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October, 2003:

Bonjour!

Bonjour from France! I’ve got a few minutes and have dropped in at an Internet access shop to get a fix on news and blog stuff. We had a great time in the champagne country, visiting the Mercier, Moet, and Taittinger houses in Epernay and Reims before making the trek back to Paris. Tiffany speaks French fluently, and I know enough to get by, so we’ve had no problems other than navigational ones (I hate traffic circles). Tiffany is here for a conference, so her touristing is done. I’ve just left Versailles and am about to head back into town to do some museum hopping before dinner. I may visit another Internet cafe tomorrow (with luck, this one will have an English keyboard), we’ll see. I will have a trip report and eventually some photos after we’ve returned. A bientot!

We’ll always have Paris

I’m about to take off for a week in France, in the champagne country outside of Paris over the weekend, and in Paris from Tuesday till Friday when we return. It’s possible I’ll have some brief Net access while in Paris, but don’t expect any regular updates until I get back on Friday. In the meantime, enjoy the many fine blogs linked to on the right and on subpages from there. I’ll see you next week.

Senators press Van de Putte

I have to say, it’s not been looking good for Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. Her Democratic colleagues don’t recall the “if you act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans” slur that she says she heard, she’s been unavailable to comment for the past two days, and now Republican Senators are demanding that she come clean, even if it means violating the usual tradition of confidentiality in the members’ lounge.

Skeptical GOP senators said Van de Putte should say who made the remark.

“I’ll challenge her right now to tell us who said that,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. “If she cannot tell us who said that, then I will have to assume she’s not being truthful.”

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, said: “We’ll waive confidentiality on this one.” Otherwise, “we need to entertain the possibility it wasn’t said.”

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, also calling for Van de Putte to name the senator, said: “I am a Republican senator along with 18 other Republican senators. So (she’s) put a cloud over all 19 of us.”

“There’s got to be some way she misunderstood or exaggerated,” Wentworth said.

I don’t see any other way out. This was a very serious charge, and it isn’t fair to let it hang like that. She needs to either name a name or back down and take her lumps. If she misheard, I think people will still understand. If she misspoke, that’s not good at all.

Her Democratic colleagues still believe her:

“All we can do is take our colleague’s word on these kind of things,” said Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin.

Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston said he believed Van de Putte.

“There’s no misunderstanding about a quote like that,” Gallegos said. “For the lieutenant governor to say she misunderstood, is an insult to her.”

And Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville said: “Whoever said that, there should be sanctions and penalties.”

Ram Chavez, the state commander of the American GI Forum, a national Latino civil rights group, said Dewhurst should force an apology from the responsible senator.

“He is the leader of the Texas Senate,” Chavez said. “He should call in his state senators and talk to them.”

It’s up to you now, Sen. Van de Putte.

More on Bill White and military voting

Man, considering that the original article which has spawned however many posts across at least four blogs was, like, eight sentences long, this topic sure is getting a beating. Anyway, here’s the latest from Kevin and Rob (here and here).

Let’s talk first about partisanship, since Kevin brings it up:

The majority of military personnel who vote absentee vote Republican. But the Democrats, already perceived as weak on foreign policy (and, during the Clinton Presidency, as anti-military), can’t really come right out and say they’d like to make it more difficult for those votes to be counted. It’s more palatable politically to advocate seemingly reasonable provisions regarding residency.

Of course Bill White was taking a partisan position. He was the chairman of the state Democratic Party at the time, so it was his job to be partisan. If you want to use that as evidence that his nonpartisan campaign for Mayor is a sham, that’s fine. I feel the same way about Orlando Sanchez (who’s getting more and more partisan himself, I see), whom I know full well if elected will be a Republican Mayor and not just a Mayor.

State party chairs often say egregious things in the name of advancing their side’s interests. Susan Weddington supported Rick Perry’s decision to let the courts draw Congressional borders in 2001, for example, because she said at the time that the courts would do a fairer job than the Democratic House would. A better question to ask would be whether what White said at that time was a throwaway line in the aftermath of a surprising defeat (i.e., sour grapes) or an actual policy position that he lobbied for? Note that unless the Val Verde election was held in the early spring, the next chance White or any Democrat could have had to push for a bill restricting voter registration in this fashion would have been 1999. Has anyone checked to see if such a bill was actually filed, and if so if Bill White was quoted supporting it? It’s fine if you want to hold this against him anyway, I just want to put his sin in perspective. If he did in fact get someone to sponsor a law like this, then you’ve got my attention.

And of course we can’t discuss the partisanship in this issue without noting that Jerry Patterson, the Republican Land Commissioner who brought it up, does not currently reside in Houston, meaning that his primary interest here is nothing but partisanship.

Now, then. On to what Rob says.

I remember this event, it was one of the major events in my life. I was stationed in Virginia at OSIA (now DTRA), lived in Maryland, and had volunteered to take investigational new drugs because I was urged to work on some biological weapons dismantlement projects. I was happy to do it, I thought it was important work and liked the idea of working with something a little dangerous. Being a military interpreter and in cryptology, I sat behind a computer most of the time and wanted to risk my life (a little) in defense of the Constitution of the United States.

I was also proud to be a Texan and serious about voting. I had to jump through some hoops to vote absentee and even though I didn’t always plan ahead well enough, I got to vote most of the time. I researched issues, called friends back home for advice, my mother mailed me voting guides.

Rob’s been in the military and I haven’t, so if he says voting absentee was an extra hassle, I believe him. I don’t recall it being a big deal for me when I did it during my college days – my parents mailed me a ballot, and I mailed it in when I was done – but I didn’t have a military bureaucracy to deal with. Given that, though I clearly see this differently, I really don’t want to make it any harder for folks in uniform to vote. I’d rather leave things as they are and accept some odd results like Val Verde.

That said, I note that Rob chose to vote in Texas, where he came from, rather than in Virginia or Maryland. I presume he did so because he had a connection to Texas and he cared more about Texas elections than those in his temporary home. Which was exactly my point when I said that the default should be where the person came from. And given that the ballots in question in Val Verde were all mail-in ballots, the level of hassle would have been the same wherever these people chose to vote.

In Rob’s later post, he quotes from the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

MILITARY

Where is my “legal voting residence?”

For voting purposes, your “legal voting residence” can be the state or territory where you last resided prior to entering military service or the state or territory that you have since claimed as your legal residence. To claim a new legal residence you must have simultaneous physical presence and the intent to return to that location as your primary residence.

Rob then goes on to say “When you join the military, your home of record (permanent address) defaults to where you came from. Later on, you can change that. I did just that a couple of times.” Again, this is not only what I’ve been saying, it sounds exactly like what Bill White was advocating.

Now, I don’t know (and couldn’t find via a quick search) when these rules were adopted. Maybe they came into play after 1997 as a result of some Clintonian conspiracy to disenfranchise military voters, and maybe they’re widely reviled throughout the armed forces. Maybe not. If they were in place nationally in 1997, then either White was advocating that Texas get in step with the rest of the country, or he was speaking from ignorance since this was already in place. Once again, I have to ask: What’s the big stinking deal? We’re not saying military folks on domestic or overseas assignments can’t vote. We’re saying they must vote where their permanent address is, and their permanent address should reflect where they last lived or where they plan to live next.

Given that I’m about to take a week-long hiatus, this is undoubtedly the last thing I’ll say on this subject, which is surely a relief to anyone who’s read this far.

The Talking Dog talks to Dick Morris

Lest I forget before I toddle off to Europe, check out this interview that The Talking Dog did with Dick Morris. Interesting stuff.

Agreement is now official

Looks like Speaker Craddick got the check from the mail and is happy to cash it: The “agreement in principle” is now official.

House and Senate negotiators reached a final agreement early this morning on new congressional districts, said Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine.

Staples said the agreement was reached at about 2:30 a.m. Bob Richter, spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick, said, “It’s a done deal. It’s a beautiful baby, too.”

Gov. Rick Perry’s office scheduled a news conference for this morning.

Get the lawyers ready. More coverage here and here.

Agreement in principle, but…

(UPDATE: You can see the new map here. Thanks to Tom for sending me the link.)

For all the statements about an agreement in principle on a new Congressional map, there sure seems to be a lot of caveats and qualifiers. Take a look at this, for instance.

“I think we’re pretty much in agreement on the map, but we haven’t seen the map, per se,” [House Speaker Tom] Craddick told reporters. “We’re very hopeful that we’ll have an agreement.”

His spokesman, Bob Richter, had already offered up a caveat that speaks volumes about the deep divisions that have blocked all previous agreements: “We reserve the right to back out,” he said.

One key player in the negotiations, state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, was not on hand when the agreement was announced by Dewhurst. Duncan and Craddick have wrangled mightily over the configuration of West Texas, with the speaker insisting that a district be drawn anchored in his hometown of Midland.

Duncan had expressed deep concerns that giving in to Craddick’s demand might undermine his commitment to protecting a district dominated by West Texas agriculture interests. Craddick came away with his Midland district.

“I think when it became clear that the governor and the speaker were going to get a District 4 Midland, I just tried to get the best deal I could get for the communities of interest in my area,” Duncan said.

Legislative leaders said they hope to vote on the new map by Friday — a day before the Texas-Oklahoma football game in Dallas that many members plan to attend. Less clear is whether they will have to change the date of the 2004 primary election.

I’ve heard stronger promises from the cable company regarding when my technician will show up. You’d think that after all this, they’d be singing Kumbaya and dumping Gatorade on each other. Anyway, the following quote appears in most accounts, though not the Star Telegram’s:

“We were told there’s a check in the mail,” Craddick spokesman Bob Richter said. “We want to see the check.”

Like I said, not exactly a gold-plated guarantee. Hard to imagine things falling apart at this point, but then you’d have thought that Deaf Smith County wouldn’t have been such a stumbling block. Since I’m taking off for Europe later today, you’ll have to tune in to the Burnt Orange Report or Polstate to see if anything unusual happens.

Today’s coverage is here, here, here, and here. Items of interest include uncertainty about the primary date, concerns that several West Texas Republicans in the House will vote against this plan, confidence from Democrats that the courts will not approve of this map, and Tom DeLay taking a victory lap. The Statesman has the most complete word on DeLay’s role in all this.

For the three days, DeLay shuttled maps between the offices of the speaker, governor and lieutenant governor as he tried to finish what he had started.

In 2001, the Legislature punted to the courts because it was split between Democrats and Republicans. After the 2002 Republican landslide, DeLay insisted that state GOP lawmakers redraw the boundaries to send more Republicans to Congress.

DeLay lobbied state leaders during the regular legislative session this spring and met with Gov. Rick Perry and legislative leaders at the Governor’s Mansion this summer before Perry called the first of three special sessions.

DeLay, whose nickname is “the Hammer,” kept pounding away for a deal.

“I’m going to stay here as long as I’m useful,” he said Tuesday.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said he had never seen someone outside the Legislature negotiate a final bill the way DeLay did.

“I don’t believe he was here as ‘the Diplomat,’ ” Gallego said. “I believe he was here as ‘the Enforcer.’ ”

In Washington, [Rep. Lloyd] Doggett went to the House floor to underscore DeLay’s absence. Saying he wanted to discuss scheduling federal budget matters with DeLay, Doggett said: “He has not been here all week long. He has developed such an affection for my hometown of Austin that we may have to make him an honorary citizen.”

Editorials:

The Statesman’s Dave McNeely reiterates what he wrote yesterday about this being the swan song for redistricting no matter what until 2011.

The Express News chastises DeLay for his involvement in a state legislative matter.

The Waco Trib decries the specter of moving the primary date.

The Chron slaps DeLay and criticizes the cost of the special sessions.

The Austin Chronicle has some extra coverage here and here.

City Council quandary

I suppose you could file this under Good Problems To Have, but I’m trying to figure out which of the myriad of candidates for the District H City Council seat to vote for. I’m hoping that one of Hector Longoria’s many opponents can get into a runoff with him, but the question for now is which one to support in the meantime. The establishment candidate seems to be Adrian Garcia, who has the backing of Sylvia Garcia and Carol Alvarado, according to this Press article. Rob Humenik likes Diana Davila Martinez, while Tiffany says she’s voting for Gonzalo Camacho, whom she cited as a competent voice of reason on the Woodland Heights email list. There’s a candidate forum on October 14 at Zion Lutheran Church, but I’ll be inconveniently out of the country at that time.

Hmm. Maybe, in my copious spare time, I’ll call some of these people and ask them why I should vote for them. That might be cool.

A tale of two Bills, continued

Tim Fleck has his take on the Dueling Bill Whites story, though there’s not much new ground covered. This is interesting, though:

Media coverage of the Bogus Bill scheme was almost as convoluted as the plan itself. Political consultant George Strong was the first to post stories on the subject on his Texas Political Resource Web page. He found out about it at a Planned Parenthood fund-raiser the Friday before the filing deadline. Strong was chatting with White’s wife, Andrea, and asked how the campaign was going. She replied, “Bill’s real worried because he heard today that somebody’s going to get somebody else named Bill White to file for mayor.”

Strong then made a beeline for White to inquire about the details. When he asked about Bogus Bill, the surprised candidate exclaimed, “Where’d you hear that from?”

Strong posted his first item on his Web site the next day, alerting Houston media. Even with the heads-up, the Houston Chronicle held its potential scoop by John Williams for a week, printing it only after both the Forward Times and KHOU/ Channel 11 had produced stories. It seems that epic libel case filed by Turner against KTRK/Channel 13 after his 1991 race has left a lasting impression on Chronicle editors.

Man, talk about wheels within wheels. Anyway, it looks like there’s no more dirt to be uncovered (yeah, I know, you never know), in which case we may never hear a full explanation of this from White or Turner. Too bad, since I feel pretty strongly that this was a tempest in a teapot, but I can certainly understand that from a strategic point of view. We’ll see if Orlando Sanchez tries to make hay out of it. He could strike gold if he does, or he could turn people off by going negative. Again, that’s why they pay the consultants the big bucks.

Kevin has some further thoughts on this, including a link to this Chron story which says that the DA’s office will take a peek at this.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said Tuesday that he has started an investigation into an aborted scam to confuse voters by getting a second man named Bill White to run for mayor.

Rosenthal said he is uncertain any laws were violated.

“You have to know what the facts are before you know which laws come into play,” Rosenthal said.

Can’t argue with that.

Dewhurst gives Van de Putte a way out

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says he hopes Sen. Leticia Van de Putte simply misheard another Senator make a racial slur.

Dewhurst also backed off the previous stance of his office calling for an investigation into whether an unnamed senator told Van de Putte that if Democratic senators acted “like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Dewhurst said, speaking to reporters shortly before a luncheon speech in San Antonio. “I really can’t believe any person in the Texas Senate would say such a thing.

“Sen. Van de Putte is a dear friend of mine, but maybe she didn’t hear correctly,” he said.

We’ll see if she amends her remarks. Meanwhile, her fellow Senator from San Antonio was less charitable.

“The thing that is offensive to me personally is that she hasn’t identified the senator,” said Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who said Van de Putte owes it to the public and the Texas Senate to name the senator who allegedly made the comments.

“I am a Republican senator along with 18 other Republican senators. So (she’s) put a cloud over all 19 of us,” he said.

Wentworth stopped short of saying Van de Putte lied about the incident, which she said occurred after 11 Senate Democrats returned to the capital last month from New Mexico, where they went to stall consideration of redistricting legislation.

“I just believe there’s got to be some way she misunderstood or exaggerated,” Wentworth said. He added that the “Capitol rumor mill is very healthy and I just can’t believe if that actually occurred, nobody has heard about it in three weeks.”

In Van de Putte’s corner is the American GI Forum.

“The senator who said this should identify himself or herself,” Ram Chavez said.

Asked how Dewhurst should draw an apology for a comment Dewhurst did not hear and from an unidentified senator, Chavez said, “He is the leader of the Texas Senate. He should call in his state senators and talk to them.”

Chavez was accompanied by Jesus Castillo of San Antonio, a GI forum member, who said he believes Van de Putte’s recollections.

“I believe her 100 percent. I know her. I grew up with her,” he said.

We’ll see. So far, this story hasn’t gotten much play outside of the Express News, so at least if Van de Putte backpedals her exposure is limited. For now, anyway.

Did you study for that urine test?

Oh. My. God.

LUBBOCK — Some West Texas men on probation are in trouble again, this time for allegedly using the Whizzinator to help them pass court-ordered urinalysis tests.

In the past six months, five men on probation were caught using a realistic-looking prosthesis that dispenses synthetic, drug-free urine, Lubbock County sheriff’s officials said. One was caught by an alert officer who heard something unusual in the restroom.

“A body part when it’s up against a plastic cup isn’t going to go ‘clink,’ ” said Tom Madigan, interim assistant director of the Lubbock County adult probation office.

Truer words have never been spoken.

The device, reusable and available in five flesh colors, is sold by California-based Puck Technology for $150. A prosthetic penis is attached to an undergarment resembling a jock strap and connects to a pouch containing dehydrated urine. Water is added to the pouch, and a heat pack can be attached to keep the urine close to body temperature.

Company owner Dennis Catalano has sold the device and one designed for women for about four years, mainly through an Internet site. He said what he does is legal.

“How people choose to use it is beyond our control,” he said. “But we manufacture this and sell it for people who believe we still have a semblance of privacy in this country.”

If you want to know more about The Whizzinator, you can read this AlterNet story. The paragraph on how their prostheses are made is a hoot. Isn’t it nice to know that the libertarian spirit is alive and well somewhere?

Deal reportedly reached

At 12:13 PM, the Quorum Report says:

HOUSE AND SENATE REDISTRICTING NEGOTIATORS REACH DEAL

Official announcement to be made early this afternoon

Time to get the lawyers warmed up.

UPDATE: Oopsie! QR has a later entry that says:

WE JUMPED THE GUN ON THE REDISTRICTING MAP

No map yet. Confirmation is that House and Senate adjourned until Friday.

If there was a map, it would be laid out today or brought to the floor of both chambers tomorrow. While there has been some modest movement, as far as we can tell, it is marginal at best.

So the lawyers can stand down for now. (And BTW, ElGato, my mental image is a bullpen, while a stocky guy with a chaw is saying “The lefty needs a few more tosses” on the phone.)

UPDATE: The papers are now reporting that a deal has been struck in principle. Here’s the Dallas Morning News, the Statesman, the Chronicle, and the Star-Telegram. The map is currently being vetted for compliance with the Voting Rights Act and if it passes muster will probably be unveiled tomorrow and brought to the House and Senate floors on Friday. According to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, if the lawyers give the plan a thumbs down, the Senate will not take up the matter again this year.

“(T)his is the last bite at the apple,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst told the Statesman on Wednesday. “If our lawyers tell us our plan is legally defensible, we’re going on to address school finance, Medicaid reform and other issues. And the governor’s office and the (Republican) congressional delegation understand and agree that the Senate’s not going to take up this issue again.”

Dewhurst said the Senate would not consider redistricting again if the Justice Department failed to clear the plan and Gov. Rick Perry called yet another special session on congressional redistricting.

“We’re not going to take it up,” Dewhurst declared, without going into specifics about how that would occur.

It should be noted that at 5:03 PM, four minutes before the DMN story was published, Rep. Phil King is being quoted in the Quorum Report saying that the report of a deal was still premature. I cannot tell if this is still true, but with all the other papers chiming in I’ve got to assume the deal is in.

UPDATE: Dewhurst has confirmed the deal, according to the Quorum Report, although the “final details of the map still needed to be ironed out”. It should be available tomorrow.

When you have The Hammer, every problem looks like a nail

On Day Two of Hammer Time, the newspapers are all reporting that this time, the Republicans really truly are thisclose to finalizing a map.

No compromise maps were released, but both sides agreed that Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, the speaker of the Texas House, had beaten back Senate opposition and prevailed in his dogged pursuit of a district centered in his hometown — where a former business partner of President Bush is waiting in the wings to run.

A House negotiator said some tweaking of districts in the Panhandle and Central Texas remains – and any haggling at this late hour could kill a fragile compromise.

Late Tuesday night, a deal appeared to be close but elusive. “The progress has slowed somewhat, but I am hopeful,” said state Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine.

Staples said he hoped he would be able to announce a deal today.

Among other things, in the end Queen Craddick got what he wanted.

“The primary haggling is not over District 11, the Midland district, but over 13 and 19, the Amarillo and Lubbock districts,” said state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the chief House negotiator.

Another way to put it, as Craddick spokesman Bob Richter did, is that the House speaker “pretty much got what he wanted.”

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, had fought to keep the current lines intact, which made possible the election of Stenholm, a popular conservative Democrat who keeps getting re-elected in Republican territory.

In an interview with the Star-Telegram Tuesday in Washington, Stenholm called Duncan “solid as a rock” and expressed optimism that he would be able to run in whatever district is drawn for him.

But Dave Beckwith, a spokesman for Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the president of the Senate, said it had never been Duncan’s goal to keep a winnable seat for Stenholm.

“Whoever put that out, that he was trying to protect Stenholm, was either wrong or maliciously wrong,” Beckwith said. “In order to get these [new Republican] seats, we need Stenholm’s.”

Beckwith also agreed that Craddick had prevailed in his insistence on a Midland-centered district. K. Michael Conaway, a longtime friend and business partner of President Bush, is Craddick’s favored candidate for the seat.

“Craddick won a brand new district for Midland. He won that. That’s for sure,” Beckwith said.

Stenholm, meanwhile, would face freshman U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, in a GOP-dominated district.

We’ll see. The clock is still ticking, and one of the things the mapmakers are worried about now is the annual UT-OU football game.

The Republican leaders raced against the clock to get a deal Tuesday, fearing they would lose a GOP quorum in the House this weekend to the Texas-Oklahoma football game.

“They feel like to get into the Texas-OU weekend, you might lose members on Friday,” said Richter. “If you have to go to next week, there’s a good chance that a filibuster would throw it off in the Senate.”

The University of Texas usually gives free football tickets to legislators, but it is unclear whether lawmakers are being given tickets to this weekend’s game, Richter said.

If House and Senate negotiators can hammer out an agreement by early today, the chambers could vote on the final GOP redistricting plan by Thursday. Any further delay would push a floor vote off until at least Friday.

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the lead House negotiator, said he did not think the Texas-OU game would interfere with a Friday House vote if needed.

“I think whenever we’re going to have a vote, I think everybody will be here. We’re pretty close. If we get a map worked out tonight or tomorrow, and it gets signed off on by everybody … we could be on the floor Friday, easy.”

It’s my opinion at this point that the Republicans have overreached, and in carving up Tarrant and Hidalgo counties, among others, whatever final plan they’re headed towards will not survive a court challenge. I had my doubts about the Staples map that the Senate actually passed, as it seemed like the GOP had worked to avoid those issues, but I suppose three weeks of fruitless negotiations set their inhibitions to the wind. I have to wonder – if the courts flush their plan down the legal toilet, will they wait until 2005 for the do-over, or will Perry start with the special sessions again?

Anyway, the rest of the coverage is here, here, and here. Not much else there.

While Democrats here (myself included) are spitting mad about the possibility that the primary date may be changed, the various Presidential campaigns weren’t sure it would affect them.

“This will sacrifice Texas’ voice in the presidential selection process,” said Geronimo Rodriguez, an Austin lawyer and state adviser for the presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, on the moving of the primary back to March 9. “We will know the nominee by the time Texas votes in the primary.”

But Texas leaders in the presidential campaigns of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt were not as certain of the potential influence.

“If they don’t go much further than that, we are probably OK,” said former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, Gephardt’s point man in Texas. “But March 2 makes Texas more of a player.”

Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, the Texas coordinator for Kerry, has projected for months that the nomination would be decided even before March 2.

“It’s still hard for me to see a scenario that the presidential race is not over before the first week of March,” Barnes said. “I still think the primary will be over before Texas votes, but that one week could make a big difference.”

Former state Rep. Glen Maxey of Austin, director of the Howard Dean presidential campaign in Texas, said it’s too early to tell what the key date will be.

“Just because we get moved back does not mean we are out of the game in this multicandidate field,” he said.

Just a reminder why the primary date was moved to March 2 in the first place:

State Rep. Dan Branch, a Dallas Republican and sponsor of the measure that moved the primaries to March 2, said Tuesday that there would be a cost to counties, but not the state, to moving it back to March 9.

Branch wanted to move the primaries to avoid the costs involved in opening the schools and other polling places that are closed for spring break on March 9.

“We were saving money because to hold a primary election in a darkened schoolhouse on spring break is 20 to 50 percent more expensive than when schools are opened,” he said.

Would Tom DeLay like to compensate the counties for unnecessarily adding to their costs? I rather doubt it.

On a lighter note, Alec Baldwin has a gift for Governor Perry.

Actor Alec Baldwin came packing a box of Milk Bones at a Tuesday fund-raiser for Texas House Democrats embroiled in a nationally noticed fight with the GOP over congressional redistricting.

“I wanted to give this to Tom DeLay’s lap dog, Rick Perry,” Baldwin told reporters at the private fund-raiser downtown, noting that Gov. Perry has called three special legislative sessions to try to achieve GOP-friendlier congressional districts as sought by DeLay, U.S. House majority leader.

Perry’s spokeswoman Kathy Walt, with the governor on a New York trip, returned the shot.

“Alec Baldwin is to acting what Democrats are to Texas — irrelevant,” she said.

The fund-raiser was for the “Killer Ds,” as supporters call the House Democrats who stalled redistricting in the regular session by fleeing to Oklahoma. More than $50,000 was raised, said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio.

The money will be used to help re-elect Democratic House members, said Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, head of the House Democratic caucus.

Two words, Kathy: Governor Schwarzeneggar.

On to the editorials. The Star-Telegram has a three part piece decrying various aspects of the whole redistricting process. The Morning News says keeping the primary date is more important that the GOP feud. The Statesman bemoans the whole thing. The Express News takes a similar tack while fretting about uncompetitive districts and plugging the Wentworth plan. The McAllen Monitor feels Craddick and Duncan’s pain.

Republicans such as Craddick and Duncan have had a taste of what redistricting does — it separates us into haves and have-nots when it comes to congressional representation. While those politicians’ districts get a fair shake under the compromise map, Hidalgo County is once again gerrymandered into two congressional districts, one of which stretches all the way into Central Texas, far from the border with Mexico.

This unfairness in drawing the congressional districts won’t go away until the state Legislature has the courage — has the guts — to bring about a fair, impartial redistricting system. There are at least two ways this could come about. The Legislature could create a nonpartisan redistricting committee made up of demographers, geographers and other experts; or it could use a computer program that automatically draws district boundaries according to preset specifications. Either of these methods, or even some combination of the two, would be better than the political mess Texas must endure.

We don’t feel too sorry for Duncan and Craddick. But we’re very familiar with what they’re going through.

Indeed.

Van de Putte followup

Yesterday I pointed to a column by Jan Jarboe Russell in the Express News in which Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said that a Republican Senator, in response to a query about punitiveness, told her that “If you act like Mexicans, then you will be treated like Mexicans.” Van de Putte did not name the Senator in question, since the comment was made in the members’ lounge, for which there is a tradition of confidentiality, but she said that the exchange was witnessed by Sens. Frank Madla and Judith Zaffirini.

Today, neither Senator verified Van de Putte’s claim.

“What senator said that?” Madla said. “I don’t recall that comment being made, to be honest with you. Unless we can verify that statement being made, I would rather not make any comment.”

Zaffirini, saying she was taking painkillers for a broken shoulder at the time, said: “I don’t recall the exchange. I recall her (Van de Putte) telling me about the exchange. That was when I was on pain medication. … I’m sure I was there, but I don’t recall it.”

As I said yesterday, if this story is true, it’s despicable. It’s also despicable if it’s not true. This is a very serious charge to make, and no good purpose is served if it can’t be verified. The fact that the two witnesses Van de Putte named don’t remember the incident doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but their lack of recollection surely does not advance her case. At the very least, it’s rather reckless for Van de Putte to go public without first checking with her colleagues to see if they’ll back her up.

Sen. Van de Putte is in a very precarious position right now. She may be telling the truth, but without corroborating evidence it will be very difficult to get anyone to believe her. If she’s exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just plain making this up, then she’s done herself and her colleagues a grave disservice and she needs to start making it right double quick. I hope she knows what she’s doing.

The Top Ten Silver Linings from the California Recall Election

10. At least there won’t be a recount.

9. After last week, Arnold now has a much better idea of which women won’t mind being groped.

8. Maybe this idea of tossing out people who turn surpluses into deficits will catch on, say, next November.

7. I’ll take any distraction from Cubs fans moaning about last night’s game at this point.

6. With any luck, Terminator 4 will be shelved indefinitely.

5. You know how everybody loves the backup quarterback until he actually has to play in a game? That’s what Arnold will feel like when he finally has to come up with a specific proposal on the budget.

4. California once again takes the lead over Texas in the Most Embarrassing State Politics race.

3. As such, when I’m in France next week, I can tell people “Well, at least I’m not from California.”

2. Whoever reserved RecallArnoldNow.com got their money’s worth.

And the #1 Silver Lining from the California Recall Election:

1. The next time I hear someone gripe about know-nothing celebrities spouting off on politics, I will say “Two words: Governor Schwarzeneggar.”

“If you’re going to act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans”

If this story is really true, it’s pretty shocking, even after all that’s occurred so far.

San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte says that on Sept. 18, shortly after the Democrats returned from their 45-day exile in New Mexico, she was in the members lounge and approached a Republican senator with a question: “Why are you being so punitive?”

She asked the question moments after Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, had been warned that if she parked her car at the Capitol, it would be towed and after Republicans had placed the Democrats who fled on “probation.” Any Senate Democrat absent more than 72 hours will face $57,000 in fines, levied by the Republicans.

Van de Putte, who refers to herself as a “probationer” these days, refuses to name the senator to whom she posed the question. She says one of the rules of the Senate is that anything said in the lounge is privileged. However, she told the Express-News Editorial Board on Monday what the unnamed senator said.

According to Van de Putte, the senator looked at her and said, “If you are going to act like Mexicans, you will be treated like Mexicans.”

It’s difficult to imagine exactly what the senator could have meant, but it’s hard not to read the term “Mexican” as a racial slur. In this day and age, its use is unconscionable. The meaning, at least to Van de Putte, was: If you’re going to act like a second-class citizen, then that’s the way you’ll be treated.

The unnamed senator made the remark, according to Van de Putte, in the presence of Zaffirini and state Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, as well as four other Republican senators.

What’s worse, she says that the four other Republican senators agreed. They nodded their heads and indicated that in 10 years the number of Mexican Americans will increase, but for now, Anglo Republicans have all the power — and they plan to use it.

If Van de Putte is correct, this means that five of the 17 Republican senators are Neanderthals who view the world through dangerous, racist eyes. (Ed. note: There are 19 Republican Senators, not 17.)

Why won’t Van de Putte name names? She said she doesn’t want to be accused of betraying the confidentiality of the members lounge, but she wants the public to know that it’s not just Democrats who are playing the race card — the card is part of the entire redistricting deck.

Moments after that heated encounter, Madla lividly told a news conference: “The last time that I was treated the way we were today on the Senate floor, I think I was about 6 years old when I entered the first grade. I was a little Mexican boy who had his first taste of what white supremacy was about.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst widely criticized Madla for raising the subject of race. Dewhurst called Madla’s remarks “simply cheap, distasteful, juvenile partisan spin.”

Why didn’t Van de Putte report the senator’s slur at the news conference the day it happened? Why wait until now?

“I was startled,” she said. Now she wants people to understand the context of Madla’s remarks, as well as the context of the Senate’s debate.

That’s just mind-boggling. I don’t know why Sen. Van de Putte took so long to speak out about this – maybe she went to Dewhurst first and got impatient waiting for him to respond, maybe she really was reluctant to violate the tradition of confidentiality, maybe she wanted to time it for maximal effect, I couldn’t say. Maybe there’ll be a fuller article tomorrow with some reactions – I’ll certainly be on the lookout. But as this stands, it’s pretty awful and someone needs to apologize for it. Via the Quorum Report.

Debate and attack

I did not catch last night’s mayoral debate, but like Beldar I’m a bit disappointed that neither Sylvester Turner nor Bill White gave definitive answers to the questions about their role in the Brenda Flores contretemps. I tend to agree with Beldar that White is guilty of nothing more than foolishness, but he’s not doing himself any favors by not simply admitting to it. I don’t think this will have the kind of legs to be an issue to anyone who’s not paying close attention, but why take the chance?

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that. The Chron does not appear to be pursuing this story, and it isn’t easily described in sound bites, so there’s a decent chance it may die a quiet death, in which case making vague noises about looking forward and moving on will suffice to distract most people whereas an admission of something that sounds like wrongdoing even if it’s just dumbassery will be a giant red flag. I suppose this is why they pay campaign consultants the big bucks.

Meanwhile, Rob notes a more substantial criticism of Bill White.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson attacked Houston mayoral candidate Bill White on Monday for a position he took in 1997 on the voting rights of soldiers.

White, as then-state Democratic chairman, advocated that state law be changed to prevent military personnel from voting in local elections unless they intended to return to the state after their service to establish residency.

Emphasis mine. Let me see if I’ve got this straight: A kid from New Jersey joins the Air Force and does basic training at Kelly Air Force Base before being shipped overseas. Bill White says that unless the kid plans on coming back to San Antonio after his stint abroad, he should register and vote absentee in New Jersey instead of in Texas. And Jerry Patterson has a problem with this? When I was a college student, I voted absentee in New York until after graduation when I established residence here. Does Jerry Patterson think I was discriminated against, too? Puh-lease.

UPDATE: Alex has a reasonable objection to my complaint, pointing out that folks in the military may not have any other permanent address or they may have joined the military to get away from their prior permanent address. Fair enough. I still believe that the default should be where you came from, but it should not be hard to override that.

And they’re off

Can I just say now how glad I will be to never hear the words California recall election again? I have no guess who will win, and frankly I’m finding it hard to care. Unfortunately, I suspect the only outcome that will guarantee no more recall efforts is for Gray Davis to survive, and I don’t know how likely that is. Between this and the neverending redistricting fiasco, it’s pretty easy to see why so many people hate politics.

(And is it just me, or is anyone else disappointed that Larry Flynt was a total nonentity in the campaign? I mean, the least he could have done was try to blackmail someone. He’s losing his edge.)

Look, honey! It’s the Hammer!

You know that redistricting negotiations have really fallen down when Tom DeLay swoops in to try and get a deal brokered.

“I’m a Texan trying to get things done,” said DeLay, R-Sugar Land, as he spent hours engaged in cross-rotunda shuttle diplomacy between House Speaker Tom Craddick and the state Senate leadership.

“There is progress being made. People are working together,” DeLay said. “We’re close. We’re just working out the specifics.”

[…]

Legislative sources said DeLay told Craddick last Friday that he did not want the fight over Midland to kill the entire map, which would give the Republicans at least six additional seats in Congress.

“I’m not going to talk about specifics,” DeLay said when asked Monday about that discussion with Craddick.

DeLay met for several hours Monday morning with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Republican Sens. Todd Staples of Palestine and Robert Duncan of Lubbock, who are the lead Senate redistricting negotiators.

DeLay spent most of the afternoon meeting with Craddick and two of Gov. Rick Perry’s aides, Chief of Staff Mike Toomey and Deputy Chief of Staff Deirdre Delisi.

After meeting with DeLay, Craddick left the Capitol for about an hour to get a haircut. He refused to talk to reporters.

DeLay then spent much of the evening shuttling between Craddick’s and Dewhurst’s offices. At one point, Duncan emerged from a meeting with DeLay — whose nickname in Washington is “the Hammer” — holding his arm as if it had been twisted.

I imagine Duncan was just having some fun with the reporters present, but with DeLay, you never can tell. Regardless, the story at the end of the day was the same.

“There still is no deal,” Staples said early in the evening.

Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, said that what he knew of Perry’s proposal for Central Texas was unacceptable to him. He said it would turn the district of U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, into a district dominated by Tarrant County voters.

Averitt said he supports a proposed Senate map that likely would elect a Waco Republican to replace Edwards.

DeLay wasn’t the only member of the Congressional delegation making an appearance yesterday.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, and two members of the governor’s security detail flanked DeLay as he strode about every half-hour from Craddick’s office to Dewhurst’s office.

“We’re close,” DeLay said Monday afternoon. “Just working out the specifics.”

Yet negotiators ended the day with nothing resolved.

Brady said the negotiations were tough because every change caused a ripple effect in other areas of the state.

“Texas is the equivalent of five states,” Brady said. “If this were South Dakota, it wouldn’t be so tough.”

Well, given that South Dakota has one Congressman, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. What kind of problems is DeLay and his merry men running into?

The back-and-forth hiccupped about 8:30 p.m., when Mr. DeLay arrived at Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s office to discover that Mr. Dewhurst and lead negotiator Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, had left.

It was unclear when the talks would resume, as Mr. DeLay tried to broker a deal that has so far defied the mediation skills of Gov. Rick Perry ­ who was out of state Monday to ceremoniously ring the New York Stock Exchange’s closing bell.

Yes, that’s right, our Governor is up in New York ringing bells and talking about how great things are down here as the third special session winds down. Aren’t all you Republicans gratified to know that redistricting is Perry’s top priority? Where would we be without his leadership?

Let’s get back to the negotiations. How are things going, guys?

One negotiator likened the discussions to a divorce dispute, where the parties begin with major disagreements and end up squabbling over custody of a lawnmower.

“I mean, we’re fighting over Deaf Smith County, a place most people couldn’t find with a map,” said the negotiator, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. DeLay laughed and declined to comment when asked whether Republicans should have sorted out their differences while Democrats were in New Mexico, blocking a quorum for six weeks.

As a public service, here is where Deaf Smith County is. My bill is in the mail, fellas.

DeLay may find the question of why Republicans still don’t have this issue worked out among themselves, but some other Republicans aren’t laughing. Let’s see how many familiar themes we can find here.

“This is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in my 14 years in the Texas House,” state Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, said Monday. “One would certainly think that the Republican leadership would have had an agreed-to map before we went into all of these special sessions. And here we are nearing the end of the third special session, and we still don’t have an agreed-to map.

“I am getting e-mails by the bucket saying, ‘What are you guys doing down there?’ ”

Having a plan in hand before blowing up the Lege? Check.

State Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth, called on both players in the impasse to put the state’s overall interests ahead of any local concerns.

“There is frustration out there with our constituents that we’re bogged down with redistricting,” said Brimer, who served 14 years in the House before moving to the Senate this year. “I’m frustrated, too. I wish these guys from West Texas would quit thinking they run the whole state. It’s time to do what’s best for Texas.”

No middle ground in the Craddick/Duncan feud? Check. By the way, Kim, which person would you suggest needs to go tell his constituents that he had to break his promise to them for the good of everyone else? Shall we toss a coin for it, or is best two out of three falls fairer?

“When Texans learn that all of this is costing them $57,000 a day, not to mention the $10 million, at least, it will take to defend any map from the legal challenges, they’re going to be hopping mad,” said state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, an El Paso Democrat who was among the 11 who left for Albuquerque.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, a Fort Worth Republican in his second term in the House, said many of the Texans he knows have already made the calculation. And Geren said he gets an earful on the topic from his customers at the Railhead Smokehouse in Fort Worth.

“Every time I go into the restaurant, I hear about the $57,000 a day it’s costing the state for these special sessions,” Geren said. “I get calls every day saying with the money we’re spending, we could be funding more of CHIP [the state-paid Children’s Health Insurance Program] or some other program. And they’re right.”

Useless waste of time and money? Check.

“How does this end? Somebody’s got to blink,” Brimer said. “The governor has got to be the one to go tell somebody to back off. If he’s going to avoid having to call a fourth special session, he’d better get the third one wrapped up.”

Goodman expressed doubts that a solution would be that simple.

“I don’t think the governor has the political capital to get it done,” Goodman said. “I don’t think Tom Craddick is going to bow to the will of Rick Perry any more than he would bow to the will of Robert Duncan or [Lt. Gov,] David Dewhurst.”

Utter lack of leadership from the Governor? Check.

Gene Acuna, Perry’s spokesman, said that although the governor was in New York on state business Monday, he has been active in the effort to find a solution.

“The governor’s office has been actively and appropriately engaged in the process,” Acuna said. “We are involved.”

Clueless quote from Governor’s mouthpiece? Yep, I think we’ve touched all the bases now.

Whatever finally happens, the effects of this exercise will be felt for awhile. I know the GOP leadership doesn’t care, but I for one will be pissed if I don’t get to cast a meaningful vote in the Democratic Presidential primary. There’s also the potential costs of moving primaries around.

A typical primary runs the state about $10 million, said Jonathan Black, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state’s office. If the entire primary were to be moved to another date, there would be no added costs.

But if legislators decide to split the primary into two — one for congressional seats and runoffs and another for all other races — the state would have to come up with $7.2 million more.

In Bexar County, a primary costs about $250,000, said Bexar County Elections Administrator Cliff Borofsky. If the Legislature decides to have a split primary, that cost would double. Local party offices would pick up some of that tab, he said.

Carlos Guerra tots up the costs a bit differently elsewhere in the Express-News, but we’re still talking about millions of dollars and lots of extra work no matter how you slice it. There’s another cost that will be felt in West Texas.

What has been lost during these fabricated hostilities is that these cities and towns — Abilene, San Angelo, Lubbock, Brownwood, Sweetwater, Big Spring, Midland/Odessa — share a vast range of common interests that is being overshadowed and disrupted by petty, provincial bickering. These cities should be working together for the mutual benefit and economic development of all of West Texas, not working against each other for the narrow, small-scale advantage of one or two.

Abilenians don’t have anything against people in Lubbock or Midland or anywhere else in West Texas, and aside from the jockeying for position forced by redistricting, residents of those places wouldn’t have anything against us, either. Divisiveness among ourselves will only lessen this rural region’s political status and further enhance that of the faster-growing metropolitan areas to the east.

No matter where we end up with congressional districts, rifts have been torn between communities that will not be repaired overnight. The creation of antagonisms where none previously existed may be a more significant, longer-lasting and detrimental effect of redistricting than any advantage that might be gained by temporarily altering the partisan makeup of Congress.

Indeed.

Finally, here is Rep. Jim Dunnam’s account of what happened on Sunday.

A number of House members were present for the 2:00 PM House session Sunday. We arrived early, intent on objecting and amending the motion to adjourn, which we knew would be coming. Along with other members present, I asked our Deputy Parliamentarian specifically how we could be assured that our objections to the motion that day would be timely considered by the Speaker. She informed me that all we had to do was orally object when the motion was made.

I was not privy to our Parliamentarian’s conversation with the Speaker prior to convening on the dais, but we assume she advised the Speaker of our intentions since they spoke on the dais before the roll call. Immediately after gaveling in the House, which totally ignored the proper order of business, the Speaker announced that Rep. Phil King was moving to adjourn. All of the Democratic members present objected repeatedly, in the end yelling our objections since the Speaker appeared intent on ignoring us.

The Speaker immediately left the dais and the Sergeant’s office proceeded to shut down the House chamber as we informed the Parliamentarian that we had sufficient members and wanted to appeal the ruling of the Speaker regarding the adjournment motion. In brief, everyone from the Parliamentarian to the Journal Clerk and Chief Clerk left the chamber almost immediately.

This is better comedy than most of the fall TV lineup. Too bad it’s so damn serious.

What he said

This NRO piece by Jennifer Graham is stupid, condescending, and racist. Jesse has a great and appropriate response. Check it out.

Rail, rail, rail, rail…

Some positive news and an head-slap moment for rail this week. First, a Page One story about commuter rail from Fort Bend County.

While the battle over the referendum for Metro’s 22-mile Houston rail expansion heats up, leaders in Fort Bend County are putting together a commuter rail project that could deliver thousands of suburbanites to downtown and the Texas Medical Center.

Fort Bend leaders say a commuter line connecting the fast-growing county with Metro’s light rail system could be one way to ease traffic problems and provide greater mobility to a wider area.

Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen said people eventually will want to take rail from Fort Bend County to such destinations as Hobby Airport, the Galleria and Bush Intercontinental Airport.

“Every day when I am out in public, someone walks up to me and asks, ‘How is the train line coming?’ ” Owen said.

The Fort Bend line would use the U.S. 90A rail corridor to shuttle riders from Rosenberg to Metro’s light rail station in the area of Fannin and Loop 610.

Sounds good so far, but there’s still a million hurdles to overcome, including such trivialities as funding and getting permission from Union Pacific to use their tracks. There’s already a feasibility study being done by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC), and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher:

The final report has not been released, but some preliminary findings have been made public.

The 25-mile project would start in Rosenberg and run through Richmond, Sugar Land, Missouri City and Stafford to Houston. The line would connect to Metro’s Fannin South Park & Ride lot near Reliant Stadium, where commuters could change trains and head on to the Texas Medical Center and downtown.

Stations are planned in each Fort Bend County city and one in southwest Houston.

Earl Washington, special transportation planner for the council, said the final report should be finished in December.

In March, Washington said the preliminary report found that building the project would cost between $75 million and $126 million. He said ridership was estimated at 3,000 to 5,000 each weekday. Owen said new ridership figures are higher than originally thought, between 6,000 and 11,000 people on weekdays.

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace said new construction estimates put the price at between $350 million and $700 million.

I can understand ridership estimates varying, but we’re talking close to an order of magnitude difference in the cost projections. What’s up with that?

Anyway, the general tone from the folks who live out that way is that they want this to happen, and though he leaves himself plenty of wiggle room later to change his mind, even Tom DeLay sounds like he’d allow such a thing. (I know, it’s one of the seven signs.) So far, so good.

If only Metro weren’t its own worst enemy, we might someday have a rail system that includes commuter lines to the far-flung suburbs.

As conservative opponents gear up to derail Metro’s transit referendum, there’s also dissatisfaction with the agency from an unlikely quarter: Hispanic rail allies. They are unhappy over the decision by the pro-rail Citizens for Public Transit political action committee to hire a San Antonio-based ramrod for the campaign.

The campaign manager, Eddie Aldrete, also worked for former Democratic congressman Ken Bentsen in his unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid last year. Critics claim he was hired at the behest of former Bentsen congressional staffer Pat Strong. She signed a personal services contract early this year with Metro to coordinate communications activities with a maximum payout of $120,500 through next month.

Aldrete’s last Texas rail experience was hardly encouraging. He managed the San Antonio transit agency’s unsuccessful light rail referendum three years ago.

“It’s totally insulting to our community and our politics,” says consultant Marc Campos. He works for mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner and did not apply for the campaign manager position himself. Campos argues Houston has plenty of experienced candidates for the job who are familiar with the community, but Metro PAC officials made it clear they were not interested in the locals.

He says he told Metro chair Arthur Schechter that “we don’t deserve to be treated that way. You guys do all this stuff and come to us and expect us to be there for you. Those days are over.”

It takes a special talent to piss off a core group of supporters in this fashion. If you’ll pardon me, there’s a wall I need to bang my head on.

Voting trends in Texas

Bruce Davidson cites a report by former political director of the Texas Republican Party and current analyst for the Quorum Report Royal Masset on current demographic trends and its likely effect on Texas’ voting patterns.

“Republicans will start losing judicial races in Dallas County in 2004. After the 2008 general election, Democrats will hold many state level district judicial offices in Dallas County,” Masset wrote in a January study conducted for advocates of a merit/retention selection system for Texas judges.

He added, “By 2017, most district judicial offices in Harris County and all in Dallas County will be held by Democrats. These projections are based on ineluctable current trends.”

The statewide growth of the GOP has masked the changing voting patterns in Dallas and Harris counties, he said.

“The election of judges is largely determined by the partisan tides of any given election and by longer-term demographic factors,” Masset noted.

In Dallas and Harris counties, Republican candidates have continued to win, but by margins smaller than the statewide results. The growing weakness of the GOP is more pronounced in Dallas than Harris. For example, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Paul Womack, a Republican, snared 57.39 percent of the statewide vote in 2002. But Womack got 51.21 percent of the vote in Dallas and 54.85 percent in Harris. Other statewide races show the same trend.

In 1990, Dallas County’s Anglo population was 60 percent, but it dropped to 44 percent in 2000. Harris County’s Anglo population dropped from 54 percent to 42 percent in the same period.

In Dallas, Hispanic population increased from 17 percent to almost 30 percent from 1990 to 2000, while Harris’ Hispanic population jumped from 22 percent to almost 34 percent.

Republicans have made inroads among Hispanic voters, but Hispanics still tend to vote Democratic. “The most favorable Republican interpretation of Hispanic voting patterns in Texas would lead to the conclusion that Hispanics voted about 35 percent for Republican candidates in 2002 compared to 25 percent for Republican candidates in 1982,” Masset concluded.

This is a theme I’ve explored here a few times, and it’s worth coming back to from time to time, especially when a Republican analyst arrives at the same conclusions. There’s good reason to be skeptical of the belief that Hispanics will automatically vote Democratic (see here, here, and here for a primer), but let’s put this number in context: Right now, the Democratic Party in Texas aims to get 35% of the Anglo vote (a projection they still failed to achieve last year) and they get their butts kicked. As Hispanics become a bigger slice (and eventually, a majority) of the electorate, Republicans are in deep trouble if they don’t improve on their own 35% number.

Ripple effects

Mark Evanier mentions an aspect of the Roy Horn tiger-mauling story that I hadn’t considered.

Beyond the obvious tragedy here, it’s sad to think about how many lives this accident has impacted. Most of the 150-180 people who worked on the show are suddenly unemployed at a time when no other show is hiring.

[…]

Years ago, I heard someone talking about what it meant to do a good job running a business…any business. He said, “One measure of being a good executive is to make sure that if you get hit by a car tonight, someone could walk in tomorrow morning and begin doing your job and keeping the company functioning.” It probably doesn’t work that way all the time in most industries but it almost never works that way in show business.

I had no idea that many people were employed by the Siegfried and Roy act, but in retrospect it makes sense. Damn.

I cried hot tubs of tears over you

Life sure is tough at the University of Houston these days.

In the abstract, Kathy Anzivino believes there must be some pinnacle of amenities that universities simply cannot surpass, some outer limit so far beyond the hot tubs, waterfalls and pool slides she offers at the University of Houston that even the most pampered students will never demand it and the most recruitment-crazed colleges will never consent to put it on their grounds.

She just has a hard time picturing what that might be.

“There’s got to be one, but what it is, I don’t know,” said Ms. Anzivino, director of campus recreation at the university, which opened a $53 million wellness center this year.

Beyond its immense rotunda stands a five-story climbing wall that looks as if it was transported straight from Arches National Park, while boulders and palm trees frame the leisure pools outside.

“Everyone says it looks like a resort,” she said.

Man, was I ever born too early. No wonder my UH friends are so fond of the place.

Guess what? Still no map!

And so the Sunday drop-dead deadline has whooshed past with map in sight and the Lege adjourned until Wednesday. What a glorious mess this is.

Hardly any ink was expended on the reason for the Republicans’ failure, since the reason hasn’t changed since the get-go: Tom Craddick wants a Midland district, Robert Duncan doesn’t, and never the twain shall meet. The big issue now is what to do with the primary date.

Secretary of State Geoff Connor has said that if a plan is not adopted by midnight today he will not be able to conduct a primary as scheduled on March 2. Connor, the state’s chief elections officer, said the primary would have to be moved to March 9.

“I know the Senate was very determined to get this done before we had to change any primary dates,” said Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, one of the Senate negotiators. “We have, in essence, missed that deadline.”

Duncan said that if a redistricting bill is passed, the primary date will have to be pushed back for the new congressional district lines to be used in the 2004 elections.

“Right now, we don’t have any choice if we want to move a redistricting bill forward,” said Duncan.

But Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, leader of the House negotiators, said he does not believe that deadline is firm. He said once a redistricting agreement is reached, negotiators will ask Connor to reassess whether the primary date must be moved.

“I think there’s a little bit of flexibility. I’m going to rely on the secretary of state,” King said.

If a redistricting bill is passed, it would not take effect until 90 days after Gov. Rick Perry signs it. Connor’s office then would need enough time to allow candidates to file for the races, print ballots and hold early voting.

The primary date was shifted from March 9 to March 2 under a bill approved during the regular legislative session. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said the primary was moved so it will not be held in the midst of the public school spring break.

Branch last week said he did not believe there were enough votes in the House to move the primary back to March 9.

King and House Speaker Tom Craddick said they have the votes to move the date. Duncan said he did not know whether the Senate could support the date change.

By moving to March 2, Texas joined some of the nation’s largest states in holding a presidential primary on the same day. The other states include California, New York and Ohio.

“If the primary is moved from March 2, Texas Democrats will have no voice in who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party,” said state House Democratic Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco.

Dunnam said most candidates will have been winnowed out of the race either before or on March 2.

“I’d like to have a voice in who is going to oppose George Bush,” Dunnam said.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, described moving the primary as un-American.

“That’s something that happens in other places,” Coleman said. “We don’t move elections in the United States of America to make room for power grabs.”

Interestingly, as the Express News reports, the chambers are adjourned until Wednesday in observance of Yom Kippur. You may recall that previously, the House voted down a motion to not meet during Yom Kippur on the grounds that Governor Perry’s deadline was more important. As has been the case since this redistricting fight began, the Republicans forced an action without being able to follow up on it.

Once it became known that the committee negotiations had broken down again and that the Lege would adjourn, the real action from yesterday was set in motion.

With redistricting at an impasse, both legislative chambers had been out of action since Thursday. But they had to reconvene Sunday to avoid breaking a state constitutional requirement that prohibits either chamber from taking more than three consecutive days off during a legislative session.

So [Speaker Tom] Craddick called the House to order to hear a motion to adjourn until Wednesday. But just as he was slamming down his gavel to make the adjournment official, about a dozen Democrats shouted their objections.

If Craddick had not ignored them, the Democrats would have offered an amended motion to call off the session and send House members home. And it might have worked because almost none of the Republican members had shown up to vote it down.

“Our intention was to move to adjourn sine die and put an end to all of this,” said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, using the Latin phrase that translates roughly to “without a set date” and is legislative slang for calling it quits.

Democrats later accused Craddick of ignoring House rules and operating in a “dictatorial” fashion. Through a spokesman, Craddick, R-Midland, said that the Democrats were late in announcing their objection and that the gavel fell before their voices were raised.

“He didn’t know what they were up to,” said Bob Richter, the speaker’s press secretary. “He knew there were certain troublemakers out on the House floor, and [House leaders] were expecting something, but they didn’t know what it was.”

More on this from the Statesman.

Outnumbering the Republicans 12-2, the Democrats tried to turn a routine adjournment into a coup. They attempted to amend the motion to adjourn for the day and end the third special session over congressional redistricting.

But one of the two Republicans, Speaker Tom Craddick, would have none of it.

He gaveled the House to adjournment until Wednesday as the Democrats yelled their objections. The speaker then stormed off the House floor.

“He called us Chicken D’s,” said Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, recalling Craddick’s nickname for the 51 Democrats who fled to Oklahoma in May to stop a vote on congressional redistricting. “But I never saw anyone run as fast as he did. It was a complete act of cowardice.”

The rare Sunday meeting had been called in case Senate and House Republican negotiators had resolved their differences over their versions of a new congressional map. They hadn’t, so Craddick expected a routine adjournment in which only one member shows up to make the motion to adjourn.

Instead, Rep. Jim Dunnam, the leader of the House Democrats, had organized a dozen Democrats to be on hand to fight any attempt to make the House meet today, Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Austin Reps. Elliott Naishtat and Eddie Rodriguez were among the dozen.

But when the Democrats realized they outnumbered the Republicans, they thought they’d try to end the special session altogether.

Dunnam said the speaker’s quick gavel was another example of an autocratic leader with a Republican majority overrunning the Democrats — even when the Republicans didn’t show up. He said Sunday’s brouhaha is likely to end up in litigation over a final map.

Craddick, through press secretary Bob Richter, said a speaker has two choices when there is no quorum to conduct business: put out a call for missing members or adjourn

Pretty funny, if you ask me. The Express News says that according to the House parliamentarian (an employee of the Speaker), a motion to adjourn sine die cannot occur without a quorum. There’s a can of worms I’d rather not open.

So anyway, there probably won’t be any further news until Wednesday. The special session has one week left to go – it expires on October 13.

Finally, Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News takes a ride on the Hutchison for Governor bandwagon. Expect to see more of this if Perry is forced to call a fourth session.

UPDATE: Austin TV station KVUE filmed the Dems’ attempt to adjourn sine die. Judge for yourself if they objected before the gavel hit the podium. Registration required. Via the Quorum Report.

Diebold timeline

The crew at The Agonist have put together a timeline of events in the ongoing Diebold electronic voting machine scandal. Check it out, and check out their initial report on why there’s such a fuss to begin with. It’s a good intro if you’re not familiar with what’s been going on, and a good recap if you are.

Turner overview

Today the Chron has the second of its overviews of the three major Mayoral candidates with a profile of Sylvester Turner. It’s more straightforward than last week’s Sanchez piece, most likely because there were no swooning women to quote about Turner’s good looks. Turner has a good resume and a good case to make, and in other years I’d support him. If it’s him versus Sanchez in the runoff, I’ll support him. But until then, Bill White is still my guy.

I presume the White profile will be next week. I hope I can still find it on the Chron’s webpage after I get back to town.

Happy birthday, King Ranch

The legendary King Ranch is holding its first cattle and horse sale since 1988 to help celebrate its sesquicentennial.

A unique bull fetched $45,000, and a 15-year-old mare that had never been bred sold for $41,000, bringing the auction’s grand total to $838,000. Of that amount, $179,000 will go to the new King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, a Blanco rancher whose family has held a hunting lease on the King Ranch since the 1930s, spent $20,000 apiece for a horse and saddle.

“My wife likes horses,” he said with a smile.

“It wasn’t just generosity,” Holt added. “We’re glad to do it, but we very much are in the horse business.”

[…]

[Captain Richard] King founded the ranch in 1853 when it was part of the Wild Horse Desert. From a few thousand acres, it has grown to 825,000 acres. Houston-based King Ranch Inc. also has extensive land holdings in Florida, but its renown continues to come from its South Texas horse and cattle operations.

Tio Kleberg of Kingsville, the last family member to have lived on and run the ranch, said the anniversary events allowed the owners to show gratitude to the community and the ranch’s patrons for generations of collaboration.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia here. It brings back a lot of people that we haven’t seen for years, and it’s really nice to have them back and to share this tradition with us,” Kleberg said.

Ranch general manager Paul Genho said the horse and cattle sale, one year in the making, enabled the ranch to share some of its finest products with the public. Bidders came from throughout Texas, the United States and Mexico.

“King Ranch has always been progressive, but the last five to 10 years we’ve focused a lot on making our product meet consumers’ needs,” he said.

“We just sold a bull that carries all the desirable (steak) genes — every one of them — for $45,000. I think it was about half of what it’s worth,” he said, explaining that the Santa Gertrudis bull named Ricardo was unique.

“It’s the only bull in the breed with all those genes, and there’s been a lot of bulls tested,” Genho said. It was purchased by a consortium of 11 breeders in Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.

“They’re going to collect the semen and spread it around,” Genho said.

While the animal sales were for the ranch’s benefit, auctions of the saddle, hunting trips and other items were devoted to the institute, which has an endowment goal of $10 million.

In the coming months, an endowed chair will be filled and eventually students will learn how to manage large ranches by taking business, agriculture and other related courses.

“We’ve raised $7.5 million,” Genho said proudly. Most of the funds came from the ranch’s stockholders.

Happy Birthday, King Ranch!

UPDATE: Here’s some more on the King Ranch, from the Chron’s Sunday magazine, which I managed to miss the first time around. Did I mention that the King Ranch has a website? Well, now I have.

Still no map

There’s still no deal on a new Congressional map as the joint committee keeps lobbing maps back and forth with no progress being made.

Despite working around the clock the past couple of days, House and Senate Republicans late Saturday had not agreed on a map that would increase the number of Republicans from Texas in Congress. Democrats currently hold a 17 to 15 advantage under a map drawn by three federal judges in 2001. Republicans believe they can increase their clout in Congress by four to six seats with new districts.

Gov. Rick Perry has said the Legislature must give him a map sometime Monday to avoid postponing the state’s primaries. But state lawmakers were bumping up against internal legislative deadlines for producing a compromise over the weekend.

Senate and House negotiators swapped maps Saturday and blamed one another for their failure to agree to a deal.

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the House’s chief negotiator, said the House made a “great offer” at 3 a.m. Saturday. The Senate countered with another offer later Saturday.

“I’m willing to keep negotiating, but this map couldn’t get a majority in the House,” King said of the Senate counter-proposal.

He then went home to nap.

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, King’s counterpart, said House negotiators are “obviously sleep deprived” because of their criticism of the Senate map.

Staples and Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, planned to dine with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Saturday night, then return to the Capitol in case negotiations resumed.

If not, Staples and Duncan said they planned to watch the Texas Tech-Texas A&M game on TV. Staples is an Aggie; Duncan is from Tech. On the redistricting field, however, they are allies.

We’ll have to see if that last statement is still true after Tech’s 59-28 mauling of A&M, a result that will also put our Governor in a bad mood. Regardless, the two sides still don’t agree which map is better for the GOP.

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, the House’s lead negotiator in the redistricting effort, said Saturday that his side could not accept a Senate-backed plan because it would be too generous to Democrats.

King’s counterpart in the Senate, Palestine Republican Todd Staples, said later that the House negotiators must be “suffering from sleep deprivation,” because they were rejecting a map that, in many respects, was identical to one he said they had offered a day earlier.

Both sides have been working into the wee hours of the morning trying to reach an agreement on a redistricting plan that would give Republicans as many as six additional seats and end the Democrats’ 17-15 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.

“I’m willing to keep negotiating, but this map couldn’t get a majority in the House,” King said of the Senate version.

The problem, he said, is that the Senate plan would have only 17 solid Republican seats with the possibility of the party winning two more. The most recent House offer, King said, contains 19 solid Republican seats and gives the GOP a chance at two others.

Staples disputed King’s assessment, saying that the Senate’s plan would produce 20 or more Republican seats.

“The Senate map is eminently fair and should elect more Republicans than the House map,” Staples said.

One thing that has changed since the bicameral process started is that both sides are now targeting Rep. Martin Frost’s district for destruction, despite prior concerns that his district was untouchable due to Voting Rights Act concerns. The GOP now thinks it can split the difference by reconfiguring Chris Bell’s district as one that a black could more easily win.

The Republicans want to eliminate the district of Frost and make up for it under the Voting Rights Act by increasing the black population in U.S. Rep. Chris Bell’s Houston district.

Both districts currently are districts in which minority voters influence the outcome of elections and thus are protected under federal law.

Republicans have contended that by cutting Bell’s home out of his district and increasing its black population, they are creating a new black district that offsets the loss of Frost’s district in Dallas. The Republicans would change the number of Bell’s district from the 25th to the 9th.

King said he was caught by surprise when one of his lawyers raised questions about the proposed District 9, which has been in every House map passed in three special sessions.

“Obviously, when you have one of the attorneys say, `This is a problem,’ and you’re 24 hours away from voting something out, that’s a concern,” King said.

“They’re concerned the (black population) enhancement in 9, or Chris Bell’s district, is not sufficient to offset the loss of Martin Frost’s district.”

Meanwhile, [State Sen. Rodney] Ellis said he has no doubt that the Republican proposals for Bell’s district would doom the GOP redistricting effort in a federal court trial.

“They will come perilously close to having their effort to do mid-decade redistricting struck down in the courts, if they tinker with the 25th,” Ellis said.

“The 25th already is a minority opportunity district. If a strong African-American challenger got into that race now, they probably would win.”

Ellis disputed remarks by state Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, who said increasing the black population of the district would guarantee the election of a black politician.

Ellis said a black candidate could win there now but that most black leaders would rather save Democratic districts in general than gain a single black representative.

“Most of the African-American leaders are able to count. To pick up one African-American seat sooner and lose six to nine, that’s just bad math,” Ellis said.

Ellis said blacks know they can count on Democrats to vote to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act when it comes up for renewal in 2006.

Bell spokesman Eric Burns said the congressman won the Democratic runoff in 2002 with 32 percent of the black vote. Burns said that since that time, Bell has worked with the black community and believes he could win re-election even under the Republican plan.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, another Anglo, is cut out of his heavily Hispanic district in the Republican plans. But most of the new district would be what he represents now. Green likely could win re-election, though he might face a tougher Democratic primary involving a Hispanic challenger.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of name calling and backbiting going on to keep us all amused. Summing it all up:

Republican infighting had Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, longing for a fresh exodus.

“We’re just praying the Democrats will leave again, to take the heat off of us,” Smithee said.

Maybe John Whitmire had a point about having an exit strategy, even if he couldn’t have foreseen all this. Just something to keep in mind.

Finally, the editorialists have gotten back into the game. The Statesman again calls for a nonpartisan redistricting committee for the future; the Star-Telegram chastises Rep. Phil King for his remarks that the public doesn’t care when the primaries are; the Corpus Christi Caller-Times notes that the GOP has no one but themselves to blame for the current impasse; and the Chron rebukes Speaker Craddick for scheduling a House session on Yom Kippur.

More comment spam banning

More comment spams, from a different jerk. The IPs to ban are:

64.191.20.166
216.228.168.110
206.163.168.8

I’m going to keep track of these in the original post for eacy reference. Look for a link on the sidebar.

Busy weekend

So I met a number of Houston’s finest lefty bloggers at Two Rows brewpub last night, during which time we talked about music, hoisted a few beers, and finalized our plans to take over the world. In attendance were Michael Hatley and a nonblogging friend of his whose name sadly escapes me, Bob Dunn, and Stephen Bates, all of whom I was meeting for the first time and all of whom now need to be added to my list of Bloggers I know personally, and also Michael Croft, who’s an old friend. A good time was had by all, and a sequel will be planned for next month.

This morning Tiffany and I dragged our bodies out of bed bright and early so we could drive up to Conroe to work on a house. Tiffany’s employer is partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Montgemoery County, and today was our day to be part of the work crew. I spent the morning measuring, sawing, drilling, hammering, and caulking, mostly hammering and mostly up on a ladder. It was an interesting experience, and given my usual level of cluelessness with tools, I did all right. Not that hammering is all that challenging, but hey, you have to start somewhere.

Tonight is Rice versus San Jose State, tomorrow is gardening and some prep for our trip to France. I’m gonna need the rest at this pace.

This is the strangest story I’ve seen all year

As if redistricting weren’t enough to fry my brain, there’s this strange story of an attempt to run a fake mayoral candidate with the same name as a real one in order to confuse voters.

It is a bizarre tale that includes a Democratic U.S. congressman, a secret tape recording, a $5,000 campaign check and a floppy straw hat sold for $1,200.

And it is a tale that raises as many questions as it answers.

At the heart of the story is a $5,000 campaign check that mayoral candidate Bill White cut to political gadfly Brenda Flores after thwarting plans she said she devised to put another Bill White on the Nov. 4 ballot.

During the week before the Sept. 22 filing deadline, Flores claims, she gave an Acres Homes man named William White $1,200 in cash after he signed candidacy papers to run for mayor.

Flores backed out of her plans to file the papers the day before the filing deadline, after meeting at her Spring Branch home with candidate Bill White and Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, a friend of Flores’ since his days on City Council.

Flores told White and Bell that she had originally received cash to carry out the ballot chicanery from a consultant associated with the mayoral campaign of state Rep. Sylvester Turner.

Turner vehemently denied that his campaign had any involvement in the scheme, calling the claim “outlandish.”

“There is no basis in fact to that,” Turner said.

Flores said she has no knowledge that Turner was personally aware of the plan.

Flores claims she used $2,600 of the money White gave her to repay the Turner consultant after Flores backed out of the plan. A friend of Flores’, Dennis Keim, said he delivered the cash to Turner campaign headquarters and secretly tape-recorded the encounter.

Turner said he is worried that his campaign may have been set up. He questioned why White would give Flores money.

“I think I am entitled, and so is the public, entitled to know — did he (White) write this check because he was extorted? Did he write this check in order to concoct this story?” Turner said. “I think I am entitled to know this.”

White said he was not extorted. He said he did not concoct the story to hurt the Turner campaign.

Instead, White said, he gave the money to Flores two days after the filing deadline because she said she had spent most of the money she received from the Turner consultant and feared retaliation if she did not repay it.

White said there was no discussion about paying Flores during the meeting at her home and that the idea was presented to him after the filing deadline.

“She called Chris Bell several times to say that she had been threatened, and I relied on his judgment that she felt threatened,” White said. “So, I relied on the judgment of an experienced and credible person.”

There’s more, and it just gets weirder. Whatever else may or may not have happened, I’ll bet they’re exchanging high-fives at the Sanchez campaign headquarters today.

Kevin has some good coverage of this as well. I’d never heard of Brenda Flores before now, but I wholeheartedly agree with Kevin on this point – the design of her Housnitch.com (no link – it’s not worth it to me) web page sucks rocks and takes forever to load to boot (and I’ve got a cable modem and a fast machine). I’ve now written the name Brenda Flores down on the same piece of paper that contains the likes of Sam Texas and Whitney Broach so I’ll know to pay attention to the alarm bells that will ring the next time I hear her name mentioned.

UPDATE: Stephen Bates has a take on this as well.

UPDATE: Beldar asks some good questions and points to this account from White and Rep. Chris Bell on George Strong’s site. Having read that, it reminded me that I’d seen this earlier mention of the “two Bill Whites” but never gave it a second thought. Jack wonders if being Mayor is worth all this. No update in today’s Chron.

I’m all confused

Well, after reading the usual five sources for redistricting news, I officially have no idea if a deal is imminent, on the horizon, or nowhere in sight. There’s compromises, cut-n-paste jobs, still no agreement on West Texas, and a renewed attempt by the GOP to move minority voters around in order to kill off Martin Frost and Chris Bell without violating Voting Rights Act laws. Both chambers are now adjourned until Monday instead of Sunday, and now Governor “What, me worry?” Perry is saying that the drop-dead deadline of Monday isn’t so drop-deady any more. My brain hurts.

Judge for yourself here, here, here, here, and here. I just want to quote one bit, from the Express News, in which our Governor shows once again why he is the leader that he is.

Gov. Rick Perry, who has pushed for redistricting, has said he’d prefer not to change the filing deadline or primary date, but he’ll support such a move if redistricting hinges on it.

“The world doesn’t stop turning on its axis if we don’t get something done by Monday,” he said Friday. “Obviously my druthers would be that we have a bill by Sunday close of business and we don’t have to move filing deadlines or primaries. But again, if that does not occur, it doesn’t long-term substantially do damage.”

He said he remains optimistic that negotiations would end successfully, and he continued to blame Democrats.

“When you leave and go to New Mexico, you’re not just protecting some political cronies, you’re also costing people in the state of Texas a heck of a lot of money,” Perry said, referring to a 45-day walkout by 11 Senate Democrats who fled to Albuquerque to stall the redistricting issue.

Right. And here we are, after one entire special session and half of another, and the GOP still doesn’t have its act together. What the hell were you doing during those 45 days, Rick? You surely weren’t working with Dewhurst, Craddick, et al on a final version of the map that meets all of your stated objectives. Why, exactly, is that? Why are you in crisis now, when there was nothing to stop you from putting all of your ducks in a row in August if not sooner? You knew fully well that the Democrats couldn’t keep you from ultimately passing a map. So why are you now on the verge of failure? Whose fault is that?

Anyway, something to look forward to when this mess winds up in court: According to the Quorum Report, four Texas Democratic members of Congress have joined the Texas House Democratic Caucus in filing amicus briefs in the case of Vieth v. Jubelirer, concerning whether a state legislature, in this case Pennsylvania, can redraw congressional districts so as to minimize the likelihood that a particular political party’s candidates will win in the election. From QR:

Reps. Martin Frost (D-Dallas), Chris Bell (D-Houston), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) and Nick Lampson (D-Beaumont) hope the court will set a new standard for partisan gerrymandering that would impact any new congressional plan passed by the Texas Legislature.

“The Pennsylvania case could become a very important issue,” said Frost, leader of the Texas congressional delegation and a target for many Republicans in the current redistricting shake-up.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 10. Here’s a summary of the Reform Institute’s arguments, another group that has filed an amicus brief. This could be very interesting.

TiVo and Angel

We finally broke down and got TiVo recently. Actually, more accurately, I finally convinced Tiffany that we needed TiVo. Our VCR had coughed up a hairball, and rather than replace it, since we mostly used it to tape stuff that we watch regularly, we agreed that TiVo was the way to go.

We havn’t installed it yet, though. It requires a phone jack to connect to the TiVo network, and there isn’t one where the TV is. I’m off today, and had a guy come in to add a jack, only to discover that our phone box is not actually on the exterior of the house – it’s on a pole behind the garage, with a buried cable running into the house. As that made adding a jack extra difficult, I’m going to follow the guy’s advice and hit a Radio Shack for a wireless jack. I’d better be prepared to sacrifice a chicken to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the wireless router. Cross your fingers for me.

Meanwhile, I loved Wednesday’s Angel premier, but I’m confused about Charisma Carpenter’s departure from the cast. This article makes it sound like it was not her decision, which surprises me greatly. She’s still got a cast bio up on TheWB.com, even if it’s not linked directly from the Angel main page, and surely Joss Whedon wouldn’t leave Cordelia’s status so unresolved, but her absence from the show will be really felt.

I still loved the opener, and unlike this reviewer (warning: contains minor spoilers) I liked the new character Eve. But I really want Cordy back. It’s just not the same without her.