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31 August 2002

Ambassador Charles Lichenstein, RIP

Ambassador Charles Lichenstein passed away on Thursday. I haven't seen any note of his passing, save for this blurb on NewsMax:

Ambassador Charles Lichenstein, a man famed for once having invited the Soviet Union to leave the U.N. and the United States during the debate over the Soviets' downing of a Korean Passenger plane in 1983, died today in Washington during minor heart surgery.

In recent years, Lichenstein has been a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. During the Reagan administration, he served as Alternate U.S. Representative to the United Nations with Amb. Jean Kirkpatrick. He was also active in Republican party affairs for many years.

In an announcement of his death, the Heritage Foundation recalled his wonderful response to the Soviet Union U.N. delegation during the crisis caused by the Soviet military downing of the Korean jet over international air territory in 1983:

"If in the judicious determination of the members of the United Nations they feel they are not welcome and treated with the hostly consideration that is their due, the United States strongly encourages member states to seriously consider removing themselves and this organization from the soil of the United States," he said. "We will put no impediment in your way and we will be at the dockside bidding you a farewell as you set off into the sunset."

I met Ambassador Lichenstein some years ago in Springfield, MO, when he was a guest lecturer in a graduate seminar. He was quite a character, and not a young man even then. He had a raspy voice that suggested many years of smoking, and a hacking cough that suggested the same. But he was a stalwart for liberty, and a true patriot. I'm sorry to hear of his passing.

[Posted at 12:08 CST on 08/31/02] [Link]

30 August 2002

Boomer Sooner

The Sooners put it together in the second half, and beat Tulsa 37-0.

The defense had a great performance, but that was expected.

The offense still had a lot of the same problems that plagued it last year: too many dropped passes, several ill-advised throws, turnovers in the red zone.

However, Kevin Wilson's work with the offensive line showed, as the Sooners ran the ball better than they ever have under Bob Stoops. That's a definite positive, and the other things can be corrected. Whether they actually get corrected will determine if the Sooners are overrated.

Switching gears to the Texans (whose game was on at the same time): On a scary note, for some reason Dom Capers still had David Carr in the game in the second quarter, and his knee was injured. Thankfully, it's apparently just a bruise and they are not at all worried about ligament damage. I have no idea why he played past the first quarter, with 3 of the projected starting offensive linemen out with injuries. Dom Capers got lucky tonight.

[Posted at 22:35 CST on 08/30/02] [Link]

The Latest Bicoastal Elite Condescension?

I haven't been following the discussion on CBS's new reality series, The Beverly Hillbillies, but fellow Sooner fan Wylie has, and I think he's got it right.

[Posted at 17:53 CST on 08/30/02] [Link]

Why I like the BCS Rankings

As much criticism as the BCS computer rankings have generated, I can't help but think they are an improvement on polls created solely from the voting of either coaches or sportswriters, who regularly show that they don't know a lot about the teams they don't regularly play or write about.

Take this USA Today column, for example. The columnist writes the following about Texas and Oklahoma:

Texas and Oklahoma are challengers for No. 1. But they play each other and have tough schedules in and out of the Big 12.
At least the unnamed columnist got half of it right. The Big 12 is a solid football conference, with few easy games (Baylor may be the equivalent of Vandy in the SEC in football). But out of conference? Please. Texas plays North Texas, North Carolina, Houston, and Tulane. Not exactly a murderer's row. Oklahoma plays Tulsa, Alabama, UTEP, and South Florida. Not very scary.

Don't get me wrong -- I think the Big 12 is a tough enough conference that its powers shouldn't schedule too many tough games outside of conference play. One quality opponent (like Alabama or North Carolina) is plenty. But let's not talk about how tough the non-conference schedule is. It just reveals that the columnist really hasn't bothered to do much research.

And it makes the case to let the statistics geeks figure out how teams stack up against each other purely by the numbers.

[Posted at 16:52 CST on 08/30/02] [Link]

Skip

I used to listen to Jim Rome fairly regularly, but I don't much anymore.

On my drive home today, I happened to catch his show on the local sports talk station, which was still on from my drive in.

Today, Skip Bayless is subbing for Rome. It's actually kind of interesting. Bayless is, in his own way, as controversial as Rome. I disagree with him on lots of sports matters, and always thought he was a little overrated as a columnist (and, for a time, a discussant on ESPN), but he is certainly not boring.

He's just predicted the Redskins will win the NFC East, which I don't think will happen this year, and he's also predicted the Cowboys will finish last (which I don't think will happen).

I think the Redskins are good to win 7, maybe 8, games this year. I think the Cowboys probably win 8-10 games this year, with the difference maker being their special teams. Last year, they weren't special at all, and cost the Cowboys a chance to win several games. This year, the Cowboys have upgraded every aspect of their team, but they are still young, and special teams are still questionable. I think they will determine whether the Cowboys make the playoffs.

At the end of the season, it will be fun to return to this entry, and see who's right: me, or the bigtime sportswriter subbing for Rome. :)

[Posted at 12:46 CST on 08/30/02] [Link]

Countdown

I had to get started a little early on the long weekend by taking a half day of vacation.

After all, the Sooners open the season in a little over six hours. Gotta be ready. :)

For that reason, the baseball settlement among millionaires and billionaires really doesn't mean much to me. I'm glad that the Astros, whose pitching has been nails lately, are going to get the opportunity to catch the Cards. But if the game is as ill as the owners say it is, I just don't see how transferring revenues to the poorer (and, often, poorly managed) teams is going to fix the problems. What mechanism is going to stop those teams from pocketing that revenue, saying screw the fans, and keeping their bargain payrolls? We'll see I guess.

Or some will see. The Sooners are underway in a few hours, after all.

[Posted at 12:37 CST on 08/30/02] [Link]

29 August 2002

The Potted Plant Needs An Editor

Thom Marshall's latest column is about the towing of cars during the Kmart parking lot fiasco. Compared to most of his work, it's not a bad column.

Aside from the penultimate paragraph:

Now, I would like to mention something in Bradford's defense. A couple of years ago when cops were criticized because so many confrontations with mentally ill people proved fatal, Bradford responded by starting a training program and ordering some nonlethal devices to use instead of bullets.
This is a strange paragraph to include, as it really has nothing to do with the rest of the column. I suppose if the Chron had any editors, they might have killed that paragraph.

For that matter, they might have killed the conclusion:

Maybe we should see how he responds to this crisis, and to the investigations of it, before we have him towed off the job.
There seems to be an institutional idiocy at the Chron that requires columnists to subject us to these sorts of pithy, punny sentences. They are painful to read, yet show up frequently in every section of the terrible newspaper.

[Posted at 23:18 CST on 08/29/02] [Link]

T-Roy Miller's Picking In The Pines

Have any of you Texans ever gone to T-Roy Miller's Pickin' In The Pines?

It sounds a lot like the Dilla Fest, although perhaps a bit more rustic. A couple of Texas favorites, Mary Cutrufello and Ray Wylie Hubbard, are playing this fall's incarnation of the event. I'm in desperate need of a camping trip, and a little Texas/Americana music doesn't sound bad either.

I love the rules that are posted:

Following is a complete set of rules for Pickin’ In The Pines:

Keep your dog on a leash.
Absolutely no glass containers please.
Obey all local, state and national laws.

The Lone Star state rocks. :)

[Posted at 22:34 CST on 08/29/02] [Link]

Fran Blinebury

Houston sports journalism is similar to Houston journalism more broadly: depressingly poor.

That said, you would think that the Chron's sportswriters would at least keep track of which teams are in major college football conferences, especially if you're gonna put out a college football preview.

You would think that if you aren't familiar with our Chron, that is.

Charles Kuffner catches Fran "I'm Not Drunk Ossifer!" Blinebury making a pretty big blunder in the Chron's college football preview section: Blinebury predicts BYU will win the WAC this year. The problem? As Kuffner points out, BYU hasn't been in the WAC since 1999.

Good one, Fran.

At least the Chron occasionally reprints Randy Galloway's Fort Worth Star-Telegram columns.

[Posted at 22:08 CST on 08/29/02] [Link]

Chief Bradford

I'm currently watching yesterday's City Council meeting on the public access channel. The meeting features testimony from HPD Chief Bradford, who is taking a well-deserved grilling from council. It doesn't seem to be available on the city website in streaming format, which is unfortunate.

In the meeting, Chief Bradford comes across as a guy without enough answers, which probably suggests he'll one day make a good candidate for mayor. The current mayor has set the precedent, after all. Then again, maybe not, depending on the outcome of the perjury inquiry.

Most of the council members have asked good questions, and there is surprisingly little grandstanding. I've been particularly impressed with the questions from Ada Edwards, Gabriel Vasquez, and Carroll Robinson, people well to the left of me on many issues (proof that municipal government doesn't always break along partisan lines).

The Boy Who Would Be Mayor, Michael Berry, hasn't had much to say, and his few comments have suggested that he needs to leave municipal government to grownups. I suspect voters will come to the same conclusion next year, whether he is running for mayor (ha!) or his current council seat.

[Posted at 21:50 CST on 08/29/02] [Link]

Serena

Serena's latest, skintight lycra, tennis gear

Serena, of course, wears some badass outfits while she's stomping her tennis competition into the ground. I think the latest one that she has debuted at the US Open is my favorite. Those Williams sisters have certainly made tennis altogether more interesting these days, with their play and their flash.

[Posted at 06:33 CST on 08/29/02] [Link]

28 August 2002

The View From James Coney Island

Today's Coverage Of The Raids:
KHOU TV
KPRC TV
KTRK TV
Chron

Earlier, I visited at some length (about 45 minutes) with Darrin Straughan, the Vice-President of James Coney Island (JCI) referenced in this earlier weblog entry. Mr. Straughan took exception to my comments about him and JCI in the earlier post, and asked for the opportunity to clarify some of the issues for me.

Mr. Straughan informs me that he similarly visited with the Chron and gave them all of the details, and that what was ultimately printed was a condensed and (because of the omissions) perhaps not entirely accurate reflection on him and James Coney Island.

According to Straughan, there have been two ongoing issues on Westheimer that have been generating complaints from the neighborhood for some time: illegal drag-racing by drivers in souped-up cars, and hot-rodding and dangerous/illegal "trick riding" by bikers on high-performance motorcycles (a group of which has made James Coney Island a regular gathering place). Apparently, HPD has put together a fair amount of documentary footage on these activities and trouble spots.

At some point, HPD began approaching some of the area businesses about the problems, including the James Coney Island location on Westheimer. HPD characterized some of the activities as dangerous, and asked for cooperation, including the signing of a trespass affidavit. After giving the matter some thought and considering the potential liability of James Coney Island not to mention the implications of not signing, Straughan says he made the decision to sign the affidavit.

Straughan emphasized repeatedly that his general understanding of trespass affidavits is that police officers will ascertain if people are patrons in the normal course of business, and that if it is determined they are not, they can be asked to leave the premises. If a person refuses to leave, then at that point he can be cited or arrested.

Straughan tells me that he was not briefed on the particulars of any planned raids, or the timing. Nonetheless, he says he instructed his staff at that store to begin educating the bikers about the trespass affidavit after he signed it, and the weekend before the raid patrons were informed about the trespass affidavit and that to be considered "patrons in the normal course of business," they should be sure to have a timely receipt from the store.

The following weekend, as local media have documented, some 25 people were arrested by HPD at the site. Contrary to some reports, Straughan claims that no patrons were arrested inside the store, and that he has video to back up that claim. Further, he says his staff estimates that there were at least 100 people total gathered at the store that night. He stresses that he is among many who want answers as to exactly why those 25 people were arrested -- but he also points out that it is entirely possible that those persons were asked to leave, and did not, therefore leading to arrests. At this point, he says, it's just unclear, and he says he is as eager as anyone to know exactly what happened.

I asked Straughan that if he knew that 25 possible patrons could potentially be arrested, would he sign another trespass affidavit. He said absolutely not. Furthermore, he says that he has rescinded the earlier trespass affidavit, and that he is using a couple of off-duty officers on the weekends to ensure crowd control.

Mr. Straughan was very gracious and friendly during our visit, and even jokingly referred to a number of my earlier, admittedly bombastic comments. And I conceded to him that those comments went a little overboard. I apologize for that, and this is my effort to set the record straight. In this day when everyone claims to be a victim, I still don't like the quote that JCI was the "victim" in this (that's a sensitive subject for me), but I think it's clear that Mr. Straughan is upset about what transpired at the store that night and, like many of us, wants some answers from HPD.

Mr. Straughan says he's answered countless emails and phone calls from concerned people, and I appreciate his taking the time to visit with me. He's also posted a number of comments to a message board frequented by the JCI SportBikes group, which I'm reproducing below (because their message boards are difficult to use and require registration) along with some biker comments. These are not the threads in their entirety, but an edited selection; there are also some much more belligerent posts from some bikers on the boards, which I have not reproduced.

***

Offical Response From James Coney Island
darrin - 22 Aug - 03:04:30 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is Darrin Straughan, Vice President and Part Owner, of JCI. First of all, we are very sorry for what the police did to our customers Friday August 16th. We did NOT know that is was going to go down like that.

It has been a nice run for the Sport Bikers to hang out at JCI. What has happen is that the citizens surrounding the area have complained so much that the city decided to do something about it. This is not just about you guys. It is about the whole Westheimer strip. You all are aware of the other groups that gather on Westheimer. We at JCI just want a peaceful and safe enviroment for our customers to enjoy. I did not know about the deaths that have happened in front of JCI and saw videos of the trick riders. And it is scary! You know this. Yes, a few have probably ruined this for the whole. I am getting complaints about the noise. They are our customers too. I have read this forum's threads and some of you did not want this image. We just want to sell hot dogs and be nice. Thats what we do. We do not want to be an activist or caught in some political nightmare. All customers are welcome. We don't care what their mode of transportation is. Car, bike, bus or walk; all are welcome as customers. Ride your bike to JCI. Get something to eat. Visit for a little while, but you cannot hang out there anymore. Sorry. Last Friday night the police were suppose to ask if you were a customer and if not you would need to leave. Has some of you will remember, the previous weekend our District Manager for that store told over 200 bikers that this was going down. We tried to protect you. Give you advance notice not to come. Or if you were to come that you have to purchase something and not hang out. i.e. What our normal course of business customer does. We had no idea that they were going to arrest customers. We have a real problem with them over this. We would never have agreed to this. Darrin

***

RE: Great Attitude
nimrod - 23 Aug - 05:42:58 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Darrin - Some of us would like to just tell you that we tried to talk to some of these kids ( punks). I am in my forties and have enjoyed riding and bikes since the age of 9. That kid's statement [in an unreproduced post -- klw] by no way reflects the majority that have visited your place of business. I am very sorry for you guys and the problems that it has caused your company and how it all turned out this way. The older riders knew it was going to come to head sooner or later. There are a few like the punk that posted above that have ruined a nice outing for many in this city because of their wreckless behavior on city streets and most of all their stupid attitude. He will surely die at one point on his bike as I have watched many like him in the last two years lose their lives on the City of Houston streets pulling stupid stunts and breaking every traffic law known to mankind. I don't agree with the arrest- A trespass charge ? That was cheap shot by HPD to address a problem far from that. I believe HPD should have busted the punks like this one and left the law abiding people alone. All HPD had to do was ask a few. They never did that. Many of us have even talked to HPD about it as they sat in their car and watched them do it in front of your store not even attempting to pull a one over.

HPD violated the rights of many. Stunts and Wheelies, Speeding is enough to be arrested on and your bike impunded. Nazi tactics and false charges won't fly with youth or even myself. You have every right to protect your store and other customers. I am truley sorry that it all went down this way - Native Houstonian

***

Unwelcome
popawalker - 25 Aug - 07:42:44 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Just a question for Darrin.Are we now unwelcome as some seem to think?
Last night before I left at 1215 there were about 25-30 and most had gone inside to purchase products.Most then hung out outside along the sidewalk and porch in front.I don't know if anything happened after 1215,but it was peaceful up to then,even with 2 constables in the parking lot.

***

RE: Unwelcome
darrin - 26 Aug - 10:49:56 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We are not going to question our customers on their mode of transportation to the restaurant. But, you do have to be a customer in our normal course of business. This means come to the restaurant and purchase something. We can't have anymore just hanging out. Eat and stay a little while but then you will have to move on. Just like all our customers do. Everyone is welcome to do that. Thanks.

***

[Posted at 21:51 CST on 08/28/02] [Link]

Happy Birthday

I just spoke to my dad, who seemed to enjoy his birthday today.

Here's a link to something I wrote about him a couple of birthdays ago.

[Posted at 21:28 CST on 08/28/02] [Link]

Mayor Pothole Is (Characteristically) Confused

The Chron is upset with the way Mayor Pothole has handled the Aguirre/Kmart/JCI/Sonic controversy, and justifiably so:

Last week, Mayor Lee Brown said his Office of Inspector General was investigating the mishandled Aug. 18 police raid that netted 278 arrests, including alleged shoppers and fast food patrons, at a westside Kmart parking lot and nearby Sonic Drive-In. This week, the mayor's director of communications said Brown's assertion was the result of a "miscommunication" between the chief of police and the city attorney, and that the OIG is not, in fact investigating the raid.

Say what? The OIG was created by Brown himself in 1998 to investigate allegations of employee misconduct, both criminal and administrative. There certainly is no one to stop the mayor from calling on the office to look into the matter. At the least, he should know whether he had sought such an inquiry. So the idea that he might be confused on this point is troubling.

Mayor Pothole's administration IS troubling, but why should this come as such a surprise? Mayor Pothole has made a career of managerial ineptitude and inadequate responses to events (New Yorkers remember Crown Heights, I'm sure, even if most Houstonians are clueless about it).

Oh, I forgot. The Chron used to fawn over Mayor Pothole. Here's what they wrote less than a year ago:

An impressive educational background as well as stints as Houston's police chief, Atlanta's chief of police, the police commissioner of New York City, the federal drug "czar" in the Clinton administration and the last four years as mayor of Houston stand prominently on Brown's resume.

All of which brings up another point. No one in the race can match Brown's record on public safety, particularly his relationship with law enforcement in this community.

In these troubled and uncertain times, we believe, that is no small consideration.

Indeed.

[Posted at 00:06 CST on 08/28/02] [Link]

27 August 2002

No Olympics

I'm neither surprised nor disappointed that Houston didn't make the latest cut in the selection of the U.S. bid city for the 2012 Olympics.

I don't really have anything to add to Ginger Stampley's comments on the matter.

(Update) I do have something to add to Fran Blinebury's comments, however, and that would be that sportswriters who (allegedly) get drunk off their asses, go cruising, and smash into a police car with flashing lights probably shouldn't be lecturing Ken Lay or others on their "image" problems.

[Posted at 22:38 CST on 08/27/02] [Link]

26 August 2002

Thinking About Constitutional Change

After I finished the drafts of the dissertation and distributed them to my committee a week or so ago, I discovered a relevant book by Barry Cushman, Rethinking The New Deal Court: The Structure Of A Constitutional Revolution, that I had somehow missed during my early research.

I skimmed a fair amount of it at the gym tonight, and it's just outstanding. In fact, I'm going to have to incorporate parts of it in my introduction and conclusion for the defense (assuming I can actually assemble a committee at some point in the future).

Cushman's premises track beautifully with my own: Namely, that legal scholars tend to write about constitutional law in terms of narrow legal doctrines, and political scientists and historians tend to write about constitutional law in terms of the Supreme Court's reaction to and dependence upon politics or other social forces. Cushman looks at the constitutional revolution of 1937 (the focus of my dissertation, though in a much more narrow sense) and tries to fit that into its broader intellectual context (which is also what I do, although my focus is more specifically on developments in American political thought at the time). Cushman is not a political theorist, but his approach is not dissimilar to that of a political theorist. Further, he makes an excellent case (in the introduction) as to why he approaches his subject matter in the manner he does -- in some ways, a better case than I make (hence my need to bring this work into the introduction and conclusion).

[Posted at 23:40 CST on 08/26/02] [Link]

The Aguirre Mess

Here is today's coverage of the Mark Aguirre/Kmart/Sonic/JCI fiasco:

This entry has background on the fiasco, for those who are late to the party.

The sad thing is, public outrage over this botched bit of police work probably isn't enough to get HPD's attention, but turning the lawyers loose may just do the trick!

And what about the silence of Mayor Pothole, the man who emphasized his long career in public safety and Orlando Sanchez's lack of same in the last campaign? Surely he could take time out from his busy workday of seeking out bandit signs and ramming motorists with his Town Car to give the public something more than "I'll leave that to HPD."

(Update) In typical fashion, Mayor Pothole has managed to confuse the issue even further by further opening his mouth. I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

[Posted at 21:35 CST on 08/26/02] [Link]

Black Monday

I usually don't mind Mondays.

It's kind of nice to get back to the world of political risk analysis after weekends usually spent on other things.

And this Monday started off pretty well.

Until my boss (who has taught an evening class at UH for years) got to work and checked his email.

It turns out that my dissertation director had a stroke last week, and this is the first that either of us had heard about it.

The news knocked the breath out of me. He just emailed me a little over a week ago to distribute final drafts to my other committee members, meaning the defense was imminent. Suddenly all of that became much less important.

I managed to get info from a few people in the department that he's doing reasonably well, but still in ICU and not receiving non-family visitors just yet.

I haven't been able to get it out of my mind all day, but I'm going to distract myself with a bit of blogging I think. And a trip to the gym, with emphasis on cardio. *shrug*

For those of you who know the man, would you please send some happy thoughts, prayers, good wishes -- whatever -- his way? Thanks.

[Posted at 21:15 CST on 08/26/02] [Link]

25 August 2002

Scapegoat

The Chron reports that Captain Mark Aguirre's attorney claims the captain is being made the scapegoat in the Kmart/Sonic/JCI fiasco.

This isn't really all that interesting or new, and I think it's time to give this topic a rest for a while. HPD says the investigation will take months for some reason, which will give them time to try to talk Aguirre into resigning/retiring. Otherwise, there's always the danger of the police chief (seemingly) perjuring himself. Fun fun.

For those just stumbling on to the topic, this post has links back to previous entries as well as to other bloggers who have followed this bizarre story.

[Posted at 23:49 CST on 08/25/02] [Link]

Objectivism and Empathy

A few days ago, I posted the following comment in an entry about an example of human kindness:

But sometimes, it's really not a conspiracy to slow us down and inconvenience us. Sometimes, people who mean no harm just don't function as well as they once did, and make little mistakes. And ya know what? Whatever Ayn Rand might have thought about it (and I say this as an objectivist, though not necessarily an ARI-approved one), it really IS okay to show a little compassion, to track down their shopping cart, and switch with them, and convince them no harm was done -- really.

Even if it costs you a little time.

My friend Sean emailed, and asked me to explain that comment. More specifically, he asks why I think Ayn Rand would disapprove of compassion, and what made me single out Ayn Rand (of the whole universe of people who might exemplify lack of compassion).

My answer is: I don't know if Ayn Rand would disapprove of compassion, because she wrote so little about it! I don't mean that as flippantly as it may sound. With the comment "Whatever Ayn Rand might have thought about it," I quite literally meant to suggest that I don't know what Rand would have thought about Callie's experience -- and then followed that with what I thought about it.

Ayn Rand literally filled reams of paper with arguments why a person is not morally compelled to sacrifice one's self in the service of others. That's one of her most important contributions. But what about those actions that come at some cost to one's self (i.e. time and trouble), but give pleasure even though they only directly benefit others? I don't recall Rand ever addressing that situation in a context similar to the one described in my earlier entry.

With that entry, I think I was getting more at the place of empathy in a moral framework than the place of compassion per se, even though I used the term compassion. Rand didn't say all that much on the place of empathy, whether it was because she didn't place much value on the topic philosophically, or because it didn't fit her carefully constructed system (scroll down to Jaffo's "Parting Thoughts" in this old journal entry for an elaboration). Like Jaffo, I do place some value on it, and I always liked his formulation. And I do think that one of the perils of Objectivism is that many of its new adherents tend to deny the (emotional) value of such transactions.

As to the question, why did I single out Ayn Rand? Because she's of interest to me, as someone who thinks quite a lot of her philosophy (if not the ideology of Objectivism advanced by some). And I know a fair number of post-Objectivists, quasi-Objectivists, and maybe even an occasional plain old Objectivist (something Hanah called me a while back *laugh*) who visit the site. It's almost an esoteric way of fostering interaction with those (you) folks who care. And it worked!

[Posted at 23:11 CST on 08/25/02] [Link]

Mr. Football And Chrissy

Bigtime Comedy at UT
Mr. Football and Mr. Heisman (ha ha!)

I had quite a start today as I was reading the NY Times online. After clicking into the international section, I had the nagging thought that I had just seen a photo of Mack "Mr. Football" Brown and Chris "My Daddy Won a Super Bowl" Simms on the front page. So I clicked back.

And sure enough, there they are, being picked by the NY Times to lead the Longhorns to a college football National Championship. I had a good laugh, as I started to read the article. I had an even better laugh when I got to this part:

Between bites of a hamburger and a slice of pizza, sips from a Coke and a milk shake, he can quote the knocks against his ability, something he was reminded of just an hour earlier while reading an unnamed coach's scouting report in a national magazine.

"I panic," he said, reciting a familiar chorus with an amused smile. "I telegraph where I'm throwing the ball. I'm the reason we won't win it all."

It obviously does not affect his appetite or make him shrink from autograph seekers at the restaurant. Simms even has a pretty good idea of the scouting report's source, though he would rather not identify him until after the Longhorns' Oct. 12 showdown with Oklahoma, their conference rival.

Mike Stoops, maybe? Brent Venables perhaps? Even Bob Stoops himself? Or was it Roy Williams?! Come on, Chrissy -- tell us what you think! Don't pull this Biggio/Bagwell routine of saying "I'm not gonna bring it up" and then doing just that. How lame. Just like getting benched through your career in favor of Major Applewhite, probably the only UT Longhorn I've ever liked (except when he was playing Oklahoma).

The NY Times proves with this piece that their editorial judgment in sports is just as suspect as it is in economics, politics, and world affairs. LAST year was UT's year to win it -- they had a similar group of talent, ranked #1 in the country when it was recruited, and a much more favorable schedule (no Nebraska, no K-State). But they still had Oklahoma on the schedule, just like this year. OOPS. And I wouldn't count on Oklahoma giving a game away to Oklahoma State to let Texas win the Big 12 South this time. That was a fluke. And Mack will find a way to lose a game he should probably win. That's his history.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, is the preseason pick of Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and ESPN Mag. These things don't mean all that much, granted. But at least in Bob Stoops case, he HAS managed to win it all. Mack Brown's track record suggests he won't.

Both the NY Times and Texas Monthly ought to leave college football to others.

(Update) Robyn reminds me of Chrissy's stunt last year, which I had entirely forgotten. After costing his team the game in the Big 12 Championship (which Texas backed into because Oklahoma blew their game against Oklahoma State), Chrissy Simms wouldn't face his teammates on the bus, but instead rode back from the game with his daddy:

The crushing defeat was bad enough. Simms then decided to ride back to the hotel with his father Phil instead of taking the team bus. But to get to the car, Simms had to walk a parking-lot gantlet of insults from invective fans. One enterprising television cameraman followed the pair to the car like it was O.J. and Johnny Cochran heading out of the courtroom.

When Phil suggested that enough was enough, even the cameraman laid into Chris.

"It was miserable, really, for me," Simms said. "I was heartbroken. Never before in my life was I hurt more by one game."

So instead of facing the pain with his teammates, who were also hurting (in no small part because of his disastrous performance), Chrissy runs crying to daddy.

Is that really the kind of guy you go to war with, who leads you to the National Championship? I don't think so.

[Posted at 13:49 CST on 08/25/02] [Link]

24 August 2002

Aguirre Suspended

Related Entries:
How Convenient (08-20-02)
Thom Watch (08-21-02)
Aguirre Is Toast (08-22-02)
Sonic/Kmart Raid Update (08-23-02)
Kmart/Sonic/JCI Raid Saga (08-24-02)

The Chron reports that controversial HPD Captain Mark Aguirre was suspended Saturday, pending the completion of its internal investigation of the Kmart/Sonic/JCI raids.

No doubt, Chief Bradford and the HPD command would love to fire Aguirre. But there is the problem of that memo from Aguirre to Bradford allegedly outlining the raid plans. The spinning has already started regarding that memo:

But [Houston Police Officers Union President Hans] Marticiuc said the memo to the police chief three months ago was not an accurate portrayal of the plan actually executed during last weekend's operation.

"From my perspective, it sounds like there was one plan in place, and somewhere along the line, someone put another plan in place. The whole memo dealt with racing and dealing with the racing problems. If no one was racing, I'm not sure what authority anyone had to change the plan and go into the criminal trespass mode," Marticiuc said.

"At what point was that decision made? Was it made prior to going out there, or was it made the night they got out there and found no drag racing going on? Was it made independently, or was it made with approval from higher authority?" he said.

"It's a shame you got a bunch of good officers out there following what they believe to be lawful orders, and now there's this big question mark. Now their careers and maybe more are on the line while department administrators point fingers at each other. We would just like for there to be a full, complete investigation," Marticiuc said.

Yeah, THAT is what's a shame! Not the fact that HPD goons arrested a bunch of innocents for no damn good reason! Spinning the internal divisions within HPD is much more important than THAT!

It is probably worth noting (since the Chron doesn't bother) that Marticiuc is not exactly a fan of Aguirre, which stems from Marticiuc's strong opposition to Aguirre's Operation Renaissance policies.

In any case, it is very interesting that Chief Bradford didn't speak directly about that memo. Maybe he learned his lesson in his last attempt to discipline Aguirre, when the Chief's punishment was not upheld, and the Chief possibly perjured himself.

And how about S.K. Bardwell's article, "Suspended captain no stranger to controversy," which is also part of today's Chron coverage? Wasn't it nice of the Houston Press's Rich Connelly to provide so much useful background in this excellent profile he published in June? It would have been even nicer for Bardwell to give just a little credit to one of the better writers in this city.

Bardwell does use some interesting quotes from Boy-Blunder Michael Berry:

"He took policing outside the box," says City Councilman Michael Berry. "He began to look at the root causes of crime, the corollaries to crime, situations that incubate crime.

"Then he decided, `I'm not going to blame another city department for things that are not my job, I'm going to do something,' " Berry said of Aguirre.

Boy-Blunder was an observer-participant in one of Aguirre's recent raids, and seems to be a fan.

(Update) This is a trivial-anal sort of thing (perfect for a blog!), but I just noticed that Miss Bardwell refers to the raid as "Operation Eraser" whereas Channel 11 calls it "Operation E-racer."

(08-25-02 Update) The Comedian (sprinkled throughout), Ginger Stampley, and Charles Kuffner all have updates on this topic. Kuffner has some especially interesting thoughts on broken-windows versus zero-tolerance policing.

[Posted at 23:50 CST on 08/24/02] [Link]

Texans' Debut At Reliant

I watched the Texans' first (preseason) game in Reliant Stadium on television tonight.

There were not many highlights, as the Texans looked about like an expansion team should look against a seasoned playoff-caliber team. It was pretty ugly, right down to the opening festivities:

The Texans (1-3) didn't have too many bright moments in their debut in their $449 million retractable-roof stadium, including the pregame introductions before 69,432. It was the largest crowd ever to see a football game in Houston.

Six flag bearers ran onto the field with flags containing one letter, supposedly spelling out "Texans." But they erred, spelling it T-X-E-A-N-S.

A number of notes on the football side of things:

1) David Carr's experience may be very much like the last quarterback to play NFL football in Texas after being drafted #1. As was the case in Troy Aikman's first season with Dallas, they better have the ambulance ready to go every game, because

2) The offensive line is terrible, and the right side was especially terrible tonight. This was to be expected with two projected starters out, and injuries are certainly beyond the control of management. EXCEPT for the fact that management drafted Tony Boselli first in the expansion draft, he ties up a huge amount of salary cap space, and it's possible that he may never play again, let alone this year. The Boselli pick is probably the only bad move Texans' management has made, but it may help get David Carr killed this season.

3) The receivers need to quit dropping perfectly thrown passes. They've dropped passes all preseason, and tonight was no exception.

4) The special teams are not very special.

5) The defense missed a lot of tackles.

6) The team committed a lot of stupid penalties.

I don't think Dom Capers will be getting much sleep tonight.

[Posted at 22:57 CST on 08/24/02] [Link]

Oswalt Suspended

Major League Baseball has announced that Astros ace pitcher Roy Oswalt will be suspended five games for hitting a Cubs player in a game. Since the dreadful Chron doesn't bother to give much background on that game, here's a flashback.

There's no doubt in my mind that Oswalt was retaliating intentionally, although he made it look good enough that I don't think he should be suspended.

What is most annoying about the suspension decision is that no punishment was handed out to Kerry Wood, who really started it all by nearly hitting Bagwell, and then intentionally hitting Julio Lugo and breaking his forearm (he looks right at Lugo squaring around, and then fires RIGHT AT HIM TWO FEET OFF THE PLATE. This was no pitch that "got away"). I wonder if the same goons running Airport Security are in charge of MLB punishments these days? Punish the good guys and ignore the bad guys, because of some f*cked up notion of "the rules."

[Posted at 12:27 CST on 08/24/02] [Link]

Kmart/Sonic/JCI Raid Saga


Councilman Berry, Boy-Blunder

Related Entries:
How Convenient (08-20-02)
Thom Watch (08-21-02)
Aguirre Is Toast (08-22-02)
Sonic/Kmart Raid Update (08-23-02)

Last night, Channel 11 broke some interesting news in the ongoing Kmart/Sonic/JCI police raid saga. According to an internal memo obtained by Channel 11 news, Police Chief Clarence Bradford was briefed months ago (requires registration) about Aguirre's plans to conduct the raids. Even better, unlike the dreadful Chron, Channel 11 actually talked to Captain Aguirre:

Who was in charge? It turned out to be HPD Captain Mark Aguirre. He told 11 news that he was surprised the chief had so many questions about the raid. "It was my understanding that Chief Bradford was in the loop," said Aguirre. "I assume that. Nothing of this magnitude would escape his attention."

Friday night 11 News obtained an interoffice correspondence, which appears to back Captain Aguirre's beliefs. The memo is the plan for last weekend's raid. It was sent to Chief Bradford on May 13, months ago.

In the correspondence Captain Aguirre explains to the chief the proposed solution for the problems in that area and why issuing tickets would not work.

Aguirre says, "Simply issuing citations has had little or no impact. By arresting individuals observed violating local, state or federal laws and towing violators' vehicles, law enforcement will have more of an influence over the individuals' future behavior."

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not defending Aguirre in this one, and he deserves whatever punishment is dealt out to him. There was NO good rationale for the way these raids were handled. But Aguirre is a convenient scapegoat for the Police Chief and HPD Command, who really don't like Aguirre. Since they apparently knew about this raid and approved, it's going to be harder for them to fire him over it (which I think they would LOVE to do).

It's kind of funny, actually, that Chief Bradford, as much as he would love to get rid of Aguirre, can't pull it off. What does it say about Bradford's intelligence that he keeps getting outsmarted by an overzealous hotheaded captain? Hell, I would say at this rate, Chief Bradford is probably mayoral material! After all, if Lee Brown can bumble his way into being mayor, why not Bradford?

And on the topic of current and potential mayors, another interesting bit of news about the raids has emerged. The Chron, which still has not managed to obtain a quote from Captain Aguirre or any of his supporters (motto: "We're the Chron! Who needs balance?!"), has reported that The Boy Who Would Be Mayor (tm), Councilman Michael Berry, ACTUALLY WAS AN OBSERVER-PARTICIPANT IN THE JAMES CONEY ISLAND RAID, and knew about the planned K-Mart raid! Here is what the potential Boy-Mayor, who had been uncharacteristically QUIET for several days, had to say when pressed:

Asked if he should have encouraged Aguirre or other police officials to be less aggressive in the second raid, Berry said, "Sure, it's easy to say `Yes,' and that's the proper thing to do.

"But looking at what I knew and when I knew it, I was trying to understand police techniques," Berry said Friday. "I didn't know that's not what is done every time. I just didn't know that.

"Most of what the police do is outside the view of the public, and I was trying to get an idea on that because if I'm ever put in a position as mayor to make the decision on whether to fire the guy who called the command, I would like to have some level of experience to draw on."

Berry, an at-large council member, has announced as a candidate for mayor in 2003, when Brown is prohibited by term limits from seeking re-election.

Asked whether he would discipline Aguirre or others in the Houston Police Department if he were mayor now, Berry responded, "It's an HPD question. They know the rules.

"The media and talk shows and politicians need to stop grandstanding, and we should let HPD do their investigations," he said.

Grandstanding?! That's what Boy-Blunder thinks about media coverage of an ill-advised raid in which he participated?! Could someone please explain to me how this child was elected to City Council? (yeah yeah, that post I linked above said he seemed sensible in the past. I hereby retract that assessment).

On policy matters, I don't often agree with Councilmembers Parker and Vasquez, but I can't object to these comments (from the Chron article):

"I'm shocked to learn he was at the (Aug. 17) raid and that he didn't realize how inappropriate some of the actions of the police were and not say something about it," Councilwoman Annise Parker said.

"It's not uncommon for council members to take part in such city operations. But when something bad happens, we have to show leadership."

Councilman Gabriel Vasquez agreed, saying that if Berry was there, "he should have come forward and tried to stop it."

The Boy-Blunder had absolutely zero chance of becoming mayor before this, which is actually too bad. I think it would be great fun to see him try to explain his involvement in these raids in a mayoral debate, instead of being a non-entity in the same.

This would be a real laugher if not for the fact that a lot of innocent people now have criminal records and unwarranted tow charges to deal with.

(Update) Charles Kuffner writes about the latest, and reproduces an earlier comment from one of his readers.

[Posted at 11:11 CST on 08/24/02] [Link]

23 August 2002

Marnie Rose

Marnie Rose, MD (1974-2002)

[Posted at 20:49 CST on 08/23/02] [Link]

22 August 2002

Sonic/Kmart Raid Update

Related Entries:
How Convenient (08-20-02)
Thom Watch (08-21-02)
Aguirre Is Toast (08-22-02)

The latest in the Sonic/Kmart parking lot raid saga is that Sonic officials did not ask for or authorize the HPD goons to arrest their customers (unlike the weenie management at James Coney Island).

The Chron, of course, cannot resist once again identifying who led the raid:

Torres and the hundreds of others in a parking lot shared by the Sonic and a 24-hour Kmart Super Center were the targets of a police raid, led by Capt. Mark Aguirre, to curb illegal drag racing.
And once again, there is not one word devoted to explaining Aguirre's side of the story. Not that I'm defending Aguirre, but wouldn't it be fairly standard journalistic practice for serious news outlets at least to report his side of the story? Then again, I suppose there is no reason to expect balance (or other standard journalistic practices) from the newspaper that is still defending the (alleged) Enron criminals.

Anyway.... Kudos to the Sonic management and employees, who refused to allow police to have their customers' cars towed:

Sonic officials said Thursday that they never complained to police about the regular weekend crowd, had no warning of the raid and ordered employees to protect customers as the operation began.

Dismayed Sonic employees refused to allow police to tow 12 cars that the arrested customers were forced to leave in the lot.

"We wanted the opportunity for our customers to come get their cars without paying towing charges," said Celina Abernathy, a Sonic spokeswoman. Such charges can exceed $100. "Obviously we don't want our customers arrested. That is just common sense."

That's awesome! Awesome enough that I forgive them for taking Pickle-Os off the damn menu. And much better than the jackass manager at JCI, who claimed to be "a victim" after he signed a police complaint form, and police arrested his customers!

(08-23-02 Update) It looks like HPD's goons may have posted the No Trespassing signs (at taxpayer's expense, of course) they used as justification to arrest hundreds of people for no good reason. Excerpt:

Police supervisors, from sergeants up to an assistant chief, have received notices that they're under internal investigation, possibly facing a reprimand or suspension.

Also, the first grand jury subpoenas have gone out.

Meantime, the Harris County District Attorney's office has formally requested from HPD a full accounting of any city funds used to buy the "No Trespassing" signs.

Police usually only enforce signs that business owners put up.

Uh oh! I think more people than Mark Aguirre are going down for this one. Not that one would know it from reading the dreadful Chron. Here's the video coverage from KPRC-2. How sad is it that coverage from the lovely Dominique Sachse (and The Investigators!) trumps coverages from what claims to be a major metro daily newspaper? Very sad, actually.

[Posted at 23:15 CST on 08/22/02] [Link]

Aguirre Is Toast

The Chron is running a story today that is related to that bizarre weekend K-Mart parking lot raid. Apparently, Mark Aguirre oversaw a similar (but much smaller) bust at the Galleria-area James Coney Island on Saturday. The story is 100% critical of Aguirre, and neither Aguirre nor any supporters are given any column space to balance the story.

I think another Aguirre-led raid or two like this will probably surface in the next few days, and that Aguirre is toast. There should have been safeguards within the HPD command to ensure that shoddy, costly policework like this could not just be ramrodded by one man, and if there were, those safeguards failed miserably. I still suspect that Aguirre's enemies within the HPD command -- the entire top brass, really -- were more than happy to give Aguirre plenty of rope to hang himself, and that he will soon be fired or demoted (effectively fired). For a long time, Aguirre "got over" on the powers that be within the city because his policework pleased his constituents; that's no longer the case, and Captain Aguirre is about to hang (deservedly so, as far as I can tell).

And what about the jackass at James Coney Island who gave permission to Captain Aguirre to carry out the raids on his property?! This is lame:

"We were cooperative with the idea (of the raid), but are not necessarily happy with the execution," said Darrin Straughan, a vice president with the restaurant chain. "We are victims here, too. We never imagined that this is the way it would be handled or that legitimate customers would be arrested."

Straughan said Aguirre approached the company two weeks ago and told restaurant officials that illegal drag racing along Westheimer had caused several fatal accidents and prompted neighborhood complaints. Aguirre asked the company to post four no-trespassing signs in the parking lot and to sign paperwork allowing police to make the arrests on the restaurant's property.

Company officials went along with Aguirre's plan, Straughan said, thinking their actions would be part of a subdued enforcement of city trespassing ordinances.

No, Mr. Straughan, you are NOT a victim. Pardon the pun, but your PR comments here make you sound like a first-class weenie! Your signed complaint indirectly led to those arrests, with the help of a (possibly) renegade cop! You should pull your head out and THINK before signing anything. Personally, I think I'll be avoiding your (overpriced) hot dog stands, since I just can't be sure there isn't the potential to be arrested if I'm too slow leaving your parking lot.

(Update) Charles Kuffner, Ginger Stampley, and Larry Simon are all over Captain Aguirre's quest to take back the streets from Sonic and JCI hotdog lovers. That's a lot of Houston blogfirepower.

(08-28-02 Update) I've just spoken with Darrin Straughan, and I think I was overly harsh (understatement) with my comments above. Elaboration to follow shortly.

(08-28-02 Update 2) Earlier, I visited at some length (about 45 minutes) with Darrin Straughan, the Vice-President of James Coney Island (JCI) referenced in this earlier weblog entry. Mr. Straughan took exception to my comments about him and JCI in the earlier post, and asked for the opportunity to clarify some of the issues for me.

Mr. Straughan informs me that he similarly visited with the Chron and gave them all of the details, and that what was ultimately printed was a condensed and (because of the omissions) perhaps not entirely accurate reflection on him and James Coney Island.

According to Straughan, there have been two ongoing issues on Westheimer that have been generating complaints from the neighborhood for some time: illegal drag-racing by drivers in souped-up cars, and hot-rodding and dangerous/illegal "trick riding" by bikers on high-performance motorcycles (a group of which has made James Coney Island a regular gathering place). Apparently, HPD has put together a fair amount of documentary footage on these activities and trouble spots.

At some point, HPD began approaching some of the area businesses about the problems, including the James Coney Island location on Westheimer. HPD characterized some of the activities as dangerous, and asked for cooperation, including the signing of a trespass affidavit. After giving the matter some thought and considering the potential liability of James Coney Island not to mention the implications of not signing, Straughan says he made the decision to sign the affidavit.

Straughan emphasized repeatedly that his general understanding of trespass affidavits is that police officers will ascertain if people are patrons in the normal course of business, and that if it is determined they are not, they can be asked to leave the premises. If a person refuses to leave, then at that point he can be cited or arrested.

Straughan tells me that he was not briefed on the particulars of any planned raids, or the timing. Nonetheless, he says he instructed his staff at that store to begin educating the bikers about the trespass affidavit after he signed it, and the weekend before the raid patrons were informed about the trespass affidavit and that to be considered "patrons in the normal course of business," they should be sure to have a timely receipt from the store.

The following weekend, as local media have documented, some 25 people were arrested by HPD at the site. Contrary to some reports, Straughan claims that no patrons were arrested inside the store, and that he has video to back up that claim. Further, he says his staff estimates that there were at least 100 people total gathered at the store that night. He stresses that he is among many who want answers as to exactly why those 25 people were arrested -- but he also points out that it is entirely possible that those persons were asked to leave, and did not, therefore leading to arrests. At this point, he says, it's just unclear, and he says he is as eager as anyone to know exactly what happened.

I asked Straughan that if he knew that 25 possible patrons could potentially be arrested, would he sign another trespass affidavit. He said absolutely not. Furthermore, he says that he has rescinded the earlier trespass affidavit, and that he is using a couple of off-duty officers on the weekends to ensure crowd control.

Mr. Straughan was very gracious and friendly during our visit, and even jokingly referred to a number of my earlier, admittedly bombastic comments. And I conceded to him that those comments went a little overboard. I apologize for that, and this is my effort to set the record straight. In this day when everyone claims to be a victim, I still don't like the quote that JCI was the "victim" in this (that's a sensitive subject for me), but I think it's clear that Mr. Straughan is upset about what transpired at the store that night and, like many of us, wants some answers from HPD.

Mr. Straughan says he's answered countless emails and phone calls from concerned people, and I appreciate his taking the time to visit with me. He's also posted a number of comments to a message board frequented by the JCI SportBikes group, which I'm reproducing below (because their message boards are difficult to use and require registration) along with some biker comments. These are not the threads in their entirety, but an edited selection; there are also some much more belligerent posts from some bikers on the boards, which I have not reproduced.

***

Offical Response From James Coney Island
darrin - 22 Aug - 03:04:30 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is Darrin Straughan, Vice President and Part Owner, of JCI. First of all, we are very sorry for what the police did to our customers Friday August 16th. We did NOT know that is was going to go down like that.

It has been a nice run for the Sport Bikers to hang out at JCI. What has happen is that the citizens surrounding the area have complained so much that the city decided to do something about it. This is not just about you guys. It is about the whole Westheimer strip. You all are aware of the other groups that gather on Westheimer. We at JCI just want a peaceful and safe enviroment for our customers to enjoy. I did not know about the deaths that have happened in front of JCI and saw videos of the trick riders. And it is scary! You know this. Yes, a few have probably ruined this for the whole. I am getting complaints about the noise. They are our customers too. I have read this forum's threads and some of you did not want this image. We just want to sell hot dogs and be nice. Thats what we do. We do not want to be an activist or caught in some political nightmare. All customers are welcome. We don't care what their mode of transportation is. Car, bike, bus or walk; all are welcome as customers. Ride your bike to JCI. Get something to eat. Visit for a little while, but you cannot hang out there anymore. Sorry. Last Friday night the police were suppose to ask if you were a customer and if not you would need to leave. Has some of you will remember, the previous weekend our District Manager for that store told over 200 bikers that this was going down. We tried to protect you. Give you advance notice not to come. Or if you were to come that you have to purchase something and not hang out. i.e. What our normal course of business customer does. We had no idea that they were going to arrest customers. We have a real problem with them over this. We would never have agreed to this. Darrin

***

RE: Great Attitude
nimrod - 23 Aug - 05:42:58 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Darrin - Some of us would like to just tell you that we tried to talk to some of these kids ( punks). I am in my forties and have enjoyed riding and bikes since the age of 9. That kid's statement [in an unreproduced post -- klw] by no way reflects the majority that have visited your place of business. I am very sorry for you guys and the problems that it has caused your company and how it all turned out this way. The older riders knew it was going to come to head sooner or later. There are a few like the punk that posted above that have ruined a nice outing for many in this city because of their wreckless behavior on city streets and most of all their stupid attitude. He will surely die at one point on his bike as I have watched many like him in the last two years lose their lives on the City of Houston streets pulling stupid stunts and breaking every traffic law known to mankind. I don't agree with the arrest- A trespass charge ? That was cheap shot by HPD to address a problem far from that. I believe HPD should have busted the punks like this one and left the law abiding people alone. All HPD had to do was ask a few. They never did that. Many of us have even talked to HPD about it as they sat in their car and watched them do it in front of your store not even attempting to pull a one over.

HPD violated the rights of many. Stunts and Wheelies, Speeding is enough to be arrested on and your bike impunded. Nazi tactics and false charges won't fly with youth or even myself. You have every right to protect your store and other customers. I am truley sorry that it all went down this way - Native Houstonian

***

Unwelcome
popawalker - 25 Aug - 07:42:44 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Just a question for Darrin.Are we now unwelcome as some seem to think?
Last night before I left at 1215 there were about 25-30 and most had gone inside to purchase products.Most then hung out outside along the sidewalk and porch in front.I don't know if anything happened after 1215,but it was peaceful up to then,even with 2 constables in the parking lot.

***

RE: Unwelcome
darrin - 26 Aug - 10:49:56 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We are not going to question our customers on their mode of transportation to the restaurant. But, you do have to be a customer in our normal course of business. This means come to the restaurant and purchase something. We can't have anymore just hanging out. Eat and stay a little while but then you will have to move on. Just like all our customers do. Everyone is welcome to do that. Thanks.

***

[Posted at 06:47 CST on 08/22/02] [Link]

21 August 2002

Blackbox

I just read on a usenet group that Blackbox is closing up shop. Apparently, their experience as a DSL reseller has just been abysmal, thanks to Southwestern Bell, and it's been enough to kill the company.

When I moved to Houston in the Spring of 1995, Blackbox was one of the few ISPs offering a dialup PPP account with true unix shell access, at a very good price (hard to find at the time for the price I got). They were my first ISP here, and truly an ISP for geeks (that's meant as a compliment). It's too bad they couldn't make it any longer. They ran a good shop.

[Posted at 23:23 CST on 08/21/02] [Link]

Humanity

Callie had an interesting experience at the Baroque Kroger earlier this week.

It turns out a kindly elderly man mistook her (very full) cart for his own, and wheeled it off halfway across the store while she was away from it. She discovered this, and then found his cart, and went over to him and exchanged carts. He was extremely apologetic and befuddled, and murmured that he sometimes gets confused. Callie was reassuring, as she tends to be, but, after his reaction, wished she had simply switched the carts when he wasn't looking.

It's those little touches of humanity that I like to see. How many of us are in a hurry when we run into the grocery store? Have no patience for people getting our way? Slowing us down? Taking our damn cart, for gawd's sake!

But sometimes, it's really not a conspiracy to slow us down and inconvenience us. Sometimes, people who mean no harm just don't function as well as they once did, and make little mistakes. And ya know what? Whatever Ayn Rand might have thought about it (and I say this as an objectivist, though not necessarily an ARI-approved one), it really IS okay to show a little compassion, to track down their shopping cart, and switch with them, and convince them no harm was done -- really.

Even if it costs you a little time.

[Posted at 22:52 CST on 08/21/02] [Link]

Thom Watch

I've certainly been critical enough of Chron columnist Thom Marshall in the past, but this column on that bizarre weekend K-Mart parking lot raid is worth reading and considering.

[Posted at 22:31 CST on 08/21/02] [Link]

Radio New Braunfels

Several of the better Texas/Americana/alt-country radio stations that used to stream audio over the internet have shut down their operations recently, in part due to myopic (word of the day!) decisions by unelected bureaucrats and problems in existing law.

One of my more pleasant discoveries this week (after my weekend jaunt to New Braunfels) is Radio New Braunfels/92.1 FM, a tiny little station in a tiny little place that ought not even HAVE a station, actually continues to stream their content. They play a nice mix of Americana with a healthy dose of Texas artists. Give 'em a listen if you want to hear something a little different than the Big 5/Clear Channel approach to music!

And if you have discovered other good Americana stations that still have streaming audio, could you please drop me a line?

[Posted at 21:19 CST on 08/21/02] [Link]

The Important Work Of The Justice Department

Drudge is reporting that the Justice Department apparently does not have enough work on its hands working to protect the nation from terrorism or working to protect the economy from future Enrons, and is preparing to target individuals who share files via p2p services for prosecution:

In an interview, Malcolm would not say when prosecutions would begin. The response to the 11 September terrorist attacks temporarily diverted the department's resources and prevented its attorneys from focusing on this earlier, he said.

A few weeks ago, some of the most senior members of Congress pressured the Justice Department to invoke a little-known law, the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act, against peer-to-peer users who swap files without permission.

Under the NET Act, signed by President Clinton in 1997, it is a federal crime to share copies of copyrighted products such as software, movies or music with anyone, even friends or family members, if the value of the work exceeds $1,000 (about £640). Violations are punishable by one year in prison, or if the value tops $2,500, "not more than five years" in prison.

I "share" an occasional file, and have used p2p services to preview music. And because of the crappy sound of lossy-compressed files, I almost always wind up purchasing a CD of music I actually want to listen to again. And in many cases, I'm buying CDs on little-known labels from Americana artists like The Groobees or Cross Canadian Ragweed or Brent Mitchell whose stuff isn't spread all across p2p services, and will never attract the attention of the idiots at the Big 5 media companies. Maybe I'm rare, but I'm not hurting the big media companies who would like to shut down my use of p2p; their own myopia is.

So how, pray tell, are John Ashcroft and John Malcolm going to distinguish between the occasional file I swap (often of music on a cassette or scratched CD sitting around the house) and the "criminals" who are swapping files whose value is greater than $1,000, which is the trigger point for this law? How will they "prove" such a thing? What intrusive means will they use to collect their evidence? And how many nuisance prosecutions will take place?

To rephrase that last question, I should ask -- how many nuisance prosecutions will take place before they figure out that 1) there really is no non-intrusive, reliable way to collect the sort of evidence they need to deter this behavior, and 2) the Feds will request from Congress more power to act in this area?

Sometimes I think privacy-rights and civil-liberties advocates go a little overboard. But this is one instance where I share their concerns.

(07-22-02 Update) The RIAA has gone to court to force Verizon Internet Services to turn over information on one of its subscribers, whom the RIAA suspects of sharing files. Verizon, to its credit, refused to comply with the original subpoena, which the federal court issued, and pledges to fight the intrusion. I expect more stories like this, and I don't like it a bit.

[Posted at 21:01 CST on 08/21/02] [Link]

20 August 2002

How Convenient

A few more facts have emerged on the bizarre raid that took place in Houston over the weekend, and it's even a prominent enough story for an insta-comment:

The guy in charge should be fired. Think he will be?
The story is actually a lot more interesting than that. It looks like the "guy in charge" is being made out to be none other than Mark Aguirre, a controversial Houston cop whose unconventional methods seem to be loved by residents of his beat, but who has made a lot of enemies in the HPD command (as readers of Reductio Ad Absurdum know, and as Ginger Stampley reminds us). It may well be that Aguirre is fully responsible for this mess, and deserves whatever punishment he gets. But like Ginger, I'm a little suspicious at how convenient this is beginning to look for Chief Bradford. In Houston, when political matters are too convenient, it's often not a coincidence.

Sadly, the Chron's track record suggests it is an ill-equipped newspaper to get to the bottom of this story, and the fact that EVERY person quoted in the latest article speaks ill of Aguirre doesn't inspire confidence that it's going to try very hard. I wonder if the Press will dig up anything interesting.

[Posted at 21:08 CST on 08/20/02] [Link]

19 August 2002

WFAN

In a departure from Andrew night at PubliusTX, we find (courtesy of the Humane Society website) that the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) is busy liberating womyn and hogs. Excerpt:

WFAN adheres to an ecofeminist philosophy—the belief that women have a deep spiritual connection to the earth, and that the land they cultivate is a living organism, an extension of themselves. Women's nurturing tendencies and their intuition and communication skills make them natural spokespeople for ecological balance and sustainable agriculture. WFAN seeks to amplify this voice to challenge the industrial model of farming, which views nature as something to be conquered and subdued. WFAN also provides a safe space for women who suffer persecution from big agribusiness and from the often hostile, male-dominated environment.
As Callie points out to me, this sounds like something one would find in a Lifetime movie.

More importantly, that this group is now a celebrated part of the Humane Society just goes to show that organizations, be they government or otherwise, almost always tend towards the left over time. Someone important is known for that observation, but it escapes me at the moment.

[Posted at 23:36 CST on 08/19/02] [Link]

Is It A Good Question?

Maybe I should just make it Andrew night at PubliusTX?

He refers to an article at A List Apart entitled "10 Tips On Writing The Living Web."

Most of it is good advice, but (as usual) Andrew picks out the most important part.

And to follow the advice Andrew points out to us, I guess I should abandon all Straussian esotericism and note that I think it's the most important part because it applies to good writing in a broader context than bloggyland. Critical reading and writing would both be better served if those engaged in the enterprises would ask three simple questions (that I learned from Ross Lence): what does it say, what does it mean, and what difference does it make.

[Posted at 23:21 CST on 08/19/02] [Link]

Andrew's Inspiration

You more spirited souls who have been subjected to a telemarketer reading a script may appreciate Andrew's suggestion on how to conclude such calls.

[Posted at 21:04 CST on 08/19/02] [Link]

18 August 2002

Scott Melott and Friends

The Grateful Dead were probably the greatest touring band of all time. No doubt some small part of their popularity was the "party atmosphere" (for lack of a better word) surrounding their shows, and part of it was also the way they treated their fans. While most bands today (the Counting Crows being a pleasant exception!) instruct security to confiscate bootleg recording devices and bitch and moan about the existence of bootlegs on p2p systems, the Dead always encouraged it. Fans appreciated that, and it built loyalty.

But I think the main reason the Dead always turned out such numbers when they toured is because no show was ever the same, and when they clicked, they made magic. Not every show was magical -- the great one, Jerry Garcia, admitted as much -- but some nights every member of the band just had the magic, and those guys fed off of each other.

I saw a show like that last night.

It was Scott Melott's first real solo show since the breakup of his band, the Groobees. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, as the playbill indicated that Gary Wayne Thomason (Groobees guitarist) would be joining Scott, along with "surprise guests." I figured one surprise guest would probably be the original bassist of the Groobees, Scott's friend and fellow resident of the Gruene area, Michael Devers, and he did join Scott for a few sets. But Scott also brought another bassist (name escapes me -- sorry), and a drummer (the earliest Groobee drummer, Craig Bagby?) and Libbi Bosworth (a fine singer/songwriter in her own right) to help out.

The show was at the Tavern in the Gruene, which is an excellent rustic bar that has a somewhat detached stage area. There was a healthy crowd, many of whom were obviously family and close friends, and the rest apparently Groobees fans, since everyone seemed to know the words of the Groobees songs, which was cool!

From the minute Scott came on stage, you could just see that he LOVED being out there. He was radiating JOY. And the rest of his bandmates were enjoying themselves as well, from Libbi Bosworth. (who didn't play an instrument, yet didn't at all seem to mind providing backing vocals and smiled all the way through) to the drummer and bassist to Gary Wayne, who showed up in flip-flops that made it difficult for him to do his trademark "bouncing" on stage. Too bad on the flip flops, but Gary Wayne PLAYED HIS ASS OFF sans bouncing! When the Groobees were together, they always seemed to tone down the guitar on recordings and in live performances, so we never really got to experience Gary Wayne like he was tonight. But tonight -- WOW. The man can jam, and he and Scott (who traded the trademark keyboards he played with the Groobees for a guitar of his own) seemed really to enjoy playing off of each other. Gary Wayne even got to sing a few songs of his own, one of which has been recorded by The Great Divide recently, one of which (at the end) can only be described as performance art. On that last, you just had to be there.

Scott Melott's trademark songs sounded better than ever, and since there was no "band" tension going on, we got a little more interaction from Scott than we used to with the Groobees. We got to hear great stories about "Cheap Trucker Speed" (and an excellent rendition of it), and "George and Lucille" (one of my favorite songs, which is about his grandparents). We got a pretty cool cover of a Flying Burrito Brothers song (almost required of Texas music artists, isn't it?), and some good stuff from Scott that I've never heard.

What we did NOT get from Scott was the sense of bitterness that seems to consume one of his former bandmates. In fact, in introducing his version of "Comforts of Home," he commented that he and Susan Gibson would often wind up working on each other's songs, and sometimes when his voice was cracking he would suggest she actually would sound better doing it -- the case, he said, with "Comforts of Home." I didn't hear any cracking in this version, but I couldn't help but note Scott's attitude towards the old band and times: no regrets, and seeming happiness. This was a guy who was obviously happy to be out playing again.

The most magical moment came with the band's performance of a song that damn well ought to be better known than it is: "Nashville Suicide," a brilliant song musically and lyrically that laments what has become of country music. I've been to a lot of Groobees shows, but I never heard them play the song like they did tonight. I don't know if I've ever heard any band do any song better at a live performance than Scott and crew with this one. Although it was in the middle of the second set, the whole crowd STOPPED THE FRIGGIN' SHOW with a LONG standing ovation. Scott even seemed a little choked up about it. So were we. It was magic -- and I think the band sensed it as they were playing.

I don't know what the future holds for Scott Melott, but he confirmed again tonight what I've long argued: not only is he a fine singer/songwriter, but he also has a great sense of how to arrange a song musically and draw out his bandmates. And he's not afraid to share the spotlight on stage, especially evident when dragging Michael Devers (who manages artists these days) out of the crowd to play bass on some of the old favorites, as well as a "washboard player" named Scratch! He promises more live performances, and his website indicates a CD is in the works.

All I can say is, bring it on.

[Posted at 19:19 CST on 08/18/02] [Link]

17 August 2002

Gruene Roadtrip

I'm off to Greune shortly to catch Scott Melott and Gary Thomason of Groobees fame this evening. It should be a good show. No postings here until Sunday. I hope everyone is having an excellent weekend!

[Posted at 12:25 CST on 08/17/02] [Link]

16 August 2002

Telling Horoscope

I don't usually read horoscopes, but this one from today's Chron was called to my attention:

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). Life requires that you watch for potholes in the road. Adjustments are needed in property issues or business negotiations. Romantic moves are better made than planned. Excitement in the evening is linked to a Cancer.
How literally true about the potholes, as you Houstonians reading this well know.

[Posted at 21:49 CST on 08/16/02] [Link]

Strike

The Major League Baseball Players Union has now set a strike date, for 30 August.

Several people (online and offline) whose opinions I respect argue that a strike (or threat of it) is the only leverage the players have against owners trying to impose their will.

Personally, I don't see this one as a good guy versus bad guy thing. Baseball is an entertainment business. The players are the entertainers, and obviously deserve a major cut of the proceeds. The owners (with lots of help from TAXPAYERS these days) maintain the infrastructure and capital investment, and are also entitled to a cut of the proceeds. The NBA and NFL have managed to work from these premises and take care of their business, and Major League Baseball's two parties should be able to as well. If not, the parties are both hurting their business -- and to hell with them.

Because you know what else happens on 30 August?

The Sooners start their football season, against the University of Tulsa.

That's right -- Major League Baseball players picked the first major weekend of college football to start their strike, with the NFL getting under way the next weekend. That won't do much for baseball's share of the sports fan's dollar and attention, now will it?

[Posted at 20:18 CST on 08/16/02] [Link]

15 August 2002

West Alabama

The Chron has done a decent feature on the West Alabama Icehouse.

The place just isn't the same these days, but it's still a pretty unique place.

I'm not so sure about the old farts who show up at the beer hall at 10 am, though.

[Posted at 23:18 CST on 08/15/02] [Link]

Black Thursday

I left for the office a little before 7am this morning in the midst of moderate rain and black skies.

9 hours or so later, the moderate (and at times heavy) rain and black skies endure, with no significant break.

What a nasty day. But at least the rainfall is nowhere near Allison levels.

Blar.

[Posted at 16:22 CST on 08/15/02] [Link]

14 August 2002

Pseudonyms

As with most things, I have a fairly laissez-faire attitude towards blogs. Want to link only to people who agree with you and not your critics? Fine. Want to link to everyone? Excellent. Want to use trackback to avoid the problem altogether? Super! Want to put your name and credentials all over your site for people to see? Great. Blog anonymously? Good for you. Use a pseudonym? Okay.

With regard to that last, there's been lots of cross-blog debate recently over whether or not people should put their names on their blogs, with some implying that it's almost cowardly not to do so.

This debate really makes me yawn, but given my domain name, it's almost incumbent upon me to point out that the American regime has a long history of its statesmen adopting pseudonyms in the course of political debate. And I don't think anyone today intimates that Hamilton, Jefferson, or Jay were cowardly for doing so (or, for that matter, those anti-Federalists who engaged in the same enterprise).

Of course, I'm not suggesting that much of anything on the web comes close to the great writings of American political thought.

[Posted at 21:52 CST on 08/14/02] [Link]

Equal Opportunity

Since I've probably pissed off some Aggies tonight, I wouldn't want to neglect the Longhorns and their faithful.

Callie sent me this link earlier. It seems that not everyone in Austin even is ready to hand over the national championship to Mack "Mr. Football" Brown:

Every year, the procession of blaring trumpets and tossed burnt orange garlands heralding the Texas Longhorns' upcoming national championship season begins earlier and earlier.

This, though the team hasn't won a national football title since 1970 or long enough ago for many University of Texas fans to have lost most of their teeth.

This month, Texas Monthly magazine proclaimed the Horns this fall's No. 1 team with a cover photo of UT quarterback Chris Simms standing between Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman.

No offense to Simms, but that's like posing Vanilla Ice with Ray Charles and Mick Jagger.

Hmm.... it's good to see that other people are picking up on that ridiculous Texas Monthly cover.

[Posted at 21:37 CST on 08/14/02] [Link]

Oops

The Texas A&M athletics department has come under fire today. It turns out their football media guide reprinted verbatim some incendiary remarks about Texas Tech and Lubbock that originally appeared in an A&M alumni mag.

It's really a pretty bad gaffe. Official football media guides at most NCAA institutions have become bloated, overblown things, but they are still official university publications, and as such should maintain a certain amount of decorum. A&M blew it.

As I was driving home, I heard Charlie Pallilo and Rich Lord talking about the controversy on the local sportstalk station. Pallilo, who is one of the few good journalists in town, argued it was a mistake, but not the end of the world, which I agree with. And Rich Lord, in true Houston sports journalist fashion, commented that "Nobody reads those things anyway." This coming from a guy in the sportstalk business, and who should read "those things" -- at least for local teams likely to be a topic of conversation. But what should I expect from a guy who went on vacation, and on his first day back got the Astros record wrong and admitted he had no idea what it was? Nothing like a little preparation for the show, eh! Or for the upcoming college football season.

That lack of professionalism tends to afflict many journalists in Houston, actually, not just the sports guys.

[Posted at 21:18 CST on 08/14/02] [Link]

Jeffrey Skilling, Victim

Ginger Stampley found an unbelievable letter in the dreadful Chron. Here's an excerpt:

The only thing that undermines my belief in any of our institutions is the way that some, in this case the Houston Chronicle, are simply willing to make up or twist facts.
Those of you who read this space regularly are probably nodding at that, even if you're a bit amazed the Chron would run such criticism.

But get this -- that paragraph was penned by Jeffrey Skilling, one of the (alleged) Enron criminals! He's criticizing this article in the Chron, which was, as I pointed out at the time, an incredibly favorable puff piece!

I cannot believe the gall of the Enronites. What a corrupt, warped bunch of people.

[Posted at 20:51 CST on 08/14/02] [Link]

13 August 2002

Potholes And Bandit Signs

The police department finally got around to citing Mayor Pothole today for crossing three lanes of traffic and blitzing some poor SOB (as if the potholes aren't enough of a hazard, now we have to avoid the damn Mayor AND the potholes when out and about).

I just love the Mayor's excuse, though. Was he boozing it up? Distracted by his cell phone? Just not paying attention? Nope, he was on very important city business:

Brown said he was looking for "bandit" signs planted along roadways without permits.

"A lot of the time I will get in a car and check out the city," he said.

Ah yes, that ever present problem of "bandit" signs. Doesn't it feel good to have such an activist mayor working on the major problems of the city?

[Posted at 23:15 CST on 08/13/02] [Link]

The Groobees' Better Half

I got a very cool email from the Groobees mail list today.

It turns out Scott Melott is going to be playing in Gruene this weekend, with former Groobee Gary Thomason (and possible "surprise" guests, which I don't imagine will include the ever bitter Susan Gibson).

I can't wait to hear some of my old favorites done the way they ought to be done -- by my favorite Groobees to boot.

I'm also pleased to read that Scott is working on a cd for release next year.

[Posted at 21:59 CST on 08/13/02] [Link]

12 August 2002

Horse What?

Callie calls my attention to David Horsley, a columnist for the Amarillo Globe-News, who seems to think it is entirely unreasonable for folks to be uncomfortable that registered sex offenders live near them.

Personally, I think the guy would make a great addition to the city desk at the Chron. Who knows, maybe he and Thom Marshall could secure that elusive first Pulitzer for the rag!

[Posted at 23:12 CST on 08/12/02] [Link]

Oswalt

I'm a huge Roy Oswalt fan.

Pretty much the minute he stepped on the field last year, he became the Astros' pitching ace.

But tonight, he stepped up and showed that he will protect his teammates, something that Astros pitchers just haven't done over the past few years.

The sequence of events:

Kerry Wood goes WAY inside on Jeff Bagwell, nearly hitting him.

Oswalt retaliates and plunks a Cub later in the game.

Julio Lugo squares around and shows bunt (but looks like he's taking all the way), and Kerry Wood nails him with a fastball. Wood throws 99mph, btw, and it looked intentional. Both sides get a warning.

Later in the game (after a four-run outburst by the Astros), Oswalt plunks a Cub batter and he and Jimy are both ejected.

The Astros won the game, and for the first time in a long time, an Astros pitcher stood up and protected his teammates.

And it's not at all surprising that it was Oswalt who did it. Roy rocks.

(08-13-02 Update) The bastard broke Julio Lugo's forearm. That's a tough break for the Astros. Lugo's been a reliable starter at short since reclaiming the job.

[Posted at 22:39 CST on 08/12/02] [Link]

New Lows At The Chron

The Washington Post recently concluded a five-part series on Enron that deserves to be regarded as the definitive journalistic treatment of the Enron fiasco so far. And while everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, the article leaves little doubt that Andrew Fastow and Jeffrey Skilling were deeply involved in the shenanigans, and Ken Lay knew a lot more than he lets on.

But the dreadful Chron, which should have owned this story but instead preferred to continue to be Enron's cheerleader, is STILL going out of its way to defend the Enron criminals. The headline of Sunday's page one story is "Skilling feeling the heat; Ex-Enron CEO expects charges," but that's misleading. The story sympathetically portrays Skilling, even quoting his brother (who thinks Jeffrey is a really swell guy!). Here are some excerpts of the latest Chron-vomit, all thrown together (since there are apparently no editors at the Chron, what the hell does it matter if I rearrange the Chron-vomit):

"He definitely understands there is a strong risk of indictment," said his brother Mark, a lawyer and writer living in Istanbul, Turkey.

"He thinks he has committed no crime, but he understands in the political climate that exists now, anything is possible," Mark Skilling said.

Skilling has refused all interview requests for several months.

But his brother said, "If there is a criminal trial, he believes absolutely that he will be exonerated. I know him as well as anyone, and I certainly know he is ready to fight this as far as humanly possible."

Soon after his departure from Enron one year ago Wednesday, Skilling told a Chronicle reporter he was looking forward to a less stressful life, spending time with family, learning a foreign language, traveling to Africa, becoming a dirt bike master. It hasn't worked out that way.

"It has been the roughest time in his life so far, by any measure," said his brother.

Asked about his current routine, attorney Elizabeth Baird said, "Mr. Skilling is spending a great deal of time with his family. Much of the balance of his time is devoted to responding to government investigations into the collapse of Enron and defending the multiple legal actions to which he is now a party. "

Those close to Skilling said he feels there is so much pressure to hold him accountable for the people financially ruined at Enron that he could be charged even if evidence is inconclusive.

"Between now and the elections, he is not expecting much in the way of fair handling of his case," Mark Skilling said.

Skilling has maintained he relied on accounting firm Arthur Andersen's representations that the Raptor restructuring violated no rules.

The fact that Skilling did testify, while others cited Fifth Amendment protections, showed he believed he did nothing wrong, supporters said.

Attorney Bruce Hiler said Skilling may have overestimated the fairness of Congress and media outlets.

"It has become apparent that Congress and many media commentators are not interested in serious fact-finding but rather in an opportunistic blame game on the eve of an election."

Skilling's problem is that a complex federal fraud prosecution often becomes a feeding frenzy. "The only leverage anybody has in this is to hand them somebody up the ladder. Well, Skilling is at the top of the ladder," said one attorney close to the case.

Skilling raked almost $90 million out of Enron from salary, selling stock and cashing stock options between 1999 and the company's collapse, congressional investigators calculated. The fact that other stock and stock options worth about $170 million became worthless has elicited little sympathy.

Those vanished riches are now the least of the worries of a man who saw himself revolutionizing the way America did business.

Skilling now spends his time with his children, with a second wife he married in March, and in preparation for what could be a titanic, yearslong legal struggle.

Mark Skilling said his brother feels there has been almost a willful refusal to fairly consider his contributions.

"He saw himself as part of something that benefited many people, and that changed the way energy was traded. They created a brand new industry. Then they got creamed. But the industry will still be around because it was a good idea."

He added, "If Jeffrey could say something to the people of Houston, it'd be, `Continue to give me the benefit of a doubt, and give Enron the benefit of a doubt.' "

I've cut about 30 percent of the article, because really that's all just so much filler around these points: 1) Jeffrey Skilling is a victim of those mean Congressional investigators, who are out for blood; 2) Jeffrey Skilling REALLY is a good family man -- really! 3) Jeffrey Skilling is a brilliant man who revolutionized an industry, 4) Jeffrey Skilling is an incredibly dull man who didn't know that his devious subordinates and accounting firm were up to no good, and making him lots of money in the process (okay, so the Chron can't keep its story straight, even with ME editing their copy!); 5) All Jeffrey Skilling really wanted to do was become a dirt bike master; 6) Jeffrey Skilling may have made off with $90 million, but he got hurt too -- another $170 million of stock he held is now worthless *waah*; 7) Jeffrey Skilling REALLY is a good family man -- really; 8) Have I mentioned that Jeffrey Skilling is a good family man?

I cannot believe the crap this paper turns out on a daily basis.

And here's an additional bit of news, being reported by the Houston Business Journal: five Enron execs, including the wife of Jeffrey Skilling, have petitioned the bankruptcy court for extra pay ((she wants a cool $875,000 more; another wants $1.65 million more)! The gall of these people is astounding. I'm having a Jim Cramer-like moment, wondering if their attitude will change when (if?!) the feds finally slap the cuffs on some of them.

(08-13-02 Update) The Chron has more on the group filing for bankruptcy benefits. Here is an example of the brainpower (and morality) that was behind Enron:

And then there was the argument made by Traci L. Warner, a college recruiter for Enron who was on maternity leave when the company filed for bankruptcy.

Warner said she had an individual contract that specified she would be paid her salary even if the company filed for bankruptcy. Warner argued that she is owed $151,000, the value of her salary through the term of her contract, which expires in March 2003.

She said she did not believe her contract was terminated on Dec. 2. The letter announcing her firing was "ambiguous." Warner testified Monday that she continued working from home until Dec. 15, when her paycheck did not arrive and she realized she'd been laid off.

Yet, under cross-examination by Enron lawyer Lawrence Baer, Warner admitted that she also began receiving unemployment from the state of Texas on Dec. 15. Warner testified that she did not recall the Texas Workforce Commission asking if she was currently unemployed when she applied for benefits.

Ah yes -- I didn't know I was unemployed, but I knew enough to start drawing unemployment from the taxpayers!? THAT is convincing. Miss Warner is just a charming, brilliant young lady, isn't she? And one of the people responsible for hiring at Enron. Sort of fitting for the whole sham that once was, eh?

[Posted at 21:13 CST on 08/12/02] [Link]

11 August 2002

Leveraging Ethnicity

What do you think would happen if a bunch of white guys put together a website that advocated their "leveraging ethnicity" to greater advantage? Or went around giving speeches pushing this agenda?

Media and intellectual elites would rush to condemn this as racism of the worse sort, I imagine.

So, why is it different when other groups go out and speak of leveraging their ethnicity?

And how exactly does that promote the idea of a colorblind, meritocratic society?

[Posted at 23:55 CST on 08/11/02] [Link]

Citing Mayor Pothole

Well well, how nice that Houston cops are "leaning" towards citing Mayor Pothole for causing a traffic accident.

If only they could cite him for being such an inept mayor.

[Posted at 23:47 CST on 08/11/02] [Link]

Missouri's Senate Race

I've seen zero national coverage of Missouri's U.S. Senate primary, which was held last week. On the surface, there were no real surprises: Jean Carnahan won on the Democratic side, and Jim Talent won on the Republican side.

But digging into the numbers is really interesting. Jean Carnahan's opponent pulled nearly 20% of the vote. That's a real shocker, because he's basically a nuisance candidate who didn't even run a real campaign. Indeed, as of the primary date, he had been in jail for seven weeks on a felony theft charge!

On the Republican side, Talent ran strongly against minor challengers, and looks to be a formidable opponent for the less-than-impressive Senator from Missouri.

However, my friend Tom Hanna (PubliusMO?) reports that turnout could be a problem for the GOP this fall. The heavily Republican parts of the state have many races with no Democratic opponent, which may depress fall turnout, and various tax initiatives were on the primary ballot, which may have artificially boosted turnout among fiscally minded GOPers.

Carnahan is definitely vulnerable, and Talent would be a super replacement, but turnout may well work against him.

[Posted at 23:04 CST on 08/11/02] [Link]

Bitter Susan

I wrote a while back about seeing Susan Gibson at the Mucky Duck, shortly after the breakup of one of my favorite Texas bands, The Groobees. I was not impressed with the performance, and was especially turned off by Susan's seeming bitterness towards her old mates.

Over a year later, Susan Gibson still seems like a terribly bitter person, if this American-Statesman article is accurate (and I think it is).

I can sympathize up to a point with her regarding "Wide Open Spaces." That song has made a ton of money, and she did write it before she was part of the Groobees. But as I wrote to my friend Sean earlier, there are tons of great songs that never make it big (like "Fallen Angel Palace" by Brent Mitchell, a great unknown Texas songwriter now living in the UK). Her association with the band brought that song to the attention of Lloyd Maines, who brought it to the Chicks' attention, and the rest was history. That same thing might have happened to any number of Groobees songs that Susan did NOT write. So I can see the rationale for pooling the publishing of the songs for the band the way they did, and one would think it would build band cohesion.

But it didn't quite work out that way, as the article notes:

Devers says things started to sour when Gibson bought an RV in 2000 and traveled separately from the group. "It didn't feel like 'all for one' anymore," he says. The infusion of cash through the publishing side, which was supposed to help keep the band healthy and united, played a big part in breaking up the band. Gibson and Devers can agree on that irony.
Traveled separately from the group?! I hadn't heard THAT part. Of course the band had to break up. One person decided she was much bigger than the rest (and I'm REALLY resisting a cheap shot here). Ugh.

And what about Susan's suck-up attorney? This is too much:

Gibson's Nashville attorney Deborah Magnon says, "You can either think of Susan as incredibly naive or as a very giving person. I like to think of her as Mother Theresa."
Mother Theresa?! Gawd, that almost sounds like the Chron writing about Enron's Andrew Fastow or Jeffrey Skilling! And it's just about as believable.

[Posted at 22:17 CST on 08/11/02] [Link]

Oh That Turmenbashi

Following the lead of Turkemenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov (the Turkmenbashi), I would also like to propose a new calender: January shall now be called Kevin, and February shall now be called Callie, and March will now be called Kiwi, and... well, I'll have to think about the other months a bit more.

[Posted at 13:07 CST on 08/11/02] [Link]

Trackback

I implemented the MT backtrack functionality yesterday.

I was planning on holding off until the site redesign here, but I'm not sure when I will have time to finish that, and I needed to figure out how the feature works anyway -- so now it's implemented.

It works best with individual archives (here's why), as I've discovered when trying to ping other MT sites, so I had to reconfigure slightly to add individual archives to the existing monthly archives. I'm sure Ben will eventually modify the feature to be more friendly across all archive types, but for now individual archives are best.

So what is the significance of Trackback (or, why should anyone care)?

It's a convenience tool as much as anything -- you post something, several other people write about it, and *boom* (hey, football season is close, I can use *boom*) you have an ongoing internet discussion. But blogs and the web are decentralized, and it's hard to keep track of all that chatter. Inline comments are fine, but some people prefer to write in their own blogs; a forum is fine, but again, some people prefer to write in their own blogs (or to stray off the moderator's topic). Trackback helps keep track of it all, effortlessly, without the need of searching referrer logs for links and manually pasting them into old posts, or emailing bloggers that you've followed up on their topic and hoping they recognize your contribution.

I hope that Trackback catches on with some of the "bigger" MT blogs that have either not upgraded to MT 2.21 or not implemented the feature, especially the people who most praise the wonders of the "blogosphere" (I agree with Jim Hart's characterization of that term! And there is interesting discussion that follows in his comments -- But Jim, I can't ping ya buddy!). And I also hope that other systems consider implementing the functionality; there is already a prototype system for non-MT users, and MetaFilter has also implemented trackback. These are good developments.

[Posted at 10:27 CST on 08/11/02] [Link]

10 August 2002

1-1

Who cares if it's just preseason football?

The Houston Texans have won the first football game in the history of the franchise, 13-10, on the road against the New Orleans Saints.

David Carr looked pretty sharp, as did the first-team offense for the most part.

And Dom Capers had to love it, as the low-scoring defensive games are his sort of football.

[Posted at 22:05 CST on 08/10/02] [Link]

09 August 2002

Wagner

After watching (overpaid) Billy Wagner blow a three-run lead and a save opportunity in the ninth inning against the Braves (almost like the playoffs!), here's a question:

Is it time for Jimy Williams to rethink the whole Dotel-Setup/Wagner-Closer approach, and either use them equally as closer depending on the situation, or actually use Wagner as Dotel's setup man for a while?

I realize it's almost heresy to suggest it given Wagner's salary (which would presumably make him "the man" out of the bullpen), but arguably Dotel has been the better pitcher out of the bullpen this year and last year. Jimy has already shown that he's willing to disregard salaries and established pecking orders with his handling of right field (Merced is getting more playing time, as he's earned, and the overpaid Hidalgo is getting less, as he's earned). Will he tinker with his bullpen in the same fashion?

It's really too bad Wagner blew this one. The team really put together a nice game up until the ninth inning, against the best team in baseball. And they did it with Lance Berkman getting a rest.

[Posted at 22:14 CST on 08/09/02] [Link]

Crawford Weblog

I criticize the dreadful Chron so much that I really haven't been able to bring myself to comment on their latest brilliant idea, the Crawford weblog maintained by one of their reporters from (you guessed it) Crawford. But Charles Kuffner has done a brilliant job with it, and there's even a Thom Marshall reference at the end that made me smile.

Yes, the Chron really is as bad as we all make it out to be. Hell, maybe it's time to think about a collaborative Chron-watch blog....

[Posted at 20:26 CST on 08/09/02] [Link]

08 August 2002

Thom Watch

Thom Marshall has emerged from working at home and rewriting press releases (per the orders of his new boss), and wants readers to know he's pounding the pavement. Here's an excerpt from his latest:

I was drawn to this place because I wanted to think about what happened to these women and about how it happens to so many others. I also visited El Mirador, the East End restaurant where Rangel, 38, and Capulin, 24, worked as waitresses. They were abducted as they were leaving and locking up for the night, bound with tape, sexually assaulted and killed by gunshots to the head.
Notice, however, that the bulk of Thom's column is simply the recycling of old Chron stories. I don't know if this is quite what Jeff Cohen had in mind, but he surely has to give Thom credit for being resourceful. (Or maybe fire his ass for the cheekiness?).

[Posted at 23:06 CST on 08/08/02] [Link]

Mr. Football

Fellow Sooner fan, UT hater, and onetime Pawhuskan Robyn posts this absolutely wonderful preseason college football assessment from Maxim Magazine.

They like the Sooners.

And they think the Longhorns could luck into a 10-win season (but NOT the National Championship, thanks to Mr. Football). Excerpt:

Mack Brown will not win a national championship. Ever. Hell, the poor bastard will likely never win a conference championship.
Ha!

I'm guessing Maxim probably didn't put Chris Simms on their cover, standing in front of Roger and Troy.

[Posted at 22:15 CST on 08/08/02] [Link]

New FCC Mandate

It strikes me that Michael Powell is right in criticizing this decision by his FCC:

"This is not a market-oriented policy," said Michael K. Powell, the chairman of the commission, of the new order. "This is an industrial policy."
*sigh*

[Posted at 21:59 CST on 08/08/02] [Link]

Damn

Bands I like have a depressing habit of splitting lately.

First, there was the unfortunate Groobees implosion. I still miss those guys.

And then Mary decided to flee Houston to inflict her dreads on Minnesota (but at least she plans to come back on occasion).

And now my local favorites 24 Count have decided to call it quits.

Bummer.

[Posted at 21:52 CST on 08/08/02] [Link]

McGrory On Missile Defense

Ah. Mary McGrory on missile defense. I think that's what the column is about. But she's got her WaPo-NYTimes talking points down for sure, since EVERY topic must somehow be tied to corporate scandal (and then to the GOP).

That's just surreal to me.

I have a graduate degree in national security studies, and when I think of experts on missile defense, it's funny, but McGrory doesn't come to mind. I think of my old mentor JD Crouch, who's now back in DC at DoD's ISP shop. I think of Bill Graham. I think of Hank Cooper. I think of Pete Worden. I think of Greg Canavan. All of those are real experts in policy, physics, space -- and all of those are people I've had the pleasure of engaging in an academic setting.

And then there's Mary McGrory rambling on about a topic she knows very little about. Hell, she ought to have a weblog!

Surreal, I tell you.

Speaking of Ambassador Cooper, he has a column over at NRO on missile defense. And unlike Miss McGrory, he actually knows something about the topic.

[Posted at 21:40 CST on 08/08/02] [Link]

Not Gonna Mention It (Well, Maybe)

The Astros continue to prove my earlier dour assessment wrong, and are now within a game of first place. It is no coincidence that the turnaround comes as Bagwell and Biggio have started playing better.

But please, please -- could someone make this sort of writing stop:

Berkman has been a monster for the first 100 games, but no one has contributed to Houston's turnaround than the gritty first baseman -- and we won't even mention his tender shoulder.
Except you just DID mention it. Again.

[Posted at 06:24 CST on 08/08/02] [Link]

07 August 2002

Shakespeare Festival

The Chron and the Houston Press both give Sidney Berger's Miller Outdoor Theater production of A Midsummer Night's Dream favorable reviews.

Sidney Berger is outstanding, and the drama department he helped build at UH is another one of the city's hidden jewels. He started the Houston Shakespeare Festival nearly 30 years ago, and it's become one of the more popular items put on at Miller. I'm looking forward to seeing his production tonight. The last time I saw this performed was at an outdoor venue in a Wimbledon park 3 summers ago, and it was a great production. I suspect Berger's will also be excellent.

(Update) Great performance. Beautiful set design and costumes, and a fast pace that is highly welcome in the sauna that is Houston right now. I highly recommend this excellent, free performance.

[Posted at 18:32 CST on 08/07/02] [Link]

Boomer Sooner

Boomer Sooner

Nobody wants to be like Mack Brown and be ranked #1 in all sorts of preseason polls and recruiting categories, then wind up squandering all that talent and having Steve Spurrier give you a nickname like "Mr. Football."

That said, Bob Stoops is no Mack Brown , and it's cool that Sports Illustrated has joined The Sporting News as major publications picking the Sooners to win the National Championship. Where you're ranked doesn't really mean anything until January, but the buzz is nice (especially with the John Blake era still such a recent memory). The SI cover, which features Tommie Harris, rocks.

On the topic of the Sooners, this is kind of a nice story. Michael Hawkins is a far cry from the machine-gunning, drug-dealing dorm dwellers of the last few years of Barry Switzer's regime.

[Posted at 07:50 CST on 08/07/02] [Link]

06 August 2002

Thom Watch

Richard Connelly has noticed that Thom Marshall has been making a point of writing about his efforts to rustle up news in the city of Houston, since the Chron's new editor suggested that he would like reporting to be more vigorous than rewriting faxed press releases (good luck!).

Neither the prose nor the subjects of Thom's columns have shown any improvement, but by gawd, every column makes a point of letting the readers know he's out there REPORTING, damnit (as Connelly puts it). Here's the latest:

I dropped by his place Monday evening and called him from the locked complex entrance at the arranged time. Took him quite awhile to get there. He walked as though he didn't feel well. When he talked he sounded as though he didn't feel well. An approaching thunderstorm had taken the hot edge off the day, but Hashmi was sweating like a lunchtime jogger.

We went around back of his place for a look at the $100,000-plus window unit. Nothing unusual.

I've been inspired by Connelly to make the Thom Watch a regular feature, because it's important to keep track of just how much the potted plant of a columnist is out rustling up the news of the day. Or at least making it seem that way.

[Posted at 23:12 CST on 08/06/02] [Link]

The Ball Coach

The NFL is already more fun, now that Steve Spurrier is a part of it.

I can't wait for the Cowboys to play the Ball Coach. It would be good to revive the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, which went to hell when nice guy and former Cowboys coach Norv Turner had the reins in DC.

[Posted at 23:05 CST on 08/06/02] [Link]

Anna Nicole Is Hungry

Callie tells me that the following comments from Ken Hoffman sound like something I would say:

Midway through the show, cameras showed Anna Nicole playfully chasing her dog around the house. Her rear end got stuck under a table.

The poor dog probably thought Anna Nicole was going to eat it.

Hmm.

[Posted at 22:46 CST on 08/06/02] [Link]

Weird Houston Sports Tales

A few weeks ago, Sports Illustrated's Peter King visited the Houston Texans training camp, and referred to trainer Tom Williams:

"There used to be a guy who lived in Houston and trained players, and his name was Tom Williams," Casserly said. "He had players run a hill to get ready for the season and they swore by it. It became a famous thing, running the hill in the dog days of summer. So we put it here this offseason." Players don't run it during camp, but it was used plenty in the weeks before. What a punishing looking thing it is, and daunting.
I don't know how Casserly knew about Tom Williams, since Casserly is a newcomer to Houston, but my boss had this great story about the legendary UH trainer:
The trainer referred to by Casserly, Tom Williams, was UH's trainer during the great Yeoman years. Toughest, meanest, grumpiest SOB I have ever met. But really one of the best in the business. Anyway, he had this wooden leg -- maybe lost his in Korea -- but you could hardly tell it. So one year, Yeoman brings this group of freshmen into the training room and Wilson's sitting, whittling a stick -- very country-like, right? So he starts telling them about how he's going to work them over, how they're gonna run that hill, etc. Telling them how tough he is and how soft they are. So he gets more and more into it, like really crazed. Finally, he works himself into a closing frenzy, and screams: "I'LL SHOW YOU HOW TOUGH YOU'RE GOING TO BE WHEN I GET THROUGH WITH YOU BASTARDS!! -- and then unexpectedly jumps up and sticks the knife in the thigh of his wooden leg! Guys said it was just about the damnest thing they'd ever seen.
Ha! I love stuff like this.

Wouldn't it have been cool to read about it in the local paper? Especially since Chron sports columnist Dale Robertson was at UH during the Yeoman years.

Too much to expect from our Chron I guess.

[Posted at 22:41 CST on 08/06/02] [Link]

Trading Loser Boy For Dom

The Texas Monthly cover that I wrote about recently finally annoyed me so much that I used an exacto knife to remove that loser Chris Simms from the cover.

The cool part?

There's an advertisement featuring Dom Capers of the Houston Texans on the inside, and now it shows through the space left after the Chris Simms excission.

Yeah, I know you're thinking the sorry-ass Houston heat has fried my brain. You might be right.

[Posted at 22:27 CST on 08/06/02] [Link]

05 August 2002

ARI

Flipping through the channels after the Texans game, I've discovered an Ayn Rand Institute panel being televised on C-Span 2. It features Peter Schwartz and Harry Binswanger, and seems to be a part of some ARI student gathering.

I'm reminded why I tend to avoid organized ARI-Objectivist gatherings.

[Posted at 22:53 CST on 08/05/02] [Link]

0-1

For the first time in a while, I actually watched all of an NFL early-preseason game.

Everything was pretty vanilla, and there were no huge surprises. The Texans had a few pretty moments, a fair number of ugly moments, and (unfortunately) a number of injuries in a game the Giants won fairly easily.

David Carr made some nice passes, but a couple of times rookie panic set in, and he threw into double coverage. He can make all the throws, though, and just needs reps; it was smart of Dom Capers to play him the entire first half. Jabar Gaffney dropped some passes that would have made Carr look better, and fell down once (causing Carr's interception). The offensive line struggled, as expected with two starters out with injuries. The defense got it going after some early difficulties, although depth will be a problem.

Football is back in Houston! Very cool. :)

[Posted at 22:36 CST on 08/05/02] [Link]

Hours Away

Training camp is fine. Scrimmages are fine.

But for me, Houston will officially be an NFL city again tonight, with the kickoff of the Texans' first preseason game, on Monday Night Football.

Apparently it's been raining much of the day across Ohio, so we may not see much of David Carr's arm, which is too bad.

AM 610, which will do Texans radio broadcasts, started their pregame coverage a few hours ago. They have a ways to go. Charlie Pallilo is a good enough broadcast personality, but the rest of their pregame crew -- John Granato, Rich Lord, and Lance Zierlein -- are pretty dim bulbs.

Mark Vandermeer will be excellent doing play-by-play, though local favorite Andre Ware may not be all that impressive doing color analysis.

Tonight will also be John Madden's debut on Monday Night Football. Let's hope it goes well for him. I heard him speaking a couple of times this weekend, and when I could even understand him, he just rambled on about nothing in particular.

[Posted at 17:33 CST on 08/05/02] [Link]

Does Drudge Ever Sleep?

Reynolds writes that Drudge has "picked up on the Ted Turner land grab story."

Actually, Drudge (as usual) popularized the story on the web, posting it on 18 July (according to his archive), after which it filtered down to most everyone else.

Sometimes I wonder if Drudge ever sleeps. Then again, I guess now that he's established himself, he probably gets lots of tips emailed to him.

[Posted at 08:31 CST on 08/05/02] [Link]

04 August 2002

Bagwell's Shoulder

Based on my previous rants on the topic, Cathy thinks I will be displeased by the latest Chron article on Jeff Bagwell's ailing shoulder.

I'm more puzzled by the timing than anything.

Bagwell had an excellent July, as did Biggio, and there's no doubt that their recent productivity (as the two players who take up a big chunk of Astros' payroll) has been critical to the Astros' ascent to contending status.

But until July, neither player had put up numbers anywhere close to what was needed from them, given the Astros' payroll constraints and the amount of payroll those two players consume. And while Bagwell was struggling, it seemed too convenient to read in the paper almost every day the same articles about his ailing shoulder, along with the admonition "Bagwell refuses to place blame on that..." My question then was -- okay, then who IS leaking this stuff to the beat reporters, and why is it being used almost as an excuse.

Interestingly, while Bagwell has been hot in July, I don't recall seeing one of those articles. Admittedly, I've been reading much more NFL and College Football stuff lately, so I could have missed it. But there didn't seem to be the daily dose of whining about Bagwell's shoulder.

Now there's today's story. And given that nothing has (apparently) changed with his shoulder -- but that it's still killing him -- and he STILL put up Bagwell-like numbers in July, then was it that out of line to criticize his production earlier in the year?

Drayton McLane invested a lot of payroll in Bagwell and Biggio. If those two players have sub-par years, then the team is likely to have a sub-par year. If they are hurt, aging, or whatever, it's unfortunate -- but that doesn't change the fact the team as currently configured needs big production from both of them.

All of that said, this isn't a bad story, especially coming from the Chron. But how about mixing in some features on the guys who are helping the team this year who weren't even expected to contribute? Kirk Saarloos, Pete Munro, and Ricky Stone all have earned a little ink, and so have Orlando Merced and Jose Vizcaino, veterans who were underutilized by Larry Dierker and who have had a good go of it under Jimy Williams. The team isn't JUST Bagwell and Biggio (even if Drayton's payroll choices make fans wonder sometimes).

[Posted at 17:23 CST on 08/04/02] [Link]

02 August 2002

Texans-Cowboys Scrimmage

What I know from observing the scrimmage between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans at UH's Robertson Stadium:

1) David Carr has the velocity. He's the real deal.

2) The Dallas defense is built on SPEED. They fly to the ball. That defense is the real deal.

3) Quincy Carter does NOT have the velocity. He had better be able to run, because his arm is NOT the real deal.

4) Chad Hutchinson DOES have the velocity. If Carter can't get it done, Dallas has a backup with legit arm strength.

5) Kent Graham is a joke.

6) NFL scrimmages are fairly silly, to be honest.

7) That the 1962 AFL Championship was played at this stadium says everything about the pitiful AFL.

[Posted at 22:49 CST on 08/02/02] [Link]

Do Politicians Ever Tell The Truth?

The problem with this FBI plan is that the politicians will easily pass any lie detector test. They've been doing it for so long as part of their profession that no polygraph operator is going to notice any difference in their "truthful" answers versus lies!

[Posted at 00:03 CST on 08/02/02] [Link]

01 August 2002

Fallout

Members of Enron's board of directors, who signed off on Andrew Fastow's questionable LJM partnerships, are scrambling to deflect blame (and criminal penalties) from themselves: It's Andersen's fault. It's V&E's fault. It's Ken Lay's fault.

But in the end, Enron's board should have been asking more questions, and someone as talented and smart as we are told Wendy Gramm is should certainly have been questioning the wisdom of the LJM and Raptor deals.

[Posted at 23:54 CST on 08/01/02] [Link]

The Gray Lady

Orrin Judd writes:

God bless the Gray Lady; only in its Manhattan offices is classical music more important than national security.
I find that for the last couple of weeks or so, Orrin's blog along with a handful of Houston blogs and a Norman blog are my regular, repeat destinations during the day.

I'm especially envious of Orrin, because some of his one-liners are just devastating, which of course takes me back to the old days of Reductio....

[Posted at 23:40 CST on 08/01/02] [Link]

Minority Report

I would note Ginger Stampley's latest for the opening paragraph alone:

What amazes me these days about large sections of the Official Pundit Blogosphere (tm) is not the Samizdittohead libertarian-conservative echo chamber that some folks complain about, but the absolute inability of some people to think outside that box.
There's a reason I never post opinions about immigration and such here, and that's because there are people like Ginger who know LOTS about this topic, and I prefer to learn something rather than add my uninformed opinion to the rather large bloggy universe of uninformed opinion. That's true on a lot of topics in bloggyland, actually.

But I digress. This post wasn't about that, but about a really informative post that has scrolled down Ginger's page because she's been writing like mad today. It's well worth reading.

[Posted at 23:21 CST on 08/01/02] [Link]

Selig's Gag Order

The Major League (Baseball) jackasses certainly are good at inserting foot in mouth.

I thought Bud Selig had issued a gag order to management. I don't think he intended them to use their feet.

(08-02-02 Update) Orrin Judd has a different take.

[Posted at 21:42 CST on 08/01/02] [Link]

WaPo Enron Series

Two of the (alleged) criminals behind the Worldcom fraud were arrested today, which should begin to neutralize partisan complaints that the Bush Administration is too soft on these matters.

However, it's a little shocking that none of the (alleged) criminals behind the Enron fraud have been hauled away yet. The Washington Post just concluded an outstanding five-part series that leaves little doubt that Andrew Fastow, Jeffrey Skilling, and probably Ken Lay knew exactly what they were doing, and intentionally misled investors, employees, and maybe even each other at times.

The Washington Post series is really excellent, an example of high quality journalism that has become altogether rare (sorry, but blogs aren't going to replace this kind of journalism anytime soon). Interestingly, Andrew Fastow announced this week that he would be selling the River Oaks mansion currently under construction only after pictures of the palace appeared in the Post. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

In any case, this series makes clear that Fastow and Skilling weren't very nice or honest people. Of course, the local Chron, which should have owned this story and been cruising towards its very first Pulitzer, instead continues to publish puff pieces on what swell guys the trio of (alleged) criminals are. Pitiful.

[Posted at 21:27 CST on 08/01/02] [Link]

Ideological Promiscuity

Alex Whitlock disagrees with Reynolds, who argues that the FTC should investigate grocery stores who maintain shopper-card programs and use two-tiered pricing:

As irritating (and perhaps even dishonest) as it is, it's the capitalist way. Kroger has the right to charge as much as they want for vermicelli. They could have just doubled the price outright if they had wanted to. Instead, they put terms on the low price, giving you the option to pay more or stay at the same price. If you don't like it, you are free to go elsewhere.
The Reynolds position on shopper-card programs is somewhat inconsistent with what is generally his libertarian outlook on most policies. Here, he's advocating government interference with what should (as Alex points out) be private affairs of the market. However, he's consistently critical of the idea of virtually any governmental interference with, say, drugs or biotechnology. And he's just confusing on the matter of homeland security (i.e. he constantly complains the current state of affairs is a "joke" -- but isn't clear whether he actually favors a more intrusive governmental approach or a less intrusive governmental approach).

These may be examples of what Matt Welch calls Reynolds's "ideological promiscuity," although I don't think Welch meant the term quite the way I'm using it.

[Posted at 20:20 CST on 08/01/02] [Link]

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