Isn’t the so-called real world wonderful? The other day Condoleezza Rice was with a group of fourth graders and when she was asked by a student if the Bush regime authorized torture, she evoked classic Nixonian (As expressed to David Frost it goes: “When a president does it, it’s not illegal.”) in her attempt to try and justify President George W. Bush’s policies towards the use of torture and her own authorization of same. With a perfectly straight face she told the students, “If George Bush approves it it isn’t torture.” She added, “President Bush would never authorize torture.”
Never mind that “waterboarding” has been deemed torture since the Spanish Inquisition, and was used by China against American flyers downed in their territory during the Korean War. And never mind that a prisoner will say anything to escape the pain and fear which accompanies waterboarding, consequently what he reveals is likely to be highly suspect. The Bush Klan is up in arms at those charges of torture being leveled at them after the release of their attempts to legally justify the unjustifiable, and like those prisoners they “waterboarded,” they will say anything to deflect the charge of having authorized torture on their watch.
And so Condoleezza Rice dredged up the so-called Nixonian Defense, “If George Bush approved it it wasn’t torture,” and is running with it. Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? A ring of delusion, perhaps, but a ring none the less.§
A strange group met with President Obama on Thursday. The group is promoting the improvement of the nation’s education system, and particularly in regards to the disadvantaged. The group consisted of black activist leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. Needless to say such an unlikely meeting produced reams of speculation, especially on our part.
Our take is that Newt joined that unlikely group as a first step in orchestrating an image makeover. Gingrich is obviously hungering to enter the 2012 presidential campaign as the Republican nominee, but after his all but disgrace in leaving his House Speakership, he has ahead of him the formidable task of completely re-working his image. As a result come his occasional sage suggestions as to which direction the Republican Party should go in. Note the look of sweet innocence he conjures in the photo above. Such an innocent old sweetie. Why he looks like someone you might actually trust to take your 13 year old sexpot daughter to the Mall.
Suddenly being for education, and especially for the education of the disadvantaged, would probably seem to Gingrich to be a good place to begin a rehabilitation, so long as his super conservative friends don’t take too much notice. I suppose celebrating motherhood and marriage between a man and a woman can’t be too far behind.§
Want to know why I am so cheered at the antics of our new president? It is because in spite of that Harvard education and the fact that he has incredible smarts and he’s articulate, he seems to be primarily first and foremost a genuine human being. One with his feet well positioned on the ground, perhaps, but just like the rest of us he can give in to occasional cravings. For instance last Tuesday he and v.p. Biden succumbed to a virulent hamburger jones. What happened next was reported in a story in the N.Y. Times.
Tuesday’s N.Y. Times reported a strange case of a hamburger addiction in the White House. The craving evidently struck President Obama and Vice President Biden simultaneously. To satisfy their jones they took a wholly noticeable motorcade ride from D.C. to Virginia where their motorcade pulled into a small, independent Burger house called Ray’s Hell Burger. There they stood in line until they reached the ordering counter, where they ordered their burgers, and paid for same with their own pocket money. Then they stood with the rest of the crowd as they awaited their numbers being called, at which point they were seated at a table and consumed their feasts. The restaurant, which prides itself on premium aged 10-ounce burgers, sits in a small strip plaza. The burgers sell for $6.95. Note the illustration below. Fries are not served at Ray’s. Instead you get an ear of corn and cut of watermelon, although perhaps this is seasonal and will change in the fall.
Does having the prez and veep sashaying off to a Burger Palace sound particularly strange? Imagine Herbert Walker or George W. Bush ordering in a burger joint and paying for same with their own pocket money. Those two who were so removed from the world most of us live in that neither knew the price of a dozen eggs, a half gallon of milk, or a gallon of gasoline. Bill Clinton, now there was an ex president who knew his way around fast food, and I’m sure he carried pocket money sufficient to pay for his every culinary desire, no problem.
We assume Obama’s and Biden’s burgers were first rate. We wonder how they were cooked, rare, medium rare, medium, or well done, and what all came on them for their $6.75 price? Our mouth watered upon reading the story as we remembered the many delicious hamburgers we have consumed over the years, in the 60’s at the Cock and Bull Restaurant in downtown Houston, and in later years at Fuddruckers in Northwest Houston. At a really superb hamburger place your meat is served exactly to your order, and you decorate your hamburger with just the fresh fixings you crave. And the great thing about the Obama presidency, as this story indicates, is that he and Biden are human beings first, and president and vp second. If you get an itch, the secret service be damned, you scratch it.§
What a change the Obama Administration is from the arbitrary secrecy and egregious behavior of the last administration. Yet dedicated Republicans cannot bear to give up the dream. Good luck to you, Canter and Romney, but hopefully the American people are far too wise to your ways for you to make any substantial inroads in corralling votes for your backdoor attempt to rejuvenate the Republican Party. The present day Republican irrelevancy is well earned, believe me, and it has been eight long years in coming. One in five Americans call themselves Republican these days, do they? How sweet it is!
Senator John Kerry is chairing an interesting hearing on the future of American newspapers, and Arianna Huffington gave a fascinating treatise in her opening remarks, which her site has video of and which you can access by pointing your cursor and clicking here! In a second video on the page she answers Senator Kerry’s questions more specifically.
Senator Kerry’s interest is no doubt peaked by the N.Y. Times Company’s announcement recently that if the unions did not back off of their demands the Boston Globe will shut its doors in 60 days. That announcement did get the unions attention, and reportedly they have backed off their demands somewhat, and hopefully the Times Company will continue to operate the Globe.
However, Arianna Huffington was right on in her testimony. No matter your good intentions you cannot put the genie back into the bottle. People are letting newspaper subscriptions die daily, and for good reason. Most of the newspaper contains stories and features and advertising which probably is not of interest to the reader. Also the printed newspaper is so dreadfully behind the times in this day and age of instant news on 24 hour cable news networks and the internet. Some recent stories are so timely they are first covered on the micro-blogging service Twitter by people who are actually experiencing the news. Most notable case was that downed airplane in the Hudson River recently, where people standing on the airplane’s wings awaiting rescue were actually Twittering their stories to a waiting world in real time. (A Twitter is a message not to exceed 250 characters including spaces.)
As you fret over the fate of that Boston institution, the Boston Globe, we here in Houston feel your pain. Once upon a time we had just such a storied newspaper. It was called the Houston Post, it was founded in 1840, the short story writer O. Henry wrote for it in 1895 and 96. It was operated for many of its years by the Hobby family, who also opened Houston’s first radio station, KPRC am in 1925. In its later years it was sold to a Canadian company, who operated it until they finally sold it to the MediaNews Group led by William Dean Singleton, who had earlier closed down The Fort Worth Press. The Houston Post was closed down permanently, with the final edition printed on April 18, 1995. Its assets and liabilities were acquired by Hearst Corporation, the publisher of the Post's rival daily, the Houston Chronicle, which then proceeded to fire nearly all of the Post's employees.
I remember that dreadful day very well. The closing of the Post had an impact similar to the death of a dear friend. Well, lots of dear friends, for there were communication highlights throughout the paper. It brightened our lives with the cartoons of Jules Feiffer and Gary Trudeau, and columns like those of Texas political icon Molly Ivins. After the Post’s demise it was a long time before I could bring myself around to subscribing to the Chronicle, and several years ago, thanks to its excellent online version, I was able to drop my daily subscription altogether. The trash pickup guys thanked me for that, I am sure.
But, Arianna is perfectly right about our getting our news through links on the web. Now I brighten my mornings not only with the online version of the Chronicle, but also with that of the Washington Post and the N.Y. Times, and I go to the web aggregator The Daily Beast, as well as having the Huffington Post at my fingertips. And I wouldn’t trade this way of accessing the news for all the tea in China, as we used to say.
So whereas it is perfectly true that we at Little Eddy have no solution to the problems of present day news organizations, on the other hand they are not our problem. They have their own problems and must create the people that solve them. Our job, if you can call it that, is to poke our nose into all the news that interests us, and aggregate that which we feel might be of interest to you, our reader, along with our own take on whatever it is we are writing about.
Are we stealing the news? Stealing is done for gain. We don’t get a cent of money from the Little Eddy Blog. Google publishes our weekly rants for free, and will do the same for you if you so desire. We write our Blog for love, and to give me something of meaning to do with what time I have left at this stage of my life. News organizations will find a way to monetize their news, or they will go out of business. Such is the way of the business of capitalism. It is also the way of nature, it’s called the survival of the fittest.§
Monday, May 4th. Speaking of the survival of the fittest, after the Houston Rockets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the Western playoffs last week the Rockets found themselves matched up against the West’s highest scoring team, the L.A. Lakers, in the second round of the playoffs which began Monday evening on TNT. Word from those in the know: the Lakers would roll over the Rockets, probably sweep them. I’m sure no serious fan gave the Rockets a shot in hell. Even the Rockets’ injured star Tracy McGrady predicted that the Lakers would take the series.
In spite of the world’s disbelief and against all odds, the Rockets won that first game 100 to 92. And in the post game interview when asked how that had happened with a twinkle in his eye Rockets’ center Yao Ming quoted the league’s current slogan, “the N.B.A. is where ‘amazing’ happens.”
And amazing it certainly was. Even though they had lost all four regular season games to the Lakers, the Rockets had come close in those games, letting each one get away in the fourth quarter. And what real basketball aficionados realized, but most experts ignored, is that the Rockets match up very well against the Lakers. Shane Battier played excellent defense on the Laker star Kobe Bryant, playing him like he was attached to him, thereby making Bryant work dearly for his points. And when Battier wasn’t on him, Ron Artest took over. (Kobe had 32 points in Monday’s game, but he took 31 shots to get them.) The match up in the middle was between Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum and Yao Ming, and Bynum was no match for the 7’6” Rockets center, and was soon in foul trouble. Meanwhile, Yao had a night like the one he had in his first game in the Portland series, where virtually his every shot went in, and he got all ten of his free throws. Even after a painful knee injury after a basket bound Kobe Bryant ran into him, Yao refused to stay out of the game, arguing with the Rockets trainer until he was allowed to return to the floor. And upon his return the ball was swung to him, and from a distance of about nineteen feet he tossed in a swisher that was nothing but net.
As we said upstairs, the Rockets won that first game 100 to 92, and Yao had 28 points, Ron Artest had 21, and Aaron Brooks, our streaky little waterbug of a point guard, had 19. Of course, one game does not a series make. There will be games Wednesday and Friday nights, and we will report on each of those by the time our Saturday morning upload rolls around. So stay tuned. But we can report that from a Houston prospective, that first game in the series got off famously.
Wednesday, May 5, 2009. It came as no surprise that the Lakers turned Game #2 into a dogfight and won it 111-98. Yao Ming got into foul trouble, blood flowed freely and although the Rockets stayed right with the Lakers for much of the way, they finally fell behind in the fourth quarter after Ron Artest got tossed for challenging Kobe Bryant for giving him an elbow to the throat. Artest in no way harmed, or threatened Bryant. What he did do is walk the length of the court to confront Bryant about the elbow to the throat he claims he suffered.
Although he was tossed, since Artest did not in any way threaten Bryant he should not be suspended for Friday’s game 3 in Houston, at least Houston so hopes. Houston would hope the league fully investigates the incident though, and takes what further action they deem necessary. Derrick Fisher on the other hand, who sent Luis Scolla flying flat on his back with a deliberate flying elbow to the head, in addition to being tossed from the game, might well get a one game suspension over that incident, depending on what the study of several tapes of the incident brings to light. Derrick is a veteran of the league who should certainly know better than to take the action he did.
The league did indeed suspend Fisher for one game, but both Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest have been cleared to play in Friday night’s game. After reviewing the tapes, Stu Jackson of the league did assess Kobe with a Flagrant one for that elbow to the throat that the refs evidently did not see. Although Ron Artest got himself ejected for striding over to Kobe to protest that elbow, he undoubtedly realized that the game was basically lost by that time, and his confrontation was an insurance policy for games down the line. He surprised everyone by not being confrontational (everybody knows he is a loose cannon and expected the worst.) But his action should serve to draw the referee’s and league’s attention to Kobe, which may or may not slow him down in future games. Artest made his point in front of the referees and the league, and in future games Kobe is going to have to be on his good behavior for the refs will be watching him like a hawk, whereas Artest came out of the incident getting kudos for his patience and poise. All in all, on Ron’s part it was a masterful case of thinking on your feet in the thick of the battle. And along with excellent defensive play, it might just slow Kobe down enough to make a difference.
Game 2 was a lively dogfight, as the now desperate Lakers weren’t about to fall two games behind in their own arena. Now the series is even at 1-1 with Friday’s game in Houston looming ahead in its heightened importance. Many an expert has predicted the series will go the way of the winner of Game 3. The Lakers turned it up effectively in Game 2, but the Rockets met them most of the way. If Ron can stay on the court for the entire four quarters, and von Wafer can rein in his temper and retain his poise, our Rockets are expected to make a game of it on their home court on Friday. How it will end is anybody’s guess before the fact. But you can be sure of one thing, we will report on it as we upload Saturday morning’s blog, and so you will be able to read about it here. We can’t wait.
Friday, April 8, 2009. Damn! I guess the Lakers really are the best team in the west. They took game three handily, not without a lot of effort, but with poise and skill. And with the play of Ron Artest in doubt for game 4 (he was ejected after being called for a flagrant two, which is usually followed by a one game suspension) and with Yao Ming limping noticeably, I’m afraid things don’t look good for game four. Oh well, we had a beautiful game one . . . and there’s always next year!
The Yao-less Rockets came out and stunned the Los Angeles Lakers winning fame four 99 to 87 in an afternoon game at Toyota Center broadcast nationally on ABC. Pint-size point guard Aaron Brooks was the star and high scorer of the game, scoring a career high 34 points, while moving effortlessly in and out of the Lakers defense. Shane Battier had 23 points including five 3-pointers, while helping keep LA high scorer Kobe Bryant to 15 points, on 7 for 15 and Luis Scolla had 13, as second guard Kyle Lowry had 12.
“The energy level was through the roof,” Lowry said. “We got the crowd into the game and just played all the way through. Everybody was telling us they would count us out, but we played for each other.
“This team, we’re just resilient. We have that grit and grind. We don’t want to ever lose.”
The next game is Tuesday night from the Staples Center in L.A. One presumes the Lakers will be more ready for the Rockets than they were Sunday afternoon.§
Meantime film maker Spike Lee has made a documentary film about Kobe Bryant’s basketball skills for ESPN which is due to be shown in mid May. In a Daily Beast interview with Lee Beast Blogger Tourè writes:
The film is a collage of visually stunning shots from all sorts of angles edited beautifully (including gorgeous black-and-white stills that leap out from the moving color images). It’s shot on film of such rich texture that even Kobe’s missteps look astounding. And though the fourth quarter is a wash from a basketball standpoint, that’s when we get to see a different dynamic: Kobe on the bench, watching the game, talking to his teammates — including jabbering with Slovenian Sasha Vujacic in Italian and, after Vujacic goes back in, gently dissing him in English when the small guard presses his luck, drives overaggressively for a dunk, and ends up committing a sloppy foul. “God blessed him with a sweet shot,” Kobe says, “but he ain’t blessed him with jumping ability.§”
Kobe Doin Work airs on ESPN on May 16, at 7:30PM EST. A preview of the film lies below.
And finally in cash strapped California, governor Arnold Swartzenegger says it’s high time to study whether or not to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use. I’m quite sure the editors of High Times second the motion with a resounding “Aye!!!
The Republican governor does not go so far as to support legalization quite yet — and the federal government still bans marijuana use — but advocates hailed the fact that Schwarzenegger actually endorsed studying a subject that was once politically taboo.
“Well, I think it’s not time for (legalization), but I think it’s time for a debate,” Schwarzenegger said. “I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I’m always for an open debate on it. And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it have on those countries?” More can be found here!
There is nothing like financial desperation to make one carefully study that which was once unthinkable. As anybody who has used marijuana for any period of time can testify, marijuana gets a bad rap from the Feds and the DEA in particular. It is no sin to lie about a drug, and the powers that be lie about pot with every breath they take.
For one thing, contrary to what every establishment spokesperson incessantly claims marijuana is not addictive. No way does it have the hold on you that a hard drug such as heroin or cocaine has, or for that matter softer ones like nicotine or tobacco. And its casual use does nowheres near as much damage to the body as does the thoroughly legal smoking of tobacco or the drinking of alcohol. In addition drinking alcohol mixed with driving an automobile often causes collisions and injuries and death to oneself and to others, for alcohol dulls the brain and measurably slows reaction times.
On the other hand in the only presidential ordered scientific study of the effects of the drug, marijuana was found to actually improve the driving skills and reaction times of experienced users when driving while high. Those results were so shocking to the politicians that had assumed that the opposite would be found to be true, that the president who ordered the study, Lyndon Baines Johnson, immediately denounced it and had his science advisor to do likewise. If they don’t reinforce our stereotypes, so much for presidential studies.
Back in the Michael Phelps infamous Bong incident, we wrote the following about marijuana, which we feel bears repeating. Any of you with lingering doubts about the basic harmlessness of pot should just think back to the Woodstock Music Festival, held August 15 to August 18, 1969 at Max Yasgur's 600 acre dairy farm near the rural town of Bethel, New York. Upwards of 500,000 young people spent a rainy, stormy weekend in a large field together listening to rock music. Think about that, that’s a small city’s worth of people. What was worse, at least from the standpoint of straight America, was that an overwhelming majority of those kids were smoking pot. Morning, noon and night.
What do you suppose would have happened if 500,000 beer drinkers had spent the weekend together in a big, open field? Not to mention half a million Jim Beam aficionados? Alcohol fuzzes the brain, and makes many people belligerent. Fights would have sprung up like weeds, and blood would have flowed like rivers in springtime. In contrast marijuana seems to sharpen the brain, and is symbolic of peace and love, the preferred herb fueling the peace pipes of the world. And among the half a million youths camping out at Woodstock that weekend, at times under horrific conditions, not a single fight happened. Can you believe that? Not one.
Marijuana epitomizes peace, and in spite of common myth, it is neither addictive like heroin or cocaine nor is it hallucinogenic like LSD. Whereas any substance, even water, can be abused with overuse, what is certain is that many more lives are ruined each year by tobacco smoking and/or the drinking of alcohol than will ever be ruined by even excessive marijuana use. However the legal establishment is reluctant to give up any criminality, no matter how harmless or benign it might happen to be, and so of course cannabis remains illegal. And even though its medical use has been made legal in several states, the feds will not recognize those state’s right, and continually threaten to arrest medical sellers.
If our country was guided by pure scientific reasoning rather than rooted in myth and prejudice, we would study the Rastafarians, the religious group to which marijuana is an integral part of the ceremonies. Rastafarians have distinctive codes of behavior and dress, including the wearing of dreadlocks, the smoking of cannabis, the rejection of Western medicine, and adherence to a diet that excludes pork, shellfish, and milk. They smoke pot day and night, in extreme excess, and any government entity really interested in studying the effects of marijuana on the human body could not in their wildest dreams hope to find a group more suitable for study than the Rastafarians.
Which of course, is the reason such a study will never be made, for politicians would never accept an honest study. If it should happen it would most likely be loudly denounced as was the study during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency.
These days the marijuana community seems to have its priorities set correctly. Get marijuana recognized for its medicinal powers first, then gently push for its recreational use while highlighting its tax revenue potential. As an illegal substance marijuana currently only benefits sellers and users. But it is a weed, it is easy to grow, and it could solve many a state’s money problems if only it was legalized and taxed.§
And so Blog #87 is down to stems and seeds. And all evidence of our dalliance is busy blowing in the wind. We couldn’t be more pleased that you visited with us this week, and we hope you will find you way back here next week. In the meantime, as they used to say in the union movement, “Take it Easy, but take it!” Bye now.§