Friday, July 11, 2003

Scapegoat time...

I've always wondered why Bush decided to leave a Clinton-appointee - George Tenet - in charge at the CIA. Now it is becoming more clear....

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House on Friday pointedly cited the CIA's role in clearing President Bush's State of the Union address, amid growing questions over the administration's prewar claims about Iraq.

"The CIA cleared the speech. The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety," Rice said, en route to Uganda.

"If the CIA -- the director of central intelligence -- had said, 'Take this out of the speech,' it would have been gone," Rice said.

How convenient to be able to throw everything into Tenet's lap.

Want a strong economy? Elect Democrats!

A ranking of U.S. presidents based on economic performance courtesy of P.L.A. - A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism:

1) Roosevelt (1933-45): +5.3%
2) Johnson (1963-69): +3.8%
3) Carter (1977-81): +3.1%
4) Truman: (1945-53): +2.5%
5) Kennedy (1961-63): +2.5%
6) Clinton (1993-2001): +2.4%
7) Nixon (1969-75): +2.2%
8) Reagan (1981-89): +2.1%
9) Ford (1975-77): +1.1%
10) Eisenhower (1953-61): +0.9%
11) Bush (1989-93): +0.6%
12) Bush (2001-present): -0.7%
13) Hoover (1929-33): -9.0%

The scary part is how much worse things could get before Bush Jr. catches up to Hoover.

About Me

I’m Mike Thomas and I started this blog to talk about politics and pop culture things that interest me. I’m 50 years old. I live in San Antonio, Texas. I have two children - a boy born in 2003 and a girl born in 2005.

I was born at Reese Air Force Base near Lubbock, Texas while my father was in pilot school. He flew F-4 Phantoms in Vietnam and received the Silver Star for heroics during the Tet Offensive. He passed away a few years ago. My mom lives in Houston half way between my sister (who is in Louisiana with her husband and four kids) and me.

I was an Air Force brat through the fourth grade. The first place I can remember clearly is Grissom AFB in Indiana. When my dad got out of the service we moved back to Texas and he went to work in the oil business. We lived for a short time in McAllen. I spent my junior high years in Victoria and went to high school in Premont, which is a small town in South Texas near Kingsville. I was in Little League Baseball, Boy Scouts, Methodist Youth Fellowship, 4-H, FFA and UIL Speech and Debate.

I went to Texas A&M University and was in the Corps of Cadets for four years. I thought I would go into the Air Force like my father, but things didn’t work out that way. In the mid-to-late 80s the military was trying to cut back on personnel and they did this by raising medical entrance standards. Even though I don’t wear glasses, my eyesight was determined to be too poor to be a pilot or navigator. I was offered a missile officer slot for a short time until they determined that I am colorblind. Since I was not in a technical major that only left the non-tech officer slots of which there were very few and as my grades were not competitive enough I soon found myself bumped out.

Once it became clear that I was going to have to do something with myself other than join the military I decided I had better change my major to something more practical. So I went from Speech Communications to Journalism and figured I would end up doing public relations type work. During the extra year and a half that it took to make up for switching majors in my senior year, I lived in apartments off campus and supported myself by working first in the Sears parts department and later took a job at the A&M library. In my final semester I met my wife who was finishing up two degrees in biology and chemistry.

On the same day I learned I had an interview for a reporter position with the Bryan/College Station Eagle, my wife was offered a position as a research scientist at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Wallingford, Connecticut. There was no question as to which job was better, so we loaded up our belongings and began a three year adventure in New England. In 1991, the Northeast was in still in a recession and newspapers were hurting. I spent the first six months there doing freelance work until I convinced an editor at a small weekly paper in Durham to let me pretend to be a full time reporter there while being paid on a per story basis. After a while I attracted the attention of the group publisher and was moved into a full-time reporting position at a paper in Old Saybrook.

By 1993, we were ready to move back to Texas and I found a job at a small daily paper in Kerrville. I covered county and city government, the school board and local politics. One politico I interviewed during that time was an up-an-coming businessman by the name of George W. Bush who was running for governor against Ann Richards. In 1995, I took a reporting job at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal so my wife could go back to school at Texas Tech for her doctorate. Once again I covered education, city government and local politics. I must have interviewed then-Gov. Bush at least a half dozen times over the next several years – Lubbock was a favorite place for Republican politicians to come visit.

When my wife graduated we decided to move one more time and wound up in San Antonio where we hope to stay indefinitely. I’m currently director of communications for the Bexar County Medical Society where I edit the San Antonio Medicine magazine.

Here are some more things about me:

Name: Mike Thomas

Age: 50

Height: 6’

Level of Education: B.S. Journalism - Texas A&M University 1989

Occupation: Editor and Director of Communications at Bexar County Medical Society

Birthplace: Lubbock, Texas

Places you’ve lived: Grissom AFB, Indiana; Springdale, Ark.; McAllen, Texas; Victoria, Texas; Premont, Texas; College Station, Texas; Branford, Connecticut; Kerrville, Texas; Lubbock, Texas; San Antonio, Texas.

How many children: 2 - a boy age 12 and a girl age 9 (as of Aug. 2015)

Do you drink (alcohol): No

Do you smoke: No

Favorite outdoor activities: Playing with my kids

Favorite indoor activities: Blogging, reading, watching movies

Favorite color: Maroon

Favorite types of music: Rock, Jazz, Country, Classical

Favorite musical groups/performers: The Police; The Beatles; Elvis Presley; Bing Crosby; Bruce Springsteen; Bob Dylan; Louis Armstrong; Duke Ellington; Benny Goodman; Bix Biederbecke; Led Zepplin; The Black Crowes; Red Hot Chili Peppers; The Rolling Stones; The Beach Boys; Buddy Holly; Johnny Cash; Ray Charles; Willie Nelson; Dwight Yoakum; The Dixie Chicks; U2; REM; Cheap Trick; ZZ Top; Tom Petty; Electric Light Orchestra; The Bee Gees; Smashing Pumpkins; Stevie Wonder; The Eagles; Billy Joel; Elton John; Queen; Rod Stewart; Robert Earl Keen; Stone Temple Pilots; Guns-n-Roses; Van Halen; The Who; Aerosmith; Alison Krauss; Andrews Sisters; Peggy Lee; Asia; Heart; Loverboy; J. Geils Band; John Mellencamp; Billy Squier; Boston; Buffalo Springfield; Neil Young; Paul Simon; Chuck Pyle; Dar Williams; Vance Gilbert; Tish Hinojosa; Michael McNevin; Ellis Paul; Foreigner; Rush; Santana; Jimi Hendrix; The Doors; David Bowie; Alabama; George Strait; Garth Brooks; Herb Alpert; The Kingston Trio; Deep Purple; Kiss; Prince; Danny Kaye; The Faces; Foo Fighters; Hall & Oates; INXS; Jamiroquai; Green Day; The Offspring; Jerry Jeff Walker; JET; Miles Davis; Dizzie Gillespie; Count Basie; John Denver; John Waite; Los Lobos; Lyle Lovett; Nickel Creek; Trans Siberian Orchestra; Rage Against the Machine; Public Enemy; Rick Springfield; Enya; Mannheim Steamroller; The Chieftains; Stevie Ray Vaughn; Lynyrd Skynrd; Def Leppard; Frank Sinatra; Weird Al Yankovic

Favorite soundtracks: Urban Cowboy; Grease; Saturday Night Fever; Chess; Aladdin; Dumbo; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; Chariots of Fire; O Brother, Where Art Thou; Sound of Music; Mary Poppins;

Favorite broadway shows: Miss Saigon; Ragtime; Chicago; Les Miserables; Phantom of the Opera; Hello Dolly; Evita; Into the Woods; Cats

What’s in your home CD player right now: Veggie Tales: Silly Songs with Larry

What’s in you car CD player right now: Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way

Do you play an instrument: No

Croutons or bacon bits: Neither (I prefer sunflower seeds)

Favorite salad dressing: Newman’s Own Ranch

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up: Baseball player, preferably a catcher like my hero Johnny Bench

What would be your dream job now: Editorial writer/columnist

Places you’d most like to visit: England

Your first car: 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

Your current car: 2005 Dodge mid-size pickup truck quadcab

Toothpaste: Vanilla-flavored Crest

Shampoo/Conditioner: Something for gray/silver hair

Favorite season: Baseball season

Favorite holiday: Halloween

Favorite hobbies: Collecting movies, books, music and baseball cards

Favorite sport to play: Baseball, basketball, golf, tennis

Favorite sports teams: San Antonio Spurs; Texas A&M Aggies; Houston Astros; Texas Rangers; New York Yankees; Cincinnati Reds (1972-78); Dallas Cowboys; Houston Texans

Do you have any siblings: Yes, a sister with four kids

Favorite places to visit: New England; Boston, New York; Chicago; Disney World

Favorite scent of candle: Vanilla

Favorite flower/plant: Cactus

Favorite subject in school: History

Least favorite subject in school: Math

Favorite authors: J.R.R. Tolkien; Richard Adams; Isaac Asimov; Charles Dickens; Mark Twain; Noam Chomsky; John Kenneth Galbraith; Hans Kung; Marcus Borg

Favorite columnists: Molly Ivins; Michael Kinsley; Paul Krugman; Joe Conason; Sidney Blumenthal; Eric Alterman;

Favorite book genre: Non-fiction

Favorite books: The Hobbit; Lord of the Rings; Watership Down; In Cold Blood; Gone With the Wind; Great Expectations

Daily reads: New York Times; San Antonio Express-News; Wall Street Journal; Washington Post online;

Favorite magazine: New Yorker

Favorite movie you have seen recently: Inside Out (Pixar)

Favorite movie of all time: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Other favorite movies: The Star Wars Trilogy; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Back To the Future; Karate Kid; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; JFK; Aladdin; Casablanca; On the Road to .... (Hope/Crosby movies); The Searchers; Planet of the Apes; Wizard of Oz; It’s a Wonderful Life; The Court Jester; A Fish Called Wanda; The Matrix... (For a complete list of my favorite movies go here. )

Favorite actors/actresses: Clint Eastwood; John Wayne; Tom Hanks; Bob Hope; Bing Crosby; Harrison Ford; Paul Newman; Cary Grant; Charlton Heston; Jimmy Stewart; Johnny Depp; Tom Cruise; Humphry Bogart; Steve Martin; Katherine Hepburn; Woodie Allen; Mel Gibson; Steve McQueen; Yul Brynner;

Favorite TV programs (current): Lost; ER; Boston Legal; Walking Dead

Favorite TV programs (all time): Star Trek (all of them); X-Files; Twilight Zone; Sliders; The Muppet Show; Frasier; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; The Carol Burnett Show; Nash Bridges; Judging Amy; Doctor Who

Favorite cartoon character: Bugs Bunny; Daffy Duck; Donald Duck; Goofy; Speed Racer; Danger Mouse;

Favorite food: It changes, but I always like a big breakfast with pancakes, bacon and eggs.

Favorite ice cream: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla

How would you characterize your political leanings:
Liberal pragmatist with conservative sympathies. I vote Democratic.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Green gringo fate?

Can anyone tell me what's up with this quote in this Express-News story?

San Antonio businessman Laurent Perron started the Margarita Man business in 1984 with the idea of rescuing the drink from the "insipid, green gringo fate to which she has all too often been subjected."

Maybe I'm missing something here since I don't drink alcohol, but does this strike anyone else as being just a bit offensive? The Express-News apparently thought the quote was cute enough to put in the lead of the story and it apparently inspired the headline for the story - "Margarita rescue".

Rescued from what? Those insipid green gringos? Does one have to be a member of a particular ethnic group in order to make a proper margarita? That would seem to be the implication of this quote, although the story kind of drops the matter and does not explain it further.

And The Party Never Ends...

From the NY Times:
"Gen. Tommy R. Franks said today that violence and uncertainty in Iraq made it unlikely that troop levels would be reduced "for the foreseeable future," and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld nearly doubled the estimated military costs there to $3.9 billion a month."

The Road Goes On Forever...

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Insurgents launched fresh assaults on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, killing at least two servicemen and wounding a third in shootings and rocket-propelled grenade attacks, the military said Thursday.

A soldier was fatally shot Wednesday evening near the city of Mahmudiyah, 15 miles south of Baghdad, said Spc. Nicci Trent, a spokeswoman for the military.

Another soldier was killed and one wounded Wednesday in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a five-vehicle convoy near Baqouba...

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Summer Movie Bust

Is it just me or has this been a really disappointing summer for cinema fans? With the exception of "Finding Nemo" there just haven't been a lot of new movies coming out lately that have generated a great deal of interest or enthusiasm. Admittedly, I haven't seen any of these films, but just based on the reviews I've seen and the box office numbers that have come in there have been an inordinate number of stinkers this season.

The Matrix Reloaded was the last film that I got out to see and I liked it OK, but apparently a lot of other people did not and it hasn't made the big splash that Hollywood was anticipating. Then the Hulk came to town with a grandiose marketing campaign and lots of spin-off products in the toy stores, but the movie itself just kind of fizzled.
Charlie's Angels II seemed to be pretty flat as well and now Terminator III had a less than impressive showing over the holiday weekend.

Fortunately, It looks like the new Disney action/comedy "Pirates of the Caribbean" might be pretty good. It has been getting excellent reviews from the New York Times and Salon. And of course there is always Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to look forward to.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Coulter and Weiner get whacked!

Poor Ann Coulter can’t even catch a break on her own turf.
Coulter’s latest published screed against the left entitled “Treason” has been lambasted and ridiculed since its release - all of which she could no doubt explain away as the natural reaction of the treasonous liberals who control the media, but yesterday the other shoe finally dropped when Coulter was taken to task on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal.

WSJ editorial board member Dorothy Rabinowitz penned a scathing indictment of Coulter’s book and even takes a personal slap at Coulter calling her “the Maureen Dowd of the conservatives” (Ouch! That had to hurt!).

I didn’t think too much of the matter until I found out later in the day that MSNBC had just fired Michael “Savage” Weiner, the right-wing shock jock they hired a few months ago to replace Phil Donohue. That meant that two far-right wingnuts had been slapped down in one day and that is when I became suspicious. I think I see the hand of Karl Rove in all of this.

That’s right. I think Bush has been sitting back like Michael Corleone in Godfather II and surveying the political landscape in preparation for the 2004 election season. Now he has sent out his counseilere (Rove) to whack the uncooperative wingers who might have a tendency to embarrass him during the long campaign. So that just leaves one question. Which rightwingers out there should be looking over their shoulders right now?

Monday, July 07, 2003

Fade to Black

The WSJ has a story today about the decline of “old-style” animated movies prompted by the poor showing over the weekend of DreamWork SKG’s “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.”
The Sinbad film, which cost $70 million to make, pulled in just $6.8 million during the July 4th weekend and the studio is already preparing to write it off as a $50 million loss. This comes on the heels of Disney’s disasterous “Treasure Planet” which cost $140 million and prompted a $98 million write-off for the Mickey Mouse company.

Now, the WSJ is reporting, Dreamworks is sworn off of the old 2-D animation and has nothing but computer-animated films in the pipeline. Disney still has a few traditional features in the works - including “Brother Bear” and “Home on the Range” - but is increasingly reliant on its relationship with computer animated champ Pixar for box-office hits.
Perhaps this is an inevitability - like color pictures taking over from black and white - but it still seems like a shame. “Aladdin” is still one of my all-time favorite films and I just can’t see it being done with computer animation. I like computer animation just fine - I’m a big Pixar fan - I haven’t even seen “Finding Nemo” yet and I’m already sold on the movie - but why can’t I have both?

In the end, I believe that quality makes more difference than the medium. I can’t really speak about Sinbad and Treasure Planet since I haven’t seen either one, but somehow I think that they just don’t measure up quality-wise to something like Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” which won the Oscar for best animated film this past year. I think Miyazaki demonstrates that there is still life left in the old-style animation as long as you have a powerful story to tell and the talent to pull it off.

Baseball and Robert Earl Keen

As a birthday treat for me (No. 38), my wife got us tickets this weekend to see a San Antonio Missions baseball game. Some friends from Houston drove down for the occasion and we were treated to an outstanding pitching performance by Clint Nageotte who threw a one-hit shutout with 14 strikeouts to lead the Missions to a 3-0 win over the El Paso Diablos. The Missions were the champions of their league last year and look to be on course for a repeat this year.

The highlight of the game for me was getting to meet former Boston Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant who was on hand to sign autographs on behalf of a local insurance company. I dug up one of my 1976 Topps ballcards of his and got him to sign it. He also signed his picture in the new book “The Long Ball: The Summer of ‘75” which was one of my birthday presents. It tells all about the 1975 baseball season which I remember quite vividly as my favorite team the Cinncinnatti Reds went all the way to win the World Series that year.

After the game, there was a Robert Earl Keen concert followed by a fireworks display. Keen is one of those talented Texas-based performers who I am just now beginning to catch up with. I expect that I will find the time to collect more of his music now because it was really good. Most of his songs have a small-town Texas theme and he ends every concert with his biggest hit-to-date “The Road Goes On Forever and The Party Never Ends” (not sure what the actual name of the song is) which turns into an extended jam session at the end.