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August 28th, 2006:

Why not Kinky

Clay Robison sums up the case against Kinky better than I can by simply quoting the man himself.

“It’s politically correct these days to apologize to the Indians and apologize to the Hawaiians for taking their land, apologize to the African-Americans for dealing with them as slaves and on and on without end. It’s a little late in the game to go around apologizing and thinking everything’s going to be OK.”


“I am going to see nondenominational prayer and the Ten Commandments put back in the schools,” he told the Kilgore News Herald several weeks ago.

“If you don’t love Jesus, go to hell,” he added.

He also has called for repeal of the top 10 percent law, which many minorities value because it gives the best students from poor, mostly minority school districts an equal opportunity with more-privileged young people for admission to the best state-supported universities.

And Friedman talks a tougher line than Gov. Rick Perry on border security.

He told conservative TV commentator Bill O’Reilly last year that he would “seal the border” against illegal immigrants by bringing in the “National Guard, the Texas Rangers, the entire Polish Army, whatever it takes.”

“Good fences make good neighbors,” he added.

More recently, as quoted in the Dallas Morning News, Friedman said, “My immigration policy is ‘Remember the Alamo.’ ”

Meanwhile, struggling Democratic nominee Chris Bell, who wishes more voters would remember him, isn’t amused.

Bell’s campaign, which has been collecting Kinky’s quotes, believes the quipster’s conservative viewpoints contradict those of his own strongest supporters.

An internal Bell campaign poll indicates Friedman’s strongest base – a 51 percent favorable rating to 25 percent unfavorable – is among Anglo liberals, the type of people who normally would be expected to support Bell and who the Democrat desperately needs.

“He (Friedman) has stated contempt for a lot of the people who are supporting him,” said Bell spokesman Jason Stanford.

To everyone who has a “K – The Governor” sticker on their car next to a Kerry/Edwards or KPFT sticker: You’re not supporting some kind of freethinking progressive who shares your values. You’re supporting Larry the Cable Guy. I’d say the joke’s on you, but unfortunately the rest of us are collaterally damaged by it.

I’ve long thought that Kinky represented a bigger threat to Bell than Strayhorn did; at least, he’s definitely a bigger threat than Bell has made him out to be relative to Strayhorn. And the latest Zogby Interactive poll suggests I just might be right about this.

Candidate Pct ================ Perry 34.8 Bell 23.1 Friedman 22.7 Strayhorn 9.6

Usual caveats: It’s Zogby Interactive, it’s just one data point, nothing means anything anymore since Pluto was deplanetized, etc etc etc. Still, Strayhorn has been drooping in all of the available polls – according to the Bell blog, Strayhorn has lost 11 points in the Zogby poll since January – and even Paul Burka says that the wind is shifting against her. It ain’t easy being all things to everyone, especially when you used to be a whole lot of other things. If we can ever convince the Friedman Democrats to come home, look out. Rick Perry at 40% is almost surely unbeatable. Rick Perry at 35% is very much not.

A Katrina timeline

The Talent Show takes a look back at the horrors we all witnessed a year ago in New Orleans. Ray looks at his own writing from a year ago here and here. The lead story on the Chron is about some Katrina survivors who now call Houston home. Read and remember.

Candidate Q&A: Neeta Sane

Continuing in my series of interviews with local candidates, today I bring you Neeta Sane, who is the Democratic candidate for County Treasurer in Fort Bend.

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Neeta Sane. I am running for Fort Bend County Treasurer. I am a resident of Missouri City and I have been married for 19 years with one son who is a freshman at UT-Austin studying Chemical Engineering.

We came to the United States of America in 1994. This was one of the major turning points in our life. Becoming an American citizen had a tremendous impact on the way I thought about my life. As opposed to India and Australia, American citizenship inspired me to commit myself to a two-way relationship with this country, to accept its blessings and in turn, give of myself to improve the lives of those around me.

I serve as a Director of Vote-Texas which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization committed to acquiring transparency in electronic voting systems. I served as the Vice-President of Texas Democratic Women of Fort Bend, the Secretary of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, the Publicity Chair of Dulles High School ProGrad and the Diversity Chair of American Association of University Women of Fort Bend. My commitment of giving back and making a positive difference in the political arena has only grown stronger.

At this point, I have entered the political race for Fort Bend County Treasurer to protect the interests of the taxpayers of Fort Bend County.

2. What are the responsibilities and powers of the County Treasurer in Fort Bend?

Fort Bend County Treasurer is the chief custodian of county funds. Legislatively prescribed duties for the elected County Treasurer include receipt of funds, disbursement of funds as Commissioner’s court may require or direct, and accounting for funds in the county treasury.

3. What are your professional qualifications for this job?

I am a financial technology entrepreneur. I have founded and managed a very successful financial software company with the highest ethical standards. Today, my innovative fraud-prevention and payment processing system, which increases both security and operational efficiency, is used by banking systems.

My professional experience in modern financial systems and fraud-prevention will enable me to successfully customize and utilize the county’s newly purchased financial system to meet the county’s ever growing need to improve efficiency and bring integrity in financial dealings.

I earned a Master of Science degree with a GPA of 3.97 from University of Houston-Clear Lake and published research papers in Scientific journals in collaboration with Center for Research in Parallel computing, Rice University.

4. Your counterpart in Harris County, Richard Garcia, is running on a platform to abolish the office there. How is Fort Bend different from Harris?

In Fort Bend County, the excessive concentration of Republican Party rule and their inept leadership has led to the indictment and resignation of the previous Republican Fort Bend County Treasurer followed by the appointment of a lobbyist as replacement County Treasurer. The situation in Fort Bend County definitely requires an elected Democratic County Treasurer who will provide the necessary checks and balances in the county leadership to manage the county funds with integrity, efficiency and transparency.

5. State Rep. Charlie Howard of Fort Bend tried unsucessfully last year to pass a bill to abolish the Fort Bend County Treasurer’s office. What is your response to that?

American politics revolves around the basic principle of checks and balances to make sure that no party in rule can turn the given power into misuse or abuse. Proposing and defending the abolishment of an elected office like the office of County Treasurer, is nothing but an effort against the very basic need of having checks and balances in the governmental processes. I do not support abolishing the elected office of County Treasurer. Handing over the elected treasurer’s duties and responsibilities to an appointed budget or finance officer defeats the very purpose of having an elected Treasurer who constitutionally protects the interests of the voters.

6. The last elected Treasurer was Jeanne Parr, who was forced to resign after pleading guilty to misappropriating funds. How much of an issue is that in the race this year? What needs to be done to restore the voters’ trust in the office?

The indictment and resignation of the previously elected Republican Treasurer for stealing money from a youth organization and misappropriation of funds is a disgraceful example of inept Republican leadership. This year, the race for Fort Bend County Treasurer brings another Republican candidate who is past retirement age and has been hand-picked by the same republican leadership to be a rubberstamp of the majority of the County commissioners.
Voter’s trust in the office can only be restored by electing a qualified Democratic candidate who will serve as the watch dog for the taxpayers to protect their tax-dollars from mismanagement and embezzlement.

7. What are your priorities for this job if you are elected?

  • I will bring integrity and honesty–I will optimize the usage of the newly purchased county’s financial system to meet needs of ethical financial management. I will make sure that fraud-prevention measures are in place to prevent mishandling of the county funds.
  • I will bring efficiency–I will streamline the financial transaction processes to increase the efficiency in the office of County Treasurer.
  • I will bring fiscal accountability– I will bring openness and transparency in all the transactions that go through the office of County Treasurer and I will make the information readily accessible to the taxpayers of Fort Bend County.

8. What effect have the events in the 22nd Congressional District campaign had on your race? What effect has the Nick Lampson campaign had on your race?

All the events in the 22nd Congressional District race point to a strong need to have accountability, to prevent backroom wheeling and dealing, and to function according to the law of the land. In my opinion, the 22nd Congressional District race has not had any direct impact on my race.

Nick Lampson’s campaign has definitely raised the profile of Fort Bend County Treasurer race a bit as our campaigns share a common platform of bringing fiscal accountability and responsibility in the governmental processes to efficiently serve the taxpayers.

9. Fort Bend currently has no elected Democrats in countywide offices. Why do you believe you can overcome that?

I can overcome that challenge because I have trust in the voters of Fort Bend County who realize that it is time to look beyond the political maneuverings in order to elect the most qualified and suitable candidate who will succeed as the watchdog for the taxpayers and not end up being another lapdog of the commissioners.

10. What else do we need to know about you and your campaign?

At this point in my life, I could have continued focusing on my business needs but I saw the stronger need to have checks and balances in the county government and to have a competent County Treasurer to restore the public trust in that office. So I decided to contest this election. I would like you to know my passion and desire to utilize the prime years of my life to serve the people of Fort Bend County to make sure the county funds are handled with integrity, efficiency and transparency.

Thank you, Neeta Sane. Here are all my previous interviews with Harris and Fort Bend countywide candidates:

Richard GarciaInterview
Leora T. KahnInterview
Chuck SilvermanInterview
Bill Connolly – Interview
James Goodwille PierreInterview
Albert HollanInterview

UPDATE: Bryan has more.

Alvarado: Still cloutful

The Chron checks in on City Council member Carol Alvarado, who is still wielding considerable influence with Mayor White despite having stepped down from the Mayor Pro Tem position.

Despite a cloud of uncertainty about an ongoing investigation by local prosecutors and the negative news about her employees taking unauthorized bonuses, Alvarado still has more access to White than her council colleagues.

She’s the only member with an open invitation to attend his thrice-weekly senior staff meetings, and Alvarado remains a regular on the mayor’s weekend bicycle rides through city neighborhoods.

He also lets her spearhead complicated issues, such as studying a tougher ban on workplace smoking, responding to a grass-roots effort to change a police immigration policy or modernizing the city’s campaign-finance disclosure system.

And she’s still performing many of the historical duties assigned to the mayor pro tem. She advises the mayor, helping advance his agenda. She also works with his staff to gauge the moods of council members on emerging issues.

It’s not unusual for White to delegate tasks to council members despite Houston’s strong-mayor system, which allows his administration to set the agenda. He wants consensus. He gets that by letting members, even those who don’t side with him politically, handle high-profile issues they care about.

Councilwoman Toni Lawrence has led efforts to enact new neighborhood-protection ordinances. Councilman Adrian Garcia has held hearings on a tougher juvenile curfew. And Councilman Michael Berry has been a champion of White’s mandatory freeway-towing program, known as Safe Clear.

Yet Alvarado’s role is unique.

“Carol is the only one that I think he’s going to ask to figure out if there’s votes on something, even if that’s not her issue, because he trusts her,” said Berry, who took over the administrative duties in the Office of Mayor Pro Tem when Alvarado stepped down. “In some ways, she is an extension of the administration.”


Alvarado also acknowledged some tension between her and White, especially as speculation swirled before she stepped aside as mayor pro tem while Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal investigates the bonuses and probes other city files for possible wrongdoing.

Publicly and professionally, though, the relationship seems back to normal.

“There’s no doubt that there was a management lapse in the mayor pro tem office, and she’s accepted responsibility for that,” said White, who regularly chats with Alvarado during council meetings. “But she also is extremely hardworking and knowledgeable about government.”


Alvarado’s removal from the office was said to be temporary, pending Rosenthal’s investigation, which could drag on for many months.

He said last week that he hopes to finish the probe into the four employees’s actions “shortly.” As for the status of any probe into the activities of Alvarado or other city officials, Rosenthal wouldn’t comment.

Who knows what Rosenthal will do. He’s got a pretty spotty record in high-profile prosecutions of city officials, so indictments, of whoever, are not the last word by any stretch. Looking at the timeline in the story sidebar, it’s been over five months since a search warrant was executed in Alvarado’s office (the story says March 6; I have a blog entry about computers being seized from her district office on March 17). I don’t know how soon “shortly” is, but it’s gotta be getting close by now.

She wants to stay in public life and would prefer elected office, though some political analysts have said the scandal – or any future allegations by prosecutors – might complicate her efforts to seek a citywide post.

“Realistically, I think she may well have a successful political future in elected office, but I think it’s going to be very difficult to run citywide,” said Richard Murray, director of the University of Houston’s Center for Public Policy, who taught Alvarado years ago.

Others think she still can get back on the political fast track.

“If she’s able to rehabilitate herself politically, and I think she can, you’re talking about somebody who could be a formidable mayoral candidate,” said Jon Taylor, who chairs the political science department at the University of St. Thomas.

Maybe, I dunno. Let’s see what Rosenthal does first. For what it’s worth, I think Alvarado would have a decent shot at State Sen. Mario Gallegos in a contested primary in 2008. She’s one of several rumored possibilities for that seat. As I said before, I’m not going to use too much brainpower on 2008 until 2006 is in the rearview mirror.

Alvarado said she hopes people judge her by her accomplishments, political experience and the vigor with which she has represented her constituents, not by a single scandal.

“We’re all human. We all learn from our mistakes,” she said. “From this, I will be a better public servant.”

Not all of us, Carol. Not all of us.

Feeding the spammers

Dwight points to a story about the latest spam craze and asks the obvious question: “Who are the idiots that buy stocks touted to them in spammed email?”

Spam messages that tout stocks and shares can have real effects on the markets, a study suggests.

E-mails typically promote penny shares in the hope of convincing people to buy into a company to raise its price.

People who respond to the “pump and dump” scam can lose 8% of their investment in two days.

Conversely, the spammers who buy low-priced stock before sending the e-mails, typically see a return of between 4.9% and 6% when they sell.

The study recently published on the Social Science Research Network say their conclusions prove the hypothesis that spammers “buy low and spam high”.

I really wish I better understood the mentality of people who fall for this sort of thing. The only way spam can be a profitable business model is if there’s a pool of people who respond to them regularly. I hope some day to meet one of these people so I can ask them about their experience and maybe understand it all a little better.

Time for new mnemonics

This Chron article addresses what I think is the most crucial question about Pluto’s demotion from planet to Vowel Planet: What about the mnemonics?

Now how will students learn the planets? Some possibilities:

  • My Very Extravagant Mother Just Sent Us Nachos.
  • Make Very Extraordinary Meals of Jell-O, Strawberries and Unsalted Nuts.
  • Mary’s Violet Eyes Make Jack Stare Until Noticed.
  • My Very Exotic Mistress Just Showed Up Nude (perhaps this one is for college lads).

Yeah, I don’t think too many elementary school teachers will be writing that one on the chalkboard. The panel on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me suggested a few more at the end.

Problems I hand’t considered:

The planetary change also spells trouble for science museums.

The National Air and Space Museum, for example, has a popular song called The Family of the Sun, set to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell, that children love and which helps them learn the planets.

Spokesman Mike Marcus said a decision on rewriting it has not been made yet.

The museum also has a scale model of the solar system that spans the length of the National Mall.

Reducing the number of planets eliminated fears that the museum model would have to float new, more distant planets in the Potomac River to stay on scale.

I’m telling you, it’d be so much simpler if we just left things as they were. Why mess with success? Rob is with me on this. We don’t care what those pinheads say, Pluto, we still love you.