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July, 2004:


Ezra gives a recommendation for Greenpass, a new blog by Zoe VanderWolk, who had interned with the Gadflyer. Some good stuff there, mostly from the convention. I strongly agree with what she says about tending the netroots. Check it out.

The bounce

Poll time.

In interviews on Thursday, July 29-before the Kerry nomination acceptance speech-Kerry/Edwards received the support of 47 percent of registered voters, Bush/Cheney 45 percent and Nader/Camejo 2 percent, according to the Newsweek Poll. In Friday interviews after the speech, Kerry/Edwards received 50 percent, Bush/Cheney 40 percent and Nader/Camejo 3 percent. In the two-way race, in interviews on July 29, Kerry/Edwards received 49 percent and Bush/Cheney 47 percent. On July 30, Kerry/Edwards got 54 percent and Bush/Cheney 41 percent, the poll shows.

Reflecting the DNC’s themes, 27 percent of registered voters say Kerry’s war record makes them more likely to vote for him (15% say less likely); five percent say Bush’s war record makes them more likely to vote for him (22% say less likely). And overall, 51 percent of registered voters say Bush has done more to divide Americans than unite them (39 percent say he has done more to unite them).

Not bad, not bad at all. No wonder Bush/Cheney is so negative. And here’s my favorite part:

Looking at crossover voters from the 2000 election, 92 percent of Gore voters in 2000 support Kerry (5 percent say they will vote for Bush and 3 percent is undecided); 84 percent of Bush voters say they plan to vote for the president again (four percent of Bush 2000 voters are undecided, 10 percent say they will vote for Kerry and 2 percent for Nader).

Too bad they didn’t check former Nader voters’ preferences. Maybe they couldn’t find enough people who admitted to voting for St. Ralph in 2000.

Zogby has more good news (via Atrios).

All in all, a good start. Oh, one more thing – the rating for Kerry’s speech were up from Gore’s.

More than 24.4 million people watched Sen. John Kerry deliver his acceptance speech Thursday night, 2.7 million more than watched Night 4 of the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

Contrary to speculation, the audience for the 2004 convention did not drop precipitously. According to Nielsen Media Research, the 2004 convention averaged 20.4 million viewers during peak viewing hours (9-10 p.m. each night), compared with 20.6 million viewers for the 2000 convention.

The Night 4 cable audience grew by 38 percent in 2004 vs. 2000, 6.7 million viewers vs. 4.2 million.

CNN grabbed the most cable viewers, while NBC eked out a win among broadcasters. Numbers are not available for C-SPAN, which is not advertiser-supported and does not subscribe to the Nielsen rating service.


Hormigas caliente

The dreaded fire ant may have finally met its match.

B lamed for everything from starting fires to ravaging crops, delivering painful multiple bites and decimating wildlife, imported red fire ants — Solenopsis invicta — are the ants from hell. In little more than 70 years, they’ve become the scourge of the South, infesting more than 260 million acres from Texas to Florida and causing damage in the uncounted millions.

They’ve been battled with everything from grits and boiling water to the most sophisticated of chemical baits, but they’ve lived to bite again.

Now, however, the seemingly indestructible pests from South America may have met their match in a microscopic organism that deals a knock-out punch to their colonies, which can teem with as many as 200,000 insects.

“This may prove to be the great leveler,” said Forrest Mitchell, an entomologist studying the protozoan Thelohania solenopsae at Texas A&M University’s research and extension center in Stephenville.

Mitchell said early research suggests the organism, which naturally infects the ants both in South America and the United States, may prove an effective, economical weapon against infestations on farms and rangeland. While chemical baits are effective against the ants in urban settings, he said, they are far too costly for widespread agricultural use.

The protozoan has been found in red fire ant nests in 126 of 157 infested Texas counties. Their heaviest concentration was in Hamilton and Lampasas counties in the center of the state. Few were found in East Texas, and none in Harris County.

Closely related to a protozoan that infects roughly a fourth of fire ant nests in South America, Thelohania solenopsae was first found in the United States six years ago. U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists discovered the organism in Florida, then later identified it in ant nests in Texas.


Intrigued by the USDA findings, Mitchell and his colleagues began testing Texas fire ants for the protozoan in 2002. “We finally finished in 2003,” he said, “and we’ve been hammering away at it ever since.”

Scientists are uncertain how the protozoan came to the United States, how it spreads or how it infects individual ants within a nest. What is apparent, though, is that once established in an ant colony, it decimates the population.

“From studies I’ve read, it’s apparent that they cause a chronic, debilitating disease,” Mitchell said. “The ants are less able to reproduce. … I don’t have scientific proof, but in some colonies that were heavily infected with the protozoan, I had a hard time finding ants.” When he dug into the nests, he said, the surviving ants fled rather than attacked.

“If the colonies are infested with the protozoan, I consider them dead,” Mitchell said.

The organism naturally spreads from nest to nest, and Mitchell said he and his colleagues are puzzled why it hasn’t moved extensively into East Texas.

“Where it hasn’t spread naturally, there’s a reason,” he said. “Maybe it just hasn’t had a chance to spread. Maybe the ants are healthier and more resistant. Maybe there are more single-queen colonies (a type of nest less commonly infected than those with multiple queens).”

Mitchell suspects East Texas’ heavy rainfall may deter the organism’s spread.

Whatever the reason is, I’m rooting for the protozoans. If you’ve never been bitten by fire ants – and when you do, it’ll be multiple bites – you may not understand why this is the best news to hit Texas since Blue Bell opened its doors. All I know is that as soon as someone makes a commercial product out of these critters, I’ll be the first one on line to buy it.

Changing the tone

From John Kerry’s acceptance speech:

“I want to address these next words directly to President Bush: In the weeks ahead, let’s be optimists, not just opponents. Let’s build unity in the American family, not angry division.”

Headline in today’s Chron:

Bush rips Kerry in Midwest tour

It’s usually the frontrunner who promises to run a positive campaign and calls upon his or her opponent to do the same, isn’t it? I guess we now know how both sides view themselves.

How to get more people to watch the convention

If the networks are really concerned about dwindling ratings for the national conventions (something which, frankly, they themselves must take some blame for, as they do a better job of anti-marketing them than Beelzebud Selig did with MLB before the last labor agreement), then perhaps they ought to consider getting TBogg to script them. It’s probably too tame for FOX, though.

Trimming the fat and the budget

Who could find fault in the new state policy that bans fast food from Texas schools? Would you believe PTOs?

When school opens across the state next month, Chick-fil-A, Pizza Hut and other popular fast food vendors will no longer be in the cafeterias.

Besides limiting fat content and portion sizes, the state’s new nutritional guidelines hope to make it harder for students to buy fast food by keeping it out of reach during meal times.

That change is prompting protests by not only the food vendors but some Parent-Teacher Organizations that relied on fast food sales as major fund-raisers.

“It’s a real unfortunate incident. We’re a big community supporter and for many years have worked with PTOs, coaching staff and principals to raise money for their schools,” said Chick-fil-A area marketing director Tina Boaz.

Lamar and Bellaire high schools and Johnston and Pershing middle schools are just some of the dozens of schools across the Houston area that stand to lose extra income, parents said.

In the past, the PTOs bought the sandwiches at a discount from Chick-fil-A and others. Then they sold them to students at regular cost, using the proceeds to fund school projects.

Last year, Pershing Middle School’s PTO made $20,000 in food sales from Chick-fil-A, Pizza Hut and Quiznos, according to PTO President Cathie Bach.

“We used those funds for new band instruments, some athletic uniforms and a whole new computer lab,” Bach said.

I already knew there was something seriously screwed about how public schools are funded, but having to rely on fast food franchises to pay for band instruments, lab equipment, and athletic uniforms? Geez. I’m not blaming the PTOs here, even though my original thought was “good riddance”. They’re making do with what they’ve got. All I’m saying is that they shouldn’t have to.

Another Enron guilty plea

Welcome to Club Fed, Ken Rice!

Ken Rice, the former head of Enron’s broadband Internet business, became the 11th person to plead guilty to an Enron-related crime when he admitted to a single count of securities fraud this morning before a federal judge.

A plea agreement with federal prosecutors requires him to cooperate with the government in ongoing investigations and trials and forfeit $13.7 million in cash and property. Rice faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, as well as three years of supervision.

The plea centered on a Jan. 20, 2000 meeting with analysts where Rice and others at the company touted the current and future abilities of Enron’s broadband network. That same meeting was mentioned in an indictment against former Chief Executive Officer Jeff Skilling.

Rice, 45, faced charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and insider trading. He entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore shortly after 11 a.m.

Attorneys close to the case have been expecting Rice to reach a deal with prosecutors for many weeks. As a division head he would have reported directly to Sklling, and would likely have had regular contact with former Chairman Ken Lay as well. Both men had pled not guilty to a variety of charges.

Rice said in court today that during the Jan. 20, 2000 meeting with analysts he made several misstatements and withheld information about the true nature of Enron Broadband Services. In particular, he said he made false statements about the broadband operating system, or “BOS”, the software that ran the network.


The Jan. 20, 2000 meeting is widely seen as the catalyst for a huge increase in Enron’s stock price in the following year. Enron’s stock price climbed 25 percent that day and began its gallop up to a record high of $90.56 that August.

EBS was only able to meet its earning targets in 2000 by selling some of its assets to a partnership controlled by former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow, Rice said. In most cases those sales were fraudulent because the partnership was not really at risk when it bought the assets. The Skilling indictment also mentions the false sales to Fastow’s LJM partnership.

Other possible ties between Rice’s plea and Skilling or Lay may have come through Enron’s budgeting process. Company divisions make projections of their expected operational performance in a given year, projections that Skilling and Lay would likely have reviewed and maybe approved. Rice says in his plea agreement that: “Internal projects indicated that the company stood to take substantial losses in 2001, well beyond publicly announced targets.”

What a nice way to end the week.

$15K in 14 days

The State Democratic Party is attempting to raise $15K over the next two weeks in order to get a copy of the DNC’s “Demzilla” file for State House candidates.

Democrats who say their No. 1 goal is to take back the state House are launching a “$15k in 14 Days” campaign to help pay for a new Web-based information system to target voters.

A Republican consultant said there’s no way the Democrats can reverse the GOP’s 88-62 House advantage this year.

“The odds are zero. As far as I can tell, at the absolute best, they could pick up maybe two seats,” said Royal Masset, consultant to several GOP House candidates.

But Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting held out hope of a takeover in a Wednesday e-mail solicitation to Democrats, writing, “With just a few more resources, we will be the majority party again!”


The party wants to raise $15,000 to help pay for “the Cadillac of information files” it has purchased to turn out voters, Democratic Party spokesman Mike Lavigne said.

He said the files, with detailed information such as voting history, likelihood of voting, gender and age, will be Web-based and thus available to Democratic organizers at every level.

“It’s accessible, and we’re going to be providing it at no cost,” Lavigne said.

Among races “we’re looking at real hard” as potential winners, Lavigne said, is the Democratic challenge by David Leibowitz against Rep. Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio. The seat is one of two also identified by Masset as vulnerable.

Mercer said his race, in a district divided between Democrats and Republicans, has been dubbed “the hottest race in Texas.”

I’ll get back to the issue of control of the House in a second. For now, Andrew D has some more background on this, and you can make your donation here.

Now then. I’ve said before that I don’t think the Dems can take control of the State House this year. They need a net 14 seat pickup, and I just don’t see them getting there from here. Too many uncompetitive seats, too many of their own incumbents who will be in tough reelection battles. On the other hand, I think Royal Masset is royally lowballing them. I see their ceiling as being in the 6-8 seat range. I’ll actually be a little disappointed if a two seat gain is all we get.

The Austin Chronicle, continuing its excellent election coverage, gives a few reasons why the Dems have a shot at some real gains.

If Austin state Reps. Jack Stick and Todd Baxter ever suspected they’d be vulnerable targets by the end of their freshman terms, they sure didn’t act like it. But two Democratic challengers to their House seats have by now shaken any sense of security the GOP incumbents may have had – dollar for dollar.

In two of the most closely watched races in the state, Democratic challengers Mark Strama and Kelly White are proving themselves formidable fundraisers on the trail, bringing in more campaign cash than any other first-time Democratic House candidates in the state. Meanwhile, Stick’s office says, the District 50 incumbent chose on principle not to accept campaign contributions during the special session this spring, even with an election just months away. What was he thinking? He was thinking, says one state Democratic pundit, that he’d have time to catch some R&R over the summer before coasting to re-election on Nov. 2.

His opponent Strama, an entrepreneurial techie with a political bent, would soon change Stick’s point of view with the release of his July 15 campaign finance report, which arrived thick with contributions totaling $225,826 raised since January. More than $38,000 of that amount came from online donors. Stick – whose own report took nearly a week to show up on the Ethics Commission Web site – collected $121,450 during the same period.


The Democratic resurgence played well in Travis Co., where in the March primary Dems outnumbered Republicans at the polls by more than 2-1. “White and Strama are in the very top tier of the Democrats’ hopes for gaining back the state House,” said Mark Nathan, whose political consulting firm (with Christian Archer) provided some initial consulting work for White’s campaign. “There are a lot of hopes and dreams pinned on these two faces.”

Other House races of note include San Antonio’s District 117, where freshman state Rep. Ken Mercer, a Republican in an otherwise Democratic district (his 2002 Dem opponent was entangled in San Antonio’s recent City Hall scandals) is trying to fend off Democratic challenger David Leibowitz. Houston GOP Rep. Talmadge Heflin, a powerful member of the new regime, is facing off against Democrat Hubert Vo in District 149. And in the southeast corner of the state, freshman GOP Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton faces a tough race in District 19 against Democrat Rex Peveto. Meanwhile, three potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents – Houston’s Scott Hochberg (District 137), Wichita Falls’ David Farabee (District 69), and Livingston’s Dan Ellis (District 18) – are facing serious GOP challengers.

Here at home, White is giving Baxter a run for his money, taking in more than twice as much as Baxter in the first half of the year. White, who like Strama is a first-time candidate, is drawing on her dollar sensibilities as the former executive of SafePlace (since renamed Kelly White Family Shelter), a nonprofit that she is credited with growing substantially during her tenure. What White’s campaign may lack in political experience it makes up for in financial success. The candidate’s July report shows big donations from the likes of businesswoman Bettye Nowlin, who kicked in $10,000; Luci Baines Johnson, in for more than $5,700; and the Annie’s List PAC, $15,000 with another $3,500 pledged.

Texas Tuesdays has of course already profiled Mark Strama (here, here, and here) and Kelly White (here and here), and you’ll hear more about Hubert Vo and David Leibowitz in August.

There’s a reason why Charles Soechting and the Texas delegates have been insisting that Texas is not a solid red state for President Bush, and that reason is that they want every Democrat in the state to feel like it’s really important for them to turn out in November. The Murray Memo talks about the benefit to Congressional candidates if the Kerry/Edwards team pays some attention to Texas, but I believe and I think Charles Soechting would agree, that State Rep candidates would do at least as well.

So anyway. $15K in 14 days. You want to make a difference and you have a little spare change lying around, there you go.

Cisneros not running in 06

For all the talk of who is or might be running for this or that in 2006, here’s one person who’ll be sitting it out: Henry Cisneros.

“I have no plans to run for office in 2006,” said Cisneros, 57.

Cisneros told reporters that his business life and raising his 17-year-old son would be disrupted by a run for office or service in a presidential Cabinet if John Kerry wins the White House from President Bush.

Cisneros was secretary of housing and urban development under President Clinton.

He said he wants to find a role in public service without the disruptions of running for or serving in office.

Cisneros said he wants to focus on his business for “the next couple of decades.” His company finances construction of homes for low-income families.


Cisneros said he has urged former Texas Comptroller John Sharp to run for governor in 2006.

Cisneros was not the only focus of statewide politics at the Democratic National Convention.

A pair of lame-duck congressmen, Chris Bell of Houston and Jim Turner of Crockett, were floating themselves as possible gubernatorial candidates. Turner said he also might be interested in running for Senate.

Houston lawyer Barbara Ann Radnofsky also spoke to the delegates about her desire to run for Senate. And convention Chairman Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico promoted former U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen of Houston as a possible 2006 candidate for Senate. Bentsen lost a 2002 Democratic primary bid for Senate.

It’s hard for me to read an article like this and not think about what could have been. Henry Cisneros was a rising star, and justifiably so. San Antonio owes a lot of what it is now to his vision from when he was Mayor in the 80s. It’s a shame that he won’t be serving the public in an elected office someplace, but it’s entirely his fault that this is the case. I’m glad he’s found a way to serve the public anyway, but it’s still a great waste as far as I’m concerned.

Barbara Radnofsky

Who is Barbara Radnofsky, you ask? Possibly the next Democratic candidate for the Senate, that’s who.

Radnofsky has never run for office and says that her only political involvement up until recently has been holding fundraisers for friends running in county and statewide judicial elections. Though she lacks political experience, Radnofsky comes to the scene with a potentially powerful network that she hopes to expand significantly this week. For 25 years, she has worked as a litigator at Vinson & Elkins, a law firm of national prestige whose Washington, D.C., lobbying shop is one of the most respected in the business.

Radnofsky acknowledged the conservative leanings of Vinson & Elkins, but added, “The firm has its share of Democrats too. The firm has been very supportive with some of the projects I’ve been involved with,” citing the numerous pro bono and charitable endeavors she has pursued.

To hear Radnofsky explain it, the Texas Senate seat is hers for the taking. Many have speculated that Hutchison has her eyes set on the governorship and no candidates have officially emerged from either party to seek the seat. Radnofsky says that outgoing Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas) (who lost his seat in a newly redistricted constituency) has told her that he is considering a gubernatorial, not a senatorial, run and she adds that no other sitting Democratic lawmaker has showed publicly expressed interest in running for the seat.

One way in which Radnofsky is working her way into the state and national party’s graces is by raising money for candidates. Since deciding to form her exploratory committee, Radnofsky says that she has raised about $30,000 for Sen. John Kerry and $25,000 for Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas), who faces a tough reelection battle due to redistricting.

Radnofsky says she has raised about $90,000 for her exploratory activity and spent half of it. Potential candidates in the exploratory phase are not required to report their fundraising figures.

There’s a lot more about how she’s approaching this and what her positions are; it’s a good profile. For what it’s worth, I briefly met her at a Richard Morrison event during the state Democratic convention. I asked her why she’s not trying for a lower office first. She pointed out there really aren’t a whole lot of legislative offices that would be winnable by a Democrat and aren’t already held by a Democrat in Houston, which is true enough, and she said she felt that this was the place where she could make a difference. She also recognized that it’ll take a boatload of money, especially for someone who’ll have to introduce herself to voters, so as far as that goes I’m glad to see her get started this early.

Via Greg.

Kerry’s speech

So I didn’t actually watch Kerry’s speech last night. I’m not a big speech-watching person, and hey, it’s not like he has to convince me that he’d make a fine President. With one notable exception, the lefty bloggers seem to approve of it, and quite a few of them are downright pumped. Sounds good to me.

In reviewing Kerry’s speech, the Chron was typically backhanded and mealy-mouthed, which in context means they couldn’t find anything obvious to gripe about. I’ll take that.

UPDATE: Had a chance to look around a bit. The Morning News called it a “strong speech” that “serve Mr. Kerry well in his quest for the White House”. The Statesman also used the word “strong”, as in “strong on security”. The Express-News made the astonishing observation that there’s some kind of battle going on for moderate and undecided voters. Whoo-ee, slow down there, Tex! I think they seemed to imply that Kerry may have had some success in doing that, but my head is still spinning so I can’t say for sure.

“And in other news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead”

I do believe that Byron has found the dumbest convention story yet.

MIA at the DNC

The Democrats best known to the most Texans aren’t at the Boston Hilton this week. They aren’t delegates, so they’re on vacation or back at work. They include:

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Austin

Rep. Chet Edwards, Waco

Rep. Martin Frost, Arlington

Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Corpus Christi

Rep. Max Sandlin, Marshall

Former comptroller and lieutenant governor nominee John Sharp

Governor nominee Tony Sanchez

Former attorney general Jim Mattox

Former land commissioner Garry Mauro

Former agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower (although he came for a day to promote his book.)

Former House Speaker Pete Laney

Former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (who is in frail health)

Former state senator and Texas Supreme Court Justice Oscar Mauzy

Former Senate nominee Victor Morales

As Byron notes, Hightower – who supported Nader in 2000 – is only nominally a Democrat these days, while Victor Morales renounced the Democrats in 2002 after losing the Senate primary runoff to Ron Kirk. A commenter whose email address suggests he may be related to Garry Mauro says that the former Land Commish has been there all week. That’s bad enough, but one name really stands out as an egregious error: the late Oscar Mauzy.


Justice Oscar Holcombe Mauzy, champion of the people and friend of the underdog, died peacefully after a brave battle against lung cancer on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2000.

Hey, guess what? Ma and Pa Ferguson aren’t there either! The Democrats have, like, totally abandoned their history!


The closest the Chron has come to understanding blogs

This Chron story on the bloggers at the Democratic Convention may come a bit late in the game (not exactly atypical for our hometown paper, of course), but it has the virtue of being non-condescending. It even contains a decent insight:

By reducing live coverage of the conventions, the major television networks have “given the bloggers a jump-start they never would have gotten otherwise,” said Thomas McPhail, professor of media studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“The bloggers have taken advantage of that. (Television network) management does not understand that you don’t want to give such a golden opportunity to attract readers to the Internet.”

I don’t believe I’d seen anyone bring that up before. It should be noted that C-SPAN and PBS are reporting good ratings, as they’re the places to go on the tube in the absence of the major networks, but the point is still valid – there’s unmet demand for this kind of coverage, and people are finding it where they can.

Also to the good, there’s a sidebar with all of the credentialed bloggers listed. It’s too bad there isn’t an easily-accessible list of delegates who are also bloggers, though that doesn’t explain why a URL wasn’t given for Cate Read even though the story specifically mentioned her. It’s a good piece anyway, so check it out.

Congressional news

Reps. Martin Frost and Pete Sessions will debate each other five times between Labor Day and Election Day. Those who can’t tell the difference between them by November have no one to blame for it but themselves. (via)

Max Sandlin gets endorsed by the NRA, gives a pretty good explanation for why he stayed in Texas instead of going to Boston, and has a nifty little animated ad for an upcoming fundraiser.

Lorenzo Sadun is getting some good press lately, in the Statesman and in the AusChron.

That AusChron article needs some quoting, as it covers three of the low-profile races in greater depth than every other newspaper in the state combined. We’ll start with Sadun, whom the author accompanied on a trip to Hempstead where he attended and campaigned at the town’s Watermelon Festival:

Sadun acknowledges being a bit out of his element, but says, “I’m learning to make this my element. If you’re going to represent people, you gotta understand who they are, and you don’t understand who they are sitting at UT. You find out who they are by going out to where they live, doing the things they do, and appreciating what they do. Whatever the results of this election, I’m going to come away from this with a much better understanding of where we live, and who we live with, than I had before.”

Next is Jon Porter, whom I’d previously mentioned here. He’s speaking to a group of people in the Killeen back yard of Bobby Grant, chair of the Bell County Democrats.

Porter lays out his philosophy to the small gathering: “The reasons that we’re doing this … going forward for a common ideal, for our common values, and our common values are that, in fact, America does work when Americans work; are that health care, access to good insurance, should be a right and not a luxury. We’re doing this because the national deficit is so out of control; the Democratic Party, despite being labeled as tax-and-spend liberals, are now the party of fiscal restraint, and we can prove it – back when we were in control, the deficit was lower, the debt was being paid off.

“Now, under George W. Bush and John Carter, the deficits have gone up. Each and every one of you owe more than $24,000 apiece to the national debt. My 21-month-old son owes $24,000 to the national debt. We are enslaving our children’s future. For what? Tax cuts for the wealthy. An unjust war built on a stack of cards and lies, where we’re losing lives every day, because the president and his people did not listen to their generals.”

I’ve supported the idea of campaigning on the deficit in Texas before, and I continue to believe it’s a message that can and will resonate. I’m glad to see Porter use it, and I’m equally glad to note that the earlier report of him having $22 on hand is considerably off – the AusChron piece credits him with $14K. Unfortunately, it also credits Rep. John Carter with $722K, which is nearly triple what the FEC report on him said.

Finally, there’s Rhett Smith, running against the not-related Lamar Smith and campaigning in Comal County.

Challenger Smith is soberly realistic about his candidacy, but looks for silver linings: “I think I have a better chance than John Courage did, and he was a heck of a candidate,” he says, speaking of the Dem who in 2002 garnered 25% of the vote against Lamar Smith in the old CD 21, which encompassed more of the Hill Country and less of Austin.

“I think there’s going to be a negative Bush/Cheney vote, and a negative Tom DeLay and Lamar vote. You know, Lamar is pretty shy about getting in the media, and perhaps that serves him well.” (Lamar Smith was asked for an interview about Rhett Smith, but a campaign spokesman would only comment, “He doesn’t know him, he hasn’t seen him, and he won’t vote for him.”)

Smith knows that to win, it will take more than Comal, where only one elected official is a Democrat. In fact, he’s banking on Austin. CD 21 has long covered western Travis County, but re-redistricting pulled it into the heart of the city, right across 38th Street from Central Market. “The new map [of this district] kind of favors the Democrats,” Smith says. “I think they were so greedy, DeLay and his crowd, of trying to dilute Lloyd Doggett and some of the other Democrats. But when you do that, you’ve got to shift people somewhere, so obviously you’re going to dilute Republican voting strength. They were just taking a gamble that they could have it all. …We’ve got to have a huge turnout in Austin/Travis County.”

From your lips to God’s ear about GOP redistricting greed biting them, Rhett. Anyway, check it out.

Are you better off now?

Economic conditions took turn for worse, Fed says

The Federal Reserve found that economic conditions around the country worsened in June and early July, while the Commerce Department said orders for big-ticket manufactured goods managed only a 0.7 percent rise last month, the latest signals that the economy was slowing.

The Fed’s survey, compiled from its 12 regional bank districts, showed that retail sales, especially for autos, weakened over the last two months.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported that orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket durable goods eked out a lower-than-expected gain in June, reflecting a surge in orders for military aircraft, following declines in April and May.

Oil prices back off record highs

Oil prices eased today, a day after hitting a 21-year high in U.S. trading because of a threat by Russian authorities to shut down most of the production from that country’s largest oil company.


September contracts of U.S. light crude spiked 3 percent higher on Wednesday to $43.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange — the highest level since the exchange began offering the light, sweet crude contract in 1983. Prices eased slightly later in the day to settle at $42.90 a barrel.

In electronic trading today before the New York exchange opened, the September oil contracts were down 45 cents at $42.45 a barrel.

The market had reacted to developments in the battle between the Russian government and Yukos, the country’s largest oil company.

Yukos, battered by a gigantic overdue back taxes bill, said it might have to halt its main production units within a few days because of a bailiffs’ order.

The company says it does not have the cash to pay its tax debt, and court orders have frozen assets that it could tap to raise money. Yukos officials repeatedly have warned that the company, which produces 2 percent of the world’s oil, is being driven toward bankruptcy.

Crude supplies are already extremely tight, with Iraq’s output hampered by saboteurs and most producers already pumping as much as they can. Saudi Arabia, the only producer that still has significant spare capacity, has recently boosted its production by about 1 million barrels, but much of this fresh oil has yet to reach customers and replenish their depleted inventories.

New jobless claims increase

In the week ending July 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 345,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 341,000. The 4-week moving average was 336,250, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week’s revised average of 337,250.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.3 percent for the week ending July 17, an increase of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week’s unrevised rate of 2.2 percent.

The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending July 17 was 2,960,000, an increase of 174,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 2,786,000. The 4-week moving average was 2,889,750, an increase of 750 from the preceding week’s revised average of 2,889,000.

White House to Project Record Deficit

The White House will project soon that this year’s federal deficit will exceed $420 billion, congressional aides said, a record figure certain to ignite partisan warfare over President Bush’s handling of the economy.

The annual summertime analysis is expected out this Friday, said several congressional aides speaking on condition of anonymity Tuesday. That would be well after the frequently ignored legal deadline of July 15.


Last year’s deficit was $375 billion, the worst ever in dollar terms. The White House has said the numbers are manageable because they only equal about 4 percent the size of the U.S. economy — well below the 6 percent ratio reached under President Reagan.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected in January that this year’s shortfall would be $477 billion. In May, citing higher than expected revenue collections, it said it believed the red ink would be smaller but offered no figure.

Two weeks ago, the Treasury Department said the deficit for the first nine months of this budget year was $327 billion. That was more than 20 percent larger than the $270 billion shortfall for the same period last year.

Pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

2004 vs 2003

Josh Marshall perfectly captures the difference between the Democratic mood and tone in 2003 and now. Check it out.

UPDATE: Atrios agrees, and adds a few thoughts.

Not how it was, but how it should have been

Tonight on the 6 PM news, KHOU-11 did a story about how the Texas delegation is getting disrespected at the Democratic convention. I didn’t pay much attention to it – Tiffany likes watching the local news, but it usually gives me hives – but figured that it was probably just some repackaged conventional wisdom (no pun intended). Maybe if they’d interviewed CateyBeth instead, I’d have paid attention to the story.

Oh, and on a side note, burgeoning media mogul Karl-T was also featured later in the broadcast.

“Simpsons” goes gay

Do I really need to tell you that when a character on The Simpsons is going to be coming out of the closet, your first stop for exhaustive speculation as to who that character might be should be A Perfectly Cromulent Blog? I didn’t think so.

Morrison poll numbers

Hard not to get at least a little excited at these poll numbers.

Beattie Hamilton & Staff for the DCCC. Poll details unknown.

DeLay (R) 49
Morrison (D) 39
Fjetland (I) 7

DeLay is running 11 points behind Bush/Cheney (which means Bush is garnering 60 percent in the district). DeLay also runs poorly in Galveston County, which has just been added to the district. The theory is that the county, which was cut in half by DeLay’s redistricting, is unhappy with the maneouver — a theme echoed by every Texas Democrat I have talked to the last week.

Morrison’s name ID is apparently non-existant, so there’s room to grow.

Andrew D, Greg, and Sarah are all doing the happy dance with me.

I basically agree with Greg that most of Fjetland’s support comes straight from DeLay – Fjetland did get 20% or so of the vote each time he ran in the Republican primary against DeLay. It’d be nice to turn some of those supporters, or to convince Fjetland that dropping out and endorsing Morrison is in his best interests, but I’m not going to sweat it too much.

I do believe that this year is the best chance to get rid of DeLay. Everything is going as well as it could be – Democrats are fired up, Galveston County voters have a beef with DeLay for his role in splitting them from the rest of the county, Morrison is as good a candidate as one could hope for, and of course there are all of DeLay’s ethical problems. Maybe if he wins and later resigns the seat could be turned, but I’d have to give the nod to a less-encumbered-by-baggage Republican in that scenario. The time is now, that’s pretty much all there is to it.

I got email from a friend today asking which Democratic Congressional candidates he ought to donate to. I ranked them in different ways for him, and listed Morrison first even as I characterized him as a huge underdog. Well, maybe I was wrong about calling him that. Consider this to be my penance for that.

UPDATE: MyDD notes that Common Cause and CREW have joined the outside-counsel chorus. It should be noted that Melanie Sloan of CREW drafted the complaint for Chris Bell. There’s also a link to this AP wire story which notes that the Republican half of the jury pool from wihch the Ethics Committee could draw consists entirely of DeLay PAC money recipients.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s political action committee gave $81,077 in the last decade to 10 Republicans who could be asked to investigate allegations that the Texas lawmaker misused his office.


Should the committee choose to investigate, it could appoint four of its members, two from each party, to conduct the inquiry.

Or the committee could assign the investigation to two of its members – one from each party – and one Republican and one Democrat from a larger pool. The pool, appointed by party leaders, consists of 10 members from each party.

All 10 Republicans appointed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., received money from Mr. DeLay’s PAC, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan organization that tracks contributions. The donations ranged from the $545 to Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas to $20,000 to Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk.

Mr. DeLay has said the contributions do not create a conflict because, he noted, Democrats on the committee also have accepted donations from party leaders’ fund-raising groups.

Mr. DeLay also said congressional watchdog groups that criticized his fund raising activities are tools of the Democratic Party.

Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s two PACs have given $55,000 to three Democrats in the pool since 2000, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

That last bit would be relevant if Nancy Pelosi were being investigated, but she isn’t. Tom DeLay is, and this is just another smokescreen on his part.

Comment problem fixed (again)

Apparently, I had a repeat of the webhost problem which gave “permission denied” errors when commenting, and which also prevented me from posting before now. I saved a few things in draft and have now published them. Dreamhost has assured me that they fixed the underlying cause, so I trust this will be the last of this particular problem. Thanks!

Where’d I put those backups?

I’m sure you’ve seen the story of Florida’s latest voting woes by now.

A computer crash erased detailed records from Miami-Dade County’s first widespread use of touchscreen voting machines, raising again the specter of elections troubles in Florida, where the new technology was supposed to put an end to such problems.

The crashes occurred in May and November of 2003, erasing information from the September 2002 gubernatorial primaries and other elections, elections officials said Tuesday.

The malfunction was made public after the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a citizen’s group, requested all data from the 2002 gubernatorial primary between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride.

In December, officials began backing up the data daily, to help avoid similar data wipeouts in the future, said Seth Kaplan, spokesman for the county’s elections supervisor, Constance Kaplan.

The loss of data underscores problems with the touchscreen voting machines, the citizen’s group said. “This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. “Of course it’s worrisome.”

The group is concerned about the machines’ effectiveness, following revelations about other problems with the system. Last month, state officials said the touchscreen systems used by 11 counties had a bug that would make a manual recount impossible. Earlier this month, a newspaper study indicated touchscreen machines did not perform as well as those that scanned paper ballots.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, that I believe the touch-screen voting machines should merely be used as an interface, with a printed ballot that’s counted by optical-scan machines used as the actual vote of record. I could be persuaded to support using the machine counts as official, with paper ballots as backup only and for recounts, but either way I feel that having that kind of redundancy built into the system is a Good Thing. What happens if the two don’t match? Well, then you’ve got a problem on your hands, as the whole point is that the two are supposed to match, but I’d say the paper ballot, which each voter gets after pushing the buttons and then drops into a ballot box, is the official record any time there’s a discrepancy. I really don’t see what’s so controversial about this.

Greg has been on a bit of a tear lately about the perceptions of security of electronic voting machines and allegations that they lack in various areas, and while I think he makes some good points, the point that I keep coming back to is that we’ve all basically been told to trust Diebold, Hart Intercivic, and all the other voting machine makers. What alarms me about this Florida article isn’t my tinfoil-hat “oh my god they’re going to steal the election!” instincts, it’s the thought that it took a catastrophic failure – and its discovery by a citizens’ group – for anyone to suggest that regular backups of this data might be a good idea. How can you put any faith in that kind of process? Has anyone asked Beverly Kaufman what kind of backup procedures Harris County has? At least with paper ballots, you can point to a locked storage room somewhere.

We don’t really know how robust and stable these machines are, and the reason we don’t know is because the manufacturers won’t tell us. That would mean parting with their trade secrets. Given a choice between their intellectual property and the integrity of my voting system, I’ll choose the latter every day. I’m not an open-source evangelist, but I can’t see why that isn’t the right model to emulate here.

I certainly have no desire to go back to punch cards. I actually like the eSlate interface, and I feel confident that with such an interface all kinds of problems such as overvotes and undervotes can be eliminated. All I’m really asking for here is transparency. Can we all agree on that?

Popup redux

Awhile back, I bashed the GOP for including pop-up ads as part of its Internet outreach strategy. I stand by my assertion that pop-ups are a stupid way to reach consumers, especially considering their looming obsolescence thanks to pop-up-blocking technology, but as Rob has pointed out, the madness now appears to be a bipartisan one. If you’ll excuse me, there’s a wall around here that needs a little head-banging. And if one of you convention-attending bloggers could figure out who in the Kerry camp was responsible for this and give him or her a dope-slap for me, I’d be much obliged.

That’s why they call it “parody”

You’d think that with all of the scandals and investigations surrounding him that Tom DeLay wouldn’t have a whole lot of free time for frivolity, but apparently you’d be wrong.

A super-sized Statue of Liberty, holding aloft an order of french fries, is adorning food tray liners in Subway restaurants across Germany. And House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, is angry enough about it to lose his lunch.

“This is every bad stereotype about corporate America come true,” DeLay said in a news release.

The ad in German, whose headline translates as “Why are Americans so fat?” is a promotional tie-in to the movie Super Size Me, director Morgan Spurlock’s take on life in the fast-food lane.

In his award-winning documentary, the American filmmaker eats nothing but McDonald’s Quarter Pounders, Egg McMuffins and the like for 30 days, gaining 25 pounds and reportedly risking his health.

Milford, Conn.-based Subway has long marketed its restaurants as a healthier alternative to fast food.

Jared Fogle, the Subway spokesman who once tipped the scales at 435 pounds, only to lose 245 pounds on a diet of Subway sandwiches, makesa brief appearance in the movie.

Subway officials point out that the prime images on the tray liners — the goateed, fry-stuffing madman and the Rubenesque Lady Liberty — were both borrowed directly from the movie promotions running in Germany.

No similar Subway ads ran in the United States.

And Subway officials dispute the notion the tray liners are somehow un-American.

“It’s an American movie, made by an American, made about an American issue, shown to Americans,” Subway spokesman Kevin Kane said.

Here’s a picture. I thought it was pretty funny, but then maybe I’m just another America hater.

“I guess for some companies, corporate patriotism is as flexible as Jared’s waistline,” DeLay said.

DeLay objected to the ad’s parody of the Statue of Liberty, “one of the most recognizable American symbols.”

So I presume then that DeLay would have objected to a parody like this, too? I don’t recall hearing about his press release for that one, but maybe I just missed it.

I can’t believe Tom DeLay has never seen a parody of the Statue of Liberty before. Did he grow up without ever once seeing a Warner Brothers cartoon in which a low-flying plane or other fast-moving object caused the statue’s skirts to billow up? Has he never once looked at a MAD Magazine? The Statue of Liberty, like Uncle Sam and Santa Claus, gets parodied precisely because it’s so recognizable a symbol. What’s the point of parodying something no one’s ever heard of?

Here’s a bunch of parodied images from art and pop culture – I’ve linked directly to a few favorites below. I’m sure there are plenty more out there, but I don’t have the time to do a really thorough search. If you’re in the mood for some research, please do feel free to leave any results in the comments.

UPDATE: Jack takes his shots at DeLay as well.


My $0.02 on convention blogging

If I were there, I’d probably spend my time finding people to talk to, and blogging about that. That’s just me, of course – your mileage may vary and all that. That said, Byron’s conversation with Kucinich delegates is the sort of thing I’m looking for from the conventionbloggers. Not because I have any great interest in Dennis Kucinich and his supporters, but because I do have a great interest in the people who won’t get much regular press coverage. Talking to those who will get coverage is also fine, as long as you’re not asking the same questions everyone else does.

Just my two cents. What are you looking for from conventionblogging?

School finance lawsuit to proceed

The elephant in the room during the whole school finance reform mess has been a lawsuit by a bunch of school districts, HISD included, which charges the state with not meeting its funding obligations. Today a motion by the state to dismiss the lawsuit on grounds that it’s a political question was denied.

Judge John Dietz of Travis County denied the state’s motion to throw out a lawsuit brought by more than 260 school districts that claim the Texas Legislature is not adequately funding education.

Assistant Attorney General Jeff Rose said his office will not pursue an immediate appeal but might challenge Dietz’s ruling after the trial is completed.

Opening statements in the West Orange-Cove lawsuit are scheduled for Aug. 9. The trial before Dietz is expected to last about six weeks.

Assistant Attorney General Amy Warr argued that school funding is a political question entrusted to the Legislature under the Texas Constitution.

She also said that local school districts are in partnership with the state in providing an adequate education. “The court can’t put itself in the middle of a debate between the Legislature and the districts,” Warr said.

David Thompson, a lawyer for a group of districts that includes Houston ISD, said the court isn’t being asked to make the policy determination of how much education the state should provide. Instead, he said, the issue is whether the Legislature is fully funding the education curriculum it has adopted.

Dietz noted that the Texas Supreme Court “made short shrift” of the state’s jurisdictional argument when it ruled last year that the West Orange-Cove case should proceed to trial.

There still appear to be a few dying embers of support for some kind of special session, even if it only deals with property tax reduction, but I don’t see it going anywhere. Speaker Craddick’s position for some time now has been to wait until January, or at least after the suit has been disposed of, and though I’m sure he’s been the recipient of some arm-twisting, I haven’t seen any reports that indicate he’s wavered. We’re also rapidly approaching the deadline for getting a ballot measure approved, a big deal since any major reform would require a Constitutional amendment. The trial begins August 9, and I feel pretty sure that will be the next step in this process.

Bell’s doing well

All things considered, it’s not so bad to be Chris Bell right about now.

Since filing an ethics complaint against the House Republican leader from Sugar Land last month, Bell has become a darling of the Democrats.

Texan delegates to the Boston convention clamored Monday to have their picture taken with him. They asked for his autograph and encouraged him to run for statewide office.

“He has a lot of courage,” said Carmen Nuncio of Houston. “I am very proud of him.”

Later, Bell appeared at a posh reception for former Democratic House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt at Boston’s Wang Theatre, where several colleagues praised the Houston lawmaker for going after DeLay.

“To take on one of the most powerful, toughest members of the House takes a lot of guts,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Bell said the support from Democrats and some Republicans has been surprising in the wake of his allegations that DeLay violated House rules by engaging in abuse of power and improper fund-raising.

“It’s funny how things work out sometimes,” Bell said. “Obviously it was the Republicans’ full intention to kill me. But in a sense, they’ve breathed even more life into me. Who would have thought that?”

Well, fortune is supposed to favor the bold. Bell will need to make sure some of that love he’s getting from outside Texas comes home with him for it to be more than good vibrations. Making sure the ethics complaint is taken seriously and not as the grandstanding move DeLay’s flunkies claim it to be would be a good first step.

[Bell] plans to take a hard look at running for statewide office in 2006 and doesn’t believe his tiff with DeLay will hurt him.

“People are sick of watching Democrats just laying down and taking it. They want to see people standing up and fighting for what they believe is right,” said Bell.

Not to overstate my point here, but whether this “tiff” helps or hurts Bell is directly tied to the outcome. If DeLay is found to be guilty of the charges Bell has levelled, he’ll have a pretty solid parry to anyone who claims he was just being vindictive, and the type of person who’ll still believe he was pulling a stunt is likely the type of person who wouldn’t vote for him anyway. If not, well, I’m sure he’ll do fine in his private law practice. We ought to know in another six weeks or so.

UPDATE: Kos appears to have had a chat with Chris Bell. Check it out.

UPDATE: And more on Chris Bell.

Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, who lost his bid for re-election earlier this year in a district redrawn by the Republican-led Legislature, said Tuesday he is considering a range of options, including a possible run for governor in 2006.


Bell, addressing Texas delegates to the Democratic National Convention over breakfast, said his future plans dependin part on whether Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison takes on Gov. Rick Perry in the 2006 Republican primary – a decision Hutchison is expected to make next year.

“If she runs for governor, the dominos start falling,” Bell said, a reference to political chatter suggesting GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst could seek Hutchison’s seat and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn could run to succeed Dewhurst.

Bell lost in the March Democratic primary to Al Green.

“If there’s an upside to losing in March, it does give you a lot of time to weigh your options,” Bell said.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Anyone But Craddick

Dave McNeely notes that the Democrats in the State House are aiming to elect a different speaker in 2005.

The Democrats, with large eyes, think they they might be able to beat six or seven incumbent Republicans, including two in Austin and Travis County. Democrats also know they have almost as many other seats vulnerable to Republican takeover.


Two scenarios on that replacement strategy:

•One is to build the Democratic minority up enough that a handful of Republicans who aren’t Craddick fans can join a coalition to elect a Democrat as speaker.

•The other possibility would be to have the Republican House members once considered ABC’s — Anybody But Craddick — decide among themselves which of their number is to be elected speaker with the Democrats’ help.

Tommy Adkisson of San Antonio, a Bexar County commissioner who once served in the Texas House, said that he and other Democrats are capitalizing on the national Democratic ticket to help raise money toward targeting key House races. He said that $65,000 was raised toward that end Sunday during an Edwards fund-raising visit to San Antonio.

Soechting hopes Democrats will have as many as five other fund-raisers in coming weeks — in Austin, Houston, Dallas, the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso.

Soechting says there are few statewide races in Texas because major offices, such as governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, are chosen in nonpresidential election years.

So it makes sense to try to take advantage of the energy at the top of the ballot, even in Texas, to help races further down, Soechting said.

A lot will have to go right for this to happen, but it’s not out of the question. Democrats certainly know what’s at stake, with the DeLay redistricting scheme threatening five members of the Congressional delegation, and there certainly feels like there’s a lot of energy this year. I think there’s more now than there was in 2002, and there aren’t nearly as many distractions this time around.

That the Edwards fundraiser, which netted $600K for the Kerry/Edwards ticket, also raised $65K for state House candidates is a very good thing. I can’t help but think there won’t be so much corporate cash flowing to Republicans this time around, so the playing field ought to be a bit more level. (You know where to go if you want to find some worthy candidates to help out, right? Good.) It’d be very nice if Kerry and/or Edwards made an appearance or two in Texas that wasn’t simply about fundraising, but if that’s too much to ask for, I’ll say once again that the other original Democratic hopefuls would make fine surrogates. (Howard Dean will be at the HCDP‘s Johnson-Rayburn event on August 21, for those who might be interested.)

I guess what feels different about 2004 is that for the first time since probably 1996, Democrats everywhere in Texas know there’s a damn good reason for them to get to the polls. That won’t be enough to win a statewide election on its own any time soon, but we’re not aiming for that; not this year, anyway. The goal is to raise the tide enough to swamp as many smaller races as possible. Bush beat Gore by 59-38 in 2000. Get that margin to 55-42 or closer this year and I believe that goal will be in reach.

Byron gets it right

Regarding last night’s speeches, I think Byron nails this:

The only way that Hillary will win the Democratic nomination in 2008 will be if Democrats across the country are fully convinced that she did everything in her power to get Kerry / Edwards elected in 2004.

Yep. Anyone who is perceived to have been working at cross-purposes to the objective of winning the Presidency this year is going to be reviled by the base. Look at how much scorn there is for Joe Lieberman (and to a lesser extent Al Gore) for not fighting harder during the Florida recount. People are going to be keeping score this time around. There will be plenty of time later to advance one’s own agenda after Bush is back in Crawford.

Timing is everything

Two headlines from yesterday’s Chron:

Google stock will start at $108-$135 a share

Web worm slows search sites

Not that it really mattered, but the second headline appeared later in the day than the first one. Probably just as well nonetheless.

Atrios unveiled

By now you’ve probably heard the news that Atrios is psuedonymous no more. His name is Duncan Black – it now says “Eschaton — a weblog by d u n c a n b l a c k” at the bottom of his page – and TalkLeft has a non-redacted picture of him. I think we can safely say that this proves my hypothesis that he was all along a non-insider, someone whom Andrew Sullivan would have passed by on the street without recognizing. Not any more, obviously.

I want to take a moment to give a brief shout-out to Ann Salisbury, whom I met along with Brian Linse and then-still-on-Blogspot Kevin Drum back in 2002 when I was in Anaheim on a business trip. Ann said at the time that she believed Atrios had an academic background, because she traced an IP address from an email he sent her to UC Irvine. Well, looks like she was right about that. Take a bow, Ann!

Via Kevin. There’s some more stuff about Atrios/Duncan Black in the comments as well.

UPDATE: That would be “UC Irvine”, not “Cal State Irvine”. My bad. Thanks to Ulrika in the comments for the catch.

Texas Tuesdays: Kelly White

I know everyone’s eyes are focused on Boston right now, but back here in Austin we’ve got another fine Texas Tuesdays candidate for your approval in Kelly White, former executive director of SafePlace. Though this is her first run at public office, she’s got an extensive resume in public service, and she’s running against yet another TAB/TRM-enhanced incumbent. Meet Kelly White, check out the Q&A with Kelly White, and of course if you like what you see, please make a donation to Kelly White.

What’s in a name?

We picked the name Olivia partly because we liked how it sounded, partly because we didn’t know any other Olivias, and partly because it wasn’t an excessively popular name. It turns out we were wrong about that last reason – “Olivia” was #10 on the list of popular baby names for girls in 2002, and has climbed steadily in popularity since 1990. It’s even more popular now. When we read the SSA press release which announced that “Olivia” was the #5 most popular girl’s name for 2003, we cringed but consoled ourselves that at least we didn’t know any other Olivias.

Tonight we attended an orientation for the day care center where Olivia will stay when Tiffany goes back to work in September. All the other parents there had infants, and two of them had Olivias. That was the only repeat name among the incoming children. sigh

Oh, well. At least we still like the way it sounds.

UPDATE: Alex adds some thoughts, including some cool etymology (I had no idea what “Madison” and “MacKenzie” actually mean).

All my friends know the Low Rider

I’m not even a car person, but I’m sorry I missed the Lowrider Evolution Tour yesterday.

“It’s just what I love; I love old cars,” said a beaming O’Brien Longoria, of Conroe, as he explained why he spent three years turning his 1963 Chevrolet Impala into a sleek machine worthy of the name low-rider.

Unlike most of the low-riders at the show, Longoria’s vehicle didn’t scream with loud colors or captivate the eye with complex artwork. Instead, its classic coat of powder puff blue and its white interior elicited a sense of elegance through simplicity.

Organizers estimated that 10,000 people paid the $30 admission fee to view the show, called “Lowrider Evolution Tour 2004.” The show is traveling to 15 cities this year, and most of the participants display their cars in their local areas.

Groovy. There were some pretty cool lowriders in the Art Car Parade this year, something you didn’t see all that much of a few years back. I’ll take Olivia when she’s old enough to enjoy looking at the cars. That’s one of the cool things about having a kid, isn’t it? The built-in excuse for doing stuff like this? I plan on taking full advantage of it.

WaPo Best Blogs contest

It’s not as prestigious as the Koufax Awards, but I imagine this will get some publicity: the Washington Post is holding a Best Blogs contest, and they’re taking nominations in ten categories between now and September 3 (voting begins September 27). I didn’t really like some of their categories, as there seemed to be an awful lot of overlap among them (Best Democratic/Republican Party Coverage, Best Campaign Dirt, Best Inside the Beltway), but I made my nominations anyway. You have to register, but if you’ve already registered at the WaPo site, it’ll accept that (I’m guessing BugMeNot addresses will be rejected once used more than once). Get your nominations in now so you can’t complain later that there’s no one you want to vote for.