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November 10th, 2004:

“Staten Island?”

Michael thinks I’d enjoy this comic because it pokes fun at Staten Island, my hometown. He’s right. Thanks, Michael!

Give me a season pass

Want to know what fellow TiVoholics are watching? Via Mark Evanier, here are the Top 100 season passes. I’ll stipulate to having the following in my pass list:

Rank Title
---- ---------------
3    Desperate Housewives
4    Lost
10   The Sopranos
19   Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
20   24
55   The Amazing Race 5
87   The 4400

I’ve also got a few no-longer-running shows like “Angel” and “LA Dragnet” (a vastly underappreciated cop show, IMHO), plus various BBCA mysteries (woo hoo! A new season of Waking the Dead premiers in two weeks!) that rotate through. Pete will no doubt be glad to see that “The Biggest Loser” is not (yet) on the TiVo list. Maybe there is still hope for America.

War Liberal in exile

Mac Thomason dropped me a note to say that with the apparently premature death of, his regular blog site is unavailable. He’s set up a temporary home for War Liberal here, and will eventually migrate everything (including, I hope, the domain name) there. Update your links accordingly.

Planning to upgrade

Last night I finally got around to downloading the latest version of Movable Type. I’m hoping to do the upgrade in the next few days, Copious Spare Time permitting. I’ve got a couple of questions for those of you who have already taken the plunge:

1. Any gotchas I need to worry about?

2. Is the new dynamic page rebuilding thing worth it?

3. Besides the new MT Blacklist, which (if any) of the plugins are you using?

4. Anything else I should be aware of?


The College Republican Senior Scam

One of the things that I never got around to blogging about in the runup to the election was a little fundraising scandal that’s percolating in the ranks of the national College Republicans. Here’s an update to that story.

Officials with the national group, based in Washington, D.C., did not return phone calls seeking a response. But in a memo last month to state officers across the country, [College Republican National Committee chairman Eric] Hoplin urged them to stay quiet about newspaper articles detailing the group’s fund-raising tactics.

Hoplin wrote that media accounts of the fund raising are “full of lies and distortions” orchestrated by the “liberal media” and aimed at hurting President Bush’s campaign just before Election Day.

“We need the story to go away, which it will … but only if we all withhold our comments,” Hoplin wrote in the memo, which was confirmed by several state officers.

You know, I can’t help but think that orders from the top to duck the media is the sort of thing that radiates a sense of the jitters. I mean, wouldn’t you rather have all of your lieutenants expressing full confidence in your operations. And please spare me the “liberal media” claptrap. Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed are all College Republican alumni. These guys can get an audience with Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to tell their story any time they want.

In Texas, a former vice chairman of that state’s College Republicans called the fund raising “morally repugnant” and called for Hoplin and the group’s treasurer, Paul Gourley, to resign.

“Preying on the elderly to make money is unconscionable and should not be tolerated by any member of the College Republicans or the Republican Party,” said Mark McCaig, a Texas A&M University student who stepped down about six weeks ago as vice chairman of the Texas Federation of College Republicans but remains a Republican. “Like many others, I am embarrassed to have been associated with these individuals.”

Reached Monday, McCaig said he believes the CRNC could raise money successfully without misleading people.

“I think the programs of the College Republicans should stand on their own. I think there’s a product there that people would be willing to invest in,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to have to funnel it through a bunch of front organizations and make a bunch of unfounded claims.”

McCaig said the group’s spending also should be reviewed.

“When you see tens of millions of dollars spent on fund raising … that’s insane,” he said.

But Sarah Floerke, the current Texas College Republicans chairwoman, said McCaig was in a dispute with the organization’s leadership when he stepped down and might be biased. She had not heard about the questions surrounding the group’s fund raising, other than in Hoplin’s memo, she added.

“I’m sure I’m going to find out a lot more at the meeting,” she said. “I think the College Republican National Committee did an excellent job fund raising, and they were able to send out College Republicans across the nation.”

Mark McCaig forwarded this link to me. I’ve never met him, so I can’t truly judge his motives here, but it seems to me that the odds that he’s simply concerned that an organization he’s invested his time and energy in is doing something bad are at least as good as the odds that he’s just full of sour grapes. And you know, even if his motives are not as pure as a mountain spring, that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

The original story is here (thanks to Linkmeister for the reminder). There’s something about this whole thing that puzzles me.

About $9 million of the College Republicans’ reported spending this year appeared to go into fund-raising expenses, according to a Times analysis of reports filed with the IRS.

About $313,000, roughly 3 percent, went for travel, convention expenses and “hospitality.” About $210,000 went to payroll expenses, helping pay for campus organizers who have been drumming up support for the GOP ticket among young people.

The large amount of money devoted to fund raising, and the small amount for political activities, is unusual among the top ranks of the burgeoning field of so-called 527 independent political groups.

Of the $20 million the anti-Bush group spent, according to its filings, 93 percent went to media, advertising, marketing and polling.

Of the $13.7 million spent by the anti-John Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, 90 percent went to media, advertising and media consulting.

What were they raising all that money for? It can’t possibly be that fundraising itself accounted for 90+% of their expenses, and if somehow it did, what would be the point of it? I don’t think it’s a great leap to think there might be some funny accounting going on. That would also explain the stonewalling. With this much money involved, if there is anything hinky going on, someone is going to get tripped up by the taxes of it sooner or later. We’ll see what happens.

Coyotes in River Oaks

Coyotes in River Oaks. What’s next?

Fears are running high that coyotes living in Memorial Park’s isolated areas are wandering farther afield, bringing them into contact with joggers and residents of the city’s toniest neighborhood, River Oaks.

And here I thought the River Oaks rent-a-cop corps kept out all the undesirables. Silly me.

There have been periodic coyote sightings in Memorial Park for many years, parks department officials said.


“We have them all over Harris County. … We’ve kind of embarked upon their habitat,” Capt. Albert Lynch of the Texas Parks and Wildlife said. “Development has pushed them into a smaller area.”

Well, yes, but we’re not talking about some frontier housing development in the far reaches of Montgomery County here. Memorial Park is inside the Loop, and River Oaks is between it and downtown. If the coyotes are there they’ve either migrated in or we’ve been coexisting with them for decades. Maybe they’ve expanded their range for whatever reason, but it’s not because recent development has encroached on their habitat.

Apparently, Austin is having similar problems.

Unusually brazen coyotes have been spotted in streets, yards and playgrounds and even on porches in neighborhoods throughout Travis County, and a program approved Tuesday aims to instill a bit of fear back into the packs.

Travis County and the City of Austin will finance a $40,000 contract with the Texas Wildlife Services Program to cull the coyotes. The problem has been most pronounced in the Northwest Hills area.

The culling, to be handled by a wildlife biologist, will be focused on the most aggressive animals that have lost their innate fear of humans, said Jeff Ripley of Texas Cooperative Extension. In turn, the remaining coyotes should relearn to avoid humans. The animals will be humanely trapped, then euthanized. The traps will be set on public lands with limited access for people.

Texas regulations do not permit the relocation of coyotes.

Residents bear some responsibility for quelling the problems, Ripley said, and an education program will go hand in hand with the culling.

“This is not something that Wildlife Services can do on their own,” Ripley said.

In particular, residents should refrain from feeding the coyotes or leaving pet food outside where the coyotes can get it. They should also seal their garbage cans. Pets should remain inside or on a leash.

Humans encroaching on wildlife habitat and the bad things that can result are indeed serious issues across the country. I’d like to see some proof that coyotes are infesting River Oaks, though. I’m not just being snarky here, either – the Heights isn’t that far away from Memorial Park, so if the coyotes really are ranging outwards from there, it may be just a matter of time before they’re in my back yard, too.

HD149 status still uncertain

The votes have been counted, but we still don’t know for sure what will happen in the race for HD149 between Hubert Vo and Talmadge Heflin.

“It’s not over yet,” Vo said. “I am proud of the results. I feel at ease. But this is going to be a short feeling, because I know there are some process and procedures that my opponent will take advantage of.”

Whatever happens, Vo said, he believes he will prevail.

Lawyers for Heflin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, have not yet decided to seek a recount.

“We are vigorously pursuing all of our options,” said Andy Taylor, who is representing Heflin. “We are examining instances where illegal votes were wrongfully counted and instances where legal votes were incorrectly discarded.”

The deadline for requesting a recount will be sometime during the week of Thanksgiving.

Heflin did not return a phone call seeking an interview. But his campaign spokesman, Craig Murphy, said Heflin remained even-tempered.

“He’s exactly the same, he’s very mild-mannered and as matter and fact, and business-oriented as he always has been,” said Murphy, who called Heflin with the final results about midnight Monday when they were reported.

Taylor said Heflin’s camp wants to learn all of the facts and circumstances surrounding both the tallying of the absentee and provisional votes before they make a decision to request a recount of electronic votes.

Vo was ahead by 38 votes before mail-in and provisional ballots, cast by voters who could not prove their eligibility when they went to the polls, were counted.

A recount, however, is not a necessary prerequisite to contest the election. Heflin has until Dec. 8 to do that. The election would then be thrown to the House of Representatives, which could either seat Vo or overturn the election and require a new vote.

There have been several contested elections in the Texas House in recent years, but none has reversed the outcome. Most were withdrawn.

Buck Wood, one of several lawyers observing the Harris County vote canvass on Vo’s behalf, said Heflin’s case posed a potential public relations “nightmare” for Republicans.

With an 87-62 Republican majority (excluding the contested seat) in the House, partisanship could become a factor.

“This House has shown itself to be as partisan as any I’ve ever seen,” Wood said.

If Heflin were to contest the election, Vo would still be seated when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 11. He could vote in the speaker’s election and on other House business but couldn’t participate in any decisions involving the contested election.

Redistricting was supposed to be a public relations “nightmare” for the Republicans, too, but they don’t seem to have suffered all that much for it. I don’t think that potshots from Rick Casey and good-cop cajoling from the Chron editorial board are going to have any effect on Andy Taylor. I do find it interesting that Talmadge Heflin hasn’t had anything to say about this since Election Day. Plenty of people have spoken on his behalf, including Tayloy, Craig Murphy, and State GOP Chair Tina Benkhiser, but not a peep from the man himself. It’d be nice to know what exactly he thinks, that’s all I’m saying.

Byron has the official resolution from the contested Wohlgemuth-Erickson race of 1994. I continue to hope that it doesn’t come to that. Looks like we will have at least one contested election this year, though:

Susan Delgado filed an election contest against state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Hous-ton, who easily won re-election last week with more than 90 percent of the vote against a Libertarian opponent and Delgado, a write-in candidate.

Delgado, Gallegos’ former mistress, alleged that the senator doesn’t live in District 6, which he represents. Gallegos has said he and his wife spend most of their time at his mother’s house in District 6, although he takes a homestead exemption on a residence outside the district.

The homestead issue came up in January. I have not seen any news items which indicate whether the lawsuit that was filed over that has been resolved or not. I have a feeling that this contest won’t be going anywhere, though.

Meanwhile, in other close races, both Kelly White and Ken Mercer appear to be preparing to ask for recounts. There are different types of recounts which cost different amounts of money, so the final details have not been determined. Stay tuned.