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March 8th, 2004:

Calpundit goes pro

Congrats to Kevin Drum for landing an honest-to-goodness paying blog gig for a real, respected publication. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Way to go, Kevin!

Auschron discovers blogs

Among the many signs of spring around here is South by Southwest, which begins this Friday in Austin. Blogs have been an increasing focus of SXSW in recent years, and so with the background of the Presidential race, the Austin Chronicle has an article on the impact of political blogs.

Napster is history. And when was the last time someone enthused about WebTV? But blogs have entered the mainstream big time. Web diaries have become a must-have high school accessory. Current-event blogs are everywhere, and have even generated a blog oligarchy: webloggers like Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall (of Talking Points Memo), and Glenn Reynolds (of InstaPundit).

Interestingly, the blog seems to be resurrecting a form that was invented on March 1, 1711, when Joseph Addison and Richard Steele started The Spectator. The authors called The Spectator a “diurnal essay” – in other words, a daily that covered politics, culture, and lifestyle issues from a personal POV. The current environment in which blogs have flourished is oddly similar to the London landscape of Addison and Steele’s time, when England’s first stock market bubble coincided with a fad for coffeehouses to produce a constituency for a new, disposable kind of text. The Spectator provided perfect reading matter to bond this community of coffeehouse goers.

What blogs add to Addison and Steele’s primitive print format are links and interactivity. Blogs can accommodate comments, which have become the most fascinating parts of some of them. And links allow the reader to segue seamlessly from text to reference – or to another blog – in one reading session.

I swear, if I didn’t know better, I’d think I was reading a UPI feature story from mid-2002. Surely the hip urbanites who read the AusChron have heard of blogs before, so why such a sterile treatment? Even the Statesman has blogs, a fact that the AusChron made fun of earlier this year. Talk about boring.

The author goes on to get a few quotes from Matt Welch, Juan Cole (whose URL they bungled at the bottom of the story), and Carl Zimmer about this whole blogging thing. Conspicuously absent is any mention of bloggers in Texas, a somewhat insulting oversight given the very large number of good Austin political blogs, including the state Democratic Party, the AusChron’s own Jim Hightower, and of course Rick Perry’s favorite blog, the Burnt Orange Report. C’mon, guys, try a little Google search next time.

After all that, it seems almost gratuitous to note their excessively short interviews with Eli Pariser of MoveOn and SXSW presenter Virginia Postrel, whose bloging and blog URL go completely unmentioned. The latter article begins, right next to Postrel’s smiling face, with this:

In 1999, Vanity Fair did a photo spread on the new generation of conservative babes. The group included Wendy Shalit, Amity Shlaes (sic), and Virginia Postrel. If this was Vanity Fair’s idea of a right-wing Charlie’s Angels, then surely the smart one was Postrel.

Maybe it’s just me, but that sure seems like it could be construed as a poke at either Shalit and Shales’ brains, or Postrel’s pulchritude. I’m guessing that’s not quite what the author – the same guy who did the soporific article on poliblogging – had in mind.

Poker tournaments illegal

Sorry, citizens of Lubbock. You can’t play in poker tournaments that offer cash prizes.

LUBBOCK — Do bar and restaurant card tournaments requiring entry fees and promising prize money violate state gambling laws?

District Attorney Bill Sowder says they do.

Spurred by recent attempts to hold card tournaments at Lubbock businesses, Sowder informed owners last week of his stance before pursuing criminal charges.

“The law is not designed to punish the Friday night poker game at a guy’s house,” he said in Saturday’s editions of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “The law is not designed to throw out the football pool at the shop.”

Jake’s Sports Cafe recently canceled a Texas Hold’em poker tournament when law officers questioned the event’s legality.

Owner Scott Stephenson said his event does not amount to gambling.

“It’s no different than a golf tournament or a dart tournament,” he said. “The way we’re running the game, there is no bet. We don’t let people bet money in the game.”

The tournament would charge players entry fees and offer prizes to the winners. Instead of money, players would wager points on each hand.

But Assistant District Attorney John Grace said that when it comes to gambling, the Texas Supreme Court says points are the same as money. And because each player’s odds of winning differ with each deal of the cards, poker is gambling, he said.

Here’s the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal story, which contains the following quote from Scott Stephenson, whose sports bar cancelled a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament as a result of the DA’s ruling.

Poker involves more skill than chance, Stephenson said, pointing out that the same players repeatedly win major national poker tournaments.

“All we’re doing is determining the better, more skillful player,” he said. “I think it’s a game of skill. … It’s just like we determine who’s the better golfer.”

Far as I know, that was the rationale that got bridge exempted from gambling laws, which is why there are rubber bridge studios where you can play for money. I’d be very interested to see, now that televised poker events have become so ubiquitous, if a judge would buy that argument.

Bush to visit rodeo

Never one to refuse an opportunity to show just how down-home, Real America, Mom & apple pie he is, President Bush will pay a visit to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo today.

When President Bush drops by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo today, his eye will be as much on the Bubbas as the Brahman cattle.

The president has been working hard lately to rope in these socially conservative Southern white men who usually vote Republican but who may be tempted to stray because of the tight economy.

To reach these voters, the president has stepped up his appearances at sporting venues.

Bush flew to Florida recently to attend the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, opening the event with the traditional phrase, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” And during a visit last month to Springfield, Mo., he made a stop at a supersize sports store to check out the fishing gear.

The Bush campaign also has targeted sports buffs by running some of its new political ads on the ESPN cable network.

I was going to make the point about Bush’s recent Feel Good Tour Of The Heartland, which appears to be aimed at shoring up support among Bush’s core demographics, but the Chron did it for me. Next stop: He’ll be the opening act for a Marshall Tucker concert, followed by a ribbon-cutting at the grand opening of a bait stand.

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the real reason for this trip, like every other trip Bush has taken.

Bush is sandwiching the livestock show visit between a luncheon campaign fund-raiser in Dallas and an evening money event in downtown Houston at the Hilton Americas-Houston.


The rodeo outing also gives Bush a financial advantage. Even though the trip to Houston is primarily for campaign fund-raising, the White House can bill some of the travel costs to taxpayers because the livestock show visit is considered an official presidential function.

Pretty much says it all.

UPDATE: Missed the related story earlier about that fundraiser.