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June, 2004:

Perry hedges on special session

I guess they aren’t making all that much progress after all.

With state leaders still unable to agree on a new way to pay for the public schools, Gov. Rick Perry is dimming the prospects for another special session on education this summer.

He said legislators wrestling with the issue need to outline an agreement within the next few weeks or another session would be futile.

“If we can’t agree on the major points by August, there’s no reason to call Leo Berman (and other legislators) down to Austin,” he said, referring to the Republican state representative from Tyler.

Perry spokesman Robert Black confirmed the remarks, published Tuesday in the Tyler Morning Telegraph. They were made Monday while the governor was in East Texas to announce some health center grants.

“I think the governor’s sentiment hasn’t changed. He wants to bring the Legislature back only if there is agreement among the leadership,” Black said.

He said Perry would like to call a special session because he wants legislators to be able to focus on education and not be distracted by other issues.

“He’s still hopeful. He’s still optimistic something is going to happen. (But) the clock is ticking, no doubt — at least in his mind it is,” Black said.

Perry called the Legislature into special session April 20 despite a lack of agreement on key funding proposals, and it ended in failure four weeks later. There was strong support for reducing local school property taxes, but there were also strong differences over how to replace the lost revenue.

Many legislators, especially in the House, opposed the governor’s proposal to legalize video lottery terminals, a form of slot machine, at racetracks and on Indian reservations. Perry opposed an expansion of business taxes, which was favored by many lawmakers.

Those key differences apparently remain, although until recently Perry had been strongly hinting he would call lawmakers back to Austin to try again later this summer.

Black said August was key because the Legislature had to complete work on any constitutional amendments during that month to have time to put them on the November ballot for voter review.

Several school-related proposals would require constitutional changes. They include the governor’s proposal to set new limits on local property tax appraisals, the gambling plan and a statewide property tax, another potential funding source.

Black said the governor believes a comprehensive school solution would require a constitutional amendment. He left open the possibility, however, that Perry could call a special session in September or October for less comprehensive educational changes.

The Chron story, printed two days after the Tyler Morning Telegraph story, paints a more pessimistic picture than the original report.

During a Monday stop in Tyler to announce a grant for a local health center, Perry said a second special session on school finance is possible for later in the summer – but not definite.

“The end of August is really the deadline to get any questions we need to get before the voters on the (November) ballot,” said Perry. “So I would think that late July or early August will be our only window of opportunity.”

The date of a second special session has been in question since the first session broke down without a solution to the state’s school finance dilemma. Though lawmakers seemed to agree that property taxes need to be cut and new funding sources identified, they couldn’t agree on what those sources might be, or how best to replace the Robin Hood funding system.

Perry said he hopes that failure won’t be repeated. He said he won’t call a second session if lawmakers now meeting in Austin can’t hammer out the basics in the next two to four weeks.

“If we can’t agree on the major points by August, there’s no reason to call Leo Berman (and other legislators) down to Austin,” he said.

But he distanced himself from the disappointment of the first session.

“Like the old adage says, I can lead a horse to water,” said Perry.

Well, at least we know that the Governor has a realistic assessment of his own leadership capabilities. With such small steps do we make progress. I can almost hear Kay Bailey Hutchison gearing up her campaign machine in the background.

Howard Stern coming to Houston airwaves

Well, well – I may have a new morning radio alternative.

NEW YORK — Howard Stern announced today that his syndicated morning show would appear in nine new markets, including four where his show was axed by the nation’s largest radio chain for alleged indecency.

Stern said his program would air on stations in Houston; San Diego; Tampa, Fla.; Pittsburgh; Orlando, Fla.; Austin, Texas; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Fresno, Calif., all owned by Infinity Broadcasting.

In Houston, Business Radio KIKK-AM (650) will air the Stern show beginning July 19. Clear Channel Communications suspended Stern in February and dropped the country’s best-known shock jock from its stations in Rochester, Orlando, San Diego, Pittsburgh and two other markets after complaints by federal regulators.


Clear Channel, in dumping Stern, said it feared any continued association with the DJ and his raunchy show might led to losing their station licenses.

Joel Hollander, president and chief operating officer of Infinity, expressed his support for Stern.

“Howard has dominated the radio landscape for more than 20 years,” Hollander said. Stern’s listeners are “one of the most loyal audiences in radio who will no doubt embrace his return.”

For years, Chron columnist Ken Hoffman would get asked by readers why Howard Stern was not on the Houston dials. His answer was always that KLOL’s Stevens and Pruett filled that niche, and no other station was interested in competing for it. If nothing else, this is at least a recognition that the mouthbreathers who currently drool out KLOL’s morning show are no Stevens and Pruett.

I haven’t listened to Howard Stern on the radio since 1984, when I drove my grandmother’s 1969 Nova, which at the time only had AM radio, to a crappy summer job in Staten Island’s south shore. WNBC-AM 660 had Imus in the morning, Stern in the afternoon, and Soupy Sales in between. I may or may not tune in regularly to Stern now – frankly, it’ll depend on how long their between-commercial programming breaks are, plus how sick I am of the music rotations on KKRW and KHPT – but I’ll set a button to AM 650, and I’ll check it out on the 19th.

Joel Steinberg goes free

Joel Steinberg, the man responsible for the awful, brutal death of his illegally adopted daughter Lisa Steinberg in 1987, will get out of jail today. I’m getting sick just thinking about it. (Please note: if you don’t have a strong stomach, DO NOT follow that Crime Library link.) He spent sixteen years in jail, as his conviction was for first-degree manslaughter rather than murder. It’s not enough. It never could have been enough.

The first-season Law and Order episode “Indifference” was based on this case; the producers started including those “Although inspired by true events…” disclaimers because of this one.

Via TalkLeft.

The Sudan

This is a petition urging President Bush to take action against the ongoing genocide in the Sudan. I’ve signed it and I urge you to sign it as well.

That said, it’s somewhat hard to imagine what exactly the United States can do other than tell them to stop it. The Army has no spare capacity, a situation which I remind you is entirely the President’s fault. What other bad choices will we have to make in the coming months because we have no other viable options?

UPDATE: The Poor Man comments on this.

Abramoff scandal reaches Ralph Reed

According to The Nation, the burgeoning scandal/investigation into the activities of DeLay cohorts Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon is about to reach out and touch former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed.

In early 2002 the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana was desperately trying to kill a planned competing casino that the rival Jena Band wanted to build in southwestern Louisiana. This new casino would have broken the Coushattas’ geographical monopoly and cost the tribe–whose casino was grossing $300 million a year– an estimated $1 billion in gambling revenue over five years. The Jena Band had hired former GOP national chairman Haley Barbour to make sure its casino compact was approved by the heavily politicized Bureau of Indian Affairs. So the Coushatta tribe, which already was in the process of paying Abramoff and Scanlon some $32 million over three years, also hired Reed, according to three witnesses and documents obtained by The Nation. This was not a crime, just furtive hypocrisy.

Two casino industry lobbyists–Philip Thompson and Bill Grimes–say they were in a meeting in Baton Rouge early in 2002 and heard William Worfel, vice chair of the Coushatta tribe, say he was hiring Reed to lobby for the tribe with the BIA to neutralize the influence Barbour had with the Bush Administration. According to Thompson, Worfel, who also did not return phone calls, “said he was putting Reed on his payroll. He said, ‘If they have Barbour, we need Reed.'” A third casino lobbyist at the meeting, who requested anonymity, says Reed helped “mobilize Christian radio and ministers against the casino.” But, he says, “He wanted to be able to deny it. Or if it came out, he wanted to be able to claim he was against the Jena casino, without anybody knowing he was getting paid by a bigger tribe with a bigger gambling operation.”

The documents obtained by The Nation show that Reed sent bills to Abramoff and Scanlon and that one of his consulting companies, Century Strategies of Duluth, Georgia, received $250,000 from one of Scanlon’s companies, Capitol Campaign Strategies. An invoice to Abramoff from another Reed company, Capitol Media, for $100,000, states only that the payment is for “Louisiana Project Mgmt. Fee.” (The main thrust of the Justice Department investigation involves money laundering among Scanlon, Abramoff and Republican campaigns. Abramoff was fired by his firm for not disclosing $10 million in payments from Scanlon.)

Liberal Oasis linked to this yesterday. You can find some more background on the Abramoff/Scanlon story here, here, here, and here.

And speaking of Abramoff and the Senate investigation, the next stop may be Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Court officials have heard through “unofficial channels” that a Senate investigative committee may visit the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam to investigate lobbying activities.

“The court has not received any visits or any inquiries yet thus far from any Senate staff or any Senate officials,” said Dan Tydingco, the Judiciary of Guam director of policy, planning and community relations. “But we have heard from unofficial channels that there was to be a Senate investigative committee coming out to Guam and (CNMI) to investigate the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff.”

Tydingco, who was the former Supreme Court executive officer, said Abramoff did not do lobbying work for the Supreme Court and would not comment on what type of work he did for the Superior Court of Guam. Tydingco did not know when the committee will come to Guam.

A Senate committee is investigating millions of dollars in fees paid to powerful Republican lobbyist Abramoff and public relations executive Michael Scanlon, according to a May 18 Washington Post article.

Scanlon, a former aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Abramoff, a top Republican lobbyist and adviser to DeLay, are both under investigation by the Senate Commerce Committee. The panel, under the direction of Sen. John McCain, is seeking to determine the legality of $45 million paid by Indian tribes to the pair for lobbying and public affairs work, the Washington Post reported.

Tydingco could not say what the connection was between Abramoff and former Superior Court lobbyist Howard Hills.

Former Superior Court Administrator Tony Sanchez has said the court hired Hills, an off-island attorney, in 2002 to do work for the court, including lobbying against a proposed federal legislation that would make the Supreme Court of Guam the head of Guam’s judicial branch of government. The Superior Court paid Hills about $500,000 for his work, according to Pacific Daily News files.

I don’t know about you, but those places sound to me like they’d be pretty good for stashing money that you’d rather not have to explain. Thanks as always to AJ Garcia for the tip.

Big Time booed at Yankee game

Say what you will about Yankee fans, they’re not afraid to express an opinion.

[Vice President Dick] Cheney, who visited both clubhouses after batting practice, watched part of the game from the box of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and part from a first-row seat next to the Yankees dugout, where he sat between New York Gov. George Pataki and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Cheney was booed when he was shown on the right-field videoboard during the seventh-inning.

Well, I’m sure they all felt better after they’d done it. Via AMERICAblog and Atrios.

UPDATE: Mike Lupica on Cheney-booing and Yankee domination. Via The Poor Man, hie poor taste in baseball teams notwithstanding.

Jake Gilbreath wrapup

Thanks as always to everyone who helped spread the word about Jake Gilbreath, a name I’m sure you’ll be hearing many times in the future. Be sure to check out this report on Jake that Byron filed later in the day yesterday. Next stop – Mark Strama, another name you’ll be getting very familiar with real soon.

Francis/McGrady trade finally happens

And so it goes.

The Rockets’ long pursuit of NBA scoring champion Tracy McGrady was completed today with a seven-player trade that will send McGrady to the Rockets and Steve Francis to the Magic, sources close to the talks said this afternoon.

The NBA had received the contracts of the players involved and the conference call approving the deal was complete, sources said.

Official announcement of the trade is not expected until Wednesday. Officials from both teams declined comment.

The Rockets will acquire McGrady, veteran power forward Juwan Howard and guards Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines with the Rockets sending their starting backcourt of the past four seasons, Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley, and center/forward Kelvin Cato to the Magic.

Francis, Mobley and Cato were in Orlando today to visit with team officials, more than a week after Francis’ agent, Jeff Fried, told his client that the deal was “close.”

After Francis initial trepidation about going to the Magic, 21-61 last season, several conversations between his representative and Magic officials and himself with Magic general manager John Weisbrod had made him much more open to the idea of the trade and apparently moved the Magic to complete the deal.

McGrady led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons, averaging 28 points last season and 32.1 in the 2002-2003 season.

Say this about the Rockets under Les Alexander: They’ve never been afraid to shake things up and take a risk. Look at the players they’ve traded or traded for: Clyde Drexler (midseason, no less), Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, now Steve Francis (himself acquired via trade) and Tracy McGrady. The record has been mixed, but I don’t think any of the moves were reckless or thoughtless at the time. However you slice it, they’ve not been complacent, and I think as a fan you have to appreciate that.

Anyway. So long and best wishes to Francis, Mobley, and Cato. Whatever happens, I’ll still miss them.

UPDATE: Here’s today’s story, plus Mickey Hersokowitz’ goodbye to Stevie Franchise, and a farewell to Cuttino Mobley.

Bishop responds to Klinkner

I’ve been trading emails with “Great Divide” author Bill Bishop regarding this Gadflyer article by Philip Klinkner, and he was kind enough to send me an official response from himself and coauthor Robert Cushing. With his permission, I’ve posted it here (Word doc). Executive summary: Klinkner is misreading their data and by doing so is obfuscating clearly visible trends.

I understand there’s another installment of the Great Divide series in the works. I’ll be looking for it.


I’ve not seen “Farenheit 9/11”, and to be honest, with the baby’s arrival, I probably won’t get to see it before it comes out on DVD. I just wanted to note, as a point of data, that the movie sold out over the weekend in the following Bush-hating bastions of liberal elitism: Williamson County, and Amarillo.

Another Bushie seeking office in Texas?

How does Matthew Dowd for Comptroller grab you?

After years of behind-the-scenes work for candidates ranging from Democrats Lloyd Bentsen and Bob Bullock to Republican Bush, Dowd will soon be looking to act on the dream he has harbored for years: making the move to candidate.

“I really would like to do it when this is over,” Dowd said on the eighth floor of the suburban office building that houses Bush-Cheney headquarters.

Dowd, 43, is evasive about exactly what elected office he would like to occupy. He rules out a legislative post and says he is most interested in a statewide post in which “I could do something.”

Privately, he has told friends that state comptroller is the job that fits his love of numbers and desire to have an impact.

All Dowd will ‘fess up to publicly is that he wants to run for something, and wouldn’t run against a Republican incumbent, but has no qualms about running against a Republican who “is trying to move up.” In 2006, the Texas comptroller could fit those parameters. Incumbent Carole Keeton Strayhorn is looking at challenging Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary, and GOP Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs has said she will run for comptroller if Strayhorn moves on.

Boy howdy, after all the success of the Bush budgets, he’ll sure have some accomplishments to crow about, eh?

Just a gut opinion on my part, but I’d root for him over Susan Combs on the grounds that I think he’d be easier to beat. Either way, it’ll take a good candidate and a fair amount of money to make it a race, but I still like the Democrats’ odds against him more than I do against Combs. One wonders what he’ll do if Carole Keeton Strayhorn defies projections and stays put in 06.

Via Political Wire, which also notes that the Chron picked up the Don Evans speculation story.

Oh, and I’ve finally given in to the inevitable and created an Election 2006 category. Now I just have to go through my archives and figure out which previous entries to migrate over there. Sigh.

Lay seeks sitdown

Kenny Boy Lay and his lawyer are in Washington to have a chat with federal prosecutors. Well, they hope to have a chat, anyway.

Ex-Enron Chairman Ken Lay and his criminal defense lawyer are in Washington, D.C., this week, hoping the lawyer can get a chance to speak to Enron prosecutors. Mike Ramsey, contacted in Washington on Monday, said “we’re here to meet with prosecutors.” Lay himself would not meet with prosecutors; only his lawyers would attend. Some involved said they expect the meeting today.

Ramsey has previously said he would go to Washington to answer prosecutors’ questions. But it is unclear whether prosecutors, who have been investigating Lay for more than two years and have taken witnesses about Lay to the grand jury in recent weeks, have questions for Lay’s lawyers.

Enron Task Force Director Andrew Weissmann would not comment Monday about any meeting with Ramsey.

Federal prosecutors plan to ask a grand jury to indict Ken Lay on charges relating to the last few months he was at the helm of Enron as the company spiraled into its stunning 2001 collapse, according to lawyers for witnesses in the case. They said the indictment request could be as soon as this week.

Ramsey said at a news conference in Houston last week he would be surprised if Lay is indicted.

Attorneys for ex-Enron CEO Jeff Skilling had hoped to make a last presentation before prosecutors decided whether to indict him. They got a last-minute meeting with prosecutors but say minds were already made up because Skilling was indicted within a day of that meeting.

Bruce Hiler, one of Skilling’s Washington, D.C.-based lawyers, said he doesn’t know if any meeting could help the ex-chairman’s cause. But Hiler said Monday he’s worried that there is an unstoppable effort to vilify those at the top of Enron.

Hiler said, “The only hope may be to finally get juries to listen to the facts.”

Can’t imagine what they all might have done to bring such vilification on them, can you? I’d be more than happy to let a few juries sort it all out.

Texas Tuesdays: Jake Gilbreath

And we start our look at the State House candidates with Jake Gilbreath, who as a student at George Washington University is the youngest candidate running for state office in Texas this year. We’ve got an intro to Jake, an overview of the district, and an interview with Jake up on the TT site, so check him out and if you like what you see make a donation. Go Jake!

I got those orange traffic cone blues

This is going to be my life for the next year and a half: construction on the main road through my neighborhood. What a lovely complement that will be to the messes on Loop 610, I-10, and US 59. And this latest project is forcing my favorite bakery to move, too. Argh.

Adam Everett??

Now hear this: if Adam Everett is voted as the starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, then the term “All-Star shortstop” will cease to have any meaning.

OK, that’s a bit harsh, as this is not a banner year for National League shortstops, mind you. I’d go with either Barry Larkin or Edgar Renteria on past performance, or Jack Wilson for having the best first half. But still, how can you vote in a guy with a .669 OPS? That’s just not right, hometown boy or no.

Dividing over The Great Divide

This article in The Gadflyer is a direct challenge to the findings of the Statesman series The Great Divide, which claims that America is becoming more segregated by politics. Author Philip Klinkner makes some interesting points, but I have to say I thought he relied quite a bit on numbers of unknown (to me, anyway) origin, and a nontrivial amount of handwaving. For example:

Other measures of recent election results show that while segregation along political lines has increased, the change is not remarkable. For example, in the 2000 election approximately two-thirds of voters lived in a county where the Democratic vote was within a range of 12 percentage points from the national average. Thus, most voters live in counties that are not all that different from the national results. Moreover, this range is not significantly different from that in past presidential elections.

Isn’t this basically saying that the standard deviation of Democratic voter percentage by county is twelve points? That actually sounds pretty high to me. Beyond that, though, give me the numbers. What’s their source? Can you show me a graph? And for crying out loud, can’t you tell me how this compares to, say, 1980 or 1960 or even 1992? I’d feel a lot more confident in this data if I didn’t feel like it were being pulled out of a hat.

I sent a note to Bill Bishop, coauthor of the Great Divide articles, to point this out to him. I’m interested to see how he responds to it.

UPDATE: I’ve received a reply from Bishop, along with an attached Word doc that goes into some detail to rebut Klinkner’s assertions. I’ll post it later – it appears to have been a Statesman article from June 13, but it’s not available online any more as far as I can tell. For now, I’m calling it for Bishop – if nothing else, he’s unafraid to show you his R^2 values, and I respect that.

In the meantime, check out this article on softening support for Bush in rural areas.

More bad parenting ideas

Before anyone asks, no, this was not an option when we were considering baby names.

PAMPA, Texas — A Texas couple who named their son ESPN after the cable sports network will soon be getting a visit from the toddler’s namesake.

An ESPN film crew is coming to this Panhandle town next month to interview the family of 2-year-old ESPN Malachi McCall for a feature on several children around the country named after the network.

ESPN (pronounced Espen) McCall is one of at least three children in the United States known to be named for the sports network. A couple in Corpus Christi named their son Espn Curiel in 2000, the same year Espen Blondeel was born in Michigan.

ESPN spokesman Dave Nagle said the feature will air Sept. 6 as part of a two-hour special celebrating the network’s 25th anniversary. The special focuses on the company’s history, growth and impact.

“We don’t have viewers. We have fans,” Nagle said Saturday. “And I guess there’s no better testament than when someone names their child after your product. It just shows the bond we have with people.”

Rebecca and Michael McCall said their son’s name started as a joke after they heard on the radio about another couple naming their son “Espen.”

“He looked at me and said, ‘That’s a cool name,'” Rebecca McCall said in Saturday’s editions of the Amarillo Globe-News.

Here’s the Amarillo Globe-News story. It gets even more deranged.

At the time, though, Rebecca said she “totally disagreed with it.”

As her pregnancy wore on, the name grew on her. She and her mother made a trip to an ESPN store while in Chicago and bought shirts almost four months before his birth. Rebecca’s oldest daughter, Haylei, now almost 5, called the baby in her mother’s tummy “ESPN.”

“I didn’t like it until he was born,” Rebecca said.

Then she couldn’t think of calling him anything else.

So, it was official: ESPN Malachi McCall. His middle name is a biblical messenger of God, so his parents sometimes call him “the sports messenger.”


Rebecca said people have called the name cruel, but she doesn’t think it’s any worse than an outdated family name. She admits it might be a challenge to understand the lack of vowels in his name when he’s older, but thinks her son was given the gift of a unique and beautiful name.

Rebecca said people react mainly with confusion as to his name’s pronunciation. And he’s small-town gossip in Pampa, Rebecca said, but that doesn’t bother her.

“I want him to grow up and be strong,” she said. “I don’t think his name can tear him down.”


His parents said ESPN loves baseball, basketball and football, and Rebecca said she’s hoping to have his room done in sports theme before the TV ESPN comes.

And, of course, ESPN enjoys watching SportsCenter every night with his father.

However, Michael and Rebecca said they don’t think the name will put pressure on him to become a superstar athlete; they’re just catering to his interests at the moment.

All in all, Rebecca said, she likes unique names. She wanted to name her two younger daughters “Disney” but was shot down both times by Michael. They compromised on Sterling, now 21 months, and Kendall, now 11 months.

If the McCalls have another son, would he be “The Deuce?”

Well, if ESPN had a twin, his name would be “EXPN.” However, the McCalls don’t watch solely ESPN for their sports. They planned “Fox Sports McCall” for a second son.

I sincerely hope that last bit is a joke, but if the rest of the article is sincere, I can’t say it is. Maybe the McCalls should just skip the middleman and name their next kid KickMe.

AP link via Vince.

UPDATE: Jesse is down with that.

Come on, get horrified

I have no words to describe this: David Cassidy, Danny Bonaduce, and Shirley Jones are reviving The Partridge Family.

Cassidy will co-executive produce both the reality-themed In Search of the Partridge Family for VH1 and a half-hour pilot for the rejuvenated sitcom to follow. Cassidy and fellow Partridge cast members Shirley Jones and Danny Bonaduce plan to cross the country looking for a next generation of Partridges. The star search begins airing in September.

“We want to do it right,” says Cassidy. “I’ve been carrying the torch for the last 25 years, and I want to make sure the show will be funny and have integrity. We don’t want to taint the brand of the show I will forever be associated with.”


Cassidy, who lives in Florida with his wife and their teenage son, believes the timing is right again for In Search of the Partridge Family and its sequel sitcom.

“I wasn’t lured by the money,” he said. “But what we’re faced with in America and the world, I think, is not unlike the mood of the country when we were in Vietnam and The Partridge Family originally aired. What we’re experiencing now with Iraq — it’s time to get happy.”

I’m going to go lie down with a cold compress on my forehead. Maybe when I wake up this will all have been a bad dream.

Corporate blogging

John Lyon sent me this link about Blogging With The Boss’ Blessing a week ago, and despite meaning to blog it I’d forgotten about it until I saw it again in Lis Riba’s journal. I expect to see more of this, too, and frankly I’m a little surprised that newspapers have been so slow to figure out how to use blogs to expand and enhance their online readership. I don’t think it’s a hard concept to grasp, and I don’t think it’d take much of an investment in money or personpower to make it pay off. Hell, I’ve got a dozen ideas for how the Chron could blog effectively, and I’d be more than happy to share them for a small but reasonable fee. (Yes, I know it’s not quite the same thing as Microsofties musing about product features, but it’s a first cousin to it.)

Anyway, it’s a good read, so check it out. And who knows? Maybe you can convince your boss that you should be your company’s Official Corporate Blogger. I can think of worse things to do during one’s nine-to-five.

No more Nader

Ralph Nader will not be the Green Party nominee for President. Hallelujah! And may I say, what Julia says.

CD28 update

I usually crosspost my stuff from the Political State Report here, but my entry today on the latest news and notes from the longstanding and increasingly bizarre recount fight in the 28th Congressional District is fairly lengthy, so I’ll just link to it and encourage you to click over to it. And don’t ask me how this one’s gonna end, ’cause I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

Tarrant County for nobody

Apparently, there are no official Presidential campaigns in Fort Worth.

As popular as he is in Tarrant County, President Bush is lacking one thing here: someone to organize his local re-election campaign.

The Texas Republican and former governor has plenty of campaign “co-chairs” in Tarrant County, but they are involved mainly in raising money, said Pat Carlson, chairwoman of the local GOP.

Someone is needed, she said, to be the point person for Bush’s grassroots troops, charged with such duties as putting out yard signs and handing out T-shirts.

Bush is not alone in lacking an official county campaign chief. Neither does Democrat John Kerry, although his supporters say there are plenty of “Kerry clubs” in the area, mostly coordinated by Lynda Brender, wife of local Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender.

Hey, no rush, folks. Plenty of time.

Kenny Boy speaks

Kenny Boy Lay rues his Bush family friendship, blames Fast Andy Fastow, and asks us to pity him for being down to his last million in this interview.

There was a time when Kenneth L. Lay’s close relationship with President Bush brought him power and influence in Washington that was virtually unparalleled among his colleagues in corporate America.

Now, Lay, the former chairman and chief executive of Enron, fears those ties may only serve to bring him criminal charges.

“If anything, being friends with the Bush family, including the president, has made my situation more difficult,” Lay said in a recent interview, “because it’s probably a tougher decision not to indict me than to indict me.”

For more than two years, he has been the nation’s silent pariah.

Now, on the eve of what may be the government’s final decision on whether to charge him with a crime, Lay is talking for the first time about the company’s collapse in 2001 and the scandal that enveloped it. In more than six hours of interviews with The New York Times, Lay remained steadfast in his expressions of innocence, even as he acknowledged, as head of the company, responsibility for the debacle rests rightfully with him.

“I take full responsibility for what happened at Enron,” said Lay, 62. “But saying that, I know in my mind that I did nothing criminal.”


The years since the Enron collapse have transformed Lay. The changes in his financial status are stunning. At the beginning of 2001, Lay said, he had a net worth in excess of $400 million — almost all of it in Enron stock. Today, his worth is below $20 million, and his total available cash not earmarked for legal fees or repayment of debt is less than $1 million.

But the changes amount to more than just money. A man once celebrated in business and political circles, today he is widely vilified as bearing significant responsibility for Enron’s downfall, a debacle that cost thousands of employees their jobs, millions of investors their savings, and, for a time, forced a nation to question the capital markets system. He is often portrayed as a man who bailed out of his company as it was sinking, selling millions of shares even while telling investors and employees that he believed in the company’s future.

It is a portrait, he insists, that disregards the realities of Enron’s last months, a time in which he describes himself as first working hard to improve the company, then struggling desperately to keep it afloat.


In the end, Lay said, the Enron story is one of corrupt executives in a finance organization led by Fastow who took advantage of the company for their own personal benefit and ultimately destroyed it. Fastow has pleaded guilty to fraud and is cooperating with the government.

“At our core, regrettably, we had a chief financial officer and a few other people who in fact mismanaged the company’s balance sheet and finances and enriched themselves in a way that once we got into a stressful environment in the marketplace, the company collapsed,” he said. “But by the same token, most and I mean 98 percent of the people who worked at Enron were good, honest, hardworking individuals. They were not crooks.”

Still, Lay said he clung to a belief that the outcomes of certain corporate decisions that ultimately proved devastating to the company could not have been anticipated. The use of such partnerships was widespread throughout the business world, as corporations attempted to use a technique authorized under the accounting rules to pretty up their reported financial picture. But Enron took those efforts much further, adopting policies that were unheard of, such as allowing Fastow to operate an off-books investment fund that did business with the company and provided financing for some of the partnerships.

Lay labels criticisms of that set-up as 20-20 hindsight, because the world now knows that Fastow used the vehicles to manipulate Enron’s earnings and loot the company — all without his knowledge, Lay said.

“At the time it seemed the appropriate thing to do,” he said. “And I had no reason to doubt or distrust Fastow.”

But legal experts dismiss the entire venture as foolhardy from inception. “It’s just not common-sense thinking,” said John J. Fahy, a former federal prosecutor now with Fahy Choi in Rutherford, N. J. “Your CFO cannot be put in a position where he is in conflict with the company. He is simply too important. The idea is just crazy.”

While he has been subjected in recent years to withering personal criticism on Capitol Hill, by the media, on late night talk shows and across the Internet, Lay said that in his hometown many longtime friends and associates remained supportive, and he continued to serve on multiple charitable boards in town.


Lay was asked whether he believed he owed employees a fuller response, and an explanation that he was selling shares, forced or not.

“Let me put it this way, it just didn’t cross my mind,” he said. “I was doing my best to hang on to as much as I could because I was convinced that the fundamentals of the company were so strong.”

Despite the rumblings that criminal charges against him could well be imminent, Lay says he is sanguine.

“I know in my mind I did nothing wrong and nothing criminal,” he said. “But I’d say if it does happen, it’s a great miscarriage of justice.”

But, if faced with indictment, would Lay consider pleading guilty?

“Absolutely not.”

Yeah, whatever. It’s a long and very interesting article, though oddly only a much-condensed AP wire feed of the story, which does mention that Lay has not granted any interview requests to the Chron, appears in the print edition. Tom Kirkendall, who’s also been following all things Enron closely, also links to it.

Meanwhile, in the business section, read about Eric Christensen, the man who uncovered Grandma Millie.

The main impetus was his customers, the people of Snohomish County, Wash., where Christensen is assistant general counsel of the Snohomish Public Utility District, which provides gas and electricity for 290,000 households in Snohomish and Camano Island.

During the energy crisis, the county bought power from Enron at sky-high prices because there were no alternatives.

A week before Enron spectacularly flamed out in the largest corporate bankruptcy for the time in December 2001, Snohomish canceled the contracts, exercising a provision that let it off the hook if Enron’s financial situation became unstable. Eight months later, Enron sued the county for a termination fee of $122 million, which would cost every Snohomish ratepayer $420.

That kind of money would be a big hit to many in a county where 10 percent of the population is classified as having “poverty wages,” according to Market Facts 2004, a publication profiling the local economy.


So when Enron — by then bankrupt — slapped Snohomish with the $122 million lawsuit in the summer of 2002, the utility district wasn’t going to take it lying down.

Enron and other energy companies routinely taped traders’ discussions to keep a record of the fast-paced wheeling and dealing in case of disputes. Given what Snohomish and others suspected about Enron — that it had engaged in fraud and illegal market manipulation — Christensen and his colleagues had a hunch that there might be evidence on those tapes.

The utility sought and got a subpoena for tapes of three key months in 2000 and 2001 from Enron’s Western trading desk in Portland, Ore. Timothy Belden, the head of that office, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with manipulating the electricity market.

Christensen is particularly indignant that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the country’s main watchdog over the energy markets, has appeared to him as toothless in going after Enron and even tried to block Snohomish from getting the tapes.

FERC’s lack of support may have ultimately helped Snohomish, though.

“They forced us to prove that we were being ripped off,” Christensen said.

“I think that’s looking at the glass as being half empty rather than half full,” FERC spokesman Bryan Lee said.

Although the agency initially opposed the subpoena because the tapes were part of an ongoing criminal investigation, it later helped Snohomish get the tapes, according to Lee.

Thanks from all of us, Eric Christensen.


This op-ed by Ed Shack, an “attorney specializing in First Amendment law and state and national election and campaign laws and regulations” makes the case that no one really knows how to follow campaign finance laws because it’s all so complicated. He does a pretty good job of it, too, which makes the omission from his byline that he represents the Texas Association of Business, one of the main targets of Travis County DA Ronnie Earle’s investigation into misuse of corporate campaign donations, that much more glaring. Whether through indifference or incompetence, the Chron’s editorial page has a very blemished history of printing op-eds by people who aren’t the disinterested observers their bylines claim them to be. See “Rushing, David” for an earlier and equally egregious example.

The Chron also printed Rep. John Carter’s fact-free attack piece on Rep. Chris Bell on page one of the Outlook section. For whatever the reason, it doesn’t appear to be online, so you’ll have to take my word for it or buy a copy of the dead-tree version yourself. If you’d like to give the Chron some feedback about printing ad hominems, send an email to [email protected].

On a side note, this unsigned editorial from yesterday asked why Bell’s complaint merely mentioned Tom DeLay’s Bacardi fixation as a footnote. Good question, though a better question might be “why hasn’t the Chron done any real reporting on the DeLay/Bacardi connection?”

More special session talk

Yellow Dog Blog, quoting from Capitol Inside, and Alan D. Williams, citing this Morning News story, think Governor Perry might call another special session in July where it will overlap the Democratic national convention. That would screw a number of state legislators who are also convention delegates.

A full 30-day session called as early as next week would run into the Democrats’ convention July 26-29.

“The governor feels that political conventions are a pretty important part of the electoral process in this country. However, I don’t think the governor is going to let a political convention get in the way of a special session if one is ready to be called,” spokesman Robert Black said.

“Obviously, he believes Texas comes first,” Mr. Black said.

Mr. Perry has said that the deadline for a plan is Aug. 25, the last day for adopting a constitutional amendment for voter consideration in November on changes to the state’s tax system or allowing gambling.

“At the end of August, it turns into a pumpkin,” he said. Beyond August, lawmakers would wait until the regular session in January to tackle the problem.

If the governor waited until after the convention to call a session, lawmakers would have just 23 days to complete the work.

More than 30 Democratic lawmakers have long-standing plans to attend the convention, including 29 who have been elected state delegates.

“I think there’d be considerable disappointment and resentment,” said Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, who has served on key House education committees. He also is a Texas delegate to the national convention.

“I can’t shirk my legislative responsibilities or my duties to millions of kids. I’d have to stay in Austin,” he said.

Mr. Oliveira said that going to Boston is not just a matter of balloon drops and receptions. He is planning on joining other Hispanic officials working on a list of national policy priorities for presumptive nominee John Kerry.

The governor “has been to Italy, the Bahamas, Mexico, wherever. I would think there would be mutual respect recognized here,” Mr. Oliveira said.

House Business and Industry Chairwoman Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, also is a delegate and said she would be surprised if the governor called a session during the national convention.

“I don’t think it would be well received, and it would be problematic at a time when we would need to cooperate and work together if we’re going to make something happen,” she said.

For what it’s worth, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst thinks Perry will wait until August.

“I see August as a more realistic date … than July to work out the details between the two chambers,” Dewhurst said Friday after speaking at the 59th annual meeting of the 13,000-member Texas Public Employees Association.

Gubernatorial spokesman Robert Black said the governor has not decided on a date for a special session. He said Perry “will call the second special session when be believes that the leadership of the House and Senate reach an agreement” on how the state’s public school system will be financed.

Perry has hinted he might call the session in August. This week Perry said a replacement of the current Robin Hood school finance system would have to be passed by the end of August for the constitutional amendment that the new measure would require to be placed on the November ballot.

Under Robin Hood, property-wealthy school districts are required to share their tax dollars with property-poor districts.

Since the first special session ended in failure, joint working groups of Senate and House members have been meeting for more than a month trying to reach an agreement on a proposal that would be acceptable to both chambers.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee said Friday that he believes “progress is being made” in narrowing House and Senate differences.

But he acknowledged the task becomes “more difficult” when group members are uncertain what portions of a proposed bill might be acceptable to House Speaker Tom Craddick.

“It is one of the large … unanswered questions, what it is the speaker wants” in the bill, Ogden said. “Not knowing that makes it harder” for the working groups to reach accord without a clear indication of what elements of the bill Craddick would favor.

Ogden and Dewhurst said they were sympathetic to the state worker’s legislative priority, an across-the-board pay raise. But they said they were unsure how much would remain in the 2005-06 biennial budget that could be allocated to employee pay raises, and they said state worker pay raises should be tied to increased productivity.

This is the first time I can recall someone other than Perry claiming progress on school finance issues, though note that Sen. Ogden did not specify where progress was being made. I continue to believe that the previously unreconciled issues like increased gambling and the business activity tax are no closer to a settlement than before. It is possible that the cited progress is on issues where the differences were less entrenched, like expanding the sales tax. We’ll see. Note also that no one is yet certain where Speaker Craddick, who wants to wait until the lawsuits have been decided, will come down on anything.

Again, for what it’s worth, I lean slightly towards the August time frame. As tempting as it must be for Perry to want to extract payback for the Ardmore exodus, I’d think he’s got to realize that he’ll really get reamed if another session, especially one that could be characterized as being called prematurely for partisan purposes, fails as abjectly as the last one did. But you never know, and I’m the last person to credit him with extra smarts. So stay tuned.

TRM/TAB focus shifting to businesses

According to this Statesman article, Travis County DA Ronnie Earle is saying that the corporations that financed the 2002 GOP takeover of the state Legislature is facing greater scrutiny than Tom DeLay himself.

The shift in emphasis is just the latest twist over the past 20 months as prosecutors wrestle with mounds of evidence and a long list of witnesses in the biggest political investigation of District Attorney Ronnie Earle’s 27-year career.

On Friday, the direction of the massive investigation, with repercussions from the Legislature to the halls of Congress, became clearer as Earle updated its progress and defense lawyers weighed in with their speculation.

In a 90-minute interview, Earle acknowledged he would have retired this year if not for the investigation, which he said he is determined to pursue to the end.

Lawyers for DeLay said Friday that prosecutors have told them their client is not a specific target of the investigation, a claim Earle didn’t fully dispute, though he added, “It’s too early to pass out get-out-of-jail-free cards.”

Earle said portions of the investigation could be completed later this summer, but some complaints might take longer.

Over the 20 months, Earle hasn’t cooled his populist message about the significance of the investigation: “Democracy can’t depend on who owns the microphone, and that’s the issue here: unbridled wealth controlling the electoral process.”

Earle said the investigation has expanded to include at least five political organizations, many individuals and the corporations that financed them.

“This isn’t about Tom DeLay,” Earle said of the investigation’s breadth. “It’s about corporate greed. They can always find another Tom DeLay.”


The allegation behind the expansive grand jury investigation is whether Republicans and their business allies violated state laws that prohibit corporate money being spent on campaign activity.

The focus is on Texans for a Republican Majority; Texas Association of Business; Law Enforcement Alliance of America; Americans for Job Security; and the Lone Star Fund, a Democratic committee added recently when Republicans filed a complaint.

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and his Democratic predecessor, Pete Laney, are subplots to the overall investigation. Prosecutors are checking whether Craddick violated any laws when Texans for a Republican Majority turned over $152,000 to Craddick’s office to be distributed to his supporters in the Legislature. Craddick has claimed he didn’t do anything that Laney and the Democrats haven’t done in the past — a charge Laney denied.

The newest wrinkle, however, is prosecutors’ interest in the corporations that gave the money.

Sources close to the investigation say legal liability for corporations varies from case to case because of different laws and the defenses that corporations can offer.

For example, corporations that gave $1.9 million for ads by the Association of Business can argue that they gave the money with assurances from the association’s lawyers that the donations were legal. Corporations that gave the $600,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority might not have the same defense, the sources said.

Indicting corporations also has a political benefit.

“Earle versus Enron — Ronnie likes the sound of that,” one source said, using Enron generically though it did not donate in this case.

On Friday, Earle insisted that no one — individual or corporation — is in the clear yet.

“Anybody who committed a crime is a target,” Earle said. “The only pressure I feel is not to stop until we get to all of the truth.”

Very interesting. It’s a long article, so read it all. I don’t know if this will undermine Chris Bell’s ethics complaint against DeLay – he’s alleging that DeLay broke House rules, not Texas law, after all – but it looks like it might be a little ammo for DeLay’s defenders, if they ever feel like ceasing with the slime attacks for a minute.

And to an extent, I agree with what Earle is saying. The picture is bigger than Tom DeLay, and there will always be someone like him looking to exploit any weakness in the rules for their purposes. If the process he set in motion gets shut down but he gets away, I’ll still take that.

Don Evans??

Andrew D and Vince Leibowitz both quote from a Capitol Inside report which says that Commerce Secretary Don Evans is considering a run for Governor when his service in DC is up, either 2006 or 2010. Both of them see him as having credible prospects.

My reaction is more “Don Evans? Why?” I guess I don’t see what his appeal is, whether compared to Kay Bailey Hutchison, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, or Rick Perry. “Closer to George Bush than those other guys”, maybe. I’m also not sure where he’ll get the funds he’ll need to raise his name ID enough to compete with them and their already-large campaign coffers.

I don’t know. I don’t have any reason to doubt this report, I just doubt Evans’ reasons for thinking he can win. I certainly could be wrong, and I certainly wouldn’t object to a bloody, expensive three- or four-way GOP primary in the Governor’s race. I’m just having a hard time envisioning any excitement over a former Commerce Secretary coming home to run for Governor.

UPDATE: The Chron reports on this as well.

Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, a former Texas oilman and longtime friend of President Bush, is being encouraged to return home and run for governor, a Republican insider said Monday.

The source, a longtime political player in Austin and Washington, said Evans hasn’t dismissed the idea but doesn’t plan to seriously consider it until after the November presidential election.

Evans was out of the country Monday. But Ron Bonjean, a Commerce Department spokesman, said Evans isn’t planning to run for governor.

“Secretary Evans is 100 percent committed to serving President Bush as secretary of commerce,” Bonjean said. But he couldn’t confirm or deny whether Evans has been asked to consider a gubernatorial race.

“He has had some people approach him, and he is thinking about it,” said the Republican source, who spoke on condition he not be identified. He wouldn’t say who was encouraging Evans but said a gubernatorial race in either 2006 or 2010 was a possibility.

Sounds like the definite possibility of a firm maybe to me.

The return of the roach

I may be a staunch defender of Houston as a place to live, but even I will never claim that it’s one of the more scenic places in the world. This is not to say that there aren’t interesting things to see as one travels along Houston’s roads, and it appears that one of the more distinctive sights is about to return.

The giant neon cockroach glowed for 42 years and was a beacon for Southwest Freeway drivers. He glows no more.

Bubba, the 8-foot-tall, 16-foot-wide Holder’s Pest Control roach, was taken down in April, but the sign could make a comeback.

You can’t keep a big roach down, not when he’s worth more than his weight in gold as a branding tool.

In 1998, Holder’s moved to a southwest Houston shopping center that would not allow the display of a mammoth insect, so Bubba stayed behind. He was eventually taken down, because of an ordinance that forbids a commercial sign when the company has left the premises. Bubba now spends his days in a Holder’s warehouse.

But Holder’s wants Bubba back in the spotlight, said Jen Boedecker, marketing coordinator at Copesan Services, a national alliance of pest control companies that includes Holder’s.

A number of businesses, mostly restaurants, have tried to buy Bubba, but Copesan is interested only in leasing the sign as a form of advertising.

“We’d consider putting him at someone else’s site, as long as we maintained ownership,” she said. “He’s been like a mascot and is so highly recognized.”

In terms of branding, Bubba is invaluable, said Kevin Keller, professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College: “It’s iconic and part of their equity.”

Bubba is “heritage,” and “when positioning a brand, it’s very hard to compete against heritage,” said Keller, who noted: “Anything that gets on consumers’ radar matters. It’s so hard to break through these days.”

Bubba does have a way with people. When they took him down, Holder’s received a number of e-mails, including this one:

“I’ve been watching for that roach as a landmark for most of my life, and I’ll miss the old boy.”

Here’s a picture, which unfortunately doesn’t give you the full giant-glowing-roach-in-the-sky experience. Trust me on this, you have to see it to understand.

Tort “reform” yet again

Why do I keep harping on all the tort “reform” baloney around us? Because it’s such an easy target.

For today’s discussion, start with this Star-Telegram op-ed which Andrew D found.

Since damage caps became effective in September 2003, the number of medical negligence lawsuits filed in Texas has dropped dramatically. But in that same time, most of the malpractice insurers in the state have raised their rates.

G.E. Medical Protective, a company that insures 20 percent of the state’s physicians, recently increased its rates by 10 percent and changed its products to avoid regulation by the Texas Department of Insurance. This was in response to the state’s denial of its previous request to raise rates by 19 percent.

The Joint Underwriting Association asked for a 35 percent rate increase. The largest malpractice insurer in the state, TMLT, agreed to lower its rates by 12 percent, but it had raised its rates more than 100 percent in the previous two years.

Why? Because doctors and legislators are either unable or unwilling to stand up to the malpractice carriers and demand change.

With the backing of the Texas Medical Association, legislators could have required mandatory rate reductions in return for stripping away a patient’s right to recover full damages. They did not.

They could have included a provision repealing the damage caps if rates did not decline. They did not.

They could have placed the insurance executives under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury before giving testimony about the true basis of the insurance crisis. They did not.

And so the plundering continues.

U.S. insurance companies saw their profits explode to almost $30 billion in 2003 — a ten-fold increase from the previous year — yet rates continue to rise. All the while, insurers avoid any real scrutiny or oversight. Instead, they count their money, impose frequent rate increases and chortle as the doctors and lawyers flog one another.

Next, check out Greg’s take on this S-T op-ed, written by a doctor in a laughable attempt to pin the blame for rising malpractice rates on lawyers. Try to keep a straight face.

I have made changes in my practice to try to decrease the chance of financial devastation due to some rapacious attorney. I used to take emergency call at five different hospitals. I’ve dropped off the staff of all but one. I get more sleep and assume less risk.

Do we doctors like doing this? No! At least here in Texas there is now a $250,000 cap on “pain and suffering.” Nonetheless, my liability insurance went up another 10 percent this year.

Cause and effect? What’s that?

There’s one thing that really needs to be harped on any time a doctor blames lawyers for his or her medmal premiums, and that’s this: There’s almost no mechanism to remove the bad doctors, the ones who actually get sued, from the market. The AMA wants to protect its incompetents on the one hand while preventing proper redress to the unwitting patients they butcher on the other hand. And President Bush is leading the charge for them.

You think I’m exaggerating? Check this out, from Bob Herbert.

In looking at medical malpractice cases, I’ve been amazed by the cold-blooded attitude so many people have taken toward patients who have been seriously, and sometimes grotesquely, harmed. Referring to a Wisconsin woman who had both of her breasts removed after a laboratory mix-up mistakenly indicated she had cancer, a doctor from South Carolina told a Congressional subcommittee:

“She did not lose her life, and with the plastic surgery she’ll have breast reconstruction better than she had before.”

Right. So if I chop your hands off and replace them with equally functioning mechanical units that will never get arthritis or need their nails clipped, you should thank me. I’ve apparently done you a favor, at least by this doctor’s logic.

No Senate funds for Hutchison in Governor’s race?

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison may have to make up her mind quickly if she wants to run for Governor in 2006. As things stand right now, it’s not clear if she’ll be able to use any of her Senate campaign funds for a state election.

WASHINGTON — Adding another twist to the parlor game of will she or won’t she run for Texas governor in 2006, federal officials say U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison cannot spend her $6.5 million Senate campaign fund on a gubernatorial bid.


Campaign finance reform of 2002 did not specifically ban using federal campaign money on statewide races. However, the law deleted one phrase — which allows federal candidates to use excess money for “any lawful purpose but personal use” — once used to justify the transfer.

“The way the law is written, it doesn’t look like they could take that money and use it for a state race,” said Federal Election Commission spokeswoman Kelly Huff.

Anybody seeking a more definitive answer would have to ask the six-member election commission for an advisory opinion, Huff said. So far, nobody has.

Karl Sandstrom, a former FEC commissioner now in private practice specializing in election law, said an FEC opinion in March did not bode well for Hutchison.

Although Rep. Cal Dooley, D-Calif., sought clarification on an unrelated matter, the FEC applied a standard that would bear directly on a Hutchison bid, ruling that campaign money cannot be used for any purpose not specifically listed in federal law.

“There is no indication as of yet that the commission is reversing the decision taken in Dooley, which clearly states that if it is not identified as a permissible purpose, it’s prohibited,” Sandstrom said.

Hutchison, a Republican, refuses to speculate about 2006, when her Senate term expires and when fellow Republican Rick Perry is expected to seek re-election as governor.

But practically speaking, an FEC restriction means Hutchison cannot wait too long beyond November’s elections to announce a candidacy for governor. Potential primary opponents already have substantial sums on hand — more than $4 million for Perry, and more than $3 million for Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Frankly, the best scenario for Democrats is that KBH simply retires. That’d make one more race at least potentially competitive, as I wouldn’t bet against her wherever she ran. That’d also allow her to donate that 6 mil to other Republican candidates, but you can’t have everything.

And the slime machine cranks up

May as well get used to this sort of thing now that Chris Bell has taken his stand against Tom DeLay. You will note that nowhere in this piece does Rep. John Carter offer any kind of rebuttal to any of Bell’s charges. Not a single word given in evidence to support the position that the actions which Bell claims violate House rules do not in fact do any such thing. Nothing but slime and more slime, much of which as Greg notes is inaccurate, misleading, or downright dishonest. If this is the best DeLay’s defenders can do, then he really is in deep doo-doo, as someone once said.

By the way, if you want to let the Statesman know what you think of Carter’s little hatchet job, you can do so here.

Comdex cancelled

Holy cow.

Computer trade show Comdex, once the biggest event on the tech calendar, has been canceled this year, a victim of the growing interest in shows emphasizing consumer electronics and specialist IT gear.

Eric Faurot, vice president of Comdex organizer MediaLive International, revealed the plans in an exclusive interview with CNET, saying the company plans to give Comdex a breather after years of falling attendance, in the number of both attendees and vendors.

“We feel that while we could run Comdex profitably this year, it really wouldn’t serve the interests of the broader IT industry,” he said. The international versions of the show are expected to continue as planned.

Though the article describes the ways that Comdex has gradually ceased to be relevant, this is still a shame in my eyes. I have very fond memories of attending Comdex in 1991. I would like to see it rise again in a better format, even if I’m unlikely to go again. Via Liberty.

Astros get Carlos Beltran

This is a great trade for the Stros.

The Astros finally landed the classic center fielder they have craved for years, acquiring Kansas City Royals star Carlos Beltran on Thursday night in a three-team deal that club officials compared to the trade that brought Randy Johnson to Houston in 1998.

To land Beltran, the Astros sent closer Octavio Dotel and catching prospect John Buck to the Royals, who shipped Dotel to the Oakland Athletics for two prospects.

Industry sources confirmed that the Astros also gave the A’s nearly $1 million.

“How lucky is Houston? They’re very, very lucky,” Royals manager Tony Peña said of Beltran, who is earning $9 million this season and plans to test free agency this winter.

“You’re very, very lucky to get a talent like him. He was my best player, and one of the best players in the majors. Unfortunately, we can’t afford him.”

The Astros are indeed lucky to get him. Put any thoughts of replacing their departed closer out of your head. Brad Lidge will do fine, and even if not it’s much easier to cobble together a competent bullpen from spare parts, retreads, and prospects than it is to get an All-Star centerfielder. Even better, letting Craig Biggio slide over to left field helps their outfield D considerably. There’s almost no downside to this.

Elsewhere, David Pinto likes the trade and justly criticizes KC for their financial shortsightedness regarding Beltran. Tom Kirkendall isn’t quite as excited but thinks the trade is a reasonable gamble for Houston. Kevin likes the trade. Rafe puts this trade in context with the Richard Hidalgo trade and comes away impressed with Gerry Hunsickers ability to squeeze something extra out of the roster. Pretty good reviews overall, I’d say.

McNeely on Morrison

Dave McNeely pays a little attention to Richard Morrison in the Statesman.

Morrison, who’ll turn 37 on July 4, also lives in Sugar Land. Before and since winning a contested primary, he’s campaigned all over the parts of four counties south and west of Houston that make up the 22nd Congressional District.

Morrison concedes DeLay is powerful but charges the power has been used more to help DeLay than his constituents. In particular, Morrison cites DeLay’s longtime opposition to spending federal money to bring rail lines from Houston to Sugar Land, when many people and even several mayors in the area have requested it.

Part of DeLay’s power comes from his stunning effectiveness at raising money to help other Republicans win and hold office. And his method of funneling corporate money into politics, not just in Washington but in Texas, has drawn the investigative attention of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle.

DeLay dismisses the investigation by Earle, a Democrat, as a partisan witch hunt. As for Bell’s complaint, DeLay called it frivolous and designed for political gain. But the House Ethics Committee decided Tuesday to investigate it anyway.

The 2002 GOP takeover of the Texas Legislature that DeLay helped engineer brought congressional redistricting that redrew Bell’s district to elect an African American. Democratic activists from outside DeLay’s district, incensed about the redistricting, plan to go door to door to help unseat DeLay.

Morrison said he’s already raised more than $200,000, and hopes to top $1 million — even though he expects DeLay to spend five times that much.

Morrison has been endorsed by unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who proved an Energizer bunny for some dormant Democrats. That’s helped to bring national attention, through talk radio and CNN, which followed Morrison around for a day just before the Democratic convention.

Morrison, a plaintiff’s lawyer like his father, who was appointed a Texas parks and wildlife commissioner by then-Gov. Mark White in 1983, knows his first political race is into the wind.

But he says area Democratic clubs are more pumped up than in years and that his candidacy at least has forced DeLay to run an active campaign.

“I think,” Morrison said, smiling,”that he’s taken notice of us.”

This article has made me realize that Morrison is a year younger than I am. I’m suddenly reminded of that Tom Lehrer line, which is also sadly operable for me: “It is disconcerting to realize that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for three years.” If you’ll excuse me, I hear some Geritol calling.