Saturday, April 23, 2005

Fiesta! 

Two tales showing how Texans can't properly drop the twins off without shooting themselves in the foot-- political, or otherwise:

1. The leading candidate for mayor of San Antonio admitted on Thursday using his twin brother as a stand-in at a civic event without telling anyone it was not him.

Julian Castro, a 30-year-old city councilman, said brother Joaquin, his identical twin, rode for him in the annual River Parade through downtown San Antonio on Monday. Videos showed Joaquin smiling and waving to the crowd as he floated along the San Antonio River in a barge for city council members. "He was standing in the River Parade because I had to host a neighborhood leaders meeting," said Castro.


2. An off-duty officer was at a San Antonio auto auction house yesterday when nature called, a police spokesman said. Officer Craig Clancy strolled to the appropriate facility and was lowering his trousers when his pistol fell from his waistband. When Clancy fumbled for the falling firearm, it went off, twice.

One of the bullets nicked a bit of floor tile into the leg of a man who was washing his hands nearby. That man was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Police internal affairs is investigating.
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Friday, April 22, 2005

Embarrassing moments in Dental Hygiene 

The Attractive Female Dentist's Assistant finishes my cleaning and gives me the obligatory lecture to floss more often and so forth. I'm thinking, "No problem, see ya in 6 months." But then this unsettling exchange occurs:

DA: Do you brush your tongue?

Oy: Uh, no. Sometimes. Not every day. Why?

DA: It has a coating on it.

Oy: A coating?

DA: Yes, a thick coating, especially towards the back.

Oy: Well, I have been waking up with a funny taste in my mouth recently.

DA: I want you to use this. (Hands me an enormous plastic implement.)

Oy: What the heck is this?

DA: It's a scraper.

Oy: Are you sure it's big enough?

DA: That's the largest size we have.

Oy: I was, um, making a joke. So do these really work?

DA: Oh yes. You're not going to believe the amount of build-up it will remove. So use this scraper every day, please.

Oy: Ok.

DA (reviewing my file): Is this still your current address?

Oy: Yes.

DA: Did you know my fiance bought a house only a block away from you? In a few months, we're practically going to be neighbors!

Oy (pained smile): How... nice.



Cool. I can't wait for all those occasions where she's out walking her dog, and I see her and wave, and she waves back, and all the while I'm wondering whether she's thinking about my disgusting coated tongue.

And will she tell her husband? And who might he tell?

Dammit!
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Thursday, April 21, 2005

"Event Ideological Cleansing" 

Back when I was in high school in Florida, and daddy Bush was fearlesly leading the Republic, an acquaintance of mine named Eric opened a small record shop which he named the Secret Service. I think about two dozen people knew about it. It was small and cool, and I'll always remember Eric's knowing grin when I purchased Ritual de lo Habitual the morning of its release.

However, just weeks after opening, the real Secret Service arrived unannounced one afternoon and confiscated all materials which featured the name of the store on them: signs, flyers, business cards... everything. Eric had to close down until he could properly rename the place. He chose Criminal Records as the new name, and later successfully relocated to Atlanta where he operates to this day. The quickness and thoroughness of the seizure sure made an impression on everyone, though. Message: don't even think about stepping on their turf.

So it was somewhat comforting when I read this post by Kos, which says that the Secret Service is going to Denver to open a criminal investigation into the "event cleansing" episode during Bush's Social Security "forum". My initial thought was: I hope the Secret Service tackles this incident of Republican thuggery with the same zealous pursuit that it showed against a 20- year old record store owner.

One can hope, anyway. (For those keeping score, here's the previous YRHT post on this.)

Kos also cites a surprisingly good article by a Denver columnist, who notes the "weasel words" of White House spokesman McClellan (emphases mine):

Karen Bauer, Alex Young and Leslie Weise were removed from the event because they dared to arrive in a car with a bumper sticker that said, "No More Blood for Oil." They also admit to wearing Democratic underwear.

The identity of the bouncer, dressed to look like a Secret Service agent, has remained a stubborn secret despite demands from congressmen, senators and lawyers for the three ejected audience members.

Last week in an interview with Fox News reporter Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, White House spokesman Trent Duffy came perilously close to saying the guy was a federal employee.

He said that White House advance teams handled logistics for these events. "From what I was told, it was fairly obvious to them that they had plans to disrupt the event. ... It was a judgment call," he said.

Wait a minute, did he just admit it was White House policy?

At Wednesday's press gaggle, White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked to clarify.

He denied that the bouncer was paid staff. "My understanding is it was a volunteer and that that volunteer was concerned that these people were coming to the event to disrupt the event, and that's why he asked them to leave," he said.

When asked if the volunteer was acting on the instruction of the White House, McClellan responded, "Not that I'm aware of."

Hmmm. So who might be aware?

I asked two other White House spokesmen that question Wednesday. They declined to answer.

Dan Recht, attorney for the so-called Denver Three, says interest in the story of ideological cleansing at an official government-sponsored event just keeps gathering steam.

[Impersonating a Secret Service agent at a presidential event... what a darling little ruse that is-- as long as nobody gets hurt, of course.]

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Similarly, Big Oil has always enjoyed playing the intimidation game against its opponents, no matter how minor. And they continue to do so.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Sub-par 

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP):
Lawmakers are weighing cuts to health care services for the poor and uninsured next year as the state prepares to pay nearly $1 million to a golf facility for rounds not played on the course.

An estimated $975,000 is budgeted next fiscal year to pay for 7,800 rounds of golf at the Tournament Players Club golf course in the New Orleans area as part of a 2001 agreement with former Gov. Mike Foster's administration.

The agreement guaranteed the golf course -- the TPC of Louisiana at Fairfield -- 10,000 rounds of play booked through hotels in its first year of operation. Those projected rounds of golf are falling short so the state has to pay for the gas...

Typically, C.B. Forgotston gives no mulligans to "Big Daddy" (Frmr Guv Foster). And he shouldn't. That's a cool $125 per round, outta your pocket, folks. And did I mention that some New Orleans public school students still don't have textbooks?

While you're over there, check out C.B.'s idea from the day before (4/19) to tie raises for govt. officials to statewide educational performance. Simply brilliant.

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And kudos to Senator Vitter, who is maintaining his stolid support of the drug importation bill, despite intense attacks from Republican shills for the Big Pharma Cartel.
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A real horrorshow, my droogs-- viddy well, viddy well. 

Shannon's thriller Rise of the Undead is coming out next week. If you like monster movies, why not buy it, rent it or queue it up? Might be a fun way to spend an evening after Jazzfest.

Once again: hearty congratulations to Shannon, who has all the links you need here.

Go on, support Louisiana filmmakers!

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Who is your Greatest American Hero? 

Believe it or not, the Discovery Channel wants to know.

I'm pleased to inform you that Discovery's top 100 nominees for Greatest American include not one, not two, not three, but FOUR members of the Bush family! Hell yeah! (Alas, it seems Jenna's butt-dancing skills weren't quite enough for her to make the cut though.)

Dr. Phil, Tricky Dick, and that quintessential American voice, Mel Gibson, are all eager for your votes as well. The last two Secretaries of State are nominated, no doubt reflecting how well diplomacy has succeeded over the past five years. (Medal of Freedom recipient George Tenet was somehow overlooked.)

If that's not enough, you can find Rush Limbaugh nestled between Martin King and Abraham Lincoln. Nothing jarring about that trifecta at all. Flows about as well as Michael Moore's face following Marylin Monroe.

And all due praise to Barack Obama and John Edwards... but... erm, don't they still have some work to do before they're in the running for "Greatest"?

New Orleans is represented by the creative soul of Satchmo Ellen!

When the likes of Faulkner, Whitman and Emerson are not on in the top 100, it's almost a useless exercise to pinpoint the most egregious inclusion or exclusion. But if you're feeling entirely too optimistic and relaxed today, taking the time to audit this wreckage could do the trick.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

 
When you want the big picture, you should go to the Big Picture.

Market crashes are typically followed by "refractory periods" of a substantial length of time in which the prior excesses get wrung from the economy. This process sets up the next healthy expansion.
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The post-crash era saw massive government stimulus: Personal income taxes were cut, deficit spending soared, interest rates were dropped to half century lows, money supply increased dramatically, two wars were prosecuted, corporate dividend taxes were slashed, capital gains taxes were cut, capital expenditures were granted a special accelerated depreciation. Massive stimulus from the government included "everything but the kitchen sink."

Now, that stimulus is fading. The most vibrant sector of the economy-- the real estate complex-- is slowing. Increased energy costs are a drag on the global economy. Interest Rates and taxes have been going higher. Earnings momentum, as measured on a year-over-year basis, has been slowing for 5 quarters. Hiring remains anemic, CapEx is unimpressive, LEI are softening, GDP is fading.

The market has begun recognizing that the first post-bubble expansion was premature. It has failed to develop organic momentum of its own. Without further stimulus, this cycle will more likely than not end over the next 2 or 3 quarters.

Bushco threw everything it had at the American economy in order to mask the slowdown after the technology bubble burst. They repeatedly stated the U.S. was "strong and growing stronger" and worked their supply side voodoo (among other things). And, somehow, it succeeded. They beat Kerry and got re-elected.

But now, in the second term, they'll reap what they have sown. Perhaps, if a crisis of confidence doesn't occur, the American economy can avoid an outright contraction. But Bush's eight years will witness the creation of fewer net jobs than Carter's four years. "Debt" and "Risk" are about to become much less abstract for millions of people in the coming months.

And someone will pay a political price.
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Always Faithful 

The Liberal Marine honors the passing of Captain Frederick C. Branch, the first African-American Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Here's a snapshot of the historical context and significance:

This is a great, great loss to be sure, not only for the Corps but for the entire nation as a whole. To get some idea and appreciation of the significance of Captain Branch's feat, you must understand that the United States Marine Corps was established on 10 November 1775 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although African-Americans have ALWAYS (for the most part) served in the Marine Corps (officially and unofficially), it wasn't until 10 November 1945, or 170 years after the creation of the Marine Corps, that an African-American was allowed to become an officer in the Corps.
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Captain Branch's accomplishments, by becoming the first African-American Marine officer, inspired and paved the way for so many other minority officers (both in the Marines and in other branches, but especially for minoriy officers in the Corps) to serve their country with strength, honor and conviction in peace and in war...a true gift to the American people... In short, Captain Branch was a "Marine's Marine" and he will be greatly missed. Farewell and Semper Fi, Captain Branch...may you have fair winds and following seas.


The Liberal Marine's tribute is both heartfelt and informative. I recommend reading it in its entirety.
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Monday, April 18, 2005

Passing of a LA Sports HOF'er 

I know that Ricky would've said something about Sam Mills' untimely death at age 45. I'm really not qualified to add anything meaningful, so hopefully this post from Thighs Wide Shut will suffice until a longtime fan like Jeffrey writes something better.

R.I.P.

Update: Jeffrey's thoughts on Mills (and Mora).
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Political Notes 

2004 Republican Party Platform:

As a country, we must keep our pledge to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence. That is why we say the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.

Apparently, under life-or-death circumstances, Senator Rick Santorum and his wife would've authorized surgical "infringement". Now if we can't count on Santorum to uphold the hideous scientology of purported GOP "pro-life values" who can we possibly turn to? What's wrong with just trusting God's omnibenevolence in such situations?

[Update: Lindsay B. notes "Odd that Santorum's partial birth abortion ban didn't contain any exemption for the life of the mother."]

And who the hell really believes the Declaration of Independence is the philosophical undergirding for most pro-life extremists? When's the last time you heard that come up in a debate?

"That is why we say..." Utter bullhockey.


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I'll also slag on the Dems today via Josh Marshall:

The problem Democrats have is not bad tactics or bad strategies or poor framing. The problem is an over-reliance, even an addiction, to tactics and strategies.

For years I've argued that the Democrats' problem on national security issues is not so much that they aren't 'tough enough' or that they lack new ideas. The problem is a now-deeply-ingrained habit of approaching national security issues not so much as policy questions to be wrestled with but as a political problem to be dealt with and moved on from.

Ouchers.
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Better Bracketology through HFPST 

Link through the title. Much more grueling than I would've imagined.
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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Don't you think maybe we could put it on credit? 

As I write this, the Nikkei is down 370 points (3.3%) and American economic observers are jumpy.

"I'm nervous," said James W. Paulsen, chief investment officer at Wells Capital Management. "Although the market sold off earlier this year and had a sharp decline in the beginning of 2003, this feels a little bit different. Maybe it's the violence of it." (NYT)

For the financial markets, last week had a ugly feel to it, both on Wall Street and globally. It wasn't a crash, certainly, but also more than just a garden-variety correction. It felt like the preliminary stages of a sea change in sentiment -- the kind that either accompanies the popping of a bubble, or causes it, depending on your economic point of view. (Billmon)

Altogether the [economic] circumstances seem to me as dangerous and intractable as any I can remember, and I can remember quite a lot. What really concerns me is that there seems to be so little willingness or capacity to do much about it. (Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker)

As of April 14, 2005 the National Debt is $7.79 Trillion. At the start of the current fiscal year (Sept 30, 2004) the National Debt was $7.38 Trillion. That is a 6 1/2 month deficit of $408 Billion (close to 6% of GDP) and there are still 5 1/2 months remaining in the fiscal year. (Calculated Risk)

"What Screams May Come" (I beg your indulgence)

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Can I say 

Yeah we know that punk rock has been dead since '79 or '84 or '91. Non-purists may argue that Green Day still keeps it alive, but then they must also explain MTV's "Meet the Barkers", which by any measurable standard is the final nail in punk's coffin.

But it really hurts when a Saturday morning kid show rubs this fact in your face. Well, it wasn't the show exactly, it was a commercial during the show. Lemme explain: Saturday I was at the hospital watching Dora the Explorer with a recovering Pearlgirl. She's not really interested in TV yet, but I wanted to preview the types of shows she might enjoy in a year or two. So, I watched how Dora and her massively overcaffeinated family sought, found, and conquered the "Gooey Geyser". (Don't ask.)

So during Dora the Explorer a yo-yo commercial was shown. It pictured punkish skaters and teenage cool kids throwing their yo-yo's in various setttings, with quick edits and a thrashin' soundtrack.

I'm serious. Watch it here. Go ahead, you have the time. Download the second one (the 15 sec commercial 2005 "Throw Duncan-Spot A") and view it once or twice with Quicktime.

I'll wait.

Isn't that last sequence the most irresponsible thing you've ever seen? Showing a preteen girl in a pink-striped shirt who decides to cut loose and "throw her duncans" during a punk rock show? Jeebus! What if some poor innocent girl watches this and actually decides to emulate such behavior? What if she decides to attend an all-ages Suicide Machines show for the first time, and commences to whip out her spinner and "walk the dog" in the circle-pit? Will Duncan be responsible for the consequences?

I mean, all I can say is: that's an invitation to a tragically unenjoyable youth. (Sure, I know, punk is a state of mind and it's about noncomformity and free expression and all that... but still... yo yo's?!) That's like telling your middle-schooler, "If the bullies are giving you trouble just put a note on your back that says 'Please don't kick me' and that should do the trick".
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