Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blog #38: Of Clinging and Singing

Addenda: Monday, June 2, 2008: The Sunday Chronicle carried a “balanced” report on the aftermath of the FLDS raid over the weekend reporting the ideas of supporters of the CPS’s action following the raid on the FLDS compound in addition to those who were critical. However, it seems to me that both supporters of the raid and the Judge and CPS agents miss the main point of the Appeal Courts ruling. In short, the court said you cannot treat 460+ children as one. You need to deal with each situation, one child at a time. Judge Walther and the CPS still hadn’t read, or at least accepted the court’s ruling on Friday, for they were attempting to impose conditions upon the return of the children, and not just the older girls which 3 of the Supreme Court judges deemed at risk. The conditions that were being hammered out by the judge and CPS Friday would have pretty much kept all of the returned children under CPS control. When one of the lawyers cried foul, and pointed out that that wasn’t what the appeals court had ordered, the judge left the courtroom.

The CPS and the judge are attempting to impose conditions on the return of the children in part to attempt to justify what has to be the largest and most egregious deprivation of parental rights in the history of the republic. And when you consider how the Judge and CPS ignored the testimony of their own expert witness who had counseled against separating these children from their parents en masse, it makes you wonder. Naming an agency that would take children from their parents without an ounce of due process a Child “Protective” Agency stretches credulity beyond bounds of reason. And even now, after they have had their day in court and lost, the judge and the CPS are trying to attach conditions on the return of the children which would continue them keeping them under CPS “protection.”

The judge muttered something about desiring an organized process for the return of the children, a comment which flies in the face of the court’s original removal of the children, which couldn’t have been more disorganized. Isn’t is interesting how now as they are attempting to bide for time they plead the need to get organized? Maneuvering on such a grand scale is probably just what you would expect considering the weight of the judgement against them. Outside of a court of law conduct like theirs attempting to impose such conditions on the return of the children taken unlawfully in the first place could be construed as blackmail. It should prove interesting to see whether after a weekend of study and reflection Judge Walther elects to follow the Appeals Court’s instructions as written and return those children to the care of their rightful parents in all possible haste, or will the lawyers for the children have to go to the Appeals Court in Austin for relief? And so so, dear friends, we leave you with this question. Will Judge Walther get those busses rolling on Monday? Stay tuned. Inquiring minds want to know! And those ten days must have just about ticked away by now.
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It is certainly refreshing to note that the high Texas courts will step in to protect parental rights when the state egregiously misuses its power, as was the case with the FLDS seizures. According to a story in the Houston Chronicle by Janet Elliot and Lisa Sandberg, “Texas child welfare officials began preparations Thursday to reunite more than 450 children with their parents after the state's highest civil court said their removal from a West Texas polygamist ranch seven weeks ago was illegal.”

In a statement after the ruling, Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Department of Family and Protective Services, which won custody of the children after a raid on April 3, said, “We are disappointed, but we understand and respect the court’s decision and will take immediate steps to comply.” (Do they really understand, and how immediate is immediate?) The statement added: “Our goal is to reunite families whenever we can and make sure the children will be safe. We will continue to prepare for the prompt and orderly reunification of these children with their families.” What rankles in a careful reading of the preceding sentences is the phrase “whenever we can,” which was followed by the phrase “prepare for” in regard to the prompt and orderly reunification of these children with their families. The CPS taketh away, the CPS must giveth back. The Appeals Court’s order was quite clear, the state can only withhold children who are proven to be in some kind of imminent danger, and the state has to prove such a danger on a case by case basis. The CPS’s rationale for taking all of the children and putting them in foster care was illegal and wrong.

The Texas Supreme Court upheld the May 22 ruling by the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. The Third Court had ruled that the state didn't have enough evidence to order every child who lived at the Yearning for Zion Ranch into foster care, instead of just the teenage girls who child welfare officials might deem at risk of being sexually abused by marriages to older men. "On the record before us, removal of the children was not warranted," said the court in an unsigned opinion.

In fact, six of the Texas Supreme Court judges supported the 3rd Appeals Courts ruling giving Judge Walther ten days to revoke her ruling in its entirety. Three justices, Harriet O'Neill, Phil Johnson and Don Willett, said they would favor keeping pubescent girls (who might be of marriageable age) in state custody but return younger girls and all of the boys, thereby allowing Judge Walther the proviso that she could retain the state’s supervision over certain of the children, however the state would need to prove the need on a case by case basis.

Although the circus seems to be over, the clowns who called the original shots in this travesty are still in the center ring. "It is a victory as to returning the children to the families, but it does not mean the case is over," said Laura Shockley, an attorney who represents some of the children. "It doesn't mean that re-removal of some of the children couldn't occur again." "They're going to have to return the kids, but this is going to be a fiasco," said Shockley, whose FLDS clients include a 26-year-old mother whom CPS insisted was an underage girl until a week ago. The Dallas attorney said it's not a clean win for FLDS parents. "Yes, they have to return the children, but they — CPS — can put provisions in an order that requires all sorts of monitoring and home studies and that sort of thing."

Dan Barlow, 75, an excommunicated member of the FLDS who has four children in state custody, said he was thrilled to learn of the court's decision. "I think it's the right one. It means what we've prayed for." Barlow had been waging a legal battle to have the children reunited with their mother, who after his ouster was reassigned to another man and was living with their four children on the YFZ Ranch at the time of the raid.

Friday evening at 10:10 the Houston Chronicle reported that the release of the children has hit a snag. State District Judge Barbara Walther was about to approve an amended agreement that would have, with few exceptions, returned all of the children to their parents after a nearly two-month separation following a state raid and alleged sexual abuse investigation. The plan would have returned the children to their parents possibly as soon as tomorrow with certain conditions. But just as Walther was set to approve it, a lone attorney — by telephone — objected to some minor points added by the judge. The attorney insisted that the judge could only cancel her original removal order and return the children or go with an earlier draft that attorneys for mothers of the children endorsed.

"I will take a look at the original order to see if I can sign it," said Walther before taking a recess. The judge later returned to the bench and informed attorneys that she would sign the original order as long as it had the signature of 43 mothers who are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who had sued the state to get their children returned. "If you provide me with an order signed by all of your clients, I will sign it," she said before abruptly leaving the bench, throwing the courtroom into turmoil.

It turns out that the court and the CPS had spent Friday detailing plans for returning the children that attempted to keep strict control by the CPS on all of the children, concerning where they could live, directing the parents to take lessons on parenting, providing CPS full access to all of the children at all times, etc. The morning had begun with the draft which had been approved by attorneys for 43 of the mothers. However, the CPS and the judge kept layering on other provisions. Finally a lawyer attending by conference call pointed out to the judge that what she and the CPS were doing was not called for in the Appeals Court ruling. The court had simply ordered Judge Walther to vacate her original order that had turned the children over to the CPS and return them to their parents.

Judge Walther had professed a desire to return the children in an orderly procedure, even though there had been not one damn thing orderly in the way she had taken the children from their parents in the first place. The judge recessed to consider the matter, then returned offering to sign the original order approved by the lawyers if they would get the signatures of the 43 mothers. Judge Walther then adjourned the court. Some lawyers for the children threatened to appeal directly to the Appeals Court to vacate the judge’s original order. In the meantime, it should be noted that the Appeals Court ruling (left in force by the Supreme Court) had given Judge Walther ten days to vacate her original order, and that the ten days should be up sometime in the coming week. Will the judge vacate her original order as directed by the Appeals Court? Or will she along with the CPS continue to attempt to put restriction after restriction on the return of the children? Tune in again next week for the next exciting chapter.

If you read a news story about 460+ children being swept up in a raid on a religious compound, and forcibly removed and put into foster care by the state, children of all ages, even nursing infants (although the court later softened its stance by allowing nursing mothers to remain with their infants), where would you think such a monstrous incursion of human and familial rights might have taken place? In the former Soviet Union? Communist China? Iran? Perhaps a modern dictatorship the likes of Myanmar? Would you believe Texas? As in deep in the heart of.

Now it is perfectly true that the people of that compound practice a religion which believes in men having multiple wives, and that in the eyes of the sect after a girl passes through puberty she is of marriageable age. However you might well ask, doesn’t Texas join with the rest of the United States in believing in the freedom of religion? That people can believe in whatever they damn please as long as it doesn’t encroach on the beliefs and rights of others? It was not as if this sect was roaming the streets of our cities, like pied pipers wooing children away from their rightful parents, enticing them into this perverse way of life. These children belong to these parents, they had them in the age old, god given, time tested way most all children are conceived. Through good old fashioned sexual intercourse, the very act that seems to bring on the ire of the Texas CPS. It seems to be true that these people believe that girls should be allowed to marry and have children at the age their bodies and nature allows, not at some arbitrary age set by politicians in Washington or Austin. Even if you accept that their beliefs are far enough afield to be out of the ballpark, how does that excuse the forcible removal of all of their children, boys as well as girls from their rightful parents?

According to the Texas Child Protective Services, members of this religion were endangering the health and safety of every one of those children by believing in these multiple marriages, and by having marriages of underage girls to older men, marriages arranged by sect elders. To those who asked, why take all the children? Why not limit the removal of children only to girls who are nearing or had reached puberty, and consequently who the authorities might feel are most threatened? In their sputtering response the CPS’s mouthpieces came up with a most original theory, that “all of the boys of the compound were being raised to be sexual perpetrators, and all of the girls were being raised to be victims of sexual abuse.” And so according to the oracles of the CPS ALL of the children, even infants, were in immediate danger and had to be removed from their homes.

Of course a week ago the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin stated that State District Judge Barbara Walther had abused her discretion when she ordered all of the children seized and gave her 10 days to vacate her order. However, undoubtedly in the hope that jurisprudence is indeed blind the CPS appealed that ruling to the State Supreme Court, asking the Court for a stay of the Appeals Court’s ten-day order, hoping against hope that their bizarre reasoning might prevail in the end. Fortunately for the children, their parents, and all of the people of Texas, Supreme legal minds read from the same law books as do Appealing legal minds. We can rejoice that this case will be over and done with, and hope that each child is returned to his/her rightful parents, and with as much haste as the CPS used to take them away.

I guess the question we all need to ask ourselves is: how free are we really in our modern, so-called enlightened society? What rights do we have when push comes to shove and the state turns to grab? We talk a good line, sure. But how far are we really allowed to deviate from the straight and narrow before the Texas CPS or so some other government entity can swoop down upon us, and without an iota of proof or evidence or even proper legal representation, gather up our children and fling them to the four corners of the state. And most particularly after their own expert had advised them against removing all of the children, warning that such a violent separation would have serious consequences in regards to the mental health of the children.

We Texans have some serious thinking to do, and choices to make. I should hope the politians who represent us in Austin will examine this incident, and the lapses in civil rights that seem so clear in hindsight, but at the time the Texas CPS and the lower court judge were so blind to. We should find out how our representatives feel about issues like this and cast our votes accordingly. Although I don’t personally believe that the way to heaven is paved with early motherhood, on the other hand, I don’t think whoever is directing the CPS has any more insight into God’s or nature’s laws than do I or the members of the FLDS. To each his own is a time-honored phrase. We need to live and let live, and bureaucrats need to take their self-proclaimed bureaucratic omnipotence with a gigantic grain of salt. There are laws on the books that were meant to preserve our inherited rights. The CPS and Judge Walther have made a mockery of them, and seem to be continuing to this day. The least they can do is to make up for their grievous behavior would be to return every one of those children to their rightful parents with at least as much haste as they used in removing them. And saying they are sorry would be in order, although it is probably more than they are able to manage.
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Well, it is indeed a strange world we live in. Finally someone who was privy to the real goings-on of the Bush administration has written what seems to me to be a terribly honest and clear cut account of what went on during those years. I particularly found his narrative of the run up to war in Iraq most fascinating. Although I haven’t as yet had a chance to read his tome in its entirety, I have read newspaper accounts of it, and heard the interview Wolf Blitzer did with him on the Situation Room. He seems to have detailed in clear, no nonsense language what I had suspected had gone on, especially in the buildup to the war, but of course none of us had any proof of this at the time. I personally could not bear to watch news channels during that awful period, like the proverbial ostrich I buried my head in the NBA channel. At least Commissioner Stern was trying to unite Europe and Asia, not overthrow any governments.

Our brand new tale teller is Scott McCellan, of course, and his book is called: "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception." Not surprisingly his old White House cronies look upon him as a traitor who turned on his old boss and his former coworkers. It is the talk of the cable news networks (except I’m told Fox, which seems to have hardly noticed) and you would think the reception McCellan has been getting would be friendly, at least among those of us who have long been critics of the administration. But what is genuinely surprising to me is that many of us who lean to the left aren’t much better than the Bushies, with comments like, “Why did you wait so long?” and “why didn’t you say something while all of this was going on?” His answer to those questions is very straightfoward, when you are in a bubble like the one encompassing the White House, you are not aware of anything else, and you don’t question what is going on. It is after you leave, and are once again among normal people, that you slowly acquire a renewed sense of judgement and proportion. And of course, there is the explanation that explains Ariana Huffington’s seeming antipathy, which is probably wrapped up in envy at his book’s number one position on, and all the publicity it is receiving. She has her own new book to sell, and I’m sure doesn’t welcome the competition. When Wolf Blitzer mention Richard Clarke’s book, and how McCellan had roasted it when as White House spokesman he had to deal with it, McCellan reported running into Richard Clarke a couple of nights before in New York, and he told Wolf he apologized to Clarke, who by chance also has a new book out, one also being overshadowed by the attention McCellan’s book is receiving. But of course, this is America, we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t constantly impugn someone’s motives and then again, no one, not even those on the left, respect turncoats.

But wait just a little minute here, people. I ask you, what is wrong with someone who had to present spin and downright untruth for several of those momentous years leading up to the Iraq war? What is so hard to believe about his going back to Texas among people less guileful than those he associated in the Washington bubble, and on further reflection on what he had had to do during those years, having the guilt and shame he felt at having been complicit in the runup to that completely unnecessary war and the shocking administration reaction to Hurricane Katrina? What is so unreal about such a person trying to write his way out of that terrible experience?

Right on, Scott McCellan. First rate job. I know it must have taken a lot out of you telling the truth as you now see it about your experiences back then. But I’ll bet you feel cleansed now after flushing all of that bile out of your system. And I for one hope your little endeavor brings you the fortune it deserves. You certainly earned it, being as candid in your memoir as you weren’t able to be when spinning for the White House.

Scott McClellan says he did not set out to write a memoir that was sharply critical of the White House. Indeed, one publishing industry insider described his early concept as "a not-very-interesting, typical press secretary book." But somewhere between proposal and publication, as McClellan told it yesterday, the scales dropped from his eyes, leading him to write a book that accuses his former boss, President Bush, and his senior aides of abandoning "candor and honesty" to wage a "political propaganda campaign" that led the nation into an "unnecessary war."

"Over time, as you leave the White House and leave the bubble, you're able to take off your partisan hat and take a clear-eyed look at things," McClellan, said in an interview yesterday. ". . . “From the beginning, the focus was what had happened to take things so badly off course. I don't know that I can say when I started the book that it would end up where it was, but I felt at the end it had to be as honest and forthright as possible."

Bush apologists past and present have lined up to attempt to deflect McCellan’s criticisms. McClellan and Peter Osnos, the founder of PublicAffairs, the small company that published "What Happened," rebutted suggestions from some Bush defenders, including former press secretary Ari Fleischer, that McClellan may have had a ghostwriter or undergone heavy-handed editing. Fleischer and others have repeatedly said that the book does not "sound like" McClellan, who is known as genial and soft-spoken.

McClellan said that he started focusing on writing the book about a year ago and that the work was especially intense over the past several months as the publishing date approached. Osnos said McClellan just needed editorial guidance to tell the story he wanted to tell all along. "First we had to ascertain what kind of book he wanted to write," said Osnos, a former Washington Post reporter and editor. "We are journalists, independent-minded publishers. We weren't interested in a book that was just a defense of the Bush administration. It had to pass our test of independence, integrity and candor."

In his interviews yesterday, McClellan repeatedly highlighted two incidents that he said helped sharpen his criticism of the administration: when White House officials Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby inaccurately told him they were not involved in the leaking of a CIA officer's name, and a conversation in 2006 when Bush admitted that he had authorized the selective release of classified information about Iran. There are a number of signs that McClellan's focus hardened over time. A book cover still depicted yesterday on, for example, had the subtitle ending with "What's Wrong with Washington" rather than "Washington's Culture of Deception." Osnos said the subtitle evolved. Osnos called the book "a really sophisticated, thoughtful, reasoned and, in many ways, pained portrait of a president" and said, "The Bush he came to serve went off the rails." He also dismissed suggestions that McClellan is merely hoping to cash in. Unlike some larger publishing houses, he said, PublicAffairs almost never pays more than a five-figure advance. "No one has ever done a book for PublicAffairs for the money," he said.

Former presidential counselor Dan Bartlett, appearing after McClellan on NBC's "Today" show, called the book "beyond the pale." "I would not personally participate in a process in which we are misleading the American people, and that's the part that I think is hurting so many of his former colleagues," Bartlett said. McClellan said many of the early reactions are based on excerpts rather than the whole book, which has just begun to appear on store shelves. "They're trying to look at the book in these 'gotcha' terms," he said. "It's exactly what I talk about in the book – it's playing the Washington 'gotcha' game."

Leave it to Karl Rove who conceived lame attempt to show how much Bush cared after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina by having him fly over in Air Force One, but getting no closer than twenty thousand feet just accented Bush’s distance. Rove’s scenario painted a picture alright, of a president both uncaring and incompetent. A president who in truth had not a clue. Michael Moore showed a similar Bush with that video he showed in Farenheit 911 of George Bush taken on the morning of 9-11 when he was to read to school children, but during which he had been handed notes telling of the World Trade Center and Pentagon flyins. A frightened, all too human reaction, of course, but this was not the president that was presented to us in 2000, and for reelection in 2004.

In his book McCellan comes up with the best explanation I have yet heard for Bush’s reasoning in his run up to war in Iraq. Besides avenging Saddam for his reported plan to assassinate his father, which we knew about, McCellan points out that Bush wanted a state of war because one: it would add to his legacy, and two: keeping the White House in a constant election mode would help insure Bush’s reelection. For it turns out he was obsessed with the fear of being a one term president, as his father had been.
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And so another week ripples along. We invite you to check back again next week for the next installment of the CPS drama. Meantime have a good week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blog #37: Still More Texas CPS madness

Wednesday, May 22, 2008: According to CNN, agents of the Texas CPS have gone back to the religious compound in west Texas on the strength of rumors that there were children in the compound that they had missed the first time around. Although the agents were accompanied by a sheriff’s deputy, evidently they had neglected to get a valid search warrant, and were turned away without gaining entry. What kind of CPS and law enforcement officers would go warrantless to a compound where they had previously forcibly removed 463 children, and expect to be greeted by open gates and smiles? These people who are pretending to look out for the children in Texas are a really weird bunch. What school of social work did they attend? What, if any, educational qualifications do they possess? Thank god my own children are grown and well out of their reach. The audacity of Texas CPS workers’ is downright scary.

Thursday, May 23, 2008: HOORAY!!! Law and order still exists in the State of Texas, if only hanging by a thread. Reason and fairness haven’t as yet gone down the drain with the bathwater. Justice in Texas is not just a word that sounds good, but one which might actually have a modicum of meaning in the Lone Star state. Of course you may have to go up a legal level or two to find it, but it is reassuring to know that it is still there if you go high enough. An AP dispatch at 12:44 pm gave us the word: A Texas appeals court has ruled that a San Angelo judge exceeded her discretion when she ordered the state to take custody of more than 460 children from a polygamous sect.

The order by the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin stated that State District Judge Barbara Walther abused her discretion when she ordered the children seized and gave her 10 days to vacate her order. It was not immediately clear whether the order means the children will be immediately returned to the custody of their parents, followers of a breakaway Mormon sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"We’re extremely happy with the ruling," said Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, which represented 48 mothers in its custody suit against the state. Martinez said she was not certain how soon the children might be returned to the 1,700-acre ranch

A spokesman for Child Protective Services said attorneys were reviewing the order (as if that was somehow magically going to make everything alright and the decision go away.) "Any decision regarding an appeal will be made later," Patrick Crimmins said. Mr. Crimmins obviously has not a clue for he went on, "We are trying to assess the impact that this may have on our case." The three-judge panel had written, "Even if one views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims, . . . . there is no evidence that this danger is 'immediate' or 'urgent' . . . with respect to every child in the community." How much clearer did the appellate judges need to be to enter the thick skulls of the CPS legal team? The appeals court judges clearly directed the lower court to vacate the orders that had granted the mothers' children to the custody of the state. Period. Not question mark!

That supposition of the CPS that the sect is “grooming the boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse” is so bizarre and paranoid that only a Texas CPS trained mind can fully fathom it. In our society boys are raised to be husbands and fathers and girls are groomed to be wives and mothers. It’s called procreation, it fosters the propogation of our species, and it is a sin only in the eyes of perverted bureaucrats like those of the Texas Children’s Protective Services. Mr. Crimmins is obviously whistling Dixie in an attempt to save the CPS’s face, however the Appeals Court ruling is crystal clear, the CPS HAS NO CASE. I have never seen a legal opinion more clearly written than the one handed down by that appeals court. A complete text of the court’s ruling in PDF form may be found here:

"The way that the courts have ignored the legal rights of these mothers is ridiculous," said TRLA attorney Julie Balovich. "It was about time a court stood up and said that was has been happening to these families is wrong."

So how many of you reading this would like to be in Judge Walther’s shoes right now? I dearly hope this investigation progresses to the point where whoever it was in the hierarchy of the Texas GPS that called the shots for this travesty is fully credited (or if you prefer, discredited) and the lady or gentlemen is immediately retired without compensation or at the very least is placed in a position where he or she can do no further harm to the community. Perhaps he or she could be further honored by being the first to be installed in a yet to be created Texas Child Protective Services HALL OF SHAME. And one can’t help but feel that Judge Walther should also be represented in such a facility for her complicity and her complete disregard of statutes of law and rules of evidence. Would someone please tell me what kind of law judge Walther and the attorneys for the GPS practice? Law based on hearsay? Law without benefit of evidence? Fascist law or communist law? Did they study under Hitler or Stalin? Take your choice.

If there was a shred of decency left among the bureaucratic perpetrators of this travesty the GPS would have the judge immediately vacate her order and have those children reunited with their rightful parents as quickly as humanly possible. Why do I think that is not going to happen? That the powers that inflicted this grotesque miscarriage will attempt to hang onto their misdeed for as long as possible, all the while pretending that their initial decision was the proper one?

Friday May 23, 2008: And did my prophecy play out, you might ask? You can bet your sweet bippy it did. The lawyers of the CPS appealed to the Texas Supreme Court to stay the Appeal’s Court verdict requiring Judge Walther to vacate her order within ten days. At the same time using a magician’s slight-of-hand the CPS attempted to lessen the sting of the overturning of the ruling by agreeing to reunite 12 of the children with their families. "CPS agreed to allow the parents of 12 children to live with their parents in the San Antonio area under state supervision, said Teresa Kelly, a spokeswoman for Rene Haas, an attorney for the parents. The CPS did not say how they arrived at the magic number of 12 out of 463. And the families cannot return to the Yearning For Zion ranch, where they lived before the raid. Aside from mothers staying with their infants in foster care, no other parents from the west Texas ranch have been allowed to stay with their children until now.

12 children out of 463 allowed to live with their natural, god given parents. The generosity of the Texas CPS knows no bounds. And now we’ll all have to just wait to see if the Supreme legal minds agree with the Appealing legal minds, or if instead they will buy that twisted bill of goods being peddled by the Texas CPS. One can only hope that the high justices give it the priority the Appeals court did. And that they all read from the same law books.

When this farce finally ends profound apologies to all concerned would be in order, to all of the children so brutally removed from their families, to their parents, and to all of the citizens of the State of Texas whose money and patience has been thoroughly taxed through this perverse debacle. Although I’m sure apologies are the last thing in the CPS mind and saying one would stick in every CPS craw, they are due anyway. And until we can activate that HALL OF SHAME this situation calls for every one responsible for this mockery to be ordered to stand in the corner facing the wall with dunce caps rakishly affixed. And their hindquarters exposed to a teacher’s stinging ruler.
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And it looks like Karl Rove’s charmed life is about to become uncharmed. The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed the former White House adviser as part of its inquiry into whether the Bush administration politically meddled at the Justice Department. Accusations of politics governing decisions at the agency led to the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The subpoena issued Thursday orders Rove to testify before the House panel on July 10. He is expected to face questions about the White House's role in firing nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, a Democrat.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers had negotiated with Rove's attorneys for more than a year over whether the former top political adviser to President Bush would testify voluntarily. That having failed, the committee proceeded with the subpoena. Of course, Mr. Rove can always plead the fifth and offer nothing of interest. However, thanks to right wingers like he the fifth has long been seen as synonymous with a guilty plea, and the committee will at least be able to bring out all of the rumors surrounding Rove, and pin the tail on the monkey where appropriate, so to speak.
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And in Switzerland last week the head honcho of Microsoft, Steve Balmer, joined Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, on the receiving end of a food fight. Gates had received a cream pie in his face in Brussels on February 4th, 1998. (video: And thanks to what else? the miracle of YouTube, we can show you video of last week’s event affecting Ballmer.

After taking cover behind a desk, a clearly surprised Ballmer recovered and resumed his presentation as the protester was led out of the room. "It was a friendly disruption," he said, pacing around and grinning. "That broke my train of thought." I guess he was lucky his face didn’t break an egg or two. The protester seemed to lack proper aim, but his task was made difficult by Ballmer’s ducking behind protective c0ver.

However there is more to this incident that meets the eye on first glance. The resentment against Microsoft among many of the world’s computer users is a very real. They resent the compromises MS has put into their products, and they resent the strong arm methods used by MS which propelled it to become a monopoly in the first place. In American courts Microsoft came very near being required to split up its company into two parts, it was saved in the nick of time by an appeals court. The breaking up had been ordered as punishment for the way it had killed off Netscape, the first real internet browser, and using the American courts as an example, the European Union is presently fining Microsoft record amounts as it attempts to quietly continue some of the practices which had led to the demise of Netscape. And hackers throughout the world are targeting Microsoft’s Windows operating system with all kinds of malware. Meantime Microsoft is doubled over in Google envy, having lost its place as the leader of the computing world, and for the life of them they can’t think of a way to regain their relevance. After failing to annex Yahoo (which would have combined their search engines and at least put Microsoft into #2) their latest idea is to pay users of their search engine when said user buys a product through their search engine, an idea that was met with tepid enthusiasm.
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Speaking of Microsoft, its founder and spiritual leader Bill Gates came in as number three in a list of 50 Tech visionaries compiled by Christopher Null and published by PC World. He is followed closely by Apple founder Steve Jobs who is number four on the list. First on the list are Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby, two men who didn’t work together but who separately came up with the idea of integrated circuits, upon which the entire modern tech generation is based. Second on the list are Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, undeniably the web’s most powerful company and the founders of the web’s most used search engine. A chap named Gary Kildall called by BusinessWeek, "The Man Who Could Have Been Bill Gates," came in at number 49. Kildall was the guy Gates beat out in the bidding to supply IBM with the operating system for the original PC, which has generally been credited with beginning Gate’s and Microsoft’s dominance in the software industry. According to legend, Kildall blew off the meeting with IBM to "go flying," though Kildall denied that rumor, posthumously, in his unpublished memoirs.
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On Thursday the NY Times posted a long article (10 screens) called Blog Post Confidential, or as it appears when you read it, Exposed. Written by Emily Gould, it documents her blogging of her life. She tells about an evening when blogging about her boy friend, he objected to her posting his story and insisted that she withdraw it. She describes h0w he watched as she deleted the post, as she describes it “grudgingly making the keystrokes necessary to delete what I’d written. As I sat there staring into the screen at the reflection of Henry standing behind me, I burst into tears. And then we were pacing, screaming at each other, through every room of our apartment, facing off with wild eyes and clenched jaws.

“My blog post was ridiculous and petty and small — and, suddenly, incredibly important. At some point I’d grown accustomed to the idea that there was a public place where I would always be allowed to write, without supervision, about how I felt. Even having to take into account someone else’s feelings about being written about felt like being stifled in some essential way. As Henry and I fought, I kept coming back to the idea that I had a right to say whatever I wanted. I don’t think I understood then that I could be right about being free to express myself but wrong about my right to make that self-expression public in a permanent way.”

It is a fascinating look into the motivation behind a certain kind of blogger today, and I read all ten screens in total fascination. I think it makes a fascinating read whether or not you are into blogging yourself for it is an honest look at expressing your feelings and ideas freely and publicly on the web. The complete article may be found at:

Of course Emily’s Magazine (the name of her first blog) has virtually no relation to this blog. For one thing, she wrote for a small community who responded to her articles with comments, which further inspired comments from her. Even though we have been blogging for 36 weeks, we have yet to get our first comment. Heavens knows I try, I make one outrageous statement or comment after another. And there are people who visit, or at least so the page counter insists. Not enough, perhaps, but there is traffic. I wish someone would add a comment, even a negative one questioning my sanity would be welcome as it would be an indication that somebody is actually reading and cares one way or the other about something written here.

In last week’s blog I talked about my radio program which I have turned into a podcast. I presently have ten one hour episodes of the program and last week I wrote about how I intend to put together a home page from which to offer the podcasts for download. Somebody must have read my blog, for I got an email from Deepac, which describes itself as a web development firm and whose communication apprised me of its services. Reading their email it turns out, “We are based in India and with our best and 24 hours customer support we serve our clients Web Design and Development Services across the globe.”

It would be tempting to engage their services, if only I could afford to pay for some expert help. However business models are beyond my meager comprehension. So I guess I’ll just have to go it alone. Incidentally good old Google announced today that it has opened it’s web posting facility Google Sites to all comers. Now that is something I can afford, for it is FREE! The announcement says they have all of the tools on hand. I’ll have to go to Google Sites and look into the possibilities sooner rather than later.
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Well, it’s beginning to look like KBR (Kellog, Brown & Root) the Houston company that is doing virtually everything in Iraq (at American taxpayers expense) is having their monopoly broken up. The company, originally an adjunct of Halliburton (of which vice president Dick Cheney was CEO of before the 2000 election, wink, wink) is having it’s monopoly ripped apart. The army which secured it’s contract with KPR without open bidding, has finally decided to share the wealth, and has broken up the contracts to allow two other companies to share. Good news for the American taxpayer. Right? Wrong, the new arrangement will likely cost the taxpayer more money.

“This new contract sounds good, they are splitting it up, but there are serious flaws, including what looks like outsourcing oversight,” said Dina Rasor, an investigator and co-author of a book about contracting in Iraq. “And the size of the contract is enormous. When you think of these big, multibillion-dollar defense contracts and contractors, you think of companies like Lockheed, and you can see their big airplane plants. But what is KBR doing for all this money? They are slinging hash, washing laundry.”

Army officials said that they would not be able to actually shift work from KBR to the other companies until late this year, meaning that the change would be under way just as Americans are choosing a new president. The Army officials said the huge new multiyear contract for Iraq would not commit any new presidential administration to paying billions of dollars to defense contractors for services in Iraq if the new president decided to withdraw American troops.

It is not clear how the Pentagon will try to untangle KBR’s operations in Iraq to share them with DynCorp and Fluor. Lee Thompson, the executive director of the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, wouldn't you know the program would be called something like that, said the Army would first try to split work in Kuwait among the three companies, and would then move on to Afghanistan and Iraq.

When all is said and done, I hope some ruling entity takes a serious and prolonged look at how this war in Iraq has been waged. In the second world war, with which I fortunately had only a fleeting acquaintance, services for the troops were done by the troops. Kitchen staff and truck drivers were paid the same low salary the rest of the GI’s got. And diplomats were guarded by US Marines, also woefully underpaid. The rationale for having civilians doing it this time around (at high civilian prices) was that the Army and other military was too understaffed to be bothered with feeding itself or doing its own laundry. But if they are too understaffed to take care of their basic services, why are they not too understaffed to go to war in the first place? At any rate, civilian contractors making hundreds of times the salary of soldiers, have been doing their jobs for them.

This is an idea that only a kind of super corporate capitalist like Dick Cheney would come up with. So let's call it the Dick Cheney way of making war, as he somehow managed to get his old company Halliburton, and it’s then subsidary Kellogg, Brown & Root, exclusive contracts which in itself was against the military code, which used to call for open bidding on all contracts until Cheney. And so while the Iraq war may tax the rest of us, our children, and their children, it has been nothing if not a blessing for the Haliburtons and KBRs of the world. Not to forget the cowboys of Blackwater who daily drive through the streets of Iraq with their guns a-blazing. What do you think the chances are for some kind of restitution somewhere down the line? I thought so. I should go back to cultivating grass and mushrooms and forget all this fantasy dreaming. Ah, well, maybe next week everything will come together.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Blog #36: Bush Going Down in Flames?

Surprise, surprise. Our most revered leader, our resident president and would-be ruler George W. Bush, like the ex-Air National Guard member that he is, has evidently decided to go down in flames of glory as described in the Army Air Force song “Wild Blue Yonder.” Never mind that his approval rating among the American people is at its lowest point in the history of presidential approval ratings, at 28% (even during the height of Watergate Nixon’s ratings never dipped below 33%), and with 72% of Americans feeling he has taken us down the wrong road. I guess it was in the spirit of “what have I got left to lose?” that the illustrious Mr. B. denounced those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” — a remark that was widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, who has argued that the United States should talk directly with countries like Iran and Syria. Mr. Bush obviously prefers emulating the reaction of the ostrich, hiding one’s head in the sand while pretending that all is well in his immediate world, rather than negotiating with whatever powers that be.

In a speech celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary, our leader of extremely low esteem said, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush was heard to say. He went on to rant, “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” He was alluding to Senator William E. Borah, an Idaho Republican noted for his powers of oratory and his isolationist views. In 1938, when Hitler was gobbling up parts of Europe, Borah expressed admiration for him, and in 1939 he did indeed lament that he had not been able to talk to Hitler before the Nazi invasion of Poland. “We have an obligation to call this what it is" Bush ranted on, “the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

In the lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II in making the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis. Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and the White House was quick to point out that his remarks were not aimed at the senator, though nobody believed that and they created a political firestorm in Washington nonetheless.

The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”

Other Democrats leapt to Mr. Obama’s defense, including Senator Joe Biden, who heads the Senate Foreign Relation Committee and who minced no words as he labeled Bush’s remarks exactly what they were, “bullshit!” Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, accused Mr. Bush of taking politics overseas. “The tradition has always been that when a U.S. president is overseas, partisan politics stops at the water’s edge,” Mr. Emanuel said in a statement. “President Bush has now taken that principle and turned it on its head.” We might add just as he has turned many another United States tradition on its head, including torture and the right to have a trial to name a few.

In response to Democratic chairman Howard Dean’s suggestion that McCain denounce the president’s word, Mr. McCain took the occasion to support the president’s position: "Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain,'' Mr. McCain told reporters on his campaign bus after a speech in Columbus, Ohio. "I believe that it's not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn't sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.''

However, according to James P. Rubin writing in Friday’s Washington Post, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama over talking to Hamas. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, Mr. Rubin interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News’ "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of the exchange:

“I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?" McCain answered: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

Funny, as Senator Obama once pointed out, how running for the office of the presidency and especially under the Republican banner, can run the so-called “Straight Talk Express” right into the ditch.
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From our “Everybody’s Doing It So Why Not Me? Department comes word that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has taken a solemn journey through Lewis Carroll’s storied looking glass, and has emerged from the experience sporting his brand new troop withdrawal schedule for Iraq. Providing he gets elected, of course, which we fondly believe is a GIGANTIC and hopefully INSURMOUNTABLE IF, he promises to bring the troops home by 2013. In the excerpts of a speech he gave on Thursday, McCain describes in detail the "conditions I intend to achieve" by the time his first term in office ends. He says he will "focus all the powers of the office; every skill and strength I possess," to make that future a reality.” Can’t you just hear the sighs of relief echoing from sea to shining sea, and from purple mountains majesty to fruited planes?

It is worth noting however that as recently as the Florida primary, McCain blasted former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for what he said was support of a withdrawal timeline. Democrats, meanwhile, pilloried McCain for saying American troops could remain in Iraq for up to 100 years – a reference McCain later likened to the presence of U.S. bases in Germany or South Korea. And just last month, McCain said that "To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership.'' Isn’t it funny how for an aspiring presidential candidate the simple reading of poll numbers can change minds previously frozen in cement into minds swimming in sillyputty.
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Well, the state of Texas is beginning to show the first signs of the weakness of their case against the polygamist sect in West Texas. The first cracks have appeared in the facade of the state of Texas’ recent and unprecedented seizure of the sect’s 465 children. First the presiding judge, a female, allowed nursing mothers to remain with their babies. Now Lisa Sandberg of the Houston Chronicle’s Austin bureau reports that a woman from the West Texas polygamist sect will be allowed to remain with all three of her children, not just her nursing infant, Child Protective Services said Thursday — the first sign the agency may be softening its approach in the massive custody case.

Agency attorney Michael Shulman said temporary housing will be sought so Louisa Bradshaw Jessop can remain with her three young children. Until now, only mothers and their nursing infants have been kept together, leaving the vast majority of the sect's 465 children scattered across the state. "I just knew that the Heavenly Father would see us through," a relieved Jessop, who gave birth in Austin earlier this week to a boy, said by telephone Thursday.

The Jessop children will not be released from state protective custody while investigators seek to determine whether underage girls at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, which is outside Eldorado and is run by followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were being married to older men and sexually abused.

But in yet another concession, Shulman said his agency was now convinced that Jessop was not in fact a minor, but age 22. He said agency workers, facing "a wall of deception," were presented with the first concrete evidence of Jessop's age, a Utah birth certificate, only last week. "We were constrained in getting accurate information," Shulman said Thursday at a hearing in Austin on the Jessop custody issue. It was the second admission this week by an agency official acknowledging that a pregnant female once considered in a "disputed age" category was now deemed to be an adult.

Last month's raid of a West Texas polygamist sect's ranch and the removal of the more than 460 children living there has cost the state at least $10 million in sheltering and legal costs, according to estimates provided by state offices Friday. Records released by Gov. Rick Perry's office show $7.5 million in estimated costs for April, including expenses related to the weeklong search of the Yearning for Zion Ranch, run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect.

The costs of sheltering the children and some of their mothers for three weeks in San Angelo city facilities added to the offices' estimate. The period covered ends April 23, after the state had won temporary custody of the children based on arguments that underage marriages at the ranch put all of them at risk of child abuse, and was moving them to foster facilities around the state.

The children were originally removed from their parents under the supposition that underage girls were being forced to marry and have sex with older men. The original girl complainant has never been found, but it has since been learned that the call which brought about the mass removals came from the cell phone of a 33 year old black woman, Rozita Swinton, who lives in Colorado, and who has a history of reporting abuse in a childish voice.
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The Republicans are running scared during this political season. One of those oddities, a Democrat named Travis Childers, won the race for a GOP-held congressional seat in northern Mississippi yesterday, leaving the once-dominant House Republicans reeling from their third special-election defeat of the spring. Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat who serves as Prentiss County chancery clerk, defeated Southaven Mayor Greg Davis by 54 percent to 46 percent in the race to represent Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, which both parties considered a potential bellwether for the fall elections.

Democrats said the results prove that they are poised for another round of big gains in the November general elections, and they attacked the Republican strategy of attempting to tie Democrats to Sen. Barack Obama, the front-runner for the party's presidential nomination, saying it had failed for a second time in 10 days in the Deep South. Democrat Don Cazayoux won the special election for a GOP-held House seat in Louisiana on May 3. "No one could have imagined the tsunami that just crashed on Republicans in Mississippi," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an interview after the victory. "There is no district that is safe for Republican candidates."

While some out there might be quaking in fear at this indication of the shifting of the nation’s political plates, to the rest of us it is a sign that perhaps after a seven year hiatus the government of the United States might actually begin being run by people whose primary interest is in its own citizens rather than in the interests of the super wealthy, the big corporations and the military industrial complex.
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I’m still exploring ways to bring to what I’m sure is a breathlessly awaiting world a podcast version of my radio program from the 1970’s, Nightsong. It was the dj show I did for KPFT-FM, Houston’s Pacifica station. The program was an experiment in surrealistic radio and in the programming of music. Back in those days I used longplay records played on two turntables and I used other res0urces like tape decks to bring some of the mixes to life. Most notable back then was the Sea Mix, which used both turntables and tape decks, and went for 18 minutes and 36 seconds without any kind of script or rehearsal beforehand, but which I am happy to report came off without a hitch.

The new Nightsong, in the form of a Podcast, doesn’t use any of that stuff, lp records, turntables, or tapes, that we used to make radio with in those days. All of the musical performances are digital in form, and I put it together using a program called GarageBand, which is part of Apple’s iLife suite of programs. I have to have a website to host the program, and plan to use .Mac, a web location run by Apple which allows you to have your own website on what is affectionately termed “the cloud” these days. However, the other day I was experimenting with Apple’s web application, iWeb (what else?) but when I brought an episode to the program and listened to it I was underwhelmed, to say the least, at the sound quality. I use the MPEG4 format, which is pretty standard for podcasts so I’ve read, and which GarageBand encodes your efforts with as you save them to the iTunes application for ripping to CD or posting online, but I’m hoping there is something better out there, another compression program which might treat the music more kindly. Wish me luck in that endeavor.

Meantime I continue to put together programs. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t give you a logical answer other than it’s fun to do. I presently have nine programs in the can, so to speak, which I have put together in eleven weeks. I have done pretty much one a week, although doing the first one it took me an extra week as I was teaching myself the program, and after NS7 I took a week off to listen to and assess the programs I had done up until that time.

In the past week I’ve been putting together Nightsong Ten, which delves into the music I grew up with. Not the clunkier stuff like Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge or Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights. No, although a couple of Kyser jingles spun around my head for more than awhile back then (songs like Three Little Fishes) most of my attention was focused on more serious music of the day. And the material I have put together for NS 10 consists of music by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Dinah Shore, and Fats Waller, among others. It was a trip for me to rediscover these gems from my youth, and of particular interest was a song by Dinah Shore called Dinah’s Blues, which was made for her first national radio gig, a wing-dinger 0f a program called The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street.

I loved that program as a kid, partly because it was a parody on the very serious classical music and operatic programs of its day, the kind that were hosted by the oh so dignified and authoritative voice of Milton Cross. Well CMSLBS spoofed such seriousness in a major way, and in the process showed off a major American contribution to the world’s music, Henry Levine’s Dixieland jazz and Paul Laval’s woodwind jazz band. But most unique were the singing talents the progam featured, for it hosted the very first national appearances of both Dinah Shore and Lena Horne, both of whom went on to become icons of their day. To paint a word picture of the program, I’d like to quote from CMSLBS’s Wikipedia page:

The Basin Street opening, intoned by announcer Jack McCarthy, usually went along these lines: “Greetings, music lovers, and that includes you too, Toots. Once again you are tuned in on a concert by the no doubt world-renowned Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, whose members have consecrated their lives to the preservation of the music of the Three Bs: Barrelhouse, Boogie-Woogie, and the Blues. Present with us on this solemn occasion: Mademoiselle Dinah (Diva) Shore, who starts fires by rubbing two notes together; Maestro Paul Laval and his ten termite-proof woodwinds; Dr. Gino Hamilton, as our chairman and intermission commentator; and Dr. Henry Levine, with his Dixieland Little Symphony of eight men and no!"

The society's chairman, the witty Gene Hamilton (always introduced as "Dr. Gino Hamilton"), would then call the meeting to order, peppering his formal speech with slang: "There are those critics of the saxophone who say it is merely an unfortunate cross between a lovesick oboe and a slap-happy clarinet. To those critics we must say, 'Kindly step outside with us a moment' and 'Is there a doctor in the house?'" These off-center comments were actually scripted by Welbourn Kelley, but Hamilton's deadpan deliveries often made the musicians laugh out loud. The program then delivered 30 minutes of blues and hot jazz, with Dr. Gino stepping in between numbers to deliver such comments as, "A Bostonian looks like he's smelling something. A New Yorker looks like he's found it."

Two resident bands provided the music. Henry Levine and His Dixieland Octet offered traditional "readings" of jazz standards such as "Farewell Blues," "St. Louis Blues," and "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street." Trumpeter Levine, a former member of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, was quite familiar with these arrangements. Paul Laval and His Woodwindy Ten (which included some of Levine's personnel) played the same type of music on more symphonic instruments, demonstrating that such instruments as oboe, bassoon, and celeste were equally capable of producing hot jazz.

Each week Hamilton would feature a notable guest from the jazz world, either a musicologist or a performer. Such celebrated soloists as Sidney Bechet, Bobby Hackett, and Benny Carter sat in with Levine's band. On one occasion Hamilton introduced a W. C. Handy tune, adding that if Mr. Handy was listening from his home in New York, it was hoped he would approve. Handy was indeed listening, and the delighted Hamilton invited him to appear on the following week's broadcast.

Featured vocalists Dinah Shore and Lena Horne received national exposure from their "Basin Street" appearances. Linda Keene joined the show in 1941. Later programs used singers Dixie Moore and Dodie O'Neill. Each broadcast ended with the ritual of Levine's band playing "Basin Street Blues" in "the 'Farewell Symphony' arrangement" -- gradually, each musician would bow out of the song, until finally bassist Harry Patent was playing solo, "dolefully drubbing on his dog house."

The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street initially ran from February 11, 1940 to October 8, 1944. During its first months on NBC it was a sustaining feature (meaning unsponsored) in a late-Sunday-afternoon (4:30 p.m. ET) time slot. It soon developed a loyal following, and on September 16, 1940 NBC began airing the show in prime time, on Monday nights at 9.p.m. ET.

The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, featuring the Levine and Laval bands, recorded for RCA Victor. One side of each record was an instrumental by one of the bands, with opening remarks by Gene Hamilton; the other side generally featured a vocal, accompanied by the other band. These 78s from the 1940s were reissued on LP years later, spotlighting the contributions of Lena Horne and Dinah Shore, but omitting most of the instrumentals and the spoken material.

Five episodes for five dollars may be found on a CD in the mp3 format at:

Also at that location you can hear a full sample program featuring Dinah Shore with the folk legend Hudie Ledbetter, better know as Leadbelly, as a special guest. From that same link you can also save that mp3 file to your computer if you wish to keep the program on your hard drive. The website has many CD’s of famous and not so famous radio programs of the thirties, forties, and fifties at an average price of $5 a cd.
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And so we come to the close of yet another Little Eddy rant. We hope you have enjoyed your time here, and will return again next week. In the meantime, as the old union song used to say, “take it easy, but take it!”

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blog #35: Reliving Kruger, praising Cuisinart

Remember the YouTube video Battle at Kruger we republished on our blog #17 last December. David Budzinski, a tourist from Texas, recorded a stunning scene straight out of a wildlife documentary. A small pride of lions and a crocodile have pinned down a cape buffalo calf, prompting an angry herd of buffalo to fight off the predators and save the babe. A fellow traveler remarks, “You could sell that video!”

After returning home, Mr. Budzinski tried, but National Geographic and Animal Planet were not interested. Only after the battle — alternately terrifying and heart-warming — became one of the most popular videos in YouTube’s history (it has had over 30 million views on YouTube) did the buyers come calling. Last summer the National Geographic Channel purchased the television rights to the video, and on Sunday at 9 p.m. Eastern time, it will devote an hour to a documentary deconstructing the drama. They took Mr. Budzinski back to Africa, and reconstructed the drama, and according to the story in the NY Times they have enhanced the original video which makes it even more exciting to watch. In case you missed seeing the video the first time around, if our Google stars are aligned properly here it is again.

One of the more interesting aspects of the story is that Mr. Budzinski had never handled his wife’s camera before that moment, and yet he was able to shoot a very steady record of the unfolding of the events. It has all of the drama of a professional documentary, plus certain charms which clearly label it amateur. In all a very compelling piece of work.
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I would like to sing the praise of a machine, and the world should know that the machine I sing the praises of is not an Apple manufactured machine. I do praise things other than Apple, I really do. The brand name on the gadget I’m praising on this day is Cuisinart. In case you’re not familiar with the company, Cuisinart is the Apple of kitchen products, and my particular praise is aimed at their fully automatic Grinder-Brewer. It is not cheap, I bought the latest model at Beds, Bath and Beyond for $170. But what a beautiful machine. You set it’s clock, pour in water, load in coffee beans, and when the time you set arrives it begins grinding, and when that has finished it proceeds to brew your morning’s coffee. My alarm clock is set for 6 am, and my iMac computer also awakens from its sleep at 6 am. At 6:10 iKey kicks in on the computer and opens my Camino web browser to the Houston Chronicle’s website. Meantime in the other room 6:10 begins the coffee grinding process, and after about a minute the grinding stops and the brewing begins. Me I’m stumbling around brushing the cobwebs from my brain as I brush my hair, after which I wash my face for the morning. Next I clean my glasses and wash my hands so I can take my morning’s blood sugar reading. By the time all of this is done I am awake enough to read the paper. And by 6:15 the coffee is through brewing and I am sipping my first mug of the morning.

One night last week, at around 10:30 in the evening, I was sitting at my computer working when there was a terrible crashing sound from the next room. The room is the vestibule of my bathroom with the tub and shower at the far end, and two sinks at the end closest to my bedroom, and a toilet sits beyond the sink in a little enclosure of its own. No one was in the room at the time. What happened was a large mirror which had sat over both sinks suddenly, and for no discernible reason, crashed to the floor taking my two week old grinder-brewer crashing to the floor with it. The carafe was smashed, of course, and since the machine was fully loaded for the next morning’s task, as it was thrown to the floor water flooded its insides. Its directions had clearly warned against letting water get into the grind motor.

Aside from its grinder getting soaked the machine seemed to hold up from its fall pretty good. I tested the connection and the l.e.d.s lit up meaning it was not blown out. Well, I let the grinder dry for a couple of days (even used a light bulb to speed up and insure the drying process), and sure enough, three days later when I finally got up enough nerve to test it the grinder seemed to work perfectly. I bought another carafe, and that beautiful machine, with only two faint dents on one side as evidence of its unceremonious crash to the floor, is again functioning as well as ever. And so these days once again between my morning coffee and the internet, my day starts with a bang. I take my digital hat off (I never wear them in real life), to Cuisinart, which makes a truly beautiful and well functioning products, products which may cost a bit more than competing products, but which like those of Apple, are worth every penny of their cost.
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If you love music, it behooves you to get separate speakers for your computer, for the tiny ones embedded in the computer are hardly adequate for serious listening. Early on I got a pair of Bose speakers, which were a great improvement on what had been built in, but oddly enough they did not bring out the best in the material fed to it. But thanks to a column on Apple and it’s ancillary products by Bob Levitus published weekly in the Houston Chronicle’s technology section, I was referred to the SRS website where I was able to download a 14 day test version of an application called iWow, which works in iTunes to enhance the sound your speakers produce.

After opening iWow and playing my latest Nightsong podcast it proceeded to make my little Bose speakers sound incredible. I still can’t get over the difference this little program makes, but at the end of the fourteen days I will gladly fork over the $29.95 to make the program legal and permanent.
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Speaking of Nightsong, it reminds me of some of the tangents you can find yourself taking in this life. I grew up mostly a quiet, introverted kid, although I had this extroverted side just waiting to happen. In fact one of my elementary teachers when she visited my home was shocked to see that I was an entirely different personality at home from the quiet, introverted image I projected in school. The next day the school had an auditorium show with a ventriloquist and after the show, when the teacher was trying to explain the phenomenon of ventriloquism she used me as an example of a person with a duo personality.

I grew up keeping pretty much to myself once I left the neighborhood I grew up in, and I sought refuge listening to the radio and I got the urge to create in it. After a stint in the Army Air Force and a stint in college I got into radio, first on an FM station, and later on an AM station. However, I have to admit that I’m not much of a salesman, unless I truly love the product. Then I’m a whizz! And so in radio I read public service announcements with more feeling and vigor than I did the commercials the station was making its money off of. So there was this basic disconnect I had with what was to become the true function of radio in America, that of super salesman.

One day I was to do a noon newscast on KXYZ and I was reading over the news in advance of giving the newscast (I didn’t usually do news, and don’t remember why I was to do it that day.) I was sitting in studio C, which also housed the music library and had a turntable on which to play music. The station’s music director was Bob Blase, and he just come in with a bunch of new records, and was auditioning them. I wasn’t listening to the music, I was paying attention to the items that I would be reading, looking for possible tongue twisters, and trying to get a general sense of the stories so I could read them with a certain amount of meaning. But suddenly I felt a sadness sweep through my body and a tightness in my throat. I realized it was coming from the sound the record on the turntable was making, and I got up and went over and looked over the album that was playing.

It was a Decca album by a singer named Josh White, and it was just he and his guitar singing an old English ballad called Lord Randall, My Son. I was amazed that this rendition could so move me without my even consciously following the words, and this revelation started me on an entirely different tangent, that of folk music. For anyone who really wants to can teach himself or herself a guitar and/or 5-string banjo, and I found in folk music a purity which pop music of that time simply did not have. (For instance, the singers of that day would emote heavily through a verse of a song, and then between verses would break into a triumphant grin as if to say they had been able to safely make it through the verse. It was a grin that seemed to me to say “I don’t take this song seriously and neither should you.”) But folk music was music shaped by real people singing about real events and the songs had been polished in repetition throughout the ages. And a true folk singer holds the emotion throughout the song, not breaking it between verses to mug for the audience.

My romance with folk music had me learning the guitar and 5-string banjo and had me producing and performing in Hootenannies (folk music concerts) in Houston in the 1950’s and 60’s and my interest landed me a job as managing editor of Sing Out! The Folk Music Magazine during the folk music boon in the mid 60’s. I taught English as an adjunct faculty member at Kings College in Brooklyn in the late 60’s and I returned to Houston in the fall of 1970. In the early 70’s I did two radio programs on KPFT, the Pacifica Radio station in Houston. One program was FolkSay, which I alternated weeks with the late Joe Lomax, son of John Lomax, Jr. who was the brother of Alan and son of the legendary folk collector, John Lomax, Sr. (The English singer Ewan MacColl once described folk music as an area where Seegers speak only to Lomax’s, and Lomax’s only to God.) But the radio bug still lurked within me, and I wanted to do a more creative program which encompassed many types of music, and so I created Nightsong. It was three hours in length and began life running from midnight to 3 a.m., but after 12 episodes it was moved to prime time running from 9 p.m. until midnight on Friday nights. It was a creative time for me as a reader, I read Alice in Wonderland and James Thurber Fables set to music, and I once read Chief Seattle’s oration to the accompaniment of hunchback whales. Don’t ask me why, but I swear the two disparate entities did seem to go together. Nightsong went 39 3-hour episodes until a change of managership caused the toning down of the station, and I quit the program.

I have done a lot of different things in my life, but my life has always lacked consistency and direction. However I look back on Nightsong as the most creative and satisfying thing I have ever done, and recently, while writing this blog, I got the idea of attempting to recreate Nightsong once again, this time as a one hour podcast. I discovered that working digitally in GarageBand, an Apple program which came with my iMac computer, allows me to do everything I used to be able to do in the studio using turntables and tape decks. Once you get the hang of it GarageBand is an amazingly easy program to work in. I have created nine episodes in the past eleven weeks, but I am planning to take a break from producing more while I test drive a .Mac subscription (they give you two months for free these days, and after that a year's worth is $99, or $8.25 a month.) I plan to do a home page thereon which will offer my Nightsong podcasts while also supplying links to my Google Littlleeddy blog. It would also be fun to put photographs and poems and what not on the page. I’ll post a link to the page here once the page is up.
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And now let us take a glimpse at the world we are living in, shall we? (Let's not and say we did.) The NY Times reports: Speaking at a news conference in New Jersey, (the presumptive Republican nominee) John McCain said he believed that comments made by a Hamas leader approving Mr. Obama’s candidacy were “a legitimate point of discussion,” and he went on to accuse Mr. Obama of agreeing to negotiate with the president of Iran, who on Wednesday referred to Israel as “a stinking corpse facing annihilation.” He described that as “a distinct difference between myself and Senator Obama.”

Mr. Obama has not let attacks go unanswered. On Thursday, he replied by saying that Mr. McCain was “losing his bearings” and engaging in “smear” tactics. “My policy toward Hamas has been no different than his,” Mr. Obama said in an interview on CNN.

Mr. McCain’s attacks are part of a broader effort by his campaign to depict Mr. Obama, the current leader in the delegate count in the Democratic race for president, as inexperienced and na├»ve on foreign policy in general and soft on terrorism and its sponsors specifically. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama has also had to fight a related perception, one encouraged by his Democratic rivals, that his support for Israel is also weak.

Of course Sen. McCain who als0 had to protest that he did, too, vote for George Bush in 2000 and 2004, is having to run on the same so-called “expertise” in foreign policy which caused our government to go to war in Iraq in the first place, instead of concentrating on Afghanistan where our true enemies are found. Of course, even though Sen. Obama is a candidate that many if not all Democrats will happily support because he means a complete change from the forces which have willfully mislead this country these past seven years, there are still many of us who support for Hillary Clinton, and who are holding our collective breaths for some sort of miracle to happen between now and the Democratic convention. But make no mistake, no sane Democrat is going to throw judgement and sanity to the four winds and support McCain over whomever is the eventual Democratic nominee. That is Republican pipe dreaming, and would they please pass around whatever it is they are smoking. There is a real resentment against the callousness of the current Republican administration in both domestic policy and in foreign policy which has been built up lo these past seven years, and it’s going to take a helluva lot more than a few boatloads of SwiftBoat liars to dull our animosity.
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Saturday’s Times leading Technology story is one reporting that SPAM is about to move into the world of cellphones. Cellphones have become consumers’ most personal technological devices. Some industry executives, along with consumer groups and security experts, are concerned that unwanted text messages on phones will be an even greater headache than unwanted computer messages. Cellphone spam is particularly annoying to its recipients because it is more invasive — announcing itself with a beep — and it costs the receiver money.

Taber Lightfoot, an assistant director for new media at the Yale School of Management, is among those who have paid for the privilege of receiving cellphone spam. “I was at work and I got so annoyed,” she said of the first burst of three messages she received. She got another burst two days later. “That is when I called Verizon and demanded they reimburse me $1.60 for eight text messages,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was my money.”

Ms Lightfoot certainly has the right idea. If the receivers of SPAM demand that their providers remove their charges, the providers will sure as hell work out filters which prevent the spam, and quickly too we're willing to bet. We wish cell phone users luck and further hope that their struggles lighten the load of SPAM in our computer’s email box.
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Some in the environmentally conscious green world take exception when industry attempts to us greening claims to sell merchandise. When Barbie maker Mattel attempted to sell a green line of Barbie recycled clothing and accessories, some blogs exploded. According to Mattel’s news release (, the “playful and on-trend Barbie BCause collection repurposes excess fabric and trimmings from other Barbie doll fashions and products which would otherwise be discarded, offering eco-conscious girls a way to make an environmentally friendly fashion statement with cool, patchwork-style accessories.”

The whole thing is “pretty ironic given that Barbie dolls themselves are made out of plastic and are packaged in even more plastic,” Jen Phillips wrote on Mother Jones magazine’s blog, the Blue Marble ( “And not the kind of plastic you can throw in the recycling bin, either.”

Aiming ads at children is one thing. Using them in advertisements meant to appeal to adults is another. In February, Lloyd Alter of noted in a post titled, “The Semiotics of Greenwashing,” the use of children in ads for the coal and cement industries. Citing research finding that children are far more environmentally concerned than adults, Mr. Alter said that such ads were meant to convey the idea that “if the kids are saying it, then it must be green.”
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And in another note Microsoft asked Europe’s second-highest court to overturn or reduce a record fine of 899 million euros ($1.4 billion) from the European Union. The appeal was filed at the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, a Microsoft spokesman, Jesse Verstraete, said in an e-mailed statement. The European Commission, the E.U.’s antitrust authority, fined the company on Feb. 27 for failing to comply with a 2004 antitrust order. Under that decision, in which Microsoft was fined 497 million euros, the E.U. ordered the software maker to provide data to rivals to allow servers to connect to the Windows platform. Well, not that the minions at MS would give a tinker's what we think, but we feel that Microsoft should simply show Europe what’s what and drop out of the European market altogether. That would show those who dare challenge Microsoft God given right to do and charge what it damn pleases.
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And this from the Washington Post: The U.S. military has, since 2001, cremated some of the remains of American service members killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere at a Delaware facility that also cremates pets, a practice that ended yesterday when the Pentagon banned the arrangement. Officials said they do not know the number of service members cremated at the Kent County facility, which is identified on a billboard as Friends Forever Pet Cremation Service.

The facility, located in an industrial park near Dover Air Force Base, has cremated about 200 service members, manager David A. Bose estimated last night. It uses separate crematories a few feet apart to cremate humans and animals, he added, insisting that there had "not been any people gone through the pet crematory."

Pentagon officials said they do not think that human remains and animal remains were ever commingled at the facility. "We have absolutely no evidence whatsoever at this point that any human remains were at all ever mistreated," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said at a news conference hastily convened last night. Regardless, the Pentagon will no longer permit crematories not located with funeral homes to handle the remains of U.S. troops, defense officials said.
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And in another Washington Post story, this one by Darryl Fears, in black America, oh, how the mighty have fallen. Bill Clinton is no longer revered as the "first black president." Tavis Smiley's rapid-fire commentaries on a popular radio show have been silenced. And the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., self-described defender of the black church, has been derided by many on the Web as an old man who needs to "step off."

They all landed in the black community's doghouse after being viewed as endangering Sen. Barack Obama's chances of being elected president. And the community's desire to protect the first African American ever to be in this position may only grow with his win in North Carolina and his close loss in Indiana this week. "I have parents who are still living who are very enthusiastic about Obama," said Valerie Grim, the chair of Indiana University's Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. "They live in Mississippi. For a time, my parents couldn't vote, and when they could, their only choice was a white person.

"This means more than just saying there's a black person on the ticket. It represents the things they had been denied. It's being able to see the unbelievable, that the impossible might be possible. It represents for them a new day, a new opportunity to see that black people can contribute, on the ultimate level, to the social order."
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And so this week’s ramblings have come to an end. We hope you will join us again next week where we hope to have more news about a possible Nightsong home page. Meantime, good bye and good luck.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Blog #34: Of Bare Backs and Broken Bones

There are four female children living in my house ranging in age from five to ten, and so you had better believe I’m aware of the Hannah Montana phenomenon. And being an interested observer of the popular scene I’ve marveled at the money pit that wee little Miley Cyrus, the fifteen year old daughter of country singer Billie Ray Cyrus, has become. In addition to keeping her father gainfully employed (he plays her father on the Disney TV show she stars in) she has even unknowingly fostered a new industry, a computer program which snaps up concert tickets for resellers before they can be sold to the public, so that the resellers can offer those same tickets at highly inflated prices. And so under the new order an $80 ticket for a Hannah Montana concert will be resold for hundreds of dollars, for whatever the traffic of the moment will bear. And the ironic thing about it is that the Montana organization will not see a penny of this money, it all goes to the ticket resellers, who used a criminal computer program to buy up tickets before legitimate ticket buyers could get their hands on them.

Ah, but kids are still kids, even those worth many times their weight in gold. Just last week people were tsk-tsking over Miley lifting her blouse and flashing her green bra to the world. (Of course she’s proud of what that green bra is concealing. She’s female and human.) And now, the entire empire of the Disney corporation is quaking in its boots as the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine appeared featuring a very tasteful Annie Leibovitz photograph of the kid topless, though modestly hiding her naughty bits (whatever nature has afforded her in that department) behind what appears to be a satin bedsheet.

Some parents reacted with outrage. “Bonfire anyone?” hysterically wrote one Lin Burress, she of the painfully twisted knickers, on her marriage and parenting blog, Telling It Like It Is. She was referring to the mountain of Hannah Montana retail items — makeup, shoes, clothes — in the marketplace. “Parents should be extremely concerned,” Ms. Burress said in her most pontifical manner. “Very young girls look up to Miley Cyrus as a role model.” Of course the real truth is that Ms Burress is a walking, sqawking example of everything that is screwed out of whack in our society. As if the young girls of the country are going to line up to bare their topsides for the likes of Annie Leibovitz? And as if it would matter if they did?

The Washington Post had slightly more mature coverage: “In this week's celebrity scandalette, we've got Disney darling Miley Cyrus, of "Hannah Montana" fame, posing in the almost all-together for Vanity Fair. Cue the predictable outrage. See the hype machine crank into gear. Watch the spin get spun. Listen to pundits calculate the alleged economic fallout from said disgrace. Smell the hypocrisy as tabloids and bloggers grab a piece of the action, weighing in with finger-wagging judgment. . . . Cynics might see a carefully calibrated attempt to expand the Miley Cyrus brand beyond the tween demographic.

"Miley Cyrus may realize that she's not going to be able to play Hannah Montana forever," says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. "The role of a teenage heartthrob" has an exceedingly short shelf life, he points out. "She's probably at a point where she's trying to evolve her persona, to move into Jodie Foster territory." Speaking of Foster, remember her playing the preteen prostitute in "Taxi Driver"? Hands were wrung, all kinds of outrage ensued. Didn't exactly hurt her career.”

The Vanity Fair article, written by Bruce Handy, seems to support the claim that the photograph evolved in a natural way, quoting Ms. Cyrus as saying, “Annie took, like, a beautiful shot, and I thought it was really cool. That’s what she wanted me to do, and you can’t say no to Annie.” Miley also said of the photo, “I think it’s really artsy. It wasn’t in a skanky way.”

Miley had a different view after her handlers brought her over to their point of view. In a prepared statement released on Sunday she was quoted as saying: “I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.”

What balderdash? What in God’s name is wrong with this society? Why is the baring of one teenage back so threatening to the Disney corporate bank account and to the world of parenting, that her handlers would cause her to retract her original words in so blatant and tasteless a manner. So the child has a back, and as uncovered and photographed by Ms. Leibovitz, it turns out to be a very pretty back indeed. Is that really going to bring the Hannah Montana franchise crashing onto its knees? Cause the “bonfire” of HM products that Ms Burress so callously suggested in her blog? What is wrong with these mindless carpers? Besides having a near fatal dose of good old fashioned American hypocrisy?

We respectively suggest that the Disney corporation and Ms Burress “get lives,” and leave Miley Cyrus to hers. And Miley, sweetie, feel free to show us your bare back, and any other part of your anatomy you care to bare any time you get the urge. Remember, nudity was instrumental in making both Hedy Lamarr and Marilyn Monroe the icons they became. And the unclothed human body isn’t something ugly to be ashamed of. To the contrary, it is beautiful, has been ever since mankind left the caves and the trees and shed their fur in favor of bare skin. The Disneys and Burresses are fleeting phenomenon, but the art and the beauty of the unclothed human body will live forever.
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The people behind the West Texas raid of that polygamist compound and the forcible removal of all 464 children, are continuing to try and justify this most outrageous government abuse of power since the internment of all those of Japanese descent in World War II, by floating unsubstantiated stories about the children. First off they reported many pregnancies among teenage girls (without giving any specific numbers or ages). Since that didn’t take root they are now claiming that dozens of the children had broken bones in the past. In his ongoing CYA operation Carey Cokerall, head of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, told a Senate panel that at least 41 of the 464 children in state custody had previously broken or fractured bones.

FLDS spokesman Rod Parker called Cockerell's testimony "a deliberate effort to mislead the public." Parker pointed out that any broken bones would have been treated in medical facilities away from the ranch in Eldorado and that doctors are required to report suspected abuse.

Dr. Emalee Flaherty, a pediatrician in Chicago who specializes in child abuse, cautioned against jumping to conclusions that the children's broken bones were caused by abuse. There might be many variables, she said: a high incidence of bone disease, say, or a special diet that causes a vitamin deficiency that predisposes the group's children to brittle bones. "This is a pretty closed community," Flaherty said. She said life on a ranch might also expose children to injuries. "There are too many unknowns," Flaherty said. Dr. Bruce Perry, a Houston child psychiatrist and child abuse expert, said the type of fracture is also important. "There are certain characteristics of fractures that go with abuse," Perry said. "It would be really important to know what bone was fractured and the type of fracture."

No one at the hearing suggested that the most fractured bone of all just might be the one in director Cockerall’s hard head, though the thought may have occurred to one or two of the more cynical among us.
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And the delightfully zany Onion reports that former president Jimmy Carter is going to be tried in front of the world court for alleged peace crimes against inhumanity. "Jimmy Carter's political career includes a laundry list of anti-war-making offenses," said chief prosecutor Charles B. Simmons. "Carter's record of benevolence, diplomacy, and respect for human life is unrivaled in recent geopolitical history. For millions, the very sight of his face evokes memories of his administration's reign of tolerance." On behalf of the Bush administration, Vice-President Dick Cheney expressed regret over Carter's alleged crimes. "We are all aware of the missteps that occurred during the placid days of the Carter administration," Cheney said. "It was simply a matter of bringing the justice to light. Thankfully, the process has begun, and this chapter in our nation's history is finally being brought to a close."
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Wow things have sure changed since I went to college. Besides having our classes in trees and caves, we were stuck with emasculated administration approved newspapers and literary magazines. Evidently that is not so nowadays. Three of what my generation would have called girls, but in our present day political correctness we hasten to refer to as young ladies, three Rice students of the female persuasion, have published a literary sex magazine called Open. You read that right: literary sex. The Rice University students are Katherin Sudol, 21; Rachel Solnick, 20; and Amanda Hu, 19. Here are some of the interesting statistics they report in their first edition:

• 49.2% of students who have had sex would not change anything about their first time and 25.3% would have changed who it was with. • 28% of women and 24% of men have had more than ten hook-ups • 23.6% do not think it is necessary to be dating before having sex. •53.6% of women and 33.8% of men have never had an orgasm. • 60% believe that if a person they were interested in dating initiated intimacy sooner than expect it would not be a factor in the development of the relationship. Interesting, eh what?

There are stories of students discovering their sexuality. From one: “One thing is clear: when I fell in love with a girl, despite having loved my ex-boyfriend, I couldn’t deny the spark; I just had to redefine myself to fit with what I felt . . . Despite the cheesiness of this horrendous phrase, I go with the flow. I am attracted to whomever I am attracted to and I don’t deny myself based upon what some people dictate as appropriate . . .

Turns out that Open isn’t the only college level literary sex magazine online. “College Sex by the People Having It”, proclaims And has a discreet Web presence in keeping with its overall mission, to approach gender and sexuality “in an intelligent way people can learn from,” says JiaJia Fei, the editor and a senior at Bryn Mawr.

Open, which has essays, fiction and poetry in addition to news and photographs is available online at:, a free download is at : , click on the Download button. I wish them much luck in their little enterprise. And their magazine sure beats the artsy-fartsy literary magazines of my college days.
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Our usual way of calling attention to a story is to publish its URL so you can copy and paste it into your browser’s window. Like so: ___________________________________________________

However in this case we would like to save you the trouble, and reprint the story in its entirety. It was published as an editorial on the Sunday Opinion pages of the online edition of the N.Y. Times. It says what it has to say with elegance and force. And in our editorial opinion what it has to say rocks.

The PEN American Center, the literary organization committed to free expression, is honoring an American most people in this country have never read or even heard of: Laura Berg. She is a psychiatric nurse at a Veterans Affairs hospital who was threatened with a sedition investigation after she wrote a letter to the editor denouncing the Bush administration’s bungling of Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq war.

That’s right, sedition: inciting rebellion against the government. We suppose nothing should surprise us in these days of government zealotry. But the horror and the shame of that witch hunt should shock everyone.

Ms. Berg identified herself as a V.A. nurse when, soon after Katrina’s horrors, she sent her impassioned letter to The Alibi, a paper in Albuquerque, N. M. “I am furious with the tragically misplaced priorities and criminal negligence of this government,” she wrote. “We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit.”

Her superiors at the hospital soon alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and impounded her office computer, where she keeps the case files of war-scarred veterans she treats. Then she received an official warning in which a Veterans Affairs investigator intoned that her letter “potentially represents sedition.”

It took civil rights litigators and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico to “act forcefully” in reminding the government of the Constitution and her right to free speech. The Department of Veterans Affairs retreated then finally apologized to the shaken Ms. Berg.

Even then, she noted, one superior told her it was preferred that she not identify herself as a V.A. nurse in any future letter writing. “And so I am saying I am a V.A. nurse,” Ms. Berg soon boomed out in a radio broadcast. “And some of my fire in writing this about Katrina and Iraq is from my experience as a V.A. nurse.” Thus declared Ms. Berg, well chosen to receive the new PEN/Katherine Anne Porter First Amendment Award.”

Can you believe that? I can think of no other administration in my 82 years of life on this planet that would have had the audacity to attempt to call valid opposition to its inane policies “sedition.” Even Nixon’s Merry Band seemed to harbor occasional feelings of guilt over their reaction to the virulent public opposition that was so widespread against them at the time, and so treaded relatively lightly. Sedition indeed? Dr. Joseph Goebbels (the propaganda chief of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany) would have been proud of the reaction of this administration to opposition. I guess maybe our would be King George should be thankful that there might be at least one historical figure who would approve of his tactics. That is if he even knows who Joseph Goebbels was.

Bush’s poll numbers hit a new low on Thursday, as a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. reported Bush’s lowest approval rating in the history of polls recording approval ratings, at 28%, and with 71% of the respondents disapproving of how Bush was handling his job. That is five points below Richard Nixon’s lowest at the height of Watergate, at 33%. Is it any wonder that John McCain went to New Orleans to apologize for the Bush administration and its lack of concern and action in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, all the while promising the voters there he would never be so uncaring himself.

Can you imagine having to run on the record of this administration? What a rotten hand to be dealt? But one well deserved by each and every Republican. After all, George W. Bush was their president through and through. In 2000 they fought like lions to get him installed over Al Gore, and when the count in Florida began going against them they finally managed to accomplish their victory by Supreme Court fiat. And just in the nick of time, too. Hanging chads and all, Al Gore was well on the way to winning the Florida count when the High Court stepped in to save the day for King George the minificent.

And a belated shame on those of you nine black robed ones who from your high position reverted to being the Republican political hacks that we suspected you of being all along. Anthony Scalia in a recent 60 Minutes interview told us Democrats that we should get over our feelings of animosity towards the court and get a life. Mr. Scalia, there are those among us who will hold the ascension of George W. Bush to the presidency against you and your ilk until the end of time, for taking a peaceful and prosperous economy and ushering in eight years of war, pestilence, torture and the shredding of the Geneva Conventions, the splintering of American civil liberties as the telcoms illegally turned over their internet traffic for NSA monitoring, and finally the desecration of the American economy, in other words the whole ten yards and then some. Get over yourself, Mr Injustice Scalia.
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And from comes word that House Republicans are trying to revive a bill which give legal immunity to the telcos that cooperated with the NSA in electronic suveillance of American citizens. “U.S. House Republicans turned to obscure procedural maneuvers April 23, aiming to revive a vote on the Senate version of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) that includes immunity for the telephone companies that participated in the White House's domestic surveillance program.

In March, the House approved a version of FISA with no immunity for those carriers. Since the House passed its version of the FISA renewal, the Senate and the House have been unable to reach a compromise. President Bush has vowed to veto any legislation that does not include immunity for the carriers. The law itself, meanwhile, has expired, although FBI Director Robert Mueller testified April 23 that he was unaware of any wiretaps being imperiled or denied since the Act lapsed.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, urged Democratic lawmakers to hold fast. "The House stood strong last month and we expect it to do so again," Frederickson said in a statement. "The bottom line here is that we are nine months away from a new president. There is no reason for this Congress to hand this administration a going-away present of unfettered and warrantless wiretapping."

Isn’t it interesting how under the guise of making us safer from foreign espionage Republicans increasingly whittle away at our constitution given freedoms and right to privacy. I suppose next it will be jail for the lot of us, to protect us from the bad guys. But the bad guys are here already, and they are Republicans, through and through.
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And in the latest news from the music industry a federal judge has dealt a blow to the RIAA by rejecting it’s “making available” argument in a lawsuit against a husband and wife accused of copyright infringement. In Atlantic v. Howell Judge Neil V Wake denied the labels' motion for summary judgment in a 17-page decision, allowing the suit to proceed to trial. The argument – that merely the act of making music files available for download constituted copyright infringement – has been the basis for the Recording Industry Association of America's legal battle against online music piracy.

While the couple lacks legal representation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said it filed an amicus brief on behalf of the couple. The EFF argued against the RIAA's "making available" position, saying in a statement that it "amounts to suing someone for attempted distribution, something the Copyright Act has never recognized." Judge Wake apparently agreed with that position. "The court agrees with the great weight of authority that section 106(3) is not violated unless the defendant has actually distributed an unauthorized copy of the work to a member of the public," wrote the judge in his order. "Merely making an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work available to the public does not violate a copyright holder's exclusive right of distribution." EFF staff attorney Fred von Lohmann called the order the "most decisive rejection yet of the recording industry's 'making available' theory of infringement."

This is quite an interesting development, for if the decision holds up it could help overturn the RIAA’s conviction of Jammie Thomas, the mother of two who lost her case and whose story we told in our blog #10. Ms Thomas was convicted and fined $222,000, which came to $9,250 per song file, with the RIAA only having to prove that she had 24 songs in a folder that could be shared. In the Thomas case the RIAA did not prove one instance of someone downloading one of her files. The decision is yet another nail in the coffin of the RIAA’s attempt to play the RICO card of blackmail and intimidation.
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The Washington Post this week asked a fascinating question. What does a president really do? If you had to put together the Help Wanted ad for the position of chief executive, what would you write? Something like: "CEO needed to supervise 3 million employees. Must be at least 35, native-born, willing to work at home. Spectacular public failures likely."

The presidency is the most famous job in America (with all due respect to Oprah), and probably the hardest. The country is currently trying to fill the position. We have three applicants still in the running. What we don't tend to do, despite obsessive attention to this contest, is talk much about what the job entails. We talk instead about hot-button issues, the latest gaffe, the new sound bite, the polls, the electoral map. Presidential campaigns glancingly deal with the institution of the presidency while focusing on the more urgent issue of winning. The closest thing we've seen to a job description on the campaign trail has been the 3 a.m. phone call ad, a caricature of the president as the national guardian, and one that still doesn't quite tell you what a president does during working hours.

"There's endless months of debating about this job and almost no public discussion of what the job is," Robert Caro, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer now working on his fourth volume about Lyndon Johnson, told me last week. "There's no other job like it. I'm sitting here watching Lyndon Johnson grapple simultaneously with riots in the streets, budget problems in Congress, are the Chinese going to come into Vietnam, what's going wrong with the model cities program, how are we going to get the funding for Head Start, what's Bobby Kennedy doing today, how are we going to blunt what he's saying?"
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And so went Blog #34. We hope you’ll come and see us again next week, same URL. And in the meantime, have a good week.

The Real Little Eddy