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November, 2002:

Another one

One more blog that I meant to add to the blogroll yesterday but forgot: Paul Frankenstein. Too much tryptophan, I guess. Anyway, it’s there now.

The Junction Boys

Having watched my recommended daily allowance of football over the T-Day weekend, I’ve seen approximately 1,539 promos for the ESPN movie The Junction Boys, about how Legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant took a buncha Aggie boys out to Junction, TX and whupped their butts in the summer heat thus turning those who made it to the end into winners. One ESPN talking head mentioned how Bryant worked the players out for four hours in 102 degree heat and didn’t let them drink water.

Which made me wonder if the Bear would be quite so revered today if a couple of those boys had dropped dead from heat exhaustion. To be fair, the conventional wisdom in those days was to not drink water during workouts, but still. A little luck can go a long way sometimes.

Baseball still an Olympic sport

A decision on whether or not to drop baseball, softball, and the modern pentathlon from Olympic competition has been postponed until after the 2004 Games, thus ensuring that all three sports will continue through at least 2008. This is a good thing.

After 10-minute presentations to the assembly by leaders of the three endangered sports, dozens of rank-and-file IOC members took the floor to question the whole process and push for a postponement.

Of the 39 speakers, not a single one spoke in favor of the proposals to cut the sports.

”It is urgent to wait,” Senegalese member Youssoupha Ndiaye said in a statement that summed up much of the 2½-hour debate.

[IOC President Jacques Rogge, who pushed the reduction,] then conferred with his executive board and submitted a proposal to put off any deletion of sports until after Athens.

Of the 117 attending members, only two raised their hands against the postponement, while four abstained. On a separate motion, the members approved the ”general principles” of the IOC’s review of the sports program.

The last sport dropped from the Summer Olympics was polo in 1936, and IOC members made clear they had no desire for radical change now.

The IOC program commission recommended in August that the three sports be cut from the Beijing Olympics. The report cited lack of global popularity, high venue costs and, in the case of baseball, the absence of top major league players.

I can’t speak for softball and the pentathlon, but baseball is played professionally on at least four continents. That seems pretty global to me.

All three sports have hopes now that this issue has gone away. In the case of baseball, there’s an obvious step that can be taken to ensure its continued inclusion:

Baseball federation chief Aldo Notari of Italy noted that he had proposed reducing the Olympic tournament from 11 days to five days, a move which would improve the chances of major-leaguers taking part.

”The fact that the best athletes are not included in the games — this definitely will be solved by Beijing,” he insisted.

Removing his sport from the Olympics would be ”the end of baseball as a world sport,” Notari said.

Israeli member Alex Gilady criticized Major League Baseball for failing to release top players for the Olympics.

”Major League Baseball so far is part of the problem and not part of the solution,” he said. ”If the Olympics is so important to them, they can show us.”

If they really do reduce the tournament from 11 days to five, then there’s an answer that’s so perfect it’s sure to never occur to Beelzebud and his merry band: Eliminate the All-Star Game in Olympic years and send a real All Star team to the Games.

If there’s one thing we learned in the 2002 season, it’s that the All-Star Game really does mean nothing. I haven’t watched it in years. I would definitely tune in to the Olympics to see MLB’s best play for their home countries. With so many talented players coming from various Latin American nations, there’d be no guarantee of a US win, either. Major League Baseball and the Games would both benefit in the TV ratings.

The logistics can be made to work. The All-Star break is three days. Extend it to a week to allow for travel and the five day Olympic tournament. The time can be made up by scheduling a few doubleheaders or (heaven forfend) reducing the schedule back to 154 games. The Olympics occur later in the year than the All-Star Game usually does, but they still occur during the summer, before pennant races have really kicked in.

This is such a win-win. It needs to happen.

Blogrolling and cocooning

Added some new blogs, removed a couple of others. Some new blogs were added because I saw them in my referral log and liked what they had to say, others came via the recommendation of other bloggers. See? The system works.

On the subject of cocooning, by my count 24 of my links are to libertarian and right-leaning blogs. Let’s hear no more talk about that, OK? To be fair, my experience with non-lefty bloggers is quite different from Alex’s in that 17 of those bloggers also link to me; in many cases, they linked to me first.

Anway, please welcome the following and give ’em a click:

Blue Streak
DC Thornton
Free Pie
Mad Kane
Plum Crazy
Sisyphus Shrugged

Building a better blog

Larry has some great advice for bloggers concerning site design and generating traffic to your blog. I recommend them both.

The issue of generating blog traffic has occasionally been dicey. Just before I moved from Blogspot to this site I got spammed a couple of times by a new blogger who sent messages to a bunch of people, including big names like Mickey Kaus and Josh Marshall, announcing his blog. I checked it out and might have given him a mention as a fellow progressive if he’d had a link to me on his site. That peeved me, and I wrote a snarky post lampooning him for it. Immature, I know, but it felt good at the time.

After I got permalinked on TAPPED, I received some more mail like that. I checked out each link, was generally unimpressed, and chose not to respond. Unsolicited email could work, especially if you’re asking for feedback on a specific post, but really, if you want someone’s attention it just seems like the polite thing to do to give some attention (a link, a comment, a response to a post) first. The other way just seems lazy and impudent to me.

(I swear, every time I think about this subject, I sound like a Walter Matthau character: “You new bloggers don’t know what it was like getting traffic in the old days! All we had was Blogdex and referral logs! We considered ourselves lucky if our parents and spouses read our blogs! And we liked it that way!”)

(Ahem. Go read Larry’s posts. I’ll be over here in the corner talking back to the television.)

You’re still free to be stupid

Another appallingly stupid op-ed piece in today’s Chron. The author, a professor of history at Tomball College named Tom Lovell, really needs to get out more.

SOME years back, a Rice grad invited me to an Owls home football game. As we awaited the kickoff, the public address announcer — the affable keeper of the Rice flame, Fred Duckett — intoned the familiar pre-game admonition cautioning fans against drinking in the stands. But, to my astonishment, Duckett saw fit to include two additional transgressions against public order and decorum, which, if undertaken, apparently could lead to the guilty party’s removal from the stadium. As I recall, the two newly minted offenses were “the use of sexist and racist language.”

I immediately felt vulnerable. Only minutes before I had groused — out loud, no less — about the unseemliness of the numerous young women assistant trainers I spotted on the Rice bench. My old-fashioned unease over dressing-room privacy, it appears, was overheard. What looked to be a well-coiffed Rice faculty wife sitting to my front abruptly turned on me with a menacing glare. Would she now, I wondered, hand me over to the nearest usher?

Doesn’t your heart just break for the guy? Imagine the burden he must have felt, not being able to make sexist remarks in public without being made to feel like a bad person. Where’s Miss Manners when you really need her? Oh, wait, Miss Manners would not side with the professor on this one.

To the best of my knowledge, by the way, the injunction against “the use of sexist and racist language” came from the NCAA, not from Rice. I can’t find a citation for this, so I may be wrong. In any event, it wasn’t put in place to make a stuffy old professor keep his comments about girls to himself. It was put in place to keep spectators from shouting racial epithets at the players. Given that Rice markets its athletic events as family-friendly, it’s not hard to see why they might want to do so.

The object of the professor’s wrath was the recent incident in which head coach Ken Hatfield was quoted by the Chronicle of Higher Education saying that he’d consider removing an openly homosexual player from the team. Reaction from Rice President Malcolm Gillis was swift, prompting Hatfield to write a letter to the CHE stating his support for Rice’s nondiscriminatory policies and to issue an apology to the campus.

All this has the good professor in quite a tizzy:

Rice’s student leftists and administrative apparatchiks — bent as they are on turning Houston’s academic Jewel in the Crown into the People’s Republic of South Main — won’t let the matter die a quiet death. They demand even greater dollops of contrition from the humbled coach.

Those at Rice who don’t adhere to the leftist party line, so dominant in American higher education, are targeted for abusive public pillory. In the China of Mao Zedong the target was intellectuals, former landowners and merchants and their descendants. On Rice’s campus those singled out for public opprobrium, it seems, are conservatives, and Christian conservatives in particular, at least those with the courage to speak their minds in the public square.

This tawdry attack on Hatfield raises yet again the question of what has happened to the freewheeling exchange of ideas that not all that many years ago echoed through the halls of American higher education?

There are three points that need to be addressed here.

1. The right to one’s opinion does not include the right to countermand one’s employer’s official policies. The large multinational corporation that I work for has very explicit nondiscrimination rules, including one that covers sexual orientation. Whatever I might think about gays in the privacy of my home, if I were to be quoted in a national publication saying that I’d fire any homosexuals who worked for me, I’d expect to get a call from the HR department telling me otherwise. If I didn’t like it, I’d be free to find employment elsewhere. And I assure you, the company I work for is nobody’s idea of a hotbed of leftists and apparatchiks.

2. The right to speak one’s mind does not include the right to be free from harsh criticism for doing so. Isn’t that what a “freewheeling exchange of ideas” is all about? I guess the professor is more interested in ideas that he happens to agree with.

3. I’m a fan of Rice sports. I think Ken Hatfield is the best coach Rice has had since Jess Neely. I want to see him coach at Rice for as long as he wants to. I join many other Rice fans in admiring Hatfield for how he goes about his job. He’s a winner with high standards who puts academics first. His honesty and integrity is beyond reproach. Many people, in rising to Hatfield’s defense after his remarks were published, noted Hatfield’s deeply held principles.

That’s all fine and good, but let’s not forget that strong principles are not a virtue unless the principles themselves are worthy of praise. As Jonah Goldberg noted in a column written after the memorial service for Sen. Paul Wellstone, another man lauded for deeply held principles

Everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, say that Wellstone’s most-admirable quality was that he was a tireless worker for what he believed in. That’s fine. Doggedness and determination are wonderful things when in the pursuit of the noble and good. But, it should be remembered that doggedness and determination alone aren’t necessarily admirable qualities. Serial killers and murderous dictators are also dogged in their determination to see their wills done. Hitler prioritized trainloads of Jews bound for death camps ahead of needed trainloads of war materiel bound for the front in his dogged pursuit of what he considered to be right. Saddam Hussein chooses not to feed his people and risk war thanks to his willingness to stick to his convictions.

Now, it would be wrong to compare Paul Wellstone to Hitler or Hussein and I am not doing that. What I am doing is pointing out that conviction without a moral context or motor is merely a white-knuckled grip on an idea without paying heed to what you grip or why. After all, grabbing a sword by the handle is wise, grabbing it by the blade is folly, and normally we do not think the fingerless fool is as proficient as the swordsman and we do not judge the man who uses the sword for murder to be as good as the man who uses the sword to prevent it.

The same is true here. I join with the Rice students and faculty in saying that Hatfield’s deeply held principles about homosexuality are wrong. He’s still entitled to hold those principles, of course, and within the bounds of his employee handbook he’s entitled to try to convince others that he’s right to think that way. My personal evaluation of Ken Hatfield as a good coach and an honorable person is in spite of this particular belief, not because of it.

Buy Nothing Day

I’ve seen a couple of exhortations to observe Buy Nothing Day. I’m not impressed. The idea of picking one day to change one’s behavior may have pop culture appeal, but like the Great American Gas Out it will accomplish nothing outside of some publicity for the organizers. After all, if everyone spends the same total amount on Christmas presents that they have in years past, the net effect will be the same. The impact of not shopping today, if it’s even enough to be measured, will be nil.

I don’t have any beef with the idea of making Christmas less consumer oriented. I’m just saying that it takes year-round behavior modification, not a one-day gesture.

For what it’s worth, early indicators are good for merchants. Their allure is insidious and hard to resist, after all:

If markdowns and staying open for 24 hours are not enough, Abercrombie & Fitch Co., the teen-oriented apparel retailer famous for its risque catalogs, hired scantily-clad greeters at their stores.

Now maybe if the Buy Nothing folks made like PETA and hired some naked celebrities

High-roast turkey and other helpful hints

Tiffany subscribes to Cook’s Illustrated, a fascinating magazine even for a non-chef like me. One part chef school, one part science lab, one part Consumer Reports, the magazine is all about finding the best way to do something by trial-and-error experimentation. If you ever want to know why a particular recipe calls for a certain ingredient or technique, this is the magazine for you.

Here’s an example of their methodology as they answer the question “How can we cook a turkey in less than two hours?” Includes a full recipe for turkey, stuffing, and gravy, with illustrations in a separate PDF file.

They also have a complete guide to Thanksgiving cooking which requires registration. If you’re more interested in what you don’t have to cook, check out this report on precooked turkeys and store-bought items like gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Negative advertising works

Everyone who paid attention agrees that the Texas Governor’s race was very negative this year. A new poll suggests that Tony Sanchez got the brunt of the fallout from that:

On a scale of one to five with five being the most favorable, Perry’s average favorability rating among those blaming him for the negative campaign was 2.53, while Perry’s rating among those blaming Sanchez was 4.25.

In contrast, the average rating of Sanchez among those who blamed him for the negative campaign was 1.54 while Sanchez’s rating was 3.6 among those who blamed Perry for the negative campaign. Among those blaming both candidates equally, the average favorability rating for Sanchez was 2.65 while Perry’s average rating was 2.94.

Make of that what you will. It’d be interesting to see the numbers broken down by party as well – I suspect Republicans gave Sanchez low ratings whether they thought he was more negative or not, and the same is true for Dems and Perry. Nonetheless, this is something to file away for future reference.

Live Nude Ghouls

Via Greg Wythe comes this hilarious story from the NY Post, that bastion of Murdochian righteousness in the Big Apple:

The staff of the Liquid Assets lounge in South Plainfield says a gaggle of go-go loving ghouls invaded their burlesque hall after the club’s owners spotted an otherworldly image on a security video last summer.

The ghostly visages, which look like specks of light dragging pale wispy tails across the screen, are not birds or video glitches – and they can’t be explained by the company that installed the equipment.

Paranormal investigators who have examined the video claim the strip-house specters may be the spirit of a dead dancer or the souls of Prohibition-era gangsters.

“I’ve been in the field for 20 years now and this is to me without a doubt a ghost,” said self-described “ghostbuster” Jane Doherty. “The way it’s moving clearly shows it has a consciousness.”

This go-go ghost story goes beyond just the images on the tape.

Doherty said she’s felt one of the spirits hanging out in the club’s “Champagne Room,” peeping on people getting lap dances

I can just hear John Edward explain this to his wife: “No, really, honey, those lap dances were for reseach purposes!”

Turducken goes mainstream

Today’s Chron has this NYT wire story about the history of turducken, the chicken-in-a-duck-in-a-turkey confabulation that Paul Prudhomme claims to have invented. It’s a pretty good overview, with some history of stuffing one type of food into another, and they only get precious about quaint Southern folks at the very end. Good thing I just ate lunch, or I’d be hungry about now.

Department of “Duh!”

Botox injections have been linked to Immobile Eyebrow Syndrome:

In the new study, published last week in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, researchers from the Indiana University Medical Center examined 29 patients who had received Botox injections in their foreheads.

The research found that the shots did not change the resting position of the eyebrows except in a few patients who habitually kept them raised.

But in almost all the patients, eyebrow movement was limited by the shots, said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Mimi S. Kokoska. While the restrictions were less than half an inch, that can be enough to limit expression and to change the appearance of the brow, making it seem flatter or “droopier,” she said.

You mean there might be unpleasant side effects resulting from injecting poison into your face? Whoda thunk it?

Well hey, if those eyebrows become a problem, there are solutions available if you want them.

Blogosphere Navel Gazing: Electric Boogaloo

I’ve tried, I really have, to give a rat’s ass about the latest controversy surrounding Little Green Footballs, but I just can’t quite bring myself to do it. It’s so much ado over nothing at all. So naturally, I’m going to write about it.

LGF is on my blogroll. I don’t read it much any more, but it’s there. LGF added me to its link list a long time ago, and I’ve gotten a steady amount of traffic from that ever since. If all this makes me a bad person, then so be it. The Rittenhouse Review didn’t link to me before their new policy was instituted anyway.

I link to and regularly read a lot more left-leaning and centrist sites than right-leaning ones. I like what they have to say, and I feel solidarity with kindred spirits. I read a few right-leaning and libertarian blogs (there are only so many hours in the day, after all). If you think I’m cocooning or insulating myself, well, you’re entitled to your opinion. Go write a blog entry about it, maybe some day I’ll read it.

If you do feel the need to write about any of this, try not to be pompous and overbearing, even if you make up for some of it with unintentional comedy:

When I took a look at what sites were actually listed there, most of the ones I recognized are best described as “the usual suspects”, and there was a clear ideological similarity to them. Any site which links approvingly to Warblogger Watch, This Modern World, Ted Barlow, Tapped, Sullywatch, Shadow of the Hegemon, Smirking Chimp, Media Whores, Eschaton, and Counterspin Central is applying a distinct filter to the choices. (Which is RR’s privilege, of course.) I also found links to Brian Linse, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (and Teresa), and Avedon Carol, none of which do I consider extremist voices.

Emphasis mine. I don’t know if Ted’s reading blogs during his hiatus, but if so I hope this gives him a chuckle. Assuming, of course, that an extremist such as he is capable of expressing humor. (Rubbing your hands together while cackling doesn’t count.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. It’s my blogroll and I’ll link who I want to. Link or link not, there is no “symbolic gesture”. If this discussion is in any way responsible for the Nic Cage-Lisa Marie Presley divorce, then the terrorists have already won.

T-Day in Texas

Scott Chaffin shares some Thanksgiving memories of his grandmother. Check it out.

David Rushing update

Well, the good news is that the Chron finally addressed the David Rushing issue. The bad news is that they did so in a completely candy-assed way.

What they did was print three letters to the editor which one assumes are supposed to give some “balance” to Rushing’s viewpoint. The letters themselves…well, see for yourself. Here’s Letter Number One:

Old politics won’t work

Regarding David Rushing’s Nov. 19 Outlook article, “Political Poison: How John Sharp killed the Texas Democratic Party”: Rushing must not have been paying attention during the last election because Ron Kirk and Tony Sanchez won their primaries.

Does he prefer a return to the old “Dixiecrat” Party of George Wallace, where only white Protestant males need apply? This thinly veiled racist appeal to the politics of old just won’t work. Here’s a novel approach: Why not change the message?

The concerns of conservative and moderate Democrats have been ignored and replaced by those of the radical left. It’s small wonder the Republicans continue to gain more votes in Texas.

David R. Martinez, Houston

Does anyone understand the point this guy is trying to make? He starts off disputing Rushing’s thesis, then he recapitulates it. And what’s up with this assertion that the state Democratic Party has been taken over by “the radical left”? Anyone who thinks John Sharp and Ron Kirk are radical anything probably thinks Tom DeLay is a mainstream moderate.

Moving on to Letter Number Two:

Not over white voters

David Rushing is misguided if he thinks Texas Democrats failed because they lost white voters. Remember college history: In wartime, a president’s party usually wins most elections. Saying that Texans will not support an inclusive party makes them appear racist.

Michael Whitlock, Stafford

Unfortunately, the Democrats did fail with white voters, and this was a major factor, probably the biggest factor, in their defeat. Only Sharp drew better than 30% of the Anglo vote. Back in March, after the primaries, the hope was that they could get at least 35% of the Anglo vote – they needed that much to be competitive. 35% of the white vote would probably have carried Ron Kirk to victory, and would have made the Sanchez-Perry race much closer.

There’s no question that the ticket did poorly with white voters. It was not, as Rushing contended, because the Democrats were “openly hostile” towards them. You can’t counter one wrong fact with another and hope to win the argument.

On to Letter Number Three:

His bias was obvious

When I looked up David Rushing’s credentials, I learned he is a long-time member of the Young Conservatives of Texas and that this organization is powerful in state universities and very influential with Gov. Rick Perry.

How many people read Rushing’s article and thought it was unbiased?

Geraldine Allen, Sugar Land

Finally, the crux of the matter – the fact that Rushing attempted to pass himself off as impartial or possibly sympathetic to the Democrats. He deliberately misrepresented himself in his byline, and in doing so gave a distorted picture of his perspective. This is the only letter that really matters, and it gets printed last. Jeebus.

It’s stuff like this that makes people across the political spectrum dislike and distrust our hometown paper.

Phone company is evil: Film at 11

I’m shocked, shocked to report that Southwestern Bell is being accused of stifling competition:

Ten companies are accusing SBC Southwestern Bell of putting up roadblocks to thwart competition.

In a complaint filed with the Texas Public Utility Commission, they claim the regional Bell has rejected a higher-than-usual number of orders for access to its network since October.

As a result, the companies contend they have been unable to provide timely and cost-competitive service to some customers who want high-capacity T1 lines for voice and data products, a market historically dominated by Southwestern Bell, the complaint says.

I have no trouble believing that Southwestern Bell is up to no good. The reason why I’m on a cable modem today is because SBC had never gotten around to wiring my two-miles-from-downtown neighborhood for DSL. If there’s a glut in the broadband market, it hasn’t affected me.

Another Enron guilty plea

A former Enron employee named Lawrence Lawyer has pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges stemming from his involvement with Michael Kopper in fradulent business deals.

Lawyer, a 34-year-old banker, admitted before Houston-based U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt that he failed to report to the Internal Revenue Service $79,469 in income he received from former Enron executive Michael Kopper between 1997 and 2000.

The money was paid to Lawyer for his work on a partnership called RADR, one of several controversial side deals at Enron.

Lawyer, who will cooperate with federal officials, is the third person to plead guilty in an Enron-related case. Charges are pending against four others, including former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow, who faces 78 criminal counts.

The story goes on to describe how RADR, which was basically a scheme to transfer money from one pocket to another and call it “income”, operated. Let’s hope this is another brick in the eventual cases against Fastow, Skilling, and Lay.

Voices from the past

From an op-ed in the Chron, overlooked by me but spotted by the permalinkless Blah3 (it’s the first entry for November 26, scroll down a bit) and written by a member of that notorious liberal cabal the Heritage Foundation:

There was a time when at least one senior Bush administration official thought the [Freedom of Information Act] essential because “no matter what party has held the political power of government, there have been attempts to cover up mistakes and errors.” That same official added that “disclosure of government information is particularly important today because government is becoming involved in more and more aspects of every citizen’s personal and business life, and so access to information about how government is exercising its trust becomes increasingly important.”

So spoke a young Illinois Republican congressman named Donald Rumsfeld, in a floor speech on June 20, 1966, advocating passage of the FOIA, of which he was a co-sponsor.

And then there’s this gem, written by Senator John Ashcroft and spotted by Tom Tomorrow:

There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?

The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state’s interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens’ Bill of Rights.

Boy, those were the days, weren’t they?

Quixotic Quest Dept.

Four defeated state candidates in Texas are filing suit against the Texas Association of Business, claiming that money that the TAB spent in the campaigns constituted direct contributions, which are illegal under state law.

Okay, this is a little complicated. Let’s start with the story:

The TAB, in what it recently bragged was an “unprecedented show of muscle,” targeted 22 hotly contested races for the Texas House and two for the state Senate. Candidates supported by the group won 18 of the House races and one of the crucial Senate contests.

Overall, 100 of 104 House candidates and 22 of 23 Senate candidates endorsed by TAB’s political action committee won in an election that saw Republicans capture a majority of the House for the first time in 130 years.

TAB spent $2 million in the most competitive races. Only $100,000 of that amount came from its political action committee, which publicly identifies contributors.

The remainder was in direct corporate contributions for so-called issue advertising, which criticized the candidates it was trying to defeat but didn’t specifically tell voters how to cast their ballots. TAB contends the sources of those contributions are not subject to public disclosure.

State law prohibits direct corporate contributions to political races. But TAB believes it successfully skirted that ban by buying the issue ads.

In two separate lawsuits filed in state district court in Austin, the four defeated Democrats contend the corporate expenditures were illegal.

If I’m understanding this correctly, the plaintiffs are saying that TAB’s purchase of the “issues ads” is a direct contribution, and TAB says it isn’t.

Here’s what I think is the relevant law from the state elections code. I Am Not A Lawyer, so make of it what you will:

§ 253.091. Corporations Covered

This subchapter applies only to corporations that are organized under the Texas Business Corporation Act, the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act, federal law, or law of another state or nation.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.092. Treatment of Incorporated Political Committee

If a political committee the only principal purpose of which is accepting political contributions and making political expenditures incorporates for liability purposes only, the committee is not considered to be a corporation for purposes of this subchapter.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.093. Certain Associations Covered

(a) For purposes of this subchapter, the following associations, whether incorporated or not, are considered to be corporations covered by this subchapter: banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations or companies, insurance companies, reciprocal or interinsurance exchanges, railroad companies, cemetery companies, government-regulated cooperatives, stock companies, and abstract and title insurance companies.

(b) For purposes of this subchapter, the members of the associations specified by Subsection (a) are considered to be stockholders.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.094. Contributions and Expenditures Prohibited

(a) A corporation or labor organization may not make a political contribution or political expenditure that is not authorized by this subchapter.

(b) A corporation or labor organization may not make a political contribution or political expenditure in connection with a recall election, including the circulation and submission of a petition to call an election.

(c) A person who violates this section commits an offense. An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.095. Punishment of Agent

An officer, director, or other agent of a corporation or labor organization who commits an offense under this subchapter is punishable for the grade of offense applicable to the corporation or labor organization.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.096. Contribution on Measure

A corporation or labor organization may make campaign contributions from its own property in connection with an election on a measure only to a political committee for supporting or opposing measures exclusively.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.097. Direct Expenditure on Measure

A corporation or labor organization not acting in concert with another person may make one or more direct campaign expenditures from its own property in connection with an election on a measure if the corporation or labor organization makes the expenditures in accordance with Section 253.061 or 253.062 as if the corporation or labor organization were an individual.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Sections 253.061 and and 253.062 cover contributions by individuals:

§ 253.061. Direct Expenditure of $100 or Less

Except as otherwise provided by law, an individual not acting in concert with another person may make one or more direct campaign expenditures in an election from the individual’s own property if:

(1) the total expenditures on any one or more candidates or measures do not exceed $100; and

(2) the individual receives no reimbursement for the expenditures.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 864, § 243, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

§ 253.062. Direct Expenditure Exceeding $100

(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, an individual not acting in concert with another person may make one or more direct campaign expenditures in an election from the individual’s own property that exceed $100 on any one or more candidates or measures if:

(1) the individual complies with Chapter 254 as if the individual were a campaign treasurer of a political committee; and

(2) the individual receives no reimbursement for the expenditures.

(b) An individual making expenditures under this section is not required to file a campaign treasurer appointment.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 864, § 244, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

If you understand all that, you’re a) a lawyer, b) smarter than me, or c) both. If so, feel free to enlighten me in the comments.

My ignorance of the legal nuances aside, I think there’s a better chance that I’ll be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys on Turkey Day than any relief being given to the plaintiffs in this suit. It’s pie-in-the-sky, it goes against the state’s unofficial motto (“Creating a Friendly Climate for Bidness Since We Kicked Santa Anna’s Ass All Them Years Ago”), and the state Supreme Court is full of Republicans who live on campaign contributions. It’s just not gonna happen.

But hey, as long as we’re dreaming, here’s what I’d like to see happen. I’ve seen this suggestion before, including in the blogosphere (can’t remember where, unfortunately), and I think it has merit: Let everyone contribute as much as they want, but all funds go into a blind trust and then dispersed anonymously to the candidates. If candidates don’t know who’s giving them the quid, they will have less incentive to give back the pro quo.

There are two main flaws with this approach – it requires a bureaucracy to handle the money, and politicians are never going to be truly in the dark about who their biggest supporters are. I don’t think the first objection is that big a deal. As for the second, I refuse to let the perfect kill the good.

That doesn’t address the “issues ads” that the plaintiffs in this suit are complaining about. I can’t think of any way to restrict them that doesn’t cause First Amendment concerns, so what I’d like to see is more stringent disclosure laws. If the Citizens For A Better Tomorrow want to run an ad asking why Candidate Johnson hates America, puppies, and motherhood, I think the ad should be proceeded by giving the contact information for CFABT, to wit

“The following ad was paid for by Citizens For A Better Tomorrow, PO Box 666, Boston, MA, 02134, 617-555-1234,, Jerome Horwitz (President)”

In addition, all officers of CFABT and everyone who contributes above a certain level (say $100) should be publicly available.

Like I said, all that is for the perfect world that I hope to live in some day. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep an eye on this case, but I fully expect it to go nowhere.

Budget projections

This is going to be such a fun year for the State Lege. The Legislative Budget Board can’t even agree on projections for state economic growth and its implications for next year’s budget:

In a battle portending more to come, legislative budget leaders Monday narrowly fended off a conservative move to severely limit state spending in the next two years.

Instead, the Legislative Budget Board set a spending ceiling of $54.9 billion for the 2004-2005 budget, enough to maintain existing government services at current levels.

The board, in its most spirited debate in years over setting a spending cap, sided with Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander’s projection that Texas’ economy will grow nearly 11.8 percent during the next budget cycle.

“I think it was quite significant. Usually the Legislative Budget Board rubber stamps the number unanimously,” said board member Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville.

“We were expecting a fight today,” he added. “We were expecting a close vote, and we were right.

Three Republican legislators argued that growth is more likely to be 7.8% and that the budget ceiling should be set lower as a result. (Annoyingly, the article doesn’t specify what the lower ceiling would have been if they had gotten their way.)

I have to say, I think the pessimists have the better argument. I just don’t believe that 11.8% growth next year is realistic. Maybe it’s that I’m feeling gloomy about the state of the ecomony overall and the wave of cutbacks, layoffs, and pullouts going on here, I don’t know. I sure hope the pessimists and I are wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it just yet.

Despite that, I think the Board was right not to force cuts in existing services by imposing a lower budget cap. I think Ron Wilson gets it right:

“We’ve got a ceiling here at the Capitol. Am I going to jump high enough to touch it? No, but it’s there,” Wilson said. “If you have to estimate a ceiling, I’d rather estimate a ceiling that gives us room than one that does not.”

When Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander gives her report on revenue in January, then it would be appropriate to revisit this issue. I’ve criticized Rylander before for her rosy deficit projections, but by January she should be in a put-up-or-shut-up position.

(It should also be noted that the main critics of Rylander’s projections in that earlier post I just cited are from the University of North Texas, the same place that gave the lowball 7.8% growth estimate. Guess if I lived in Denton, I’d be a sourpuss, too. Anyway, at least they’re consistent.)

David Rushing update

No correction or letters-to-the-editor printed in the Chron as of today regarding David Rushing. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

On a slightly egotistical note, this site is higher result in a Google search for “David Rushing” than any of his Houston Review articles. That oughta frost him.

Need some help with your Christmas list?

Get ready, there’s gonna be another online auction of Enron memorabilia, from December 3-5:

A sleek black Lincoln Navigator that transported former Enron Corp. chairman Kenneth Lay a few blocks to Dynegy Inc. about a year ago to announce the companies’ doomed merger needs a new home.

The 1999 sport-utility vehicle is among thousands of surplus Enron belongings to be sold at a three-day auction next week in the bankrupt company’s continued efforts to raise money for creditors.

“That hauled Lay around a lot,” Enron spokesman Mark Palmer said Monday, pointing at the SUV parked outside a Houston warehouse stocked with goods to be sold Dec. 3-5.

A total of 18 vehicles, mostly from the Enron Broadband unit, will be up for grabs along with a variety of crooked E’s and a couple of fancy-schmancy brass telescopes from the executive floor. But wait, there’s much more:

In a format similar to eBay, DoveBid will conduct a simultaneous online-only auction for more than 220,000 smaller, kitschy items that sport Enron’s logo.

Those items are left over from the defunct Enron Signature Shop, an online store for company employees.

[DoveBid auctioneer Renee] Jones said the sheer volume of T-shirts, tote bags, plastic mugs, stress balls, socks, jackets and other items was too much to include in a three-day live sale.

Such items were sold in bulk at the September auction, but the eBay-like format will allow bidders to buy single items.

Enron socks! I’ve gotta get me a pair of Enron socks.

Also, the online-only auction will feature Enron Field memorabilia, which wasn’t available in September.

That collection includes 500 small replicas of the Houston Astros ballpark before the team bought out Enron’s naming-rights contract in March.

Enron Field miniatures! Someone get me a paper bag, I’m hyperventilating over here. And it gets even better:

“If we get immediate payment, we will get it shipped in time for Christmas,” Jones said.

Get yer credit cards warmed up, kids. If this doesn’t solve your Christmas shopping needs, I just can’t help you.

David Rushing update

Yesterday, after Mark Yzaguirre tipped me off to David Rushing’s more accurate byline, I sent the following email to the Chron:

In Sunday’s edition, you printed an opinion piece called “How John Sharp Killed the Texas Democratic Party” ( The author is David Rushing, whose byline says “Rushing, a Houstonian, is a first-year law student at Southern Methodist University”. Are you aware that this same piece appears in the Houston Review, a publication that calls itself “an independent, conservative, student-run journal of news and opinion serving the Houston area”? Are you aware that David Rushing’s byline in the Review version of this piece lists him as ” a first year law student at Southern Methodist University and state Vice Chairman for Internal Affairs of the Young Conservatives of Texas”?

What I want to know is did you leave out this last bit of his bio, or did he? In either case, I believe a disservice was done to the readers. Knowing Rushing’s bias greatly changes one’s perception of this piece. I believe that a correction should be printed to this effect.

Thank you very much.

Today there was a message on my answering machine from David Langworthy, a member of the Chron‘s editorial board and the editor of the Outlook page. He told me that Rushing sent the piece to them with the shorter bio, and that the ed board was not very happy about it. He said they will print some sort of correction, possibly in the form of the letters they received (they got at least one more besides mine), and that there will probably be a piece that “balances” Rushing’s at some point as well. He thanked me for my “close reading” of the article. I thanked him for calling me and told him I appreciated his followup.

Interestingly, Langworthy mentioned that he wondered at first if Rushing was a really disguntled liberal or a conservative stirring things up. They decided to print his piece because they thought it would stimulate discussion. Looks like they got what they wanted.

Given the earlier example of less-than-forthright behavior by members of the Houston Review, I have to wonder why some of them feel the need to act this way. Maybe Bill Clinton broke their moral compasses, too.

Houston supports light rail

In theory, anyway, according to a poll taken by County Judge Robert Eckels. Eckels is no big fan of rail, but even when he tried to push the anti-rail viewpoint, the support was there:

The poll shows that 66 percent of Harris County voters support a regional light rail system, compared with 26 percent who oppose one.

The strongest proponents are those who live inside Loop 610, employed women and men under age 50.

More informative is Eckels’ attempt to test the strength of rail support.

Even after respondents were told that a rail system would be financed with money dedicated to roads and freeways, 52 percent supported rail compared to 40 percent who opposed it.

The rail survey has its flaws. Respondents included residents from throughout the county, a larger group than those inside the smaller Metro service area.

But Eckels is right when he concludes from the poll that “there is support for rail because there is frustration with our traffic congestion.”

“People want a solution, and they are willing to look at rail as a real option,” Eckels said.

As columnist Williams notes, this will not necessarily translate to success at the ballot box when the next referendum comes up. You can be sure that the anti-rail forces will be loud, well financed, and motivated to vote.

One thing that should be noted is that public transportation, in particular light rail, has support across the ideological spectrum. Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation is a big booster of light rail, for example. Given that the opposition to rail here is going to come almost exclusively from the right wing, perhaps proponents here ought to consider enlisting someone like Weyrich to help counter that.

Art Car Parade breaks with International Festival

The Houston Art Car Parade, the granddaddy of all Art Car Parades and one of the best reasons to be in Houston in the springtime, is severing its ties with the Houston International Festival, thus allowing it more freedom in scheduling and parade route. This is a good thing all around. If you live in Houston and you’ve never been to an Art Car Parade, you’re really missing out. It’s not just the amazing spectacle of the vehicles themselves (many entrants aren’t cars – there are trucks, motorcycles, and all sorts of homemade things which can’t be adequately characterized), it’s also the excellent people watching. Scroll through this page for a sampling. This page has more pictures and links of interest. Heck, just do a Google search on “Houston Art Car Parade” and you’ll have enough fun stuff to waste the rest of the day.

He works hard so I don’t have to

I have a lot of respect for people who can actually read something written by Michelle Malkin. Greg Beato has done so here, and the results are quite amusing. Check it out. Via Matt Welch.

I should note that my third blog entry ever, back before I figured out that you should have one post per topic, was in part about Michelle Malkin. I stated my theory that she’s actually the love child of Pat Buchanan and Ezola Foster. Now that I’m acquainted with the wisdom of Andrew Northrup, perhaps a better characterization is that she’s the poor man’s Ann Coulter. I suppose either one works.

(Secret message for Ginger: You should also read what Greg has to say about Pitchfork Media’s Top 100 albums of the 80s.)

Sometimes you’re not paranoid enough

While writing the article below critiquing David Rushing’s op-ed in today’s Chron, I was tempted to include a line saying something like “This article is so ridiculous and slanted, I’d almost swear it was written by a Republican posing as a Democrat”. I finally took it out because it just seemed too paranoid.

Well, shame on me. Reader Mark Yzaguirre wrote to tip me to the fact that this same piece appeared in the Houston Review, which according to its masthead is “an independent, conservative, student-run journal of news and opinion serving the Houston area.” The byline on Rushing’s piece here is slightly more informative – “David Rushing is a first year law student at Southern Methodist University and state Vice Chairman for Internal Affairs of the Young Conservatives of Texas”. Which leads me to wonder – did Rushing leave out that last bit when he submitted his piece to the Chron, or did the Chron‘s op-ed page editor excise it? And whichever is the case, why?

On a slightly odd side note, some time after I started writing this weblog I began receiving mail from the affiliated Austin Review at my work address. I have no idea how they found me (especially since my work address has never appeared on this site or my old Blogspot site) or why they thought I’d be a receptive audience. Very strange.

UPDATE: Kevin reminds me in the comments that the Houston Review has a colorful history.

RIP, Little Hipps

I hate stories like this:


After satisfying San Antonio’s need for grease for 42 years, the last Little Hipps hamburger was flipped Friday.

The burger stand, in a tiny converted gas station just north of downtown, has fed hundreds of thousands of people since it opened in 1960.

The owner, Dick Hipp, is in failing health and made the decision to shut down the joint, even though hundreds still flocked there daily.

“He wants to go out on top,” manager Tim Lang told the San Antonio Express-News. “He had the best burgers, the best place. He did it his way.”

It’s been a common sight to see crowds stretched outside the bright orange, corrugated metal building on McCullough Avenue. After all, the dimly lit dining room officially holds 86 customers — and that’s if one sits in an old-fashioned barber chair.

Little Hipps is known for its mega-size burgers, wonderfully crispy tater tots and Shypoke Eggs, a creation of Hipp’s father, Loyal D. Hipp, who died last year.

Sold by the half-dozen, Shypoke Eggs, a staple at A Night In Old San Antonio, are nachos made to look like sunny side-up eggs, with white and yellow cheese.

Many of the employees at Little Hipps have been there for more than a decade and know customers by name and what they want to eat without asking.

Helen Aleman, 66, walks the two blocks from her home to the restaurant, where she’s worked as a hostess since 1989.

“It’s very sad. It’s like my second home,” she said last week before the final day. “I’m broken-hearted. I’ve been crying for a solid week.”

Little Hipps insiders say Dick Hipp is not interested in selling the business. No one seems to know what will happen to the building, which sits on a prime piece of real estate near the downtown medical center.

Andrew Weissman, chef and owner of the swank restaurant Le Rêve, said he stopped at Little Hipps on Wednesday with an offer to buy the stand.

“I went over there and asked them if they’d be willing to sell it to me. I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Weissman, who has eaten at Little Hipps since he was a child.

“I’ve been going there forever. That’s the kind of food I love to eat when I’m not working,” he said. “It’s very simple, straight-forward, honest food. You get total bang for your buck.”

My college roommates and I lived in an old house on McCullough that was easy staggering distance from Little Hipps from the summer of 1988 to 1989. I was there for the summer, before I came to Houston. I visited often the following year. Little Hipps was our usual spot for Happy Hour. At least there’s still Chris Madrid’s…

Here’s the story in the Express News, basically the same thing with a couple of pictures. So long, old friend.

Race, politics, and stupidity

When I saw the above-the-fold headline in the Sunday op-ed section entitled How John Sharp Killed the Texas Democratic Party, I expected a discussion of things like how all three top ticket candidates ran as Rpublican Lites, how Sharp kept the national Democratic Party at arm’s length, even how Sharp put all of the party’s eggs in the Tony Sanchez basket without giving him a sufficient checking out, but I got none of that. What I got from author David Rushing, listed as a “Houstonian and first-year law student at SMU”, was a bizarre diatribe about racial politics. After reading it I have to wonder which campaign this guy was actually watching.

First, let’s deal with a few fuzzy facts:

The problem for Sharp and Texas Democrats is that the Democratic Party has wedded itself to racial preferences, a practice that Sharp highlighted by his brazen endorsement of racial preferences for the top three seats. This iron-clad commitment to racial quotas was reinforced when Sharp and Sanchez both backed Kirk against Victor Morales in the Democratic Party run-off for nomination to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Phil Gramm in order to ensure a black on the top of the ticket. (Victor) Morales, the Democrats’ 1996 nominee against Gramm, won a higher percentage of the general election vote in 1996 than Kirk did in 2002 against the less-formidable John Cornyn.

Unfortunately, the Election Returns page on the Secretary of State website is acting wonky, so I can’t get the exact numbers right now. Victor Morales got 44% of the vote, about what Kirk got. Morales was likely helped by the Presidential election that year – he got roughly the same number of votes as Bill Clinton did. Kirk had a popular President from Texas actively campaigning against him.

What’s so wrong with the idea that Ron Kirk was the better, more qualified candidate? He had a bipartisan record of success as mayor of Dallas. Victor Morales had one quirky run for office that generated a lot of favorable publicity for its novelty. He was never elected to anything, having failed in a similar campaign for the 5th Congressional District in 1998. Kirk was a good candidate with a shot at winning. Morales was a one-trick pony whose time had passed.

The choice of Tony Sanchez in particular killed Sharp and the Democrats. There was another Hispanic available, and running hard, for the Democratic nomination. And if Dan Morales (no relation to Victor), a highly qualified, experienced Hispanic with a history of opposition to racial preferences had been the Democratic nominee, the entire fall campaign could have gone differently. The party would have taken down the “No Anglos” sign by publicly repudiating its most divisive policy position. Instead, the Democrats amplified their allegiance to racial preferences.

This is just plain inaccurate. Dan Morales filed for the governor’s race at the last minute. Speculation had been that he’d try for Senate up until then. This is not “running hard” for the nomination. Morales barely spent any money during the primary, probably in part because all the support had already lined up behind Sanchez, whose commitment to the candidacy had been known for months, and he got crushed.

I was happy to see Dan Morales run for the nomination. I voted for him in the primary. I do think he’d have been a better candidate, but if there’s any blame to lay for his not being on the ticket, it’s all on him.

Rushing spends the rest of the article railing against racial politics and quoting GOP politicians accusing the Democrats of playing the race card. I honestly don’t know where to begin to respond to him. Race was an aspect of this campaign. How could it not be? But to say that the Senate and Governor’s elections were all or mostly about race is to deny reality. The ads I saw on TV were occasionally about issues – mostly about insurance in the governor’s race – and a lot about attacks. Rick Perry gained a lot of traction with his ads linking Tony Sanchez’s bank to drug money. Sanchez accused Perry of being a special interests tool. Cornyn played the Bush card for all it was worth. Kirk ran warm and fuzzy ads proclaiming himself a moderate who works well with others. What frequencies does Rushing’s TV pick up?

I’m just at a loss to understand where Rushing is coming from. I agree that the ticket did a poor job of appealing to white voters. I don’t agree that it’s because the candidates were openly hostile to white voters.

UPDATE: Greg Wythe unloads on David Rushing as well.

Doing to America what he did to Texas

Those new environmental rules that Team Bush has unleashed on us look awfully familiar to us folks in Texas. Well hey, Bush promised to do to America’s economy what he did to Texas’, so why should things be any different with the environment?

I note that Jack is thinking along similar lines as well.

That’s Mister Mayor Osama to you, bub

The former mayor of Sugar Land is suing a talk show host for some columns he wrote in which he called the mayor “Osama”:

A lawsuit has been filed by former Sugar Land Mayor Dean Hrbacek against radio talk show host Jon Matthews in connection with several newspaper columns he wrote referring to Hrbacek as “Mayor Osama.”

Matthews wrote the columns in the weekly Fort Bend/Southwest Star in the weeks prior to the May election. Hrbacek was defeated in the hotly contested race by City Council member David Wallace.

The suit alleges Hrbacek’s reputation was damaged by Matthews, who made false, malicious and defamatory statements against the mayor.

Now, Jon Matthews is a vile and vicious whackjob wingnut, one of many such voices that make AM radio in Houston a cesspool. I’d like nothing more than to see him disgraced and put out of a job. Unfortunately, I don’t think Hrbacek has a leg to stand on. Matthews’ protection under the First Amendment seems pretty clear to me. Hrbacek has every right to feel wronged, but I seriously doubt he’ll get any relief from the courts.

Aguirre testifies before Grand Jury

The man himself, Captain Mark Aguirre, testified for four hours before the grand jury that’s apparently looking into charges against him for the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup. Unfortunately, as grand jury proceedings are secret, there’s not much meat to this story. What we do get is a little Line In The Sand drawing from Aguirre’s mouthpiece:

[Aguirre’s] lawyer said if an official oppression indictment is handed down, the captain will plead not guilty and request a trial.

“There won’t be any plea bargain,” attorney Terry Yates said. “He is not guilty of any police misconduct, procedurally, or any illegal conduct, criminally.”

I so hope that happens. I’d consider taking time off from work to watch that trial. Please, please, please let there be a trial.

We also get a little trash talking between Aguirre’s attorney and Chief C.O. “BAMF” Bradford’s attorney:

Yates repeated allegations Friday that Aguirre, a 23-year-veteran, was targeted for punishment because of an earlier run-in with Police Chief C.O. Bradford.

“Instead of saying, `Hey this may not be a popular effort but it’s needed for the safety of the public,’ … (Bradford) did just the opposite,” Yates said. “He did that just to get back at Aguirre regarding that prior incident on aggravated perjury.”

Aguirre accused Bradford of perjury in May after Bradford’s testimony in a disciplinary hearing over whether Aguirre used profane and threatening language toward subordinates in 2001. Bradford has been indicted on the perjury charge, and his trial is scheduled for Jan. 21.

Bradford’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said Bradford, who is suspended pending the outcome of his trial, had nothing to do with the investigation into the raid.

“What Terry Yates said outside the grand jury is silly, self-serving tripe,” Hardin said. “Chief Bradford has never made any allegation against Aguirre and is not even at the Police Department right now.

“The allegations against Aguirre were made by police officers who found him to be an oppressive wild man and secondly by citizens who felt they were wrongly treated. … I can assure you that the district attorney’s office is not carrying water for Chief Bradford in this investigation.”

By the way, do you ever wonder where people like Terry Yates and Rusty Hardin learned their battle skills? Well, wonder no more.

New frontiers

Greg Morrow finds a new trick for an old dog: the self-fisking. I think this is why the French invented reflexive verbs.

The marching band refused to yield

I missed it earlier this week, but November 20 was the 20th anniversary of The Play, California’s amazing game-winning kick return against Stanford that culminated with a trombone player getting flattened in the end zone.

Kevin Moen, the player who scored the touchdown, and Gary Tyrrell, the flattened trombone player, fondly recall their place in history. Both have also capitalized on it – for example, Tyrrell is an amateur brewer whose homebrew is called Trombone Guy Pale Ale.

Here’s a story about Joe Sharkey, the radio announcer who made the historic play-by-play call. In the Right-Place-Right-Time Department, Sharkey made the key decision to actually pay attention to the kickoff, even as many of his colleagues were leaving the stadium:

“Normally in TV and radio,” Starkey says, “when you know it’s the last play of the game, you don’t call it as it occurs. You wait until it’s played out, then give a recap. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to stick with it.”

Many reporters covering the game that day didn’t even see The Play, he says. Thinking Stanford’s field goal had ended the game, they went to the locker room or left the stadium to beat the traffic.

“One colleague of mine was in his car at a red light when he heard me calling out Cal’s last play,” says Starkey. “When the light turned green, he didn’t move, and neither did any of the other cars at the intersection. It was obvious everyone was listening to the same thing; he said the light changed twice before anyone moved.”

Another friend driving home during The Play, Starkey remembers, tried to pull over to listen to the broadcast, but was so distracted by what was transpiring that he ended up in a nearby ditch.

A fuller description of The Play and the events that led up to it are here. For a slightly different view of The Play, check out this parody edition of The Daily Californian put out by some disgruntled Stanford fans a few days after the game. You can hear a recording of the play-by-play here. My buddy Dan Wallach has a trascript of the play-by-play on his home page. Finally, here’s a link to a page that has Real Player clips for download of the The Play, and the Stanford drive that preceded The Play.