Monday, October 31, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #48

Let's start here. Aydin at Snail's Tales has posted edition number two of the Circus of the Spineless. Check it out.

John Baumann has been confirmed for his Eagle Scout and has an 18th birthday coming up! Great stuff John!

Cold front of sorts hit today -- some folks a few miles south of us got hit pretty hard with rain, and to the north folks were hammered, but we didn't get a drop. It was a fast-moving front. Tons of wind, and a bazillion tiny, tiny greenish-white midge looking things at the windows, are all we've gotten so far. The temp is not even ugly (55) and we are under a "fire weather watch" which is a new on one me though you certainly don't have to explain it.

Fall has a look here. This is it (off my porch at noon today . . .):

I managed to get to the last show of Vanities the other night and it was exceptional -- the girls were on fire -- congrats to Lillian Beaudoin, Meggie Nidever, Whitney Wilson (three exceptional talents you'll someday know lots about), Summer White, Suzanne Attridge, Holly Riedel, and Director Marie Cearley for an outstanding senior showcase.

It seems a bit silly for me to sit here and tell you, from guaranteed-podunk, Texas, that we have a dramatic program at the high school here that would be hard to match anywhere else. Even if you knew that, officially, they were in the top 16 programs in their class last year would not render the truth clearly enough. But i want to say, as i said problematically last year, these kids, guided by the exceptional talents of Cearley, Riedel and Roy Burney, are just stunning. Their resumes include blistering productions of Grease, Persephone, The Crucible, Vanities, Macbeth, and Les Miserables -- those shows alone many, many a high school theatre addict would die for. You will see more of these Ingram kids.

One of the great thrills of my life -- indeed i have to rank it as one of the finest summers ever -- i was able to participate in the first-ever World Scholar-Athlete Games. Two of my players also attended, Tommy Olafson and Amy Grace Tharp. Amy played for the eventual games champion (the team i coached finished third in that same comp). The deal is though, that for two weeks, thousands of the most intelligent, idealistic, well-spoken and charming young folks from across the world were part of a community of vision unlike anything i had ever witnessed nor, despite my own idealism, ever thought possible. The vision of Dan Doyle and countless others made something truly magical happen. Now we three went for soccer, but by the time it was over we'd discovered some intriguing politics, i'd arranged readings for budding writers and displays for budding artists, and compiled an anthology of their work. That has apparently blossomed (now including Photography, Dance and Culinary Arts) and the idea that scholars could be athletes has bloomed into the most fantastic collaboration of sports and art on the planet as far as i am concerned. One of the products is the new Center for Sports Poetry. After the exhilaration of that summer my team hosted and fostered National Sportsmanship Day and we worked hard at nominating and qualifying 13 players to attend the second World Scholar-Athlete Games in 1997. One of those was so enamored of the whole idea that he went on to compete at the Ireland Scholar-Athlete Games in 1998. I had planned to attend to coach again but circumstances dictated otherwise. Nevertheless i had some great kids experience something they'll never again see. Why all this now? Well, it's time now for the fourth edition. The third was held in 2001, but they've held off a year for this next edition to have it coincide with the 20th Anniversary of the Center for International Sport. I'm thinking about a bid again myself -- and i know a bunch of kids and teachers who ought to be a part of the experience [update: i've now nomintaed 19 exceptional kids and may nominate more]. See more about it for yourself here:

World Scholar-Athlete Games

News on the political fronts . . .

First Harriet Miers. I don't know what to say about this except that i think nothing good can come of the situation. I stated this in an earlier post here -- but my gut feeling was that we could only get worse. [sure enough, i am now finding out that the M-i-C has indeed done the worst possible thing in nominating Sam Alito -- this will be ugly]. In any scenario, anyone with any sense, that being the bulk of the American people, will pay a hefty price. I've taken down a picture i posted of Miers (if you're here looking for it) because i now feel bad about it. I am certainly no supporter of hers, but i can understand that she must have been thrilled to have had a chance to be a Supreme Court justice and to have it dissolve in such a way has to hurt, and quite frankly i suspect she was a nice lady with no reason to have been hurt like that. So the picture vanishes, and i'm sorry she has been subjected to what she has been.

I had a feeling that she was perhaps a setup for the worst possible scenario -- whether she was set up or not is moot now -- we indeed have the WPS. It's calculated at some level and that's part of the W of it's being WPS -- that there has to be some, any, political calculation to finding a judge. Sad, sad day we have come to . . .

Posters at The Panda's Thumb are zeroing in on William Dembski and Michael Behe. Here are two reports on "reviews" given Behe's material in the contested textbook. First, the broad review and the refutation by Shapiro.

Meanwhile Kansas educators take a profound national level beating here and here.

And a rather ridiculous attack on Stephen Jay Gould is vaporized by better minds here.

Soccer news from the US National Team Players Association:

The United States has already made history in 2005, collecting its highest-ever win total with an overall record of 13-3-3. The U.S. hit a pair of high marks in their 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, finishing in the top spot in the group for the first time ever, and qualifying first out of the CONCACAF region for the first time in 71 years. In addition to winning the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the U.S. also reached a record-high sixth place in the FIFA rankings earlier this summer (currently ranked seventh).

MLS award finalists announced
Dwayne De Rosario of San Jose, Jaime Moreno of D.C. United and Taylor Twellman of New England head the list of finalists for Major League Soccer's MVP award as the season award nominees were announced on Wednesday. Also revealed was the winner of MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, San Jose's Pat Onstad, and the Kraft Fair Play award, which went to Ronald Cerritos. The remaining winners of each category will be announced sporadically before November 12. With the conclusion of the MLS regular season on Sunday, New England Revolution forward Taylor Twellman claimed the Budweiser Golden Boot, awarded to the leading goal scorer during the MLS regular season.

Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday that Kansas City Wizards teammates Jimmy Conrad and Chris Klein were selected as the MLS Defender of the Year and MLS Comeback Player of the Year.

The League also announced that Real Salt Lake midfielder Brian Kamler was recognized as the U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year.

The League also announced that veteran referee Brian Hall was voted the Official Sports International Referee of the Year.

MetroStars goalkeeper Tony Meola was selected as the Honda MLS Player of the Week for Week 29 which ended on Sunday, Oct. 16. San Jose's Dwayne De Rosario captured the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week.

Real Salt Lake announced the inaugural recipients of the team's annual award winners, with MF Andy Williams capturing the Honda Most Valuable Player honor, FW Jason Kreis earning the Budweiser Golden Boot, DF Eddie Pope being named the MLS Defender of the Year and MF Brian Kamler honored as the U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year.

The Kansas City Wizards announced their end of the year award winners. For the second straight year, forward Josh Wolff earned the Wizards Budweiser Golden Boot in leading the team in scoring as well as being named Honda Team MVP. Defender Nick Garcia was named the Wizards Defender of the Year and Jimmy Conrad was named the U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year.

The MetroStars announced that Youri Djorkaeff received three awards, which included the 2005 Honda Most Valuable Player, the 2005 Player of the Year, and the 2005 MetroStars Newcomer of the Year. Amado Guevara earned the 2005 MLS Play of the Year Award and the MetroStars 2005 Budweiser Golden Boot. Michael Bradley was honored with the 2005 MetroStars Iron Man Award and the 2005 MetroStars Young Player of the Year Award. Tim Regan captured the U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year Award for the third straight year. Chris Leitch was voted the team's Defender of the Year. The 2005 MetroStars Unsung Hero Award was given to forward Sergio Galvan Rey.

The Columbus Crew announced the winners of its team awards. The 2005 Crew Honda Most Valuable Player Award went to Simon Elliott. Jonny Walker captured three awards, which included Crew Defender of the Year, Crew Newcomer of the Year, and OhioHealth Comeback Player of the Year. The Budweiser Golden Boot went to Edson Buddle and Robin Fraser was named Huntington Man of the Year. Sierra Mist Goals of the Year went to Eric Vasquez and Jamal Sutton while Jon Busch was named U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year. Crew Coaches Award and Crew Chiefs Hardest Working Man of the Year went to Chris Henderson.

Forward Herculez Gomez, Defender Tyrone Marshall, forward Landon Donovan, and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman were named recipients of the 2005 Los Angeles Galaxy team awards. Gomez was voted the Galaxy's Honda Most Valuable Player, Marshall was selected as the Galaxy's Defender of the Year. Donovan, who led the team with 12 goals, was awarded the club's Budweiser Golden Boot. Hartman was selected as the U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts throughout the year.

D.C. United announced its 2005 Team Award winners, during the Second Annual United Awards Reception at the Marriott at Metro Center. Christian Gomez was named as Honda Team MVP, Nick Rimando as Defender of the Year, Bobby Boswell as both the U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year and Gatorade Rookie of the Year, Jaime Moreno as the Budweiser Golden Boot winner, while Brian Carroll took home the Coaches Award.

Major League Soccer announced that the Kansas City Wizards were selected as the recipient of the 2005 Kraft Global Team Fair Play award, recognizing the team with the fewest disciplinary points during the course of the regular season.

Things are really heating up in Major League Soccer! The playoffs are now upon us with the first round of games kicking off this weekend. In the East, the New England Revolution travel to Giants stadium to take on the rejuvenated MetroStars and Chicago hosts DC United. On the west coast, San Jose skirts down to LA to battle the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center and Colorado welcomes FC Dallas. If any of the games were as exciting as the MetroStars vs. Chivas on Sunday - we're in for a real treat.

Defender Amy LePeilbet cleared the potential winning goal off the goal line late in the second half to help the United States women's soccer team tie Australia 0-0 in an exhibition game Sunday.

DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan and Kasey Keller have been selected by 206 sports journalists from across the nation as the three finalists for the 2005 Honda Player of the Year Award.

FIFA released the latest World Rankings on Wednesday. The US remained in 7th place, one point behind Mexico in 6th.

In my week of being in the most excruciatingly perfect health i got to watch all of my personal movie collection. Then watch it again with director's and actor's commentary. Then watch every deleted scene. Listen to the commentary with grips and food service. Watch the soundtrack only versions. See the complete blue-screen versions of several scenes from The Matrix. And . . .

In any case, i have some new biospoilers material to post, and some interesting (i think) commentary on some other flicks. Coming soon . . .

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #47

Sorry, i have been way out of sorts the last several days (at a very bad time for getting some important posts done) and am still on the low end of low. I am going to try to get some info on here tonight, and maybe by tomorrow i'll be back posting more of my regular stuff. Again, sorry.

It's the final weekend for Vanities and Taming of the Shrew. If you haven't gone yet, both are excellent ways to spend an evening.

The ninth edition of the fantastic blog carnival I and the Bird is now up at the equally fantastic Living the Scientific Life. Check it out!

And we're in the final hours before the production of the second edition of Circus of the Spineless at Snail's Tales. Be sure to wander over there on Monday!

Football! A perfect high school week from this little hovel.
SMITHSON VALLEY 31, San Antonio Madison 21
HIGHLAND PARK 55, Mesquite Poteet 7
KERRVILLE TIVY 49, San Antonio Alamo Heights 42
INGRAM TOM MOORE 44, Brady 26 in a stunning upset!

Then there's these guys:
Iowa State 42, TEXAS A&M 14

The big news is i've encountered a rumor that ITM Boy's Basketball is ranked No. 1 in the State in the first poll of the season. Still trying to track that down.

I am unable to track the source of this spelling challenged poll, but it at least lends credence to the rumor.

Now to try to work on Circus of the Spineless submissions, The Friday Ark submission, and whatever else i missed.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

ENV: Not-Really-a-Cat-Friday

Be sure to check out The Friday Ark at The Modulator.

This is a Zebra Heliconian taken last weekend at Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin on my failed lep chase for rarities. There was plenty of other good stuff to occupy me though, and i had a bit of fun playing with the koi and the reflections in the ponds.

Zebra Heliconian, Heliconius charithonius vazquezae

Koi, Cyprinus carpio

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

COM: Blogarithmic #46

Thanks to Gayle Strickland, whose fantastic Odonate site is here, i have a closer ID for that odd fly i posted pictures of a few days ago here. It looks very close to this Stratiomyid fly, or Soldier Fly, in the genus Odontomyia. Now that Gayle has done the difficult work i'll see if i can trace it down to a species. Thanks Gayle! P.s. i see that Gayle and Jeanell have gotten into another group that several of us have pursued lately -- Robber Flies! -- and are using their considerable photographic and layout skills to make their wonderful plates with this group.

R.I.P. Rosa Parks.

R.I.P. 2000 US Soldiers, 194 Coalition Soldiers, thousands of civilians.

Must reads. Check this soldier's story here, then read his retraction here, and a compendium of the reaction here . . . numbing.

Winter is coming. Calvin helps ease the transition . . .

Had first rehearsal tonight for Our Town with the Ingram Thespians -- that's a great bunch of kids and wonderful actors. We're way short of rehearsal time for this somewhat difficult piece, but the kids bring a lot to the table -- indeed several already had their lines down tonight -- and i suspect this will be one fine show.

Roy Burney was there -- the first time i've seen him since his "episode" with his gall bladder/pancreas/other gooey internal stuff and i'd have to say he was looking pretty good. He does have some more tests and stuff going on but it appears they've ruled out the ugly C word. But of course no one has pinned anything down. Worse, and this would be Roy's sentiment i think, he had to give up his role as Petruchio in The Point's Taming of the Shrew, the first time in some 40 years of acting he's ever had to quit a role. Will update as they pass on more news.

Had a pretty outstanding trip to Austin this last weekend. Will post observations from the day in the field later -- working on script now, plus trying to assemble notes for my molluscs post for Circus of the Spineless! Also may have some words about Everything or Nothing, the premiere i attended on Sunday.
“Here’s the first half of the book: ‘We had dinner and a few drinks. We went to
a cafe and talked and had some drinks. We ate dinner and had a few drinks.
Dinner. Drinks. More dinner. More drinks. We took a cab here (or there) in Paris
and had some drinks, and maybe we danced and flirted and talked sh*t about
somebody. More dinner. More drinks. I love you, I hate you, maybe you should
come up to my room, no you can’t’… I flipped through the second half of the book
a day or two later and saw the words ‘dinner’ and ‘drinks’ on nearly every page
and figured it wasn’t worth the risk.”
That's about Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises from an actual review by an Amazon (which sucks) reader who gave it one star. There's lots more here at The Morning News.

Okay, Stephen Colbert, a favorite stepson of The Daily Show has his own newscast now -- that's Colbert as in Coal-BEAR (French, get it . . .) and so it is the Colbert Report, Coal-BEAR Rep-POOR (French squared, get it . . .). Anyway, here's a cool review. It's at the NYT so it may not last long, read now or look for my archive later.

A Raccoon just walked by the office window -- that's a new one, following Opossum, Ringtail Cat, Striped Skunk, Gulf Coast Toad and Rio Grande Leopard Frog (and that's just the non-bird vertebrates) . . .

I was hoping to have Orange-striped Threadtails this week to really extend the late date for that species. BUT, they're a bit delicate (looking at least) and the fact that we hit freezing here last night for several hours (5) probably means they won't be around anymore. I'll give it a look. There were a number of American Rubyspots out today (high of 72) but they're an order of magnitude bigger and thicker. We'll see. . . And what's this freezing stuff in mid-October (we usually don't have more than a brief dip before Thanksgiving. Every time i'm ready to jump on the global warming bandwagon along comes this jacket stuff.

A film about 17-year Cicadas.

Gore/Obama 2008

This edition's been fun so i keep pushing it to the top . . .

Thanks as always to Will at Clicked and Eric at Altercation for a round of suggestions. What a job huh -- MSNBC wages to surf around looking for cool stuff. I want that job! And Pharyngula is tops at finding the latest in bizarre and educational science. Thanks to all.

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COM: On appreciating the complexities . . .

. . . of our time.

When i was in high school, there were regular stories about the captures of Nazi war criminals. But, being born well after the war, much of that news came to us as something a bit surreal -- we had no grounding on which to quantify what was being dealt with. And as the decades waned so did the arrests and resolutions, until by the late nineties these things were rarely heard of, and more rarely dispensed to an audience that could appreciate them.

So, with some surprise this story hits today. These things hit hard now . . .

Spanish Police Say 40-Year Manhunt Is Zeroing In on Nazi Concentration Camp Doctor
By RENWICK McLEAN, The New York Times, October 26, 2005

MADRID, Oct. 25 - After more than 40 years of searching, an international manhunt for Aribert Heim, a notorious doctor from the Nazi concentration camps and one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, has zeroed in on a stretch of the Mediterranean coast of Spain, according to Spanish police officials.

Mr. Heim, born in Austria 91 years ago, is accused of torturing and killing hundreds of prisoners at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria in 1941 and 1942. The crimes for which he is sought include injecting gasoline into the hearts of victims, conducting mock operations on prisoners without anesthesia and executing prisoners just to record how long they took to die.

"The trial would be the most significant in the last 30 years," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which helps search for Nazi war criminals. "This case symbolizes the Nazi perversion of medicine and science, and the application of medicine to commit the most horrible atrocities."

Mr. Heim is second on the Wiesenthal Center's most wanted list of living Nazi war criminals, after Alois Brunner, an assistant to Adolf Eichmann who is accused of deporting tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps. Mr. Brunner is believed to be in Syria, and there is thought to be little chance of his being captured.

Spain has been a haven for Nazi war criminals since the end of World War II, when many were drawn here by the protection offered by the government of Francisco Franco, according to scholars of the issue.

Even after Franco died in 1975 and democracy was established, Spain's elected governments did little to cooperate with international searches for Nazi war criminals, those scholars said.

José María Irujo, author of "The Black List," a book about Nazis who fled to Spain, said in an interview that whole colonies of them lived here undisturbed for decades. "Many lived out their lives here, and died peacefully," he said.

"We are talking about hundreds of people," he said. "Spanish governments never did anything."

Dr. Zuroff of the Wiesenthal center said Spain had "a horrendous record on Nazi war criminals." But he added that under the government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist who was elected in March 2004, Spain appeared to have begun cooperating.

The Spanish police began searching for Mr. Heim over the summer in response to a request from the German government, which had detected large transfers of money to Spain from Mr. Heim's family in Germany, according to Dr. Zuroff and a Spanish police official.

The transfers, worth a total of about $400,000, were sent to Palafrugell, a town near Spain's northeastern coast, from 2000 to 2003, Dr. Zuroff said.

Other Spanish officials said their search for Mr. Heim was not limited to Palafrugell, but refused to specify where it was focused. They would say only that it spanned much of the Mediterranean coast, going at least as far south as Alicante, a section of southeastern Spain where many Nazis reportedly sought refuge after the war.

The developments in the search for Mr. Heim came 18 months or so after Germany set up a task force to find him. As part of the search, the Germans distributed a computerized rendering of what Mr. Heim, who is about 6 feet 3 inches tall and has a scar on his right cheek, might look like today and offered 130,000 euros, about $156,000, for information leading to his arrest. The Wiesenthal center offered an additional 10,000 euros.

There has always been reason to believe Mr. Heim is still alive, Dr. Zuroff said, because his million-euro bank account in Berlin has yet to be tapped by his children, who are free to do so if they can prove he is dead.

Mr. Heim has been a fugitive since 1962, when he fled his home in Baden-Baden, Germany, as the police were preparing to arrest him.

In 1979, a Berlin court declared him a major Nazi war criminal and convicted him in absentia of killing scores of prisoners at the Mauthausen concentration camp, some out of "pure boredom."

ENV: Oysters back on the Bars

No shuckin’ or jivin’: Louisiana oysters are back
After eight weeks, shellfish return to the menu
The Associated Press,, Updated: 4:39 p.m. ET Oct. 25, 2005

NEW ORLEANS - Louisiana oysters are being harvested again, although it may be another week or more before people can belly up to an oyster bar and order a dozen on the half-shell.

The beds in the eastern half of the state were tested and retested after Hurricane Katrina to ensure they were clean of chemicals or germs from the water that was pumped out of New Orleans or ran off of other areas.

Beds in west Louisiana were closed as a precaution when Hurricane Rita headed in in late September.

Harvesting began in some areas on Saturday, and the entire state will probably be open in the next week to 10 days, said Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafoods in Houma and chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “I was telling people last week that if we didn’t get something soon, the harvesters would lose the calluses on their hands.”

Just as restaurateurs face a shortage of shuckers, harvesters have to get their deckhands back. “A lot of them had evacuated,” Voisin said.

He said there were probably 75 or 80 boats out Saturday — about one-fifth or less the usual number for this time of year.

Al Sunseri, owner of P&J Oyster Co., was able to slurp down some fat ones on Sunday, almost as they arrived at the French Quarter processing plant.

“That was the first time I’d seen oysters since the storm,” he said. “It was really a great treat to go ahead and open up a bunch and taste them.”

Acme Oyster House is serving fried oysters and is hoping to have the char-grilled and raw oysters in about a week, chief operating officer Glen Armantrout said.

“The fried oysters are from Texas,” he said Monday. “Although they’re very good, our customers have been asking for the Louisiana oysters.”

COM: The Legacy of the Chief Vegetable

The way i see it here is the scorecard for the M-i-C's stellar career as numero uno:

Presiding over an intelligence failure that allowed al-Qaeda operatives to slaughter nearly 3,000 people using hijacked airliners.

Presiding over the aforementioned slaughter while reading a children's book and eschewing executive decisions of import to the lives of those who lost them.

Presiding over the invasion of a country with a corrupt administration in search of one man -- not yet found four years later.

Presiding over the invasion of another country that happened to be nearby, ostensibly to knock out a nuclear threat that didn't exist, and/or to knock out a nuclear megalomaniac, while killing thousands more civilians than the megalomaniac himself would have killed over that time.

Presiding over the corraling of the constitution, the insertion of a faith into the lives of other faithfuls, the accomplishment of a near-police state in what was the world's leading democracy, and making public the striving for full-scale public ignorance by a group that cannot function without blind obeisance.

Presiding over all-out corruption, greed and despotry.

Presiding over the sacking of, with an occasional spiking as high as mediocrity, of the world's most vibrant economy.

Presiding over the indictment of the congress' number two leader.

Presiding over the cutting off at the knees of the country's intelligence community.

Presiding over a string of disasters, mostly from afar and with bigoted diffidence, including: the Great Christmas Tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma, the Pakistani Earthquake.

Presiding over the codification, in full public view, of torture as a means by which the great civilized nation of the USA gets what it wants.

Presiding over the effective dissolution of the one institution in America not wholly given to politics by appointing a hack.

Presiding over the fallout from the attack machine of his own party on the aforementioned nominee.

Presiding over . . . what may be the first legal indictment of a sitting Vice President, and or other top-tier White House employees in US history.

Go on, tell me again how he's one of the great presidents of our time. He's not even the best in his own five years. He comes in about 920th in a one-horse race.

Monday, October 24, 2005

REV: M'man and his words

Hard-Living Singer Gives Voice to the Executed
By BRUCE WEBER, The New York Times, October 22, 2005

Steve Earle turned 50 this year, got married for the seventh time and moved from Nashville to New York City. It was one of two birthday presents to himself (the move, not the marriage). The other is surfing lessons, in Australia, at the end of this month.

All this came out in the first few minutes of a breakfast conversation with Mr. Earle, who is a former cocaine and heroin addict with an eighth-grade education and a prison record, and who has a hard time staying silent or still. Seven marriages is quite a few, he acknowledged, about his wedding over the summer to Allison Moorer, a singer who opened for him on a recent tour.

"But it's the first time I've ever been married sober," said Mr. Earle, who looks like someone who has only lately begun to take care of himself. He's not a slight man, but he has the thin, slightly hunched shoulders of someone who has lost a lot of weight, which he has. He wore a black T-shirt, saggy jeans and the antihip eyeglasses of a pharmacist or an accountant.

If his life has the contours of a country song - eventful, teary and redemptive - well, he is, of course, a country singer, though that's more of a convenient, rather than adequate, description of his music. His fat songbook resonates with the distinctive western twang of his native Texas, but it trespasses on many genres: country ballads, Irish folk dances, hard-rocking anthems, rhythm and blues, even a lullaby or two.

He is also a death-penalty opponent, a fiction writer, a radio host and, it turns out, a playwright. His play, "Karla," which was written in Nashville and produced there in 2002, began a 16-performance showcase, directed by Bruce Kronenburg, at the Culture Project at 45 Bleecker Street on Thursday, and runs through Nov. 13. Now in previews, it opens tomorrow.

The play is about Karla Faye Tucker, the murderer who in 1998 became the first woman executed by the State of Texas since the Civil War, in spite of an apparently sincere jailhouse conversion and a flood of opposition from abolitionists. ("It's pretentious, but that's what we call ourselves," said Mr. Earle, referring to his fellow death-penalty opponents.)

The play makes use of Tucker's biography and even her own words - including some taken from an interview with Larry King just weeks before her execution - but her trial, as presented in the play, is fictional and a little surreal, with Karla, played by Jody Markell, both addressing the audience and performing with four actors who portray her family members, friends and lovers, as well as her victims and the judge and jury.

The play argues the abolitionist view that "the death penalty diminishes all of us," as Mr. Earle put it, but unlike his songwriting, which has taken a distinct political turn in the past few years, it's more philosophical than polemical, more rueful than argumentative.

Indeed, it seems almost personal, bespeaking Mr. Earle's curiosity about, and sympathy for, the kind of character he evidently was himself - that is, someone of tainted decency and fouled potential. When he speaks about Tucker, it seems clear that he feels almost a kinship with her, and a kind of sorrow for the turn her life didn't take before it was too late.

He believes her born-again experience was real, he said, and though he himself is not a Christian, "or anything close to it," he does believe in God; he had his own awakening in Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I'm a recovering addict; I have to believe in a power greater than myself," he said. "I wrote the play thinking that at the end, when Karla leaves, she's going to Jesus."

But "Karla," he said, is not about religion or faith.

"The play's about forgiveness," Mr. Earle said, and his fans will recognize this as a theme in his songs. One, "Billy Austin," is a lament of a death-row prisoner; another, "John Walker's Blues," is a ballad written from the perspective of John Walker Lindh, the young American who joined the Taliban.

In the play, as in those songs, Mr. Earle isn't out to excuse grievous acts, which in Tucker's case were especially horrific. (She and her boyfriend, in a drug-induced frenzy, entered the home of a sleeping acquaintance and hacked him to death, along with the woman in his bed, with a pickax.) But Mr. Earle's instinct is the writerly, not the political, one, and the play, like many of his songs that tell stories, has the genuine mark of a curious man, someone who has imagined himself inside the head of another.

"My strong suit, the muscles I was born with as a writer, lend themselves much more to narrative than they do to poetics," said Mr. Earle, whose short-story collection, "Doghouse Roses," was published in 2001. He began writing - other than songs, that is - after his four-month stint in jail on a drug charge in 1994. He hadn't written a song in four years because serving his habit had become too time-consuming.

"I stated writing fiction as kind of an exercise," he said. "There wasn't always a melody lying around, and I was really paranoid about writer's block. I had never tried to write anything but songs because I thought, 'I have an eighth-grade education, so I can't write anything but songs,' but then I thought, 'the only reason I'm not totally ignorant is that I read a lot.' I wrote a story, and then another."

It was the songs "Billy Austin," written in 1990, and then "Ellis Unit One," written for the 1995 film "Dead Man Walking," that led Mr. Earle to the death penalty abolition movement. Inmates began writing to him; so did organizations like Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. As part of his 12-step recovery plan, he began, as he put it, "doing real, live, hands-on activism, washing dishes and picking people up at the airport."

"Most of the people who talk about this issue, they don't know anybody on death row, but I do," said Mr. Earle, who witnessed the execution of one of his correspondents, Jonathan Nobles, in 1998 (and wrote a song, "Over Yonder," about him). "I've known a lot of them, and most of them are dead now. And none of my guys were innocent."

That, for Mr. Earle, is not the end of the drama, but the beginning. The play's tensest scenes are confrontations, set in purgatory, where Karla has to face her victims. Ms. Markell, who is from Memphis, said she was attracted to the part because Karla had an Every Southern Woman quality about her, and because Karla's spiritual conversion in prison struck her as both genuine and moving.

Still, the confrontation scenes were so graphic in literal detail that Ms. Markell said that when she first read the script, "I didn't see how I could even say these things, much less play them."

In life, Karla never allowed herself to own up to what she did, Mr. Earle said. She hid behind her conversion. But she would have gotten there, he said, if she hadn't been put to death. She wasn't given the time.

"I fully believe we executed a different woman from the one we convicted," he said.

ENV: Playing with hurricanes . . .

Okay, read the caption to this photo:
Cindy Wieczorek watches wind and rain buffet her trailer just after sunrise on
Monday. Wieczorek lives in a FEMA trailer park that houses residents of Port
Charlotte and Punta Gorda who were displaced by Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Now, follow this with me. FEMA is still housing evacuees from a hurricane a year ago, and is housing them in trailers, and is housing them in trailers smack dab in the middle of hurricaneland. Someone shut that agency down, or put tool-using gorillas in charge. If there was ever a poster-child for bureaucracy this has to be it.

OBT: Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, matriarch of civil rights, dies at 92
Catalyst of U.S. drive for racial equality lived in Detroit
The Associated Press, Updated: 2:38 p.m. ET Oct. 25, 2005

DETROIT - Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights movement, died Monday evening. She was 92.

Mrs. Parks died at her home during the evening of natural causes, with close friends by her side, said Gregory Reed, an attorney who represented her for the past 15 years.

Mrs. Parks was 42 when she committed an act of defiance in 1955 that was to change the course of American history and earn her the title “mother of the civil rights movement.”

At that time, Jim Crow laws in place since the post-Civil War Reconstruction required separation of the races in buses, restaurants and public accommodations throughout the South, while legally sanctioned racial discrimination kept blacks out of many jobs and neighborhoods in the North.

The Montgomery, Ala., seamstress, an active member of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was riding on a city bus Dec. 1, 1955, when a white man demanded her seat.

Fined $14
Mrs. Parks refused, despite rules requiring blacks to yield their seats to whites. Two black Montgomery women had been arrested earlier that year on the same charge, but Mrs. Parks was jailed. She also was fined $14.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, in whose office Parks worked for more than 20 years, remembered the civil rights leader Monday night as someone whose impact on the world was immeasurable, but who never saw herself that way.

“Everybody wanted to explain Rosa Parks and wanted to teach Rosa Parks, but Rosa Parks wasn’t very interested in that,” he said. “She wanted to them to understand the government and to understand their rights and the Constitution that people are still trying to perfect today.”

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said he felt a personal tie to the civil rights icon: “She stood up by sitting down. I’m only standing here because of her.”

Speaking in 1992, Mrs. Parks said history too often maintains “that my feet were hurting and I didn’t know why I refused to stand up when they told me. But the real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long.”

Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system organized by a then little-known Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who later earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

“At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this,” Mrs. Parks said 30 years later. “It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.”

The Montgomery bus boycott, which came one year after the Supreme Court’s landmark declaration that separate schools for blacks and whites were “inherently unequal,” marked the start of the modern civil rights movement.

The movement culminated in the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations.

After taking her public stand for civil rights, Mrs. Parks had trouble finding work in Alabama. Amid threats and harassment, she and her husband Raymond moved to Detroit in 1957. She worked as an aide in the Detroit office of Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers from 1965 until retiring in 1988. Raymond Parks died in 1977.

Mrs. Parks became a revered figure in Detroit, where a street and middle school were named for her and a papier-mache likeness of her was featured in the city’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Mrs. Parks said upon retiring from her job with Conyers that she wanted to devote more time to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. The institute, incorporated in 1987, is devoted to developing leadership among Detroit’s young people and initiating them into the struggle for civil rights.

“Rosa Parks: My Story” was published in February 1992. In 1994 she brought out “Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation,” and in 1996 a collection of letters called “Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue With Today’s Youth.”

She was among the civil rights leaders who addressed the Million Man March in October 1995.

In 1996, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to civilians making outstanding contributions to American life. In 1999, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Mrs. Parks received dozens of other awards, ranging from induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor to an NAACP Image Award for her 1999 appearance on CBS’ “Touched by an Angel.”

The fateful conversation
The Rosa Parks Library and Museum opened in November 2000 in Montgomery. The museum features a 1955-era bus and a video that recreates the conversation that preceded Parks’ arrest.
“Are you going to stand up?” the bus driver asked.

“No,” Parks answered.

“Well, by God, I’m going to have you arrested,” the driver said.

“You may do that,” Parks responded.

Mrs. Parks’ later years were not without difficult moments.

In 1994, Mrs. Parks’ home was invaded by a 28-year-old man who beat her and took $53. She was treated at a hospital and released. The man, Joseph Skipper, pleaded guilty, blaming the crime on his drug problem.

The Parks Institute struggled financially since its inception. The charity’s principal activity — the annual Pathways to Freedom bus tour taking students to the sites of key events in the civil rights movement — routinely cost more money than the institute could raise.

Mrs. Parks lost a 1999 lawsuit that sought to prevent the hip-hop duo OutKast from using her name as the title of a Grammy-nominated song. In 2000, she threatened legal action against an Oklahoma man who planned to auction Internet domain name rights to

After losing the OutKast lawsuit, Reed, her attorney, said Mrs. Parks “has once again suffered the pains of exploitation.” A later suit against OutKast’s record company was settled out of court.
She was born Rosa Louise McCauley on Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Ala. Family illness interrupted her high school education, but after she married Raymond Parks in 1932, he encouraged her and she earned a diploma in 1934. He also inspired her to become involved in the NAACP.

Looking back in 1988, Mrs. Parks said she worried that black young people took legal equality for granted.

‘A more complacent attitude’
Older blacks, she said “have tried to shield young people from what we have suffered. And in so doing, we seem to have a more complacent attitude.

“We must double and redouble our efforts to try to say to our youth, to try to give them an inspiration, an incentive and the will to study our heritage and to know what it means to be black in America today.”

At a celebration in her honor that same year, she said: “I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die — the dream of freedom and peace.”

Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement, Dies
By E. R. SHIPP, The New York, Times, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks, a black seamstress whose refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., almost 50 years ago grew into a mythic event that helped touch off the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's, died yesterday at her home in Detroit. She was 92 years old.

Her death was confirmed by Dennis W. Archer, the former mayor of Detroit.

For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. In response, blacks in Montgomery boycotted the buses for nearly 13 months while mounting a successful Supreme Court challenge to the Jim Crow law that enforced their second-class status on the public bus system.

The events that began on that bus in the winter of 1955 captivated the nation and transformed a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. into a major civil rights leader. It was Dr. King, the new pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, who was drafted to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization formed to direct the nascent civil rights struggle.

"Mrs. Parks's arrest was the precipitating factor rather than the cause of the protest," Dr. King wrote in his 1958 book, "Stride Toward Freedom. "The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices."

Her act of civil disobedience, what seems a simple gesture of defiance so many years later, was in fact a dangerous, even reckless move in 1950's Alabama. In refusing to move, she risked legal sanction and perhaps even physical harm, but she also set into motion something far beyond the control of the city authorities. Mrs. Parks clarified for people far beyond Montgomery the cruelty and humiliation inherent in the laws and customs of segregation.

That moment on the Cleveland Avenue bus also turned a very private woman into a reluctant symbol and torchbearer in the quest for racial equality and of a movement that became increasingly organized and sophisticated in making demands and getting results.

"She sat down in order that we might stand up," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said yesterday in an interview from South Africa. "Paradoxically, her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom."

Even in the last years of her life, the frail Mrs. Parks made appearances at events and commemorations, saying little but lending the considerable strength of her presence. In recent years, she suffered from dementia, according to medical records released during a lawsuit over the use of her name by the hip-hop group OutKast.Over the years myth tended to obscure the truth about Mrs. Parks. One legend had it that she was a cleaning woman with bad feet who was too tired to drag herself to the rear of the bus. Another had it that she was a "plant" by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The truth, as she later explained, was that she was tired of being humiliated, of having to adapt to the byzantine rules, some codified as law and others passed on as tradition, that reinforced the position of blacks as something less than full human beings.

"She was fed up," said Elaine Steele, a longtime friend and executive director of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. "She was in her 40's. She was not a child. There comes a point where you say, 'No, I'm a full citizen, too. This is not the way I should be treated.' "

In "Stride Toward Freedom," Dr. King wrote, "Actually no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.' "

Mrs. Parks was very active in the Montgomery N.A.A.C.P. chapter, and she and her husband, Raymond, a barber, had taken part in voter registration drives.

At the urging of an employer, Virginia Durr, Mrs. Parks had attended an interracial leadership conference at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., in the summer of 1955. There, she later said, she "gained strength to persevere in my work for freedom, not just for blacks but for all oppressed people."

But as she rushed home from her job as a seamstress at a department store on Dec. 1, 1955, the last thing on her mind was becoming "the mother of the civil rights movement," as many would later describe her. She had to send out notices of the N.A.A.C.P.'s coming election of officers. And she had to prepare for the workshop that she was running for teenagers that weekend.

"So it was not a time for me to be planning to get arrested," she said in an interview in 1988.

On Montgomery buses, the first four rows were reserved for whites. The rear was for blacks, who made up more than 75 percent of the bus system's riders. Blacks could sit in the middle rows until those seats were needed by whites. Then the blacks had to move to seats in the rear, stand or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Even getting on the bus presented hurdles: If whites were already sitting in the front, blacks could board to pay the fare but then they had to disembark and re-enter through the rear door.

For years blacks had complained, and Mrs. Parks was no exception. "My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest," she said. "I did a lot of walking in Montgomery."

After a confrontation in 1943, a driver named James Blake ejected Mrs. Parks from his bus. As fate would have it, he was driving the Cleveland Avenue bus on Dec. 1, 1955. He demanded that four blacks give up their seats in the middle section so a lone white man could sit. Three of them complied.

Recalling the incident for "Eyes on the Prize," a 1987 public television series on the civil rights movement, Mrs. Parks said: "When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up and I said, 'No, I'm not.' And he said, 'Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested.' I said, 'You may do that.' "

Her arrest was the answer to prayers for the Women's Political Council, which was set up in 1946 in response to the mistreatment of black bus riders, and for E. D. Nixon, a leading advocate of equality for blacks in Montgomery.

Blacks had been arrested, and even killed, for disobeying bus drivers. They had begun to build a case around a 15-year-old girl's arrest for refusing to give up her seat, and Mrs. Parks had been among those raising money for the girl's defense. But when they learned that the girl was pregnant, they decided that she was an unsuitable symbol for their cause.

Mrs. Parks, on the other hand, was regarded as "one of the finest citizens of Montgomery - not one of the finest Negro citizens - but one of the finest citizens of Montgomery," Dr. King said.

While Mr. Nixon met with lawyers and preachers to plan an assault on the Jim Crow laws, the women's council distributed 35,000 copies of a handbill that urged blacks to boycott the buses on Monday, Dec. 5, the day of Mrs. Parks's trial.

"Don't ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday," the leaflet said.

On Sunday, Dec. 4, the announcement was made from many black pulpits, and a front-page article in The Montgomery Advertiser, a black newspaper, further spread the word.

Some blacks rode in carpools that Monday. Others rode in black-owned taxis that charged only the bus fare, 10 cents. But most black commuters - 40,000 people - walked, some more than 20 miles.

At a church rally that night, blacks unanimously agreed to continue the boycott until these demands were met: that they be treated with courtesy, that black drivers be hired, and that seating in the middle of the bus go on a first-come basis.

The boycott lasted 381 days, and in that period many blacks were harassed and arrested on flimsy excuses. Churches and houses, including those of Dr. King and Mr. Nixon, were dynamited.

Finally, on Nov. 13, 1956, in Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses. The court order arrived in Montgomery on Dec. 20; the boycott ended the next day. But the violence escalated: snipers fired into buses as well as Dr. King's home, and bombs were tossed into churches and into the homes of ministers.

Early the next year, the Parkses left Montgomery for Hampton, Va., largely because Mrs. Parks had been unable to find work, but also because of disagreements with Dr. King and other leaders of the city's struggling civil rights movement.

Later that year, at the urging of her younger brother, Sylvester, Mrs. Parks, her husband and her mother, Leona McCauley, moved to Detroit. Mrs. Parks worked as a seamstress until 1965, when Representative John Conyers Jr. hired her as an aide for his Congressional office in Detroit. She retired in 1988.

"There are very few people who can say their actions and conduct changed the face of the nation," Mr. Conyers said yesterday in a statement, "and Rosa Parks is one of those individuals."

Mrs. Parks's husband, Raymond, died in 1977. There are no immediate survivors.

In the last decade, Mrs. Parks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. But even as she remained an icon of textbooks , her final years were troubled. She was hospitalized after a 28-year-old man beat her in her home and stole $53. She had problems paying her rent, relying on a local church for support until last December, when her landlord stopped charging her rent.

Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Ala., on Feb. 4, 1913, the elder of Leona and James McCauley's two children. Although the McCauleys were farmers, Mr. McCauley also worked as a carpenter and Mrs. McCauley as a teacher.

Rosa McCauley attended rural schools until she was 11 years old, then Miss White's School for Girls in Montgomery. She attended high school at the Alabama State Teachers College, but dropped out to care for her ailing grandmother. It was not until she was 21 that she earned a high school diploma.

Shy and soft-spoken, Mrs. Parks often appeared uncomfortable with the near-beatification bestowed upon her by blacks, who revered her as a symbol of their quest for dignity and equality. She would say that she hoped only to inspire others, especially young people, "to be dedicated enough to make useful lives for themselves and to help others."

She also expressed fear that since the birthday of Dr. King became a national holiday, his image was being watered down and he was being depicted as merely a "dreamer."

"As I remember him, he was more than a dreamer," Mrs. Parks said. "He was an activist who believed in acting as well as speaking out against oppression."

She would laugh in recalling some of her experiences with children whose curiosity often outstripped their grasp of history: "They want to know if I was alive during slavery times. They equate me along with Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and ask if I knew them."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

COM: On Miers

The Miers nomination is something i've been watching carefully. While i think it ridiculous and a sign of the devastation of the principles of our country for the M-i-C to even nominate a backroom buddy with an evangelical bent, no judicial record, and an "I want to be your Monica" smile, i have mixed feelings about her actually being confirmed.

So even though i am opposed to her presence on the Supreme Court, and am so miffed by the reaction that i remain actually neutral for now, my bold public statement is -- I support the Miers nomination. Why? Well, she makes the most silly of the neocons very nervous, and if they oppose her so violently, well i think the Democrats should vote as a block to put her in (unless of course the neocons are feinting in order to induce the Democrats to do that in which case i retract my support). My other gut feeling is that if she withdraws or is voted down we can't help but get a far more ideologically bankrupt nominee. This way she's not much more than a second-rate intern and will be for years. By the time she figures out the technicalities -- the White House will have switched parties and SCOTUS undergone a wholesale turnover.

I am most hopeful that the nation is finally coming to its senses and will not let this coup d'deus take hold.

COM: Oooh, not enough scandal for ya . . .


Saturday, October 22, 2005

ENV: Observations 22 October 2005

TX: Kerr Co., Rio Vista 22 October 2005
f= filmed ph=photographed

Praticolella berlandieriana berlandieriana f ph
Dung Beetle sp. f ph
Texas Alligator Lizard f ph

the above three species were of individuals caught in the last couple weeks and are species not otherwise seen today . . .

Imported Fire Ant + f

small fly sp. 1 f

American Rubyspot 18
Smoky Rubyspot 10
Dusky Dancer 12

Red-tailed Hawk 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Ladder-backed Woodpecker 1
House Finch 4

Elk 1

TX: Kerr Co., Dowdy Massacre Rest Area on TX27
Pipevine Swallowtail 2
Dainty Sulphur 3 f
Orange Sulphur 2
Cloudless Sulphur 1
Gray Hairstreak 4 f
Olive Hairstreak 1
Common Buckeye 3

Ailanthus Webworm Moth 1

Crevice Spiny Lizard 1 f

TX: Kerr Co., South Fork Marsh
American Rubyspot 6
Citrine Forktail 2
Desert Firetail 12
Arroyo Bluet 3 f
Leonora's Dancer f
Blue-ringed Dancer 2
Violet Dancer 1 f
Autumn Meadowhawk 1 f/ph
Neon Skimmer 1 f/ph
Comanche Skimmer 2
Roseate Skimmer 1
Swift Setwing 1
Black Saddlebags 1

Gray Hairstreak 2
Dainty Sulphur 2

American Kestrel 2
Wilson's Snipe 2

Bushybeard Bluestem f

TX: Kerr Co., Lynxhaven on TX39
American Rubyspot 4
Arroyo Bluet 4 f
Orange Bluet 2
Aztec Dancer 2 f
Kiowa Dancer 2
Violet Dancer 10 f
Blue-ringed Dancer 4

Bordered Patch 1
Monarch 2

Planorbella trivolvis f
Planorbella anceps anceps
Elimia comalensis comalensis f
Physa sp.
Gyraulus parvus f

Largemouth Bass 1

Blanchard's Cricket Frog 20 f

Turkey Vulture 1 f

Pond Scum f

TX: Kerr Co., Yellow Rose Ranch on TX39
Red Lechwe 2 f/ph
Dama Gazelle 2 f/ph

TX: Kerr Co., South Fork Ranch on TX 39
Common Buckeye 1
Arizona Sister 1
Monarch 1

White-tailed Deer 8 f
Fallow Deer 2m/chocolate f
Blackbuck 30 f
Aoudad 3 f

TX: Kerr Co., jct TX39/FM187
Barasingha 5 f

TX: Kerr County, on the road, TX27, TX39
Common Green Darner 1

Pipevine Swallowtail 2
Queen 1
Monarch 16

Pekin Duck +
Muscovy +
Emden Goose +
Turkey Vulture 2
Black Vulture 2
Killdeer 1
American Kestrel 1
Mourning Dove 6
White-winged Dove 5
Belted Kingfisher 1
Barn Swallow 1
Common Raven 2
Bewick's Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 12

Fox Squirrel 2
Rock Squirrel 1
White-tailed Deer 116
Axis Deer 20
Cattle (Charolais, Black Baldy, Limousin, Gelbvieh, Hereford)
Blackbuck 80
Goat (Boer, Spanish, Nubian)
Ass (Miniature Sicilian)
Horse (Quarter, Tobiano, Overo)

Spicebush f
Plateau Chinkapin Oak f

dor Striped Skunk, Raccoon, Armadillo, White-tailed Deer, Turkey Vulture

COM: Blogarithmic #45

Saw Love Thy Neighbor last night -- it's funny! The piece is a deliberate farce featuring 2 hours of neighborly insults and three endings. Some of the repeated punchlines get old, and some just don't work, but a lot of it is truly creative villainry. Especially delicious in their roles were Mona Klein as Leona Crump, Bill Baumann as George, Becky Purcell as Rose Bush, and Jeanetta Davis as Ava. Angelo Comparin as the cop and Sarah Baumann as the papergirl had choice cameos and did fantastic work with them. It's a shame this is the last weekend -- but you've got two more shots to check it out at STAGE in Bulverde. I posted a phone number for reservations down below somewhere.

It was a mixed night in football. Wimberley (8-0 and ranked #5) might could have been foreseen as the pick against Ingram, but 63-6 seems more lopsided than i would have thought. From the score alone it looks like they are the first team to find a way to shut down J.T. Aspra. Tivy also lost, 32-30 to Boerne -- that's quite possibly our toughest rivalry, though Fredericksburg gets the press. Smithson Valley and Highland Park (8-0 and #2) both racked up solid wins -- and classy coaches at both schools aren't into running up scores. It was SV 39-7 over Lee, and HP 42-14 over Wylie. I think it's starting to look pretty solid that we'll see both of those teams in the playoffs, and quite possible in the finals. Texas A&M 30-28 over Kansas State High School.

Wilma's anchored in the Yucatan right now -- nothing good can come of that.

Everything or Nothing premieres this weekend. I'll be at a private screening before it opens at the Austin Film Festival.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 21, 2005

ENV: Not-Really-a-Cat-Friday

Today i went out to do some photography before a cold front hits this weekend that might knock our bugs down for a while -- there are several things i still need to get for the year. Of several cool things i found today i thought i'd feature a nicely unworm Ocola Skipper. I don't see this skipper all the time, though sometimes i see several in a day's tromping around. It is one of the Panoquinas, a genus of sometimes localized, often coastal species that are not widespread in the US. Although a couple of other species have occurred in the Hill Country, the Ocola is the only one to be expected.

Recently Hecebolus Skipper in this genus has been found in Austin, and i may make a trek there to try to find it and two other special butterflies that i have searched for unsuccessfully in Kerr County. One of those is Rawson's Metalmark whose type locality is in Kerr County. I have searched many times around the food plant and at spots nearby without success for this critter.

The other is Lacey's Scrub-Hairstreak named for turn of the 20th century Kerr County rancher Howard Lacey. He was an excellent naturalist and collected Lepidoptera and Birds and made huge contributions to our knowledge of hill country faunas. Although he discovered the hairstreak in Val Verde County, it has been found in several Hill Country Counties and in south Texas. I have yet to locate Southwestern Bernardia, its hostplant in Kerr, and thus no bugs here, at least yet -- and no one else has found it here either. Dan Hardy and Chris Durden have recently found both of these in Austin and i'll be there soon to look for them.

In addition to the Ocola Skipper, i had a cooperative Sachem today (and some other things for film), and a really cool-looking fly that i believe is a Syrphid, but for which i am unable to locate photos of anything similar. Cool anyway.
Update: I searched for Lacey's Scrub-Hairstreak and Rawson's Metalmark in Austin but was unable to locate either -- although i did get film of some other cool stuff. Gayle Strickland was kind enough to spend (probably a great deal of) time searching for an ID for the odd fly below and i believe he nailed it as a Stratiomyid or Soldier Fly, probably in the genus Odontomyia -- and so i am adjusting the ID below.

Be sure to check out the weekly Friday Ark at The Modulator, and remember that the Second Edition of The Circus of the Spineless is coming up at Snail's Tales -- get your posts written, posted and submitted to Aydin . . .

Ocola Skipper, Panoquina ocola

Sachem, Atalopedes campestris

Soldier Fly sp., cf. Odontomyia sp.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

COM: Shabang

The Importance of the Plame Affair
By George Friedman, 10.17.2005

There are three rules concerning political scandal in the United States. First, every administration has scandals. Second, the party in opposition will always claim that there has never been an administration as corrupt as the one currently occupying the White House. Three, two is almost never true. It is going to be tough for any government to live up to the Grant or Harding administrations for financial corruption, or the Nixon and Lincoln administrations for political corruption -- for instance, was Lincoln's secretary of war really preparing a coup d'etat before the president's assassination? And sex scandals -- Clinton is not the gold standard. Harding was having sex with his mistress in the Oval Office -- and no discussion was possible over whether it was actually sex. Andrew Jackson's wife was unfairly accused of being a prostitute. Grover Cleveland had an illegitimate child. Let's not start on John F. Kennedy.

Political scandal is the national sport -- the only unchanging spectator activity where a fine time is had by all, save the turkey who got caught this time. That is the fourth rule: Americans love a good scandal, and politicians usually manage to give them one. Thus, the Tom DeLay story is the epitome of national delight. Whether DeLay broke the law or the Texas prosecutor who claims he did is a Democratic hack out to make a name for himself matters little. A good time will be had by all, and in a few years no one will remember it. Does anyone remember Bert Lance or Richard Secord?

As we discussed in previous weeks, scandals become geopolitically significant when they affect the ability of the president to conduct foreign policy. That has not yet happened to George W. Bush, but it might happen. There is, however, one maturing scandal that interests us in its own right: the Valerie Plame affair, in which Karl Rove, the most important adviser to the president, and I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to the vice president, apparently identified Plame as a CIA agent -- or at least did not vigorously deny that she was one when they were contacted by reporters. Given that this happened during a time of war, in which U.S. intelligence services are at the center of the war -- and are not as effective as the United States might wish -- the Plame affair needs to be examined and understood in its own right. Moreover, as an intelligence company, we have a particular interest in how intelligence matters are handled.

The CIA is divided between the Directorate of Intelligence, which houses the analysts, and the Directorate of Operations, which houses the spies and the paramilitary forces. The spies are, in general, divided into two groups. There are those with official cover and those with non-official cover. Official cover means that the agent is working at the U.S. embassy in some country, acting as a cultural, agricultural or some other type of attaché, and is protected by diplomatic immunity. They carry out a variety of espionage functions, limited by the fact that most foreign intelligence services know who the CIA agents at the embassy are and, frankly, assume that everyone at the embassy is an agent. They are therefore followed, their home phones are tapped, and their maids deliver scraps of paper to the host government. This obviously limits the utility of these agents. Being seen with one of them automatically blows the cover of any potential recruits.

Then there are those with non-official cover, the NOCs. These agents are the backbone of the American espionage system. A NOC does not have diplomatic cover. If captured, he has no protection. Indeed, as the saying goes, if something goes wrong, the CIA will deny it has ever heard of him. A NOC is under constant pressure when he is needed by the government and is on his own when things go wrong. That is understood going in by all NOCs.

NOCs come into the program in different ways. Typically, they are recruited at an early age and shaped for the role they are going to play. Some may be tracked to follow China, and trained to be bankers based in Hong Kong. Others might work for an American engineering firm doing work in the Andes. Sometimes companies work with the CIA, knowingly permitting an agent to become an employee. In other circumstances, agents apply for and get jobs in foreign companies and work their way up the ladder, switching jobs as they go, moving closer and closer to a position of knowing the people who know what there is to know. Sometimes they receive financing to open a business in some foreign country, where over the course of their lives, they come to know and be trusted by more and more people. Ideally, the connection of these people to the U.S. intelligence apparatus is invisible. Or, if they can't be invisible due to something in their past and they still have to be used as NOCs, they develop an explanation for what they are doing that is so plausible that the idea that they are working for the CIA is dismissed or regarded as completely unlikely because it is so obvious. The complexity of the game is endless.

These are the true covert operatives of the intelligence world. Embassy personnel might recruit a foreign agent through bribes or blackmail. But at some point, they must sit across from the recruit and show their cards: "I'm from the CIA and...." At that point, they are in the hands of the recruit. A NOC may never once need to do this. He may take decades building up trusting relationships with intelligence sources in which the source never once suspects that he is speaking to the CIA, and the NOC never once gives a hint as to who he actually is.

It is an extraordinary life. On the one hand, NOCs may live well. The Number Two at a Latin American bank cannot be effective living on a U.S. government salary. NOCs get to live the role and frequently, as they climb higher in the target society, they live the good life. On the other hand, their real lives are a mystery to everyone. Frequently, their parents don't know what they really do, nor do their own children -- for their safety and the safety of the mission. The NOC may marry someone who cannot know who they really are. Sometimes they themselves forget who they are: It is an occupational disease and a form of madness. Being the best friend of a man whom you despise, and doing it for 20 years, is not easy. Some NOCs are recruited in mid-life and in mid-career. They spend less time in the madness, but they are less prepared for it as well. NOCs enter and leave the program in different ways -- sometimes under their real names, sometimes under completely fabricated ones. They share one thing: They live a lie on behalf of their country.

The NOCs are the backbone of American intelligence and the ones who operate the best sources -- sources who don't know they are sources. When the CIA says that it needs five to 10 years to rebuild its network, what it is really saying is that it needs five to 10 years to recruit, deploy and begin to exploit its NOCs. The problem is not recruiting them -- the life sounds cool for many recent college graduates. The crisis of the NOC occurs when he approaches the most valuable years of service, in his late 30s or so. What sounded neat at 22 rapidly becomes a mind-shattering nightmare when their two lives collide at 40.

There is an explicit and implicit contract between the United States and its NOCs. It has many parts, but there is one fundamental part: A NOC will never reveal that he is or was a NOC without special permission. When he does reveal it, he never gives specifics. The government also makes a guarantee -- it will never reveal the identity of a NOC under any circumstances and, in fact, will do everything to protect it. If you have lied to your closest friends for 30 years about who you are and why you talk to them, no government bureaucrat has the right to reveal your identity for you. Imagine if you had never told your children -- and never planned to tell your children -- that you worked for the CIA, and they suddenly read in the New York Times that you were someone other than they thought you were.

There is more to this. When it is revealed that you were a NOC, foreign intelligence services begin combing back over your life, examining every relationship you had. Anyone you came into contact with becomes suspect. Sometimes, in some countries, becoming suspect can cost you your life. Revealing the identity of a NOC can be a matter of life and death -- frequently, of people no one has ever heard of or will ever hear of again.

In short, a NOC owes things to his country, and his country owes things to the NOC. We have no idea what Valerie Plame told her family or friends about her work. It may be that she herself broke the rules, revealing that she once worked as a NOC. We can't know that, because we don't know whether she received authorization from the CIA to say things after her own identity was blown by others. She might have been irresponsible, or she might have engaged in damage control. We just don't know.

What we do know is this. In the course of events, reporters contacted two senior officials in the White House -- Rove and Libby. Under the least-damaging scenario we have heard, the reporters already knew that Plame had worked as a NOC. Rove and Libby, at this point, were obligated to say, at the very least, that they could neither confirm nor deny the report. In fact, their duty would have been quite a bit more: Their job was to lie like crazy to mislead the reporters. Rove and Libby had top security clearances and were senior White House officials. It was their sworn duty, undertaken when they accepted their security clearance, to build a "bodyguard of lies" -- in Churchill's phrase -- around the truth concerning U.S. intelligence capabilities.

Some would argue that if the reporters already knew her identity, the cat was out of the bag and Rove and Libby did nothing wrong. Others would argue that if Plame or her husband had publicly stated that she was a NOC, Rove and Libby were freed from their obligation. But the fact is that legally and ethically, nothing relieves them of the obligation to say nothing and attempt to deflect the inquiry. This is not about Valerie Plame, her husband or Time Magazine. The obligation exists for the uncounted number of NOCs still out in the field.

Americans stay safe because of NOCs. They are the first line of defense. If the system works, they will be friends with Saudi citizens who are financing al Qaeda. The NOC system was said to have been badly handled under the Clinton administration -- this is the lack of humint that has been discussed since the 9-11 attacks. The United States paid for that. And that is what makes the Rove-Libby leak so stunning. The obligation they had was not only to Plame, but to every other NOC leading a double life who is in potentially grave danger.

Imagine, if you will, working in Damascus as a NOC and reading that the president's chief adviser had confirmed the identity of a NOC. As you push into middle age, wondering what happened to your life, the sudden realization that your own government threatens your safety might convince you to resign and go home. That would cost the United States an agent it had spent decades developing. You don't just pop a new agent in his place. That NOC's resignation could leave the United States blind at a critical moment in a key place. Should it turn out that Rove and Libby not only failed to protect Plame's identity but deliberately leaked it, it would be a blow to the heart of U.S. intelligence. If just one critical NOC pulled out and the United States went blind in one location, the damage could be substantial. At the very least, it is a risk the United States should not have to incur.

The New York Times and Time Magazine have defended not only the decision to publish Plame's name, but also have defended hiding the identity of those who told them her name. Their justification is the First Amendment. We will grant that they had the right to publish statements concerning Plame's role in U.S. intelligence; we cannot grant that they had an obligation to publish it. There is a huge gap between the right to publish and a requirement to publish. The concept of the public's right to know is a shield that can be used by the press to hide irresponsibility. An article on the NOC program conceivably might have been in the public interest, but it is hard to imagine how identifying a particular person as part of that program can be deemed as essential to an informed public.

But even if we regard the press as unethical by our standards, their actions were not illegal. On the other hand, if Rove and Libby even mentioned the name of Valerie Plame in the context of being a CIA employee -- NOC or not -- on an unsecured line to a person without a security clearance or need to know, while the nation was waging war, that is the end of the story. It really doesn't matter why or whether there was a plan or anything. The minimal story -- that they talked about Plame with a reporter -- is the end of the matter.

We can think of only one possible justification for this action: That it was done on the order of the president. The president has the authority to suspend or change security regulations if required by the national interest. The Plame affair would be cleared up if it turns out Rove and Libby were ordered to act as they did by the president. Perhaps the president is prevented by circumstances from coming forward and lifting the burden from Rove and Libby. If that is the case, it could cost him his right-hand man. But absent that explanation, it is difficult to justify the actions that were taken.

Ultimately, the Plame affair points to a fundamental problem in intelligence. As those who have been in the field have told us, the biggest fear is that someone back in the home office will bring the operation down. Sometimes it will be a matter of state: sacrificing a knight for advantage on the chessboard. Sometimes it is a parochial political battle back home. Sometimes it is carelessness, stupidity or cruelty. This is when people die and lives are destroyed. But the real damage, if it happens often enough or no one seems to care, will be to the intelligence system. If the agent determines that his well-being is not a centerpiece of government policy, he won't remain an agent long.

On a personal note, let me say this: one of the criticisms conservatives have of liberals is that they do not understand that we live in a dangerous world and, therefore, that they underestimate the effort needed to ensure national security. Liberals have questioned the utility and morality of espionage. Conservatives have been champions of national security and of the United States' overt and covert capabilities. Conservatives have condemned the atrophy of American intelligence capabilities. Whether the special prosecutor indicts or exonerates Rove and Libby legally doesn't matter. Valerie Plame was a soldier in service to the United States, unprotected by uniform or diplomatic immunity. I have no idea whether she served well or poorly, or violated regulations later. But she did serve. And thus, she and all the other NOCs were owed far more -- especially by a conservative administration -- than they got.

Even if that debt wasn't owed to Plame, it remains in place for all the other spooks standing guard in dangerous places.

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COM: Blogarithmic #44

A very cool look at New York here.

The NRDC is promoting a blog this week that features a Grizzly expert talking about attempts to delist the Yellowstone Grizzlies and about Timothy Treadwell about whom there is widespread argument over whether he was a Grizzly conservationist or a showboating wacko. I suppose you can ask questions at the blog.

Shows, shows, shows: Vanities opens tonight, it's a stunning show so be sure to check it out. Taming of the Shrew starts its second week tomottow night -- worth it if only for Roy Burney, Sarah Tacey and Charles Bryant, but it's a hoot all the way around. And finally Love Thy Neighbor is in its last weekend at STAGE Theatre in Bulverde -- Bill and Sarah Baumann star.

Taylor Faust is improving quickly at University Hospital in San Antonio, though they are still doing surgeries on his legs. Get out of the hospital Taylor!!!

But nooooow Roy Burney's in the hospital, something vaguely gallbladderish -- don't know much yet, but do know someone else is Petruchio tonight at Taming of the Shrew.

I get that word because i was at Vanities again tonight, and Holly was not, but Marie clued me in. Roy get your durned self out of the hospital. Tired of this hospital stuff.

The girls were dynamite again in Vanities, they pick up more characterization every time i see them. It's a knockout show. Apparently there was a huge crowd for opening and they had a great show as well.

I expect to go see Love Thy Neighbor in the next couple of days at STAGE in Bulverde. This is the last weekend for that so check it out if you can.

Football for this weekend?
Ingram at district powerhouse Wimberley, Tivy at Boerne, Highland Park at Wylie, San Antonio Lee at Smithson Valley, and Texas A&M, in the last high school game before the big three, at Kansas State, and the have-to-watch game of the week -- Texas at Texas Tech.

Update: i keep adding things and so will bump this to the top for a while . . .

Here's some links from around the net . . .

I've been trying to keep some things going on Poultry Flu -- it's going to be a big story, probably soon. Unfortunately i wish it wasn't loss of life we'll be reporting but a cure. Anyway, Jon Stewart and Samantha Bee put their stamp on it here . . .

And here comes monster storm number whatever . . . somehow i don't think it's a Flintstone out there. on logos again . . .

A snail (go molluscs, go molluscs, go, go go . . . what rhymes with mollusc?) in action . . .

Will at Clicked always has good stuff. . .

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

COM: For Vista Bubblians

Hey you folks in the Vista Bubble -- we're putting together a newsletter, so send me some news if there's something you know or something you want to blast out to everyone else . . .

and did i mention the yearbook's at the printer. . .

and did i mention that Cadi got the lead in Our Town for the ITM Thespians this December?

and i should mention again that John Baumann's dad and sister are in Love Thy Neighbor at the STAGE Theatre in Bulverde -- this is the last weekend! 830-438-2339.

COM: Ha ha ha . . .

I quite literally hate email hoaxes being passed on and all the similar garbage. However, i check all the posts i get because a) sometime friends attach personal notes, and b) sometimes there is truly funny stuff. I do know which folks are likely to send me good stuff though, and Mitch Heindel is one of those, and so i introduce his email today which lists ten puns that were apparently named the ten best something or other . . .

1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says "Dam!".

3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says "I've lost my electron," The othersays, "Are you "sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."

5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why," they asked, as they moved off. "Because", he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."

7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."

8. These friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

10. And finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.