often met by white people saying, "Stop whining -- get over it." In such a world, white people trying to resist racism should be careful not to do anything that could contribute to that.

Click here for more.

I forget where I originally read it, but this quote has stuck with me for years: "The University of Texas has been described as both the nation's biggest white university and the nation's whitest big university." If the racial makup of the student population at Texas is approximately the same now as it was when I was an undergrad there in the late 80s and early 90s, I'd say that quote is right on. Especially when compared to what I see here at LSU. Lots of non-white faces here, but relatively very few at my old school. It seems to me that what amounts to near racial exclusivity at Texas only makes such scandals inevitable. They happened back when I was there and they're happening now. UT's really got to clean up its act.

Anyway, the excerpt above reminds me of a controversy I inadvertanly caused when I was teaching high school in Baytown. Some student, I forget who, asked me during a class discussion why it is socially acceptable for black comedians to make fun of white people but not the reverse. I laid out what I believe to be a pretty much indisputable case: there is a long history of racism in this nation, which heavily infected American entertainment, and continues to do so today. I talked about the minstrel shows. I talked about Gone with the Wind. I talked about racial stereotyping in recent films. Then I explained how there is no such history, in terms of scale, when it comes to portraying whites, and that, by and large, whites continue to be the major power holders in America. My conclusion, that it doesn't really matter if black comedians make fun of whites, but there is a great deal at stake when the tables are turned, really ruffled some feathers. White feathers, that is--my African-American students, on the other hand, totally understood what I was getting at.

I mean, some of my kids were really pissed off at me. One of them even tried to get me fired. No one who disagreed with me, unfortunately, really tried to address or understand my arguments; they just couldn't seem to get out of their limited perception of fairness: "if they can make fun of us, then we should be able to make fun of them."

What I learned when the heat had died down was that many, many white Americans have absolutely no understanding of the racial dynamics in this country. They don't really know the history, or seemingly even care to know. All they know is that racism is bad, and because they're good people they can't be racists or engage in racist behavior or thinking. At the same time, however, they appear to be mired in an "us versus them" mindset, utterly oblivious to the fact that whites continue to enjoy great privilege in America relative to people of color. The bottom line is that buttloads of white Americans just don't get it. They think racist speech is all about being offensive, which it is, but, of course, that's simply one tiny corner of the entire situation: racist speech is far more about indoctrination into and legitimizing of the racist power structure that rules the nation.

Try explaining that to a pissed off fourteen year old who claims to only want equality, which, to her, means the right to make fun of black people. Sometimes I fear we're never going to change.


Discontent with GOP finds way into Texas

From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:

Three weeks to the midterm elections, GOP discontent is seeping into the home state of
President Bush, where every statewide elected official is a Republican.

The state's Republican House members were supposed to be protected from such voter mood swings by the 2003 redrawing of the state's congressional districts, orchestrated by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

But largely because of DeLay, who resigned in June embroiled in scandal, Texas this year unexpectedly is one of the states that could help Democrats wrest control of the House from the GOP this November. Races for three of the state's 32 congressional seats are considered competitive.

Click here for the rest.

Well, three out of thirty two doesn't at all mean that my home state is turning liberal. I mean, that's just an absurd notion on its face. Given the above mentioned redistricting, however, and how it really has made it virtually impossible for Texas' Congressional delegation to tilt Democrat, this is significant: when Texas Republicans start dissing the GOP, you know people in this country are totally pissed off. 'Bout time.

Good Lord, we've come a long way since March of '03.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Ex-FDA chief charged in conflict of interest case

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Former FDA chief Lester Crawford was charged today with lying about his ownership of stock in companies regulated by his agency.

The Justice Department accused the former head of the Food and Drug Administration with falsely reporting that he had sold stock in companies when he continued holding onto shares in the firms governed by FDA rules.

Click here for the rest.

This kind of thing is totally inevitable when the staffing pool for federal regulatory agencies consists of executives drawn from the industries that are being regulated. The whole trend started under Clinton, but, of course, it has ballooned under Bush. A couple of decades ago we had some pretty darned good oversight of industry in this country--for instance, back in the late 50s the FDA was pretty much the only agency in the world that held off on approving the sedative thalidomide, which ended up causing great masses of severe birth defects worldwide, but not in the US. Today, however, that's not the case. What were once regulatory agencies are now little corporate helpers, seeing their mission as one of enabling and aiding the industries they are required by law to police. Unfortunately, conflict-of-interest cases are not the worst possible result from this crazy-ass situation: real people get hurt and real people die when industry goes unregulated. It took over a hundred sick and three dead before Americans understood that spinach isn't safe to eat right now. If our FDA was worth a damn, that wouldn't have happened. American citizens ought not be reduced to the proverbial canary in the coal mine so that corporate fat cats can get fatter.