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October 23rd, 2002:

RIP, WSRT

I’m really sorry to see that Ginger Stampley has apparently retired from blogging. I’m sorry to see it because Ginger is a fine writer with a strong voice and is knowledgeable on many topics. Her writing will be greatly missed.

On a personal level, Ginger is a good friend of mine and the person most responsible for getting me started as a blogger. I’d been reading the blogs that Slate linked to in their old “Mezine Central” feature – it was basically Kaus, Postrel, Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, and a new guy named Reynolds – and one day Postrel had a link to something Ginger had blogged on. I followed the link and was surprised to see that she’d been doing this for awhile. I read through her archives, followed a few of her links, and decided that this looked like fun. I talked to her and Michael about it the next time I saw them and a few days later I was publishing.

I’m sad that my blog has outlived hers. The Heights Area Axis of Left-Leaning Bloggers salutes you, Ginger. Take care and be well.

Another music venue to close

Damn, damn damn. The Fabulous Satellite Lounge will soon close its doors.

Soon, for the first time since 1977, the storied 3600 block of Washington Avenue will be without a live music venue. Among others, Rockefeller’s and Club Hey Hey have come and gone, and now, after ten years as a mainstay on the Houston rock/roots/country scene, it’s the turn of the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. Landlords Hank and Marilyn Zwirek, who run nearby Star Pizza and own the buildings that house Rockefeller’s and the former Leo’s, have given Satellite manager Dickie Malone an April 15, 2003, deadline to vacate the premises, and Malone says he doubts he will stay open even that long.

I don’t go to the FabSat very often, as the lack of seating, concrete floor, and proximity of the speakers all play havoc on my old and decrepit self. But I do have some great memories there of seeing Brave Combo, where the lack of seating is mitigated by the fact that it’s un-American and damn near impossible to not get up and dance throughout one of their performances, and Marcia Ball there, and I just get depressed on general principles when a great old venue like that goes away. It was bad enough when neighboring Rockefeller’s (where I saw a performance by the Blue Oyster Cult that had my ears ringing for a week) closed down.

I hope a deal can be worked out that allows the FabSat to exist in some form somewhere. It won’t be the same, but at least the owners have no plans to tear it down. Meantime, I’d better check their schedule and look for a good last show to catch there.

That other nuke-seeking Axis of Evil member

William Burton has posts on why North Korea is a bigger threat than Iraq, why unilateral action in North Korea has a better risk-reward ration than Iraq, why we really need to keep nukes out of Kim Jong Il’s hands, and how he would go about accomplishing all that. Go check it out.

Sheep and donkeys, living together

Scott brings my attention to this excellent story about sheep and donkeys:

Thanks in part to a benevolent farmer from Maryland, Old City Park now has a full complement of sheep.

And for their protection, a “guard donkey” – 8-year-old Mary Kate – has been moved to the area where the sheep are kept at night.

[…]

The two sheep are examples of a breed known to have thrived in North Texas in the late 19th century – an important point in an exhibit that strives to meticulously re-create a farmhouse of that era.

Victoria Owens, a park employee, said the sheep are doing well despite the mishap, and both were hits with school groups that visited the farmhouse over the weekend.

“Floppsy did little tricks, like sitting up and begging – not that that’s historically accurate,” Ms. Owens said.

I love Texas.

New trends in political advertising: COPS outtakes

This has been such a serious year, I’m glad to see a little low comedy:

Calling all cars, please check out disturbance on Texas’ broadcast airwaves. We have a report of state politicians attacking one another using police cruiser dashboard videotape.

New commercials in the governor’s race and a state Senate race in Austin use police video from traffic stops to portray Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos in a less-than-favorable light.

Experts say these ads may mark the first time in U.S. political history that the relatively new technology of police dashboard video has been used in negative campaign advertising.

“I can’t think of another one,” said University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan. “It’s potentially very powerful.”

Democrat Tony Sanchez’s commercial features Perry when he was lieutenant governor in video shot from a Texas Department of Public Safety patrol car. It shows Perry urging a trooper to “let us get on down the road” after an aide driving Perry was stopped for speeding.

Another commercial features video of state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, hopping on one leg as he failed a field sobriety test last year. Barrientos pleaded no contest and received a year’s probation.

Hey, at least they were both wearing shirts. There’s more comedy gold at the end of the article:

Meanwhile, retiring U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, is using his campaign account to pay for a radio commercial supporting Perry’s election.

Gramm praised the governor for his small-town upbringing and dedication to Republican principles. Gramm also blasts Sanchez for spending millions of dollars of his own money on the race for governor.

“Tony Sanchez is spending his family fortune trying to buy what Rick Perry’s earned,” Gramm says.

“There’s some things that are not for sale. My dog’s not for sale, and neither is the governorship of Texas.”

Phil Gramm has a UPC code stamped on his forehead, and he’s talking about how “some things are not for sale”. Maybe he’s aiming to follow John McCain onto Saturday Night Live.

Early voter turnout up

Early voter turnout in the state’s 15 largest counties is up 91 percent over 1998, bolstering Democratic hopes in the statewide races.

The three biggest increases occurred in urban counties with long histories of Democratic voting — Bexar, Hidalgo and Travis — according to early voting numbers released Tuesday by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Early voting also is up in Republican counties — especially Montgomery and Fort Bend in suburban Houston and Collin in suburban Dallas — which did not start early voting until Monday.

Time for my standard Chron complaint. The print edition has a nice table that shows the actual voter tallies for these 15 counties. After all, a 100% increase means a lot less in this context if we’re talking an increase from 5 voters to 10. Naturally, the online edition doesn’t have the frickin’ table. Here’s a sample, from me to you, Just Because I Care:

County 1998 2002 Change
Harris 15,846 20,621 +30%
Dallas 5,133 9,799 +91%
Bexar 4,740 14,430 +204%
Tarrant 7,732 15,889 +106%
Travis 4 ,705 12,974 +176%
El Paso 3,220 4,374 +36%
Hidalgo 1,701 4,969 +192%
Nueces 2,415 5 ,185 +115%
Collin 1,520 3,589 +136%

Montgomery and Fort Bend counties, both Republican strongholds, were also both up over 100%, but in much smaller absolute numbers: 1,147 to 2,818 for Montgomery County and 490 to 1,170 for Fort Bend. Only Galveston County, which dropped nearly in half from 3,283 to 1,610, had a decrease. Williamson County replaced Lubbock in the top 15 and has a total of 3,903 so far (no 1998 number was given; Lubbock’s number for 1998 was 853). Overall, the total went from 56,873 to 108,532.

1998 was an aberrant year in several ways. Dubya, who was already being talked about as a Presidential nominee, ran basically unopposed. There was no Senate race in 1998. The extreme weakness at the top of the Democratic ticket had an effect on several down-ballot elections, where John Sharp lost to Rick Perry by less than 70,000 votes in the Lt. Governor race and Carolyn Keeton Rylander squeaked by in the Comptroller race by 20,000 votes. Just the fact that there are viable, high-visibility candidates for Governor and Senate should at least help bring Democratic turnout back to normal levels. Where they go from there is going to be the key.