Friday, May 13, 2005

The Governor’s Race

Former Congressman Chris Bell had a conference call with a bunch of Democratic and progressive bloggers the other day. Charles Kuffner has the details and Sean-Paul live blogged the event at The Agonist.

While I’m glad to see there is still some life in the Party, I can’t say I am all that optimistic about the Democrats’ chances in the next governor’s race. Gov. Rick Perry would seem to be in bigger danger of being knocked off in the Republican primary than losing to a Democratic challenger next year. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison would seem to be the biggest threat to Perry with Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn serving more as a minor irritant. The big question is whether Hutchison would really want to give up her Senate seat for the governor’s mansion unless she has aspirations of making a presidential bid at some point in the future.

Perry is not really a bad guy. Let’s just say he could be much worse. And he is the first Texas Aggie to take the top job in Austin which should count for something in my book. However, I’ve always felt that he was the wrong Aggie to take that job. It was a role that should have gone to John Sharp, the former Texas Comptroller who lost a close race to Perry for Lt. Gov. a few years ago. Partisanship aside, I don’t think there is any question that Sharp was the superior politician in that race and Texas lost a lot when it went the wrong way. Perry and Sharp were both in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M at the same time. Perry was a Yell Leader while Sharp was Student Body President.

I thought John Sharp should have ran against Perry the last time instead of Tony Sanchez, but the statewide appeal of a wealthy Hispanic candidate was too much for the Democrats to pass up. I don’t know if Sharp is seriously considering a race this time either. Chris Bell is apparently making the most noise about a potential candidacy but I just can’t see him winning the race in this political environment. As a one-term Congressman from Houston who lost his seat as a result of Tom DeLay’s re-redistricting coup, I think he will have a difficult time raising money and building name recognition. Sharp, at least, already has some name recognition and some established credentials as a statewide officeholder.

Of course I would love to see Chris Bell or any Democrat win the governor’s race this next time around, but I can’t help but feel a bit put off by the whole thing. After seeing Ann Richards, Garry Mauro and the hapless Tony Sanchez all go down to ignomious defeat in recent years, I am very tempted to just throw my support this time to Kinky Friedman. In fact, maybe the Democrats might consider cross-endorsing Kinky this time while they continue to rebuild the party at the grassroots level for the next few years.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Nobody said it would be "quick and easy"

Oh, is that so?

My friend Alamo City Commando is doing Herculean work to try and put a postive spin on the quagmire in Iraq, where a neverending string of bombings have brought daily reports of new mass casualties.

But when he made the statement that “nobody said it would be quick and easy,” he was either being a bit too literal or has forgotten a few things that happened more than two years ago.

So lets take a step back in history and meet a few “nobodies.”

Ken Adelman, former U.N. ambassador, in an Op-Ed for the Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2002:
"I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk. Let me give simple, responsible reasons: (1) It was a cakewalk last time; (2) they've become much weaker; (3) we've become much stronger; and (4) now we're playing for keeps.

Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board, in a PBS interview July 11, 2002:
"Saddam is much weaker than we think he is. He's weaker militarily. We know he's got about a third of what he had in 1991."
"But it's a house of cards. He rules by fear because he knows there is no underlying support. Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy on Feb. 7, 2003: "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a breakfast with reporters on March 4, 2003: "What you'd like to do is have it be a short, short conflict. ... Iraq is much weaker than they were back in the '90s," when its forces were routed from Kuwait.

Vice President Dick Cheney, on NBC's Meet the Press on March 16, 2003: "I think it will go relatively quickly, ... (in) weeks rather than months." He predicted that regular Iraqi soldiers would not "put up such a struggle" and that even "significant elements of the Republican Guard ... are likely to step aside."

This administration went into Iraq totally unprepared for a multi-year conflict that still has no end in sight. They may not have used the words “quick and easy,” but that is the kind of operation they prepared for.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Summer Movie Glut

Just finished going through the Summer Movies section from this Sunday’s New York Times and my head is still spinning.

Lots of interesting films coming out which I would consider seeing. Whether I would ever actually get around to seeing them is an entirely different story. My movie watching these days is pretty much relegated to films I pick up in the discount bin at Hollywood Video, and even then it takes awhile before I find the time to actually sit down and watch them. The last film I saw in a theater was National Treasure only because we happened to have grandparents available for babysitting duty that weekend. My little boy is 20 months old and not ready for prime-time movie watching yet.

Nevertheless, we still make special exceptions for some movies and the latest Star Wars installment will most likely fall into that category. And while I may not see them anytime soon here are some other movies that have caught my interest on first glance:

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Read this series by Douglas Adams when I was in high school. Not expecting anything big here. If it as at least as good as the Star Trek spook Galaxy Quest I will be happy.

Kingdom of Heaven: I still haven’t seen Troy or Alexander so this one will just have to get in line. The fact that Ridley (Gladiator) Scott is directing is a good sign and Ebert and Roeper gave it thumbs up.

Madagascar: The latest computer-animated cartoon (the only kind there is now) from Dreamworks. I wasn’t all that impressed with Ice Age but I’m always a sucker for these films so I’ll probably see it eventually.

Cinderella Man: Russell Crowe and Renee Zellwegger star in the latest movie from the talented Ron Howard. How can it miss?

Batman Begins: Trying to resurrect the Batman franchise by going back to its roots (The same tack they will eventually take with Star Trek). Directed by Christopher Nolan who did the weird thriller Memento should add some needed darkness to the franchise.

Bewitched: Starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell (who seems to be everywhere these days). I’ll probably get around to seeing this one after I finally see the Flintstones movie and the Beverly Hillbillies movie (i.e. never).

Dukes of Hazzard: This one will be hard to resist with Burt Reynolds and Willie Nelson in key supporting roles. The TV series was a big hit when I was in high school. Then again, I still haven’t seen the Starsky and Hutch movie either so it might be awhile before I see this one.

Herbie: Fully Loaded: My wife loves the old Herbie movies so we will be sure to catch this Lindsey Lohan remake eventually. Besides that they did a pretty good job remaking Freaky Friday so there is hope that it will be decent.

War of the Worlds: The last time Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise teamed up we got the excellent Minority Report. So I am expecting good things here as well.

Fantastic Four: It could be very good like Spiderman, very bad like the Incredible Hulk or just mediocre like Daredevil.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I like Tim Burton movies and I’m a big fan of Johnny Depp so I have high anticipation for this project.

The Brothers Grimm: Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame is always coming up with interesting films like Brazil and Twelve Monkeys so this one has potential. Plus Matt Damon is pretty good about picking his films.

The Pink Panther: I’ve loved Steve Martin since his Wild and Crazy Guy days although he hasn’t always picked good films to star in. I also love the Pink Panther series and own the collection on DVD so this could be a big disappointment.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Star Trek down for the count

The last episode of Enterprise, the fifth Star Trek series, is set to air next week and after that there will be no new Star Treks in the space dock for the first time in 18 years.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have published their obituaries for the long running series.

UPN pulled the plug on Enterprise after just four seasons, which is still better than the three seasons that NBC grudgingly allotted to the original Star Trek series, but it falls far short of the standard seven-season run established by ST: The Next Generation, ST: Deep Space Nine and ST: Voyager.
Combine that with the measly $40 million box office take of the last Star Trek movie “Insurrection”, which cost more than $100 million to produce (the first “bomb” of the movie franchise) and we find the Star Trek universe suddenly run aground with no immediate prospects for the near-term future.

Well, I am disappointed but not surprised. Enterprise had its faults and weak spots, but it was still better than most of the dreck that passes for entertainment on TV today. And I also would not count the franchise out just yet. You can bet there will be another movie out eventually and I’d bet another TV series will come along as well. This will be a temporary hiatus.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Investigating Henry Cisneros

Ten years and $21 million later the independent counsel investigation of former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros is still trucking right along. This in spite of the fact that its chief target plead guilty to the crime being investigated six years ago and paid a $10,000 fine, and was subsequently pardoned four years ago.

As recently as last year, David Barrett’s ongoing probe of Henry Cisneros billed taxpayers $1.26 million during the six months ending Sept. 30, 2004. The never-ending investigation has been spending about $2 million annually.

Now, finally, the U.S. Senate is planning to shutoff the money spigot for this fiasco.

The Senate agreed Thursday to cut off money to the decade-long investigation of former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, which has cost nearly $21 million.

``This is the most unbelievable waste of taxpayers money I've ever seen,'' said Sen. Byron Dorgan, who sponsored the bill to pull the plug. ``It's been 10 years since the investigation started, six years since the subject of the investigation pleaded guilty and four years since the subject was pardoned.''

But rather than applauding this fiscally conservative effort to save taxpayers’ money, Republicans are suddenly squealing about a cover-up. They insist that Barrett has spent all this time investigating an unrelated charge of corruption and political manipulation within the IRS.

It seems that some right-wing critics of the Clinton administration were audited at some point in the past - proof of a vile conspiracy to intimidate them and shut them up! (Too bad it apparently didn’t work.)

They also whine that the reason the investigation has taken this long is because Cisneros has insisted on defending himself with court appeals!! The nerve!!!!

As the Wall Street Journal noted in an April 22 editorial, “any blame for this delay lies mainly with Mr. Cisneros’ lawyers at Williams and Connolly, who have filed more than 190 motions and appeals; one single appeal took some 18 months to deal with.

Perhaps the appeals have been holding up Barrett’s investigation because they actually have some merit? Nah! I’m sure it must be liberal judges trying to shield the Clinton’s and keep their grand liberal conspiracy from being uncovered. I’m sure Barrett only needs a few more years and several million more dollars to wrap things up.

The myth of liberal bias at PBS

So where are all the liberal advocacy programs on PBS? If you listen to conservatives rant about how liberal public television is you might assume the programming is chock full of liberal advocacy programs. But where are they?

Someone please check out the programming schedule at KLRN and show me where they are.

Where is “This Week with Noam Chomsky” or “The Nation Magazine Editorial Roundtable” or “Women’s Issues with Gloria Steinem and Barbara Ehrenreich” or “The Nightly Labor Report”?

These programs don’t exist, obviously. So what shows are considered so liberal that they constantly excite conservatives into a frenzy of media bashing? The best that liberals had was the investigative news program NOW with Bill Moyers, which has now been effectively neutralized by the CPB’s Republican activist chairman.

I almost conceded that the Tavis Smiley show might qualify, but then I looked at his guest lineup for the week:
Rosanna Arquette; Goldie Hawn, Martin Short, Henry Winkler...
This isn’t a liberal advocacy show, it’s a celebrity interview program.
The one politician in the lineup is Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. Real biased programming there.

Compare that to the new Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered program which is featuring an interview this week with the teletubby-bashing religious right icon James Dobson.
Or The Journal Editorial Report. There is no comparison.

This may not make PBS a conservative media bastion, but it goes a long way to dispel the myth that PBS is the liberal equivalent of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.