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October 20th, 2003:

So are you gonna talk about redistricting again or what?

I have to say, after obsessing over the whole redistricting thing for waaaaay too long, it was good to head off to a foreign country where I had no Internet connection and only the International Herald Tribune for any news. I knew that a deal had been reached, and I saw a brief note in the IHT about the Senate finally passing the new map, and that was about it. If the next thing I hear about redistricting is a ruling from the courts, that’ll be fine by me. I think I speak for many people when I say that I’m glad and relieved that our Semi-Permanent Legislature has finally gone on hiatus, at least until the dreaded special session on school finance reform finally gets called.

I don’t believe that the map which passed will survive the various legal challenges (two and counting so far) to it, so I’m not going to follow speculation too closely about who may run where and who may win or lose where. We’ll know soon enough which map will be in place, and we can go from there.

There was lots of coverage and analysis while I was gone. There’s good stuff here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. With luck, Rob will keep his promise to post about the mistakes the GOP made.

There was a brief moment yesterday when I wondered if I’d find anything to blog about now that redistricting has been put to bed. I got over it pretty quickly, though.

Bacardi update

Seems Tom DeLay is catching a little flak for his attempts to shoehorn an amendment favorable to Bacardi into an unrelated bill.

Watchdog groups and some business interests have already objected to the Texas Republican’s efforts.

Last week, four House Judiciary Committee members protested after an article in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that DeLay planned to slip an amendment revising U.S. trademark statutes into the annual defense authorization bill.

The amendment had not been properly vetted by their panel, which is supposed to oversee trademark law, said the letter signed by the Judiciary Committee objectors.

Sure would be nice to know who those House Judiciary Committee members are, so we can at least tell if this is more than standard partisan griping, but I’ve been unable to find any earlier articles that mentions their names. Outside the House, at least, the criticism is bipartisan.

Several major corporations have joined in asking Congress to repeal Section 211 altogether to avoid possible retaliation by Cuba’s President Fidel Castro against their own trademarks.

Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative watchdog group, also opposes special treatment for Bacardi.

“We think it has an adverse influence on the taxpayers, on consumers and on the economy,” said the group’s president, Thomas Schatz.

Also objecting is a liberal group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, whose director Melanie Sloan links Bacardi’s success in Congress to its donations. The company has spread more than $650,000 to political party committees since 1997, with a little more than half going to Republicans. Bacardi has also been one of DeLay’s top benefactors, giving a total of $40,000 to political action committees that he founded.

Some of those “major corporations” are Dupont, Ford and General Motors, according to this account.

This is fun and all, but the most eyecatching part of the article is this quote from DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella.

“It’s wrong and unethical to link legislative activity to campaign contributions.”

Wow. DeLay and his ilk have argued all along that campaign contributions never amount to quid pro quo even when legislation favorable to the donors gets passed. I suppose that’s a reasonable position to take, though it depends entirely on a certain level of trust in the integrity of the beneficiaries as well as a certain level of naievete in the donors.

But “unethical”? I’m somehow “unethical” for thinking that maybe a politician who’s been given a large check by Three Initial Corporation and coincidentally happens to sponsor legislation that directly benefits TIC’s bottom line at the expense of everyone else was perhaps not doing so because he believes from the bottom of his heart that he was serving the greater public good? I’m somehow “unethical” for thinking that a rational profit-maximizing entity might give thousands if not millions of dollars to those who mold law and policy without considering it an investment on which they might hope to see a return? I’m somehow “unethical” for noticing a pattern and wondering what its underlying structure may be? Why stop there, Jonathan? Why not take it to the logical conclusion and call me stupid for ever daring to question your boss’ motives? It’s what you clearly believe.

(Thanks to the intrepid AJ Garcia for the tip.)

UPDATE: Also via AJ, Molly Ivins was as gobsmacked by Grella’s comment as I was. How nice it would be if the so-called Liberal Media (SCLM) were to report this a bit more widely.

Endorsement in District H

I just got some feedback regarding my dilemma about who to vote for in the District H City Council race. The following is from an email from Diane Mosier, President of the Greater Heights Democratic Club, which has made an endorsement in the race:

ADRIAN GARCIA has been endorsed by every local democratic elected official, Harris County Tejano Democrats, AFL-CIO, HGLPC, Houston Police Officers Assn, Harris County Council of Organizations, and many, many other progressive organizations.

The other candidates are: Diana Davila-Martinez, whose husband has been on the Orlando Sanchez website as an endorsee; Richard Cantu, who is a Democratic Precinct Chair but who has very little connection to other areas in District H except the east end; Gonzalo Camocho, who would not declare himself to be a democrat at our last democratic club meeting. Gonzalo has been a U.S. citizen for one year and told me that he has never voted. I asked him point blank if he leaned toward democratic or republican issues and he said that he is neither. He is very nice and well meaning but we felt that he not quite ready for the rough and tumble of city politics. Then, there is Hector Longoria, the republican who switched races. He initially raced $75,000 for an at-large position and then moved into District H which is a historic district. $30,000 of his money comes from the Bob Perry family… that would be high-density builder, Perry Homes.

Bob Perry isn’t just a developer of evil soulless lotbusting townhouses, he’s also a major Republican and tort “reform” donor, meaning he’s just exactly the kind of person we want influencing historic neighborhoods. Not that I was ever in danger of voting for Hector Longoria, mind you.

So there you have it. That’s a good enough reason for me to punch the chad by Adrian Garcia’s name. Let’s hope he can make it to the runoff against Longoria.

Enron rap

You know, I was just thinking that what the world really needs right now is a rap CD about the fall of Enron.

The words “Enron” and “rap” don’t normally go together unless someone’s talking about “taking the rap for Enron.”

But if a former Enron employee has his way, we’ll associate the corporate deadbeat with the thumping bass and braggadocio of rap music.

David Tonsall, 39, a former technical manager for Enron Energy Services, is unleashing rhyming words of wrath against the disgraced company under the hip-hop moniker “NRun.”

His CD, Corporate America, drops Dec. 3, the second anniversary of the day Enron laid off 4,000 employees, including him.

“It’s a spin on Enron,” Tonsall said of his hip-hop handle. It also stands for “never run.”

Is it any good? You be the judge:

“Skilling, going to find you, rain, sleet or snow,” go some of his lyrics. “There’s nowhere on earth that you can go … ready to get you for the Enron scam. Consider yourself a sacrifice for the pipeline workers that gave their lives, maintaining (the) lines that made you rich. When justice comes around you’re going to get hit.”

Another line from the rap goes: “America, NRun has a story to tell, how the judiciary system slowed down like a snail. Gave … corporate crooks time to plan their escape. So when I see you, Jeffrey, I won’t hesitate.”

Tonsall said his lyrics are set to the bangin’ beats created by his producer, Slim Pimp.

(Is it legal in a rap song to say “going to” instead of “gonna”? I’m gonna need a ruling on this one.) Too bad this wasn’t out when they made that crappy TV movie, they could have used it for the soundtrack. Anyway, you can get a taste of the music here. I think I’ll go listen to some nice demographically-correct classic rock now.

How ’bout those insurance rates?

Hey, remember when Governor Perry took credit for a reduction in homeowner’s insurance rates? Yeah, right.

Gov. Rick Perry last week listed among his accomplishments saving taxpayers more than half a billion dollars in lower home insurance costs.

But rate relief is coming slowly, if at all, to most Texas homeowners.

Acting under authority given him in a new law, Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor in August ordered insurers operating in the state to drop their rates by a collective $510 million.

However, two large insurers that jointly write 42 percent of policies, State Farm and Farmers, are challenging their rate cuts in court. And most other insurers reached a settlement with the department that cut their rate rollbacks in half, with a promise that the balance of the rate cuts will be given to policyholders next year if the weather holds and there isn’t an unexpected surge in claims.

In addition, consumer groups and lawmakers are criticizing Montemayor for two proposed rules affecting how insurers use credit history and neighborhood location to calculate rates.

“The reforms were modest, and now they’ve been watered down even more,” said Dan Lambe, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Texas Watch.

Typical. Remember, kids, when Rick Perry claims credit for something, check your wallet ASAP.