31 July 2002
I'm writing this with all seriousness:
You have to be impressed by a pitcher who can give up 7 earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning.
That doesn't happen very often.
[Posted at 21:11 CST on 07/31/02] [Link]
The Chron and Enron
Continuing the hard-hitting Enron coverage for which they are *ahem* known, the dreadful Chron reports that Andrew Fastow, one of the (alleged) criminals behind the Enron fraud, will not be moving into the 11,500 square foot River Oaks Mansion he is constructing.
Fastow, whom the Chron has recently described as a swell family man, a guy of really high integrity, a mensch, is still very concerned about his family:
The decision was made so the children would have less disruption at a difficult time, said Gordon Andrew, Fastow's spokesman.See, that Fastow IS a really good family guy. (Investors and employees have a different opinion, of course).
They're going to try to make do with their 4,666 square foot Southampton Place abode for the moment, along with the (likely) millions (probably) siphoned off to a secret Swiss account.
Meanwhile, Fastow's wife remains very involved with the Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Arts Museum Apparently the couple became knowledgeable contemporary art collectors at Enron (with the millions they obtained fraudulently -- allegedly, of course).
They're just normal folks, trying to put their lives back together. At least according to the Chron. Not very convincing, eh?
[Posted at 20:41 CST on 07/31/02] [Link]
30 July 2002
With all of the real problems facing this city in Public Works and Public Safety, doesn't City Council have better things to do than involve itself in the debate over slave reparations?
This must be another proud moment for all of those folks who helped re-elect Mayor Pothole, who placed this item on the council agenda.
I wonder what Joe Roach thinks? :)
(07-31-02 Update) Charles Kuffner is on this one also, with a list of better things for City Council to be doing.
(07-31-02 Update 2) Larry weighs in.
(07-31-02 Update 3) City Council voted down this bad idea, by an 8-7 vote. Now Mayor Pothole can go back to agitating for a mayoral mansion and against term limits (much better uses of his time than working on the real problems facing the city, apparently).
[Posted at 23:20 CST on 07/30/02] [Link]
Road To Perdition
I caught Road to Perdition last night (at 11pm, no less, which is kind of cool).
I'm not much of a moviegoer (and for that reason, don't do movie reviews), but I thought it was very well done.
In lieu of a review, here are four reviews I've run across recently in my regular web reading. I thought Andrew Breese's (observations more than a review, really) was the only one that really captured the moral-philosophical dimensions of the movie. Anyway, here they are:
[Posted at 20:29 CST on 07/30/02] [Link]
These teams are in legitimate contention for the National League Playoffs this year (either as Division Champs or wildcard):
Atlanta, St. Louis, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Cincy, Houston, and New York.
Of those teams, St. Louis, LA, Frisco, and Cincy have already made trades to improve their teams, with the St. Louis deal being the toughest on the Astros since the Cards are leading the division and got the third basemen (Scott Rolen) the Astros desperately need.
Atlanta has the best record in baseball, and probably doesn't feel like it needs to make a major trade, and the same may be true of Arizona, the defending champs. The Mets are supposedly shopping for a pitcher, although they haven't made a deal yet.
And the Astros? Unlikely to make any sort of deal, because owner Drayton McLane probably isn't going to let Gerry Hunsicker take on payroll. With a possible strike looming, the Astros have already stopped trying to sign their minor-league draft picks.
That can't be very inspiring for a team that's played really well over the last few weeks to get itself into contention.
[Posted at 10:52 CST on 07/30/02] [Link]
Major League A-Holes
The same thing happened to an Astros fansite several weeks ago, but fortunately the site's owner was able to work things out with the Astros and Major League Baseball.
I wonder how many other fansites have been similarly targeted?
It doesn't seem like very good PR for Major League Baseball, whose owners, players, and lawyers all seem intent on destroying the game.
(Update) I hadn't seen Charles Kuffner's post on this topic when I posted earlier, which is embarrassing since he's kind enough to mention me. Oops!
[Posted at 10:37 CST on 07/30/02] [Link]
If there is a point to this Chron article (other than "this Momoh fellow is really swell"), could someone please email me and enlighten me?
Because for the life of me, I cannot figure out why a major metro daily would run this.
It is kind of fun to see the great implosion continuing at KPFT, a station that played some really fine music during its "Sound of Texas" era (when the radical left wing nuts had been displaced by the slightly less radical left wing nuts).
[Posted at 01:17 CST on 07/30/02] [Link]
28 July 2002
Is This A Joke?
I think the editors of Texas Monthly must all be on crack.
Gracing the cover this month are two bona fide legendary quarterbacks in the state of Texas, Hall of Famer Roger Staubach and future Hall of Famer (just as soon as he's eligible) Troy Aikman. Between them, they won five Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys.
And standing in front (!?!) of them is Chris Simms, the University of Texas quarterback who has yet to live up to his pedigree, and is most famous for choking during big games and being replaced from time to time by the less talented overachiever Major Applewhite.
The sad thing is, Chris Simms isn't even the best college quarterback in the state of Texas. Although his daddy isn't named Phil Simms, Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech was the best passing quarterback in the Big 12 last year, even though he didn't have nearly the talent surrounding him that Chris Simms did. Kingsbury is an excellent college quarterback.
So why would they put Chris Simms on the cover with two NFL legends?
And why, pray tell, would they pick Texas (which is still coached by Mack Brown, the last time I looked) to win the National Championship? Last year was Mack Brown's year -- the schedule was favorable, the talent was there, and he blew it, as usual.
If they really wanted to do a football issue, they might well have devoted some copy to the Houston Texans inaugural season, and maybe even pictured their young quarterback David Carr on the cover with the legends (since he was taken first in the draft). It would have made a nice byline. And the Cowboys look to be resurgent with their best offseason since Jerry Jones has owned the team. Not to mention Emmitt Smith's pursuit of Walter Payton's rushing record. Those could have been a focus.
But no. Instead, there's the overrated Chris Simms standing in front of two legends.
[Posted at 23:45 CST on 07/28/02] [Link]
So, the New York Times is ready for their hero, Colin Powell, to rein in all of those evil conservatives who just keep running roughshod over his State Department in the formation of foreign policy. I even love the language -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz are sharks, and so is Karl Rove (because it's all really just a plot to placate the far-right, never mind that this President's "base" is the most solid in recent memory, at least since Ronald Reagan's).
There's just one problem for the NYTimes -- Colin Powell isn't really a foreign-policy visionary along the lines of Henry Kissinger, but a former military man who is used to "getting along" and getting promoted in a structure that doesn't encourage, as some would say, the "vision" thing. Or as Rich Lowry once put it, the man lacks ideas.
Will the real Colin Powell stand up and take charge, the NYTimes wonders?
The answer: He's been standing the whole time.
[Posted at 19:29 CST on 07/28/02] [Link]
It's a good thing that "the Dean" David Broder has built such a sterling reputation over the years, because lately he's really been off base -- the latest example being his accusation that a Bush policy decision on foreign aid is going to "cost lives."
You know how it goes -- they're evil conservative Republicans, who just don't care how many people they kill in pursuit of their evil ideological agenda.
David Broder's stuff is beginning to resemble the bilge that Mary McGrory regularly pumps out.
[Posted at 19:00 CST on 07/28/02] [Link]
I don't know that Bill Clinton helps himself with these sorts of comments.
Yeah, it's kind of lame for some conservatives to lay the blame of the market collapse on Bill Clinton's frolicking with an intern.
And it's lame for some liberals (and journalists) to lay the blame of the market collapse on George Bush's business ties.
It would be nice if more people were talking seriously about the real causes of the market problems, and what should be done to fix them, if anything (because if part of the problem is, say, deflation, then the recent accountability legislation really isn't going to do much, and it may do harm).
Kind of strange that so many people who were SO ready to push Bill Clinton off the political stage now find him a convenient whipping boy to drag back on to the political stage. Don't they remember how THEY (we?) usually became HIS whipping boy on those occasions?
[Posted at 01:33 CST on 07/28/02] [Link]
I know I'm always saying "it's done," but I think this time it's really true. Almost. :)
I just spent all day fiddling with the stupid parts of the dissertation: the abstract, the title pages, the table of contents, the acknowledgements, editing of the references pages, fixing strange spacing problems, miscellaneous editing, all of the retarded formatting that must be done for the College for binding, blah blah blah.
I need to print copies for distribution and proofing, but I don't intend to do much more to the silly thing. My committee readers will either like it, or it will go in a box somewhere and that will be that. I'm pleased enough with it, and I can say I finished.
It's time to get on with other matters now. Like getting my wisdom teeth yanked. Blar.
[Posted at 01:19 CST on 07/28/02] [Link]
Just in case there is some COMPLETE MORON in the DFW area who takes the Chron (but not the far superior Dallas Morning News or Fort Worth Star-Telegram), the Chron is ready, with this reprint of a Star-Telegram story on where to find the Dallas Cowboys on the radio dial in the Dallas area.
[Posted at 00:11 CST on 07/28/02] [Link]
27 July 2002
Several times yesterday, Jeremy Foster made the point on the sports talk station in town that the Astros have a funny habit of speaking about "rushing players to the majors" whenever a young pitcher doesn't perform. He repeatedly said he was certain that the Astros would be making that claim with regard to Tim Redding, a guy with a lot of talent who just hasn't been able to get it together in the majors.
Score one for Jeremy. This appeared in the Chron today:
"Tim is a classic example of a kid pushed to the big leagues before he was ready," general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "Now, we're scrambling."
[Posted at 11:20 CST on 07/27/02] [Link]
Was It Good For You?
It's always interesting to find links from password-protected sites in my referrer logs. I hope I've provided good fodder for discussion (as opposed to, "geez... what a nutcase")
I fear the latter, however.... :)
[Posted at 00:26 CST on 07/27/02] [Link]
The Greek Family
Merry says he is not surprised that the group seems linked by a family. "The family is the way every business in Greece is organized. Why should terrorism be any different?" he says.I think my Greek-American significant other would agree with this. It made me laugh out loud. You've never experienced closeness *ahem* like the closeness of a Greek family, especially in business.
[Posted at 00:04 CST on 07/27/02] [Link]
26 July 2002
The Astros are back to .500, for the first time in a LONG time.
Honestly, I didn't think they had it in them.
But .500 still leaves them 7 back from the Cardinals, and I don't think they'll catch the birds.
Maybe they can prove me wrong on that one too.
[Posted at 21:46 CST on 07/26/02] [Link]
Bye Bye Leaf
Ryan Leaf is a flake.
I still remember the big debate whether he or Peyton Manning should have been selected first in their draft. Most experts agreed that a team couldn't go wrong with either one of them. They were wrong.
Even when healthy, Leaf was pitiful. But after his wrist crapped out, he threw wobbly ducks about one-third of the time, which isn't really a formula for success in the NFL. Some of those things that came off his hand last year with the Cowboys (I refuse to call them "passes") were just plain ugly.
Ryan Leaf needed to "retire" before now. It's hard to understand why a coach as sensible as Mike Holmgren had anything to do with him.
[Posted at 21:27 CST on 07/26/02] [Link]
A bit of good news on the free(er) trade front:
Congress is set to approve new trade negotiating authority for President George W. Bush - a victory for the administration that could herald a series of crucial global and bilateral trade agreements.Funny, but after Bush's crassly political steel-tariff decision, I seem to recall certain web pundits complaining hysterically that Bush had abandoned free trade and was destined to be a one-termer.
[Posted at 21:14 CST on 07/26/02] [Link]
It's The Humidity...
Allen Aldridge, an eight-year NFL veteran who played for the University of Houston, shocked the Texans today by announcing his retirement.
I can't say I blame him. The last couple of weeks, it's been brutally hot in Houston, which must be considered training camp hell. I've had the A/C cranked and have emerged only long enough to walk the dog.
Then again, you'd think the guy would last at least a week of training camp.
So, how weird is it for a team that has yet to have a game or scrimmage to announce a player retirement?
BTW -- hope you Texans season ticket holders are ready for the heat. You didn't think Bob McNair was going to air-condition your ass like that weenie Drayton McLane, didja?
(Update) Larry comments, via email:
Maybe they'll retire his number, too.Ha!
[Posted at 00:05 CST on 07/26/02] [Link]
25 July 2002
Pallilo Nails The Astros
No objections to the quote I heard just now from Charley Pallilo on the Astros:
They do no little things well consistentlyThey let one get away last night, and their Ivy-League catcher played no small part in it with his defensive and baserunning blunders.
Off to the Mucky Duck tonight to catch Trish Murphy solo. I haven't seen Trish since I was invited to an Xmas party she played with a band, so it will be good to see a solo show.
(Update) At the start of the season, who would have guessed that 101 games into the season, the Astros would get their first complete game of the year -- not from Roy Oswalt, not even from Wade Miller, but from Kirk Saarloos (who has pitched two good ones in a row).
[Posted at 16:58 CST on 07/25/02] [Link]
I don't usually post LONG verbatim quotes, especially from LiveJournal, but I'm going to make an exception with what follows because 1) LJ is unreliable and slow to load, and 2) I think it deserves to be set up without all of the static that surrounds it in the normal LJ flow.
Mr. Breese has written an interpretive response to a long verbatim quote that HE posted that actually clarifies (in some ways, transcends) the original excerpt. Here it is:
I'm about as anti-reductionist as they come, but...
Everywhere we go, we make one basic evaluation. It is your carry-on bag in the airport of life. We never let go of it!
Which? Names, it has so many names: good/bad, pleasure/distaste, adoration/revulsion, love/hate, excitement/fear, true/false, interesting/boring, applause/blame, hope/fear, satisfied/angry...
Young Alisa Rosenbaum surely felt it even before she could speak it: There is a very basic distinction between "that which is FOR me" and "that which is AGAINST me". Everywhere we go, every new domain we encounter, we carry this vital distinction along & we apply it as best we can.
Dr. Katie & company highlight how your focus is under your control. In any situation, you can put the spotlight on what is FOR you or on what is AGAINST you. Moment by life moment, your critical awareness can and should shift around, spanning both FOR and AGAINST all over the place. Insufficient negative focus can lead to worse problems.
However, most people way underestimate the value of lots of joyous appreciation, really of everything on the FOR side of the ledger. There are beautiful economies of scale to be enjoyed -- right there for the taking, inside your very own eyes.
The differences between clinical depression and optimal living are profound, and ultimately that is what all this is about.
If everyone took the Dr. Katies 50% more seriously, almost all lives would be profoundly improved through building healthier focus habits.
The original excerpt from Dr. Katie, on Naked Flirting is here.
For the record, *I* love Andrew's take. He makes these connections that are SO obvious to him, and yet invisible to many even after he's pointed them out. It's always a pleasure when he shares them, even if it's lost on some.
[Posted at 00:06 CST on 07/25/02] [Link]
24 July 2002
The Baroque Kroger
It is a bizarre thing, but the West U Kroger (on Buffalo Speedway and Westpark) plays Baroque music all of the time. Not that nasty elevator classical stuff, but honest-to-gawd Baroque. It's awesome. I just stopped in on the way back from the gym tonight, and heard part of a Bach recording that I recognized (a beautiful St. Louis Brass Quintet rendering).
[Posted at 23:29 CST on 07/24/02] [Link]
One Joseph Ross, of Sonoma, California, is upset that indiscretions in his past now disqualify him for certain employment (although he doesn't quite phrase it that way):
Editor -- Al Qaeda has the upper hand in the war against terror because the security agencies responsible for protecting us act like a bunch of sissies.
Case in point: I was recently hired for an FBI counter-terrorism position based on my ability to speak several foreign languages, my thorough knowledge of Middle Eastern culture and my extensive travel abroad. Each FBI employee who interviewed me told me, "We're desperately in need of language skills."
I'm a blue-blooded American, 44 years old, who has taught college several years for the Department of Defense, and I was excited my skills would be helpful in the war against terror. Then came the FBI's lie detector test.
I admitted I'd smoked marijuana about 20 times when I was 18. I've never used drugs since. But within five minutes I was put out on the street.
I told the FBI agent who kicked me out that "I doubt very seriously that Bin Laden screened any of the hijackers for drug experimentation when they were kids." The FBI agent confided, "You wouldn't believe the number of super- qualified individuals we've turned away. Just last week we let go a highly qualified psychologist for the same reason. It's very frustrating."
Moral of the story: Don't hold your breath for the FBI to save you.
And one Glenn Reynolds is very upset:
Homeland security remains a joke, and the people in charge remain unserious.I'm surprised this isn't yet more evidence that President Bush is going to be a one-termer, which usually accompanies these sorts of outbursts.
In any case, the FBI and CIA have long engaged in extensive background checks of potential employees, and part of those background checks is an inquiry into a person's "character." This isn't something that's new, and this isn't something that is particularly controversial to most Americans. Apparently Professor Reynolds objects -- and vehemently at that -- to past drug use being a factor in such evaluations.
So, here's a question for Reynolds, and those who agree: with what would you replace the current evaluation mechanism, since it is, in your view(s), so deficient?
We don't need to consult Max Weber to know that bureaucracies require rules, and that the hiring of people to staff those bureaucracies also requires rules. FBI and CIA (and, presumably, Homeland Security, not to mention DoD and State) analysts handle all sorts of sensitive information that could be used by enemies against the United States, not to mention by unscrupulous members of our own government. There must be some criteria to determine who can be trusted with that information -- or, I suppose, we could just give maximum discretion to those who screen applicants, which could lead to different sorts of abuses (not to mention setting those screeners up as targets). So what is the serious alternative, if the current mechanism is as unserious as charged?
And going back to the original letter for a moment -- was this gentleman actually hired and THEN fired, or did he fail to get through the screening process that would have led to his hire? It sounds like the former to me, although he phrases it differently. And is it possible, just perhaps, that even though the gentleman claimed not to have done drugs since he was 18, the polygraph suggested something different -- calling into question his character, and therefore disqualifying him? And if so, is that really so unserious? Or might reasonable people disagree?
[Posted at 22:02 CST on 07/24/02] [Link]
More Of The Dean
I've written before about David Broder, that gasbag of (liberal) conventional political wisdom, otherwise known as "the dean." Today's effort has a particularly noteworthy paragraph in an otherwise predictable appeal to roll back the Bush tax cut (which somehow is tied to corporate accountability):
But as Robert Rubin, the former Clinton administration treasury secretary, whose judgment and integrity are praised by Republicans and Democrats alike, has said, Washington's policing of corporate behavior is less important than its willingness to put its own fiscal house in order.Hmm... while we're on the topic of corporate accountability and Mr. Rubin, perhaps "the dean" ought to consider this piece by Mark Levin, who suggests that Citigroup's Mr. Rubin may not be nearly so squeaky clean as he appears.
Will anyone call "the dean" on this column? I wouldn't bet on it.
[Posted at 21:01 CST on 07/24/02] [Link]
Donahue In Houston
For all of the KPFT-Pacifica types who are always so concerned about having their "voices heard," here's a great opportunity: Donahue is going to be broadcasting live from Houston tonight, with Ralph Nader.
It's a little tempting to go have my voice heard, but then I'd be missing Kudlow and Cramer. But man, I'd really like to know what Ralph and Phil think of the new Mercury Marauder. *smile*
(link via Courrèges)
[Posted at 09:32 CST on 07/24/02] [Link]
Better Late Than Never
Apparently the Chron's crack editorial writers were much too busy to write about the matter right away, but they have finally gotten around to blasting Mayor Pothole (whom they endorsed twice in the last election):
For reasons that are either shameful or incomprehensible, Mayor Lee Brown wants to allow officers and board members of nonprofit organizations to make campaign contributions whenever they like. The improper role of money at City Hall is frequently on display, but the link between cash paid and influence wielded could not be made plainer than the mayor's proposal makes it. . . .Why, yes, Houston DOES desperately need a new mayor! Too bad you guys didn't throw your weight behind that when it mattered last election.
Those who serve on the boards of nonprofit organizations presumably are doing so to enhance the public good and enjoy the prestige such service confers. If volunteers need to give money when seeking mayoral and council support for charitable endeavors, then Houston desperately needs a new mayor and council members.
And the notion of the Chron calling out the special interests that influence City Hall is a little like the notion of Democrats suddenly calling out judicial activism. Credibility is a bit of an issue.
[Posted at 00:16 CST on 07/24/02] [Link]
23 July 2002
I'm enjoying two new (to me) blogs:
[Posted at 21:14 CST on 07/23/02] [Link]
Kudlow and Cramer
I find myself getting hooked on the Kudlow and Cramer program on CNBC.
I've long been a fan of Larry Kudlow, but Cramer is great on television -- absolutely hilarious (but serious and smart as well). And they're an interesting match -- the mild-mannered economist, and the outrageous and boisterous former trader.
They've been really good during this gawdawful bear market, and much more interesting than the stuff on O'Reilly or Donahue or elsewhere.
[Posted at 19:58 CST on 07/23/02] [Link]
22 July 2002
Sorry, but I have trouble getting as excited about Robert Dahl's latest effort as Hendrik Hertzberg in this review. It sounds like little more than a refined version of the Progressive critiques of American constitutionalism offered by thinkers like Herbert Croly, and Beard, and Wilson among others, at the turn of the LAST century.
And it was misguided then.
Of course, it isn't misguided to contemporary social scientists, most of whom are "Progressives" methodologically. But that's a topic for the booklog, when I finally get around to completing the design...
[Posted at 23:22 CST on 07/22/02] [Link]
Billy, Market Analyst
One Billy Joel had this to say, in reaction to the recent tank of American markets:
"I know how big business works. I don't trust it," Joel said.Strange that Mr. Joel (how odd to attach a "Mr." to someone named "Billy") is so distrustful of the same "big business" that has made him a very wealthy man, isn't it?
It's a shame the columnist didn't consult other noted market analysts like Bono or Sting.
(link via Best of the Web)
[Posted at 22:58 CST on 07/22/02] [Link]
I remember about a year ago when Orlando Sanchez suggested Mayor Pothole was neglecting the city's public works and public safety. Pothole, a former chief of police in Houston and New York (remember Crown Heights?), and his cronies scoffed at the charges, although they tried their best not to talk about his record as New York police chief (disastrous mess).
Now, a local television station is reporting that the police department's helicopters are being grounded because of Mayor Pothole's "budgeting." Never mind that this is Houston, a sprawling city that actually can put air support to good use in policing.
It does kind of give Mayor Pothole's "neighborhood oriented policing" a whole new meaning, though, huh? Pothole's supporters must be very proud of the city under his leadership.
[Posted at 22:39 CST on 07/22/02] [Link]
21 July 2002
Drudge links to this report on the fact Tom Ridge has stated that using the military in support of some police actions ought to be discussed, whatever the outcome of the discussion.
My immediate reaction was that such an idea is terrible, for many reasons.
And then I actually took the time to read the article.
I'm sure all of the civil liberties bloggers are all going to jump all over this one and tear it and Tom Ridge to shreds, but it might be worth noting first what Ridge (and the article) actually said:
Ridge downplayed the notion that the government would move to give members of the military authority to arrest U.S. citizen. The subject hasn't yet come up for debate in the administration, though it might be discussed once Bush's homeland security department is created....and
``Generally that goes against our instincts as a country to empower the military with the ability to arrest,'' Ridge said on ``Late Edition'' on the Cable News Network. Discussing it ``does not mean that it will ever be used or that the discussion will conclude that it even should be used.''
He said government officials have talked about ways the military might support civilian law officers ``in the event of rather unusual circumstances.''
``We need to be talking about military assets, in anticipation of a crisis event,'' Ridge said. ``And clearly, if you're talking about using the military, then you should have a discussion about Posse Comitatus.''That's the extent of the discussion from Ridge. No big conspiracy to take away civil liberties, and if anything, Senator Biden seems more keen to move in this direction than Ridge.
I'm still no fan of empowering the military for internal police actions (and it made the Founders kind of nervous as well), but there may be terrorist scenarios where it makes some sense. Surely raising the matter for discussion isn't a reason to get hysterical over lost civil liberties.
[Posted at 23:50 CST on 07/21/02] [Link]
I am 99% certain that I just saw two of the people featured on Houston Medical at my gym tonight.
[Posted at 23:10 CST on 07/21/02] [Link]
Pontiac GTO Rendering
Mercury Marauder, burning rubber
Despite the best efforts of the assorted weenie crowd, the American muscle car isn't dead. Not just yet.
Mercury has already brought out their 300+ horsepower sedan, with the badass name Marauder.
And Pontiac will be resurrecting the Pontiac GTO line, with a modified 5.7 liter, 300+ horsie powerplant used in some Corvettes.
[Posted at 14:26 CST on 07/21/02] [Link]
Callie points me to this bit of news on alt-country artist Steve Earle.
Steve Earle has been one of the heavy hitters in the alt-country movement, but I don't think his audience is going to receive this one very well. Earle may have finally fried his brain completely.
(07-22-02 Update) Much of bloggyland has been pretty predictable with this one, but Welch is a pleasant exception with a couple of interesting posts defending the possibility that Earle may simply be engaged in good songwriting, rather than advocacy. Welch further suggests we should probably wait to hear the song, and see what Earle has to say about it. Good enough advice.
I like Earle's previous work enough to give anything he releases a listen, and this will probably not be an exception. Unfortunately, this song doesn't sound much like Tom Ames' Prayer! Earle's politics are, it's probably safe to say, way to the left of the political leanings of his core audience (hint: that audience probably doesn't hang on the political pronouncements of Sting, either), and if this song (and associated album) is his effort to preach to them the errors of their ways ... well, as I said above originally, I don't think they're going to be very impressed.
(07-22-02 Update 2) As an example of what I mean when I write that Steve Earle's alt-country fan base may not react well if his song does, indeed, come off as reactionary leftist preaching, here's a link to a story about Jimmie Dale Gilmore, the legendary Texas songwriter (who is now touring with Butch Hancock and Joe Ely, as the Flatlanders), who managed to offend some Mucky Duck fans a while back with his criticism of Bush/Cheney policies.
(07-22-02 Update 3) Okay, I have to stop updating this entry, but I just ran across a new blog (to me) with these relevant comments, as well as lots of other good stuff.
(07-23-02 Update) This is the last update (and nobody will see it anyway, since it's scrolled down so far, but this blog is for me as much as anyone, and I know it's here), but Ken Layne has fairly well nailed it:
While the New York Post might not think much of Earle, the New Yorker and New York Times can't seem to get enough of him. He even got a publisher to put out a collection of his short stories last year.
And there's the danger. That fancy Manhattan attention got to Earle's already big head and convinced him he wasn't just a talented Texas songwriter, but a Serious Writer addressing Serious Issues. And serious writers type dull short stories for other serious writers to praise. Last time I saw him on Letterman, he was wearing eyeglasses, for God's sake.
It's one thing to annoy conservative Nashville with coffeehouse claims of Marxism and stands against the death penalty and land mines, as Earle has done for years. His fans can take or leave this stuff, as long as the music's good. And it's fine to write a song about Johnny Taliban, because who hasn't wondered what goes on inside that kid's head?
The trouble comes when you let the ruckus kill the art, when you claim oppression before the record is even released. Unless this country magically became Iran yesterday, performing a controversial song is still punished by a lot of free publicity. Leave the phony martyr routine to Susan Sontag, Steve. It's a tired, dull act.
[Posted at 13:32 CST on 07/21/02] [Link]
Texans Training Camp
We've waited and waited....
and it's finally here.
Cowboys training camp opens next weekend, and I may have to make a roadtrip to take in some practices, but only when they get Roy Williams signed and in camp.
[Posted at 11:09 CST on 07/21/02] [Link]
I'm Ired! :)
The Chron has a front-page story today on a convicted Texas serial killer who is, for a number of reasons, currently on schedule to be released in 2006. It's a terribly disturbing story, but it's an important enough story that one would assume that it would be assigned to a decent writer.
But then, that wouldn't be our Chron, would it?
This organization of the piece is bad enough -- it just doesn't flow logically. But the tortured prose is even worse. Here are a few of my favorites:
It's worth 72, a three-for-one bargain, a triple-time countdown to May 8, 2006.That's three. Three three three. Three.
Next month will mark the 20th year since state District Judge Doug Shaver sentenced Watts to what was then thought to be an immutable 60 years without parole for burglary with intent to commit murder.Nothing like the redundancy of immutable years without parole. Just to make the point, ya know?
If something is to be done in the Texas Legislature or in court to prevent Watts' release, the work must begin now.I love advocacy journalism under the guise of objective, front-page news reporting.
On that day it will have been 24 years since Watts was halted in an 11-month rampage in which he killed 12 Texas women. It will have been 24 years since Watts killed his last Houston victim and was caught in an attempt to kill another. It will have been two decades since Watts' arrest and its subsequent revelations made him an albatross of embarrassment around the neck of the Houston Police Department.It will have been 24 years. Again, that's 24 years. Two decades for those of you who don't understand the number 24.
And how can an arrest have revelations? An investigation might reveal, but an arrest is... an arrest.
And albatross of embarrassment? Please. Stop already!
It will be almost 40 years earlier than anyone might have hoped.Anyone? Even Watts?
Now, as Watts' release date approaches, the compliant, soft-spoken inmate is becoming the focus of 11th-hour efforts to keep him in prison.Is four years really the 11th hour?
In Ann Arbor, Mich., detectives are attempting to group information from other cities and neighboring Canada to determine if any DNA evidence might tie to Watts.This is the second reference to Canada, yet it's entirely unclear to me how evidence from Canada will be used in U.S. criminal courts.
"It takes time to gather this material," said Ann Arbor special crimes Detective Mauro Cervantes. "We do have four years, so it's not pressing yet, but we do recognize the need to get it done."Weird. I was under the impression we were at the 11th hour.
The science of DNA, in its infancy in 1982, might be applied if a single hair from Watts' head was left on LaQua's clothing.I'm all for applied science, but this is an awkward phrase.
In Waltham, Mass., Jane Montgomery has kept abreast of developments in Watts' case, as has Harriet Semander of Houston. Both lost daughters to Watts, and both have been active in opposing his release.Or have even actively opposed his release? (much less awkward)
Many of those survivors, already ired over the original handling of the Watts case, are further exasperated at the thought that he could go free.Ire is a NOUN. One can feel ire, but one cannot be "ired." There is no such adjective.
The new editor at the Chron apparently is urging more original reporting and less rewriting of press releases. After reading this story, I'm not so sure that's a great idea. A well-written press release is an improvement over the mess above. A BIG improvement.
[Posted at 01:23 CST on 07/21/02] [Link]
20 July 2002
Mayor Pothole, Hard At Work
Here's a local news item that seems largely to have slipped under the radar screen:
In an effort to fix a problem that few are sure exists, Mayor Lee Brown wants to make it easier for board members of nonprofit corporations to donate to local political campaigns.One would think Mayor Pothole might have more important things on his mind (say, the Public Works department). But no doubt some of his patrons wants this done before he leaves office (with no guarantee that the chosen lackey of the Greater Houston Partnership will be elected mayor next time).
Councilmen Bert Keller and Carroll Robinson oppose Mayor Pothole's initiative:
"They should have to be in the blackout period, as does anybody else who has an incentive for council to vote one way," he said. "I don't profit if I get a road redone in my district. But do I want it, and do I profit by voter appreciation? Yes. There's other types of incentives."And some of those same people have Mayor Pothole's ear.
Councilman Carroll Robinson argued against changing the ordinance, noting that "some of the most influential people at City Hall and in our community" serve on nonprofit boards.
[Posted at 23:57 CST on 07/20/02] [Link]
That's Our Chron
John P. Lopez has a puff piece in today's Chron on the Houston Texans' head coach. It begins,
TOM Capers makes you want to do push-ups.Just one problem: the man's name is DOM Capers.
I haven't seen the print copy yet, but surely this is just a transcription error by the Chron web team. Still, it's a pretty bad one.
[Posted at 23:37 CST on 07/20/02] [Link]
Recently, several of us Houston bloggers were amusing ourselves with memories of Joe Roach (sorry, can't seem to track down the link) on City Council and wondering what had happened to the dude.
The answer: he's just been readying himself for a mayoral run.
I'm still a Sanchez backer (former Lence students have to stick together, ya know), but Go, Joe, Go! :)
Kuffner has some additional thoughts.
[Posted at 10:22 CST on 07/20/02] [Link]
On the baseball front, this is one of the most welcome headlines I've seen all year:
If only the silence could be permanent, and could include Selig. One can wish.
On the other hand, this headline isn't so welcome:
I guess, in a way, it's good that the former President can take time away from his busy schedule of visiting the world's tyrants and criticizing American foreign policy.
[Posted at 10:10 CST on 07/20/02] [Link]
Layne announces his return from a hiatus, in his usual understated fashion.
Jarvis is also back from a hiatus.
And Reynolds muses on his (sort of) hiatus in his usual fashion.
[Posted at 10:09 CST on 07/20/02] [Link]
18 July 2002
Cross Canadian Ragweed
For you Houstonians into the whole red dirt/Americana/Texas music scene, a good band will be making an appearance at Cactus Records Friday at 6 pm.
Cross Canadian Ragweed is scheduled for an acoustic performance. Usually St. Arnold's is on hand for free beer. And unlike the Flatlanders a few weeks ago, Ragweed really is scheduled for an acoustic performance (and not just a silly autograph session).
It will be good to see the Boys from Oklahoma.
(07-19-02 Update) My good friend Dave Hamby sends along the following (amusing) news:
Thought of you several times this week as I was traveling through south central/southwestern Oklahoma. The two of most interest this morning:Excellent!
1) I screamed in horror when I realized I was on Garth Brooks Blvd. in Yukon.
2) I don't know if you'd heard the story, but some "ruffians" vandalized the water tower in Yukon. It's professionally painted to read, "Home of Garth Brooks" and lists the state championships in football. But, at the bottom of the tower, someone spray painted (very tastefully) "Home of Cross Canadian Ragweed." The band has denied its involvement, according to a recent article in the Tulsa World. But, I thought it was funny.
(07-20-02 Update) During the performance, Cody Canada told a story of how the band challenged their concertgoers to make the "alteration" to the Yukon water tower -- and lo and behold, someone did. :)
[Posted at 22:39 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
Callie sends me this news item, about a camper who woke up to discover he was bleeding from an ongoing bear attack, and subsequently shot the bear dead.
I HATE stories like this.
I do the majority of my backpacking in eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas, where there is a growing black bear population. I've never seen a black bear, even though I've found their droppings around my camp once. I hope never to see a black bear. Even though they are supposedly timid and shy away from people, that experience is about the only thing that worries me when I'm out backpacking.
But it doesn't worry me that much. If you keep an eye out for bear cubs (because if you stumble upon them -- and their mom -- that would be bad) and bear bag your food, trash, and utensils well away from where you sleep, you will generally be fine when it comes to black bears.
The idiot in this story didn't do that with his food items, and wound up killing a bear needlessly. Just a little effort and applied knowledge would have prevented this moron from ever being attacked. But from the sounds of the story, he was probably too drunk to think very well after enjoying his steak. Short of being passed out, what sort of outdoorsman only wakes up WHEN THE BEAR HAS ALREADY RIPPED INTO HIM?!
[Posted at 19:46 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
To Hell With Texas Wines
UH political scientist Dick Murray's love of wine is well known in the department, but I had no idea that he was part of a group that (successfully) challenged a Texas law against the direct import of out-of-state wine (a law intended to protect Texas wineries -- gawd forbid).
I haven't read the decision yet (and may not -- there's only so much time in the day!), but the law strikes me as a fairly clear case of impermissible interference with interstate commerce. The appeal to the 21st Amendment seems weak to me. But again, that's just my musing without having examined the case.
Thanks to Charles Kuffner for noting this one (and if that link doesn't work, Kuffner writes on his main page that Movable Type and his own domain are just about ready to go)!
[Posted at 19:31 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
In Defense Of Jimy
There are quite a few callers on the local sports talk radio lately questioning Jimy Williams's management of the starting pitchers. Talk has focused on the fact that no starter has pitched a complete game.
I'm going to defend Williams on this one.
But first, let me backtrack and say that as a baseball purist, I *like* the way Larry Dierker handled his starters. He let them pitch deep into games, and to work out of jams. That's how baseball used to be played, even if few teams do it that way anymore.
And now, back to Williams. I don't know his rationale, because the dreadful local sportswriters really can't bother themselves to try to get him to talk about such matters (and he doesn't volunteer much). But given that your setup-closer combo of Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner is allegedly one of the best in the league, and that Drayton McLane is certainly paying Wagner top wages for a closer, then maybe shooting for 7 innings isn't such a bad idea. Especially since quality starting pitchers are a rare commodity and a big investment, and that saving wear and tear on them is probably a good idea if your bullpen is reliable. That the Astros must rely on the farm system to produce their starters (since Drayton won't spend what it takes to get a Clemens or keep a Johnson or Kile or Astacio or any other big-name free agents since the Drabek/Swindell moves) is probably even more reason to try and limit their innings and not overpitch them.
I don't know if any of this is going through Jimy's mind, or Hunsicker's, but I'll offer it as a defense anyway. The lack of complete games is one thing that I don't really consider a problem for this year's team, which has many bigger problems.
[Posted at 17:48 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
Cocoa French Fries
I just can't get excited about OreIda's new line of french fries.
Somehow, a blue french fry reminds me of the college days, when the color of food was an indicator of just how long it had remained in the fridge past the "use by" date.
And cocoa-crispers french fries? Hmm... let's see... potatoes are already one of the highest glycemic-index vegetables there is, so let's ADD SOME SUGAR for the kids, and some chocolate flavoring. Yeah, THAT seems like a good idea. Never mind the notion of potatoes and chocolate mixed together. Unlike the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, these are two things that JUST DON'T GO TOGETHER.
[Posted at 01:30 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
Lee Brown's America, II
This is certainly good news from the Houston Police Department:
"The two patrol cars reported missing in late June are now back in our possession," Hurst said, as he showed the vehicles to reporters Wednesday afternoon. "It does not appear they have been used for any type of criminal activity."
[Posted at 00:53 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
Drayton's Plan All Along?
John Lopez, a Chron sports columnist, argues that Drayton McLane's latest announcement really shouldn't be a surprise, as the Asstros owner has been plotting to maximize the value of this team to sell it for a while now.
I've been critical of Drayton McLane, but even I haven't gone that far. Not that it isn't plausible.
And another Wow, because Chron columnists are rarely so edgy or provocative.
In any case, even if you don't buy into the Lopez theory, it's hard to disagree with this:
Certainly, now we should not be fooled into believing that this is just a sad tale of a poor owner with good intentions forced into no option but putting up a for sale sign.Never did. Drayton McLane's "good ol' country boy" charm doesn't do much for me. Every time I see or hear him, I have the sneaking suspicion he's lying or spinning. That's just the impression I usually get from the man. And this "woe is me" act is getting as tired as Bud Adams's wigs.
[Posted at 00:46 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
Everybody send some love and happiness Evelynne's way. She just had two wisdom teeth removed.
She actually motivated me to get in gear and schedule an appointment with an oral surgeon to do the same thing. Several months ago, my dentist recommended it, and I just haven't acted on it. Need to get it out of the way well before fall backpacking, though.
[Posted at 00:14 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
Jude Wanniski knows a LOT about economics, and that's the main reason I read him, despite the occasionally goofy things he writes about politics, political philosophy, Lincoln, and other things outside his expertise (what would Judge Posner say?). And even the style of some of his economic writings (the "memos") annoys me.
All of that said, this is an interesting column.
It's largely a rehash of the argument Wanniski has been making for a while now, an argument that has been made by only a few other lonely souls (David Malpass and Larry Kudlow come to mind).
[Posted at 00:13 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
Lee Brown's America
Channel 13 has this report on their website about a gaping sinkhole.
Now, Houston has experienced a great deal of rain lately, and a sinkhole is not newsworthy in itself. But look closely at the photo. This appears to be a recently repaired patch of road, judging by the dark color of the asphalt! Indeed, the story confirms as much:
Workers had checked out a report of a low spot in the road. When they found it to be stable, they patched it.Why would there be a low spot in the road? Most likely because WATER LEAKS ERODED THE FOUNDATION! And if a water leak is eroding the soil, just piling asphalt on it isn't going to fix the problem! Yet this sort of thing continues to happen in Public Works, and nobody is ever held accountable.
Bob Lanier had many faults, but I credit him with running a pretty good public works shop. Mayor Pothole, on the other hand, has been an absolute disaster in public works and public safety (the two things that municipal government should be focused on). Thank goodness for term limits.
[Posted at 00:08 CST on 07/18/02] [Link]
17 July 2002
Is there any better team in the Major Leagues to face when you're needing to break out of a slump than the Milwaukee Brewers?
That franchise is just sad.
[Posted at 21:52 CST on 07/17/02] [Link]
Major League Baseball continues its suicidal march towards a strike.
Asstros owner Drayton McLane is he will sell the team unless the owners can strike a labor and revenue-sharing agreement more to his liking.
Of course, Drayton has resorted to this type of threat before: when the Asstrodome no longer generated enough cash for him, and he wanted the city to build a new quarter-billion dollar playpen. He even made it seem as if he just might be forced to sell to a northern Virginia group that would move the team. Won't it be nice if Drayton is "forced" to consider such a sale again?
Surely not, you say? We'll see.
In any case, I'm not very convinced by this:
McLane said he understands that people will question the validity of his numbers.What numbers? Show us your books, and all revenue streams (including stadium concessions) if you expect to be taken seriously.
"The numbers I'm showing you are valid," he said. "But I understand people are still going to wonder if the owners are telling the truth."
And stop with the threats already. Too much more of that and you might just get the Bud Adams treatment.
[Posted at 00:20 CST on 07/17/02] [Link]
16 July 2002
Since I spent six very good years in Springfield, MO, I feel obliged to reproduce this bit from Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus today:
A propos: Several columns ago, I wrote an item on the theme, PC is not only obnoxious and offensive, but it can be outright dangerous. I received this response from Kirk Manlove of the Springfield, Mo., police department. I publish it with his permission. This gives us further insight into the challenges a police officer must deal with each day in modern America — challenges quite apart from the already extremely burdensome ones a police officer would have to face in a country uninfected by racial poison.Hmm.... I've been away from Springfield for a while now, and can't say anything authoritatively about the cops there (in terms of their reputation for racial fairness). But the city isn't exactly known for its tolerance or diversity. The black population there, for example, is extremely low, a relic of the city's past history of public lynchings (which some people, when I lived there, still spoke of fondly). And there is an extremely conservative religious population (Springfield is headquarters of John Ashcroft's church!) that was very vocal in its opposition to homosexuals when I lived there (vocal in the sense that religious extremists were implicated in the torching of a gay activist's home, although nothing could ever be proved). When I was a student in Springfield, of course, I was much more interested in the local campus bar and grill than I was observing the social affairs of the city proper, but it always seemed like the cops didn't exactly interfere much when some of the local extremists decided to pursue "justice" on occasion.
“Man,” writes Officer Manlove — a spokesman for his department — “you don’t know the half of it. Our state recently passed a racial-profiling law that requires police to document all traffic stops with race info. No problem — we’ve got no problem with that. The big problem is that if an officer exceeds the number of minority stops, regardless of the violation — and all this is in accordance with the city’s racial makeup — then he is considered a profiler and must be counseled by his supervisor and might be disciplined or required to attend cultural training. Example: Our city has a 4 percent black population. We had an officer make 33 traffic stops, 3 of which were of black motorists. Guess what? He’s a profiler.
“You show me a racist cop and I’ll show you a cop who can manipulate any data gathering designed to deter racial profiling. Any idiot can track stops using a notebook. If his numbers point in the wrong direction, simple: Start pulling over non-minorities.
“The results? In the past year our traffic stops dropped over 30 percent. What a surprise.
“Nobody in law enforcement disputes the fact you shouldn’t stop someone for race alone without probable cause, but this is having a chilling effect on law enforcement and presents an incredible challenge for law-enforcement commanders in trying to motivate officers to continue to make traffic stops. Officers are afraid of losing their state commissions or being the subject of a Department of Justice civil-rights suit.
“Here are some interesting facts and background for you. Missouri’s attorney general gathers these data and then issues an annual report on the state’s agencies. He uses U.S. census data to come up with the racial makeup of the city and then compares the stop data. For example, in 2001, out of 21,897 traffic stops, 6.10 percent were of black motorists, but the black population of this city is, as I’ve said, a little below 4 percent. The census counts only 18-year-olds and up, but the AG requires us to document all stops that include 16- and 17-year-olds. We made 1,557 stops of people under 18. In addition, we added a few lines to our data cards to track two things that the AG either doesn’t want us to track or simply doesn’t care about. The two questions we added this year are: ‘Does the driver reside in the city?’ and ‘Did the officer know the race of the driver prior to the stop?’
“The results that the AG doesn’t care about? 79.2 percent of the time, the officer didn’t know the race of the driver prior to the stop, and 27.4 percent of the motorists didn’t even reside in the city. Doesn’t matter: The AG issues his report stating that we are a ‘disparate’ department. Translation? We’re profilers, bearing the scarlet ‘P.’
“The editorial staff of our local paper is certainly not sympathetic, which is no surprise, and since they really couldn’t make much of an issue of a few percentage points on the traffic-stop stuff, especially since 80 percent of the time we can’t even tell what the driver’s race is, they wanted to focus on what happens after the stop. The search rate for black motorists is 21.26 percent vs. a search rate for whites of 11.60 percent. Not counting consent searches, police do two types of search: a probable-cause search and a search incident to arrest. The incident-to-arrest search is required. It must be done if you arrest the motorist, for two reasons: to search for evidence after an arrest, and to do an inventory search because of the towing of the car. Our paper neglects to tell its readers that black motorists, before searches are even initiated, are arrested 10.9 percent of the time on traffic stops due to DWI, warrants, drugs, etc., versus 6.9 percent for white motorists, which basically means that officers are going to be performing more required, nondiscretionary searches on the black motorists. Bottom line is: Yes, we are searching black drivers more. Why? Because they are arrested more often when the stop is made.
“Now, another piece of data our local media ignore is that officers give black drivers verbal warnings instead of tickets 56.1 percent of the time versus 52 percent for white motorists. Why is this? Simple: Officers don’t want to be ‘beefed’ or complained about by minority drivers or groups, and they are cutting black motorists a break that they don’t normally give white ones.
“Our officers are operating under strange frames of mind. I know for a fact that when our officers pull over a car and discover a minority driver, they are thinking purely numbers in their heads. ‘Great, a minority driver, wonder what my numbers are looking like?’
“Here’s another thought: Our officers are truly concerned that, God forbid they have to use deadly force on a black driver who may be trying to kill them, their traffic numbers will come to haunt them, because it’s not a matter of ‘if’ the media will request the officer’s traffic data, but ‘when,’ and our state considers them open records.
“Jay, I could go on and on, but I won’t.”
Again: Policing has got to be difficult enough. But with the burden of America’s racial hang-ups on one’s shoulders . . . it’s amazing that anyone volunteers for the force at all.
A final word, which I feel obliged to add: Police brutality — needless to say (or rather, it should be needless to say) — is a sin and a crime, and any society should be ever-vigilant against it. But the wrongful handcuffing of police owing to racial bullying and other nonsense: that, too, should be watched.
I have a feeling that Springfield would probably scare me, now that I've lived in Montrose in Houston for a number of years.
But then again, Montrose doesn't have those beautiful Ozarks.
[Posted at 22:47 CST on 07/16/02] [Link]
Road To Perdition
Mr. Breese has posted some comments on The Road To Perdition. I don't think they will ruin the movie for those of you who haven't seen it yet (I haven't seen it), and they may well add to the enjoyment. Here's an excerpt:
Reviewers keep comparing RTP to The Godfather and such. Those reviewers are obviously on crack. They might as well compare it to Dawson's Creek and E.T.. In many ways, it's startlingly similar to The Man Who Wasn't There, and I wonder who will pick up on that!
In a way, RTP is about redemption through love. And it does a much more credible job with it than The Royal Tenenbaums managed.
[Posted at 00:22 CST on 07/16/02] [Link]
15 July 2002
The Best Sports Show Period
Most Asstros home games are broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest, a Fox Sports Net regional affiliate. Fox Sports Net is home of The Best Damn Sports Show Period, and the announcers regularly plug the show during the games.
However, they refer to is as The Best Sports Show Period.
They've never mentioned why, but I can only presume it's because the viewing audience is composed of lots of kids, and they don't want to curse on air, even if it is the name of the show.
That's actually kind of refreshing.
[Posted at 20:39 CST on 07/15/02] [Link]
In A Way?
Here's an example of suburban Houston idiocy:
"It was my mistake, in a way," the victim said.In a way? As in, you're a complete moron whose survival for 66 years might just be proof that yes, God exists, and yes, He sends Angels to watch over idiots? Yes, I think that would be the way.
Free advice to all readers (unless you just want to send me $8,000): If someone approaches you in a grocery store parking lot and wants to trade a lottery ticket for $8,000, do not head over to your ATM! (And who the hell can just pull 8 grand from their atm anyway?!)
[Posted at 19:19 CST on 07/15/02] [Link]
14 July 2002
For those who think I'm off base with my complaining about Drayton McLane's ridiculous concession prices at the Juice Container (you know who you are!), here's a revealing analysis by Team Marketing Report.
On price of beer, Houston's $6 ranks only behind LA ($6.50) for highest price. The NY Mets are tied with Houston for second, but sell a larger sized beer. League average is $4.82.
On price of soda, Houston, LA, and NY Mets are tied at $3.50 for highest price. League average is $2.45.
On price of a hot dog, Houston and NY Mets are tied at $3.75 for highest price, with LA's $3.25 being a veritable bargain for the best stadium hot dog ever made! League average is $2.72.
One thing I would also note is that cost of living and salaries are MUCH lower in Houston than in either New York or LA. That makes it even more outrageous that Drayton and the Asstros are charging such exorbitant concession prices.
Granted, nobody has to pay them, and I don't. But it shows some real nerve for Drayton to ask so much from fans when he won't even shell out the cash to keep, say, a Castilla or Alou or Astacio, or consider trading for Hampton (who is on the trading block, but deemed too expensive).
(07-16-02 Update) Charles Kuffner disagrees with that last paragraph, although I don't think we are all that much at odds. I will grant that Castilla and Alou have had terrible years with their new teams, and it's always a gamble spending big bucks on aging players (witness Craig Biggio this year, or, in football, Aikman, Haley, Novacek, and Irvin all drawing salaries from my beloved Cowboys a few years ago despite being gone because of career-ending injuries). But was Drayton actually making that sort of calculated assessment, or was Drayton simply unwilling to spend a little more than planned in order to go after a championship? I lean towards that last, but it is, admittedly, conjecture.
Let me put it a little differently -- Might I be more inclined to head out to the Juice Container and send a little more cash Drayton's way if, say, Hunsicker (with Drayton's blessing) suddenly got serious about pursuing a Hampton, or a Rolen, even though the payroll might jump? Yep. I'd go knock down a few $6 beers and do my part. But when it's down to Nelson Cruz and Brandon Puffer as your starters, and your GM is still saying you can't pursue a legit pitcher because of $$$, I'm more inclined to go catch a free Texans practice.
On the flip side, it might be best just to ride out this season, not do anything rash, and hope to regroup next year. Tonight's game was more like the Astros we've seen most of the season (the last two weeks excluded -- that was a nice little run), and trading prospects and taking on salary for a longshot chance at a division title this year probably aren't great moves. I'm guessing Hunsicker is probably thinking that; I'm guessing Drayton is more focused on the $$$. But it's just a guess.
I'm also guessing I'm one of those impatient fans Charles is gently chiding. :)
[Posted at 23:40 CST on 07/14/02] [Link]
If you are scheduled to be arrested, why not throw a bigass party at your house?!
I'm going to have to remember that one in case I ever have a scrape with the law, because surely celebrities and gifted athletes don't receive special treatment....
[Posted at 23:24 CST on 07/14/02] [Link]
I would think that attempting to condemn the blogosphere and then pointing out a blog that holds up many of the best opinions and posts for wider distribution is a little strange, don't you think?Eh, no stranger than a long post that condemns the style, rhetoric, grammar, and spelling of bloggers (and maybe even their bathing habits, but I tired about 3/4 of the way through), yet itself begins two consecutive paragraphs with "of course." Nice style there!
I've often wondered what it would be like if H.L. Mencken were alive and had a weblog. I mean, he would probably be apoplectic over most of what is written on the web. And he would probably be damned entertaining writing about it. Unlike some, who aren't.
Larry's full post, on the other hand, is well worth reading. *applause*
(07-15-02 Update) Ginger Stampley piles on. The Houston brigade is riled up!
[Posted at 21:14 CST on 07/14/02] [Link]
The new Texas quarter
The Governor's office has announced a preferred design for the new Texas quarter, to debut in 2004 if the U.S. Mint and Treasury Secretary approve.
I really like it.
There has been some understandable grumbling among natives that it should have featured the Alamo, and I sympathize with that to a degree. We Texans tend to rank the Alamo first among our political symbols, and then the flag and lone star. But I think most non-Texans probably associate Texas and the Lone Star first, and then perhaps the Alamo. That association is going to be reinforced by this quarter.
[Posted at 15:21 CST on 07/14/02] [Link]
Not The Sausage Guy
Funny, but I'm starting to get the sense that Howard Dean, who is further left than any of the credible Dem Presidential candidates for 2004, is a favorite of the media.
There have been stories on him in influential left-leaning publications such as The New Republic, The American Prospect, and now the New York Times Magazine.
I'm not quite sure why, as he has little chance of winning the Dem nomination, and no chance of beating George Bush (unless some major scandal emerges between now and the election -- and Harken is not a major scandal).
Is it a case of liberals adoring their own, or just a typical case of fawning over the underdog?
[Posted at 00:12 CST on 07/14/02] [Link]
13 July 2002
Beer, Burgers, Bomb
Callie and I cruised over to Rudyard's tonight for beer, burgers, and music.
The Brenham Lager that I tried for the first time was top notch.
Rudz burgers are, arguably, the best in town, and they were really good tonight.
The band, local favorite Moses Guest, came highly recommended, but didn't really suit my taste or Callie's.
But two out of three ain't bad.
[Posted at 23:17 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
Be Careful What You Wish For
Reading this post on USS Clueless this morning was ironic.
I've been conceptualizing a site redesign for this site (which is going to include a message board of some form), and soliciting comments from a few people on various aspects of the redesign concept. About the time I had finished Den Beste's post and was getting ready to send the link and some comments to one of the people I've been soliciting (ooohhh.... doesn't that sound naughty?!), she had already sent an email asking if I had seen the post. Made me laugh. THERE is a valued member of the Virtual Brain Trust! :)
Anyway, ages ago Den Beste lamented that he wished he had more visitors. Through hard work and quality writing, he has those visitors he wanted now -- thousands per day, I would guess. I'm a member of the daily horde, and I think it rocks. But as the horde has grown, I found that even I stopped going to his message boards (though I must admit I was only ever a casual reader/lurker in any case) because they were beginning to suffer from the problem Steven addressed in his post: drift.
I think as soon as his site began to attract a much larger group of casual readers, the forums probably weren't going to work for the sort of focused feedback he wanted. It's almost like a party. It can be hard enough to manage really significant, focused, meaningful conversation among a small, intimate group of one's closest friends; turn it into a social gathering of an only slightly related group, and it's even tougher (which is why I tend to avoid such gatherings); make it an open-invitation festival, and it's virtually impossible. I think Den Beste the engineer has come to that conclusion, and I think he's probably right.
Yet I'm determined to put a message board back on this site. Why?
For one thing, I don't have Steven's thousands coming here each day. There's a few hundred most days, and the orientation of the site is situated to keep it that way. It's a personal site completely devoted to things I find interesting, whether the "blogosphere" or the bigtime linkers or other self-important, overblown creations of 11 September necessarily agree. I don't strive for placement on the blog ecosphere or praise from other bloggers (though I do appreciate those who do link, because they usually "get" me, and that's always nice). And even the design discourages random passersby (i.e. reciprocal links are on a separate portal page, no webrings, etc). The people who are coming here generally have some reason to be here, rather than just a random link they found somewhere.
That's helpful for a message board. I'm guessing I would be pleased to have a beer and a face-to-face chat with most of the visitors here. But some of those folks, for whatever reason, are more likely to post a line on a well-designed and maintained message board than send an email. Fine. The message board's for them.
And that's one reason that Movable Type's inline comments don't interest me. Maybe they would work with a PostNuke or similar setup, because those types of content management systems handle comments more like a message board, whereas MT does not. It's a pretty limited comment system, with no real ability to thread or quote or do anything with editing. Plus it's no deterrent for the random stranger to post something silly after reading one paragraph. I'm enough of a Straussian to HATE that. It strikes me one ought to read and think for a while about ANYTHING before writing. A message board might not accomplish that, but at least the trouble and time of registering and such cut down on the random silliness.
The final reason that a board is coming back is that like Steven, I do want feedback on posts. But unlike Steven, I sometimes do find good stuff in conversation even as it drifts -- I don't mind if conversation strays to related topics (although only tangentially related topics may just get moved to a broad "chatter" forum that I won't really participate in). But only when I have some degree of control over the participants (through means I've described partially above). Inline comments don't allow that. Various message boards do, although they are imperfect (as Steven notes).
I'm actually looking forward to the return of the boards, which went away in the move to the new webhost (which doesn't allow cgi-based boards) and in light of the pending redesign.
[Posted at 18:12 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
Lone Star Bandana
I like the Academy store in the neighborhood. They get the whole "Texas" thing.
I went there looking for some leather Tevas, that I just wound up ordering off the REI website, because neither REI nor Academy nor Whole Earth had any stock in town; brick and mortar stores are SO sad in some ways.
But while I was there, I discovered they have very cheap bandanas in the form of a Texas flag. I wear bandanas when I go to the gym and when I go camping/backpacking/outdoors in general, so I never have enough. And now I have Lone Star bandanas, which amuses me to no end.
They will go nicely with my Lone Star outdoors chair!
[Posted at 17:41 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
I Can't Help Myself...
I said something nice about the Chron (below). Now things can get back to normal.
This little bit of opinionated gossip by the Chron's city hall reporter seems ill-advised:
Dream on, Mr. Berry ...Shouldn't Miss Graves, as a REPORTER, stick to REPORTING the actual hard news that emanates from City Hall (and under Lee Brown, there's been plenty), and leave cheesy, gossipy stuff like this to editorial columnists? Or snarky bloggers?
City Councilman Michael Berry, who looks even younger than his 31 years, astonished his colleagues at City Hall this week by announcing only six months into his first term that he would run for mayor next year.
No one used the word "whippersnapper," but it hovered unspoken in conversations this week.
Berry described his aspirations as "crazy" and asked a reporter if she thought the idea was "laughable."
Although the reporter declined to answer, Mayor Lee Brown showed no such reticence,
Asked about Berry's bid at a news conference this week, Brown -- who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election -- took a moment to giggle.
"We live in a great country," he replied, to laughter from his senior advisers and reporters. "We all have the opportunity to pursue our dream."
City Hall reporter
Actually, this sort of crap is better suited to that potted-plant of a journalist Thom Marshall. Ironically, I see that he's tried to write a hard-news column today, with typically sad results. And I can't blame Marshall for the headline, but it's typical of the paper; the article is on the SimHouston program, yet the headline refers to the SLIMHOUSTON. Sad. Funny. Tragic comedy at its (unintended) best!
That's our Chron, a truly terrible paper, as others are beginning to notice.
[Posted at 01:08 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
Kudos To The Chron
Callie points me to this review of the Counting Crows' new release, Hard Candy, in the Chron. It's a pretty good review -- not just in the sense that it's fairly complimentary (although it is), but also because it does a good job describing the CD (elementary, one would think, but we are talking about our Chron). And I actually agree with the assessment of "Butterfly in Reverse." That song never quite sounded right last summer when we we caught their pre-CD working tour, and it still doesn't.
"Richard Manuel is Dead," on the other hand, is an amazing song, although I thought it was many times better live than it turned out on the CD. The reviewer describes it well.
Anyway, I would give the CD a better grade than the reviewer, but it's a fair review.
I said something nice about our Chron. Quota for July has been met.
[Posted at 00:49 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
Good Is Better Than Free
Speaking of Den Beste....
He comments on the major problems blogger has been experiencing recently, noting that good is better than free.
Gawd knows I've written similar things about blogger and encouraged people to move on. I did the same thing myself a few years ago. Blogger became less reliable than I would like, but it's hard to bitch about a free tool. So I moved on to GreyMatter, a free tool that was more reliable because it only depended on my server. And then to Movable Type, which was more reliable still because of its superior design.
But what about those folks who have something to say, and say it well, and just can't really afford anything but a free solution? Now, my libertarian and objectivist and (non-compassionate) conservative friends know that I'm not saying those folks have a RIGHT to place their thoughts on the web at someone else's expense, but the web is certainly richer for their efforts.
Isn't this the sort of thing that Jarvis, et al., were working on once upon a time? Maybe they have some thoughts?
[Posted at 00:38 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
I've posted lots of interesting stuff on Reductio Ad Absurdum tonight. My apologies that it's been kind of quiet there (and here) for a few days. My cable internet was acting up again, and I just can't read the quantity of news that I prefer at low speed and then post/write about it -- not enough time in the day.
I'm hopeful the Time Warner guys may finally have my problem fixed. So far, so good.
It did give me some time to start thinking about a redesign here, though. It's not far along yet, but it's going to be somewhat different. I'll probably keep sort of a design journal like Den Beste did, so everyone can see my warped brain at work.
[Posted at 00:23 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
One Step Back
Nicholas Kristof has written enough good stuff lately to make some of us wonder what's going on at the New York Times, but Rod Dreher catches him reverting to form.
But hey, we probably have to give the guy a little slack... that old phrase "two steps forward, one step back" comes to mind.
[Posted at 00:20 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
No doubt the Iranian clerics are running scared now.
I wouldn't count on Michael Ledeen getting too excited.
[Posted at 00:16 CST on 07/13/02] [Link]
12 July 2002
Although I got tired of working on the old 8 More Miles fan site, Reckless Kelly is still a pretty cool band.
But I can't help but laugh when I read posts like this on their "message boards" (I use that term very loosely).
They've been promising a redesign of that terrible website for at least the 3-4 years that I've followed the band. Maybe they'll finally deliver. It's overdue, but better late than never.
They could do a lot worse than giving Will, the designer of Cross Canadian Ragweed's fine website, a holler; hopefully they will find someone more suitable than the person currently maintaining it. Hell, just about anything would beat the current disaster. Look at what Mary Cutrufello has done entirely on her own.
(07-13-02 Update) There's a new RK fansite in the works that's BEAUTIFUL, and by the biggest RK fan that I've ever met. I would link to it, but not sure yet that she's ready to go public. Some of the old 8 More Miles material may have to migrate over there.
Did I mention what she's done so far is beautiful? I guess I did. :)
[Posted at 13:41 CST on 07/12/02] [Link]
11 July 2002
They're Still The Asstros
The Houston Astros and Major League Baseball have relented, and one of the best baseball fan sites on the web will be "allowed" to stay.
It's ridiculous that it ever came to that, though, and I don't think the Asstros deserve as much credit as Ray is giving them for "fixing" a situation that never should have arisen in the first place.
I'm glad the site is staying, because it's excellent. It's a shame he's had to waste a week dealing with Major League Baseball's goons, though, time taken away from the site.
Meanwhile, football season is closing in, and I have my Texans-Cowboys scrimmage tix. Woo hoo! Now if my neighbor can just come through with those Texas A&M-Oklahoma tix.... :)
[Posted at 19:57 CST on 07/11/02] [Link]
Progress (Such As It Is)
My high-speed internet connection has been giving me intermittent problems for about two months now (about the time they did a major reroute in my area).
Numerous techs have come out and checked INSIDE my place, but recently I've been insisting to them that the problems are OUTSIDE, in their lines or routers. The last couple of days, the service has been down altogether. Finally -- FINALLY -- a tech actually listened to me, and checked the lines. Lo and behold, he tells me there IS a problem in the main line, and that a high level tech will have to come repair it.
For the moment, I'm back up and running, but that will likely be momentary, as the real problem still has not been addressed. I have been telling everyone I talk to for WEEKS now about the history of the problem, what various techs have done, what diagnostics *I* have run (although since they replaced my modem with a newer model, I can no longer hack into it to get advanced diagnostic info -- damn!), and that they need to send out a high-level tech to CHECK THE LINES.
Maybe, just maybe, that's going to happen soon. We'll see.
The sad thing is, this lack of communication between their diagnostic techs and service techs makes them look bad. But Time-Warner, for the money and (usually) the reliability, still blows the doors off the same tier of DSL service, at least in Houston. I've had both, and will never again relive the horror of DSL service gone bad....
Anyway, effectively being "off" the web a few days (I've used dialup for work stuff -- blech!) has given me some time to think about the pending redesign of this site (it's gonna rock!), as well as to do some reading (a book on Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin that I've been putting off forever), so it's probably a net positive.
[Posted at 13:03 CST on 07/11/02] [Link]
10 July 2002
Regrettable? That's An Understatement
Here's a telling quote from Bud Selig, "commissioner" of Major League Baseball:
This is a very regrettable situation.He was referring to his decision to end the millionaires' all-star game despite it being tied, but really he could have been referring to much more:
- His own joke of a tenure as "commissioner"
- His own baseball team, the Brewers
- His new, taxpayer-subsidized retractable roof ballpark (that LEAKS!)
- The players' looming strike
- The owners' looming lockout of the players (if they don't strike first)
- The ongoing destruction of a great game by a millionaire's club of owners and players.
I'm glad I watched Houston Medical instead.
[Posted at 16:29 CST on 07/10/02] [Link]
09 July 2002
Good Music Day
It's a good music day when two of my favorite bands come out with new releases.
I've been listening to the Counting Crows new stuff on Hard Candy for a year now via bootlegs, but it's still nice to have that official cd in hand now.
I'm just now listening to Cross Canadian Ragweed's Live at Billy Bob's cd. So far, it sounds pretty good. There's even a funky version of Crazy Eddie's Last Hurrah, done originally by those Reckless Kelly boys.
Proof that if the music industry cranks out decent stuff, people will buy the cds.
[Posted at 19:41 CST on 07/09/02] [Link]
I was surprised earlier by an email from Lou Gorfain, the executive producer of Houston Medical. He saw my journal comments about the fine show, and sent a very kind email thanking me. The internet really has shrunk the world. And that email made my day.
Tonight is another new episode, and it will no doubt be more compelling than that game between all-star millionaires. I highly recommend it.
[Posted at 18:25 CST on 07/09/02] [Link]
08 July 2002
*** Warning: Esoteric Straussian digression ahead. Feel free to move past this if it's just not your cup of tea ***
I wonder if Jonah Goldberg picks the headlines for his Goldberg File columns.
The reason I ask is that the headline of his latest, Dangerous Ideas, reminded me of Leo Strauss (who is occasionally mentioned by Goldberg), who intimated in numerous spots that philosophy is dangerous.
And that's an interesting notion, something that I wrote about on the message boards on the site's previous host (now gone, but about to be resurrected in some form): Dangerous? How so? How might ideas be dangerous?
It's something that people far less serious than Strauss say all the time, but what does it mean?
Feel free to email me with your thoughts, if you are feeling particularly philosophical, or like Strauss, or hate Strauss, or are just lonely. :) I'm asking in all seriousness.
[Posted at 22:02 CST on 07/08/02] [Link]
The Anti-All Stars
Houston's own Whiny B, Craig Biggio, has made Jeff Pearlman's midseason All-Dud team.
He's only a reserve for Pearlman, though. Since he's the highest-paid second basemen in the Majors this year, I would have gone ahead and given him the nod over Robert Alomar, although their stats are comparable.
[Posted at 21:11 CST on 07/08/02] [Link]
Schulz at least seems to have given some thought to Fukuyama's concerns about human nature, which is a start, even if those thoughts don't quite rise to the level of Straussian understanding of natural right, and don't treat it seriously.
But it raises an interesting question. Schulz seems most outraged not by Fukuyama's teleological view of morality, but by the fact that Fukuyama has attempted to make "common cause" with the far Left on the issue of cloning. Schulz is critical of Fukuyama's "political and tactical" maneuver.
So here's the question (questions, actually, all variants on a theme): if Green moral thought is truly incompatible with Fukuyama's notion of natural right (and I think Schulz is probably right to suggest that it is, even though he doesn't use my formulation), is Fukuyama wrong to seek political alliance with them on a single issue? In so doing, is he fundmentally compromising his moral credibility? Or his morality?
I think Schulz's answer is a resounding "Yes!" And that sort of moral intransigence is characteristic of the most hardcore libertarians (and Objectivists). It may also explain their lack of success in real politics. I don't know.
[Posted at 21:09 CST on 07/08/02] [Link]
The Chron is a depressingly poor big-city daily, as I note here frequently enough. But occasionally, even though I know how bad the rag is, it still manages to surprise me. And not in good way.
Take this feature, for example.
Wouldn't common sense suggest that a sympathetic business feature on the personal lives of three people most responsible for the (criminally fraudulent) debacle that was Enron MIGHT NOT be a great idea? Especially in the very city where most of the people affected by its collapse don't have River Oaks mansions and antique shops to retreat to. I mean, this is just common sense, right?
But here it is. The Chron, as usual, casting the criminals of the Enron debacle as sympathetic figures.
Jeffrey Skilling, you see, didn't want to take the Fifth Amendment before Congress because he strives to be a good role model for his children:
Even while chief executive officer at Enron, Skilling was known to attend as many of his children's activities as possible. Wednesday evenings tended to be off-limits because that's when he visited the kids.And it was probably also important to try to get over on the executives who DID take the Fifth by implicating them in his own testimony, hmm? He's a man of integrity, you see.
His children are the reason, a friend said, that he was the only key Enron executive to testify before Congress in February, instead of taking the Fifth like Lay and Fastow.
"It was important for him that his kids see him testify and not be afraid," said the friend.
And Ken Lay's trying to get out of the house more:
They came late and left early at a dinner held for the United Way at the home of Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune. Last month, they attended a lecture by political analyst David Gergen at the home of former Mayor Bob Lanier, again coming in late and leaving early.A FANTASTIC record!
He remains active on the Greater Houston Partnership board and in a University of Houston advisory group, as well as on boards for other nonprofits and charities. At partnership meetings, Lay is fully engaged in discussions, said businessman Willie Alexander, a fellow board member.
"He's participating," Alexander said. "He's well-received. Everybody loves Ken. Ken has always been good to us and the city.
"Ken still has a lot to offer Houston. We still respect Ken. The man has a fantastic record with his community involvement."
And let's not forget the third crook, Andrew Fastow:
Fastow was an assistant coach of his son's Tadpole baseball team, has taught Hebrew at a synagogue and spends many weekends at the family's $288,000 vacation home in Galveston, just blocks from Lay's place.Strong CHARACTER. EXTRAORDINARILY HIGH INTEGRITY. MENSCH! Even Tadpole baseball, for
He regularly takes his sons fishing on his 18-foot Boston Whaler, said Gary Praker, the caretaker of Fastow's Galveston home.
"He is a person of extraordinarily high integrity," said Bobby Lapin, a local lawyer and Fastow's friend. "The time he hasn't spent with his attorneys, he has spent with his family."
Lapin and Osadchey each described Fastow as a "mensch," Yiddish for a person of strong character.
And if all of that isn't unbelievable enough, the story actually concludes with Linda Lay MORALIZING:
She is furious about the way a clip from the Today interview has been used by TV news organizations. They routinely show her crying while a newsreader describes how she expressed concern over the possibility of personal bankruptcy.Linda Lay, calling out television networks for immoral behavior! That's how the story concludes?!
She was not crying about that, she says, but about her husband's remorse that he couldn't save Enron. "It's immoral" for the clip to be used that way, she said.
Like I said, sometimes the Chron still manages to surprise even me. I honestly didn't think their Enron coverage could get any worse. But then they conclude a story with Linda Lay, moral authority. THAT one is going to be hard to top!
But I wouldn't bet against our Chron.
(07-09-02 Update) A couple of people rip the Chron and the "high-integrity guys" a new one in the letter section today. Well done.
[Posted at 20:22 CST on 07/08/02] [Link]
07 July 2002
Michael Berry is making a big mistake jumping into the 2003 Houston mayoral race. Berry has no real constituency and very little experience in municipal government. He has no chance of winning if Sylvester Turner or Orlando Sanchez is in the race, and all indications are that they will be (and that will probably be bloody in its own right).
It's too bad. Berry seems sensible, and council could actually use some sensible members. I hope he reconsiders.
[Posted at 23:38 CST on 07/07/02] [Link]
It Probably IS A Press Release
Orrin Judd discovers the magic that IS our Chron.
(Update) The blogger bug strikes again. At the moment, the link isn't working.
[Posted at 22:35 CST on 07/07/02] [Link]
I just finished writing the dissertation conclusion, the last new writing I had left.
It still needs editing, and I'm not entirely happy with it (I had hoped to do a section on the expansion of non-enumerated rights and substantive due process, but I ran out of gas). But, it's done, and in that sense, it's excellent.
And after spending the whole day on that, I'm in desperate need of a boost in the form of a Diedrich's Latte.
I hope everyone is having a much more enjoyable Sunday than I have just endured!
[Posted at 18:53 CST on 07/07/02] [Link]
06 July 2002
Major League Baseball 1, Bloggers 0
A fun logo, from BaseballPrimer.com
You want another example of what's wrong with Major League Baseball and the Houston Astros?
Probably not, but here it is anyway:
They are effectively shutting down the best Houston Astros weblog in existence, and one of the best baseball blogs period.
You would think a blog attempting to boost fan interest in an underachieving team (with a decidely underachieving owner) would be something the team might celebrate, right?!
But no, the personal, non-profit FAN site is under attack from Major League Baseball's legal goons because of alleged copyright infringement. Major League Baseball's legal goons insist the site unlawfully uses images and trademarks of the Astros, and specifically refers to the merchandise section (which provides links to OTHER sites where people can purchase Astros gear). Sadly, its owner is going to shut it down rather than deal with the goons.
[Posted at 12:35 CST on 07/06/02] [Link]
The latest from the local baseball millionaires:
"Whatever our issues are, we are together 100 percent," Craig Biggio said, refusing to elaborate on the issue.Hmm... our issues, like the second highest salary on the team, and the highest among all second basemen in baseball, and a crap year to show for it? Yeah, that's an issue for one Whiny B to concentrate on, for sure!
One prominent Astro who did not want to be identified is bracing for a strike.
"We don't want to strike, but I don't think we'll be able to avoid it," he said.
It's good to know, though, that they don't want to strike. Isn't that comforting? Don't all of you baseball fans feel SO much better?
I knew you would. That's why I posted it!
Glad that it's all better now, and that I could be your e-therapist for a brief time.
(Note: Workout followed by coffee leads to weird posts like this)
[Posted at 00:45 CST on 07/06/02] [Link]
I just finished a rewrite of my dissertation introduction (which, of course, explains the boost in postings here through the day! ha), in which I incorporated a number of the suggestions my chair made way back... about a month ago?
They were very good comments, but I needed a few weeks away from the thing to be able to see the big picture properly, and to be able properly to understand what he was getting at. I remember at the time taking copious notes in our discussion, and thinking that only parts of it made much sense at all! I knew HE was making sense, it's just that I was wiped intellectually and couldn't make any at the time.
Tomorrow, I need to write the conclusion after spending some of the evening working through his comments and sorting out some things (and much of the week scouring the literature for fun sorts of things that didn't fit in the substantive chapters but that are still fun). I was pretty good throughout writing the thing (over four years since taking comps) about keeping my thesis in focus as THE BIG PICTURE. But once the substantive chapters are done, it's hard to get out of "focus on the thesis" mode and into -- okay, you've argued your thesis, but what the hell does it mean to your subdiscipline? The discipline of political science more broadly? Life? And how is it distinguished from all those other disciplines? And why should anyone care? Etc. And that's where a good dissertation chair is critical.
So anyway, the conclusion is tomorrow's task. And I don't think it will take all that long. But then, I never do.
[Posted at 00:28 CST on 07/06/02] [Link]
05 July 2002
Reliant has made its bid to do Enron one better. The company has restated its earnings for the past 3 years, "discovering" (while under investigation) that it had overstated the value of (sham) trades by $7.8 billion!
Let me emphasize that last: $7.8 BILLION
Do you think investigators will be swayed by, "We had to pay for the Texans' Stadium sponsorship SOMEHOW?!" I'm guessing not.
[Posted at 17:40 CST on 07/05/02] [Link]
The decline of a once-great newspaper continues.
Here's a headline from the international section:
I've actually been tracking the goings on in Madagascar for months now, as it's a country I cover at work, and it's been in the midst of a political crisis because its former president (Didier Ratsiraka) refused to acknowledge that he actually lost the last election -- even though it's very clear that he did. What is worse is that the differences are regional, with some people of the the coastal lowlands supporting the former leader, and people of the highlands generally going for the current leader (Marc Ravalomanana).
When I saw this headline, I immediately got that nasty feeling I sometimes get when I've made a prediction that hasn't panned out; I thought that somehow, Ratsiraka's rival "coastland" government had somehow managed to stage a coup and retake the capital and "real" government.
But no. The actual story is that Ravalomanana and the legitimately elected government have forced Ratsiraka to flee, presumably ending his attempted coup.
The coverage in the Financial Times (via Reuters) is much better, right down to the headline: Madagascar's Former President Flees
[Posted at 15:42 CST on 07/05/02] [Link]
Sign Of The Times
I just returned from a trip to the Galleria for lunch at a favorite Chinese restaurant.
For whatever reason, security at the mall today was more prominent than ever before. The security guard went by the restaurant every five minutes or so, and he actually seemed to be studying people as well as places.
The Galleria is across the street from where I work, so I'm over there quite a bit, and usually have lunch there at least once a week. I've never seen the security so visible or attentive. Usually I don't see them at all.
[Posted at 15:17 CST on 07/05/02] [Link]
Ted Williams, RIP
The greatest hitter in baseball history died today.
He was 83.
[Posted at 12:06 CST on 07/05/02] [Link]
I was a Don Baylor fan when he was a player, and have always thought he does a good job managing a team. Even though the Cubs got off to a poor start (because, like the Astros, much of their high-priced talent is either injured or underachieving this year), I figured Baylor was safe for the year, despite all the rumblings.
I was wrong. They canned him today.
Interestingly, the articles lists his career record as a manager. I thought it was better than that.
(07-06-02 Update) My old buddy Nick Russo, who owned and ran the best near-campus bar and grill I've ever been around (Ebbets Field, in Springfield MO), used to have a television sports show in Springfield. He was a Cubby fan, and Cubs games always had TV priority at his wonderful place. And one of the elements of his TV show was that he would make predictions. I'm guessing the most frequent prediction he ever made, in his great Bronx-Italian accent, was "And the Cubs will lose." That's probably the safest bet in sports (along with, the Red Sox will finish behind the Yankees) -- and no manager is probably going to change that.
And who wants the Cubs to start winning, anyway? I mean, they are lovable losers. If they were to start winning, it might interfere with important things, like drinking beer in the bleachers and watching the babes. We wouldn't want to take time away from the important pursuits of Cub fans with something as serious as a pennant race, or *gasp* playoffs!
[Posted at 11:59 CST on 07/05/02] [Link]
This column has a LOT of whining about an individual statistic in a single game:
Considering Biggio's speed and the fact double plays can never be assumed, Jeff Bagwell thought his teammate was robbed.Shouldn't the Whiny Bs be happy they've actually contributed to some wins lately (first time all season!), and not obsess over a minor statistic in ONE game?
The Chron writer who actually used the term "Biggio's speed" sort of sums up the Chron, doesn't he? Biggio was never an exceptionally speedy player, but in his best years he got a good jump and made use of above average speed to be a dangerous leadoff man. Age and surgery have slowed him down considerably, in the field and on the bases. On his best days, he has average speed -- for a guy who has hit mostly in the one and two holes all season, it has to be considered below-average speed.
But our Chron never lets little things like facts get in the way of what it prints.
And how ridiculous is this line:
Although dismayed, Craig Biggio didn't complain Thursday when he learned the official scorer at Cinergy Field had changed his RBI single to an error immediately after the 11-4 victory over the Reds on Wednesday.If Biggio wasn't complaining, what exactly WAS this? Does every Chron writer have to preface complaints and talk of injury with, "Biggio isn't complaining [even though what follows sounds very much like complaining!]" or "Bagwell refuses to talk about his shoulder pain [even though we write about it every other day authoritatively, as if SOMEONE is telling us about it! Who? God perhaps?]"
I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: Houston's sports "journalists" are a joke.
[Posted at 11:30 CST on 07/05/02] [Link]
04 July 2002
South Austin Jug Band
Most shows at the Mucky Duck are good, but there are two types that I really like: 1) well-known artists (say, Joe Ely) who play two shows at the place, and give an unusually intimate performance or 2) lesser-known artists who play a single show in one evening, and may play half the damn night if they're having a good time.
Tuesday night at the Duck I caught one of the latter shows.
I wasn't sure what to expect from the South Austin Jug Band. I knew they had a great reputation, and many of them had played as stage musicians for Texas artists I like. And I knew they played bluegrass and swing. But that's it.
They blew our merry little crew away -- and I wouldn't say most of us were even bluegrass fans. They REALLY have a tight sound for a bluegrass band. Every member of the band did a really super job, but the mandolin player and (19-year old!) fiddle player stood out. I'm not a bluegrass expert -- though I like it on occasion -- so I can't really write a review that does their performance justice. I would have liked a little more swing, but hey -- who can complain after paying 8 bucks for FOUR HOURS of performance!?
If you're a live music fan and like Texas swing, bluegrass, fiddle, or just Texas music broadly, these guys are well worth catching at some point.
[Posted at 15:17 CST on 07/04/02] [Link]
No more Major League Baseball for me.
The a-holes (owners and players) nearly destroyed the game the last time there was a work stoppage.
Years later, fans finally came back to the parks. And for a while, owners and players alike actually treated them a little better than they had before.
It's taken a long time for the millionaires to summon the courage (idiocy?!) to utter the word "strike" again, but they've been doing it for months now, despite sagging attendance at most Major League parks.
If they go forward with this, I think Major League ball is done. I don't think most fans have much sympathy with either group of millionaires in this dispute. They just want to watch ball played at its highest level. Take that away from them -- again -- and I don't think they come back this time. The younger crowd is into other sports these days, and the hardcore baseball fans and purists (like me), can turn to college baseball in many places.
Indeed, college ball in many ways has become a much more enjoyable experience than the pro game. Typically, the guys bust their asses on every play. The vantage points are better many parks (I still cannot understand how you build an oversized Juice Container -- aka Minute Maid Field -- for a quarter of a billion bucks, and have so many obstructed view seats), putting all fans right in on the action. And we are blessed in Houston to have two of the best college teams (and facilities) in the country.
So, no trips to the Juice Container for me in the foreseeable future. My strike has already begun. Let the millionaires start theirs whenever they would like. On the Astros, I can think of a few overpaid Whiny Bs who are having seasons that suggest their strike already has begun!
(07-05-02 Update) Charles Krauthammer has penned an excellent column on this topic. Go read it.
[Posted at 14:54 CST on 07/04/02] [Link]
A number of left-of-center bloggers are wondering where the outrage is over a recent Cal Thomas column, in which Thomas writes:
On the eve of our great national birthday party and in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when millions of us turned to God and prayed for forgiveness of individual and corporate sins and asked for His protection against future attacks, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has inflicted on this nation what many will conclude is a greater injury than that caused by the terrorists.Closer to home, a couple of bloggers I like and read regularly are wondering why so few denunciations from the right.
I guess to an extent I have to agree with Owen Courrèges, another local whose blog I've just discovered. I think that Thomas's comment is an exaggeration, and is ill-considered rhetoric, but I don't think it quite rises to the heights of silliness attained by, say, Messrs Falwell and Robertson.
Now, I'm not a cultural conservative, and I'm not at all religious, but I'll play devil's advocate here. Let's consider that some people may actually consider that the ongoing transformation of establishment-clause doctrine is only one manifestation of a greater trend of state hostility towards religion. I'm not sure how to define "many" (or that it really matters), but I know thoughtful people who would make that case. If you believe that morality is impossible without the anchor of religion, it surely becomes problematic that the state, which acts as a fairly effective instrument of political socialization, is essentially making that case. Longer term, is it reasonable to assert (even if wrong) that such a socio-political intellectual trend might, indeed, have greater reach and impact than the World Trade Center bombing? Would that assertion, given the previous assumptions and considering them fairly, be truly absurd on its face? And to go just a little beyond, is it truly absurd to think that some people (if not Mr. Thomas's many) might actually think something along those lines?
I don't think Cal Thomas made that case with this sad little column, though, and I generally don't find him very interesting at all (just went poking through Reductio to see how often he shows up, and the answer is -- not very). I don't really consider him to be one of the columnists that I just can't miss while doing my daily reading. And isn't that a more damning critique than any denunciation TAPped might want from conservative bloggers: I just don't read the guy because, frankly, columns like this aren't all that surprising!
But hey, it could be worse -- at least he didn't use a ghostwriter!
Oh -- and I know Thomas has nothing to do with the headlines, but far more annoying than the column itself is this headline: "One nation, under who?" Shouldn't that be, "One nation, under whom?" Or, if you want to pay proper respect to the deity, "One nation, under Whom?" Hmm...
[Posted at 14:32 CST on 07/04/02] [Link]
03 July 2002
Lately, I've been downloading a bunch of music using the WinMX p2p client (which is an EXCELLENT, no-nonsense Windows client), so the thing has been up quite a bit.
It warmed my heart just now to see someone downloading a Charley Pride song from my shared files.
Warmed my heart, I tell you, since Charley was one of the first artists to embrace anti-ripping and anti-computer-cd-player technologies.
Chuck's one of the reasons I now openly "steal" music off the net. His attitude pretty much sent me over the edge.
Nice going Chuck!
[Posted at 23:16 CST on 07/03/02] [Link]
Bias or Ignorance?
Linda Greenhouse's NY Times column on the latest Supreme Court term is a great example of why so many conservatives accuse that paper of bias. Note this paragraph:
In the term that marked the chief justice's 30th anniversary on the bench, the court moved far toward accomplishing his long-term goals, lowering the barrier between church and state and elevating states' rights through expanding the concept of sovereign immunity.Notice how Rehnquist is portrayed in this simple, revealing paragraph. There is no indication at all that Rehnquist might be motivated by an originalist theory of constitutional adjudication, and that his primary "goal" might be to return the Supreme Court to a more interpretivist (versus liberal activist) body. Instead, he's simply pursuing conservative policy goals through whatever means necessary.
Greenhouse might actually believe this, in which case she isn't biased, but simply ignorant. In her worldview -- and that of the NY Times editors more broadly -- surely a theory of constitutional interpretation is just a sham for what conservatives really want to do with policy (you know, turn every school into a conservative Christian seminary, roll back civil rights, encourage back-alley abortions, etc). I mean, SURELY that's the case, right?
One just wishes, on occasion, liberal critics at a great paper would actually take the conservative case seriously. Understand it as it understands itself, and THEN engage in criticism. The conservative case would be better for it, as would the liberal case.
And for gawd's sake, please PLEASE do not use the term "states' rights." States don't have rights. States have powers. PEOPLE have rights. I know it's popular among liberals AND conservatives to use the term "states' rights" but please -- STOP. It's incorrect.
What is sad is that this had the makings of a good column. A short discussion on Rehnquist's theory of originalism should not have been that difficult. And the rest of the column could have focused on the opinions Rehnquist penned himself, as well as to whom he assigned opinion writing, and how all of that promoted his efforts to remake jurisprudence.
But it was easier to repeat liberal canards for the NY Times editors and audience, who really should know them by now! And an opportunity for a truly thoughtful column was missed.
[Posted at 12:35 CST on 07/03/02] [Link]
02 July 2002
Buckley on Kudlow and Cramer
Did anybody catch William F. Buckley on Kudlow and Cramer?
Either the man is seriously ill and on some sort of medication (in which case, sorry to bring it up) or he was terribly DRUNK.
Whatever the case, it was pretty sad to watch.
Now it's off to the Mucky Duck for some South Austin Jug Band. Who knows, a couple of glasses of wine and I may be ready for Kudlow and Cramer!
[Posted at 19:50 CST on 07/02/02] [Link]
Just Plain Weird
Several weeks ago, Drunk Dude ran into the privacy wall at the apartments across the street, destroying the silly thing.
It's been an eyesore ever since, just sitting there. But finally today, there's been some activity on the repair front.
Now, I'm no mason, but just speaking as a layman, I would think that to replace the wall, one might order a new load of bricks, or even cinder blocks. Or perhaps one would just erect a wooden privacy wall without much effort.
But you wouldn't think, (would you, kind readers?) that two guys would show up at sunup, on a hot, sunny, humid Houston day, with hammer and chisel, and proceed to knock the broken wall apart, brick by brick, stacking the bricks to be used again (eventually). I mean, yeah, recycling newspapers seems like a good idea. But demolished brick walls?!
That's exactly what's going on across the street today. It's nearly 5 pm, and these guys are STILL out there knocking bricks apart. One at a time.
PING PING PING PING
I am sick of that noise.
[Posted at 16:32 CST on 07/02/02] [Link]
Weird Gym Characters
I went to the gym late last night. I prefer to work out late at night, because the place is much less maddening after, say, 10pm, and the people who are there tend to be much more serious about their workouts (and less serious about using the gym as social club).
But there are some unusual characters in there late at night. For example, there are a handful of obviously gay guys who think it's really cool to wear skin tight clothing, including skin-tight shorts that are shorter than those things the Magic-Bird-Dr J-era NBA players used to wear! You can see most people averting their gaze, trying to avoid visual contact, but occasionally a glimpse comes through. Ugh!
You also get the folks who just can't do without their cell phones. They often wear those groovy headsets that plug into the phone, so they can talk with full range of motion. Never mind, of course, that if you are TALKING, you aren't concentrating on your workout, and it kind of defeats the purpose. These people are PLUGGED IN. VERY IMPORTANT. Or something.
So there was this woman last night on a machine across from me just chattering away. I paid no attention to her, because I just figured that she was wearing one of those cellphone headsets. But at some point, she made so much noise I couldn't ignore her, and I discovered she WASN'T wearing a headset. She was just talking to herself. And to anyone else who would listen. Loudly.
And what was she saying? She was OBSESSING over gym hygiene -- describing in detail how she covered her gym towel with an antibacterial spray, and that she wiped her machines before AND after she used them, because otherwise bacteria can spread. Over and over and over she said this. The first three times, it was kind of amusing. After that, it was time to crank up my MP3 player (which I usually don't use when I'm doing weight training).
Of course, she WAS right -- the gym is a very germy place. But some things are best left unsaid. And they are certainly best left unsaid hundreds of times, loudly, to nobody in particular.
[Posted at 16:20 CST on 07/02/02] [Link]
Den Beste has an excellent post on American constitutionalism and the International Criminal Court. He effectively lays out the case against United States support of the International Criminal Court: it would be a surrender of popular sovereignty entirely at odds with the American constititutional tradition.
Indirectly, the post raises the question of treaty law as fundamental law of the United States. Steven suggests that a provision of a treaty ratified and signed by the United States must always yield to the Constitution (i.e. a treaty can be unconstitutional), and indeed common practice of courts has largely been to avoid dealing with the issue as best as possible. I am fairly certain it is still the case that the Supreme Court has never invalidated a treaty on the grounds that it was unconstitutional (though maybe Reid v. Covert comes close?).
That question is open to some dispute even today. Ages ago, I wrote a paper on the topic for a graduate seminar at UH Law, but of course it was lost in an ancient hard drive crash (darn!). The controversy revolves around this clause of Article VI of the Constitution:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby; any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.Some scholars (and some loons in militia movements as well!) have argued that a treaty properly ratified and signed by the United States could, as Supreme Law of the Land, supersede parts of the Constitution in some instances. My own inclination is the same as Steven's, and for this reason: a Treaty violative of some aspect of the Constitution could not be made "under the Authority of the United States" constitutionally, since no authority is granted to amend the Constitution via treaty!
The case of Missouri v. Holland, however, gave some ammunition to those who argue that a treaty can trump (or redefine) constitutional provisions. The state of Missouri contended that a treaty signed with Canada (on migratory birds!) was unconstitutional, since it allowed the national government to intrude in an area (wildlife management) reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment. Justice Holmes (responsible for SO much of what is wrong with American constitutionalism today, despite his reputation) upheld the treaty, and here is some fascinating dicta:
Acts of Congress are the supreme law of the land only when made in pursuance of the Constitution, while treaties are declared to be so when made under the authority of the United States. It is open to question whether the authority of the United States means more than the formal acts prescribed to make the convention. We do not mean to imply that there are no qualifications to the treaty- making power; but they must be ascertained in a different way. It is obvious that there may be matters of the sharpest exigency for the national well being that an act of Congress could not deal with but that a treaty followed by such an act could, and it is not lightly to be assumed that, in matters requiring national action, 'a power which must belong to and somewhere reside in every civilized government' is not to be found.Holmes does seem to be suggesting a lesser standard for evaluating the constitutionality of treaties (essentially procedural) than for evaluating constitutionality of laws, and this dicta has always struck me as a bit scary.
The dicta also was enough to scare Senator Bricker in the 1950s into proposing a Constitutional amendment to constrain (or clarify, depending on your point of view) the treaty-making power, and it won surprisingly strong support. I think it fell one vote short on the Senate floor.
In Reid v. Covert, the Supreme Court backed away from the speculation in Missouri v. Holland:
There is nothing in this language which intimates that treaties and laws enacted pursuant to them do not have to comply with the provisions of the Constitution. Nor is there anything in the debates which accompanied the drafting and ratification of the Constitution which even suggests such a result. These debates as well as the history that surrounds the adoption of the treaty provision in Article VI make it clear that the reason treaties were not limited to those made in "pursuance" of the Constitution was so that agreements made by the United States under the Articles of Confederation, including the important peace treaties which concluded the Revolutionary War, would remain in effect. . . .That seemed largely to settle the debate, and in the right way. The language is kind of funny, though, because there are two ghosts of the Court that most justices will not touch: Marshall's and Holmes's. In this decision, the Court seems to go out of its way not to let on that they really are significantly restricting (essentially repudiating) the earlier Holmes dicta.
There is nothing in Missouri v. Holland . . . which is contrary to the position taken here
[Posted at 01:39 CST on 07/02/02] [Link]
I spent much of today (and part of the past weekend) working on research for the dissertation conclusion.
I haven't done much with the dissertation since I got the manuscript back from my chair in May with suggestions and comments. For one thing, I was kind of burned out on the thing. And for another, I needed some distance from the specifics of individual chapters in order to write the conclusion, which needs to take a broader look at the thesis and what it means. And finally, I needed a contiguous block of time to work on the thing, and to consider some really broad materials on American constitutionalism and American political thought (and Constitutional change).
So I'm taking several vacation days from work this week. Combined with the 4th (and 5th) holidays, that gives me a nice solid block of time to knock the conclusion out. And right around the 4th, which seems entirely appropriate.
Conclusions to longer papers have always been the toughest for me to write. It's really easy for me to immerse myself in a highly technical subject, do the research, and essentially "figure it out." In fact, most academics can do that -- it's one of the requirements of academia! It's the rarer intellectual who can place those narrow findings in some sort of historical or philosophical context. I'm not saying that I'm necessarily one of those who can, but that's what I'm trying to do. To do it well requires a great grasp of the discipline, and a good knowledge of the literature -- as well as the ability to think in a multidisciplinary manner. So for the next few days, I'll probably just be reading, taking some notes, and making trips to the library. I haven't even begun to think concretely about the chapter, although I have made mental notes (abstrations?) of a few matters that I must cover. This part is always the toughest for me, though. The actual writing of the chapter won't take any time at all once I finish this final contemplative phase.
[Posted at 00:25 CST on 07/02/02] [Link]