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October, 2002:

Fastow indicted on 78 counts

Not much new in the story, which is hot off the presses. I just like the sound of “78-count indictment”.

Give your throat a nice spritz, bubbe. It’s time to start singing.

40% turnout predicted

Texas Secretary of State Gwyn Smith is predicting 40% turnout, or approximately 5 million voters, in this year’s election. That compares to 32.4% and 3.7 million voters in 1998, though it’s nowhere near the level of Presidential elections (6.4 million and 51.8% in 2000, 5.6 million and 53.2% in 1996).

Interestingly, if you look at turnout over the years, the turnout for the governor’s race in 1994 was over 50%. However, a much smaller percentage of the voting age population was registered (66.09% in 1994 versus 78.75% for the primaries in 2002). The big jump appears to have taken place in 1996. Given that Texas instituted a Motor Voter law in 1991, two years before the NVRA was enacted in 1993, I wonder why it took so long for the registration gap to start to close.

Sleazy tech tactics

I received this in a Windows 2000 tech newsletter today. It’s amazingly sleazy. Don’t fall for it.


Have you ever received a Web-based greeting card from a friend or relative? They’re common these days, and they seem to be taken for granted, in that people trust the intent of someone who might send them a greeting card. People like to be greeted with kindness, so they’re inclined to look at and read the greeting card. It’s one of the feel-good things that many people simply can’t resist.

Have you ever wondered why a company would spend its Internet resources delivering free greeting cards on behalf of people with whom it conducts no business otherwise? How does such an entity profit from those endeavors? What might its motives be?

Last week, a user posted an interesting message to our HowTo for Security mailing list regarding one company that delivers Web-based greeting cards. That company, Permissioned Media, runs a Web site called, which lets one person send another person an electronic greeting card. The friendly facilitation seems simple and harmless, but it has a rather insidious side.

When you receive a greeting from, the message says that someone sent you the greeting and that to read it, you must click a URL that takes you to the Web site hosting the greeting. When you click the URL, you’re prompted to install an ActiveX control before you view the greeting. As the greeting-card recipient, you would probably assume that you must install the ActiveX control to view the greeting; however, that’s not the case. Instead, has designed the ActiveX control, complete with an End User License Agreement (EULA), to interact with your mail client software and harvest information about your email contacts. After the ActiveX control obtains your private contact list information, it sends a similar greeting card to everyone in your contact list, probably unbeknownst to you!

If you took time to read the EULA from, you’d discover that the EULA clearly states Permissioned Media’s intention to do just that. A section of the EULA reads, “As part of the installation process, Permissioned Media will access your Microsoft Outlook contacts list and send an e-mail to persons on your contacts list inviting them to download FriendGreetings or related products.” By accepting the EULA and installing the ActiveX control, you give the company permission to perform that activity.

In essence, the greeting cards that delivers resemble many worms that travel the Internet: They’re parasitic, intrusive, devious, elusive, and most of all, probably unwanted. Even some antivirus vendors issued warnings about the greeting card last week. However, we can’t completely blame for its use because, although the company counts on most users’ acceptance of the unread EULA, the EULA does spell out some of its intention. By agreeing to the EULA, users agree to the ActiveX control activity. Nevertheless, the lesson here should be obvious: When you encounter a EULA, don’t take anything for granted. Read it word for word to understand exactly what you’re accepting and think through what the consequences of acceptance might be.

Permissioned Media bills itself as a “behavioral marketing network” with more than 100 clients that advertise online. The company also operates You can read Permissioned Media’s EULA at this URL. Take note that it grants the company “the right to add additional features or functions to the version of PerMedia you install, or to add new applications to PerMedia, at any time.” Yikes!

If you’ve received a greeting card from and installed the associated ActiveX control, you might want to remove its software from your system. To find out how, be sure to read the related news article, “Protect Your Contact List: Read the EULA!” in this newsletter.

And if you’re a security administrator for your network, consider blocking to help ensure that none of your network users inadvertently compromise private contact information by accepting a greeting card from that Web site.

Be careful what you click on, folks.

More poll numbers

A Scripps Howard poll is showing a sizeable lead for Governor Goodhair over Tony Sanchez, a tie in the Lt. Governor race, and slight leads for the Republicans in the Senate and Attorney General race.

I’ll get to all that in a minute. First, compare and contrast the related story in the Brownsville Herald to the one in our own newspaper. John Williams is normally an astute writer. I can’t say if his piece was cut for space or if he simply did a cursory cut-n-paste job because he was late to buy a round at the bar, but you’d think the Chron might be a teensy bit embarrassed at being out-covered by a small town paper.

Anyway, the usual caveats apply. How did they determine “likely voters”? What turnout model did they use? You know the drill.

There is one thing in the Herald‘s coverage that sounds right:

If the election for governor were today, 50 percent of likely voters would choose Perry compared with 35 percent who favor Sanchez. Fourteen percent are undecided. In August, 42 percent preferred Perry while 28 percent picked Sanchez.

Texans are almost split in their views about Perry’s job performance. While 44 percent say he has done an excellent or good job as governor, 43 percent say his performance has been fair or poor.

“People are looking (at the governor’s race) as the lesser of two evils,” said Bruce Buchanan, political science professor at the University of Texas. “Voters are not enamored with Perry, but people don’t see Sanchez as the answer. I think that’s it in a nutshell.”


Meanwhile, 37 percent of likely voters say neither Perry nor Sanchez is talking about the issues important to them. Thirty-two percent say the candidates are talking about important issues and 22 percent say the candidates talk about the issues sometimes

Unfortunately, I think that’s a problem. I’ve criticized Sanchez before for lack of specifics – his “scrub the budget” answer for the deficits is baloney, for example. (Not that Goodhair has been forthcoming about the deficit; his response has been to say “well, maybe it won’t be that bad”.) He had a chance to be bold and to talk about how Goodhair and Bush squandered years of prosperity as well as the state’s rainy-day fund, and he failed to do so.

Of course, it’s easy for me as an Unpaid Political Pundit to sit back and wax pompously about Boldness and The Vision Thing because I can use weaselly pundit words and overlook inconvenient facts such as the fact that boldness in this context would have meant talking about taxes. In particular, it would have meant talking about raising taxes, or at least rolling back some of the tax cuts that Dubya implemented. Some of this is going to happen whether people like it or not, but the first person to mention it in a campaign in this state is going to get tarred and feathered for it. It’s hard to crime Sanchez too harshly for realizing that once he mentioned the T word, the campaign would be about nothing else.

And hey, we still don’t know what’s going to happen. Even if Sanchez loses, it doesn’t mean it was because he wasn’t sufficiently bold for me. If he does lose (and I’m certainly not willing to concede that he will), we’ll know sometime after November 5 why he did. He’s played his cards. We’ll see how it goes.

The 25th CD race

I haven’t paid much attention to the Congressional races around here, mostly because I live in Sheila Jackson Lee’s district, which means for me there is no race. Over in the 25th CD, which is an open seat due to Ken Bentsen’s decision to run for Senate, things are getting ugly. Republican candidate Tom Reiser is running an ad which alleges that his opponent, former City Councilman Chris Bell, sexually harassed a woman who was on Mayor Lee Brown’s staff. Bell has called this allegation a lie, and he’s got quite a bit of support for his defense, including the woman who he supposedly harassed:

The allegation of sexual harassment dates to a debate at Houston City Hall in the summer of 2001, when Bell was a council member and [Carol] Alvarado worked for Mayor Lee Brown.

At the time, the council was considering a proposal to prevent city employees from running for political office. The Bell-supported proposal was aimed at Alvarado, who then was running for the council seat she won last fall.

Shortly after a private meeting with Bell, then-Councilman Rob Todd said Bell made a “sexual comment” regarding Alvarado. The Houston Press later quoted Todd as saying that Bell had said, “You make sure to tell (Alvarado) how well you argued on her side when she is repaying the favor tonight.”

Bell denied making any comment that could have been construed that way.

Bell and Todd were frequent combatants when they served on the council. Todd could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Reiser spokesman Dugan said the allegation in the commercial is backed up in a letter written Aug. 8, 2001 by Brown ally Cindy Clifford and three other women demanding an apology from Bell.

“Clearly, the four who wrote the letter were offended by the comment as I would be, as the women of Mr. Reiser’s staff would be,” Dugan said.

Clifford, who supports Bell, said she “barely remembers” the letter in which she wrote, “It’s remarks such as these that make life more difficult for all women in the workplace.”

“But I have always felt that Chris was very, very interested in women’s issues,” Clifford said. “He’s obviously worked out the issues with Carol.”

Alvarado said she never believed Todd’s allegation, and she called on voters to “Please call Tom Reiser and ask him to stop lying.”

George Biggs, a former aide to Todd who now works for Alvarado, and City Councilwoman Annise Parker were among the supporters who appeared with Bell Wednesday.

Both said they don’t believe Bell made any sexually suggestive comments to Todd about Alvarado.

At some point you have to wonder: Do attack ads based on really flimsy evidence actually help the attacker? Reiser’s alleged victim says he’s full of it. How is that supposed to help him? I don’t get it. Reiser has also attacked Bell for a violation of City Council rules about accepting gifts. He calls it “bribery”, which is an overstatement (and besides, Bell was cleared), but this is at least a charge with some validity. Why make a charge you can’t back up?

Coming attractions

The big thing next year in Houston is going to be the mayoral election, which will be wide open since Mayor Lee Brown is prohibited from running again by our stoopid term-limits law. Former City Councilman Joe Roach, who announced his candidacy a few months ago, has now announced that he will drop out of the race, citing concerns about his wife’s health. This leaves one known candidate, first-term Councilman Michael “Boy Wonder” Berry, and a whole lotta speculation.

Anyway, as I noted before, Roach would not have been my first choice but he was a serious candidate who would have run a good campaign. I’m sorry to see him drop out and wish him and his wife well.

The secret is revealed!

Dwight Meredith points me to this startling revelation about the DC snipers from NewsMax:

On Wednesday night, shortly before the capture of Muhammad and Malvo, Chief Moose acquiesced to the sniper’s demand and read publicly a statement:

“You asked us to say, ‘We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose,’ ” Moose said, swallowing hard. “We understand that hearing us say this is important to you.” …

A caller to Ed Martin’s talk radio program on WGY in Albany, N.Y., says if you take the first letter of each word in the phrase “like a duck in a noose.” and exclude the last ‘a’, the acronym spells “L-A-D-I-N.” Now, that’s not exactly the way bin Laden’s family name is commonly spelled, but Muhammad and Malvo apparently never won a spelling bee.

You just can’t argue with logic like that. I prefer to mock it, myself, so I’ll present you with this bit of relevant dialog from M*A*S*H:

Frank: (Nervously) “Huhuhuh….”
Flagg: (Takes magazine) “This won’t look good on your record.”
Frank: “But sir, it’s only Reader’s Digest, I..”
Flagg: “Not when you eliminate the third, fifth, and sixth letters. Then it’s Red’s Digest, comrade.”


New home for The Poor Man

Andrew Northrup has moved to his own domain and Movable Type. Drop in, say Howdy, and update your blogrolls.

Go get ’em, Ann

Ann Richards is in Austin campaigning for the Democratic ticket. The story contains some interesting tidbits about polls and female voters:

In November 2000, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, 3.3 million men and 3.7 million women voted in Texas.


In a poll conducted for the Dallas Morning News two weeks ago by Blum & Weprin Associates, Cornyn had 45 percent of the female vote to 39 percent for Kirk, while Sanchez had just 33 percent of the women’s vote to 51 percent for Perry.

The poll showed Cornyn and Perry with double-digit leads overall. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

Ben Tulchin of California-based Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin and Associates said his polling for the Democrats shows the race much closer, including among women. Democrats contend Republicans are overrepresented in that poll.

Tulchin said 10 percent to 15 percent of voters are undecided, and 60 percent of those are women.

Generically, Tulchin said, women identify themselves 40 percent as Democratic, 34 percent Republican and 20 percent independent, but their support depends on the candidate.

Perry pollster Mike Baselice’s figures are a bit different; he also noted they can change with individual races.

He said surveys he conducted this spring and summer show male voters identify 52 percent Republican to 34 percent Democratic, while the female split is 44 percent Democratic to 43 percent Republican.

For all the caterwauling I’ve done about minority voters, if women don’t push the button for the Democrats they’re doomed. I don’t believe that DMN poll any more now than I did before, but we’d better keep our eyes on this particular ball. Both parties are doing their usual stuff, but since the story line this year is Dream Team vs. Team Bush, it’s mostly been below radar.

UPDATE: To be clear, in the above paragraph I’m saying that the Democrats are doomed unless a majority of women vote for them. Sorry for any confusion.

The wreck of La Belle

I attended a lecture last night at the Houston Museum of Natural Science with Tiffany and her parents that was about the excavation of the ship La Belle, which wrecked in 1686 in Matagorda Bay. It was a part of the four-ship fleet that French explorer La Salle brought to the New World to establish a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately for La Salle, he missed the delta by 400 miles. He went ahead and got his colonists ensconsed in Fort St. Louis, then tried to hike (!) to Quebec for assistance from other French forts. (Amazingly, one of his men made it all the way there; his journal, which tells the story, survives to this day.)

The lecture and slide show by Dr. Jim Bruseth was outstanding. Here are some pictures from the excavation. The ship basically ran aground in shallow water without breaking up, so its artifacts were all in one place. The water is very murky, so diving was not a good option. Instead, a “cofferdam” was built around it. It’s basically a dry oasis in the bay – they enclosed an area and pumped the water out. Cost a bunch of money, but the payoff was fantastic.

I knew who La Salle was, but I knew nothing about La Belle or Fort St. Louis. If you ever get a chance to see Dr. Bruseth give this presentation, it’s definitely worth it.

Doing homework

Alex Whitlock compares the policy statements on Rick Perry and Tony Sanchez’s web pages. Check it out, he’s done some good work.

Suspense list snafu

Apparently, the “poll books”, which list all 1.9 million registered voters in Harris County, are missing those who have moved and not updated their addresses. This is an issue because you’re allowed to vote at your old polling place for up to four years.

Suspense list voters are supposed to be marked so poll workers can identify them and update their addresses.

But because the 319,000 suspense voters are not noted, poll workers will have to refer to new lists being printed this week by the county tax assessor-collector’s office, which also serves as voter registrar.

That extra step could lead to longer lines at the polls just as the county kicks off its new $25 million eSlate electronic voting system.

An electronic voting machine the size of a legal pad, eSlate has been used only for early voting since the county bought the system last year. Some officials, such as Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Sue Schechter, are concerned the system could confuse voters and lead to delays at the polls.

Some fear the problem with the poll books, which were prepared by a private company hired by the county, could exacerbate those problems.

“It’s an unneeded complication,” said Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. “Anytime you have a complication in procedures, you’re going to increase the likelihood of a problem.”

This is probably not that big a deal. I never did update my address after I moved in April, and all I had to do when I voted early was tell the poll worker my new address and sign a form.

Doesn’t mean I don’t find this story annoying, though:

Votec Corp., a San Diego company paid $70,000 a year by the county, was supposed to ensure the information in the poll books was accurate. Although Votec was given accurate information, [County Clerk Beverley] Kaufman said neither the company nor her office caught the error until after the books were printed. She said they were more concerned with ensuring that all voters were listed and that the books were broken down properly for each precinct.

“We’re certain (Votec) has learned its lesson, and we know we’ve learned ours,” she said.

Kaufman said there was not enough time or money to print up new poll books after the error was discovered. That’s why officials decided to have Bettencourt’s office generate a new list.

Bill Bilyeu, president of Votec, said the problem will not be repeated because his company will work directly with Bettencourt’s office to maintain the voter roll.

“Learned its lesson”? What’d you do, make them sit in a corner and write “I will not forget the suspense list” a hundred times? Sheesh.

Trick or treat

Tim Dunlop has been enjoying his first Halloween season, as has his six-year-old son Noah, who’s quite excited about trick-or-treating. Dunlop and his family live in the DC area, which led to this observation:

You want to know another reason the region is sighing with relief that the snipers have been caught – Halloween is it. No-one I know was particularly thrilled at the prospect of their kids wandering around in the dark with those two murderers still out there.

You’ve all heard the legends about poisoned candy and razor blades in apples, almost all of which are pure bunk. Unfortunately, they still tend to ruin an otherwise perfect holiday for kids. Tiffany tells me that trick-or-treating essentially stopped in Houston for several years after Ronald Clark O’Bryan murdered his son by spiking some of his Halloween loot with cynanide in 1974. Didn’t matter that it was one sick bastard who deliberately targeted his son in order to collect life insurance money, the fact that it happened was enough to scare people into keeping their kids at home on Halloween.

So I’m glad to see that people are looking forward to Halloween, as they should be. Our neighborhood makes a big deal out of it every year – the folks across the street have more decorations up than some houses have for Christmas. We get so inundated with trick-or-treaters that I always feel compelled to give a heads-up to new arrivals. It’s pure chaos, and it’s a lot of fun.

Overlooking the obvious

Tony Adragna points me to this Tim Noah piece, in which Noah attempts to uncover the reason for all those nice obits for Paul Wellstone that various right-wingers have been writing:

Conservatives grieve Paul Wellstone because there is little or no chance that anyone as far to the left as Wellstone will be elected to the Senate anytime soon. Since the start of the Clinton administration, the main Republican project has been to maintain the fiction that an overwhelmingly centrist Democratic Party lies to the left of the American mainstream. Without Wellstone, that point will be a little harder to argue.

Hello! Do the words “Senator Hillary Clinton” mean anything to you, Tim? John Cornyn has been running ads linking Ron Kirk to Hillary Clinton since at least September. And then there’s this Kennedy fella from Massachussettes, I hear the GOP thinks he’s pretty liberal, too. I guarantee, if there’s one thing the GOP is not worried about right now, it’s running out of liberal bogeypeople to use in their mass-mailers.

Maybe it’s just different here in flyover country, but I honestly can’t ever recall seeing a political ad or reading a scare quote in the papers from a Republican that invoked Paul Wellstone’s name as That Which All Right-Thinking People Must Stand United Against. For one thing, I just don’t think Wellstone was all that well known. For another thing, the great Clinton menace was more than enough red meat for the purposes at hand, with Ted Kennedy serving as the steak sauce if a little extra zest was needed. Senator Wellstone’s tragic and untimely death will not change any of that one bit.

Alison and its aftereffects

In 2001, Houston Press writer Richard Connelly and his family were flooded out by Tropical Storm Allison. More than a year later, his house was torn down after they got a FEMA buyout. Allison has had a huge effect on his neighborhood, which is not very far from my own. Take a moment and read both stories. Here’s an excerpt from the first one, titled “Wading for Godot”, to whet your appetite:

Everyone has had a Bizarre Moment in life, a moment when you just step back and ask, “How the hell did I get in this situation?”

Often it’ll come when you’re attending the wedding, say, of two people you thought you knew well. Then the preacher announces that the loving couple have written their own vows, and that those vows are based on Time in a Bottle and the rest of Jim Croce’s works.


My own Bizarre Moment came sometime in the predawn hours of June 9, courtesy of Tropical Storm Allison.

I was standing in the middle of my living room, taking a leak. While normally pissing in the living room would be considered a social faux pas among the Smart Set — unless your name is Jackson Pollock — Miss Manners might have given me a pass this time, seeing as how I was thigh-high in fetid, brackish water that had spread throughout the house. Wading back to stand over a commode that was itself under water seemed somewhat pointless at the time.

I’m standing there whizzing, surrounded by large pieces of heavy furniture floating leisurely about as if on a pleasure cruise. Outside, my wife’s car — the one that just got $300 in repairs — sits totally submerged, its burglar alarm gargling pitifully underneath the waves.

The rain continues to pound down in vicious sheets, showing no signs of letting up before we all go under. The only place to sit that’s above water is a wooden barstool currently occupied by my fitfully dozing wife. My nine-year-old son is back in our bedroom, using our mattress as a raft to keep above the waves.

He’s been occasionally nodding off; in the interludes he has been trying to distract himself by singing loudly to the new CD we have been playing incessantly lately.

So there I am, pissing in the living room, watching the incoming water slowly cover up more and more books and doodads and keepsakes, a raging river outside where our street used to be, my wife trying to sleep without slipping off her chair into the gross indoor lake, and I’m suddenly listening to the disembodied voice of a nine-year-old belting out Springtime for Hitler.

Bizarre Moment? Geez, I can only pray that my life never gets more bizarre than that.

Judge declines to intervene in Burdine case

Federal Judge David Hittner has declined to force the appointment of Calvin Burdine’s appeals lawyer to his retrial case, agreeing with the argument that forcing the change would enjoin the trial. Looks like I called that one wrong. The ACLU is appealing the ruling, which may delay the start of the retrial.

While I understand Hittner’s ruling, I have to ask: Doesn’t it make sense to close off this potential avenue for appeal now? The whole reason for this retrial is that Burdine got essentially no representation in 1983. Is it in anyone’s interest to risk another retrial? Unless I’m missing something, it looks to me like the reason that attorney McGlasson needs to be appointed by Judge Hoffman to represent Calvin Burdine is that it’s the only way McGlasson can get paid for the work, as Burdine is indigent. The lawyer who is representing him now has agreed to work pro bono. Is it worth all this trouble to avoid paying the defense attorney?

“Can we count on your vote?”

I spent two hours last night at the Houston headquarters for the Tony Sanchez campaign. I’d volunteered to help call supporters to remind them to vote. It was a good night to make phone calls – it was raining and flooding around town, so most people were at home. Here’s a report of my evening.

The headquarters are in a union hall in between downtown and the Third Ward. The first thing I noticed were a lot of vans in the parking lot. The Sanchez campaign has boasted about renting every van in the state. There was definitely evidence to support that claim.

There were about fifteen people making phone calls while I was there. Several of them were speaking Spanish to the people they were calling. We were primarily calling heavily Democratic areas – this was about getting out the vote, not changing minds. The script we used mentioned all four top-of-the-ballot Dems – Ron Kirk, Tony Sanchez, Kirk Watson, John Sharp, in that order.

I was calling people in Precint 195. Precint data from the 2000 election can be found here, from the County Clerk’s web page. In 2000, this precint of about 2500 registered voters had a 48.6% turnout. Over 90% of them voted straight Democratic – the final tally in the Presidential election was 1175 votes for Gore, 10 for Bush. This was a receptive crowd for the message I was delivering, to say the least.

I spoke to about 35 people (not counting answering machines). I kept tallies as requested by the vounteer coordinator. About half had already voted in early voting. Three people I spoke to were ineligible to vote. Three or four told me that they’d already voted, then hung up before I could confirm who they’d voted for. (None was rude about it – they all said something like “oh, I’ve already voted, thanks”.)

Only one person expressed no interest in voting. One person specifically said she was not voting for Tony Sanchez (I didn’t ask about the other candidates). Twenty-five had already voted or were planning to vote for the Democrats.

This is basically anecdotal evidence, so take it for what it’s worth. My impression is that I was pleased by the effort and commitment I saw. One woman I spoke to said that she’d not yet received her absentee ballot – she was basically homebound, so she had to vote by mail. We sent a volunteer that same night to her house with a ballot, since today is the effective deadline for getting them in the mail.

If the key to getting elected is getting your base motivated and turned out, then what I saw was good for the Democrats. The people I spoke to were definitely into it.

Early voting continues to be heavy. The numbers for the first week, at the bottom of the linked page, for the 15 most populous counties, are 350,214 so far in 2002, compared to 322,095 for 1998.

Webhost update

According to my webhost, everyone on my server has been moved to a new box. They’re still not sure why the old one was failing, but so far everything looks good on the new one. Thus, I can post normally again, and comments should be working as before.

By the way, the change occurred yesterday around 1:30 PM Central time, so if you tried to get here around then you would have been unsuccessful.

Anyway, things should be back to normal here. Thanks for your patience.

Congrats to the Angels

Congrats to the Angels, a truly fine team, for winning the World Series. It was a great Series and it’s a shame that not too many people watched.

BTW, I lost count of how many times the announcers mentioned that Angels pitcher John Lackey was aiming to be the first rookie starter to win a Game 7 of the World Series since 1909. However, no one ever mentioned who that starter was. It was Babe Adams, who won three games in the 1909 Classic for the victorious Pittsburgh Pirates. Adams, who actually pitched in 5 games in 1906 and 1907, wound up with a 194-140 record in his 19-year career.

Hard to imagine it getting any worse

In response to an ad that attempts to link him to the 1985 murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena, Tony Sanchez has called Governor Goodhair “the most disgusting human being I’ve ever known.”

In the ad, one of the DEA agents, Hector Berrellez, says, “We investigated that murder. The same drug dealers who killed Kiki laundered millions in drug money through Tony Sanchez’s bank.”

Berrellez was referring to the fact, which is a central theme in the governor’s race, that in the early 1980s money belonging to Mexican drug dealers was laundered through Sanchez’s Tesoro Savings & Loan in Laredo.

Sanchez has repeatedly denied knowing the money was tainted until told by federal authorities and nobody associated with the bank, which failed in 1988, has ever been charged.

The agents have said that they hold Sanchez and the leaders of other banks involved in money laundering indirectly responsible for Camarena’s death.

Man. Claiming that your opponent is complicit in a murder is pretty scummy. Clay Robison speculates about Goodhair’s motives:

If Perry has a comfortable lead over Sanchez, as recent independently conducted polls have indicated, why did he stoop to the new campaign low?

There was a suggestion that Perry is being vindictive, trying to get even with Sanchez for the Democrat’s barrage of ads hitting Perry — legitimately — over his campaign contributions from Enron and insurance companies and for trying to throw his weight around with a state trooper during a traffic stop.

If Perry is simply being vindictive, he also is stupidly running the risk that the new ad could backfire and turn some swing voters against him.

There also is the possibility that Perry knows his lead isn’t as solid as the public polls indicate and is trying to rally conservative voters and reinforce lingering questions about Sanchez’s background.

Neither reason — nor any other — is an acceptable excuse.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Goodhair is worried about turnout and is running this ad to depress it. Given that Camarena and at least one of the agents quoted in the ad are Hispanic, it sure feels to me like he’s worried about those voters. If so, I really hope it backfires on him.

Of course, if you’re just tired of all the bickering, there is now another choice.

For better or for worse, but not for much longer

Lynn Johnston will retire her comic strip For Better Or For Worse sometime in the next five years.

Johnston believes that her retirement will come at a good time as the lives of her characters are coming full circle. April, for instance will be going off to university by the time the strip ends. Elizabeth, the middle child, will be off to the work force. And Michael, the oldest child, is soon to be a parent with his wife Deanna.

“You know, she’s (April) growing up too fast. It’s really too bad. But Michael is going to have a baby sometime in October, and that’s going to rejuvenate my interest a little bit, and bring the strip back to family and little kids again, which is going to be a lot of fun,” Johnston said.

“Michael’s family will be the same age as he and Elizabeth were when they first started the strip. So it will be a full cycle of the family and I think it’s a good time to wrap it up,” she added.

Reading between the lines, I suspect there’ll be another baby in Michael and Deanna’s future. Link via Mark Evanier.

Screaming about ice cream franchises

Disgruntled Marble Slab Creamery franchisees are suing the company over claims of misleading business plans. I wouldn’t have bothered blogging this except for the following quote:

But [Hal] Cook and other former Marble Slab franchisees said the often-crowded stores come with some bitter financial realities.

The franchisees say they lost millions on their investments because they depended on inaccurate projections of potential revenues and expenses provided by the corporation, based on its labor and operating costs at the corporate store at 10001 Westheimer.

“Financially, it destroyed us. They need to supply true figures. They are the Enron of ice cream,” Cook said.

Enron has changed our lives in so many ways, hasn’t it?

Races enter homestretch

Tony Sanchez is working to get out the vote as the campaign enters the final week before Election Day. The conventional wisdom continues to be that it’s too little, too late:

The pollsters concluded that a victory by either Sanchez or Kirk would require a record-breaking turnout among minority voters, which was the Democratic Party’s goal in assembling a racially diverse statewide ticket.

Sanchez also would have to chip away some of Perry’s support.

Some Democrats have reported privately that black activists have assembled a strong get-out-the-vote effort for Kirk, and that Kirk likely will receive more than 90 percent of those votes.

But figures released by the secretary of state show that voter registration of Hispanic-surnamed Texans increased by only 170,127, far short of the 500,000 new-voter goal set by former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros’ Every Texan Foundation. Cisneros claimed that his voter-registration effort was nonpartisan, but he is a strong backer of Sanchez and Kirk.

There are 2.5 million registered voters with Hispanic surnames. But voter registration in the heavily Republican North Texas counties of Denton and Collin outpaced new registration in the heavily Hispanic South Texas counties of Bexar, Cameron, El Paso, Hidalgo and Webb by almost 16,000.

The problem that I have with this analysis, which I’ve said before, is that there’s a large trove of already-registered Hispanic voters who generally don’t vote that Sanchez can and undoubtedly will try to tap into. In 1994 and 1998, between 450,000 and 470,000 turned out in the gubernatorial elections. This year the projection is 750,000 Hispanic voters. That’s still less than a 40% turnout among such voters.

By the way, the Chron article mentions 2.5 million registered voters with Hispanic surnames. The Borderland News article linked immediately above cites 1.95 million as of 2000. I point this out to note that even counting Hispanic voters can be a dicey proposition. The bottom line is that we’re all guessing. My guess, based on recent electoral history, is that Hispanics will turn out for and vote for Tony Sanchez. Whether it will be enough remains to be seen, but I’m confident it will be more than what’s been projected so far in the press.

The “experts” may even realize that they could be wrong:

[Jerry] Polinard [chairman of the political science department at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg] said that until early voting started, there hadn’t been much noticeable enthusiasm for the governor’s race, but that is beginning to change.

“Much of Sanchez’s strategy was that much of the heavy lifting would be below the radar,” he said. “We may not have as good a handle on this as we think.”

I’ll report from Sanchez’s Houston headquarters on Monday.

Prairie dog saga continues in Lubbock

Animal rights activists are protesting the city of Lubbock’s attempts to forcibly remove prairie dogs from a large site where wastewater is treated.

The controversy began in June, when the then-Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission cited the city of Lubbock for polluting the site with treated sewage the city sprays on crops.

The TNRCC, now titled the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, reported high concentrations of nitrates in monitoring wells in the area, indicating the sewage has permeated the soil and threatens the Ogallala Aquifer below.

That report — in a town where “Prairie Dog Pete” was once touted as Lubbock’s ambassador to the world, where “Peppy the Prairie Dog” was previously used by the TNRCC itself to promote recycling — at once made the little animal a villain and a cause célèbre.

The agency’s finding was nothing new. The land application site has been in violation before. The city has used the site since the 1930s, spraying as much as 8 million gallons of effluent daily on 3,000 of the 6,000 acres.


In their June report, however, TNRCC investigators added a new wrinkle: They blamed prairie dogs. The report mentioned the increasing numbers of the little animals that have moved into and flourished in the abundant rye grass that is fertilized with the effluent. That report postulated that water could be traveling down prairie dog holes, beneath the grass roots and closer to the aquifer.

Prairie dogs are not a protected species and the city immediately began considering gassing or poisoning the little rodents. Any immediate plans for mass extermination ended, however, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pointed out that migratory burrowing owls, a nationally protected species, use the prairie dog holes in the summer and fall and might be killed as well.

That prompted the city to move its extermination plans to winter, when the owls have departed.

See previous installments here and here. I guess Lubbock wasn’t all that serious about relocating the prairie dogs. Jack also picked up on this.

Still having hosting problems

I have heard from my web host that one of their servers (namely, the one that I’m hosted on) has been having sporadic problems running CGI scripts. This has the effect of causing “Internal Server Error” messages to pop up when you click on a Comment link, and it has the same effect when I try to log in to Movable Type. Hopefully, they will get this cleared up soon.

Vote early and often

I voted yesterday, making it to the polling place a few minutes before they were scheduled to shut down at 4:30. There were a few other voters there, including one that I overheard who had not used the eSlate machines before but seemed to like them. I didn’t quite go straight Dem – Jack Cato, the Republican county treasurer is an acquaintance of mine, so I generally vote for him. There was a minor constitutional amendment (our state constitution covers all sorts of esoterica) and an HISD school bond issue, both of which I voted for.

Tiffany voted today and reported a decent sized crowd – she was on line for about 15 minutes. The early voting site is a “multipurpose metropolitan center” with a fairly tiny parking lot. Usually, I just park across the street in the lot for a large and mostly underused strip center. Tiffany and others had to park there and cross the street in the rain because over a dozen canvassing candidates had camped out in the center’s lot. She was pretty cheesed about it. The security guard at the center chased a few of them off, but it didn’t make much difference.

It’s been rainy and miserable all week, so the fact that early turnout has been strong is a good sign. Stay tuned.

Hispanics and Kirk

Ron Kirk was in town again, this time at a campaign event designed to drum up Hispanic support.

In Houston, several Hispanic leaders turned out for the Kirk event at Don Carlo’s Restaurant near Hobby Airport with the same message: Hispanics should get to the polls and vote a straight Democratic ticket.

“The beauty of this ticket is, it’s Texas,” said [Rep. Ciro] Rodriguez, a San Antonio Democrat. He was referring to the “Dream Team” of Kirk, who is black; gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez, a Hispanic; and lieutenant governor candidate John Sharp, who is white.

I’ll be at the local Tony Sanchez headquarters on Monday calling voters. I plan on asking about pushing the other Democratic candidates as well. I’ll report back if there’s anything interesting.

Meanwhile, early voting continues to be strong in San Antonio. Via the newly permalink-enabled Tom Spencer.

Bad dog!

An English setter pup on a hunting trip stepped on a shotgun and shot his master in the ankle. Fortunately, the only serious injury suffered was to his dignity:

[Michael] Murray admits there is a certain amount of notoriety that goes along with getting shot by your dog.

“That’s the hard part, talking to people, because you feel like such a fool,” he said.

The day after the shooting, he and friends walked into a restaurant in the nearby town of Lemmon, S.D., population about 1,600.

“Everybody in town knew about it. As soon as I walked into the restaurant, they said, ‘You’re the one.’ ”

I’m reminded of a story that Jay Johnstone tells in his book Temporary Insanity. One day pitcher Dave Stewart was arrested in his car with a transvestite hooker who went by the name Lucille. Johnstone writes that the hard part for Stewart was facing his teammates after such an embarrassing incident. His teammates handled it with an appropriate level of tact and decorum: The next time Stewart entered the clubhouse, they serenaded him with a chorus of You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me, Lucille. I suppose Michael Murray can take comfort that at least so far he hasn’t had any musical accompaniment.

Political ad uses image of WTC

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith is airing an ad that uses an image of the World Trade Center as it burned following the September 11 terrorist attack.

San Antonio ad man Arthur Emerson, whose agency cut the commercial for Smith, defended the spot, which started airing earlier this week in San Antonio and Austin.

Emerson called the ad “tastefully done,” using a long shot of the twin towers that lasts for “only a couple of seconds.”

It tells voters that Smith has fought for beefed-up homeland security in the face of the country’s war against terrorism, Emerson said.

Smith is chairman of the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.

“It’s a hurtful tragedy that hit us,” said Emerson, of the Groves Rojas Emerson agency. “The commercial shows that we’re still standing (because) it shows the Empire State Building.”

Smith has come under criticism for the ad, but is unlikely to suffer any fallout from it as his district is solidly Republican. Without seeing the ad, I can’t say if he’s crossed any lines. I do think he’s living a little dangerously, since he could surely make the same points he wants to without using an image that will upset some unknown number of people. On the other hand, he’s also bought himself some free publicity. So who knows?

RIP, Paul Wellstone

MyDD pays tribute to Paul Wellstone in a fitting fashion by casting his vote today. I join him and many others in saluting a truly principled man who served his country with valor. Rest in peace, Senator.

Tis better to have linked and lost…

From TNR’s &c blog comes this story about race baiting in the Michigan governor’s race. TNR notes that the fairly nasty ad run by trailing Republican Dick Posthumus (ed. note: Oh, the juvenile humor potential in a name like “Dick Posthumus”. Good thing this is a Serious Blog.) has backfired, as polls have shown that Democrat Jennifer Granholm’s lead expanding to 14 points. Worse, even Republicans such as former Governor William Milliken have blasted Posthumus’ ad.

What caught my eye about all this was that &c used this link, to the Detroit News Politics Index page, as their link to the story of Milliken’s rebuke. Somewhat amusingly, the lead story on that page right now is this one, which shows that Posthumus is within 8 points of Granholm. Oops.

Never trust an index page when linking to a specific article.

(It should be noted that the more recent poll has a higher margin of error than the previous one, and that the difference appears to come entirely from undecided voters. There’s also not a lot of info in either poll about demographics, so as always take them with a grain of salt.)

One reason to root for Granholm to win, by the way: Ted Nugent says he’ll run against her in 2006. I can’t wait to hear him explain “Cat Scratch Fever” to an assembly of Republican women.

SNL and the Dead Parrot

Did you know that John Cleese and Michael Palin once did a guest shot on Saturday Night Live where they did the famous “Dead Parrot” sketch and apparently bombed? Mark Evanier has the details here (scroll down), here, and here.

An axis of one

Ginger has retired. Michael has always published infrequently. Ted went on hiatus Wednesday. Rob joined him yesterday.

If it makes anyone feel better, I’m not going anywhere.

Enjoy the break, but do hurry back, y’all. It’s lonely being an axis of one.

MasterCard Memorable Moments

Derek Zumsteg snarks all over the whole overblown Baseball’s Most Memorable Moments As Brought To You By MasterCard thing. I’m right there with him. What makes a moment memorable is what it meant to you at the time and what it still means to you years later. My most memorable basseball moment is probably watching Chris Chambliss hit a ninth-inning home run to win the 1976 pennant for the Yankees. It’s a pretty small moment compared to all of the Officially Sanctioned Memorable Moments, but I can still see it in my mind. I can still hear Bill White’s “Deep to right! That ball is GONE!”. I was ten years old and I’d never been more excited.

There have been a lot of wonderful moments in baseball since then, some of which were Officially Commemorated. None of them gave me the same thrill as Chambliss’ home run. My memories don’t need a corporate sugar daddy.