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May 29th, 2009:

Big John versus El Rushbo and The Newt

There’s just not enough popcorn in the world.

As if to magnify what are already major differences between elected Republicans and conservative activists on the question of Sonia Sotomayor, check out what conservative senator (and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Judiciary Comittee member and former Texas State Supreme Court Justice) had to say on NPR yesterday.

“I think it’s terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent.”

Republican leaders may not have as much sway over their own interest groups as Democratic leaders do over their, so don’t expect the attacks to stop. But it’s a bold statement. He even lashed out at Newt Gingrich and the unassailable Rush Limbaugh.

“Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials [and] I just don’t think it’s appropriate and I certainly don’t endorse it. I think it’s wrong.”

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Of course, any time a Republican official says anything unflattering about Rush, it’s worth asking a couple questions: Will he apologize for it? And how long will he wait?

You know you’ve gone completely round the bend when Big John tells you to dial it down a bit. Not that it matters, as neither Newtie nor the Round Mound of Sound is backing off. Oh, and now the DCCC is joining in the fun by calling out Rep. Pete Sessions, who as Cornyn’s counterpart in Congress has been silent so far. Who needs summer movies when you have this kind of entertainment?

UPDATE: Forgot to add that there’s video of Big John taking on his foes. And as we know, the Rushmeister was in town last night. Here’s a photo of him and some of his fanboys from that event. BOR has more.

Friday random ten: Get your game on

Next on the theme list: Songs about sports.

1. HOOPS Yes! (FC Dallas) – The Polyphonic Spree
2. The Stock Car Travels By Illusion – Austin Lounge Lizards
3. Centerfield – John Fogerty
4. Galway Farmer – Ceili’s Muse
5. Catchers Drummers Anchormen – Eddie from Ohio
6. Sweet Georgia Brown – The Ray Brown Trio
7. Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen
8. Chess – Andersson/Ulvaeus
9. Surf’s Up – The Beach Boys
10. Fight Fiercely, Harvard – Tom Lehrer

Yes, chess is a sport – it’s a mind sport. So’s bridge, but no one’s written a musical about it yet. “Galway Farmer” is about a guy betting on a horse he’d dreamed about. We should all be as lucky as he was. Technically, “Sweet Georgia Brown” isn’t about sports, but it’s the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters, so I say it’s close enough. There’s a whole class of stadium songs that could be admitted under a sufficiently loose definition of the theme, but I wasn’t going to go there. What’s on your playlist this week?

Houston extends red light camera contract

We’ll have red light cameras to kick around for at least a few more years.

The City Council extended the contract of the company that administers its red-light camera program for three more years Wednesday, aiming to thwart legislation pending in Austin that would sunset the use of the devices.

The ordinance, which passed Wednesday with only two nay votes — by members Mike Sullivan and Jolanda Jones — extends the camera program through May 2014. The action was a preemptive effort meant to keep the program active in case a bill in the Legislature succeeds in precluding municipalities from adding the cameras or extending contracts with vendors after June 1, 2009.

The provision was included as an amendment to a bill that already has passed in the House and is expected to be hashed out in the coming days in a conference committee. Rep. Gary Elkins, R-Houston, sponsored the amendment.

The cities of Amarillo, Arlington, Baytown, Fort Worth and Irving all took similar steps to extend their programs, in some cases continuing them for an additional 15 to 20 years.

Mayor Bill White defended the council’s action Wednesday.

“The fact is that where we have these cameras, the number of people who are photographed running the red light goes down consistently over time,” he said, adding later in a news conference that he believes the cameras will become an integral part of law enforcement all over the U.S. within 10 years.

Maybe we’ll get a valid study of their effect in Houston by then. We all saw this coming, so if you don’t like the cameras, take solace in the fact that Houston only extended the contract that far, unlike some other cities.

Burleson extended its agreement with American Traffic Solutions for 15 years, a city official said this week.

The Fort Worth City Council gave the city manager permission this week to immediately sign an extension through 2018 if it appears that the Legislature will imminently approve a ban on future contracts.

North Richland Hills extended its deal with Redflex through 2013.

Last week, Arlington officials gave the city staff permission to sign a new deal with ATS through 2027, and Southlake extended its terms with Redflex through 2024.

Count your blessings, camera-haters. The House conference committee members on the TxDOT sunset bill that had the anti-camera amendment will be fighting to keep it, so their days may still be numbered.

Debutant’s last post

As you know, Deborah Greer-Costello, better known as Debutant, passed away on May 18 after a long battle with leukemia. Her sister Stephanie, a/k/a Texans Chick, posted a final message from Deb based on conversations they had after her condition became clear. Go give it a read and remember what a remarkable woman Deb was, and if you are so moved, make a donation to her daughter Zoe’s college fund. Oh, and give blood, too. Thanks very much.

Lon Burnam

The Star Telegram has a nice profile of Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth, who we all know was anti-Tom Craddick before it was cool. If he were a baseball or basketball player, you’d say he’s one of those guys who does things that don’t show up in the box score. Burnam doesn’t pass a lot of bills, but he works to kill those that need killing, and he helps provide a much-needed and otherwise often lacking liberal perspective on many issues. And his story for this session has not been fully written yet, as he has promised to bring his resolution to impeach Sharon Keller to the floor for a vote on a personal privilege motion. He has said that will happen before sine die, so it’s got to be coming soon.

Hey, world! Pay attention to us!

Houston’s efforts to brand itself as a world-class city often come in for ridicule, some deserved and some not so much. But Houston is way farther down the path of international prominence than our neighbor to the west, San Antonio. Evan Smith highlights a bit from an interview to be published in their upcoming issue with the newly-elected Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro.

What do you do about luring companies to San Antonio and keeping them there? There are a number of major corporations headquartered in the city, but the loss of AT&T to Dallas last year had to hurt. What kind of package can you put together to attract and retain their kind?

A couple of things. First, we’re going to keep refining our economic development model. We have dozens of development entities right now, and we are going to look at how we can streamline that process and create a web presence–an informational portal of entry for San Antonio along the lines of what Houston and Phoenix do. Second, we need to get back to what Mayor [Henry] Cisneros did so well in the eighties, which was to raise the profile of the city. If you watch the Today show or CNN when they do the weather, you’d think San Antonio didn’t exist.

I have a distinct memory from college, being at home during Christmas break and freezing my butt off, checking the weather listing in the newspaper each day so I’d know just how much warmer I’d be if I were back at school. The New York Daily News weather page had a listing for San Antonio, but I’ve seen papers that didn’t. It really is weird.

It’s the seventh-largest city in the country. Is there problem that I don’t know about?

Whatever it is, we’re going to fix it.

Do you hire people to help market the city? Do you get more aggressive in publicizing things going on? Because obviously you want to spend your time on substance, and marketing isn’t really substance. Or at least it doesn’t have the same impact.

I like to think it does. If you’re a graduate of Yale or the University of Michigan or the University of Chicago and you think about where the jobs are, oftentimes there’s opportunity in San Antonio that you wouldn’t know about. We can’t even fathom how much of a talent investment we’re missing out on. So we’re going to get on the road, get with companies, write letters to media outlets, and do all the practical things we need to. Over time, we’ll get into the national conversation about up-and-coming cities.

San Antonio has some assets that Houston doesn’t. It has a much stronger sense of history and heritage, it’s a genuine tourist destination, and it’s a truly beautiful place that’s very close to some even more beautiful countryside. It’s a love-at-first-sight kind of place, where Houston is much more of an acquired taste. It may be the seventh most populous city in America, but it’s not crowded and it doesn’t sprawl out all over the place (not yet, anyway); it’s only the 37th largest TV market as a result, which probably contributes to its lower profile overall. I don’t know what I’d do in Mayor Castro’s place to raise that profile, but I’m confident that it can be done. It really has a lot going for it, and if I couldn’t live here it would be my first choice for where to move.