Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Whose Web Is It?

Well, net neutrality lost in the House. Among its opponents was the only Democrat from Dallas County, Eddie Bernice Johnson, whose voting record is usually correct. Nobody's perfect. Now the issue is being fought out in the Senate. Jonathan of Hugo Zoom writes about the misleading ad campaign being run by the neutrality opponents, and urges contact with Senator Hutchison (please note the spelling, Jon) at this post.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Big Sister

This is the day that Françoise Dorléac was killed in a car wreck.

Become good at counting vertebrae.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Best Blog Post Title Of The Day

Ellen Beth Gill, in regard to repeal of the Estate Tax:
Alms for the rich! Alms for the rich!

There Is A Season....

(Found at Hugo Zoom.)

Another Precinct Heard From

Just for completeness' sake, I link here yet another summary of the Texas Democratic state convention. This one claims that the incumbent won the race for state chair because his leading opponent was gay. I doubt that, but I don't have any more valid statistical samplings than this poster does. We're both guessing.

The Second Time As Farce

Vince Leibowitz of Capitol Annex has a paranoid thought about the race for Tom Delay's seat in Congress. (Of course, sometimes paranoia is accurate....) The Secretary of State just announced that former Republican Congressman Steve Stockman did not turn in enough signatures to get on the ballot as an independent candidate in that district. Vince fears this may mean the Republicans will turn to Stockman as the replacement candidate for Delay (if the courts allow Tom's shell game with the ballot to go on).

That would set up a rematch. Stockman first won (in a largely different district) in 1994. He promptly became known as the leading defender of militias in Congress. Two years later he was deservedly defeated by Democrat Nick Lampson -- who, out of office following Delay's Perrymandering, is the Democratic candidate in Delay's district this year.

I would love to see the Republicans put that same fool up again, but I don't assume they are quite that stupid. In just one term Stockman became a national figure for mockery because of his wild statements. It would be great to haul those all out again -- and Lampson would stomp on him once more. Please, party of the elephants, do give us Stockman to kick around again. Thanks for your help, suckers.

Blows From Within The Empire

This is the birthday of Anna Akhmatova.
In the awful days of the Yezhovschina I passed seventeen months in the outer waiting line of the prison visitors in Leningrad. Once, somebody 'identified' me there. Then a woman, standing behind me in the line, which, of course, never heard my name, waked up from the torpor, typical for us all there, and asked me, whispering into my ear (all spoke only in a whisper there):
"And can you describe this?"
And I answered:
"Yes, I can."
Then the weak similarity of a smile glided over that, what had once been her face.
--Instead of a preface, "Requiem 1935 - 1940"

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rather's New Gig

Read about it at Fact-esque.

Eppur Si Muove

This is one of the days that the Church of Rome condemned the reality-based community:
Sentence of the Tribunal of the Supreme Inquisition against Galileo Galilei, given the 22nd day of June of the year 1633

"We say, pronounce, sentence, and declare, that thou, the said Galileo, by the things deduced during this trial, and by thee confessed as above, hast rendered thyself vehemently suspected of heresy by this Holy Office, that is, of having believed and held a doctrine which is false, and contrary to the Holy Scriptures, to wit: that the Sun is the centre of the universe, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the Earth moves and is not the centre of the universe ...

"We order that by a public edict the book of Dialogues Of Galileo Galilei be prohibited, and We condemn thee to the prison of this Holy Office during Our will and pleasure; and as a salutary penance We enjoin on thee that for the space of three years thou shalt recite once a week the Seven Penitential Psalms....
Be prepared to spare yourself a summer sojourn in Cuba, by confessing in public that George W. Bush is evidence that evolution is a terribly mistaken theory.

A Geographical Question

I'm trying to figure just where in the Inferno would Dante place one particular Texas offender (sorry, "alleged offender", since the jury at his trial has not yet found him guilty, and he claims it's all lies stirred up by an unrelated child custody dispute). Advice from any experts on this medieval eschatology would be appreciated.

Should it be the Second Circle, where the lustful "are blown about to and fro by a violent storm, without hope of rest"? No, the crime there is more against your own soul than someone else's person.

The outer ring of the Seventh Circle, where those violent against persons stand in a river of boiling blood? Probably not, since the viciousness here, while certainly a form of rape, may not have involved actual force or the threat of it.

Maybe the first ditch of the Eighth Circle (for the fraudulent), with other seducers force to "walk in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons"? Not enough -- this was not just deceit, but using (at least psychological) intimidation to seize an innocent's body for his own pleasure.

Finally, I think he has to be put into the Ninth Circle with other traitors, specifically in the first zone, encased in ice with other traitors to their own kindred.

While his political activity is irrelevant to the horror of the acts that he is on trial for, I can certainly say this does seem all in character.

The terrible tale is in yesterday's McAllen Monitor:
Political consultant and ad producer Carey Lee Cramer is expected to testify today defending himself against charges he sexually molested two young girls. ...

Cramer's alleged victims are relatives.

In 2000, Cramer produced an anti-Al Gore television ad accusing the Clinton-Gore administration of giving nuclear technology to China in return for campaign contributions.

Cramer's commercial showed a young girl picking daisy petals and ends with a nuclear blast, a remake of a 1964 ad by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign against Republican Barry Goldwater. Cramer's ad made national news, though he refused to identify who financed the commercial. One of the girls in the ad stands as his accuser now.

Guillen The Gay-baiter

I was going to denounce this idiotic bigot, but it's been already been thoroughly done by Shakespeare's Sister.

Good News In Texas!!

Why did Southern Republicans get the vote on renewing the Voting Rights Act put off? Why, it's because here in the Lone Star State, with the wonderful legacy George the Third left behind when he went to Washington, there is no longer any need for that law.
But the bill was delayed after objections from the Texas lawmakers to the requirement that the state must get permission, or "preclearance," from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes to voting standards, practices or procedures.

The rule was aimed at states with a history of discrimination in voting. Six states were targeted when the law was originally passed in 1965: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. Texas, Arizona and Alaska were added in 1975, when the law was expanded to protect people who have limited knowledge of English.

"I don't think we have racial bias in Texas anymore," said Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.
And there's more: the Republicans in Texas have also ended drug use, rudeness, genital herpes, and teenaged acne. It's a wonderful world with streets of gold and fat-free chocolate growing on all the trees where songbirds chirp patriotic melodies.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Not Mrs. Garner

This is the birthday of Mariette Hartley.

Be glad you don't have bipolar navels.

Meltdown In The Middle Of The Road

As the Episcopal implosion continues, the Fort Worth, Texas, diocese adds fuel to the fire by seeking to break ties to the rest of the American church. The local Startlegram reports that "Fort Worth's is one of three dioceses that does not recognize female priests....", a line continued by In The Pink Texas with
"...or sentient human beings. The other two are Misogyny, Mississippi, and He-Man-Woman-Haters-Club, Utah."
But the local sexists who want to split because the U.S. church chose a woman as its national leader for the first time ever may be too late. Their "no girls allowed" protest may get lost in the fireworks over the church's general suicide.

One day after "the 800-strong House of Deputies resoundingly rejected the Anglican hierarchy's demand for a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops", at a "rare joint session of the whole Church at its three-yearly convention" the cowards in the cloth chickened out and agreed instead "to 'exercise restraint' in appointing any more gay bishops". This, as is usual with such abandonment of fundamental principles, angered both sides.
Thirty liberal bishops issued a statement of dissent, saying that they could not abide by the new resolution. Bishop John Chane of Washington, a prominent church liberal who officiates at the National Cathedral in American capital, said that he would not agree to block the ordination of any gay bishop. "I will defy the resolution by consenting after prayer and careful consideration to any person duly elected by a diocese in this church," he said.

On the other side, five conservative bishops accused the General Convention of "misleading the rest of the Communion by giving a false perception that they intend actually to comply with the recommendations of the Windsor Report". They continued: "We therefore disassociate ourselves from those acts of this Convention that do not fully comply with the Windsor Report."

They said that they repudiated the actions of the convention....
I will spare you the obvious quote about the fate of those not hot or cold, but lukewarm. I'm not sure Episcopalians still read that text, anyway.

After The Horse Escapes

South Texas Chisme spots the central Texas city of Waco's council being appalled over something long ago:
The resolution condemned the "mob mentality" that led to lynchings in the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Well, it's not that they are wrong. It's just that it is real easy to attack something nobody is still alive to pay for. I don't see them also comdemning current homophobia in their area.

Next week, the council will also decry those awful mass crucifixions following the slave revolt by Spartacus. Then, they will take up denouncing the murder of Abel.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"As If He Had Killed All Mankind"

In a short editorial, the Detroit News asked an interesting question:

"Some war critics are suggesting Iraq terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi should have been arrested and prosecuted rather than bombed into oblivion. Why expose American troops to the danger of an arrest, when bombs work so well?"

Here’s one possible answer: In order not to send a five-year-old Iraqi girl into oblivion with the same 500-pound bombs that sent al-Zarqawi into oblivion.

Of course, I don't know whether the Detroit News editorial board, if pressed, would say that the death of that little Iraqi girl was "worth it." Maybe the board wasn't even aware that that little girl had been killed by the bombs that killed Zarqawi when it published its editorial. But I do know one thing: killing Iraqi children and other such "collateral damage" has long been acceptable and even "worth it" to U.S. officials as part of their long-time foreign policy toward Iraq.

This U.S. government mindset was expressed perfectly by former U.S. official Madeleine Albright when she stated that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the U.S. and UN sanctions against Iraq had, in fact, been "worth it." ...

Some would argue that such "collateral damage" is just an unfortunate byproduct of war. ... Such claims, however, miss an important point: U.S. military forces have no right, legal or moral, even to be in Iraq killing anyone. Why? Because neither the Iraqi people nor their government ever attacked the United States. The Iraqi people had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Thus, this was an optional war against Iraq, one that President Bush and his military forces did not have to wage.
--Jacob G. Hornberger, "Killing Iraqi Children"
This horror behind the news was found by Arthur Silber, who added "For obvious reasons, neither our political leaders nor our media will confront this fact in a straightforward manner."

Just in case those reasons are not obvious to you, remember that Albright was Bill Clinton's U.N. Ambassador and Secretary of State. As of 2005, she was still supporting those deadly sanctions he had maintained. If you've forgotten what they meant to the already-suffering victims of Saddam on the ground in Iraq, read this:
With all trade denied, the Iraqi dinar (ID), worth US$3 in 1989, became virtually worthless: ID 250, formerly US$750 did not even buy a postage stamp in neighboring Jordan. Staple foods multiplied up to 11,000-fold in price. With no trade, unemployment spiraled and many - in a country where obesity had been a problem - faced hunger and deprivation. The US and UK-driven UN sanctions, in fact, mirrored a pitiless Middle Ages siege. ...

Doctors were remarking in bewilderment at the rise in childhood cancers and in birth deformities, which they were ironically comparing with those they had seen in textbooks after the nuclear testing in the Pacific Islands in the 1950s. In 1991, only the United States' and the United Kingdom's top military planners knew that they had used radioactive and chemically toxic depleted uranium (DU) weapons against the Iraqis. ...

Ironically, as cancers spiraled, the UN Sanctions Committee added to its limitless list of items denied to Iraq, treatment for cancers (and heart disease) since they contain minute amounts of radioactive materials. Iraqi scientists, they argued, might extract the radioactive materials from these medications and make weapons from them. ...

In the West, 70 percent of cancers are now largely curable or with long remissions. In Iraq they are almost always a death sentence. ...

Count Hans von Sponeck, who resigned as UN Co-ordinator in Iraq, like his predecessor Denis Halliday (who had cited the sanctions he was there to oversee as generating "the destruction of an entire nation, it is as simple and terrifying as that"), spoke of not only of medical and nutritional problems, but "intellectual genocide."

School books were vetoed. All professionals - doctors, engineers, architects - qualified from 1989 course material. An Iraqi doctor qualifying in 2003 was fourteen years behind in clinical developments....

And for much of the country there were the often daily, ongoing bombings of the patrolling by the United States and United Kingdom of the "no fly zones" or misnamed "safe havens" in the north and south, an illegal exercise not sanctioned by the United Nations. For reasons unknown, aircraft returning to their bases in Turkey and Saudi Arabia routinely bombed flocks of sheep - and with them the child shepherds who minded them. ...

Asked why flocks of sheep were being bombed, the British Ministry of Defence - surreally - responded, "We reserve the right to take robust action, when threatened." ...

Forgotten, too, are the major bombing blitzes over the years. In 1993 there were two massive attacks on Baghdad: one a good-bye from outgoing George Bush Senior and the other a hello from incoming William Jefferson Clinton. The second one killed, among others, the talented artist Laila Al-Attar.
Famous in Iraq, but not here,
...she was the Iraqi artist who was blown to bits by the bombers sent to punish Saddam Hussein in 1993. So was her husband.

Their only daughter, Rema, survived, blinded in one eye. Rema -- "little deer" in Arabic -- left Baghdad soon after the bombing. She has had five operations on her face in Los Angeles and Canada, and is still in pain. ...

Surely, the president was thoroughly briefed on the air raid. It was June 27, 1993, in the first months of his presidency. As commander in chief, he announced, he was acting to foil a plot to assassinate former president George Bush during a victorious visit to Kuwait. The plot turned out to be a ruse.
More on that one "collateral" victim from a University poetics discussion group:
June 1993: President Clinton fires 23 Tomahawk missiles at military targets in Baghdad in retaliation for the supposed plot against Old George -- 7 missiles land in residential areas -- one utterly demolishing the house of Laila Al-Attar, the director of Iraq's national gallery of art; Laila was killed, but also the bulk of her work -- she had been preparing for a retrospective of her life work -- was incinerated.

Art, politics, and history converge into obscenity. The night (Arabic: "Lail") perfumed ("Attar") with fire.
Our last three Presidents, from both parties, are all collaborators in these kinds of callous murders. To expect concern over their willing destruction of innocent life from the Bush administration or its supporters would be naive. To expect denunciation of this kind of slaughter from the likewise-guilty Clintons or their apologists, or their would-be replacements like Bidens and Warners, would be delusional.

Horace wrote "Ars longa, vita brevis". Life can be very short indeed, when there are morally irresponsible men (and someday soon, women as well) who can command the dropping of bombs. The same applies to terrorist killers on the ground, of course, but they are not acting in our names. Create as much as you can, and hope that it will outlast all the monsters in human form. People are still reading Horace's poetry today, and not all of Laila Al-Attar's work was destroyed. The painting at the head of this post is by her. Something beautiful did survive. Perhaps in the long run, it is all that can.

Vultures Resent Rousting From Roost

Over at DallasBlog, there's a post which begins:
The Anglican Bishop of Rochester, England, has warned that the decision of U.S. Episcopalians to select a woman bishop to lead the U.S. branch of the Anglican Church may lead to a schism in the Church.
So far, so unexpected. But it gets more bizarre quickly:
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, England, told the Daily Telegraph that the selection of Katharine Jefferts Schori to lead the American branch made the divisions between liberals and conservatives within the Church "so profound that a compromise was no longer possible."
Wait a minute -- I'm supposed to consider this opinion as news from a Bishop with that name? Speaking to that publication? And this post was written by Tom Pauken, far-right-wing-nut embarrassment disowned by his own Republicans?

It's nice to see the remnants of the only church ever Established by law in the American South (as opposed to Texas, where Mexico once required Catholicism by law) demonstrate that there really is more of a difference than just a minor quibble of papal succession. It would be just fine with me if they all blew apart over an issue of treating human beings as equal, just as Methodists, Baptists, and so many others split up between North and South before the U.S. Civil War over slavery.

Color me unconvinced that Pauken, the Telegraph, or Nazir-Ali speak for any widespread sentiment in the American or British church outside of their own cliques sharing resentment over drinks at the gender-, preference-, religious-, and racially-segregated country clubs they frequent. Who Would Jesus Dehumanize? Damn that liberal troublemaker anyway.
"Don't answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou knowest that. But dost thou know what will be tomorrow? I know not who Thou art and care not to know whether it is Thou or only a semblance of Him, but tomorrow I shall condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have today kissed Thy feet, tomorrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Thy fire."
--The Grand Inquisitor to the Messiah, in Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Surreality Across The River

A few Texas ranchers tired of costly repairs to cattle fences damaged by illegal immigrants have installed an easier route over the U.S.-Mexican border — ladders. "It's an attempt to get them to use the ladders instead of tearing the fences," said Scott Pattinson, who owns one of a group of ranches....

Paul Johnson protects his 2,700-acre exotic game ranch of zebras, scimitar-horned oryx and wildebeests with about 10 miles of high wire fence, and joined his neighbors in placing ladders along the way.
If I was sneaking into Texas and suddenly saw a zebra or an oryx, I would assume I had been out in the sun too long or had eaten the wrong kind of cactus.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Why We Fly

Within a year of a controversial national election, the building housing our national legislative body suffered a terrorist attack. Frightened by this, that body supinely allowed the new administration to assume unquestioned authority in disregard of the law.

You are part of the group blamed by the new rulers for all the nation's ills, as its spokesmen and sycophants in the media spread escalating hatred for you each day. Should you flee elsewhere, or stay and hope your fellow citizens will come to their senses? Wouldn't fleeing be alarmist? Wouldn't that be ignoring your duty to others to remain and speak, write, vote, and stand up against evil, even if it risks sacrificing your life? Shouldn't you keep struggling to enlighten the masses and convince them to replace this madness with rational leadership instead?

Most stayed. Six million were killed.

Were the ones who remained immoral for choosing to stay? No, they were only mistaken in their predictions of the future.

They are still dead.

The greatest mind in physics today thinks it is time to buy an exit ticket.
The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy Earth, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday. Humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years, the British scientist told a news conference. ...

"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," Hawking said. "Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."
Looks like he struck a nerve. He was promptly denounced as an alarmist, who wanted us to ignore our duty to others. Some were relatively mild: me this seems like trashing a mansion and then moving into the tiny guesthouse, just because we don't feel like cleaning up the mansion.
--Shelley Batts, Retrospectacle
Some were more heated:
According to Hawking's scenario, I envision humans as the rats of the universe; filthy, violent, rapacious, traveling from one planet to another just as rats hitchhiked on ships from one oceanic island to another, destroying everything until the last habitable island (planet) within reach has been ruined. ...

I think Hawking's idea is absolutely stupid!
--GrrlScientist, Living the Scientific Life
Some at least attempted rational arguments:
Flicking a few gametes into the sky isn't any kind of salvation—it's desperate and sad and futile. ...

Making it even more complicated will be biotechnology. We have a problem with bone loss under low gravity conditions, so hey, let's tweak calcium physiology a little bit. And as long as we've got the hood on this baby open, let's toss in a few more improvements. In the long run, I don't think that any of our progeny that we spin off into space will be human for long, and I don't think we can predict what a post-human race would want, or how it would interact with us.
--PZ Myers, Pharyngula
Some were personally abusive:
Stephen Hawking is a tool ...

Religious wingnuts have invented the Rapture to avoid talking about taking responsibility for the future of the human race .... Now Stephen Hawking has just put his authority behind an escape fantasy that allows wingnuts who aren’t Rapture fanatics to ignore the fact that we’re destroying our planet and very soon going to make in uninhabitable. ...

The idea of starting over with a small group of people on another planet is the same racist, classist superiority complex-driven fantasy that fuels the mythology of the Rapture, where it’s assumed an elite group of “Christians” (imagined as mostly white Americans) will get sucked away while the rest of us inferior humans died in the cesspool that is Earth. ...

By the way, I heard clips on Air America from Al Gore on TV last night denouncing Hawking for spinning unattainable salvation fantasies. Good for him. Nip this shit in the bud, Al.
--Amanda Marcotte, Pandagon
Some were sputteringly insulting:
Who the hell does Stephen Hawking think he is anyway? ...

What pisses me off is this. ... Every threat, every looming disaster Hawking’s talking about here is human generated.

There are two reasons why Hawking’s brainstorm is thus just utterly, unbelievably stupid.

First: these problems are mitigatable, if not in fact reversible or (in the case of nuclear war) even preventable if, and only if, addressing them is made a priority. which means not cutting funding to satellite-based climate monitoring programs for some masturbatory, LaRoucheian Robert Zubrin fantasy. ...

We are the problem here. We’ve only got one planet right now and we’re messing it up. What happens when we’re spread out on a bunch of planets? The pressure’s off, and we have one less reason not to piss in our drinking water. ...

And you want to distract us by promising a future that fewer than one in ten million of us here will ever see, based on a techno-wankoff that some of your most respected colleagues have dismissed as utterly useless?

Yeah, right. Great idea, Einstein.
--Chris Clarke, Creek Running North
Fortunately, a few actually read what he said, instead of jumping to assumptions most comfortable to their ideological agendas:
No, Hawking is not being ridiculous. At worst he is being pessimistic about the time scale for major potential catastrophes, and optimistic on feasible time scales.
Independent of the details, there clearly exist extinction threats to humanity, and global extinction threats. Some are self-inflicted, some are external.
On a long enough time scale, a permanent off-planet presence is prudent.
On a longer time scale, progressively and in stages, this presence should be self-sustaining.
It is arguable that a modest economic effort to expedite this now is worthwhile.
Doing so is mostly orthogonal to both minimizing self-inflicted damage, and external threats on Earth.
--Steinn Sigurðsson, Dynamics of Cats
I'm sorry, but I think Steinn is too generous to Hawking's denouncers. Going to space isn't "orthogonal" to their goals; they are opposed to it even if it were free. Except for PZ, their objection is not that the idea is impracticable. They do not want humanity to have any escape from this world. Only throwing the oars and the life jackets overboard will convince everyone else that this really is a lifeboat situation, one which calls for desperate coercive measures -- which they helpfully are ready to prescribe. How dare anyone ignore their duty to suffer and sacrifice for humanity, and run off to some scary frontier instead?

Fortunately for humanity, their angry dreams will not be fulfilled. If Americans don't go to space, others will. And that is a very good thing, because someday those who stay may need their help, when an asteroid hits, or the permafrost melts, or the ocean belches methane. It's happened before:
"...and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."
--Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons, June 4, 1940
There are also much better reasons for expanding to space than just having an emergency rescue brigade on call:
"Don't let us forget this: that the Earth can die, explode, the Sun can go out, will go out. And if the Sun dies, if the Earth dies, if our race dies, then so will everything die that we have done up to that moment. Homer will die, Michelangelo will die, Galileo, Leonardo, Shakespeare, Einstein will die, all those will die who now are not dead because we are alive, we are thinking of them, we are carrying them within us. And then every single thing, every memory, will hurtle down into the void with us."
--Ray Bradbury, in Oriana Fallaci's "If the Sun Dies", 1966
Ultimately, no reason is needed. Some people just want to head for the horizon, and if the starry-eyed don't want to stay here and be drafted by these angry folk to help sweep the streets, the ranters are foolish to think they will be able to stop the exodus. But they will try. And they will kill some of us in the attempt:
I, the machine, the space-spider, cannot understand. But I have seen it -- the exodus of the hungry, the settling of peace over those who chose to linger. The hungry drink of the emptiness of space, and their hunger grows. The placid eat of the earth, and find peace, yet somehow -- they seem to die a little. ...

Three dumpy idealists built a spaceship, but they were caught and hung for treason. The eight-foot lawyer who defended them was also hung.

The world wears a long face; and the stars twinkle invitingly. But few men look upward now. Things are probably just as bad on the next inhabited planet. ...

But I feel there are some who understand. I have seen the pride in their faces. They walk like kings.
--Walter M. Miller, Jr., "The Big Hunger", 1952

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Texas Tiptoes Into The 21st Century

Some namedropping pixelparazzi spent last weekend in Las Vegas (no doubt chosen because it was the capitol of the forces of darkness in The Stand), guzzling up seventy grand worth of patronization from Mark Warner at the YearlyKOS. Feted with largesse, they got to hear that paymaster of some of their self-appointed leaders spread his meme: "Democratic imperialism sells much better with a white male Southerner". Set on the pinacle of the casino, tempted by the Adversary's words, they may well cast themselves down at his feet, expecting Armstrong and Zuniga to bear them up to a Democratic victory -- as though it really matters which party label is worn by the next President if he writes to young folk of draft age:

Meanwhile in the Lone Star State, portside web rangers not hobnobbing with the Consultants' Choice had real work to do: covering the 2006 Texas Democratic Party State Convention, held in the much less neon-lit blue collar city of Fort Worth. Those who showed up were in luck. This year the state party jumped upon the blogger bandwagon with both hands outstretched. The writers of the web sites were given not just Press credentials (with access to a media room with free soft drinks, snacks, and phones), but chances to talk to speakers behind stage, and, best of all, free wireless internet access right on the convention floor at two rows of tables.

More than that: the bloggers were put on the very front, ahead of the Dead Tree Deadline Typers and Squawkbox Solons. One of their blogs gleefully reported that Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater had to lean forward to ask them whether the impeachment resolution just proposed had included the term "War Crimes" (it had). Take that, you traditional media fogies! Turn green with envy at this picture of some of the amateurs who displaced you:

This image of the Blogger's Tables was put up by Annatopia. Second from the right, smiling at the camera, is, I'm told, Damon McCullar, one of several posters from Burnt Orange Report. The woman in the white pants suit next to him seems to be the nameless blogger of Musings. The greybeard in sneakers looking to his right is Bill Howell of StoutDemBlog. Next to him the dark-haired man with a moustache and no beard looks like Vince Leibowitz of Capitol Annex. Peering between his head and the next, and barely visible at this resolution, the puffy hair and large glasses appear to be those of Greg Wythe of Greg's Opinion. I think the man typing at the keyboard to his left is Marc Gault of Marc's Miscellany. Leaning over the table at left, using a camera-equipped laptop to take a picture with, is Charlie Lindahl of PAA. UPDATE: In the comments Nate Nance of Common Sense reveals that he is the one sitting at the far right in the picture; sorry I missed that one.

There had been some diversity from the Texas mainstream among our web contingent on Presidential candidates. Anna was very active as a Dean supporter. Charlie had backed Kucinich. Greg was (and still is, in the Connecticut primary) the token Lieberman fan among the Texans. But there was not much difference on the only non-issue choice facing this convention.

By better than two-to-one, the bloggers backed the challenger to the incumbent in the race for state party Chair. He had his own campaign blog, and was seen as being more internet-friendly than the good old boy in place. Awareness of this may have been the reason the state party reached out so much to the bloggers: to grab support away from the outsider, or at least to tone down opposition to the existing regime. If so, it worked: the general response to their guy losing seems to have been one of knuckling down and supporting the winner for unity's sake.

As for the rest of the convention, it was routine enough to be dull, if upbeat and recharging to the activists. The only other real dispute was over that resolution to impeach Bush. After Annatopia reported (on the web, of course), from the seat she won on the Resolutions Committee, that some folk, timid of voter wrath in the home of The Man Who Defies Exit Polls, were digging in against it, a peitition was circulated to bring the issue up from the floor directly. Over a thousand delegates signed on, and the same kind of arguments were made against it on the floor about hurting our candidates this November.

A former state Attorney General tried to kill the call for impeachment by objecting that no quorum was present. He was probably correct, as this was late after a long day. In a triumph of old-fashioned Sam Rayburn-style discretionary presiding, the convention chair declined to stop the proceedings, because the spotlights in his eyes were so bright that he was "unable to see that there is not a quorum". However, the Axis of Good on the floor was unable to prevail, losing narrowly on both a voice and a standing division vote. (Of course, one of the arguments against was that it would have left the even more evil Cheney in charge, so the vote was not an unalloyed triumph for our modern monarchists.)

Many of the bloggers doing their live-blogging were part of the Blogger's Caucus, whose site listed thirteen of their blogs on its sidebar. Another eight non-members who were present were also included in the list ending the convention wrap-up at StoutDemBlog. With the taste of free food and perks from the party, will they all be back in two years? With the pro-web candidate for state Chair defeated (though not by much), will the Texas party be as accomodating next time? Tune in for the next episode of "Bloggers in the Belly of the Beast" in 2008.

(Cross-posted to American Street.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Shorter Posting At Chairmageddon

Texas bloggers, encouraged by a Democratic Party office that says it will provide them press credentials and space at the State Convention with web access, are going to be live-blogging this weekend's events in Fort Worth. Dos Centavos is already there (and gives his hotel and cell number), as is Eye on Williamson (at an undisclosed location). The delightful Annatopia, who already lives there, is deservedly running for the Platform Committee from Senate District 10. [Shorter Anna: "I'll use our planks to build a frame."]

Several have taken sides in the hot race for State Chair. The Red State is for Boyd Richie [shorter Eddie: "Unity is fine after we beat you losers"], but Capitol Annex is for Glen Maxey [shorter Vince: "No, really, I like consultants"], and so is Marc's Miscellany [shorter Marc: "He was politer to us newbies"], as is Common Sense [shorter Nate: "I'm for him, mais je ne sais quoi"], and also McBlogger [shorter Mc: "Glen will put the suburbs on the hot seat"], who is angry over the Austin American Statesman's fierce condemnation of Maxey. [Shorter AAS: "Forget the Alamo -- we only want Democrats who refuse to take on fights unless they can win, because we miss hanging around with powerful rich guys that aren't Republicans."]

Probably our best known group blog, Burnt Orange Report, is divided on the contest. On that site R. Kirk McPike explains why he's for Richie [shorter McPike: "Bo has the Mo."] Andrew Dobbs is strongly backing Maxey [shorter Dobbs: "I'm for Glen because I'm still mad at Martin Frost."] It also posts some late letters from Boyd [shorter Richie: "Vote for me because I can roll off more cliches than anyone else"], and Charlie [shorter Urbina-Jones: "I can better represent you as an individual because the collectivist masses endorsed other people"], and finally a joint appeal from Charlie and Glen to the Nominating Committee to abstain from making any recommendation for Chair [shorter Urbina-Jones and Maxey: "Achieve unity of direction by not moving at all."]

Predictably, a lot of elected and party officials have been making endorsements in this race, sent out in emails or mailings. A great many more unusual supporters have emerged for Richie, including a fluffy angora bunny, an adorable kitten, an adorable puppy a "Canine-American activist", a tiny tortoise and another bunny, a fluffernutter sandwich and a Face-o-Jesus tortilla, a roll of artificial grassroots, and a bowl of split pea soup. Maxey's only reality-challenged endorsements came from our hitherto-undiscovered 255th Texas county, Heimlich County.

But, seriously, I wrote back in March that I would be for the candidate who did the most to make sure Barbara Ann Radnofsky defeated Gene Kelly for our U.S. Senate nomination [shorter moi: "I'm so scared about our local races in Dallas County that I couldn't care less what the State Chair does after the Runoff."] Thankfully Barbara did that, thus sparing us all a disaster this November. I'm still waiting to hear which (if any) of the three deserves the most credit. Really, I do enjoy and respect all these bloggers I tease here, who are going to be covering the confrontation at Cowtown. Can any of them please enlighten me on this point?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

On The Other Holster....

My snark at the self-defeating strategy of the sycophantic New York Libertarians (see the item just below) should not be taken as lack of respect for those (far too few) genuinely principled folk in that movement, the ones who don't drink the neocon koolaid and kiss Bush's feet. For instance, those who agree with me that the Texas Constitution does a much better job than the federal one of protecting our typical Lone Star closets full of firearms. (See Section 23 of our state Bill of Rights: "Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State".)

For a fun ride by one of those genuine believers in freedom, even from Republicans, take a gander at an ongoing online graphic novel, Roswell, Texas. This Texas tall tale is
set in an alternative history in which, mostly because Davy Crockett survived the seige at the Alamo after having felled General Santa Anna with a 600-yard rifle shot, the Lone Star Republic never did annex itself to the United States, but went its own way. ...
I'm sure lots of blue state dwellers right now also wish that had happened, and Bush never had made it to the White House. Actually, considering recent polls, I think that might include 46 other states today.
The action is set in 1947, when Charles A. Lindbergh, president of the Federated States of Texas, dispatches his best friend and bodyguard, William "Wild Bill" Bear and his three top Rangers to the west Texas town of Roswell (New Orleans is a Texas town, too), to see what crash-landed there on July 4th.
You can read the comic as it is put up a page at a time at the publisher's site, beginning here. The author is science-fiction writer L. Neil Smith, and the artist is a former Texan himself. Get some popcorn and have fun viewing.

Collateral Suicide

Faced with a rejection at the New York state Republican convention, William Weld has decided to take his toys and go home, instead of challenging the righty candidate in the primary. This is bad news for the Republicans, since it means the theocrats would rather be far right than Governor. It might just be the Jesse Jackson strategy: we're going to lose to Eliot Spitzer this fall anyway on Hillary's coattails, so why not give a pat on the head to the over-the-edgers? Sadly, it is more likely that they just hate Taxachusetts liberals who are soft on married gays having abortions.

What I like best is the ironic unintended footnote to this. In that state of cross endorsements by fringe parties to thereby preserve ballot status for their other nominees, the New York Libertarian Party had also nominated Weld. In a triumph of pandering sans principles, their web site also said "A committee was appointed to select the Lt. Governor candidate, which needs to be combined with Weld's pick for Lt. Governor for the Libertarian votes to count for Weld." Now they will have to scramble to pick someone else, assuming that GOP Assembly Minority Leader John Faso is too much even for them to stomach. Or is that overestimating their integrity? It's tough when the streetwalkers decline your prix fixe.

Gloria In Excelsis

After two months of despair and loss, Fafblog! has returned. It is now safe to surf again.

A Painted Face Puts Up A Painted Motion

As global warming slowly sinks Florida into the sea, the notorious Katherine Harris continues her bizarre quest to be one of its last U.S. Senators before Neptune claims it. The Grating Grey Lady just did a profile of her abandonment by other Republicans, complete with two pictures of her with an aged vet and a tiny poodle both expressing enormous disinterest in osculation with her visage. And her unscripted words are wonders to read.
In interviews, Ms. Harris projects a somewhat frenetic personality, speaking in rapid-fire cadences, fussing incessantly with her hair and barraging aides with questions and road directions ("We have a detour to Starbucks on the way. ... Quickest way to Venice is down Fruitville")
Uh, yes, well, I lived in the Sunnyside State for two years, and frankly this geographical reference is, well, clueless? Insensitive? Politically inspired? Wait, there's more....
Ms. Harris is adamant in her claim that news organizations have doctored photographs to exaggerate the amount of makeup she wears. "I haven't worn blue makeup since seventh grade," she said, referring to photographs she said she had seen of herself on the Internet.
Yes, we all remember lots of blue eye shadow in junior high. It went so well with the blue Mohawk.
She is especially animated when the topic turns to animals, including the guide dog she plans to train starting in November. She will care for the dog for 18 months, spending nearly all her waking hours with it. "You can't let them sleep in bed with you," Ms. Harris said. "Which is going to be harder on me than the dog."
Of course, the canine to be announced is grateful that he won't have to file a complaint with PETA.
And then commenced another unforgettable moment, Katherine Harris, arms over her head, dancing to "Y.M.C.A."
Finally, when it's all over, you can only quote a great line from Pogo: "Just what kind of vote is you trying to attract?"

She Real Cool

This is the birthday of Gwendolyn Brooks.

Inebriate someone with words.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Revenge Of The Bayou

The board of governors of the American Bar Association voted unanimously yesterday to investigate whether President Bush has exceeded his constitutional authority in reserving the right to ignore more than 750 laws that have been enacted since he took office.

Meeting in New Orleans, the board of governors for the world's largest association of legal professionals approved the creation of an all-star legal panel with a number of members from both political parties.

They include a former federal appeals court chief judge, a former FBI director, and several prominent scholars -- to evaluate Bush's assertions that he has the power to ignore laws that conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution. ...

Bush has challenged more laws than all previous presidents combined.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

L'appel Des Bananes

This is the birthday of Josephine Baker.

Be ready to join the underground when the fascists take over.

When Words Are Outlawed

In a cross-post today at American Street, Clif of Outside the Tent expresses preemptive outrage on behalf of the less-literate cracker-barrel hate mongers, who probably didn't even realize that the winning word in the latest national spelling bee was not English, but German. Horrors! In the Street comments our suburban neighbor Fearguth of bildungblog asks "What if all words assimilated into English over the centuries from other languages were eliminated? Wouldn’t be much of a spelling bee, would it?"

Well, let's look. "Bee" comes from Old English, so that's okay, but "spelling" as used here comes from Old French. [The Old English "gespelia" was used in the sense of "spelling" someone from a job.] How about "lettering"? Nope -- Latin. And of course you know about that Greek "alphabet" word. Let's try "puzzle out". Great! "Puzzle" is "origin unknown", That'll work. And "out"? Bingo! Plain Old English. Ah, but what are they puzzling out? Words? Right on target -- Old English again.

All tight, then, henceforth we'll hold "Puzzle Out Word Bees". That should satisfy all the linguistic chauvinists.

Of course, we can't call them that, since "linguistic" and "language" are both from Latin, and "chauvinism" is named after a Frenchman. How about "redneck windbags"? Let's look up the four origin words making up that description. The first three, "red", "neck", and "wind" are all patriotic Old English, but there is a problem with "bag". It's Old Norse. Now that might be Caucasian enough to satisfy the Klanners that just led a march against immigrants in Alabama, but it's just not proper exclusionary use of the mother tongue.

How about "sack"? Horrors, no. It does come from Old English, but before that it was from Latin, and before that from Greek, and before that from Hebrew. I don't think I need to tell you what using a word of Jewish origin will do to the no-foreign-word Coalition of the Spelling Puzzling Out, especially the ones in the white sheets. How about "vane"? Wonderful, it's another Old English origin-word.

So, now, we will have "Puzzle Out Word Bees", to satisfy all the redneck windvanes. Good night, Dickens, and sleep well, Thackeray.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Side Effects Of Medical Progress

Besides a link dismissing by comparison the latest lie-fest by the Coulter Warrioress, Fact-esque's Memorial Day report also has this gem:
Then because I wouldn't agree that Marx (not Stalin, not Mao, not Hitler, not any Roman emperor) was history's greatest monster, she got around to calling me a Communist. She wasn't like the asshole from today, who was out to shut me down. She used a sadder, sort of I'll-pray-for-you voice. In ancient times she would have reserved the tone for conversations with lepers.

Pedocide And Sucrosefix

At First Draft you can find the links in this post, should you wish to turn your stomach:
"Malkin endorses machinegunning toddlers and Dunkin' Donuts, all before lunch."
Shorter Hatemongeress: "It was okay for the Marines to murder kids in Iraq, because I've seen pictures of Palestinian children with guns. And I prefer my caffeine from vendors who won't hire brown people to sell me sugar."

No word yet on whether Pajamas got a product placement fee. I am not making this up. She put up this picture herself, demonstating, I suppose, the solidity of her arguments:

Once This Was Home....

Firedoglake points out scout prime's YouTube video of her visit to the Ninth Ward at God Is Watching Us. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. And this year's hurricane season is starting today. And Facing South has the link to a pdf report on how things are still not ready in NOLA.

Donna Despite Dallas*

This is the birthday of Frederica von Stade.

Make sure your web site bio doesn't mention you were born in New Jersey.

*Yes, we saw her here in The Aspern Papers. Shame to premiere anything in the dismal acoustics of our Music Hall. Please come back in three years for the new one, Flicka.

The Djinni's Advocate

Some people are celebrating the Bush administration's saying it will negotiate with Iran, if they will stop all production of all nuclear fuel. Hogwash. That is just saying "I'll talk to you if you do exactly what I demand first." What is there left to talk about, then? This is a phony hand held out, just for the benefit of war-supporters in Congress and the media (and other allied governments), so that Bush can claim, "Well, we tried to talk to them first" when he drops the bombs. It will be a lie, but watch the sycophants suck it up. (Sadly, they will probably include a number of Democrats, and not just Joe Lieberman.)

The people who live in Iran have the same rights that we do, including the right to self-defense. As long as their government is peaceful, not even the United States has the right -- even if it does have the physical power -- to demand that they disarm, or never arm to begin with, thus leaving them at the mercy of any enemy, or even of a loving, benevolent, kind, compassionate, caring saint like George Bush.

If they attack someone else, that's different. The truth is the only war they've fought in recent times was in defense against the U.S. catspaw in Iraq, whom we egged on and sold chemical weapons to fight Iran. They have already been attacked by us, if indirectly, so they have no reason to trust us to treat them fairly if they don't get nukes. And just having an army is not enough, as our invasion of Iraq showed when we later turned on them.

On the other hand, we are not trying to invade North Korea. The difference? North Korea has nuclear bombs, close enough to kill lots of our troops or even hit us at home. The lesson is obvious. If the Iranians want to protect themselves, they should get nuclear weapons. Of course they are lying about not trying to get them. So what? That is just what we would do if the situation were reversed. That is just what the Israelis did and still do. Tel Aviv did not leave themselves defenseless any more than Washington did a half century ago.

The Bush administration and the other admitted nuclear powers are just being monopolists, trying to guarantee themselves exclusive rights to nukes. No one else has any obligation to knuckle under to their demands. When one of them, like Bush, shows a stated willingness to invade other countries that have not attacked him, then it is time to arm and prepare for defense -- especially if your country is constantly denounced as evil by him, and his government has previously backed others invading you.

The balance of terror with the Soviets kept either us or them from trying to conquer the other. (Of course, each side would have claimed they were only "liberating" the other, just as Bush claims he is "democratizing" Iraq.) It wasn't pretty, but it worked. No one should ever be defenseless in the presence of a bully on the warpath. That only encourages him to act like a looting thug.

If I lived in Iran -- well, I'd probably want to flee to a freer place, but if I couldn't, or just loved my home and wanted to stay despite the tyranny and the danger from outside -- I would hope my government did get some nukes just to keep us from being invaded. As an American, angry at the prospect of Bush launching another unjustified, unprovoked, preemptive aggressive war, I recognize that the best way to prevent that would be for Iran to get some nukes of its own. Very quickly, since the U.S. vessels are nearly in position for a first strike.

Note to Abu Gonzales: I wouldn't help Iran get those Weapons of Moron Deterrence even if I knew how, but if saying they have a basic human right to defend themselves by doing so constitutes treason in your eyes, then make the most of it. Pulling an Ashcroft and carrying me off to Guantanamo as a scapegoat won't help you if your gang leader does bomb Tehran. I suspect the streets and the web will then be full of a lot of noisy people who are far more troublesome than this lone critic. Unless they are distracted by something else on TV.... oh, look, the reality show's been interrupted for a bulletin about a missing blonde woman!