Thursday, September 28, 2006

The end of freedom as we used to know it

Two weeks ago, I blogged in deep respect and admiration of four Republican senators—Linday Graham, Susan Collins, John McCain and John Warner—who voted their consciences and stood up to the Bush administration and its endorsement of Executive Branch torture. Then the last few days happened. The Republican Senate leadership "negotiated" with the Bushfacists and gave away habeas corpus, oversight, international goodwill, ... and emerged with a "compromise" that preserves the Bushfacists rights to do whatever the fuck they want, toture whoever they want, answer to no one and further endanger American lives (especially those of soldiers serving overseas in conflicts), and let's not forget try to terrify American citizens in the name of calling people who think cowards.

Today the Senate voted to laydown and take it up the ass from Dick Cheney and Co, apparently they want to show enemy combatants that you can still take it up the ass and keep a good job in the United States.

Click here to see whether your favorite Senator voted for President Torture or for democracy and human rights.

Here's what the New York Times said, far more professionally and eloquently than I just did.

September 28, 2006

Rushing Off a Cliff

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

•There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

So what kind of music do you listen to?

One of my former students, who just started college at UCLA, asked me how I respond to that question about musical taste. And that of course started me thinking about how often I've been asked that question, especially in college and high school ...

Here's what I came up with:

Ahhhh, yes, one of the MOST popular questions in college.

Well, if there's one answer I hate getting (and have even started pre-emptively telling people not to answer) it's "well, my taste is really eclectic." That's so gutless. It means, I'm embarrassed that you won't like my taste, and ergo me, so I'm not going to answer. I get where that answer comes from, because I used to give it myself. And in most cases, as it was in mine, it's honest. But it's soft honest, as it also was in my case. In high school I listened to alternative rock almost exclusively: R.E.M., U2, Sarah McLachlan, Curve, Spirit of the West, Belly, Pearl Jam, etc. These were bands that you'd find on the Alternative Nation on MTV (back then they had an alt-rock show every Mon-Thurs at midnight) and/or on CFNY (an alt-rock radio station from Toronto).

Of course I had other things that I listened to that I felt earned me the right to answer "eclectic." I listened to a fair amount of classical music, some musical theater and I owned Legend (Bob Marley's greatest hits). I rarely listened to it though. So I didn't want to seem like narrowcast high school alt-rock kid and instead wanted to appear to be an "individual" so I answered "it's really eclectic" even though it really wasn't.

So, I suppose that I should get around to actually answering your question ... sorry aboot that. I tend to digress at any opportunity to talk about myself.

My new thing is to name my favorite bands by situation (I sorta pick and choose which of these I list, otherwise my answer is pretentiously long and off-putting):

Fave album this year: Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis
Band I've listened to the most in the past year: Rilo Kiley
First favorite band: R.E.M.
Favorite female artist: Rachael Yamagata (I always note that my taste tends to lean toward female solo artists and male groups)
Favorite new artists: The Pipettes, Jennifer O'Connor
Favorite artists that my parents listen to (not named the Beatles): Emmylou Harris and Allison Krauss
Favorite non rock genre CDs/artists: The Dixie Chicks, West Side Story, ABBA, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper
Guilty pleasures: Spice Girls and early Britney Spears
Songs that make me: sad (a million tears by kasey chambers), dance (pull shapes by the pipettes), dream (pictures of success by rilo kiley), wistful (nightswimming by REM)
Best concerts I've ever been to: U2, R.E.M., RiloKiley, Coldplay, Rachael Yamagata, Damien Rice, Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, Tift Merritt, Sufan Stevens (for some of them)
Tour I most wish I could have seen: Radiohead in support of The Bends

Other things that I really love: Avenue Q soundtrack, The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky, Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin, No Doubt (except for Retun of Saturn), the Smashing Pumpkins, early Pearl Jam, early Metallica (pre Black album, which was actually titled Metallica), lots of 80s one-hit wonders, Janet Jackson's early solo career, The entire Thriller album, college marching bands/drum corps, Stars.

to do it quickly ...

Desert island CDs: Takeoffs and Landings, The Bends, Achtung Baby, Automatic for the People, 12:00 Curfews, RENT soundtrack, Happenstance, O, Faithlift, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, Funeral, A Rush of Blood to the Head, The Roads Don't Love You, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tambourine, Barricades and Brickwalls, Set Yourself on Fire, Get Behind Me Satan ... with the understanding that this could change tomorrow.

or the really quick answer to what i listen to ...

"Indie rock" (which, btw, has become the new "alternative.")

Ironically, though this question is often asked as a way to pre-judge whether someone will "fit" into your group of friends, my college friends and I had very little in common musically. As did my Albany friends. High school, Syracuse and Los Angeles are the places where I've flourished musically, especially Los Angeles.

The other irony is that now that I've carved out this long, drawn-out, complicated answer, I could legitimately answer "ecletic." I've actually added Rock en EspaƱol, Latin Jazz, way more muscial theater, bluegrass, more legitimately country country, and good pop and punk to my alt-rock catalog.

This question definitely made me think!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Looking for "Good" reading ...

So I just subscribed to this new magazine called "Good," for young progressives and a review will be coming soon. But I am really hoping that this magazine makes it. My track record of supporting new magazines hasn't been good ... see Bleach, Brill's Content and Talk (which actually kinda sucked).

With the birth of this magazine, the dawn of (Google's for-profit philanthropic arm), Nicholas Kristof's and Steve Lopez's columns, and my students at L.A. Youth I am feeling more optimistic about the world.


Magazine Heir Makes Good

Ben Goldhirsh proves earnestness can be cool

September 23, 2006

EARNEST MIGHT NOT YET be the new ironic, but, at least in certain quarters, it's giving it a run for its money — quite literally. The new, generously endowed magazine Good, which launched earlier this month, bills itself as "a free press for the critical idealist." Its founder is 26-year-old Ben Goldhirsh, an Andover Academy/Brown University graduate, unapologetic idealist and a perennial wearer of jeans and Rockport hiking boots. The staff, which works primarily out of a bungalow in West Hollywood, includes a notable number of Brown alumni as well as 23-year-old recent Harvard grad Al Gore III, who serves as associate publisher.

Residing somewhere between the earthy sincerity of Mother Jones and the no-nonsense aridity of the Economist (Goldhirsh told the New York Times that the Economist was the one magazine he reads, "but it's almost like an assignment"), Good may be Generation Y's attempt to cut through the fabled cynicism of its Gen X predecessors. As described in an article in West magazine, Good offers "a hipster take on the world of energy, organic food, sweatshop-free fashion, politics, indie culture, do-gooder business and green living." No Nicole Richie updates here.

Goldhirsh is the son of the late Bernie Goldhirsh, who founded Inc. magazine, which he later sold for a reported $200 million. Good's subscription fees — $20 for six issues — go to a list of Good-approved charities of the readers' choosing. The World Wildlife Fund, Teach for America and the progressive-minded venture capitalist firm Ashoka are among those on the lineup. As of Friday, Good's Web site reported nearly $120,000 raised from close to 6,000 subscriptions. Meanwhile, the staff and contributors need not worry about their paychecks. Goldhirsh already has put $2.5 million of his own money into the enterprise and plans to invest $10 million more over the next five years.

Whether Good will last five years — or even one year — is anyone's guess. But what ultimately may be most telling about this undertaking is the way 1960s activism and post-Letterman, post-grunge slackerdom are forming a hybrid culture. The message: Give back. As for the medium, it carries the advantage of having some very deep pockets — even if they're in an old pair of jeans.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I gotta move to Europe

Berlin has an openly gay Mayor, who recently won re-election in a walk and who is considered one of the few stars of the German political scene. He drinks champagne out of women's pumps at parties, he's on the splash page of I want Klaus Wowereit in this country, or at least for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to get some similar adulation.

Viva la Deutschland!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Which amendment is first?

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were sentenced to 18 months in jail today by a federal judge because they refused to testify who leaked grand jury testimony to them in the case regarding steroids, BALCO and Barry Bonds.

The Constitution was trampled today because a the government cares more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the country which that law founded and protects.

Thomas Jefferson spun in his grave like a turbine in Niagara Falls today because two underpaid newspaper reporters could do their job a gazillion times better than probably dozens of government investigators looking into the steroids/BALCO/Barry Bonds case.

Two hardworking over-aged idealists protected their integrity and honor today because they believe in the value of a promise.

Two families were ordered by the state to endure 18 months of worry, fear and heartbreak today because the government decided that the most fundamental right of this nation's history should take a backseat to cover-your-ass law enforcement.

Refusing to cave in to governmental intimidation, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were sentenced to 18 months in jail today for protecting their confidential sources in the government's case against regarding steroids/BALCO/Barry Bonds.

In defiance of law, but in line with their personal integrity, two reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle refused to name their sources for grand jury testimony from the BALCO case earning and 18-month jail sentence.

I'll have more to say soon and I'm sure that I'll cite others who are far better with words than I am.

But should this country continue down this road of persecuting the truth seekers, it shall be a black matter for us all.

Disagree with me, and I'll defend you to the death

That's what the First Amendment is about. Today kicks off Banned Books Week. So to prove I'm not a terrorist, buy something like this to celebrate your freedom and be the coolest looking liberal out there.

Btw, happy autumnal equinox.

Fell in love with a song

In this blog I've pimped Rilo Kiley more than any other band, because they've made me feel about music the way I used to feel about it in high school. SCRATCH THAT. They've made the way I used to feel about music in high school pale compare to how I feel about it now.

So here's some lyrics to one of the band's songs, ironically, not my fave, just what I'm listening to now ("Teenage Love Song"). It's transportive ...

We were teenagers the first time we met
You were so famous, I couldn't resist
I was your girl then, that's what you said
When you kissed me, kissed me, kissed me

I gave you sweet love, boy, you said it was nice
It was my first time, we did it just twice
Went out for some sodas, when will you return?
But you dissed me, dissed me, dissed me

I went away for reasons disclosed
You broke my heart man, oh you didn't know
But now I'm back to see you again
Did you miss me? miss me? miss me?

We were teenagers the first time we met
You were so famous, I couldn't resist
I was your girl then, that's what you said
When you kissed me, kissed me, kissed me

Oh Davey, why did you leave me
All alone when we went all the way?
But maybe someday Davey
We'll be together for more than a day

I still love you and always will
All those motel rooms, you fronted the bill
I am not bitter, I want you to know
Got yours comin', I've seen it before

So now we're standin' so damn close
You've been in rehab, you think I don't know
I just remind you of yesterday
Places forgotten and friends passed away
But if you want me please won't you say
So I can dis you, dis you, dis you, dis you, dis you
And go away

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Find me the good news

The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday noted that 60 died in Iraq the day before and U.S military commanders said that troop drawdowns shouldn't be expected until Spring 2007 at the earliest. But as sad as those headlines are, they're nothing compared to this story.


No One Dares to Help

The wounded die alone on Baghdad's streets. An offer of aid could be your own death sentence, an Iraqi reporter writes.

September 20, 2006

Because this account of daily life in Baghdad reveals where the writer lives, his name is not being used to protect his safety. He is a 54-year-old Iraqi reporter in The Times' Baghdad Bureau.


BAGHDAD — On a recent Sunday, I was buying groceries in my beloved Amariya neighborhood in western Baghdad when I heard the sound of an AK-47 for about three seconds. It was close but not very close, so I continued shopping.

As I took a right turn on Munadhama Street, I saw a man lying on the ground in a small pool of blood. He wasn't dead.

The idea of stopping to help or to take him to a hospital crossed my mind, but I didn't dare. Cars passed without stopping. Pedestrians and shop owners kept doing what they were doing, pretending nothing had happened.

I was still looking at the wounded man and blaming myself for not stopping to help. Other shoppers peered at him from a distance, sorrowful and compassionate, but did nothing.

I went on to another grocery store, staying for about five minutes while shopping for tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. During that time, the man managed to sit up and wave to passing cars. No one stopped. Then, a white Volkswagen pulled up. A passenger stepped out with a gun, walked steadily to the wounded man and shot him three times. The car took off down a side road and vanished.

No one did anything. No one lifted a finger. The only reaction came from a woman in the grocery store. In a low voice, she said, "My God, bless his soul."

I went home and didn't dare tell my wife. I did not want to frighten her.

I've lived in my neighborhood for 25 years. My daughters went to kindergarten and elementary school here. I'm a Christian. My neighbors are mostly Sunni Arabs. We had always lived in harmony. Before the U.S.-led invasion, we would visit for tea and a chat. On summer afternoons, we would meet on the corner to joke and talk politics.

It used to be a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood, bustling with commerce and traffic. On the main street, ice cream parlors, hamburger stands and take-away restaurants competed for space. We would rent videos and buy household appliances.

Until 2005, we were mostly unaffected by violence. We would hear shootings and explosions now and again, but compared with other places in Baghdad, it was relatively peaceful.

Then, late in 2005, someone blew up three supermarkets in the area. Shops started closing. Most of the small number of Shiite Muslim families moved out. The commercial street became a ghost road.

On Christmas Day last year, we visited — as always — our local church, St. Thomas, in Mansour. It was half-empty. Some members of the congregation had left the country; others feared coming to church after a series of attacks against Christians.

American troops, who patrol the neighborhood in Humvees, have also become edgy. Get too close, and they'll shoot. A colleague — an interpreter and physician — was shot and killed by soldiers last year on his way home from a shopping trip. He hadn't noticed the Humvees parked on the street.

By early this year, living in my neighborhood had become a nightmare. In addition to anti-American graffiti, there were fliers telling women to wear conservative clothes and to cover their hair. Men were told not to wear shorts or jeans.

For me, as a Christian, it was unacceptable that someone would tell my wife and daughters what to wear. What's the use of freedom if someone is telling you what to wear, how to behave or what to do in your life?

But coming home one day, I saw my wife on the street. I didn't recognize her. She had covered up.

After the attack on the Shiite shrine of the Golden Dome in Samarra in February, Shiite gunmen tried to raid Sunni mosques in my neighborhood. One night, against the backdrop of heavy shooting, we heard the cleric calling for help through the mosque's loudspeakers. We stayed up all night, listening as they battled for the mosque. It made me feel unsafe. If a Muslim would shoot another Muslim, what would they do to a Christian?

Fear dictates everything we do.

I see my neighbors less and less. When I go out, I say hello and that's it. I fear someone will ask questions about my job working for Americans, which could put me in danger. Even if he had no ill will toward me, he might talk and reveal an identifying detail. We're afraid of an enemy among us. Someone we don't know. It's a cancer.

In March, assassinations started in our neighborhood. Early one evening, I was sitting in my garden with my wife when we heard several gunshots. I rushed to the gate to see what was going on, despite my wife's pleas to stay inside. My neighbors told me that gunmen had dropped three men from a car and shot them in the street before driving off. No one dared approach the victims to find out who they were.

The bodies remained there until the next morning. The police or the American military probably picked them up, but I don't know. They simply disappeared.

The sounds of shootings and explosions are now commonplace. We don't know who is shooting whom, or who has been targeted. We don't know why, and we're afraid to ask or help. We too could get shot. Bringing someone to the hospital or to the police is out of the question. Nobody trusts the police, and nobody wants to answer questions.

I feel sad, bitter and frustrated — sad because a human life is now worth nothing in this country; bitter because people no longer help each other; and frustrated because I can't help either. If I'm targeted one day, I'm sure no one will help me.

I was very happy when my eldest daughter married an American. First, because there was love between them, but also because she would be able to leave Iraq, and I wouldn't have to worry about her safety day after day. She left last year.

If you had asked me a year ago whether I would consider leaving Iraq, I would have said maybe, but without enthusiasm. Now it's a definite yes. Things are going from bad to worse, and I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Four weeks ago, I came home from work. As I reached my street, I saw a man lying in a pool of blood. Someone had covered him with bits of cardboard. This was the best they could do. No one dared move him.

I drove on.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Newhouse Wedding

It's more than a week later, but I wanted to give an update on the nuptials of a good friend from journalism grad school, Jon H. and his new wife Julie. Rather than my boring commentary, which would no doubtedly be too me-focused, here's some photos and captions from Jon, with really brief commentary from me.

JON: OK, here we are, bagpipers! (Mike: bagpipers were part of things, but Jon didn't take up his own and join in) All married up and besmooched! Maybe you could start playing that song that gets played at the culmination of a wedding, that uh, RECESSIONAL thing. The one we talked about yesterday. Or how about you just do anything I asked? Like arrive on time instead of 10 minutes late? And maybe you could stand in the choir part of the church like you said you would when we talked yesterday. Oh, forget it!

Mike: The ceremony was great, late bagpipers not witshstanding. Honestly, I don't think anyone even noticed. Very simple with an understated elegance of purpose: no bridal party (so no process of really slowly walking people), a few prayers of well wishes, two readings (one from me, more on that in a minute), a declaration and vows. Voila, two people in love become a wedded union. Pretty cool, eh?
... next ...

JON: Here's Julie trying to get her dress off the blacktop and me asking whether she wants me to hold the bouquet. We'd just been piped out of the church and were walking around the outside to re-enter the church atrium where we did the hug-and-kiss gauntlet -- Our first moment alone as marrieds.

Mike: Bride and groom as is soo obvious, looked fab. Jon bought his tux, in fact. Once again, one of my friends does something far more adult than I. Oh yeah, he got married! too.

... next ...

JON: In the receiving line, which turned out to be the worst thing we did to everyone who came.

Mike: The receiving line so wasn't a bad thing. First off, it wasn't mandatory to get out of the church, one could skip it (then granted one wouldn't get to do the official receiving line meet and greet, but you could still get a private moment with the individuals in the couple during the "everyone milling around" time at the church). That's Jon's sis on the left.

Rest of day: Reception was held downtown at the Pearl Street Grill (great local Buffalo restaurant and brewery. Weather was great for the upstairs, outdoor desk!!). It was a dancing-less reception, which in this case was great. Jon DJ'd it through a playlist on his MacBook, so heavy on the U2 with some good Candian music thrown in. Sadly no Cure, even though it has been discussed. It was a less structured reception, no assigned seating, no ceremonial moments like cake ramming, garter tossing, dollar dances, litany of toasts, first couples dance, mom and son dance, etc. While I've enjoyed those things at previous weddings, the looser feel of this one led to a very relaxed, just talk to peeps and tell stories vibe. Very cool.

Funny, Mike gracefully eating his own shoes moment: I offered to buy Jon an Irish Car Bomb, a shot we've done dozens of times over the years. He declined saying it was his wedding and he was already feeling good enough. So I made a vulgar comment about what he was drinking instead unbeknownstedly within earshot of the Bride. Well, she pretty much just laughed. I know this one won't end in anything but happiness.

Oh yeah, the reading I delivered was the Metta Sutta (a Buddhist selection). Jon is not a formalized Christian, so he wanted a reading that would encapsulate his thoughts. He, like me, has often been drawn to aspects of Buddhism because it's much more a way to live rather than a dogmatic faith. As an atheist I wouldn't have been comfortable reading something from the Bible, so this really jived with me as a less religious alternative.

Here's the Metta Sutta:

Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.

Wishing: in gladness and in safety may all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether they are weak or strong,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to be born, omitting none,
May all beings be at ease.

Let none deceive another or despise any being in any state.
Let none, through anger of ill-will wish harm upon another.

Like a mother protects her child, her only child with her life,
So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies and downwards to the depths,
Outwards and unbounded, free from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness, one should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Are free from worldy suffering.

--As you may note, this is a pretty damned long for a wedding reading. But if you just read it to yourselves, you'll notice that there weren't any major trip up words or phrases, right? Well, sure when you read it in your head. But I made the idiotic move of not practicing verbally ever. So my first time reading this out loud came during the wedding. DOUBLE BUBBLE YIKES. To avoid any unprofessional sounding UMs and UHHs I added about 10-15 extra commas and pauses, some times in the middle of lines. I felt like I choked, but ironically, I was praised for my delivery. People said that my pacing allowed them time to try to fathom the meaning of the words, which weren't provided in the program. And since this wasn't the reading from the Corinthians; they hadn't heard it before.

Raise a glass wherever y'alls are to penalty shots and the Sabres.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


That's Keith Olbermann brilliantly excoriating the President on his fear-mongering divisiveness and fucking lying.

then read this and figure out who will you stand with?

Maybe Tipper was right about the PMRC

So I'm at Tower Records in the checkout line buying the new Kasey Chambers' CD "Carnival," which is excellent (more rockish that previous efforts), and Cat Power's "The Greatest," which is also fabulous, Thursday night when a 12-year-oldish boy slams open the doors and rushes into the store.

"There's Justin Timberlake's SexyBack."

A beleaguered looking dad trails behind, slumping his shoulders that his son is using the phrase "SexyBack."

"That just made my day," says the manager, who is total hipster (nerd, black plastic-framed glassees, short hair with bangs the longest part of her 'do, tight black t-shirt, etc.), while the checkout clerk smirks.

"Me, too," I echo. I was so bemused that I failed to notice that they overcharged me for the Cat Power CD. I bought it because it was just $9.99, but I found out later that they charged me $11.99. Fortunately, they were cool and when I brought it to their attention later they took care of everything no questions asked and with an appropriately sincere apology.


In other news ... yay for Republican senators John Warner, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Susan Collins decided to vote their consciences and joined the weak-on-defense Dems on the Armed Services Committee and decided that it was honorable to vote against legalizing torture. It's really great that our President can't find it in his "Christian" heart to denounce torture. Of course he also wants to legislate discrimination against homosexuals, deny a woman the right to control her body, claim that people who question him are terrorists,
cane anyone who listens to rock music and tar and feather vegetarians.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The most despicable thing ever?

Actually, I don't even know why there's a question mark on that ...

Monday, September 11, 2006
T-ball coach to stand trial for $25 offer to bean player

PITTSBURGH -- A T-ball coach accused of offering an 8-year-old boy $25 to bean a disabled teammate is unlikely to receive a fair trial because of intense media coverage, the man's lawyer said.

Prosecutors did not return several phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment on the start of the trial.

Mark R. Downs Jr., 29, of Dunbar, was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in Fayette County on a string of charges, including solicitation, corruption of minors and reckless endangerment. He refused a plea agreement in December.

The charges against Downs drew the attention of media outlets around the world. Many columnists expressed disgust at what they considered adult corruption of a child's sport.

"We feel he's been persecuted by the media," defense attorney Thomas Shaffer said. "[The case] was on from the nightly news in Japan to every syndicated network broadcast across the country."

Prosecutors have argued that Downs did not want Harry Bowers Jr., then 9, to play in a June 2005 T-ball playoff game because the boy wasn't as good as his teammates. Bowers has autism and mild mental retardation.

Keith Reese, 8 at the time, testified at a preliminary hearing that he hit Bowers with baseballs first in the groin and later in the ear. Reese said he did it because Downs offered him $25 to make sure Bowers wouldn't be able to play.

League rules require each player to play at least three innings. Shaffer said Downs had joked at another game about paying players to hit an umpire with a ball. His words were later taken out of context and used against him by Reese, Shaffer said.

Bowers was hit because he misplayed balls while warming up with Reese, Shaffer said.

"[Bowers] was terrible. ... It's not like he got blinded-sided," Shaffer said. "He put his glove up, he missed it and it went off his glove and hit him."

The Falcons, the team Downs coached, are part of the R.W. Clark Youth Baseball League.

Bowers was hurt before a game in North Union Township, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. League officials have said they investigated the matter and could not confirm whether Downs had done anything wrong. But they said he wouldn't be allowed to coach again if he were convicted of criminal charges.

"He didn't ask to return, which was a good thing," said Eric Forsythe, president of the league. "I'm just curious to see what comes out in trial."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sports and hating

I'm not sure what this says about me, but it was opening Sunday of the NFL season today and I honestly didn't care that much. It was sooo way cooler to go to the Buffalo Zoo and hang with the fam and celebrate the nephew's birthday than watch the Bills game. Sure, I knew we were recording and expectations are low, but still ...

I'm old.


Friday, September 08, 2006

So long, so long, so long

Deadline ate me alive. I've been spit out, to attend a wedding. I am ready to go though. I've got a whole day to wash off the digestive juices then it's time to bomb cars Irish style, hope against hope that The Cure is played at the reception and make myself cleaned-up and stuff.

More soon on the absence of personal space.