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March 30th, 2004:

Cuellar takes the lead

Some 300 new ballots have been found in Zapata County, and they have combined to give Henry Cuellar a slim lead in his primary race against Rep. Ciro Rodriguez.

More than 300 votes were discovered during a Zapata County recount in the District 28 congressional battle, giving Laredo’s Henry Cuellar a slight lead over U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez.

The votes apparently came from one of the two early vote boxes, according to officials with the Zapata County Elections Department.

It was unclear this afternoon how large Cuellar’s lead is.

The discovery of the missing votes is highly suspicious, according to Rodriguez.

“There’s no doubt that there’s some fraud going on, some illegal activities,” he said today.

Rodriguez is planning to file a lawsuit contesting the recount results, said his Austin-based attorney Buck Wood.

“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I’ve never seen 300 or so ballots appear suddenly,” said Wood, a former elections director for the Texas secretary of state’s office.“To tell you that I’m suspicious and baffled is an understatement.”

Cuellar officials were not immediately available to comment today.Although Cuellar lives in Webb County, his mother lives in Zapata County.

The recount, which began Friday in Atascosa and Wilson counties, came after a hotly contested race in the battle for the seat, which represents 11 counties stretching from Hays in the north to Zapata in the south. Rodriguez, who led at the beginning of the recount by 145 votes, had increased his margin by five votes after recounts in five of the district’s 11 counties.

Officials were conducting a recount in Webb County this afternoon and were scheduled to proceed with Bexar County and Hays County on Wednesday.

Well, isn’t that special? I wonder if Cuellar has erected an altar to LBJ in his back yard. That’s as good an explanation of the newly-discovered ballots as anything I can think of.

This AP report gives Cuellar a 30-vote lead, but the Quorum Report puts it at a 20-vote margin, and makes a slight correction to the E-N story:

Challenger Henry Cuellar has picked up a net gain of 170 votes in Zapata County following this morning’s recount, giving him a lead of 30 votes over incumbent Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) in the Congressional District 28 Democratic primary.

You may recall that Zapata County’s optical scanner machine was programmed wrongly and local high school students had to hand-count the vote all through election night.

The Zapata County vote was completed [just after noon]. The recount provided 304 new votes – not ballots – were found, with 237 going to Cuellar and 67 going to Rodriguez.

The recount in Webb County, Cuellar’s base, starts at 2 p.m. today.

According to the AP story, Bexar County (San Antonio) and Hays County (San Marcos) recount on Wednesday, while Guadaloupe (Seguin) and Comal (New Braunfels) do their thing on Thursday. If Rodriguez is going to regain ground, it’ll be in those counties. We should have an answer by then, though QR also reports that the Rodriguez camp is ready to file a lawsuit to block the results. So who knows? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: And it just gets weirder:

In a dramatic turnaround certain to add to the lore of South Texas politics, Laredo lawyer Henry Cuellar first took a 197-vote lead over U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez after recounts in Webb and Zapata counties Tuesday.

Then, just a few hours later, state Democratic Party officials said the final recount tally in Webb County showed 115 more votes than there were ballots cast. A re-recount won’t be done until Sunday, officials said.

Meanwhile, Bexar and Hays will have their recounts today, and Comal and Guadalupe will conduct theirs Thursday.

[…]

“There will be a shadow over the election almost no matter which one comes ahead now,” said Jerry Polinard, a political scientist at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.

It was unclear late Tuesday what the problem was in Webb, but in Zapata, a tabulation error apparently missed 304 early votes, said Zapata Democratic Party Chairman Teo Garza.

Contrary to rumors that new ballots were discovered, Garza stressed that the 304 votes had been counted, but weren’t properly recorded.

“There’s no funny business going on,” said Garza, who’s running his first election as party chairman.

If you say so. I’d like to know more about that 115-vote discrepancy before I sign off on that one.

I wasn’t the only one thinking of Landslide Lyndon when hearing about this:

The mother of all South Texas corruption stories is the legend of Box 13, a cache of 202 votes found after the 1948 primary with similar handwriting in the same color ink

The votes, which came out of Jim Wells County, put LBJ narrowly over the top and earned him the tongue-in-cheek name “Landslide Lyndon.”

But some cautioned against drawing too close a comparison between the ghosts of elections past and the situation in Zapata County.

Short of any clear evidence of corruption, the shift in votes in Zapata is “tiddlywinks” compared to the blatant skullduggery involving Box 13, said Bob Bezdek, a political scientist at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

“This is a different era,” said Bezdek, who has studied the fabled election. “Box 13 was a blatant attempt to get votes after the election was over. This appears to be minor stuff.”

Everything may be on the up and up, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t about to get very messy. Let’s see what happens in Bexar and neighboring counties, but be ready for a lawsuit one way or another when it’s all done.

“The Complete Peanuts”, Volume One

Mark Evanier reviews the first of the Complete Peanuts volumes and explains why you should spend a few extra bucks and order it straight from the publisher instead of Amazon. Check it out.

Bloglines

I’ve been migrating all of my regular reads into the Bloglines RSS aggregator. I’ve been wanting some kind of aggregator for my blogroll for awhile now, and as I’ve been getting a good number of referrals from Bloglines pages, I figured I’d give it a try. Here are the pros and cons of my experience so far.

Pro:

Blogrolling has a feature that shows when a blog has been updated, but it’s never been very useful to me because it doesn’t toggle off after you’ve followed the link. As such, I find myself re-visiting blogs that haven’t been updated since the last time I looked, and not getting to all the blogs I want to see on a given day. Bloglines shows me who’s updated, how many updates they have, what those updates are, and best of all, it toggles off when I’ve checked it out. That right there is a big win for me.

I think the biggest benefit here will be from blogs that update very often, and blogs that update infrequently. I can keep up with ever-updated sites like Pandagon, instead of facing a long page of new posts. Or I can find out when a favored low-frequency site like Soundbitten has updated without having to remember to check it on a regular basis. Bottom line: fewer wasted clicks, less compunction to skim.

Another benefit: By being able to see the beginning of each entry, I can if I want simply pick the posts I really want to read. I love Off Wing Opinion, but I’m not a big hockey fan, so rather than click and scroll, I can click over when there’s something there that is more interesting to me. Same thing with Unqualified Offerings and his comics blogging (note to Jim: Your Fanboy Free feed has the same URL as your Everything feed.) There’s a lot of blogs out there that I want to read, and only so much time during the day. Any efficiency I can squeeze out of the system will help me do what I want to do.

Finally, I can organize and categorize the blogs I read in a more useful-to-me fashion. Yes, I know, Blogrolling has that feature in its paid version. Bloglines has it in the free service. Which would you prefer?

Con:

Not everybody has an RSS feed. Mostly Blogspot and handrolled blogs fall into this bucket, but somewhat to my surprise so does Kos. I’d rather just use one tool for my blogreading if I could, but until I can convince everyone to generate an RSS feed, I’ll still have to check some blogs via my blogroll. Note to Blogger users: check out Atom, which can be used on Blogspot. There are other RSS generators out there – drop me a line if you have a question.

Bloglines doesn’t see new posts right away. Not a really big deal – most of ’em seem to show up within a few minutes. I have seen some RSS feeds that have either been abandoned or just not updated much, though.

Referral logs won’t tell you who that Bloglines visitor is, so my regular reads may see fewer offthekuff.com links in their stats. I swear, I’m visiting – maybe even more often than before! – but I can’t prove it by your logs. Sorry about that.

So far, I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve even added a couple of blogs that were off my main blogroll, on the (possibly deluded) belief that this newfound efficiency will really enable me to get around more. We’ll see. Anyone else out there using Bloglines? Let me know what you think about it.

UPDATE: Thanks to Ravi in the comments for pointing out that Kos does too have an RSS feed: http://www.dailykos.com/index.rdf. It’s just apparently not published in any way that Bloglines or I could find it, it’s pretty skimpy, and of course it exlcudes the diaries. But it’s there, and it accomplishes my main goal of knowing when Kos has updated (and I can avoid his open threads if I want to).

One other thing that I forgot to add: Bloglines in conjunction with Mozilla’s tabbed browsing really really rocks. Trust me on this.

She got game

Cool.

In what could prove a significant step in the evolution of women’s athletics, a high school girls basketball player did more than just compete in a slam dunk contest Monday against five of the nation’s best high school boys players.

Candace Parker, a 6-3 17-year-old from Naperville, Ill., won the event, beating a field of male competitors that included at least two who could be playing in the NBA next season.

“I was saying earlier that I hope 10 years from now this isn’t a big deal,” said Parker, who will play at Tennessee next season. “That would be my dream. That 10 years from now three or four girls enter the dunk contest and it’s not a big deal. It’s not like, ‘Wow, she won.’ I hope that happens.”

You can catch her winning act on ESPN tomorrow night. Surprising as that was, I’m more amazed by this:

The unlikely winner upstaged, at least for the moment, a highly-anticipated McDonald’s All-American boys’ game that will include as many as 12 players who could skip college and enter the NBA draft. Some players have likened the game to an NBA tryout that will determine draft positioning and salaries.

Emphasis mine. Gonzaga may have flamed out in the NCAAs this year, but I still believe that their ability to retain players through their senior years is a competitive advantage.

Via Eric McErlain.

BlogAds followup

Martin Frost is the latest candidate to run BlogAds, joining fellow Texan Morris Meyer in tapping this market. I’ve been wondering ever since Ben Chandler’s much-ballyhooed (and now copied) success at running BlogAds how other candidates would do now that there’s more of them in the mix and almost none of them are in a high-visibility special election in which their candidacy and fundraising needs have been shilled all around the blog world. So, I took it upon myself to ask all of them campaigns that have run these ads what their opinion of them was. I’m a bit annoyed that I only got three responses – you would think that if a candidate’s strategy includes this kind of Internet outreach, they’d be a bit more solicitous about replying to email – but that’s the way it goes. I’ve reproduced the questions and answers below the More link. Short answer: Good news for BlogAds and the candidates who want to use them.

UPDATE: As March comes to a close, you can help all of the BlogAds-buying candidates make their quarterly numbers look better. Kos has all the links.

(more…)

Buy-curious

I’ll let Julia explain it all to you about Lynne Cheney’s hot lesbian Western bodice-ripper. I just wanted to note that I knew some people at Rice who considered it a good time to crack open a few brewskies and do dramatic readings from the pages of Penthouse Forum. Having now sampled some of Mrs. Cheney’s prose, I think her book would have made an excellent proxy for those times when the latest issue hadn’t arrived in the mail yet. Just remember that you can get totally different shades of meaning depending on whether you use the William Shatner intonation or the “In a world where…” Movie Trailer Voiceover intonation.

How do you say “Opening Day” in Japanese?

The Devil Rays beat the Yankees earlier today by the score of 8-3 in the Tokyo Dome.

The hosts did their best to duplicate the atmosphere of games back home, with some twists, of course.

The Yankees, including Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson, were introduced to “New York, New York,” while the Devil Rays came out to Anastacia.

Even though New York was the visiting team, the Yankees wore their famous pinstripes — the Hall of Fame couldn’t find any records of them having done that before.

That’s cool. Someone will win a bar bet with that trivia question this year.

Women in pink-and-green kimonos presented Torre and Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella with bouquets. Many of the ads on the outfield walls were in Japanese kanji script, and women vendors walked through the aisles selling whiskey.

Hmm. I don’t remember whiskey vendors at the game I attended, but then I was at Jingu Stadium and not the Tokyo Dome.

The two teams play again tomorrow, then fly back for the real Opening Day on Sunday. Hope the D-Rays enjoy their temporary stay in first place. I doubt that’s gonna last much longer.

Calvin Murphy charged

I’m in shock.

Hall of Fame basketball player and Houston icon Calvin Murphy was charged Monday with sexually molesting five of his daughters more than a decade ago.

Murphy, a television commentator for the Rockets, surrendered to authorities after being charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and three counts of indecency with a child, said Lance Long, a Harris County assistant district attorney.

The charges involve five grown daughters who said Murphy sexually abused them between 1988 and 1991, when they were under 17, according to an affidavit by the Texas Rangers.

[…]

“He adamantly denies the charges,” Hardin said. “We’ve investigated these charges for a couple weeks and we are just as convinced it did not happen as the district attorney’s office is that it did.”

Hardin said Murphy is “absolutely devastated” by the allegations because “he spent his whole life in the public arena and he knows people are going to assume it’s true.” Hardin said he wished the charges had been presented to a grand jury.

Hardin said the allegations are an attempt to get back at Murphy because he wouldn’t give the women money. He said that three daughters wanted retirement money their mother left to Murphy after she died in a car accident. Hardin also said that because of past financial troubles Murphy doesn’t have the financial means people assume he has.

[…]

If convicted of the charges, Murphy faces five years to life for the aggravated offenses and two to 20 years for the indecency violations, Long said. Because Murphy doesn’t have a criminal history, he could also be eligible for probation if he’s convicted, Long added.

District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said late Monday that Murphy may also face additional charges, but he did not elaborate.

Long would not reveal the origin of the investigation, which he said had been ongoing for several weeks.

Hardin said Murphy, a Sugar Land resident, cooperated with the investigation and that he even escorted witnesses to the district attorney’s office for questioning. Hardin said many witnesses, including one of the daughters named in the charges, told authorities the alleged abuses didn’t occur.

Hardin questioned why the women are only coming forward 13 years after the most recent incident was alleged to have happened.

I don’t know what to say. Whether the charges are true or Rusty Hardin’s counterallegation that this is some kind of extortion scheme is true, it’s horrible either way. I just hope that justice is done in the end.