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September 15th, 2003:

Senate meets and adjourns

Byron has most of the coverage worth reading. Basically, the Senate convened, a quorum was announced, and a motion to adjourn was recognized and approved, all before the Texas Ten entered. The gallery, which was packed with Texas Ten supporters, booed this action, then went nuts when the holdouts entered a few minutes later.

The Quorum Report has a number of highlights, including a report of a “peace offering” map that is not as aggressive as prior maps. The Statesman has some info:

The special session opened Monday with a new map filed by Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine. The map is much different than the one he authored a month ago.

He said the proposed congressional map more nearly reflects the districts that elected 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats to the Texas Senate. Some maps in the past would increase the Republican membership in Congress to 21.

[…]

Staples’ latest map, which will be heard by the Senate Jurisprudence Committee on Wednesday, leaves Travis County largely as it is.

Williamson County would dominate an East Texas district that would include northern Bastrop County. The southern half of Bastrop would be in a Gulf Coast district. Western Travis and Hays County would remain in District 21, now represented by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.

Staples defended the map as leaving minority districts virtually alone.

Without having seen the map, I’ll say this: There was no justification for carving up Travis County other than pure naked partisan greed. Not doing that, whatever else the merits or demerits of this map may be, is at least a recognition of that reality, and for that I’ll tip my hat to Sen. Staples. Doesn’t mean I’d support this map, mind you, but at least now we’re both probably on the same planet.

The fines are still in place, and some other privileges such as parking are still revoked. According to the Quorum Report, the Senate leadership is considering its disciplinary options:

Senate Administration Committee Chairman Chris Harris (R-Arlington) has asked his staff to research what other state legislatures do to enforce a quorum.

Harris recessed his committee pending this information following a request from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

In a letter to Harris, Dewhurst asked the administration committee to make recommendations early this week to the full Senate regarding any necessary changes to the Senate Rules on establishing and maintaining a quorum.

QR also speculates on what will come next:

It has long been our premise that there are 6-8 Republican senators prepared to pour gasoline on the current battle with their Democratic colleagues. Similarly, the Senate Democratic Caucus has 3-4 with armed grenades ready for today (symbolically speaking).

That leaves nineteen senators for whom the last month was passionate but not determinative — an episode that should be gotten past so the Senate can return to normal.

The two parties will caucus separately this morning before the session begins to figure out their opening tactics..

This is a moment for the Lt. Governor to assert himself and enable the center. He has the most to lose if the Senate devolves into open warfare.

Passions are high, but it is time to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

We shall see. Remaining coverage is here in the Chron, Statesman and Statesman again, Morning News (AP wire story), Express News, and Star Telegram.

Finally, QR has an amusing cartoon that sums it all up pretty well.

Roy Moore in Houston

Ugh.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose efforts to install a monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of his state’s Judicial Building were thwarted by federal courts, spent a busy Sunday in Houston promoting his cause.

The same courts that ruled against him open their daily sessions with the call, “God save the United States and this honorable court,” and swear witnesses in with the phrase “so help me God,” Moore told congregants at the 11 a.m. service of Grace Community Church in Clear Lake City.

“But you can’t say who God is,” he added with irony.

Moore spoke to some 4,500 people in three morning services at the non-denominational church, then addressed what was billed as a 7 p.m. citywide rally in Houston’s First Baptist Church.

He received vigorous applause several times at Grace, and a standing ovation when he finished. Then pastor Steve Riggle asked the audience for donations to pay legal fees for an appeal, which Moore said the U.S. Supreme Court could hear in October.

“Make an investment in the future of this nation,” Riggle said. “Every single penny you give will go to the legal fund … Some of you can give thousands,” he said.

Afterward, Moore said his visit was educational and not intended as a fund-raiser.

“You can’t stop people who want to help,” he said.

Any money raised, Moore said, would go to the Foundation for Moral Law in Birmingham, Ala., not to him personally.

I do hope someone keeps a close eye on his books, just to make sure that Holy Roy keeps that promise. It’s a sin to tell a lie, after all.

And lest I get too smug about Holy Roy and his crusade:

AUSTIN — Texans might know more about Alabama’s Ten Commandments flap at the Southern state’s capitol than a similar, but quieter, dispute brewing right here at home.

A Texas-based challenge to a nearly 7-foot-high red granite depiction of God’s law on Capitol grounds could become the Ten Commandments case eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some in the legal community are speculating it could become a test case, clarifying similar lawsuits challenging government displays of the Ten Commandments across the nation, where federal courts have handed down mixed opinions.

Shoot me now…

A curious underestimation

Several people have noted this Salon interview with Tucker Carlson, mostly for his unflattering words about Karen Hughes. Reading through the interview for myself this morning, I was struck by a comment that I haven’t seen anyone else mention so far:

Q. But that’s not true of a lot of these guys. A lot of the Fox stars, for example, come from right-wing radio, where a blowhard, black-and-white approach that strictly follows a partisan line works really well.

A. Well, what I think the problem is in general and, not just with Fox, but the genre, is that it encourages you to use a straw man. So for example you see hosts bring on, “This is Jeffrey Mohammed X, and he’s the president of the Association to Kill White Motherfuckers,” and he’ll be presented as a spokesman for black America. And then the host will say, “Well, how can you support lynching white people? That’s just wrong!”

Well, of course, it’s wrong! This guy doesn’t represent anybody! The classic flipside, which I’ve seen much more, is that you get some 62-year-old, semi-retarded cracker whose like the lone member of his chapter of the KKK, and he represents white supremacists. How many white supremacists are there in America? There are about nine, and they’re all mentally retarded.

I’m pretty sure the Southern Poverty Law Center, which lists 708 active hate groups in America in 2002, would be surprised to hear that. I understand Carlson’s basic point, and he does have a point (though of course I’d argue that not having actual mainstream liberals on the air to represent liberal viewpoints is a much more widespread problem), but that doesn’t mean he should downplay a very real problem. To paraphrase a well-known Senator from the South, if what Carlson said about white supremacists were true, then we wouldn’t have all these problems.

Peter Ueberroth

It’s just as well for Kevin that Peter Ueberroth has dropped out of the California recall election. Gary Huckabay at the Baseball Prospectus wrote on Friday in a behind-the-paid-firewall article that Ueberroth gets an awful lot of credit for doing a basically lousy job as baseball’s commissioner.

In particular, Ueberroth advised owners to ignore the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of 1985 in dealing with free agents in order to help keep salaries down. The end result was that almost no free agents after the 1985 season changed teams, and most of them wound up with one-year deals. A few years later, an arbitrator awarded the players $280 million in compensatory damages for grievances stemming from the owners’ collusion, which in turn was an action they took on Ueberroth’s advice.

(I’d totally forgotten about this incident, and am kicking myself for not writing about it before now.)

Even better, Ueberroth has never accepted any responsibility for this debacle.

Ueberroth has never accepted responsibility for the worst stain on his career, charges that the baseball owners colluded to restrict the bargaining power of free agents in the 1980s when he was commissioner of baseball.

Though arbitrators ordered the owners to pay the players more than $280 million, Ueberroth has said the owners’ actions were reasonable to stop a flood of red ink.

“I don’t think there was any actual collusion,” he told The Times in 1988. “I think there was cultural change, an embarrassment It was like a sore each one had that they didn’t want to expose. But once it was exposed they said this is not a sore, this is a disease. But I think that it will all smooth over.”

With a track record like that, he almost makes the tax dodging illegal immigrant Schwarzeneggar look good.

Perry’s Mulligan

Although I expect Texans will be disappointed with the inability to accomplish this task, I believe Texans would be even more disappointed if we expend considerable sums of taxpayer money to call a special session that has no promise of yielding a redistricting plan for Congress.

That’s what Governor Rick Perry said to Bill Ratliff and Pete Laney, then the Lt. Governor and House Speaker, on July 3, 2001. In doing so, Perry, who now insists that the only proper way to do redistricting is via the Legislature, chose to let the courts draw the lines instead.

Two years and two wasted special sessions later, Perry will finally get the mulligan he has craved since April. Special Session #3 begins at noon, and barring intervention from aliens or another flipflop from John Whitmire, it will have a quorum and not have a blocker bill in the Senate, meaning that like a playoff contender in the stretch run, the outcome is in the Republicans’ own hands.

So what now for the Democrats? Greg Wythe makes a strong case for giving the Republicans exactly what they want, on the grounds that it will make the ensuing court challenge that much tighter. It’s pretty persuasive.

What about the sanctions? The GOP continues to play good cop/bad cop, with Sen. Todd Staples playing the good cop this time around. I’ll say again, the smartest thing the Republicans can do is to find a way to drop this issue (they can call Beldar if they want some suggestions as to how).

Have I mentioned, by the way, that the Republicans still apparently don’t have an agreement on a map? The Quorum Report a couple of days ago alluded to a couple of maps that could get the 16 votes needed to pass the Senate, but there’s been no update on that since then, and every article I’ve read still refers to the Craddick/Duncan feud. Time to put up or shut up, fellas.

Four hours till the curtain goes up on the Lege for (one can only hope) the last time this year. Let’s get ready to rumble.