Thursday, March 31, 2005


In order to grow, progressives need to systematically expand the universe of access points to the progressive worldview and actively recruit people into the fold. There are three main ways this can be achieved: the development of a vibrant progressive mass media, a revived labor movement, and the organizing of large-scale grassroots social movements in regions and among constituencies that are currently estranged from progressivism. Many astute commentators have written extensively about the first two, so it seems wise to focus here on why the third part of this strategy is important, and what it might entail.

Straight to the top

"Gen Sanchez authorised interrogation techniques that were in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and the army's own standards," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in the union's statement.
"He and other high ranking officials who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of detainees must be held accountable."

What else is new?

Bush Critics Blocked from Presidential Events
by Ron Hutcheson

WASHINGTON -- Some of President Bush's supporters seem to be going overboard in their efforts to stifle dissent when he comes to town to talk about changing Social Security.
In Denver, three people say they were booted out of a presidential event last week even though they never uttered a peep, apparently because their car bore a bumper sticker denouncing the war in Iraq.
In Fargo, N.D., last month, local Republicans developed a blacklist of more than three dozen residents, including a city commissioner, who were to be banned from Bush's visit.
From left, Leslie Weise, Karen Bauer and Alex Young had tickets to President Bush’s meeting on Social Security reform but say a man they thought was with the Secret Service forced them to leave. (Denver Post Photos/John Epperson) White House officials say they have nothing to do with the exclusions, which they blame on overzealous supporters.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Oooh... a reprimand. That'll set an example.

Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths
Published: March 26, 2005
WASHINGTON, March 25 -

Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Tom Delay completely delusional

Some juicy tidbits from his recent talk at a Family Research Council breakfast recently.

"And I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, one thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to elevate the visibility of what’s going on in America that Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks."

"This is exactly the issue that’s going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others. The point is, the other side has figured out how to win and defeat the conservative movement, and that is to go after people personally, charge them with frivolous charges, link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros, and then get the national media on their side."

COMMENT: The fact that Delay has taken illegal funds from lobbyists means that he is a victim of a vast conspiracy? Can you say paranoia?

Interesting that he let this slip ...
'the other side has figured out how to win and defeat the conservative movement'

Also interesting that now, in the glorious pinnacle of neoconservatism, at the absolute apex of their power, they still think they are persecuted victims! They have all the branches of government (and yes, that includes the Supreme Court - 7 of 9 justices were appointed by Republican presidents), yet they are this victimized minority.

Delay is just trying to deflect from his complete lack of morals. Pathetic.

In the same session, Tony Perkins said that the Democrats just want to take out Delay because he wants to outlaw abortion. No, I think that Democrats want to take him out because he is the sleazy pitbull of the GOP, the one who twists arms, funnels funds, the one who embarrassed lobbyists by the blatantness of his open talk about the willingness to be paid off, the one who used federal funds and facilities to interfere in the gerrymandering debacle in Texas... The Democrats lost seats in the House in 2004 exclusively because of that highly questionable redistricting, which Delay arguably masterminded. Abortion?

Crocodile tears.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The skinny on Austin news

You heard it here first.

This morning, I wrote to the four network affiliates in Austin, KEYE, KVUE, KTBS and KXAN.

I was pleased to get almost immediate responses from three of those four, who were eager to make it crystal clear to me that they do not use video news releases produced by the government under any circumstances.

Frank Volpicella, news director at KVUE (ABC) for five years, says that he has never received any VNRs. 'If we were ever to receive such a tape, our policy is that we would not air it,' he said in via email today.

KEYE, a CBS affiliate, and home of R.L. Turner alumna Elizabeth Dannheim, also stated unequivocally that they did not air VNR's, and wrote that editorial scrutiny there would prevent from this ever happening.

Bruce Whiteaker, news director at KXAN (the NBC affiliate), categorically declared that they do not air video news releases. Further, he wrote that such VNR's have not been clearly labelled in the past, and admitted that they had only avoided airing the spots by luck. The controversy over VNR's has led to a change in practice at CNN and NBC feed services, who now label the spots clearly. The networks still leave it up to the affiliates to decide whether to air such pieces, but KXAN chooses not to.

Whiteaker went on to explain, 'They almost always have an agenda, something to sell--or at the very least have product placement throughout the "story" so that somebody can push that product or agenda. I believe that has a negative impact on our credibility--to pass that information along to you, the viewer, as though it were legitimate news. '

This particular news director seemed passionate about the subject. 'To us, our news content time is too precious and valuable to use it to sell a product or push a government agenda, hidden or not,' he wrote.

At the present time, no reply has been received from KTBC, the Fox affiliate in Austin. If and when they do reply, that information will be posted here. Watch this space.

Thank God: Atkins is on the way out

Novak worries about 06

Bob Novak, a man reviled as the outer of Valerie Plame, but certainly one with connections in the GOP, claims that Republicans are worried that they could lose control of the house for the first time since 1994.

"Analysts at the Republican National Committee have sent this warning to the House of Representatives: The party is in danger of losing 25 seats in the 2006 election and, therefore, of losing control of the House for the first time since the 1994 election."

See also what Kos has to say:

Given their lackluster poll numbers (see below), they may have reason to worry.

Personally, I think that the Dems will make serious gains in narrowing the gap to near-equity in both the house and senate in 2006, but will probably not retake control. A lot can happen in 18 months, and Americans prefer a balance of powers to the virtual one-party state we have going on now.

I do predict, however, that the Dems will take 2 out of 3 in 2008: House, Senate, Presidency, as there is a general pendulum swing towards the center and a sense of inevitability about the end of the Bushening emerges...

What do you think? Any predictions?

Dark Materials movie to be watered-down

References to God and the Church are to be expunged from the film version of Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass (also known as Northern Lights).

Zut alors!

Doudou the French plush stuffed animal (maybe a little sheep) is coming to Scotland!

Please tell me in the comment space below where you want to see Doudou visit in Scotland.

See Doudou in France, Sweden, Croatia and Morocco, at

Public souring on Republican government

CBS News Poll, March 21-22, 2005
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?"
Approve 43%
Disapprove 48%
Unsure 9%

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?"
Approve 34%
Disapprove 49%
Unsure 17%

CNN/ USA Today/ Gallup Poll, March 22, 2005
"Do you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following has handled the case involving Terri Schiavo?

George W. Bush
Approve 31%
Disapprove 52%
Unsure 17%

Republicans in Congress
Approve 26%
Disapprove 47%
Unsure 27%

Stop[ government-produced fake news

Contact your local tv news team, find out if they are airing the government-made spots, and if they are, tell them to stop. Here's the info:

Ms. Patti Smith (!!!)
Austin, TX 78766
(512) 459-6521

Mr. Gary Schneider
Austin, TX 73301
(800) 563-9742

Mr. Carlos Fernandez
Austin, TX 78767
(512) 476-3636

Mr. Danny Baker
Austin, TX 73301
(512) 495-7770

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sample of the previous

Alternative Dictionary: French
MALPT! (Expletive) Used to wish someone tremendous good luck note Abbreviation for the phrase "Merde A La Puissance Treize!" which is translated as "Shit to the thirteenth power". Origin unknown. Used as a friendly term. Example: a friend of yours is about to take an exam. You would say "MALPT!" to wish him well!

Be a cultured cusser

Check out this entertaining website:

Vigilante gang in Manchester beats innocent disabled man to death, believing him a sex offender

A murder investigation was under way yesterday after a gang of men near Mr Cooper's home at Heywood wrongly convinced themselves he was a paedophile and beat him to death at his flat.

Liberals and Conservatives Unite Against Patriot Act

Five Reasons Conservatives Should Support a Robust Debate on the Patriot Act:

1. The Fourth Amendment - Search and seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
2. Section 213 of the Patriot Act enables the government to get court authorization to secretly search a person’s home or office, secretly seize their possessions, and not inform the person of the search or seizure for weeks or months. Secret searches violate Americans’ Fourth Amendment freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
3. Section 215 of the Patriot Act enables the government to a rubber stamp, secret court process to collect medical, financial, library, and other personal records such as firearms purchases, whether or not you are suspected of a crime related to national security. By enabling the government to collect personal information without strong evidence of crime, it not only violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment freedoms, but removes traditional checks and balances on government power.
4. The Patriot Act should be focused on real terrorists, not Americans critical of government policy. But, section 802 of the Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as “any act that is dangerous to human life,” involves a violation of any state or federal law, and is intended to influence government policy or coerce a civilian population. This overbroad definition could sweep in pro-life demonstrators, among others.
5. The extraordinary powers granted to law enforcement by the Patriot Act can and will be used by subsequent administrations, including those with which we may disagree. None of us can predict how those powers might be used or abused. One branch of government shouldn’t be given virtually unfettered power over when and how the government can intrude on our right to privacy.

Groups Urge Partial Lapse Of Patriot Act
Bloomberg NewsWednesday, March 23, 2005; Page A06
An unusual coalition of conservative groups and the American Civil Liberties Union opened a public campaign yesterday to scale back the enhanced surveillance powers granted to law enforcement after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The alliance, Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, urged Congress to let sections of the USA Patriot Act expire at year's end and modify what it called other "extreme provisions" of the law. Sixteen provisions, all related to surveillance powers, will expire Dec. 31 unless Congress extends them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Turks aren't against America, just don't like Bush

New survey shows that 74% of Turkish public sees Turkey and US as 'allies', 20% as 'partners' or 'friends', only 6% as 'enemies'.

16 % consider themselves 'anti-American'; only 4% say they 'hate American people'.

74% say that the Turkish people are not an enemy of America.

91% do not approve of Bush's policies; only one-half of one percent approve.

69% said that Bill Clinton was the most successful leader for world peace and security.

Gruess Gott!

Rising from the ashes of Goering's old house at Berchtesgaden, and using much of Hitler's old backyard ('Eagle's Nest'), it's ...

a Holiday Inn! (well, technically it's an 'Intercontinental Hotel Resort').

a sobering moment, let us bow our heads, lest we forget...

"Sit back and relax in comfortable leather armchairs and enjoy a traditional cocktail or a brandy or whiskey from one of the most spectacular collections in the whole of the region and a cigar from the hotel´s own walk in humidor."

And there's no need to feel guilty while smoking your Cuban and drinking your Scotch, because it comes with its own Holocaust Museum:

"A couple hundred yards from the hotel itself is a modest two-story Documentation Center, with a permanent exhibit on the history of the area, including the Nazis' appropriation of Obersalzberg."

More from the Independent:
by Jonathan Margolis

I was, you see, checking in as the first, and possibly last, Jew to be a guest at a beautiful, newly built, £70m InterContinental Resort Hotel at, er, Berchtesgaden - Hitler's beloved holiday home in the German Alps, near the Austrian border.

Pristine and modern, a complete contrast to the standard cuckoo-clocks-and-Eva Braun's-knickers twee Alpine hotel style, the newest jewel in the crown of the British InterContinental Hotel Group, opened just last week. It looks, from the outside, like a software company's Colorado HQ. Inside, it is modernist, with a dozen shades of brown furnishings and fixtures, stylistically cool to the point of being a bit chilly. There's even a little style joke in the lobby - a display of the mandatory animal antlers, but these made of modishly twisted shiny metal, sort of Philippe Starck does glühwein.

The Berchtesgaden InterContinental is painfully trendy. There's no hint of Wiener schnitzel on the restaurant menu. In the spa, there are rooms for different massage techniques, plus one marked "Meditation", where you can think things over while staring at a large crystal that changes colour.

Perhaps the management of the ICH Group down in Windsor should spend an hour or two in the Meditation room, because they're suffering a bit of corporate stress right now as the world's press sniggers at their courageous/foolhardy decision to stick a huge and expensive hotel in a town with a near-unique PR problem.

Berchtesgaden was more than just somewhere that the Führer liked chucking on his lederhosen, taking the air, walking the Alsatians and watching old movies. A mountainous peninsula of Bavaria surrounded, with duly ponderous symbolism, by his native Austria, the Führer cast it as the embodiment of the whole Germanic Volk myth, and hence the spiritual home of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

Berchtesgaden was where the Führer dictated half of Mein Kampf, received world leaders, and directed much of the course of world history, Holocaust included. It served as the Third Reich's second, and, for months at a time, principal seat of government. Even the mountains were tainted. Up on top of one, Martin Bormann, Hitler's disgusting little private secretary - a Nazi so rank and servile that even Hermann Goering referred to him as "the dirty pig" - built Hitler, as a 50th-birthday present, a summer house, The Eagle's Nest, unaware that Adolf was terrified of heights. Hitler hardly ever used the place, and it is now a restaurant serving a particularly fine Jäger schnitzel at just €12.70.


So, as I was going to my room, I started on the lyrics for the opening song to my successor to The Producers, "The Hoteliers". A chorus of brown-suited bellhops singing, "We're the Volk who burned the Reichstag / But be sure and have a nice Tag," was as far as I got before sitting on my bed and wondering what exactly I was doing here. Was it creepy to sleep in Hitler's garden, where Bormann and Goering literally strutted their stuff? Well, to be honest, you sort of forget about it. The rooms have more Lebensraum than the Sudetenland, the plumbing is of the gods, the duvets are, as in all German hotels, blissful, and, frankly, I had a magnificent dinner and slept like a top.

But there is little of the Don't Mention the War syndrome in these parts; it's actually difficult to stop people referring to it. The Bavarian government has built a superb little museum a few hundred metres from the hotel, which even on weekdays, with five feet of snow, is rammed with people from all over Germany and Austria - and not all of them in school parties. The museum uses audio-guiding technology boldly stamped "Made in Israel". And Berchtesgaden people, even as supporters, almost to a man, of "moving on", tend to be doughty advocates of the Jewish state. The Israeli bobsleigh team, known as the Frozen Chosen, were in town for a competition a fortnight ago, and were reportedly cheered to the rafters by elderly locals.

The hotel, too, does its corporate best not to shy away from the bleedin' obvious. In every bedside cabinet is the usual Gideon's Bible, plus a 600-page volume on the history of Nazism and the region - Die tödliche Utopie (The Deadly Utopia). All the staff, even the cleaners, underwent police checks to root out Nazi and neo-Nazi connections. All have been on history courses and had to sign an addendum to their contract stating that they support the democratic ideals of the Federal German state. Even the InterContinental's business model has been designed, so the management says, to exclude the dread possibility of a neo-Nazi group managing to book it for a convention - the price mechanism has been used to see off this ugly scenario: rooms start at £160 and rise to £1,700 for a suite.

It's official: GM crops harm wildlife

"Yet another nail was hammered into the coffin of the GM food industry in Britain yesterday when the final trial of a four-year series of experiments found, once more, that genetically modified crops can be harmful to wildlife.

The study was the fourth in a series that has, in effect, sealed the fate of GM in the UK - at least in the foreseeable future. They showed the ultra-powerful weedkillers that the crops are engineered to tolerate would bring about further damage to a countryside already devastated by intensive farming.

Only one of the four farm-scale trials, which have gone on for nearly five years, showed that growing GM crops might be less harmful to birds, flowers and insects than the non-GM equivalent - and even that was attacked as flawed, because the weedkiller the particular conventional crop required was so destructive it was about to be banned by the EU."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Dallas is a city who'll walk on you when you're down...

The Big D

Now, the number one city in America for crime, number 2 in murder, and number 4 in assaults and rapes!

The Houston Chronicle gloats:

"According to the statistics examined by The Dallas Morning News, Dallas residents were 42 percent more likely to have their homes or businesses broken into last year than people in Houston."

Will Wolfowitz Stand?

Well, Europe isn't happy about it, especially on the heels of Bush's recent nomination of a rabid UN-hater as ambassador to the UN. Didn't take Bush long to undo all the goodwill of his recent charm offensive, did it? Did anyone have bets on that one?

(from the Financial Times:)
"The Netherlands hinted at reservations on Sunday about Washington's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank, saying it would be better to have a wider field of candidates."

Meanwhile, the EU 'invited' (summoned?) the Wolf to Brussels to convince them that he was capable of leading an agency that is supposed to be there to help lift the developing world out of poverty.

"Paul Wolfowitz, the US's nominee to head the World Bank, has been invited to Brussels to meet the European Commission and calm nerves about his candidacy. Louis Michel, European commissioner for development, yesterday invited Mr Wolfowitz to share his vision of the bank's future before its shareholders vote on his appointment.
Mr Michel, who made his decision after consultation with José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, said: "I am looking forward to meeting Mr Wolfowitz in Brussels to listen to his ideas on development, the main challenges ahead and his vision for the World Bank as a major actor."

In the UK, Gordon Brown seeks to shore up support for Wolf O'Witz

"Gordon Brown is seeking the fullest possible discussion between the US and developing countries over Washington's nomination of Paul Wolfowitz as the new World Bank chief, believing it is important to achieve a broad international consensus over the appointment. "

progressionsession to the Tories: Don't Cross the Gypsies

"Michael Howard was accused yesterday of "tapping into the deepest vein of bigotry in our society" as he tried to push the issue of unauthorised Gypsy camps into the centre of the pre-election political battle.
The Tory leader will deliver a speech tomorrow focusing on 1,855 Gypsy and traveller families who have bought and developed plots of lands where they can camp without obtaining planning permits in advance.
In the past Mr Howard has vehemently denied wanting to make race an election issue, but that is a charge he will face because of his remarks about Gypsies and travellers.

Delorean's Flux Capacitated

John Z. DeLorean, 80, the brilliant but troubled automaker who arguably was as flamboyant as his car designs, died March 19 at a hospital in Summit, N.J., after a stroke.

U.S. Catholic Bishops to launch crusade against death penalty

"Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, who played a leading role in developing the new campaign, said the bishops sense that public opinion is shifting against capital punishment, partly because genetic testing has proved that scores of death-row inmates were wrongfully convicted. "

Because of the nuance in the church's teaching, McCarrick said, the bishops will not argue that capital punishment is inherently immoral. "Our job is to try to persuade our Catholic people and everybody of good will that the death penalty in America at this time is not necessary, it's not useful and it's not good," he said. "

Air America in Texas

Hey, Texans! Can I have some feedback here? What do you think of Air America: Awesome America or Bore America? Or, like me, is it just those bizarre commercials that you can't stand?

"Get into the action with (bizarre product name here)! Buy our expensive gadget - it's just like swinging a real baseball bat!" (Or you could just go buy a real baseball bat for a fraction of the price)...

Anyhoo, Air America Radio is on the air now in


For the rest of you progressionsession fanatics, here's some more info:

WXKS 1430 AM

Social Insecurity Continued

Time Poll, March 15 - 17, 2005

"Is there a crisis or is this just a scare tactic?"

There's a crisis 43%
It's a scare tactic 48%
Neither/ unsure 6%


People are sick and tired of being manipulated, spun and lied-to. People voted for Bush because they wanted a straigh-shooter. What they got instead is the most media-managed president in US history.

Socially Insecure

Newsweek Poll, March 17-18, 2005.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling Social Security?"

Approve 33%
Disapprove 59%
Unsure 8%

Bush League Poll

President's approval rating slip slidin' away...

Newsweek Poll, March 17- 18, 2005.
Approval 45%
Disapproval 48%
Don't know 7%

Sunday, March 20, 2005

South by Southweary

For my last night of South by Southwest, I got a little more rootsy. And very frugal. I caught free shows at Longbranch and Trophy’s, and paid $5 to see the Weary Boys at Ego’s. Can’t beat that.

I watched Steve Stubblefield, front man for the Starlings TN, at Longbranch. He played an acoustic set, switching between his guitar and a dulcimer, on which he was quite competent. Stubblefield hails from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and he represented the southern rock sound well enough. His voice and style made him a ringer for Steve Earle… and man, could he drink. Whiskey and a beer, another whiskey and a beer, throughout his performance… I think he was pretty well wrecked by the end of his set, but he held it together admirably. He even got some help from some enthusiastic audience members who wandered in and sang backup in an impromptu, blues/gospel song called “Forbidden Fruit Makes a Sticky Jam” – or something like that. All in all, he is an affable fellow who gave an enjoyable performance.

Trophy’s continued the GoGirlsMusic extravaganza, where they have been showcasing women-led bands on two stages since Wednesday. I listened to the more-or-less “straight-ahead rock” stylings of the Ginger & Sarah Band, from Austin. They sounded good, flexing some rock ‘n roll muscle, even if the road they were on seems to have been traveled countless times before. But the crowd enjoyed the up-tempo music and Ginger’s powerful voice.

*WARNING: There are naughty words ahead. Stop reading if you are, umm, I don't know - religious or something(?).

The James Ryder Band was playing at Ego’s when I showed up. You can’t beat the musical selections, including Neil Young’s “Helpless” and Little Feat’s “Willin’.” But – and this might not be very fair – Ryder just started to annoy the heck out of me. His banter with the crowd was pseudo-confrontational, in a playful way, but it went on and on and I kept wondering if they were going to play another song. And when they did, it was their “Fuckin’ and Fightin’” tune, which was clever for about the first verse.. but it went on forever. And I don’t remember any other words except: “We were fuckin’ and fightin’…. Fightin’ and fuckin.’” But that’s not all. After it was done, they unveiled their t-shirts for sale. And yes, you guessed it, in huge type were the words, “FUCKIN’ & FIGHTIN’”. Yeah, that’s what I want to wear around town. Nothing says “redneck” better than t-shirts that scream cuss words at you.

As a quick aside, I want to mention that I almost changed all of my plans to go to some club on 3rd Street, simply because the name of their all-day festival was "Fuck by Fuck You." Why I find that hysterical, and the James Ryder t-shirt just stupid, is beyond me. And then look at who was playing the festival.. Bands with names like Made Out of Babies, School Truama Flashback, Areola 51, and Imperial Battlesnake were on the bill. What an experience this might have been.

Anyway, back at Ego's, the Weary Boys finally came on. These guys are so talented it hurts. Actually it did hurt a little – I’ve never in my life had my eardrums ringing after a bluegrass show. Okay, they’re not bluegrass, they’re rock – more in the style of the Band than anything else, but with the fiddle and the stand-up bass going apeshit on stage, it’s a frenetic, exciting country hoe-down that would give your grandma a heart attack. And Ego’s is small, small, small – so the band was loud, loud, loud. Fully plugged in and peeling the paint off the walls. But I’m not complaining. The Weary Boys are a great live act, and you should go see them any chance you get.

So it’s all over now. In a smoky back room somewhere, the South by Southwest fat cats are counting their money rolls, high-fiveing each other and licking their chops in anticipation of raising the wristband price another $10-$20 next year. But hey, they brought it all here, so I should cut ‘em some slack. It was a good party.

I want to leave you with one last thing to think about. If you’re wondering how to get your band on the bill at SXSW, have you ever considered recording a 52-hour song? That appears to be this guy’s ticket. Aye Chihuahua…

Blair to scrap the crap school dinners, but it is it an election year ploy?

"In a response to the plea from TV chef Jamie Oliver for a 'school dinner revolution', the Prime Minister will say that school kitchens will be rebuilt and equipped so dishes can be cooked from scratch, while dinner ladies are given 'culinary skills' to help them create appetising menus."

"The crux, however, will be its response to the uproar over the quality of school dinners triggered by Oliver's programme, which followed the chef and father of two as he tried to change menus for pupils in Greenwich, south-east London."

Quoth Blair:

"We're going to take action as well to meet concern over school meals, something, from going round the country, I know is worrying parents. We are already cutting the salt, fat and sugar content in school meals and we'll soon announce details of the new School Food Trust, including substantial funding to enable it to assist schools nationwide. It will draw on the remarkable work of Jamie Oliver in schools, of the Soil Association in encouraging the use of organic and local produce in school meals, and on the best advice on nutrition and eliminating processed foods.

"The new 'building schools for the future' programme, which, after last week's budget, will start systematically renovating primary and secondary schools nationwide, will improve kitchens and dining areas. There will be better training and qualifications to support the valuable work of catering staff. It may take a little time to change children's tastes but it will be worth the effort if we can get them enjoying healthy and good-quality food at school. We will also ask Ofsted to inspect the quality of school meals. "

Term 2: the Bushening continues its downhill trajectory

A new ABC News Poll (March 17-18, 2005):

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling Social Security?"
Approve 33%
Disapprove 59%
Unsure 8%

"Who do you trust more on the issue of Social Security: President Bush or Democrats in Congress?"
President Bush 33%
Congressional Democrats 44%
Both equally 3%
Neither/ unsure 20%


Thanks to Scotty P.

For sacrificing his mental and physical well-being for our enjoyment here at progressionsession.

We all wish him a happy hangover and speedy recovery from the trials of SXSW 2005.

Broke Down Engine

South by Southwest continues in Austin-- Today is effectively the last day of South by Southwest. And I've spent most of the day in bed. How did this come about, you ask?

I left work early yesterday, rushed downtown and things were falling into place beautifully. A parking space opened up right in front of me on 5th Street (unbelievable!).. I wandered into a free show at Emo's, with the Frames on stage. They sounded great. Four guitars, electric fiddle, and a group of guys whose enthusiasm for performing was palpable. The sun was shining, the day was lovely. Calexico was coming up next. I decided to toast my good fortune with a beer. And then another. And... well, you get the idea. Hours later, at the end of the night, it's a wonder that I didn't climb onstage and pull my pants down, or some similar outrageousness. Who knows, maybe I did. Judging from my all-day hangover, my brain probably shut down early on, and my body began posting eviction notices in a desperate attempt to rid itself of the self-destructive parasite that is me.

I'm an experienced drinker. How could I let it come to this?

It's because SXSW is a party. Everything changes. Downtown Austin doesn't even feel like the same place. Between the tour buses, throngs of people, wristbands, badges... it feels a bit like some musical theme park. And as such, it's easy to lose track of time and location. I closed the night out at Longbranch Inn, where I saw the Immediate again (and they rocked - again) as well as a few various Brit bands on "Feed the Limeys barbecue" night.

But the afternoon show by Calexico was the pinnacle of the day. What looked to be an unfolding disaster (sound problems) ended in a wondrous performance. Their southwestern/spanish-villa /desert journey/Mexican border-fueled rock 'n roll style was bringing people in off the street and from emo's back room.. yes, those surly punksters all hiding in the shadows, they crept in to see what the party was all about. Beautiful. And free... Take that, South by Southwest fat cats! All the money I saved on a wristband allowed me to pour enough booze into my veins that now, I've missed almost all of Saturday.

And with that in mind, I'm going to cut this short and head on back to the party. Must do it... "For the blog..." - I will carry that chant into the early morning hours.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Why do conservatives hate America?

They are bent on destroying America's good name around the world, and at home they leave schools underfunded and want to destroy the most successful social program in our history. They are undermining the civil liberties of American citizens, the legal safeguards entrenched in our jurisprudential system, and the checks and balances designed by our founding fathers to prevent tyranny from ever taking hold in our land.

In the words of George Orwell, I understand how, I just don't understand why.

I guess conservatives just hate the American way of life.

Kirsty MacColl - still no justice

Basically what happened was this: one of Mexico's biggest business owners, Guillermo Gonzalez Nova, ran over beloved English/ Irish singer Kirsty MacColl, in his speedboat, in 2000. Basically, he made sure his lacky took the fall, and the local authorities made a mockery of justice, despite eyewitnesses who say Gonzalez Nova was going 15 times the speed limit in the area that was reserved for scuba divers in Cozumel. The lacky was charged less than a hundred dollars for manslaughter.

The excellent BBC documentary, with interviews with Kirsty's ex Steve Lillywhite, their two sons, who witnessed her being chopped up by the boat motor, her boyfriend at the time of the accident, and friends, and Spider Stacy of the Pogues, as well as following her mother to Cozumel in her quest for justice.

Kirsty's mother is still trying to get justice for her death. Here is the justice for kirsty website:

Is it any wonder?

That people who teach at the level of schools and universities, particularly the ones who teach in the Arts and Humanities, are more liberal? Conservatives want the kind of government that will choke even further the funding of education. Conservatives are responsible for the precipitous drop for public funding of research in these areas, and for the fact that teachers are so underpaid, because you have to tax people if you want the goodies.

Texas is 49th in the country for public funding of education. 49 out of 50. (Mississippi is 50).

49th in education, number one in executions. Could there be a connection here?

Returning to academia, no one is stopping conservative people from becoming teachers and professors, just like no one is stopping liberals from becoming Donald Trump. It just doesn't happen that often. Conservatives don't really believe in funding things like education in history, fine arts, foreign languages. And you expect the people who teach those things to vote Republican, against their self-interest? How many Donald Trumps vote to have their taxes raised?

And even on campuses, these aren't the people with the real power. Like everywhere else, money rules the roost. Business schools, law schools, places researching the prozacs and ritalins of tomorrow - these places have the money and the power.

Arts and Humanities departments are so squeezed, they often can't even hire new people when an old one retires. Their buildings and equipment are out of date, their staff overworked. Their salaries, don't even talk about it.

If the average American middle class Republican really wants the life of a history professor, I challenge them to try and do it for a year. That'll have them running back to their comfortable jobs and their multi-car garages.

Over and matt.

More from the Neocon Nation

In the words of Russell Jacoby:
"If life were a big game of Monopoly, one might suggest a trade to these conservatives: You give us one Pentagon, one Department of State, Justice and Education, plus throw in the Supreme Court, and we will give you every damned English department you want. "

Does a professorial pogrom beckon?

Please reassure me.

"Today's accusations against subversive professors differ from those of the past in several respects. In a sign of the times, the test for disloyalty has shifted far toward the center. Once an unreliable professor meant an anarchist or communist; now it includes Democrats. Soon it will be anyone to the left of Attila the Hun."

I am starting to worry that America is on the verge of an academic witch-hunt of mammoth proportions, that this could be the neoMcCarthyist juggernaut we all fear.

Neoconservatism does not tolerate disagreement, much less dissent.

Academia is the only thing left they do not control, the only thing left that has not been completely taken over by commercialization.

They are going to eat us alive.



Young Workers in the Service Economy
Low wages, erratic schedules, no health care, work-school conflicts.

This film looks beyond the stereotypes of carefree and undeserving youth to uncover a reality that millions of young working people know all too well: no matter how hard you work and how well you do in school, it can be difficult to stay afloat when you're coming of age in a "McJob" economy.

But there are ways to improve things - and young people are taking the lead.

An interesting new documentary featuring Eric Schlosser and others:

Attack on Science: to the MAX

Imax theaters, mainly in the South, are passing on scientific documentaries on such subjects as volcanos, dinosaurs and undersea life, because they differ with the biblical account of creation.

(From New York Times)

News flash: the Bible is not a science book. Nowhere else on earth outside of the Bible Belt do people have a problem with evolution. Get over it.

Postcards from the Pledge

Teen virginity pledges don't work. We need real sex education, not misinformation about condoms.

"Teenagers who take virginity pledges -- public declarations to abstain from sex -- are almost as likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease as those who never made the pledge, an eight-year study released yesterday found.

"Although young people who sign a virginity pledge delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have fewer sexual partners, they are also less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with oral and anal sex, said the researchers from Yale and Columbia universities. "

(from Washington Post)

Friday, March 18, 2005

An Immediate shot of adrenalin

South by Southwest continues in Austin-- Last night, a band calling themselves the Immediate threw down the gauntlet - and served notice that they were in Texas to kick some serious ass. Hailing from Dublin, they put on a thrilling set that left the crowd at Soho Lounge sweating, a little bit unnerved, and cheering for more.

The intense rockers brought to mind the White Stripes with a little of the Strokes and other bands in this vein, but they were surprisingly original, given the territory they were navigating. Or conquering. I’m convinced now that stage presence isn’t learned – it’s innate. If you ain’t got it, sorry.. But if you do, all you have to do is stand there and it oozes. These guys look like they are barely old enough to buy alcohol in Texas (...but who am I to judge? That’s a different story...) yet they commanded the crowd’s attention and projected a rock-n-roll bravado that often sets the great bands apart from the good ones at SXSW every year.

Three different band members took their turn at lead vocals, and one of them looked like a cross between Beck and a young (and slim) Van Morrison. When he seemed to go into convulsions, and then jumped off the stage to dance in the crowd, the audience just kind of gave him room and watched him with a mix of enthusiasm and nervousness. But this wasn’t some uncontrolled riot.. It was tight and intense - while the music was unpredictable, at times dreamy and at others angry and raging.

I asked them for a cd after the show. “We don’t really have anything out yet,” the drummer said. Unbelievable. I’m going to follow them to Longbranch Inn tonight to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. But I know it wasn’t. If you ever see these guys on a bill in your town, go get rocked.

You can listen their sample here:
It's good, but bear in mind that it doesn’t do the live show justice.

South By St. Patrick’s Day

I eschewed the usual crush of trying to get into one of the Irish pubs in town.. and instead went to the Ireland rock-n-roll showcase at Soho Lounge. I had no problem getting in, and was able to wander right up to the stage as I watched several bands from Dublin, and one from Limerick. Seemed like a good way to celebrate St. Patty’s while all the pricks were out waiting to get into B.D. McScratchy’s (or wherever the hell they decided to congregate), just so that they could wait another thirty minutes to get a damn Guinness. I strolled right up to the bar, ordered two Guinness for good measure, and got down to business. I rock.

It was hard not to like Bell X1, but I tried. When the singer announced, in his thick Irish accent, that “this song is on the OC soundtrack,” I was nonplussed. The alternative-rock template song was actually perfect for a scene on such a show, with the lyrics of yearning and tortured love and yaddy yadda.. but he regained some respect when he explained that he’s never actually seen the show himself – but that he heard the song was played during the scene in which “the two girls kiss.” The way he said it, almost embarrassed or confused about the whole situation, was rather endearing and I decided to give them a chance. The other songs rocked a little bit more, with some nice keyboard and harmonica sounds rolled in, and I can say Bell X1 sounds at least as good as anything on the mainstream “alt-rock” radio stations. In fact, they sound better - you get the feeling they are in that phase just before being molded by the industry execs, who no doubt are already carving up this delicate cut of radio meat in their minds.. drooling at the thought.. “Come on lad, we’ll make ye a star!”

MonoBand was in this same vein, except a little bit moreso. They seem to have packaged themselves up for the big turkey carving, and I suspect they would love to have an OC gig. They sounded fine enough – a full, lush sound, but I felt a bit like I was at a VH1 shoot. They were just a bit too pretty, too perfect – the lead singer, from England, and his big, starcrossed eyes; his counterpart, a woman from Sweden who was just too over the top with the seductive looks and “come-on” sultriness. Their voices matched the appearance. Great voices, but just a little too much of that “Third Eye Blind” (or insert alternative rock band here) ‘over-singing.’ No doubt, some people will love these guys.

The big deviation of the night was the Things, a nutty punk band whose singer came out in black eyeshadow, black lipstick, and a psychotic expression that was well-suited to the band’s in-your-face pageantry. At times he bellowed like Elvis before launching back into a screaming tirade. His leather get-up and crazy makeup was just a bit too much “Rocky Horror” for me.

I’d met a girl before the Things took the stage, and we chatted a bit about SXSW and toasted St. Patty’s day and the music ahead. Now, halfway through this manic assault, she pulled me aside and said, “I’m gonna go catch the rest of another show somewhere.” But I couldn’t follow. I’d paid my cover, and without a wristband, I didn’t have the option of popping in and out of venues. As I watched her leave, I looked down at my naked wrist… and said to myself, "curse you, South by Southwest fat cats!"

My back is killing me this morning. There is a free show at Emo’s today.. Calexico will be there at some point during the afternoon. So long suckers, I’ve got to go find a parking place. We’ll see if I last until the evening..

Mmmmm, beer. Go ahead, you know you want some. Don't let me stop you. Posted by Hello

Doudou in Portugal Posted by Hello

Blog Recommendation

Follow Doudou the stuffed animal on her adventures around the world!

St Hung O' Ver's Day

... patron saint of Guinness-related flatulence.

Jamie Oliver making a dent in government

From the Scotsman:
"More than 130 MPs – including 86 Labour backbenchers – have already signed a Commons motion backing Mr Oliver’s Feed Me Better campaign.
They say they are “appalled” that the average cost of a school meal in the state system is just 35p to 45p – a quarter of what is spent in British prisons.
And they call on the Government to outlaw the use of processed food in school lunchtime menus."

'Talking about Oliver’s show, Jamie’s School Dinners, Mr Blair said: “It’s very good and shows what can be done. We are setting up an organisation that is going to help advise schools on how to improve their meals." '

From the Norfolk Eastern Daily Press:
"More schools are threatening to go it alone in supplying lunches, as pressure mounts for healthier food.A conference is being planned for schools interested in setting up their own arrangements, following alarm over the quality of meals exposed by a national television programme."

From the Coventry Observer:
Hot on the heels of Channel Four's Jamie's School Dinners, education and health chiefs were set to attend a Food In Schools conference to discuss how schools can encourage youngsters to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

South by Southwednesday

I think they should open South By Southwest in a fashion similar to the Olympics. Have the bands parade down 6th Street with a flag or a banner, with crowds gathered to cheer and wave. But to make it exciting, at the end of the street there will be someone with a bullhorn, screaming: “Now go find a venue! Go find a venue!!” The musicians will scramble, equipment in tow, around downtown Austin in a frantic effort to find an open stage. Brawling would ensue.

It could be a FOX special: “A thousand bands. One hundred clubs. Twenty four hours.”

It was unseasonably cold last night, in fact the temperature dropped close to freezing. But judging from how far away I had to park, the chilly weather didn’t deter anyone. I camped out at a place called the Velvet Spade, which I remember as Caucus Club (but it has gone through many other identity changes in between). Tonight, I indulged a serious indie-mood-rock jones. Dour, hip-looking bands playing serious music. But for the most part, I heard some great sounds. I consider my first night of SXSW a rousing success.

The club had two stages, which I’ve decided is the only way to go – pay one cover, choose between two bands at any given time. The sound was great inside, and I arrived just in time to hear Aero Wave, whose SXSW write up promises “beats that are sure to satisfy every manic depressive's musical needs.” But the mellow, pulsing sound proved contagious from the start, building into a hum of energy that they never quite opened the lid on. And it was all the better, Aero Wave’s music is based more in anticipation than any kind of pressure-relieving explosion. I was entranced by the music and quite taken with singer, with her denim jacket, jet black hair and bizarre habit of chewing gum throughout the entire set. The gum didn’t seem to affect her singing at all. She had soft voice that floated in and out of the music perfectly.

And after the show, she gave me a cd. Score… Aero Wave was listed as being from New York, but their drummer explained that really only Leslie was from NYC, and most of them were from Austin. I decided not to pry for details. Another show was getting started.

Dead Whale Tide cranked the intensity up a notch, with a full sound and searing guitars that reminded me of Built to Spill and similar bands. The trouble lay in the howling vocals that didn’t always seem to match where the music was headed. I still enjoyed their show – the band was tight, and the crowd loved it. They had good stage presence and threw in a lot of breaks and tempo changes to keep the songs interesting. In the end, though, I took a break and went to check out the patio.

Palaxy Tracks, from Chicago, actually won my heart through the single provided on the web site. You can listen to “Speech with Animals” here: The man and wife tale of the song is typical of their poignant storytelling - even if it might be a bit odd at times. In one tune, the singer croons “I want you to find me a daughter.. I’m sure that I’ll learn to love her,” adding – and I can’t remember the exact line - that “30 to one, I’m not at all normal.” But often the songs are delivered in a subtle, somewhat detached third-person sense, and delivered by a lovely voice without any hint of pretension or self-indulgence. I’m not sure if Palaxy Tracks would be engaging for a full-length show, the low-key melodies start to numb the listener after awhile.. but for a SXSW showcase, they filled their space well.

I was planning to head out, but everyone I ran into insisted I stay for the Octopus Project. I’m really wanting to write something about tentacles here.. but I’ll skip it. There’s no time to put ink to those thoughts! The Austin-based experimental-instrumental trio had a hypnotic sound driven by keyboards and guitar. The songs were fully-formed with engaging, atmospheric melodies. Up on the patio, they sounded excellent. Unfortunately, when I went downstairs for a minute, I broke free of their magnetic field, realized how tired I was, and that was that. It was off to the car at that point.

I’ll skip my review of the band that I walked into that was wailing away, with crazy shirtless guy (but dog tags.. you bet he had dog tags..) trying to spur on the crowd. It wasn’t really catching. And the crowd itself, inside and outside the bar, that was so nice and polite it was scary. I was only bumped into once, which was followed by a prompt, “pardon me.” What is rock in roll coming to?

All in all, a fulfilling night, and at a reasonable cover charge.. no wristband required. Take that, South by Southwest fat cats! Booya!

No promises that I’ll come back with anything coherent from tonight – it’s St. Patty’s Day, after all. Have fun wherever you are.

It's people like Michael Savage who give America a bad name

Savage Nation: It's not just Rush
Talk radio host Michael Savage: "I commend" prisoner abuse; "we need more"
"[T]ake their deepest fear, the pig, the dog, the woman with the leash, and use it on them to break them!"
"Use ... [l]ittle, ugly women. And let 'em take big strapping Iraqis and put 'em on leashes naked."
"Instead of putting joysticks, I would have liked to have seen dynamite put in their orifices."
Since May 4, Media Matters for America has monitored and analyzed radio host Rush Limbaugh's comments on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military personnel, including his comparison of the abuse to a college fraternity prank; his remark that the U.S. military guards were "having a good time"; and his characterization of the abuse as a "brilliant maneuver."

On May 10, Media Matters for America began monitoring Michael Savage's radio program, Savage Nation, which reaches 6 million listeners per week; we will continue to do so on a daily basis. The following are excerpts from Michael Savage's May 10 and May 11 radio shows, during which he commended the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib (repeatedly referring to it as "Grab-an-Arab" prison); said that "we need more of the humiliation tactics, not less"; and blamed American civilian Nick Berg's death on Senators John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton as well as on The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Savage Nation is syndicated by Talk Radio Network and is the third-largest syndicated radio talk show in the nation. He is the author of two New York Times best-sellers, The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language and Culture and The Enemy Within: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Schools, Faith, and Military -- both published by the conservative WorldNetDaily press WND Books. Savage hosted a short-lived televised version of his show for MSNBC, also called The Savage Nation, before being fired by the cable channel for referring on the air to a caller as a "sodomite" and saying that the caller should "get AIDS and die."

One Good Republican

Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), the former chairman of the House ethics committee, said yesterday that he will co-sponsor a bill to repeal or revise changes that Republican leaders made to the committee’s procedure at the start of the 109th Congress.

Freedom from Information Act

Historical Records at the National Archives.
Worried that sensitive information may have been improperly declassified in the late 1990s, government agencies took to scrubbing public records at the National Archives and elsewhere, pulling untold thousands of public records for "review" and possible reclassification.
Many 30- or 50-year-old archival collections are a shadow of what they were just a few years ago.
On a recent visit to the National Archives, American University historian Anna Nelson recalled, "I found four boxes of Nixon documents full of nothing but withdrawal cards," signifying records that had been removed. In another collection of Johnson records concerning the 1965 intervention in the Dominican Republic, "I found a box of 55 withdrawal cards."
Not all archive withdrawals are unwarranted. For instance, documents containing classified nuclear-weapons design information were discovered in otherwise declassified records collections, as this recent DOE report on inadvertent disclosures indicates. But the scope of current withdrawals goes beyond what's necessary and poses arbitrary obstacles to historical research.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

People in Britain: Listen to SXSW on Radio 2

Italy to pull out of Iraq

"Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said today that he aimed to begin withdrawing Italy's 3,000 troops from Iraq by September, in a signal that the domestic cost of loyalty to the United States over the war was growing too high. "
middleeast/15cnd-italy.html ex=1268542800&en=b8fd8c1

Executive Branch Ignores GAO Finding

White House to Agencies: Ignore GAO's Ruling On 'illegal' TV News Releases
by Ken Herman

WASHINGTON -- The White House, intent on continuing to crank out "video news releases" that look like television news stories, has told government agency heads to ignore a Government Accountability Office memo criticizing the practice as illegal propaganda.

In a memo on Friday, Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the lawyers the White House depends on disagree with the GAO's conclusions.

Accompanying Bolten's memo was a letter from Steven Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, who said video news releases "are the television equivalent of the printed press release."

"They can be a cost-effective means to distribute information through local news outlets, and their use by private and public entities has been widespread since the early 1990s, including by numerous federal agencies," Bradbury said.

Comptroller General David Walker of the GAO said Monday that his agency is "disappointed by the administration's actions" in telling agency heads to ignore the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.

"This is not just a legal issue, it's also an ethical matter," Walker said. "The taxpayers have a right to know when the government is trying to influence them with their own money."
Bradbury's memo said video news releases are legal and legitimate as long as they don't "constitute advocacy for any particular position or view."

The GAO, in a Feb. 17 memo to agency heads, said its review of video news releases distributed to television stations by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy showed violations of federal law barring the use of government money for propaganda. The GAO said, "Television-viewing audiences did not know that stories they watched on television news programs about the government were, in fact, prepared by the government."

Giving no indication that the administration would change its policy, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "It's very clear to the TV stations where they are coming from."
But the GAO, in the Feb. 17 memo from Walker, said that's not enough.

"They are intended to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public by independent television news organizations," Walker wrote. "To help accomplish this goal, these stories include actors or others hired to portray 'reporters' and may be accompanied by suggested scripts that television news anchors can use to introduce the story during the broadcast."

Former White House press secretary Mike McCurry, who held the job in the Clinton administration, said there was a "considerable amount of video news release activity" during those years, but much of it was limited to raw footage."

© 2005 Cox Newspapers, Inc

On the Eve of Disruption

Greetings from Austin, where the city prepares for the invasion of more than 1,300 bands from across the world for South By Southwest. Everything will change over the next four days. Traffic will become weird (ever sit in rush hour at midnight?). Lunch breaks will become "concert breaks," and work hours in general will be random and meaningless. Many people will be drunk. Many ear drums rattled. And the only thing flowing more profusely than the music and alcohol will be cash. This is an orgasmic time for local bars, restaurants, hotels, musicians, street vendors, and the homeless.

Oh, at $130 a pop (at the most recent selling price), I declined to buy a wristband. I'll do things the way I've done them the last few years... by running up and down the streets seeing where I can get in, and paying close attention to whether the sounds coming out of those buildings are more like rock n' roll and less like cats being strangled. But I'm optimistic. SXSW is a lot of fun, and one will usually be lucky enough to catch more good shows than bad. And some of them are free. And sometimes the beer is free!

Life is good. It is all about who you know, or who you can convince that you are important enough to be invited to their private gig, no strings attached. If Scott Patterson - local schmo needs to become "Scott Patterson - Columbia Records talent scout" for a week, I think God will forgive me. After all, the business cards I ordered special for this occasion came in today. On the back of the card is a listing of the types of beer I prefer, as well as a check box that says "Weed: (yes) or (no)."

It's checked "yes."

So I'll plan to give y'all the 'outside scoop' so to speak. From the guy without the wristband, who is low on cash, and has no plan whatsoever yet of where to go, or who to see. I wouldn't have it any other way. So as we all await the glorious dawn that, like some redneck shooting a rifle into the air, will signal "GO!" for SXSW, entertain yourselves by looking over the bands and schedule. Send me recommendations. And if you know someone in a band who happens to be here, ask them to invite me to their party.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Empire Coffee in Memphis Posted by Hello

For more on the above photo

The small part at the bottom reads "We would instead like to remind the agent that we still have first amendment rights."

Monday, March 14, 2005

A petition worth signing

The New York Times yesterday ran a huge expose piece on the Bush administration's use of public funds for the production of 'video news releases': pieces that are indistinguishable from local news segments but made by the Agriculture Department, the State Dept., and the TSA.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) ruled definitively on Friday that this stuff constitutes 'covert propaganda', which is illegal, and that basically all government offices must cease and desist, forthwith, dude.

The Justice Department sent around a memo saying to ignore the GAO. Accountability doesn't matter, there just, you know, educational documentaries.

The problem is that they have been aired on many local news stations as if they were regular news stories and with no identification that they were produced by the government.

"Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta."

So, let me just say this straight out- Americans are watching news programs that have actually been produced by the government. We used to get really incensed when the Soviets did this.

It's bad enough that big business writes our legislation - in many cases literally writes the bills - now we have news that it made by the government. This has gone too far.

So, sign this petition and tell the FCC to forget about Janet's boobies and start worrying about the fact that our media are becoming - literally- a government mouthpiece.

Nickel and Dimed - Live!

Barbara Ehrenreich's bestselling expose on life at minimum wage level, Nickel and Dimed, is hitting the stage as a play at Austin's State Theatre.

The NRA can go to hell

When I see stories like this...

Weekend of gun violence shocks America
Suzanne Goldenberg and Associated Press in WashingtonMonday
March 14, 2005
The Guardian

A boy aged two was shot in the head by his four-year-old brother after a squabble over a toy and a churchgoer opened fire on fellow worshippers, killing seven of them, in a weekend of gun violence across America.
Police said the two boys had been squabbling in their Houston home when the younger child threw a toy at his brother. The older sibling went into his mother's room and took a loaded gun from her bag, shooting his brother once in the temple. The bullet passed through the child's head.
"The four-year-old was angry ... He went and got the gun, put it to his brother's head and shot the gun," police sergeant Cameron Grysen told the Houston Chronicle.
The boy was reported to be in a critical condition at Houston's Ben Taub hospital.
His older brother did not appear to understand what he had done, Mr Grysen told the paper. "He's wondering where his brother is, and when his brother is coming back," Mr Grysen said.
The boys' mother told police she had bought the gun because of a series of burglaries in her neighbourhood, and that she usually kept it in a safe place. It was unclear whether she will face charges. Under Texas law, children below the age of 10 cannot be charged in a criminal case.

In Wisconsin, a man described by neighbours as a quiet and devout churchgoer opened fire at a weekend service, killing eight people, including himself, and wounding four others.
The shootings took place at a Sheraton hotel just outside Milwaukee, where the Living Church of God congregation meets for services every Saturday. Press reports said yesterday that the gunman paused at least once to reload his handgun as churchgoers sought cover, or tried to protect family members. The dead included two boys aged 15 and 17, a 72-year-old man and a 55-year-old woman. Three men aged from 44 to 58 died in hospital.
Police named the killer as Terry Ratzmann, 44. They said they had not found a clear motive for the killings.
However, officials said they were looking into reports that Ratzmann became upset during a church service a few weeks ago and walked out, and that he also may have been about to lose his job.
About 50-60 people were sitting in a meeting room when Ratzmann walked in from the back and started firing, Police Chief Daniel Tushaus said.
"At this point, we're unable to determine if he had specific targets or he just shot at random," police captain Phil Horter said.
Neighbours said Ratzmann was a devout churchgoer and avid gardener who built his own greenhouse and shared homegrown vegetables with his neighbours.

In Atlanta, a suspect who set off a huge manhunt following the courthouse shootings of a judge, a court stenographer and a police officer is expected to appear in court today. Brian Nichols, 33, surrendered to authorities on Saturday, waving a white cloth. Police said he killed an immigration official and held a woman hostage for hours before giving himself up.

11,000 anonymous

This month the Defense Department released data showing that the official number of U.S. troops "wounded in action" in Iraq has gone over the 11,000 mark. Notably, 95 percent of those Americans were wounded after May 1, 2003.
- Normon Solomon, Newsday


The places some people will stoop to...

A second Republican figure is headed to federal prison for jamming Democratic telephone lines in New Hampshire on Election Day two years ago.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Former state GOP director Chuck McGee was sentenced Thursday to seven months in prison, fined two thousand dollars and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. He admitted paying a Virginia company to jam lines with computer-generated calls.

McGee's sentence is two months longer than the one handed down last month for Allen Raymond, former president of the Virginia telemarketing company. He, too, pleaded guilty.

The man accused of orchestrating the entire affair is James Tobin of Bangor, Maine. Tobin has pleaded innocent and will stand trial. He was New England chairman of President Bush's re-election campaign last year.

Taking A Bath

The first 100 days of Term 2: The Bushening aren't even over, and W is taking a serious bath...

On Social Security, this new poll from the AP-

"Do you approve, disapprove or have mixed feelings about the way George W. Bush is handling Social Security?"

Approve 37%
Disapprove 56%
MixedFeelings 4%
Unsure 3%

On Iraq, from the same poll -

"When it comes to handling the situation in Iraq, do you approve or disapprove or have mixed feelings about the way George W. Bush is handling that issue?"

Approve 45%
Disapprove 53%
MixedFeelings 2%
Unsure -

Job Ratings, from the same poll:
"Overall, do you approve, disapprove or have mixed feelings about the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?" If "mixed feelings" or not sure: "If you had to choose, do you lean more toward approve or disapprove?"

Approve 48%
Disapprove 50%
Mixed Feelings 2%
Unsure 1%


Sunday, March 13, 2005

I love this headline

Funny for them to admit it's shite before even inking the deal...

Kurd Leaders Say They're Near Shiite Deal

World - AP
By TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Kurdish leaders said Sunday that they were nearing completion on a deal with the dominant Shiite-led alliance on forming a coalition government at this week's National Assembly, while two American security contractors were killed and a third wounded by a roadside bomb south of the Iraqi capital.

Air America is coming to Texas.

Franken and company are coming to Texas, and soon.

They already have a station in Corpus Christi, and are picking up KOKE in Austin (who came up with those call letters anyway? Was it originally a disco station?) and KXEB in Dallas.

I'm sure they'll have no problem picking up devoted listeners in 'loony-lefty' Austin, and in Dallas I suspect they'll get as many 'outraged' conservatives listening as there are disgruntked Democrats eager to hear friendly voices on the airwaves.

Geez, what's next, fairness and balance in the media?

Not too early

to choose a candidate for Governor of Texas in 2006.

For the independently-minded individual, there is only one option.

The inimitable author of 'They don't make Jews like Jesus anymore', and countless mystery novels,

Kinky Friedman.

The official progressionsession choice for Texas Governor in 2006.

The man will make Willie Nelson a special envoy for energy development.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Let's Get Kinky! Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Not so good news

US withdraws from international death-penalty agreement

In a two-paragraph letter dated March 7, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that the United States "hereby withdraws" from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The United States proposed the protocol in 1963 and ratified it -- along with the rest of the Vienna Convention -- in 1969.

Italy seriously pissed off at US
Some Italian politicians believe shooting was deliberate retaliation for Italian bargaining for release of hostages

[World News]:
Italian parliamentarians listened fascinated as Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini described Wednesday a clandestine operation that, but for its tragic ending, would never have been revealed.This was the Italian government's official reconstruction of the friendly fire incident in Baghdad that left an Italian intelligence officer dead and a just-released hostage injured.Fini's report went beyond the nation's emotional tribute to Nicola Calipari, the military intelligence operative who had died shielding journalist Giuliana Sgrena with his body, to point out contradictions between the Italian version and what the U.S. command in Baghdad said had happened.At the same time Fini was emphatic in discounting the left wing journalist's subsequent claim that she had been the American soldiers' real target.

Good news (or what passes for it these days)

Senate committee wrecks Bush's air pollution plans
(From the New York Times)

Efforts to pass a bill to control power-plant emissions crumbled in the Senate on Wednesday amid charges of partisan intransigence. The day's developments sidelined - and possibly doomed - action this year on the legislative centerpiece of President Bush's environmental policy.

As a result of a 9-to-9 vote by the Environment and Public Works Committee, the bill, which deals with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, will not advance to the full Senate. Committee leaders have been trying for more than a month to break the deadlock on the measure, known as the Clear Skies Act of 2005, which generally reflected a split along party lines.

US Comptroller says Social Security NOT in crisis
(from Seattle Post - Intelligencer)
The comptroller general of the United States told Congress yesterday that Social Security faces no "immediate crisis" and warned that President Bush's proposal for individual retirement accounts could "exacerbate" the system's future financial problems.
David Walker, who heads the non-partisan Government Accountability Office of Congress, spoke at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing that exposed sharp differences between Democrats and Republicans over how to overhaul Social Security before millions of retiring baby boomers strain the system's financial health.

Senate axes more than a fourth of Bush's tax cuts
(from New York Times)
President Bush's plan to extend his tax cuts over the next five years ran into resistance in the Senate on Wednesday as Republican leaders offered a budget for 2006 that would undo more than a fourth of the cuts that Mr. Bush has requested.
Uneasy about the potential impact on the ballooning federal deficit, the Senate Republicans called for $70.2 billion in tax cuts over the next five years, as opposed to the estimated $100 billion the White House is seeking. It does not specify which cuts will be extended or which taxes might be restored, but Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who is chairman of the Budget Committee, said his intent was to extend reductions on capital gains and dividend taxes, which are set to expire in 2008.

Donald Rumsfeld News Brief, from

Donald Rumsfeld News Brief
As we know,there is knizzay knowns.
there is th'n we know we kizzy .
Fo'-fo' desert eagle to your motherfuckin'dome.
we also knizzowthere is kniznown unknowns .
Keep'n it gangsta dogg.
that be ta saywe knizzow there is some th'nwe do not know but real niggaz don't give a fuck.
but there is also unknown unknowns,the ones we dont kizzlewe dont kizzy but real niggaz don't give a fuck.

Also, a few commandments, gizoogle style.

10 Commandments
Thou shalt not kizzy.
Thou shalt not commit adultery crazy up in here.
Thou shizzay not steal.
Thou S-H-to-tha-izzalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour n' shit.


Glasgow people know what this is about: getting neddy wit' it. Posted by Hello

More from Arianna - this will make your blood boil.

"For years, credit-card companies have been claiming that tougher laws are needed to reign in high-flying customers using bankruptcy to game the system. But the truth is that the vast majority of people who file for bankruptcy are middle-class folks who can't pay their bills because they've lost their jobs or been hit with high medical bills or gone through a divorce.

Indeed, a recent study by Harvard University found that half of last year's 1.6 million bankruptcies were the result of crushing medical bills. Put another way: Every 30 seconds, someone in this country files for bankruptcy in the wake of a serious illness. How's that for a shocking stat? Here's another: Three-quarters of the so-called medically bankrupt had health insurance. It just wasn't enough to cover the dramatic rise in health-care costs."

Sometimes, there is a sad truth to the saying, 'Only in America'.
Over and matt.

Arianna on the credit debacle

"Credit card companies have been feverishly lobbying for this legislation for nearly a decade--and it looks like the $34 million the finance and credit industries have contributed to political campaigns since 1996 is finally about to pay off. On Tuesday, the cloture vote on the bill was 69 to 31. The House passed similar legislation last year and GOP leaders are hoping to bypass the conference committee deadlocks that have derailed similar measures in the past and have the bill on President Bush's desk in short order. The president, well aware that credit card giant MBNA is one of the Republican Party's largest donors, has promised to sign the bill as soon as someone hands him a pen."

Ok for now, but then?

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | US in dark on Iran's WMD, says inquiry

Please tell me where this commission was before Iraq?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Conservatives are going to love this one...

As mentioned before, the pressure on Syria to pull out of Lebanon started after public outrage after the killing of the ex-prime minister, Rafik Hariri. And the fact that a half million demonstrated in favor of Hezbollah and Syria in the streets of Beirut yesterday is a sober warning too.

Also, as I said before, hats off to Bush for supporting this people power in action (not the pro-Syria people power, obviously). But who would have known from all the hoopla that the nature of that support is backing a UN Resolution proposed by France?! Let's see - diplomatic pressure, UN, working with European allies: these all sound more like liberal tactics to me than the normal neocon strongarm strategies!

"Events in Lebanon are moving in a very important direction. The Lebanese people are starting to express their aspirations for democracy ... This is something that we support very much," Rice told reporters at a London conference on the Middle East.
"We will focus very much ... on what we can help the Lebanese do. That means support for free and fair elections, that means election observers if necessary, monitoring if necessary," she added, alluding to general elections in May.
Barnier echoed Rice's demand that Syria comply with U.S.- and French-sponsored U.N. Security Council resolution 1559 demanding an end to foreign interference in Lebanon.
"There cannot be any pretexts, any excuses, not to carry it out," Barnier said. "It demands the sovereignty of Lebanon, the retreat of foreign troops and (intelligence) services."
The United States and France later issued a joint statement to underscore the demand and Rice said the "political directors" of the two countries would meet to discuss ways to help Lebanon.

State-run VA hospitals better than private facilities, says New England Journal of Medicine

Yet here's a curious fact that few conservatives or liberals know. Who do you think receives higher-quality health care. Medicare patients who are free to pick their own doctors and specialists? Or aging veterans stuck in those presumably filthy VA hospitals with their antiquated equipment, uncaring administrators, and incompetent staff? An answer came in 2003, when the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study that compared veterans health facilities on 11 measures of quality with fee-for-service Medicare. On all 11 measures, the quality of care in veterans facilities proved to be “significantly better.”

Quote of the Day

"Ha! Ha! No. No one in Iraq desires the establishment of permanent foreign bases on our land. The United Nations Security Council resolutions are clear: it will be up to the elected Iraqi government, when the time comes, to give those forces a specific departure date. As soon as possible."
- His Most Austere Eminence Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, leader of the Shiite party which won the January 30 elections in Iraq
Bush's plan for democracy is working? Think again.

Cheers to Bush for being on the right side of history, but supporting the actions of freedom-loving Ukrainians and Lebanese, who bravely took to the streets in defiance and outrage, is not the same as being the prime mover in a democratic juggernaut. I am glad that the elections in Iraq went as well as could have been expected, but I think the death of Arafat, the re-election of Bush itself (meaning people realize they have to work together), the poisoning of Yuschenko, the murder of Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri were much more important. I thank the people of the Ukraine and Lebanon for standing up, and I'm glad that the political climate is one where it is more politically expedient for the US and Europe to support these actions than to allow them to be sacrificial lambs, which of course has also happened in the past. Hooray for people power, and hooray for good timing!

What rise in freedom?
By Robert Kuttner March 9, 2005
Boston Globe

FREEDOM IS breaking out all over, so it seems. To hear supporters of George W. Bush, it's all due to the president's courageous decision to risk his presidency on the Iraq War.

Here's the storyline: Just as Bush's neoconservative advisers planned, ousting Saddam transformed not just Iraq but the balance of power in the Middle East. It gave ordinary Arabs and Muslims a sense of democratic possibility. Once Saddam went down, the other dominoes started falling.
Just read the headlines: Syria, respecting America's new muscle, is thrown off balance. Lebanon, long Syria's puppet, is demanding liberty. Egypt's despotic president (and US client) Hosni Mubarak is suddenly promising fair elections. Saudi Arabia's local elections are more authentic than usual. On the Palestine-Israel front, there's suddenly progress. Iran is negotiating about shutting down its nukes. And in Iraq itself, the process may be a mess but something real is happening.
Wow! If this picture is true, let's nominate George W. Bush for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The only trouble is, the picture isn't true.
For starters, each of these events has its own dynamics. The new Israel-Palestine reality reflects the death of Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon's decision to seize the moment, defy his party, and do a ''Nixon to China" by dismantling some Israeli settlements in Arab lands. This shift has nothing to do with Bush or Iraq. Indeed, the Bush administration has been less active in promoting a Palestine settlement than any in memory. (Watch out, when Fidel Castro finally dies and democracy comes to Cuba, Bush will take credit for that, too.)
Saudi Arabia remains a dictatorship and an intimate ally of the Bush administration. The prospect of genuine democracy breaking out there soon is laughable. Egypt, a place where the CIA sends highly sensitive prisoners to be tortured, is a similar story. If Iran is negotiating about its nuclear ambitions, it is thanks to European diplomacy and over US objections.
Lebanon's instability dates to the 1920s, when the French split it off from Syria as a Christian enclave. The French formula gave the Lebanese Christian Maronites power over what soon became a larger Muslim majority. The consequences: on-and-off civil war and Syrian protectorate of Muslims. Lebanon is reminiscent of other colonial legacies in places like Rwanda, Vietnam, India, and Iraq, where Western powers played brutal ethnic games of divide and rule. The United States has tried to intervene in Lebanon before and each time got its fingers burned.
What the whole Mideast region has in common is a sense of bottled-up popular grievances, many of them directed against the United States for propping up dictators that served American military and corporate interests (including, once, Saddam Hussein).
If genuine democracy breaks out, Bush might not like it. Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's mirror image of Fox News, is the closest thing to free Arab language media -- and the Bush administration keeps trying to strangle it. By the same token, the eventual government that emerges in Baghdad is not likely to be both genuinely democratic and pro-American.
But Bush is right that people everywhere want to be free. However, the fitful expansion of democracy has been more the fruit of local struggle and complex diplomacy than American military intervention. That's true of South Africa, where Bush's pals viewed Nelson Mandela as an untrustworthy Marxist; it's true of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, the Czech Republic, and the rest of the former Soviet empire.
Often, astute diplomacy and civil society initiatives work where invasions can't. The little-remembered Helsinki Process of the 1970s traded a US guarantee of no Western-sponsored ''regime change" in the Soviet bloc for Moscow's loosening of the screws. Civil society blossomed. American conservatives hated the deal. But before the Russians knew it, the Berlin Wall came down.
Bush is also right that democracy is contagious. As Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker after the Iraqis managed to hold an election, ''One can marvel at the power of the democratic idea. . . . Perhaps it can even survive the fervent embrace of George W. Bush."
So, rather than rejecting his odd embrace of universal freedom, let's hold Bush to his words. Let's have no double standards for despotic allies of convenience. Let's not manipulate other people's democracies behind the scenes. And if democracy is good enough for Iraqis, let's defend what Bush has not yet wrecked of democracy at home.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. His column appears regularly in the Globe.