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October 23rd, 2003:

Oh, yeah, that election

I don’t know how many people get mail from the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus PAC and the Harris County GOP PAC on the same day, but it sure feels special to be in that group. The HCGOPers endorsed pretty much the same group as the Conservative Republicans of Harris County, with three exceptions: MJ Khan instead of Terry McConn in District F, Jeff Daily instead of Greg Myers in the all-GOP District G, and fascinatingly, no one in At Large #5. I’m not sure if they’ve got an axe to grind with Boy Wonder Berry or what, but that oversight really stands out to me.

Not too surprisingly, there’s no intersection with the HGLPCPAC, whose picks are: Bill White for Mayor, Annise Parker for Controller, Brian Wozniak, Gordon Quan, Jolanda Jones, Sue Lovell, and Dwight Boykins for At Large #1-5, Malaki Sims, Ada Edwards, Vickie Keller, Derrick Wesley, and Adrian Garcia for District C, D, E, F, and H, plus Michael Gomez and Dr. G. San Miguel for HISD #3 and 4. For the most part, these line up with my own choices, which I’ll post about shortly.

We also got a mailer from the Houston Police Officers Union, who endorsed White for Mayor and the Republican candidates for At Large 1, 3, 4, and 5 as well as Districts C and E. Say this for White, he’s got support that crosses ideological boundaries.

If all that ain’t enough for you, the Harris County Democratic Party and the Harris County GOP both have useful candidate info pages with links to their email addresses and relevant websites. Take some time and check it all out, there’s a lot of new names and faces to learn about.

Pop goes the X10

Normally, I consider business bankruptcies to be a Bad Thing, but every once in a while there’s one that makes you reconsider.

SEATTLE – X10 Wireless Technology, known for ubiquitous Internet ads showing scantily clad women as seen from miniature wireless cameras, has filed for protection in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition.

Strangely enough, the story did not display in a popup window.

Concordes retiring

So long, supersonic.

LONDON — British Airways’ last Concorde flight for fare-paying passengers took off for New York today, a day before scheduled supersonic service ends for good.

Both today’s London-New York flight and Friday’s final trans-Atlantic return are expected to be full, but Friday’s passengers will all be invited guests of the airline, including actress Joan Collins and Concorde frequent flyer Sir David Frost.

Thousands of planespotters are expected to gather near Heathrow Airport on Friday to watch the near-simultaneous landing of the New York flight and two other Concordes — one carrying competition winners from Edinburgh, the other taking guests on a circular flight from Heathrow over the Bay of Biscay.

With that, the era of supersonic commercial flight will be over, at least for now.

I don’t really have anything to add to this, just that I thought the Concorde was cool. Too bad it was too expensive and environmentally unfriendly. I also didn’t realize just how strong the opposition was to the Concorde in New York. I’d probably feel less affection for it if my house was underneath its flight path.

Dems send some money home

Looks like some of the external fundraising that the Killer D’s/Texas 11 did has borne some fruit.

Since the redistricting fight erupted last spring, 13 of the 17 Texas Democrats in Congress have donated more than $230,000 to the state Democratic Party and a political fund dedicated to re-electing state lawmakers.

Some of the funds have been used to rally public opposition to the redistricting effort, party leaders said, while much of it has been set aside to help re-elect Democrats in the Texas House who managed to delay the process by hiding out in Oklahoma.

“Some of those members put their political lives on the line,” said Rep. Gene Green of Houston, who has given $15,000 to the state party this summer and another $25,000 to the Majority Political Action Committee of Texas, or MPACT, formed this year to re-elect Democrats to the Texas House.

“I think all of us have realized that if you’re going to be in the battle, you have to be there with everything you can. So sure, we talked with each other and said, ‘We need to help these folks,’ ” he said.

[…]

Quarterly financial reports filed by last week show that 13 of the state’s 17 incumbent Democrats donated a total of $141,000 from their campaign funds to the state Democratic Party, ranging from $5,000 from Reps. Nick Lampson of Beaumont and Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston to $50,000 from Rep. Martin Frost of Arlington, dean of the delegation.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Martin’s been a supporter of the Texas Democratic Party for at least the 25 years he’s been in Congress,” said spokesman Jess Fassler.

The reports also show that nine of the Democrats sent checks totaling $91,200 to MPACT, formed this year as a counterbalance to various GOP political action committees. The bulk came from three congressmen who each gave $25,000: Mr. Green, Chet Edwards of Waco and Rubén Hinojosa of Mercedes.

Most of the incumbents have also put up $5,000 to $20,000 each for legal fees, and that is expected the grow. The last big legal fight over the state’s congressional districts cost Democrats about $1.7 million.

[…]

State Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the Texas House, said the congressional money has been vital to get the MPACT up and running, but the committee has raised “considerably more” at events last weekend in Maine and fund-raisers in Colorado, Austin, Dallas and elsewhere.

“We’re trying to save money and use it to help re-elect Democrats next year,” Mr. Dunnam said, adding that the donations show the solidarity forged this year among Democrats in Congress and the Legislature.

“We really are in the same boat together. We fight for the same things, we just do it different places. Too much in the past the delegations have sort of not paid much attention to one another, and that’s one thing we were able to change this year,” he said. “Frankly it took Tom DeLay to get us unified.”

Can I just say, “About damn time!” I frequently hear Republicans talk about how Democrats in Texas need to adjust to being the minority party and out of power. Well, this is a part of that. The majority party, the party that controls all levels of state government and enjoys a big lead in voter registrations, can afford to be lazy about things like this (not that the Republican Party has, which is a big part of the reason why they’ve become the majority party and will be tough to dislodge), but as someone once said, when you’re #2 you need to try harder. That message finally seems to be sinking in, and not a moment too soon.

Now if we could only get all of the Houston-area incumbents to send a few bucks back to the Harris County Democratic Party, then we’d really be on to something.

Chron endorses Davila Martinez

The Chron has endorsed Diana Davila Martinez for City Council District H, which is where I live, citing her past experience as the key.

Davila Martinez served ably in the Legislature from 1993-1999. A graduate of Harvard University, she spent much of her time in Austin giving neighborhoods and civic clubs the tools and powers they need to clean up blight and shut down or control irresponsibly or illegally operated bars.

Davila Martinez has served on the boards of Catholic Charities, Association for Community Television, Children At Risk and other charitable endeavors. She promises to support mass transit improvements, prudent spending and better performance by city employees.

I had a message on my answering machine on Tuesday from Ms. Davila Martinez, and spoke to her yesterday. She objected to Diane Mosier’s statement that Adrian Garcia has been endorsed by “every local democratic elected official”. I have invited her to email me a response, and when I get it I will print it.

Beef! It’s expensive for dinner

Before I get to the main purpose of this post, I’d first like to address this, which was cited by Atrios.

CHANGE OF MENU. Jeffrey’s at the Watergate, a restaurant that served Texas cooking, has closed its doors, reports The Washington Post. The restaurant, which claimed to be a “‘hot spot’ of the First Couple,” served such meals as “Secretary Evans Roquefort and tomato salad” and “Condoleezza Rice lemon meringue tart with raspberry sauce.”

The restaurant has returned to its old name, Aquarelle, which was a popular spot during the Clinton administration; it now serves Mediterranean cuisine. The Post writes that this is “not a symbol or a sign or a portent.” Ever the optimists, we beg to differ.

“Secretary Evans Roquefort and tomato salad” and “Condoleezza Rice lemon meringue tart with raspberry sauce”??? What the hell kind of “Texas cooking” is that? That’s the sort of frippery that faux-populist Texas politicians (of all stripes, I might add) mock about places like Washington and New York.

Look, it’s very simple: There are many restaurants in Texas at which one can find a wide variety of cuisines (see here for a sample of what’s available in Houston, for example), but there are only a few styles (such as barbecue and Tex-Mex, to name two) that can be correctly called “Texas cooking”. The examples cited are not among them.

Now then. According to this front-page Chron story, the high price of beef is giving restauranteurs heartburn.

“It’s killing us,” Sambuca Jazz Cafe chef Carl “C.J.” Johnston moans. “It’s gotten to where every time we sell beef, we lose money.”

[…]

“When you come to my restaurant, the waiters are going to push the fresh seafood specials,” Johnston confesses. “If we sell equal amounts of seafood and equal amounts of beef, we’ll be OK. We’ve got to get creative because it’s not economically sound right now to raise prices.”

Six months ago, a 10-ounce beef filet cost Johnston $8. Today, he’s paying $10.60, and by December, he expects to pay $12 or more for the same cut.

“It’s scary,” he said. “But can we not serve beef and stay open as a restaurant? I don’t think so. In Houston, Texas, you’ve got to have beef.”

You can blame Canada, at least partially, for the problem, but there’s an even bigger factor at work.

The United States shut down cattle imports from Canada after a lone cow was diagnosed with mad cow disease in May. According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Canada provided 7 percent of our beef supply prior to the ban. Although the U.S. government has partially lifted the embargo, the amount coming in is shy of earlier levels because live Canadian cattle are still barred.

“But that’s just a small part of it,” said Rick Hamilton of Chicago-based Allen Bros., which supplies beef to high-end restaurants nationwide. “This has actually been going on for several years. There’s been a steady decline of cattle because of drought conditions (in Nebraska and Kansas). The ranchers have nothing to feed them on. The number of cattle on feed has dropped by 8 percent. Right now, they’re holding back heifers to build up stock. But it’ll take 30 months before we really start to see results.”

While cattle production has slackened in the last decade, the demand for beef has increased.

Casual steakhouses saw a 12 percent rise in consumer spending over the past two years. And U.S. demand for beef has increased 10 percent since 1998, Texas Beef Council marketing manager Russell Woodward said.

The reason?

“People are very confident in the safety of beef,” Woodward said. “Now they’ve got permission to consume it.”

Blame Dr. Atkins.

“We did a little survey,” said Texas Land & Cattle Steak House President David Franklin, “and it indicated that 30-40 percent of our customers are on the (high-protein) Atkins diet.”

So far, restaurants here have not raised prices, but that may not last. You’re getting a bargain when you order that porterhouse, so enjoy it while you can.

…And the rest

Today we get to meet the low profile candidates in this year’s Mayoral race. It’s quite a collection.

Come Jan. 1, Houston will have a new mayor.

It will not be Anthony Dutrow, Douglas Robb, Jack Terence, Ralph Ullrich or John WorldPeace.

That much is known.

Dutrow is the Socialist Workers’ Party candidate and the only one of the five that I’m certain had announced a candidacy prior to the filing deadline. There were two who had announced but did not file. Annoyingly, both of them participated in the one candidates’ forum that I got to attend. The only way their participation could have been a bigger waste of time was for them to ultimately not run.

Anyway, you may recall John WorldPeace from his 2002 gubernatorial campaign. Jack Josey Terence, also known as Jailbird, has run for Mayor before, on the same ballot as “The Outlaw Josey Wales IV”. I thought the two might have been the same person, but apparently not. Luis Ralph Ullrich has run for Mayor before, but other than a citation in a ten-year-old copy of the U of Houston Daily Cougar which says he’s also known as “Ralph the Plumber”, I couldn’t find anything interesting about him. I could find nothing about Douglas Robb or Veronique Gregory, either.

In my Copious Spare Time, I’d love to interview some of these people to get a better feel for why they do this. The article hints at some of the reasons, such as a desire to get a message out and a belief they can actually win, but there’s only so much you can cover in an overview like this. It could be very enlightening, or it could be a complete trip down the rabbit hole, I don’t know. I just think someone ought to find out.

Oh, and on a side note, a pet peeve of mine. From the article:

To call them campaigns of ideas is apropos, as there seems to be little else in the way of traditional electioneering and fund raising.

Argh. Here’s the definition of “apropos” from Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: 1ap·ro·pos
Pronunciation: “a-pr&-‘pO, ‘a-pr&-”
Function: adverb
Etymology: French à propos, literally, to the purpose
Date: 1668

1 : at an opportune time : SEASONABLY
2 : by way of interjection or further comment: with regard to the present topic

“Apropos” does not mean “appropriate”. It’s not even an adjective. Please don’t make me grind my teeth by using it inappropriately. That is all.

RIP, Rerun

It’s a sad day today: Fred “Rerun” Berry has passed away, apparently from natural causes, at the age of 52. By his passing, he leaves behind an eternal mystery:

He wore his red beret and suspenders in real life, and it was unclear whether he originally brought his own style to the character of Rerun or whether he was forever mimicking the goofball character that made him famous.

Perhaps some day, a future episode of “The E! True Hollywood Story” will get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, rest in peace, Fred Berry.