Friday, December 31, 2004
MY HOMETOWN: THE BODY OF CHRIST
Corpus Christi (the body of christ in English) sits on the Gulf Coast roughly halfway between Houston and Brownsville in Texas. When you enter town on Interstate 37, the land is flat and mostly tree-less (cut down for cotton fields and development), and the highway is lined with billboards and refineries. It isn't much of a welcome.
Beyond that, the city is essentially one big suburb. Sure, there is a downtown with more of a night life than when I was growing up here, but it is still mostly deserted after 6 p.m. Most of the city is housing developments, with large grocery stores and big box stores on the development's borders. When you drive into the city on the freeway known as "South Padre Island Drive," it is flanked by large parking lots, hundreds of business signs, a couple of malls, and places like Wal Mart, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks (drive thru), Car Lots, Best Buy, Kohls, Hobby Lobby, Chilis, Tony Romas, Black Eyed Pea, Red Lobster, Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, and on and on. That part of the city, anyway, lacks any character besides that mix of bland and gaudy that marks mini-malls from Jersey City to Anaheim. But it happens to be the most bustling part of town.
The public transportation seems to be better than when I was growing up, but it still is just a handful of buses. Forget about getting places by bike or walking, people would run you off the road. To get anywhere here, you have to drive.
Politically, it can be very conservative, despite the fact the county went for Kerry in the election. The car without a magnetic "God Bless America" or "Support Our Troops" ribbon is the exception here - one of the biggest employers is the Navy after all. There are also a lot of Jesus fish - most of the Latinos in the city are Catholic, and it seems like most of the white folks are Baptist. Sadly, there are almost no unions - besides retail and other service oriented merchants, the other big employer is the petroleum industry.
On the other hand, I did see a young man in a coffee shop reading Nietsche, a car with a window sticker with the image of Che, plenty of kids loitering and riding skateboards, and one pro-union bumper sticker. I think there is incredible potential in Texas to organize the progressive community - there are thousands here, but they have no outlets.
TRAPPED IN PORTLAND: SIX INCHES OF SNOW FALLS ON SOUTH TEXAS
On X-Mas Eve I was at my mother's house in Portland, Texas - just across the harbor bridge from Corpus Christi. It never snowed a day in my life in South Texas, but suddenly it started to snow. I never expected a white X-mas, but we got 6-inches of snow. I wanted to go to the X-mas party at my aunt's house in Corpus Christi, but the bridge was closed and I was trapped. A healthy layer of snow remained on the ground for most of the next day. Most of the major highways, and the bridge didn't open again until 2 pm.
McALLEN: WELCOME WINTER TEXANS. I HOPE YOU LIKE CHAIN RESTAURANTS
McAllen is in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas - one of the poorest, if not the poorest, part of the country. I've visited for years because my Dad's extended family lives there. I went this time to visit my grandmother - I hadn't seen her in about 4 years. It was as it had been. There was a lot of construction, but they seemed to mainly be building chain restaraunts and mini malls on flat lots. One unique thing about the area is the large number of what I'll call "mini-med-malls." These are essentially medical shopping centers. They might have a few doctors offices, maybe a pharmacy, and a handful of other different kinds of clinics. They also have a lot of large buildings with brick fronts attached to metal warehouses - they are usually churches or nightclubs.
AUSTIN: WHERE I LEFT MY HEART
For New Years, I found myself in Austin - the place I had lived for the past 10 years before moving to San Francisco. I know a lot of my friends are glad to have left or are planning on leaving, but I really like the place. People have backyards and front porches there, which I like, but it is more social and communal than the sprawling suburbs of most Texas cities - at least the neighborhoods where I usually hung out.
I also miss a lot of the folks I got to spend time with while down there. I was only there for 2 days, so it was kind of a tease. I think there is a good chance I will move back there sometime in the next 10 years. I wonder if by then, all my friends will be somewhere else.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
I'm writing from Portland, Texas today with just some brief thoughts.
There is a story out from the Los Angeles Times, and reprinted at Common Dreams, that says that lobbying groups have spent $1.1 billion in 6 months. This is the first time the $1 billion mark has been broken. The top spenders include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, General Electric (trying to get those contracts in Iraq, and hey don't we need to start a war in Syria), pharmaceutical companies (let's not belabor this whole safety thing), and other corporations and their representatives. It clearly demonstrates the extent to which we have a government run by corporate interests and a wealthy elite. They are spending millions on lobbyists, not to mention increasing amounts on executives, advertising, and corporate law firms. And they are benefiting from enormous tax breaks and a more subservient (non-union), less costly (no benefits, lower pay) workforce. Yet we are told that the real reason costs are going up is because of frivolous lawsuits and government regulation. We are told that the real reason people are having a hard time making ends meet is because taxes are too high.
I'm reading a book called, Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils. The only problem with it is that there are occasional spelling errors; this is also true of the counterpunch website, and I hope they will correct that because I like their analysis and willingness to uncover everyone's dirty secrets. Anyway, it is helping me move beyond my lingering hope that the Democrats could ever do anything to change the undemocratic, ruling class orgy that goes on daily in Washington. In fact I'm beginning to think that those of us with real leftist, progressive principles, need to spend the next few years tearing down the Democrats, not ignoring them, and certainly not encouraging them.
I will write about my experiences in Texas soon. Among other things, I saw 6 inches of snow fall this Christmas in a place I lived for 18 years as a boy, never seeing snow once. Clearly a sign from God.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
According to reports in the mainstream media, a mortar attack in Mosul killed at least 24 people. The explosion ripped through a mess tent at a military base, and the media, taking the lead from military officials, has said over and over again that American soldiers, American contractors, AND Iraqis were killed. Military spokespeople went out of their way to say Iraqis were killed. But all the media was confirming were 15 American soldiers and 9 U.S. contractors. That makes 24. So who were the Iraqis?
I can't help but think that the U.S. military used this tragedy as an opportunity to push the line that our efforts in Iraq are part of a coalition involving a significant number of Iraqis. I'm sure a few Iraqis are involved, but I also know the military and U.S. government have overstated the amount of support they have from ordinary Iraqis. Most seem to be taking jobs in the Iraqi military and the police because of the money they are offered. But they quickly abandon efforts once those efforts become dangerous. A number of Iraqi police, for example, have abandoned police stations with little if any struggle when "insurgents" moved in. They are not committed to the American mission, because they realize that mission is simply a modern form of colonialism.
The U.S. is increasingly hated in the Arab and Muslim world. No amount of Pentagon propoganda can change that.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Originally uploaded by lito.
Life is too damn short. I'm sorry if you have no choice.
Quent Reese took this photo of me looking out over the peninsula where I now live in San Francisco. He was visiting the weekend before Thanksgiving. I scanned it into my computer, and it was taken by a disposable camera. So I'm sure it could have been a lot better if I had used a better camera.
If you click on it, it should take you to my flickr page, and you can see a couple of other photos we took on that hill.
I still feel like a foreigner here in San Francisco, but I think I could stay here awhile.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Pinochet indicted on human rights charges
Former Chilean leader under house arrest
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Gen. Augusto Pinochet was indicted Monday for the kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one of them during his 1973-90 regime, and the former dictator was placed under house arrest.
Judge Juan Guzman made the announcement nearly three months after questioning the 89-year-old former ruler and having him examined by doctors to determine whether he can stand trial.
Guzman said he made the decision to try Pinochet after carefully reviewing an interview Pinochet gave to a Spanish language television station in Miami.
He said he is convinced Pinochet is healthy enough to stand trial.
The trial of Pinochet is part of Guzman's investigation of the so-called "Operation Condor," a joint plan by the dictatorships that ruled several South American nations in the 1970s and '80s to suppress dissidence.
"This a historic decision that must be celebrated by all democrats," said Viviana Diaz, member of an organization of dissidents who disappeared under Pinochet. "This is great news for all those Chileans who do not accept impunity in the violations of human rights."
Pinochet's lawyers are expected to appeal Guzman's decision to the Supreme Court.
It's the second time Pinochet faces trial for the abuses during his long reign. In 2001, he was indicted for the killings by the Caravan of Death, a military patrol that toured the country a few weeks after the 1973 coup, leaving 75 political prisoners killed.
Eventually, however, the Supreme Court ruled he was physically and mentally unfit to stand trial -- a condition Pinochet's lawyers argue not only still exists but has worsened.
Pinochet has been diagnosed a mild case of dementia. He also has diabetes and uses a pacemaker.
But Guzman said reports he received from three doctors that examined Pinochet on his orders convinced him that the retired general can stand trial.
Guzman also said Pinochet's answers to a Miami TV interviewer indicated he was mentally alert.
Earlier this month, an appeals court stripped Pinochet of immunity from prosecution for a 1974 car bombing that killed an exiled Chilean general and the man's wife.
The 14-9 decision by justices on Santiago's Court of Appeals opened the possibility Pinochet could stand trial for the bombing that killed former army chief Gen. Carlos Prats and his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, in Buenos Aires.
Prats, a former chief of the Chilean army, had opposed the 1973 coup that put fellow general Pinochet in power, and was among the first of an estimated several thousand people killed during Pinochet's rule.
Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
So, I'm listening to the new Interpol disc - Antics - which I do recommend, although I know a lot of folks can't stand them. I think they have a Joy Division feel that few can reproduce. Anyway, I'm also battling ants at my place - I estimate there are roughly 47 million ants invading my home and I'm finally making a dent in their ranks. There is still some "cleaning up" to do (to use a Pentagon term for destroying human life), but I'm halfway there. Finally I was approved for a forbearance on my student loans today. This means that I still accumulate interest, but I don't have to pay anything for a few months. The realities of taking care of my moving expenses and paying a lot more in rent than I'm used to have finally caught up to me.
One more thing. I just read this piece on Los Alamos and nuclear weapons reasearch that everyone who has anything to do with UT, UC or humanity should read. It's by a couple of guys I know. Nick, in particular, is somewhere between acquaintance and friend.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
If folks are interested, they should check out the comments to my post below: "Right Wing Identity Politics Take Hold." Brent Wilkes of LULAC has responded.
He also sent an email to Michael Avery where he criticized parts of the column I had published last week. Here is the text of that letter:
Thank you for thoughtful response to my email to you. I agree with your conclusions that we should agree to disagree about the Gonzales issue, while at the same time work together on other issues on which we have a community of interests. However, you should know that it was not so much the National Lawyers Guild’s opposition to Gonzales that LULAC objected to as much as the tone of your initial release. You certainly have the right to oppose Gonzales’s nomination based on your analysis of his record as other groups have done. LULAC, on the other hand, has the right to support his nomination based on our analysis.
What I am concerned about is that some elements of the progressive community, of which LULAC is a proud member, appear to be adopting the “ends justify the means” mentality of the far right even when it comes to dealing with minority constituencies.
For instance, a favorite tactic of the far right is to belittle the importance of the opinions of Hispanics and Hispanic organizations. I can’t tell you how often I have heard the phrase that this or that politician was “pandering to the Hispanic community” by supporting a pro-Latino position. In their view, apparently, anytime the opinions of our community are taken into consideration no matter how infrequent, this is pandering, whereas the opinions of business leaders and religious conservatives is perfectly legitimate.
Unfortunately, your statement that "the suggestion that has appeared in the media that Democrats may be afraid to oppose Gonzales because he is a Latino is offensive” sounds eerily similar to this kind of reasoning. Why is it offensive for the views of Latinos to be taken into consideration?
Or consider the following statement made by your Carlos Villarreal, NLG Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area, in the article below:
“But it is troubling that both of these organizations have made access to power so central to their support for Mr. Gonzales, while glossing over his faults in their press statements. Indeed, the statements from both NCLR and LULAC had little to say about Mr. Gonzales' jurisprudence. He may support the Patriot Act, but at least these groups have a seat at the table. He may oppose the most basic of human rights for Mexican Nationals accused of capital crimes, but at least these groups will have access to the White House.”
Heaven forbid that LULAC or NCLR have a seat at the table or have access to the White House (which itself is inaccurate). Never mind that if Alberto Gonzales did not have a relationship with the Latino community and Latino organizations that he would have been lambasted for being elitist and a coconut. Never mind that if LULAC or NCLR had not had a longstanding relationship with Gonzales then we would have been accused of supporting someone we knew little about (in fact this was implied anyway). No, in this case, a positive that Gonzales has had a long and close relationship with Hispanic organizations and has worked directly with the Latino community (he was the Director for Catholic Charities and Big Brothers and Sisters in Houston, Texas) is turned into a negative and LULAC and NCLR are publicly ridiculed for it.
Or perhaps you should consider another statement by Villarreal:
“Mr. Gonzales has done a better job protecting the mostly white, male, wealthy politicians who have rewarded him than defending the rights of those communities of color who have suffered under the Bush regime. This is exactly why conservatives in power today love Mr. Gonzales so much, and why they have embraced this new brand of identity politics. He has protected Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and others in powerful positions. He is far more effective in a post Civil Rights era at promoting right-wing ideals than rich, white men, ever could be.”
Never mind that Gonzales is not loved by the far right who are in fact adamantly opposed to his possible nomination to the Supreme Court because they believe he is too moderate. In the view of the National Lawyers Guild whose own record on Hispanic diversity is questionable, Alberto Gonzales is a Latino Uncle Tom. It all sounds rather hypocritical to me.
I suggest that at the next National Lawyers Guild board meeting that you read through the initial press release that you sent on the Gonzales nomination and the article published by Carlos Villarreal on various progressive web sites and ask yourselves if these items could not have been worded better. Ask yourselves how LULAC and the overwhelming number of Latino organizations that have endorsed Alberto Gonzales would look upon these statements. If NLG is truly serious about moving the progressive agenda forward, it will need to develop a rapport with a broad cross section of the American public, not just the handful of progressive organizations sighted by Villarreal’s article.
Carlos Villarreal does have a point about the Republican agenda, however. After years of being on the defense on racial diversity issues, the Republicans are attempting to turn the tables on the Democrats and point out the inconsistencies in the Democratic record on diversity. The last thing the progressive community should do in response is to lash out in a clumsy manner at every minority candidate appointed by a Republican President. That’s not to say that you should support them or stay neutral either—just be careful that the statements that you make don’t fall into the Republican’s trap.
Brent A Wilkes
National Executive Director
League of United Latin American Citizens
2000 L Street, NW, Suite 610
Washington, DC 20036
FAX (202) 365-0851
P.S. I am curious why NLG has not come out in opposition to Condoleezza Rice’s nomination to be Secretary of State. While Alberto Gonzales’s role in the Bush administration’s pursuit of the war on terror is indirect at best, Rice, as National Security Advisor, was right in the thick of it. She ignored intelligence prior to 9/11 that if acted upon might have prevented the war on terror from even beginning, she helped exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq on many occasions to justify our preemptive attack on that nation which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, and she has no doubt been a central player in developing the strategies to extract information from the “enemy combatants.” Your own web site mentions its opposition to her positions many times, while with Gonzales the only mention of him came in the press release opposing his nomination.
Monday, November 29, 2004
I have yet to receive any negative feedback about this piece on Gonzales I had published on a few progressive websites. I'm hoping it will spark some debate within the Latino community.
“The Gonzales Debate: Identity Politics Meets the Right Wing” is available on Common Dreams, Truthout, and ZNet.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
The following is a letter sent to National Lawyers Guild President Michael Avery from LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes. It is in response to a press release the Guild sent out opposing the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the office of U.S. Attorney General. Some of my thoughts are below it:
Dear Mr. Avery:
The League of United Latin American Citizens, this nation's oldest andlargest Hispanic organization, finds your press release regarding Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General to be inaccurate, racist and offensive and we demand a public apology from your disingenuous group.
Alberto Gonzales is a moderate Republican attorney with an outstanding and extensive legal career; a history of taking moderate to progressive positions on contentious issues such as abortion, affirmative action, bilingual education, immigration, and civil rights; and a record of strong community involvement and accessibility to LULAC and other Hispanic community based organizations. LULAC has interviewed Gonzales on a number of occasions and we are well aware of his positions which clearly place him in the moderate wing of theRepublican Party. We certainly believe he is the strongest candidate for theAG position of those that were under consideration and will make a much better AG than John Ashcroft.
Your press release inaccurately characterized a memo that he wrote regarding the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to captured Al Queda and Taliban (but not Iraqi) fighters who were not part of the regular armed forces of a foreign government. Contrary to what you assert, Gonzales did not OK the use of torture and in fact, clearly stated in his memo that he believed that the principals of the Geneva Conventions regarding the humane treatment of prisoners should still apply to the Al Queda and Taliban prisoners even though he felt that the Geneva Conventions themselves did not. It should also be pointed out, that Al Queda and Taliban have never abided by the Geneva Conventions themselves.
However, what we find most offensive about your press release, other than its distortions of fact, is the following statement attributed to you: "The suggestion that has appeared in the media that Democrats may be afraid to oppose Gonzales because he is a Latino is offensive. If Gonzales were living in a Latin American country he would no doubt be a member of a repressive oligarchy."
First of all, the media is suggesting that Democrats aren't opposing Alberto Gonzales because they believe he is an outstanding moderate Republican attorney who rose from an impoverished migrant worker family with eight children to become one of our nation's top attorneys and they realize he is about as good as a Bush appointee gets. Democratic Senators have never given much consideration to promoting Latinos when they have the opportunity to make appointments themselves and they have never hesitated to oppose Latinos they felt were not qualified before so the idea that they would be afraid to oppose a Latino appointment now if they felt it was justified is ridiculous.
Second, what kind of civil rights organization (as your group purports to be) would state that the son of migrant farm workers would probably be a member of a repressive oligarchy if he were living in a Latin American country? This is an outrageous and repulsive statement that displays arrogance toward Latinos and toward Latin America that I find very troubling.
On your web site it states that the aims of the National Lawyers Guild are:-to eliminate racism; -to safeguard and strengthen the rights of workers, women, farmers and minority groups, upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends; -to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them; -to use the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than for their repression. Yet the same web site lists the following individuals as members of yourExecutive Committee:
[Here he lists the names of officers from the NLG's website. You can find them here.]
I only see one name out of 22 listed here that appears to be Hispanic. How do you expect to achieve your aims when you don't practice what you preach?
Your group clearly needs to get its own act together before it goes on the attack against the first Hispanic ever to be nominated for the position of Attorney General. In the meantime I suggest you issue a public apology to Alberto Gonzales to avoid further public embarrassment.
Brent A Wilkes
National Executive DirectorLeague of United Latin American Citizens
2000 L Street, NW, Suite 610Washington, DC 20036
FAX (202) 365-0851
Where to begin? First I respect LULAC. They do some good work throughout the country, including taking a leadership role in Texas on the issue of criminal justice reform. But supporting a right-winger like Mr. Gonzales, simply because he is Latino, is disappointing to say the least.
Has Gonzales taken moderate stands in the past? A handful of facts have been presented, including an example where he voted in favor of the rights of a 17-year-old girl to have an abortion without the consent of her parents. Little, however, is known about his actual values, in part because he's been aiming for the U.S. Supreme Court for a few years now. However, he has made it clear through his memo on torture as White House counsel, that he stands with some of the most reactionary elements of the Bush team. He also has a history of protecting his wealthy, conservative bosses, particularly Mr. Bush, from public embarassment or worse. He hasn't come close to the progressive social statements made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or former NY Mayor Rudy Guiliani (hardly progressives, but not quite hardliners either), yet Wilkes argues that Gonzales is a moderate? This must be countered as another attempt to move the political dialogue in this country far to the right.
Wilkes also mentions access. In both the LULAC statement and the National Council of La Raza statement in support of Gonzales, they mention access and his willingness to meet with Latino organizations. Yes, Gonzales has clearly done a good job of lobbying these organizations for the Bush Team, but I'm very suspicious of organizations who sell their souls for a seat at the table of power.
The memo is only one piece of evidence against Gonzales. No matter how you try to spin it, he has clearly sought to protect the highest officials in the Bush administration against any consequences that might come from authorizing torture in the course of the war on terror. Yes, it is true that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have never followed the Geneva Convention, but certainly we want something better from our leaders than excusing their own conduct because the terrorists do it also.
Wilkes doesn't really explain why the statement from the press release about Gonzales being part of an oppressive oligarchy if he lived in a Latin American country is offensive. I'm open to the idea that this statement could be racist, but I havn't heard a decent argument yet. My interpretation is that it demonstrates that the Guild's analysis doesn't stop at race. If it did we would have to excuse the most evil and vicious policies, as long as a person of color was the source of those policies. A great example, particularly ideal when arguing against the appointment of a Latino to a U.S. executive post, is the fact that very oppressive regimes have existed in Latin American countries, run by some evil people of Latin American origin (e.g., Pinochet). Coincidentally, the U.S. government has often propped up those dictatorships, and the Bush family doesn't have clean hands on this issue. The quote from our press release seems to demonstrate that the Guild is an anti-racist organization, but the basis of our anti-racism is human rights, not identity politics.
So, he was the son of a farm worker. Why should that give him a free pass?
It's true that the Guild could work on recruiting more Latinos to our organization, but there are more of us than LULAC might know. Resorting to listing the names from our website is a weak attempt to peg us as a white, liberal organization. "Wilkes" doesn't seem like a Latino name to me, but I would have never criticized LULAC because of it. In a way the Guild is more multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-cultural than LULAC. We have done a lot to support labor movements among Latinos and other people of color, we have built close relationships with Arab American, South Asian, and Muslim communities. At our convention this year we had rooms full of African Americans, Arab Americans, Palestinians, South Asians, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, and of course plenty of gringos. We could do better, and we will do better in the future, but we are not just another white, liberal organization.
I think LULAC (along with NCLR and other Latino mainstream organizations) need to apologise for embracing Gonzales along with all of his alarming views. It is a great tragedy, not a triumph, that the first Latino to hold such a high office would be this dangerous right-winger. I am insulted.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Talib Kweli's new CD is worth a spin. I recommend it over Mos Def's new disc, which at times is homophobic and generally uninspired. The Beautiful Struggle, however, is smart and makes me wanna dance, cry, and throw rocks at banks. Lyrics are always important to me. Here are some of his:
From Beautiful Struggle:
"Yo, I heard it's said the revolution won't be televised; But in the land of milk and honey there's a date you gotta sell it by; Otherwise it just expires and spoils; And these folks jump out the pot when the water too hot; Cuz the fire boils inside; You go to church to find you some religion; And all you hear is connivin' and gossip and contradiction and; You try to vote and participate in the government; And the muh'fuckin' Democrats is actin' like Republicans"
"You fight in the streets, start bleedin' 'til the blood is pourin'; In the gutter, mothers cry 'til the Lord be livin' by the sword and; All that folks want is safety, they goin' gun crazy; The same reason Reagan was playin' war games in the '80's; The same reason I've always rocked dog chains on my babies; The struggle is beautiful, I'm too strong for you to slave me"
From Around My Way:
"We be takin' gypsy cabs and chasin' 50 bags; They be laced with shitty swag and it really get me mad; The way we saluting flags, wrapping them around our heads; when niggaz ain't become American till 9/11; Feeling like you gotta sneak into heaven; When the reverend looking like a pimp and the pimp look like the reverend"
From Going Hard:
"people ask me how we wearing diamonds; when theres little kids in Sierra Leone losing arms for crying while they're mining; probably an orphan whos momma died of AIDS; he built a coffin working often but he never paid; forever slaving in the world thats forever cold; becoming the man of the house at 11 years old; this reality rap I get inside the mentality that; terrorize you like a cowardly act"
From We Got The Beat:
"yo these soldiers die in petroleum wars; think they fighting for the holiest cause; it don't matter if you muslim, hebrew, or you a christian; information is the newest religion, is a true way of living; ain't no rule to a supestition stop me with going through with my mission; come on man"
This last verse makes me think Talib is becoming a materialist; or maybe I'm reading too much into these lyrics. Anyway, I can't say I agree 100% with his message, but I respect his message. That's pretty rare.
So which cable news network is Colin Powell going to work for? Which AM radio station is John Ashcroft going to work for?
Thursday, November 11, 2004
From Indy Media in Los Angeles:
MARINE APCs APPEAR AT ANTI-WAR PROTEST IN WESTWOOD
LOS ANGELES, November 9, 2004 - At 7:50 PM,
What were first reported to be tanks and now identified as Marine APCs showed up at an anti-war protest in front of the federal building in Westwood.
The APCs circled the block twice, the second time parking themselves in the street and directly in front of the area where most of the protesters were gathered.
Enraged, some of the people attempted to block the APCs, but police quickly cleared the street.
The people continued to protest the presence of the Marines, but after about ten minutes they drove off. It is still unclear as to why they were deployed to this location.
Check this out: Turn Your Back On Bush
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
From Indy Media:
US Attacks Falluja: Protest In SF Tuesday Night
11/05/2004US ATTACK ON FALLUJA
Protest At Powell & Market Tuesday November 9th At 5 PM
11/08/2004: The US ground assault on Falluja has begun. Fallujah General Hospital has been occupied by U.S. soldiers; an unnamed American officer justified it by saying that doctors' and administrators' reports of civilian casualties during the last assault made the hospital a "center of propaganda." At least 200 Iraqi troops had deserted their posts in the American-led offensive. Marine commanders have warned the new offensive could bring the heaviest urban fighting for US forces since the Vietnam War. An influential Iraqi Muslim group has urged Iraqi security forces not to fight with US troops ...
Saturday, November 06, 2004
So there is some crazy logic coming from liberals these days. The Democrats have to find their religion? The Democrats have to reach out to the heartland? The Democrats have to appeal to rural America? NO! How about reaching out to the progressives, the Greens, the leftists? Of course not, they'd rather confuse their message further, trying to stand just to the left and just to the right of the fascists in the white house. I can already predict these Democrats' choice for a ticket in 2008: Joseph Lieberman and Colin Powell. These people need to get the hell out of the way.
Then there are the slightly more left-leaning liberals, like Katha Pollitt of The Nation. She wrote a column this month that should really just be a speech for her therapist. These are the sad folks who put all their hope in John Kerry and the electoral process, so now they are devestated and considering leaving the country. These people need some Zoloft and a beer, and then maybe they can try writing for major publications again.
Some of the best analysis is coming from Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch. He's been writing some great stuff and revealing some interesting facts. For instance, he claims that "The youth vote (18 to 24) stayed the same as in 2000. The turnout among the 25 to 35 cohort was 4 per cent less than in 2000." This confirms one of my theories. Young people were not excited by Kerry because he offfered us nothing. It was mostly those age groups that took to the streets last year to oppose the war, but they faced two candidates promising to continue the war. For those in the younger bracket who may have a possible draft on their mind, there was no mainstream candidate with a plan to get out of Iraq and avoid such a possibility. For those in that age group facing skyrocketing tuition - again, why vote for either major candidate?
The Liberal Democrats didn't offer answers for these folks, and they have no good answers for defeating Republicans in four years. But I don't think they're going to disappear. So those of us on the left have to be ready, or else we will be dealing with this argument in 4 years: "Sure the Lieberman/Powell ticket isn't perfect, but at least they aren't as bad as DeLay/Rumsfeld."
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
One of the more interesting statistics I saw this morning: about 42% of Americans who voted yesterday reported attending church weekly or more than weekly! I think it was 16% who said more than weekly. I know there are people who go to church on Wednesday and Sunday, and the very rare person who goes almost every day, but I had no idea they were such a big voting block. As you might expect, those votes went mostly to Mr. Bush.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
I have filled out my ballot, but have yet to cast it. I can mail it, but I'd have to risk the unlikely possibility that it wouldn't get to its destination by 8 pm on Tuesday. I have the option of simply delivering it to a polling place, which I will do.
Ralph Nader wasn't on my ballot, though I understand I could have written him in. I probably would have voted for him because I'm in a safe state, he has a chance to get millions of votes, and his running mate is Camejo. But I'm not convinced that the Green Party safe states strategy is completely wrong. I think it depends on the circumstances, and too many folks jumped on that bandwagon too quickly. Now, with two days before we vote, and not much time left for strategy, it may be the right choice in some states to vote for Kerry as an anti-Bush vote. What is sad is that the Greens didn't decide to challenge the two-party system early on, endorse Nader, and ignore the lesser-evil argument. This is the most important election of my lifetime so far, which is exactly why there was never a more important time to challenge the Republicrats. There wasn't such a challenge - at least not one that was adequate - so it is hard to endorse any of the 3rd party campaigns as a mere protest vote in swing states.
Why Kerry? Because it is likely that he will appoint some Supreme Court justices and because I don't think the movement will die with him as president. There is potential that the movement (meaning the growing movement against war and globalization and for human rights) will continue to grow. The lesser-evil argument has taken hold, which I hate, but at least it's explicit and widespread. In other words, groves of people will vote for Kerry, not because they like him or his policies, but because they really hate Bush and his. Those same people will not stay home on an International Day of Action because they don't want to make Kerry look bad; those same people will not be opposed to protesting a visit from Kerry if the war in Iraq continues, or the occupation of Palestine continues its course. If the movement continues to grow with Kerry in the White House, it is the best possible scenario. A presumably liberal leader confronted with agitation from the left. I don't think a Kerry administration would be able to ignore protests of millions the way the Bush administration did leading up to the war.
In my opinion, all of the arguments in the previous paragraph would be trumped if there was a viable and strong 3rd party candidate. But there isn't. However, if you're in a safe state, I think progressives should vote their conscience. I voted for Peltier on the Peace and Freedom Party line. Here is his statement:
Statement by Leonard Peltier
I am a Native American who has suffered nearly 28 years in prison, even though government attorneys and courts acknowledge that the government withheld evidence, fabricated evidence, and coerced witnesses to fraudulently convict me. But the courts say they have no power to correct the wrongs of our government. If the Courts do not, who does? I will ensure that all peoples receive justice. Environmental protection is paramount for our survival. The earth is our sacred Mother who nourishes us. Our government is destroying the earth by allowing its usurpation for greedy purposes. I will protect the environment. All minorities must be allowed to maintain their languages and traditions with dignity. I personally suffered the indignity of being deprived of speaking my native tongue and following Lakota traditions. This country has engaged in genocidal policies to exterminate virtually every minority, especially those who express dissent and seek equal justice. Now is the time to end the continuing injustices of this government and ensure liberty and equal health care to all. Luther Standing Bear, a Sioux Chief, stated: "Out of the Indian approach to life became a great freedom -- an intense and absorbing love for nature; a respect for life; enriching in a supreme power; and principals of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guard to mundane relations." That statement exemplifies the basic truths of life. I will represent all people, not the entrepreneurs who care only how much money can be stuffed into their pockets
Monday, October 25, 2004
Originally uploaded by lito.
Here you see a photo taken at the area in Birmingham, Alabama called 5-Points. It's a crazy statue/fountain with a goat reading to a bunch of animals. I assume it's reading a bible, since this is the heart of the bible belt.
I was in Birmingham for the National Lawyers Guild convention the past few days. It's actually an interesting city, and I'm embarassed that this is one of the best photos I have of the area since the city has a tragic and inspiring history as a flashpoint of the American Civil Rights Movement. I was lucky enough to go to the Civil Rights museum and the park adjacent said museum. There were much more powerful works of art there, but I didn't have a camera with me at the time.
The Guild convention blew me away, as it did last year in Minneapolis. I was able to speak on one panel. My speech had the following message: we should be movement lawyers, and at my age with my experience I believe a good movement lawyer needs anger and inspiration; the commitment to understanding and partnering with clients and affected communities; and finally the recognition that some of the most important work we must do is not in an office or courtroom, but in the streets.
By the way, Rehnquist has thyroid cancer, so I'm reexamining whether swing state voters should choose Kerry.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Originally uploaded by lito.
So here I am at my new office cleaning up. There are files in the office from the 80's that are completely dusty and unecessary. We've been slowly getting rid of all this junk, and organizing the stuff we need to keep. Our office is on the second floor of a Victorian in the Mission District of San Francisco. I found out this week that we have mice.
I've also sold my car for less than its worth. I sold it to these nice guys who buy cars and resell them to used dealerships. I was glad to get it off my hands, I've already received two parking tickets because I wasn't able to move my car on the street sweeping day. Plus gas is expensive, and insurance is expensive, it was time to get rid of the car. It was a 1995 Saturn SL2 that served me well. It got me to Boston and back in 2001, drove me to and from major Texas cities, visits to Corpus Christi, and a recent trip to West Texas. Most recently it got me and my dog to California. Mostly I'll miss the bumper, where I advertised my political beliefs through sarcastic, self-designed stickers, like the classic "Jesus Loves U.S. Cluster Bombs."
One question for the week: Since when is Bill O'Reilly a celebrity and not a right-wing nut? The man should be shunned, but apparently he is promoting his new book - The O'Reilly Factor for Kids - on The View this morning. I don't watch that god-for-saken show, but they were talking about O'Reilly on the news this morning because a former producer is accusing him of sexual harassment. I hope he's going down.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Two subtle things about the Bay Area that I've noticed, and everytime I notice them I tell myself I should put that in my blog for some reason. As if anyone will actually be interested. The most I can hope for is a hmmm from a well-intentioned friend.
1. We have water trucks here that look exactly like the Sparkletts trucks from Austin, but they say "Alhambra" instead.
2. At every Chinese restaraunt I've been to, including those where you can get a lunch special for under $5, as soon as you sit down you are presented with a pitcher of hot green tea and a small cup. It's really a nice touch, especially on a cold, damp San Francisco evening.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
There is an amazing voting process about to take place in San Francisco - ranked voting. For local candidates - they are supervisors here (kind of like city council people, but in SF the county and city are kind of the same thing). It is essentially instant run off voting. For each slot you get 3 choices, ranked 1 through 3. If someone gets more than 50% of 1st choice votes, they win, if no one does, they eliminate the lowest vote-getters. Then if your 1st choice was eliminated, they count your 2nd choice, if not they count your 1st choice again in round two of counting. If someone gets 50% at that point, they win, if not, the process is repeated again.
Anyway, it is amazing that they have started this here - it will be the first time we use it. It has the potential to spread and to create an opening for 3rd and 4th party candidates.
There are lots of store fronts that have 2 signs in their windows for candidates running in the same district. Sometimes they put one above the other. At first I thought there were a lot of places that just let anyone post signs in their window. But then I realized it was a byproduct of our ranked voting system. They are essentially saying who they think our 1st and 2nd choices ought to be. In some districts there are alliances built, as candidates say vote me 1st and this other guy 2nd, or vice versa, but don't vote for X.
So imagine if this were our system in presidential elections. People really could vote their conscience.
Anyway, I hope it catches on, but I understand a lot of the major party big shots don't like it.
So, I think I'm going to try to sell my car in the next 48 hours. Does anyone in the Bay Area want it?
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Originally uploaded by lito.
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending my brother's wedding in Fort Smith, Arkansas - and it really was good to see my family and meet my new sister. The worst aspect was having to wear this tuxedo. The last time I wore one was at a "Favorites" Dance at my high school. I was a freshman, and was asked to the dance by a senior (female). I would have been excessively uncomfortable at the dance even without the tux, and at one point in the evening my pants split. White briefs are hard to hide when your black tux upens up.
Back to my trip. I mainly saw the church, the airport and the area around both in Fort Smith. I also spent some time at my brother's home in Poteau, Oklahoma.
It was the first time I had arrived at an airport where I had to step down onto the runway from the plane.
Fort Smith wasn't a bad town - I noticed an internet cafe and some nature-friendly parks. I'd like to find out about the main industries in the city, or how most people make a living. I couldn't figure it out - there were no factories, prominent office buildings, or large warehouses that I could see.
The wedding ceremony was painless. My brother's friends - the other groomsmen - were making constant jokes about my brother's last chance to flee before making a commitment. At one point my brother nervously announced that he wasn't sure if there would be corkscrews for the wine at the reception. I said, "this is a Catholic church, it ought to be packed with corkscrews." For a split second I feared he and his friends would think I was making some sort of sick joke. Then I realized that any conceivable sick joke wouldn't make much sense or be funny, and could only be narrowly grounded in reality. They chuckled and said, "hey ya, ask the priest."
On a different but oddly similar note, my divorced parents actually spoke twice during the reception, and were friendly to each other.
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Excerpted from a local radio station's website:
Morrissey is unable to perform at ALICE’s “Now & Zen” today as scheduled.
He was seen Saturday morning at 11 am by Dr Joseph Sugarman who diagnosed him with sinusitis, acute laryngitis and a high fever and advised that he not attempt to speak for the next 48 hours at a minimum. Morrissey is very disappointed and sends his apologies to his San Francisco fans and everyone at ALICE.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Originally uploaded by lito.
This photo was shot a block from my house looking southeast. It's one of these great scenes folks from San Francisco probably ignore - like the fog rolling in around 5:30, the beautiful people, and the freedom (at least for people with money).
I start my job tomorrow, and I've discoverd that I am working with some of the most incredible activists in the country. Wish me luck.
Originally uploaded by lito.
So, Sebastian's new friend is Jack. Surprisingly, Sebastian didn't eat Jack.
Originally uploaded by lito.
My place is tucked between Glen Park, Outer Mission, and Ocean Avenue. I am a couple of blocks from City College San Francisco. My landlord lives in the main house above me. My space is essentially behind the garage under her house. In the photo above you can see the garden outside. Sleeping on an air mattress for a week sucked.
Originally uploaded by lito.
There is no question that I love the desert. West Texas in particular is beautiful, peaceful and hardly touched by our modern world. I traveled to San Fransisco from Austin via I-10. I spent my first night in Van Horn, Texas - a town about an hour from El Paso with a number of hotels, probably the most hotels between Central Texas and El Paso. There is an art gallery there, run by this guy who mimics other artists very well. He's a peace-loving lefty and also sells various used items.
I spent my second night in central Arizona. The drive north toward I-40 the next day was beautiful as the photo above demonstrates. There were Joshua trees and distant mountains. A lot of folks in the area seemed to be there for dove hunting.
Closer to the California border I entered the Mojave desert - as deserts go, this was a more classic desert and the kind a prefer to avoid. It was flat, drab and dusty. I think they used to test atomic weapons there. There were some cool cactuses in some areas.
The third night I stayed in Paso Robles, California. It is about 4 hours south of San Francisco near the coast.
Day four and I was in San Francisco at my new place by 11 am.
Monday, September 13, 2004
Have folks seen the pictures of the Palestinian journalist killed live on camera while reporting in Baghdad?
He was among other civilians killed when the U.S. fired a missile at them from a helicopter without reason. As people continue to lose their lives, Kerry offers nothing. He is, perhaps, the last gasp of the corporate, pro-war, elitist Democratic Party. What will take its place?
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Originally uploaded by lito.
my friends, barton springs, the heat, the skin, running on town lake, lovejoys, sesame tofu from hoa hoa, municipal court judges, driving lamar between 12th and 29th, simpsons at 6 and 10 pm, free wireless internet almost everywhere, squirrels, lone star, marfa/alpine just 11 hours away, tattoos, the capitol building, south congress - not the cool part but the part south of oltorf, the stopp coalition, flooding streams and oak trees
Sunday, September 05, 2004
I'm now in San Francisco after a 4-day drive through the southwest. Unfortunately, I don't have my internet access set up in my home yet, and my earthlink account has been shut down for various reasons. So, my homepage is down and my earthlink email is gone. I don't know what is going on in the world - although I'm now at Java On Ocean Cafe and will soon check the google.news site.
San Francisco is a great town - people are far more friendly here than anywhere else I've ever lived or visited. The weather's great and Sebastian has made a friend in a dog named Jack that shares his small yard.
The trip was long, but not too bad. I was lucky to get through the Mojave Desert by noon - just missing the triple digit weather. The worst city I went through was Phoenix - what a crappy place - I can't imagine why anyone would live there. It was hot, commercial, full of long stoplights, strip malls and elderly Republicans. As usual, West Texas was a favorite region of mine - dry in more ways than one.
As soon as I get my virtual/technical/electronic life back in order I will post photos of my trip and my new place. For now this will have to do for an update. My number is still 512-507-7700, so give me a call!
Monday, August 30, 2004
Today I had my first full trial, which was for failure to obey the lawful orders of a police officer. My client, CK, was found not guilty after 30 minutes of deliberation by the 6-person jury.
Most of my case involved attacking the only state witness - Commander O'Leary. I tried to drive home the notion that he was acting recklessly during the anti-war protest, and that the arrest of CK was also reckless. I also portrayed him as distrustful and contradictory. I believe my most brilliant move was maneuving in jury selection to keep a key juror - a gentleman who was later the foreman of the jury and very sympathetic to our case.
I objected about 6 times and all were sustained. The prosecutor made several missteps - I only caught about half in time.
Ultimately I allowed CK to testify and I think he came across as honest and not at all violent - as the prosecutor and O'Leary tried to portray him. I also had a reporter from the Austin Chronicle testify. He came across as trustworthy, and added to the impeachment of O'Leary. Among other things, he was able to testify that O'Leary sprayed him and other reporters with pepper spray directly, even though O'Leary had just testified that he only sprayed into the air.
Paraphrasing part of my closing arguments: "In this country we do not punish people for exercising their 1st Amendment rights. Indeed, we provide added protection for political speech such as this. But CK has already been punished. He was punished by Commander O'Leary on that day, when he was pepper-sprayed, arrested, thrown to the ground, and thrown in a paddy wagon. The punishment stops here today. The rights of assembly and speech that our neighbors exercised on that day are critical to a functioning democracy, as is the jury system that you are all a part of today. Each of your opinions and thoughts are critical to a decision in this case. Thank you for your time."
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Sebastian the Dog
Originally uploaded by Carlos Villarreal.
So here's the dog that I own. He's part whippett and part something else. My biggest problem with him is he likes to attack other dogs sometimes. If we meet another dog on the street, he will sometimes bite it on the face. He can be vicious sometimes, though he never randomly attacks people. He did once bite my friend forrest in the nose when he was dancing in my living room and he bit david also one time when he was trying to get Sebastian inside. But if he meets random people on the street he's real nice or just ignores them.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
The other day I was riding the bus in Austin and I noticed a woman wearing a t-shirt with the image of Fat Albert and his gang watching television in amazement, and the image of the twin towers under attack appearing on the television screen. The text said something like, "September 11, 2001: The Day Everything Changed." I wondered why anyone would produce such a shirt, much less purchase it, much less wear it, much less wear it in public.
Yesterday I spent most of the day loading a giant crate with my furniture and boxed items. It's one of these services where they leave the crate at your door, you load it up and they take it away. Then in two weeks or so, it appears at your new address. Unfortunately that means that for two weeks or so, I will be living with only the possessions that fit in the trunk of my car, my dog, and an air mattress.
I have to admit that I miss my television quite a bit. Not because there was anything interesting on, but just because it made my life less quiet, and less contemplative. It was a simple way to fill empty moments in my life. I often had it on with the sound muted. I was raised with television as a constant presence, and I notice when it isn't around.
The only thing I miss more than my television are places to sit. It is really hard to do anything in your house if you have no place to sit down besides the floor and the toilet.
This past weekend I had a moving sale. I knew the so-called "earlybirds" existed, but I didn't realize how aggresive they could be. The sale was posted as starting at 8 am, but people were on my front porch and looking through my windows by 7:15 am. About a quarter of the items I was selling were snatched up the moment I brought them out of my home. Someone even bought the microwave that at one time had a roach living in its clock. I made nearly $300 in total, with about $30 coming from items left in my house by former roommates - THAT'S 10%!!!
When am I leaving, you ask. I'm really milking the whole moving thing, you say. Damn, this is the first time I've done something like this in my life, except for Boston, but that was just for one summer, and it was a total disaster. Give me a break! Anyway, my plan is to litigate my first trial this coming Monday and to be in El Paso or New Mexico by Tuesday night.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
I haven't decided on the best plan to deal with this year's election. A Green-Safe-States Strategy? A Nader-Hopeless-But-Genuine-Alternative Strategy? A Kerry-Defeat-Bush Strategy? A Bush-Consolidate-Opposition Strategy?
I'm most sympathetic at this point to voting for Nader or Cobb - assuming they are on the ballot. One of the reasons is because of a problem I see with the Leftist-Pro-Kerry camp. I respect these folks, but I disagree with their central arguments.
They believe that a vote for Kerry is really a vote against Bush, and acknowledge that we have a lot of work to do after a Kerry victory. They might say something like, "Vote for Kerry, then take to the streets the next day." They often recognize the problems with lesser-evilism, but believe this is a unique election with higher stakes. This year the most important thing is simply to defeat Bush. Finally, they will argue, as Tariq Ali does, that it is easy to support a 3rd party candidate when you are relatively comfortable - but Bush's policies are actually affecting people, killing people, and causing suffering.
This argument is short-sided and sometimes used as a way to silence opponents of lesser-evilism.
First, I think we need to strip away the Bush opposition based mostly on a visceral reaction to his appearance and his style. One of the ways Democrats have managed to push their party to the right is by wrapping their proposals in much more appealing packages. These proposals, like cutting taxes on corporations or kicking desperate families off of welfare, would have been unacceptable a couple of decades before, even if Republicans attempted them. We work with the United Nations, under Democrats, to starve the children of Iraq. We are "peacekeepers," under Democrats, when we bomb poor people, and we are sensitive about using words like "crusade" when we enforce our policies overseas through violence.
Of course there is a difference between Kerry and Bush, and I'm willing to acknowledge that fewer people will suffer under a Kerry presidency. But, I think there is a chance, maybe 20% or so, that any differences in suffering throughout the world will be negligible and a smaller chance, maybe 5% or so, that suffering will increase under a Kerry presidency. Still, the chances are greater that fewer people will have their homes bombed and more children will have health care under Kerry. That is a real difference that has a real effect on human lives.
This type of argument, however, can probably always be made as we look at two candidates from the two dominant parties. The policies of the dominant party in the United States, as long as we remain as powerful as we are now, always have an affect on people's lives in this country and throughout the world. One choice over the other for U.S. president will always lead to more or less suffering, more or less human misery, and more or less death and destruction because of the power that office has in a very powerful government. The real question is how much suffering will be caused in the long run by consistently falling into the lesser-evilism trap every four years, while both parties continue to move to the right.
It isn't necessarily true that things have to get worse before they get better, but it seems inevitable that things will continue to get worse until we can crack the two dominant parties. We will never accomplish that by destroying third party candidates out of fear and guilting their struggling supporters. If a Kerry victory makes a slight difference in the short-term, it will only prop up the continuing move to the right in this country. A vote for Kerry may slow-down that move, but it simultaneously strengthens a movement among the rich and powerful in this country to cut social programs, dominate the globe, and force millions into wage-slavery. If not now, then when will we halt this downward cycle?
Monday, August 16, 2004
This is from the Guardian, written by Kamil Mahdi - an Iraqi and professor:
Some liberals who opposed the war subsequently adopted an argument that the US and Britain now have a responsibility to remain in Iraq and to see to it that the country arrives at the safe shores of democracy and stability.
This argument is based on the presumption that, left alone, Iraq would fall into internecine conflict which only the US and Britain, being such civilised and civilising nations, could address. This was always a convenient myth, but the repeated military offensives against Iraqi cities must now make it clear that chaos and internecine conflict is with us already, and it is being expanded and prolonged by foreign military forces.
It is time to set an early date for a complete withdrawal of foreign forces and then to ask what can and should be done to help Iraq.
I am in complete agreement.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
I thought I hated the olympics. But, mostly out of boredom, I've watched about 4 hours already. Yesterday morning I saw the Chinese women's volleyball team beat the U.S. team. The U.S. was ranked #1 going into the games. Just now, I watched the Puerto Rican men's basketball team beat the U.S. team.
I think I like watching the U.S. lose, not because I hate the U.S. or because I don't like the athletes. When I see the Puerto Ricans win, I sense the disappointment of American nationalists all over the country. Nationalism is one of the aspects of American culture I really can't take, so in my mind, a victory against the U.S. is a victory against that awful sentiment.
I'm also a sucker for underdogs.
Saturday, August 07, 2004
First my hero of the week (as if I name a hero each week - I don't, but check in next week anyway): the person who burgled Paris and Nicky Hilton's apartment. He or she is even more of a hero generally than John Kerry, who I understand went to Vietnam and killed people even though he was a privileged white boy.
Now, today I signed a lease. I'm paying an excessive amount of money to live in a one-bedroom space - the first floor of a house near Glen Park in San Francisco. The main reason I decided on this place was because of my dog, Sebastian. I think he would freak out living in a dense urban area. He already barks repeatedly at anyone who comes near my place in Austin, imagine if he lived in a place where hundreds of people pass the front door and window every day. Many of the other places I was looking at, you see, were in the more dense areas of the Mission or the Castro. Great neighborhoods, but not necessarily for an out-of-control dog like Sebastian.
Plus, the place I'm going to rent includes my own private deck and garden. Perhaps the frigid, moist climate of the area will increase my chances of successfully growing a plant or two.
Finally, the place I chose is a long walk, or a short bus/trolley/cable car ride from the more bustling areas of San Francisco. The Bay Area has roughly 30 different forms of public transportation, which is great, but it would still be cool if I could be catapulted to my office every morning.
Right now I'm staying in a hotel with "European charm." This means that it has tiny rooms, some of which require a walk down the hall to take a shower. Still it isn't bad for its central location and relatively inexpensive cost.
But now I'm done. What should I do all day Sunday - my last day in the area? I think I'll watch cable TV in my hotel room until noon and then sit in a cafe and update my blog.
Friday, August 06, 2004
San Francisco is full of beautiful people - and not in a superficial way. Anyway, I may have found a cool place to live - I hope I can afford the deposit and all my moving expenses. If you want to donate to my efforts, I have a pay pal account. Just let me know.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The interviews are over. Nothing that interesting happened today besides the interviews. They were at a law office in Oakland, first with the hiring committee, then with the full board. I dressed up in a suit and took the train - I felt very out of place in the Mission in a business suit - more comfortable in downtown Oakland near the courthouse. They said they would have a final answer by early next week, but wouldn't rule out the possibility that I could hear sooner. It is between me and one other person.
There are lots of boys and men around here who hold hands, hold each other, and are generally affectionate in public. It reminded me about how nice a relationship can be. Maybe I shouldn't give up on love.
O.K. no more beer for me.
I forgot to mention that when I was looking for an advertised rental in a neighborhood south of the mission a small Japanese man came up to me and asked me "what street?" I tried to explain to him and he grabbed the print out from my hands. We finally came to an understanding and he grabbed my arm, told me how to hold my printed out map, and pulled me in the right direction. We walked for two blocks and he asked me how much the place was. I told him (but I won't mention it here) and he told me "that's too much." He then let go of my arm and crossed the street toward his bus stop without saying goodbye. I thanked him, but he walked really fast and I'm not sure he heard me.
Now, read the news article below - disgusting homophobic hate crime. But notice that one of the men charged with the crime has the last name "Gay." Hmmm I wonder why he has it in for homosexuals? Teased a little too much as a kid? Maybe there should be mandatory intervention for kids with such names by middle school.
Here's the article if you're interested ....
Four charged with sexual assault, robbery
Attack stemmed from meeting at gay bar, police say.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Austin police on Tuesday charged four suspects in connection with a sexual assault and robbery of a gay man at his Southeast Austin apartment, in what detectives described as a hate crime.
Charged with aggravated sexual assault and aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon are Shawn Michael Regan, 21, of San Marcos; and Donald Roy Bockman Jr., 24; Darren Gay, 21; and a 16-year-old, all of Austin.
Bockman and Gay are being held on $200,000 bail each; Reagan and the juvenile are being sought.
Aggravated sexual assault and aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon are first-degree felonies that carry a punishment of five to 99 years or life imprisonment.
Police said the 32-year-old victim, whom police did not name, was drinking at Oilcan Harry's, a gay bar on Fourth Street in the Warehouse District. When the bar closed about 2 a.m., he invited a man to his apartment, police said, and the man asked whether his three friends could come along.
After they arrived, the four visitors beat, sexually assaulted and robbed the victim during a two-hour ordeal, police said. They directed obscenities at the victim about his sexual orientation during the assault, investigators said, leading them to believe the attackers were not homosexual.
The case remains under investigation. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the sex crimes tip line at 974-5095 or CrimeStoppers at 472-8477.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Today I walked a lot. My legs are tired and my shoulders hurt cause I was carrying a bag.
The coolest thing that happened is that a guy in a big Corona truck - meaning it was one of those beer delivery trucks full of Corona - was stopped and I was walking on the sidewalk. He kept hitting his brakes making a squeeky, rusty-gate kind of sound that trucks and buses always make cause they don't have great brakes. He managed to get my attention, which I realized he had been trying to do, and he smiled at me. I guess he was flirting.
I also realized that when a rental ad describes a neighborhood as "rough around the edges," that means that it is being gentrified but isn't completely hip and trendy yet.
Tonight I ate at a restaurant that specialized in uncooked food. Everything was vegan and there was no need to mention that anywhere - it was a given. But the menu specified when the food had been partially or completely cooked, and most of the food was not cooked. The food I ordered was bland and dry.
Monday, August 02, 2004
Southwest is actually a decent airline. The seats are more comfortable than some more expensive airlines and everything feels a lot more efficient. I heard they pulled out of one airport because of too many delays. I appreciate that kind of pressure, as long as it doesn't endanger passengers.
It also seems they take more advantage of "direct" flights with stops. In other words, I have been on a few Southwest flights where we stop in other cities, but I don't have to change planes. When I've gone with other airlines, I'm always hiking across George Bush Intercontinental to my connecting flight. This time I stopped in San Diego and got to see the California coast from really high up in the sky.
I can't say much about the Bay Area yet because I've barely seen it. It's cool - the temperature that is. It's August, but it's in the upper 60's and I had to put on a jacket. I thought it was odd that the BART is carpeted and has cloth seats. Walking about 5 blocks from the BART to the place I'm staying in San Francisco was interesting. There were 2 or 3 Mexican guys playing accordions on the street corner, a Taqueria, a Meditteranean restaraunt, a big, old Catholic church, two guys holding hands walking down the street, and a guy who passed me, smiled and said, "pareces como mi." I may have the exact words wrong, but he pointed to his face and I think he said I looked like him, which I sort of do.
Now I'm in the H Cafe - one-half block from where I'm staying - and it conveniently has wireless internet access. Some cute guy just sat next to me, so I have to stop writing and concentrate on ignoring him.
Friday, July 30, 2004
A book by Daniel Singer. You can find it through Monthly Review.
I read the first half of this book in 2001. It's been sitting on my shelf for 3 years. I picked it up and finally finished it since I don't have much else to do right now. It is an incredible book that everyone must read right now!
It is great for anyone left-of-center who couldn't help but get a little inspred by the Democratic National Convention. It was a fucking show, now read this book and get back to the real project of political change.
It is great for anyone who easily resisted the DNC's show, but who are pessimistic about the future and the prospect for real change as opposed to Republicrat, evil-exploitation, turn-taking. Investing all your time in co-ops or some other alternative lifestyle is fine, but it aint goin' to change the world, much less make a dent in a system that has nuclear weapons and cluster bombs at its disposal.
It is simple, not overly-formulaic and not dismissive. But it makes its point forcefully. We cannot hope to end the environmental destruction, warfare and human exploitation of capitalism without a clear alternative, not a mere tweaking of the system. There is no elaborate map provided, but Singer does an excellent job of exploring history and the successes and failures of previous social upheavals. In doing so, he points us in the right direction and gives us tips for avoiding pitfalls or wrong turns.
There is no hiding the fact that Singer is a socialist and sees this as our best hope out of our mess. But he doesn't shout at the reader, he deals with much anticipated reader eye-rolling through sensibility and reasoning. In the end, I was left with hope and a sense of urgency. Even those constant skeptics should take a look at Singer's book.
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Not a sure thing yet, but I will be visiting the area soon. The phone interview went well - I think it did anyway, I can never tell. It clearly didn't go poorly because a few hours later I got a call - they want me for a follow-up interview - in person.
I feel giddy - but that is mainly because of the coffee and Claritin-D. I am, however, genuinely excited.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
From the people that cast the world in terms of good and evil we have a new quote. In addressing the pullout of Phillipino troops from Iraq, and the subsequent taking of 6 new hostages from other countries, Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday, " If you want more of something you reward it. If you want less of something you penalize it."
The message here is that countries should not give into the demands of terrorists, even if it means innocent people get beheaded. But if there is no good reason for being there in the first place, why stand your ground? This is, I believe, the basis for the Phillipine withdrawal as well as the Spanish reaction to the bombings in Madrid. People around the world are saying: "We understand if you want to stand your ground because you are defending something you believe in strongly - American imperialism, American hegemony, and American financial superiority. But we don't care about that, so we have no reason to stand our ground. Go to hell Rumsfeld."
It seems like a lot of these beheaders are related to, or inspired by, Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists. What is clear is that they would not be emboldened or have the power they have in the region right now had we not invaded, killed thousands of innocent civilians and maimed thousands of others. None of these countries now facing threats would have to deal with this. So, they should take Rumsfeld's logic and not reward American terrorism by helping to establish its hold on the region. They should penalize American terrorism by leaving Iraq and proclaiming they want nothing to do with it.
Monday, July 19, 2004
This is only my second trip to New York City ever. The Guild is as troubled as any organization, and I'm more committed to it than ever. Manhattan is full of tourists and commercialism, but the buildings are both old and tall, which makes them all incredible monuments. Brooklyn feels really comfortable - old, international, diverse, accepting, urban, beautiful, dirty, surprisingly clean. David's cool - I miss him slightly but I realized I will likely miss him more in the future. Unless I end up living up there. Now two highlights that made me tired:
1. Lost in Brooklyn
So, on Saturday when I got back from Manhattan on the R Train, I confused the streets with the avenues in David's directions to the cafe where he works. So, I ended up lost in Prospect Park. The upside of this 2 or 3 hour excursion was a short tour of Brooklyn and a really incredible park. Shall I call it enchanting? Of course not, that would be stupid. The temperature was cool, some fog floated about. The park was full of kids and adults, eating, listening to music, strolling, playing sports, relaxing. It was immense with rolling hills, tall trees, pockets of forest, and stone structures. I could definitely see myself getting drunk out there. Plus it was easy to find a place to urinate out of sight.
2. We Should Scrap the Entire Airline Industry for a System of Super-Fast Speed Trains that Ride on Magnets
Went to La Guardia early because it looked like it was going to rain, and I didn't want to buy an umbrella or a raincoat. The flight was delayed 2 and a half hours because it did indeed start raining, and apparently the weather made it impossible for our plane to land. I was entertained by a group of young girls with some older women who made up a troop that may be involved in a musical about praying or Jesus or something. Surprise, Surprise, they were heading back to Houston. At one point one of the older women asked a young Swedish guy about the music he was listening to. He played along and said with a heavy accent that it was a Swedish group. The Christian, Houstonian asked for his headphones, then listened to it and bobbed her head as the young girls giggled. "It sounds like rap," she shrieked. The Swedish guy just smiled, but I believe he probably was thinking: "stupid Americans." Then the woman turned to one of the white girls and said, "I bet Veronica would like this." Veronica was the only African American girl in the group.
At one point a passenger waiting came along with a small poodle - I'm not sure if they let her get her dog because of the delay or what. The poodle was dressed in a Mets jersey for dogs and little dog boots in Mets colors - which I believe are red and blue. The girls from "sparklemotion" adored the dog and caused it to bark at them in a playful way for hours. This period of barking, oohs and aahs, was also marked by two false fire alarms at La Guardia, which gave the entire wait a carnival atmosphere.
After the two and a half hours plus the extra hour - cause I got there early - we were finally on a plane. We sat on the runway for like half an hour with our seats in their very uncomfortable upright position deprived of the pleasure of portable electronic devices, with only a view of grey airport concrete out our windows. The plane was completely full and it seemed nearly 2/3rds of the passengers were tiny infants, all screaming. I was lucky to get a seat between two large men.
Finally in Houston, there was no connecting flight to Austin - or it had left hours ago. The good people at Continental set me up in the beautiful Marriot and got me to Austin this morning. They also bought my breakfast, or more accurately gave me $10 for breakfast at the Marriot which cost nearly $14 plus tip.
Another reason to support a system of speed trains in this country - Fewer weather delays!
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
This morning I was walking around my room barefoot for several minutes - from my bathroom to my computer and back as I typically do while I groom myself and read the news. I looked down at one point, for no particular reason, and noticed a tack on the floor with the pointy side up. I must have nearly stepped on it several times. How long had it been there? I picked it up and said, "thank God." Of course I'm agnostic, but that simple incident reminded me of a constant question I have. If God is responsible for me finding the tack, who is responsible for leaving the tack on the floor? Wouldn't I be a lot better off if God just kept harm out of my way altogether, or are we all victims of a constant struggle between God and Satan - Satan leaves tacks everywhere and God rushes around trying to help people find them before they injure themselves.
Incidentally, I strongly reccommend CBN news if you get it in your area. CBN is the Christian Broadcasting Network and Pat Robertson's megaphone. It is a great mix of right-wing politics, news, and prayer. They have praying down to a marketing strategy, or perhaps a campaign strategy - very sophisticated. They tell all their viewers to pray as much as possible and have what they call "prayer points." These are the few, concise hopes that they want everyone to pray for until the next broadcast. Like sending a petition to God - the more he hears a few points over and over again, the more pressure he'll feel to act.
If I prayed, I'd pray for justice, peace and proserity to all, an end to capitalist exploitation, freedom for the Palestinians, total acceptance of gays and lesbians, etc. etc. But why bother when I'm up against such a coordinated praying machine.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Fireworks are cool, so I'll probably take a look at them tonight. But on this day, I always like to go back and read parts of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States:
"When the Declaration of Independence was read, with all its flaming radical language, from the town hall balcony in Boston, it was read by Thomas Crafts, a member of the Loyal Nine group, conservatives who had opposed militant action against the British. Four days after reading, the Boston Committee of Correspondence ordered the townsmen to show up on the Common for a military draft. The rich, it turned out, could avoid the draft by paying for substitutes; the poor had to serve. This led to rioting, and shouting: 'Tyranny is Tyranny let it come from whom it may.'"
This passage, today, makes me think about our upcoming election, where we must choose between two, wealthy, spoiled, white guys with very similar politics. Everyone I know hates Bush, but will we really benefit from a Kerry presidency? The risk is great that his presidency will do more harm than Bush's, because people will let him get away with a lot more.
It also gets me thinking about the situation in Iraq. For all the talk about how evil Saddam Hussein was, it must confuse some Americans when they hear so many Iraqis are saddened by his capture and criminal charges. Saddam is a jerk and a murderer, but so is George W. Bush, and so was Ronald Reagan, and so is the royal family in Saudi Arabia. What will the new Iraqi government be like? Maybe like the new Afghanistan government? Tyranny is Tyranny.
Happy Fourth of July!
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Today I purchased a soda at one of a number of 7-11's in Austin. This guy, who looked fairly normal, was arguing with the cashier about some greasy food he was trying to purchase and consume. He eventually forced a clerk to go outside with him and inspect the large banner above the entrance. They debated for a minute or two, and as I left I passed them by and heard the basis of this gentleman's complaint. "There should be a hyphen between the '3' and the 'CHEESE,'" he demanded of the powerless clerk. It turns out he expected to order not one, not two, but three quesadillas for $2.49, and not just any quesadillas, cheese poblano quesadillas. I felt like going back in and complaining that the quesadillas contained ordinary poblano peppers, not cheese poblanos, but I figured these spicy grease bombs were likely filled with no natural ingredients at all.
Another thing about 7-11. Why do liberals and progressives decry the spread of Starbucks, but not the fact that in some places there are multiple 7-11's on the same block?
Saturday, June 26, 2004
I had tickets for a 10:20 showing last night with a couple of close friends and a handful of socialists. For some reason we all got tickets to the theatre at Barton Creek Square Mall. The place was packed - inside and out. Crowds of people were still waiting on the 9:40 showing that was going on 4 screens, and the 10:20 folks were mixed in waiting for their 4 screens to open. It was chaotic, and one of a few theatres in town showing the film. No one seemed to have control of the situation. There were probably only 6 or 7 employees working, and most were under 22 and didn't care if people had tickets or not. The type of chaos - absent some sort of police force nearby - is something I haven't experienced since eating in the cafeteria at my high school during the 90's (and at my high school the police were never too far away).
The film itself was really good. It didn't live up to my expectations, but my expectations were really high.
Moore really seems to walk a narrow path between liberal politics and leftist politics. He's the type of guy that wants to throw molotov cocktails at the U.S. Capitol, but prefers to do it while waving an American flag. He notes in one scene that Oregon can't afford to have enough state troopers on the road, presumably because that money is going to Bush's frivolous war in
Iraq and other adventures. If they had the money, perhaps they could protect the coastline against the real terrorist threats. Of course, I don't think we have much to worry about on the coast of Oregon from terrorists and could care less if there wasn't a single trooper on duty there.
There was some critique of the Democrats, but ultimately there was a strong message favoring that party. This was bothersome considering Kerry doesn't seem to have the same concerns about the Iraq war Moore does. Indeed Kerry wants to increase troops. I wish he had focused more on how the Democrats often played the same game Bush did - trying to act tough on terrorism while thinking only about their own interests.
He seemed to pin a lot on the Saudis, which I think is more accurate than the fantasies the Bush administration consistently and methodically announced as truth. But some of his lashing out at the Saudis seemed racist. It was almost as if he was playing on anti-Arab sentiment when he showed scene after scene of Bush Jr., Bush Sr., Powell and others meeting with anonymous Saudi after anonymous Saudi wearing traditional Saudi garb. Was Moore trying to raise doubts about Bush's purity and nationalism in the minds of anti-Arab American bigots when he made this point?
Moore often does a great job of using music in his movies. It sets a mood - often humor but sometimes sadness. But I think he overdid it in this film. The number of tunes used and the number of video montages used made the movie a little less cohesive than some of his earlier films.
All in All Not A Problem
Overall, I think it is incredible that this film is in theatres and getting such a great reception. What I am most impressed with (and I wish I saw more of this) was how Moore showed images that are indisputed as the truth - dead civilians, dead soldiers, Bush playing golf - and contrasted those scenes with the blather of the U.S. mainstream media. For all the discussion in the media about this film being propoganda, the most powerful counter-argument is the film itself and the scenes that show the obvious propoganda of the news media in this country. The media waves flags and ridicules anyone who questions the administration while thousands of innocent people die, but Moore puts facts together brilliantly arguing that we should NOT be sending our children oversees to kill other children and he's the crazy guy with an agenda?!?!
Michael, you should work on improving your message, but thanks so much for this film.
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Sunday, June 13, 2004
General Sanchez: Abu Graib was not just condoned by him, but ordered by him. Some papers are already starting to report this, and the buzz is a U.S. television network is about to break a story connecting the abuse to some higher officials - maybe higher than Sanchez ...
Donald Rumsfeld: He will go for the same reasons Sanchez will. He may be directly implicated, but more likely he will leave so Bush can save face.
Tony Blair: See my post below.
UN Envoy Brahimi: Ha'aretz has been reporting he quit since last night, but I have doubts about this because no other news agency has picked up on it.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
June 12, 2004
LONDON -- Morrissey, outspoken lead singer of '80s rock band the Smiths, has sparked an Internet storm with reported comments about President Bush.
The Manchester Evening News said it received a record number of hits after reporting on its Web site that Morrissey, 45, had interrupted a Dublin concert last weekend with news of former President Reagan's death, adding that he wished Bush had died instead.
Morrissey's record company, Sanctuary Records, could not confirm the specific remarks.
''We do not have a recording of the gig, but as far as we can tell, Morrissey was just alerting the audience to the fact that Ronald Reagan had died,'' the newspaper quoted the company as saying. ''He then simply followed that up with his comment about George Bush, which was his own opinion. He is no stranger to controversy.''
A newspaper spokeswoman said thousands of people, 90 percent from the United States, had contacted the site to complain. A few expressed support for the remarks.
Formed in Manchester in the early 1980s, the Smiths had a series of British hits and a large cult following around the world, with songs including ''Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'' and ''Shoplifters of the World Unite.''
A longtime proponent of celibacy and vegetarianism who once wrote a song titled ''Bigmouth Strikes Again,'' Morrissey drew criticism in the early 1990s when he appeared to flirt with right-wing British nationalism.
He now lives in Los Angeles and is touring Europe for the first time in a decade to promote his latest solo album, ''You Are the Quarry.''
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Lito's comments: The shit about his flirtation with nationalism is bullshit. He wrote a song called the National Front Disco, but it was a mockery of the National Front not a song of support. Some dumb people took it the wrong way, but the Nazis knew better, showing up at a concert and pelting him with rocks and bottles. Anyway, after this story I'm once again in love with the Moz.