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August 23rd, 2002:

Rudy and Kermit, 25 years later

25 years ago this November, LA Laker Kermit Washington nearly killed Houston Rockets forward (now head coach) Rudy Tomjanovich with a punch to the face. A book called The Punch about what happened is due out around then. According to today’s Chron, the two men involved have put the incident behind them. Check it out.

Rate of low birth-weight babies rises in suburbs

Interesting story about an increase in the rate of low birth-weight babies being born in Houston suburbs. There seem to be a number of factors driving this – more multiple births due to older mothers and in vitro fertilization and more poor people in the suburbs being the main two. The suburbs of all major Texas cities saw similar rises. This looks like a trend to watch.

K-Mart Kiddie Roundup Update

Also noted by Kevin Whited, the manager of the Sonic drive-through was not happy with the police raid on Saturday, and unlike the James Coney Island manager, hadn’t agreed to cooperate with police on it.

Sonic officials said Thursday that they never complained to police about the regular weekend crowd, had no warning of the raid and ordered employees to protect customers as the operation began.

Dismayed Sonic employees refused to allow police to tow 12 cars that the arrested customers were forced to leave in the lot.

“We wanted the opportunity for our customers to come get their cars without paying towing charges,” said Celina Abernathy, a Sonic spokeswoman. Such charges can exceed $100. “Obviously we don’t want our customers arrested. That is just common sense.”

Sonic has never warned trespassers, filed complaints or signed paperwork to allow police to make arrests under the city trespassing ordinance, Abernathy said. Kmart officials have declined to explain the steps they took before the arrests.

“We have no no-trespassing signs on our property, though there are some nearby,” Abernathy said. “And we never signed any paperwork.”

Sonic officials are waiting for the result of a Houston Police Department internal investigation before they decide whether to pursue further action.

Have they started an Aguirre Death Watch yet?

Coincidence or sinister marketing plot?

Checking the referral log is always fun. Seeing new links in the referral log is even more fun, even if they’re apparently random links that couldn’t actually be referring to you.

Once in awhile you come across a link in the referral log and you just have to wonder if it’s there for a purpose or if it’s just a coincidence. This is such a link. If this is a new marketing technique, I may as well surrender now. They know too much about me.

UPDATE: And now my first Google search referra since I moved to the new domain: “Liberals stop West Nile Virus spraying”. Nice to know that Ann Coulter is a fan of Off the Kuff.

Opie and Anthony canned

Shock jocks Opie and Anthony have been fired by radio station WNEW and their syndicated show has been cancelled. They’d gotten into trouble for broadcasting a live account of a couple supposedly having sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

They’ve been fired before, in Boston in 1998. As long as someone thinks they’ll get ratings, they’ll get hired again. Nothing shocking here.

Republicans for Sharp

Fellow Houston blogger Alex Whitlock has endorsed Democrat John Sharp for Lt. Governor, noting that the race is all about qualifications, and Sharp has them in spades. Moreover, he notes that his fellow Republicans are starting to see it that way, too.

“I am a dedicated Republican who whole-heartedly supports the Republican ticket. However in the Lt. Governor’s race I believe John Sharp is the better choice. I have seen him in action and trust him to be a conservative problem solver.” -State Senator John Carona (R-Dallas)

Glad as I am that Sharp is doing well and that he’s got crossover appeal, I can’t help but be wistful at the realization that more progressive candidates are still all but unelectable at the state level. After eight years of being shut out, though, I’ll take what I can get and work on it from there.

Speaking of term limits

The Houston Press has another good argument against term limits in this impressive hatchet job on freshman City Council member Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (formerly Sekula-Rodriguez).

The law restricts elected city officials to a maximum of three two-year terms, so every two years at least a third of the experienced officeholders are flushed out of their jobs. This system encourages instability through political musical chairs, with councilmembers jumping for the higher positions of mayor or controller whenever the incumbent is forced out.

City races are officially nonpartisan. However, the term-limits rule has encouraged incumbents to stake out positions as Democrats or Republicans with an eye ahead to county, state or federal races, where strong party identity is a must. What’s good for the city sometimes takes a backseat to what’s good for a political future.

Since term limits began forcing out Houston officeholders in 1995, with each succeeding cycle the pool of prospective city candidates has gotten thinner and thinner in terms of municipal government experience. It has reached the point where political unknowns with any claim to fame at all — like a TV anchor’s widow with a temporary Hispanic surname — can find themselves in office, with a staff and an open microphone on the Municipal Channel.

The article is pretty harsh on Sekula-Gibbs, who apparently combines cluelessness and single-mindedness into an especially unattractive package. Check it out.

Who elected whom?

Nathan Newman was pretty upset by Cynthia McKinney’s loss in the Democraatic primary on Tuesday. See here and here for his reaction. The particular bone of Newman’s contention is the amount of outside money, much of it coming from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which went to McKinney’s opponent, Denise Majette. His argument is that, among other things, blacks will resent seeing two black members of Congress (the other being Alabama’s Earl Hilliard) being targeted and defeated.

I have two big problems with Newman’s argument. First, it overlooks the fact that both Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney were defeated by black candidates. The only conclusion I can draw from this line of reasoning is that Majette and Artur Davis are somehow not black enough. Both McKinney and Hilliard levelled such charges about their opponents, in fact. I really don’t know what to make of this other than to note that were there a white candidate involved, appeals to vote for one or the other based on race would be considered, well, racist.

More importantly, the idea that Majette and Davis were elected because of some nefarious outside plot is just plain insulting to the voters. Hilliard and McKinney were long-term incumbents. The people they represented knew who they were and what they stood for, and they chose someone else. Voters can certainly be manipulated by misleading campaign ads, but it seems to me it’s much harder to to do that to a well-known candidate.

(It’s this same type of thinking that underlies term limits. The voters are too dumb or too easily led to reelect unworthy opponents. Only by restricting the voters’ choices can we ensure that viable newcomers have a chance to win.)

Down here in Texas, one of the surest rallying cries for a politician is that he or she is being targeted by outsiders. I’m hard-pressed to think of a worse epithet to throw at a candidate than a charge that he or she is a puppet of Powerful Outside Forces, especially if those forces are Northern or Eastern. John Cornyn is already making a campaign issue out of Ron Kirk’s national fundraising. It resonates with the voters here, who’d rather vote for “one of us” and thus stick a finger in the eye of those outsiders. That the voters in Georgia and Alamaba rejected such entreaties speaks volumes about the candidates involved.

Even after the election, friends of McKinney are still beating the Powerful Outside Forces horse. Look at this quote from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) of the Congressional Black Caucus:

“If [Majette] comes here willing to work with us and is not skewed by the agenda of her supporters, of course we work with her,” Representative Johnson said. “We all know we have to move past this.”

“Skewed by the agenda of her supporters”?? You mean the people who voted for her, Eddie? What a shame it would be if Denise Majette were skewed by the wants and needs of the people in her district.

Why don’t we listen to some of those people, quoted in the NYT article linked above and in this WaPo article. We might learn something.

“People in the black community still think of the comments [McKinney] made after 9/11, and they are still a little apprehensive,” said Alfreida Capers, 51, a DeKalb County resident who campaigned for Ms. McKinney.

“There were some in our community who saw Ms. Majette’s advertisements on television and thought they reflected a young, Christian woman with a family who would be less boisterous,” Ms. Capers added. “Some certainly thought our congresswoman was too boisterous and they carried that thought with them to the polls.”

“There was a change in DeKalb, and Cynthia didn’t pick up on it,” said William Boone, a political scientist at historically black Clark-Atlanta University. “There’s a growing black middle class here, a middle class that is much, much different from the black middle class of the civil rights era.

“Cynthia had the civil-rights-era politics down pat. But the voters were looking for someone more focused in the issues, not just someone who is black and will look out for them.”

That changing attitude drove 63-year-old James Nelson to vote against McKinney for the first time.

“I looked at the way she talked, and along down the line I didn’t like it anymore,” he said. “I saw the Majette lady on TV and I liked what she had to say.”

Ken Turner, a longtime supporter of outspoken Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, had had enough of what he called old-style black politics.

McKinney was “living off the old ways,” said Turner, 39. “Just yelling and making any statement you want and thinking as long as you’re black, people are going to vote for you. Well, we’re not that stupid.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.