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May, 2004:

A few new voices

Here’s a new lefty political blog from Austin for you to check out: The View from the Left. He’s got an RSS feed, so a subscription to same can be found in my Bloglines blogs.

Other recently-added subscriptions include:

This Blog Is Full of Crap, the new home of Laurence Simon, founder of the now-defunct Amish Tech Support.

The Joe Hill Dispatch, Fort Worth bureau (they also have an Atlanta version). Mostly news-roundup-y, but a good source of stories that may not make your radar otherwise.

Free State Standard, an even more ambitious newsy site that is aiming to get contributors from every county in Texas.

Panhandle Truth Squad, one of two West Texas-based progressive blogs that I know of.

Back Roads of San Angelo, the other one, which looks like it just made a feed available (if it was there before now and I hadn’t noticed yet, I apologize).

Reveries of the Solitary Blogger, which is not new but is newly feed-enabled.

And going a little further back, there’s Liberty’s Blog, Houston’s Clear Thinkers, Safety for Dummies, and Roman Candles.

Blogs come and go, and however you handle blogroll/subscription maintenance, keeping up with it is a PITA sometimes. If your link hasn’t been added/updated yet, hold on, I promise I’ll get to it eventually. And remember, an RSS feed is your friend. It’s certainly my friend for keeping up with all this stuff.

Texas Roadhouse blues

So there’s a national franchise called the “Texas Roadhouse”, and there’s a privately owned watering hole in La Vernia called the True Blue Texas Roadhouse. Put ’em together and what do you get? Right. A lawsuit.

The Kentucky-based Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain sued the La Vernia bar and owner Douglas Bode in U.S. District Court in Austin earlier this month, claiming trademark infringement.

The Texas Roadhouse chain operates more than 165 bar-restaurants with Texas memorabilia on the walls and peanut shells on the floor. They’re in 30 states and have 24 franchises in Texas, including Texas Roadhouses just off major highways in Waco, San Antonio and Killeen.

The True Blue Texas Roadhouse is a 40-by-100-foot corrugated metal building that used to be a garage. There’s just one, next to fields of sunflowers on the two-lane Texas 87 between San Antonio and Victoria.

The front is painted the red, white and blue of the Texas flag, and the inside features four pool tables and a steady stream of country music. Bartenders serve bags of chips and a lot of Bud Light to a couple of dozen customers a weeknight and two or three times that many on weekends.

“I am just trying to make a living. I don’t want to offend anybody,” said Bode, 38, a tall man with big hands and a gentle voice. “For God’s sake, I’m a Texas bar. Why can’t I use that name?”

Bode, a former curtain company production manager, said he thought of the name on a late night drive with friends back from New Orleans. He did some research of business names with the clerk in Wilson County, and it looked as if True Blue Texas Roadhouse was available, he said. Just over two years ago, he opened up.

In the lawsuit, Texas Roadhouse’s lawyer, Tom Walsh of Dallas, wrote that Bode violated the corporation’s rights to its federal and state trademarks, which were filed before Bode opened the bar. The first Texas Roadhouse opened in Indiana in 1993.

By using “Texas Roadhouse” in his bar’s name, Bode “calculated to deceive the relevant consuming public into accepting and purchasing Bode’s services in the mistaken belief that they are Texas Roadhouse’s services,” wrote Walsh, of Fish & Richardson, a prominent Dallas intellectual property firm.

The nearest Texas Roadhouse restaurant to the bar is about 20 miles away in Live Oak, north of San Antonio.

Emphasis mine. I don’t have any opinion about the merits of this lawsuit. I just find it really weird that the trademark to “Texas Roadhouse” is owned by an outfit in Kentucky and was first used in Indiana.


Even in Little League, I wouldn’t expect to ever see a play like this. The infield fly rule is a subtle thing. Via Nail-Tinted Glasses, who also points out this excellent Legomation re-enactment for those who need a visual.

Some background on Strayhorn and the Unitarians

The Chron’s a little late getting into the Strayhorn/Unitarian game, but their belated effort is pretty good. It’s a concise rundown of the history of this controversy, and it provides some context. In particular, there’s a quote attributed to Strayhorn that’s been the whip for some of the bloggy beatings she’s taken, and it’s not quite about what the floggers think it is:

Of the organizations Strayhorn has rejected for tax-exempt status, several denials were based on sloppy paperwork. Other denials were based on the fact the organization is a faith-based social service group that did not meet the definition of a religion, such as meeting regularly at a location open to the public.

But in at least five cases, the underlying question has revolved around a system of beliefs that involve a supreme being or beings. They range from Unitarians to a temple of witches and pagans in Copperas Cove.

The controversy actually began in 1997 under Strayhorn’s Democratic predecessor, John Sharp, in a case involving the Ethical Society of Austin.

The group is an offshoot of the American Ethical Union and the Ethical Cultural movement that began in 1876. They describe themselves as “ethical humanists” who hold a unifying belief that “within human experience ethics is central.”

But the movement takes no position on whether there is a supreme being.

Shortly after Sharp’s staff granted the Ethical Society of Austin its religious status, the Austin American-Statesman ran a story about it with the headline “Godless Group Gets Religious Exemption.”

That same morning, Sharp reversed his staff and ordered no organization be granted religious status unless it believes in “God, Gods or a higher power.” In the Texas courts, this became known as the “Supreme Being test.”

The Ethical Society of Austin sued. Strayhorn adopted Sharp’s standard, inherited the lawsuit and continued to fight against granting the society religious status.

“The irony in all of this is … the more supernatural a religion is, the easier it is to satisfy the comptroller’s test,” said David Weiser, a lawyer representing the Ethical Society of Austin.

Weiser said a pantheistic religion that performs animal sacrifices would find it easier to win a religious designation than a group based on highly reasoned beliefs.

“The test she advocates doesn’t help get to the bottom of whether a group is a sham or not,” Weiser said.

The Texas Supreme Court agreed. Without a written opinion, the court upheld a 3rd Court of Appeals order saying Strayhorn had been wrong in denying religious status to the Ethical Society of Austin.

The court noted that rulings in New York, California, Illinois, Maryland and the District of Columbia dating back to 1957 had determined Ethical Culture groups were organized religions.

“We understand the First Amendment to require a broader definition of what should be considered a religion than a simple Supreme Being test offered by the comptroller,” the 3rd Court ruled.

Strayhorn immediately promised to take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. She said it is about “more than one organization trying to avoid paying their fair share.” She said it is about protecting groups that deserve to be tax exempt.

“Otherwise, any wannabe cult who dresses up and parades down Sixth Street on Halloween will be applying for an exemption,” Strayhorn said.

This oft-cited quote comes from her fight against the tax exemption granted to the Ethical Society of Austin, not the Red River Unitarian Universalist Church. A bit ironic when contrasted with David Weiser’s statement, but clearly not an attempt to link the Unitarians to the Church of the SubGenius or some such. Still doesn’t explain to me why she went off the rails with the Red River folks, though. I can’t help but think that if this had been a decision made by a lower-level staffer, Strayhorn would have said so by now to deflect the heat.

Anyway, check it out. Meanwhile, Jim D reports from an actual UU service in Galveston. And life goes on.

Today Philly, tomorrow Houston?

So now that Phoenix has passed (or is on the brink of passing) Philadekphia to become America’s fifth-most populous city, how long until they catch up to Houston for #4?

During the 1990s, Phoenix grew by 34 percent, or 340,000 residents, and its metropolitan area, which includes the city, grew by a phenomenal 45 percent — adding more than 1 million people to the 2.3 million it had in 1990.

In the same decade, Houston grew by 15 percent in the city and 25 percent in its metro area, adding 260,000 and 950,000 residents respectively.

Turbo-charged Phoenix has a current estimated metro population of 3.2 million to Houston’s 5.2 million. If the growth rates since 1990 continue — and they almost certainly won’t — Phoenix will surpass Houston in both city and metro area population between the 2020 and 2030 censuses, with both metro areas having a population of about 9 million when the graph lines cross.

But that’s just playing with numbers. A city must add a larger number of people every year to maintain the same rate of growth, and there aren’t enough people anywhere for that to continue indefinitely.

Tim Hogan, director of the Center for Business Research at Arizona State University, said state officials there predict metro Phoenix will actually grow by 2025 to about 5.2 million — where the Houston area is now. Texas State Demographer Steve Murdock projects metro Houston will reach 5.5 million in 2010 and 6.4 million in 2020.

Huh. Guess that means we don’t have to budget an edit to those “We’re Number Four!” signs any time soon.

Is there another threat to worry about?

Realistically, Atlanta may offer Houston a more immediate challenge in the growth game than Phoenix. Metropolitan Atlanta grew by 1.2 million people, or nearly 40 percent, in the 1990s, partly because several more counties were added to its metro area. However, such redefining reflects genuine suburban growth.

Murdock said Houston and Atlanta are “basically the same cities for all intents and purposes. Both have been growing very rapidly, both are in strong growth areas, and I’d hate to make the call as to which is likely to be greater in 20 years.”

Obviously, we’ll have to start annexing faster if we want to stay ahead of Atlanta. Hey, Galveston, you guys don’t really need to be a separate city, do you?

Another Texan on the ballot

Via MyDD, I see that the Libertarian Party has chosen to nominate some Texan no one has ever heard of for President instead of the charismatic and buzz-inducing Hollywood producer Aaron Russo. So much for them having an impact on this election, I guess. I love this comment from MyDD: “Is the Libertarian Party convention the one where everyone is sporting Spock ears and learning to speak in Klingon, or is it that other one where the conventioneers are somewhat less in touch with reality?” Heh.

More on the “Great Divide”

Here’s installment 3 of Bill Bishop’s series on the evolution of polarization in American society (noted previously here). This one is about how gerrymandered districts reflect the self-gerrymandered tastes of its constituents by producing more extreme winners in party primaries. Nothing terribly earth-shaking here, but I found this section interesting:

Dorothy Snyder learned about the great divide first hand.

A rancher and former Waco school board president, she ran this spring in the Republican primary for the 17th Congressional District, newly drawn to be almost 60 percent Republican — solid enough that incumbent Democrat Rep. Chet Edwards could lose.

Snyder ran against State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, who campaigned as “one of the most conservative members of the Legislature.” Wohlgemuth criticized Snyder for serving a year on the board of Waco’s Planned Parenthood of Central Texas. The very conservative Club for Growth poured money into the district supporting Wohlgemuth — published reports say more than $400,000 — and Snyder was painted as the more moderate of the two candidates.

Snyder says she opposes abortion and is a “rock-solid, 100 percent Republican.” But she clearly believes the primary played to the extreme of Republican Party beliefs.

“The process was an awakening for me,” Snyder says from her ranch near Crawford. “I did not expect to be misrepresented. And I think you’re right that the process perhaps forces that to happen.. . . Voters in the primaries are certainly not representative of those who vote in November. They skew to the edges.” Snyder lost by 8 percentage points in the primary run-off.

There is no guarantee Wohlgemuth will beat Edwards, who has served in Congress since 1990. Sooner or later, however, the heavily Republican 17th District will elect a Republican. When it does, the Democratic Party in Congress will move to the left as it loses the moderate Edwards; and the Republican Party will nudge to the right as it gains a more conservative member.

Moderates learned a lesson in the 17th District. Primary elections in heavily partisan districts will be brutal.

Would Snyder run, knowing what she knows today? “No,” she answers, laughing. “That’s easy.”

Dorothy Snyder’s experience is becoming the norm of American politics.

Colby College political scientist L. Sandy Maisel and a team of researchers went into 200 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts in the late ’90s, asking labor leaders, business executives and public officials to recommend good candidates for Congress.

Maisel then interviewed these respected citizens, asking whether they would consider pursuing public office. Nine out of ten said they would never run. Their reasons varied. None liked the idea of raising money to mount a campaign. Maisel expected that complaint.

The Maine political scientist says that one of the “biggest factors” affecting those who decided not to run was homogenous districts, designed by legislatures to be unassailably Republican or Democratic.


The prospective candidates understood that a primary campaign in a homogenous district would likely be “bitter and acerbic,” Maisel says. They sensed “that (the campaign) would be extreme, and most of the issues these people are concerned with are not at the extreme.”

They were afraid of becoming the next Dorothy Snyder, a moderate forced to compete in a highly ideological campaign against an extreme opponent before a homogenous electorate.

I’d feel better about this bit of analysis if Bishop cited one thing about Dot Snyder, the self-described “rock-solid, 100 percent Republican”, which indicated that she was in fact something of a moderate and not simply Arlene Wohlgemuth with fewer connections. Tell me more about her one year on the board of Planned Parenthood in Central Texas. How does a pro-lifer get to do that? Did it affect her opinion on the subject one way or another? I’ve sent an email to Bill Bishop asking him these questions – we’ll see if he answers.

The wounded

Here’s a moving account of four soldiers wounded in Iraq, now recovering in San Antonio at Brooke Army Medical Center. No politics, just a story of four men trying to put their lives back together. For whatever reason, the article’s pictures (mostly just headshots) are not reproduced here, but they did print the cover photo.

Wythe on Frost

Continuing his What They Need To Do To Win series, Greg Wythe lays it out for Rep. Martin Frost. Great stuff, and I hope after he’s done with the incumbents he’ll do the same for the other two Texas Tuesday-supported candidates, Richard Morrison and Morris Meyer, who may finally have his campaign blog working.

If they don’t have to drive, they don’t need to park

Just west of the Rice University campus is the Rice Village, a collection of shops and eateries that’s been there for a few decades now. It’s grown in popularity, and the surrounding area has seen a lot of new high-density housing construction. End result: parking there is a bitch.

Now, the management of the Village Arcade, a shopping center in the heart of the Village, plans to start charging a fee to patrons of surrounding businesses who use the shopping center’s parking garage.

“We’ve done some towing in the past, but that’s not a very customer-friendly way to control your parking,” said Suzanne Anderson, assistant director of property management for Weingarten Realty Management Co., which runs the shopping center.

The chronic Rice Village parking problem is not the only hassle triggered by increasing density in the Rice University area. Residents of the nearby Wessex subdivision are fighting plans for a high-rise residential building in their neighborhood, saying it would increase traffic and lower property values.

Both issues reflect Houston’s lack of appropriate planning tools to cope with the impact of new development, said David Crossley, president of the Gulf Coast Institute, a nonprofit civic improvement organization.

“It illustrates problems with public policy that allows density to occur where there is no possibility of transit relief,” Crossley said.

While buses run on Kirby and University, the MetroRail runs more than a mile east of the Village, and most customers get there by car.

City Councilman Mark Goldberg, who represents the area, said he is working with the city’s Planning Department to develop an ordinance that would require traffic studies as part of the permitting procedure for new buildings. This would enable better planning for parking and traffic management, Goldberg said.

Parking problems in Rice Village, Goldberg said, are exacerbated by employees of Village businesses who take up the limited street parking. He said he proposed installing parking meters but that Village merchants protested that idea.

“They insisted that people wouldn’t shop at their stores if they had to pay a quarter,” Goldberg said.


In 1998, Weingarten filed a lawsuit that sought to require management of a nearby bar, the Ginger Man, to instruct its patrons not to park in the Village Arcade garage. Today, a sign at the garage entrance warns that patrons of seven nearby bars and restaurants, including the Ginger Man, will be towed if they park in the garage.

David Berg, the general manager of Mi Luna, one of the restaurants named in the sign, said Rice University should consider running a shuttle between its campus and the Village to help alleviate the parking shortage. He also said he would have been amenable to paying a reasonable fee to allow his diners access to the Arcade garage.

Berg said he can understand Weingarten’s desire to preserve parking for patrons of the shopping center’s businesses. But the restrictive, turf-conscious attitude runs counter to the open, collegial environment of the Rice Village, Berg said.

“The village is designed to walk,” Berg said, noting that many diners walk to his restaurant after shopping in the Arcade just across University Boulevard. “You should be able to go wherever you want.”

Even though I work near by and there are a number of good lunch places there, I avoid the Village like the plague. The parking situation is that bad.

David Berg is on the right track here, but running a shuttle from Rice University to the Village won’t help, because the public can’t park at Rice, and the Village is close enough for students to walk there now. What they really need is for the city to run a shuttle, much like the downtown shuttles, from the light rail line through the Village. I’m thinking from the Dryden stop down University to Kirby, then to Sunset, then back down to Main and the Hermann Park/Rice U stop (see PDF map). The retailers in the Village, especially those whose customers can’t park in the Village Arcade lot, ought to be willing to help subsidize such a thing, even own it outright if Metro’s bureaucracy is too thick to penetrate.

The beauty of this plan is that it would also make the light rail line more accessible to the people who live in that area, perhaps enabling some of them to take it into downtown instead of driving. Metro gets more riders, the Village gets more shoppers, and the people who still have to drive in or through the Village area get more parking and less traffic. What’s not to like?

Chip design breakthrough at UT

Via Tom Kirkland, a team at the University of Texas is working on a prototype computer chip that can change its function according to the task at hand and in doing so achieve incredible speed.

If the chip works as planned, it will run at a top speed of 10 gigahertz and perform one trillion operations (meaning individual computing tasks) per second. In comparison, Intel Corp.’s current top-speed Pentium 4 processor runs at 3.4 gigahertz and delivers 6.8 billion operations per second. The anticipated performance has led the design team to dub the device a “supercomputer on a chip.”

The UT team has nicknamed their design “Trips,” for Tera-Op Reliable Intelligently Adaptive Processing System. The term tera-op refers to the targeted one trillion operations per second. The system would divide individual processing cores on the chip into tiny sections that could change automatically for several predetermined functions. The idea is that the processing cores would morph as instructions flowed in. Each chip could contain many processing core, which would enable a single chip to perform multiple functions simultaneously while optimizing for each. Conventional chips generally do only one thing at a time. Moreover, the distributed architecture of the UT team’s design would reduce clock delays, which limit the performance of conventional chips.

They’re still a year off from having a working chip to test, and maybe five years from a commercial product. Regardless, this is way cool.

Jackson v. Perry

UT law professor Mitchell Berman makes the case in this op-ed that SCOTUS will use the Texas redistricting lawsuit Jackson v. Perry to do what it chose not to do in Vieth v. Jubelirir and set a judiciable standard for partisan redistricting efforts. The key: mid-decade redistricting, which he thinks they may rule cannot be done strictly for partisan ends.

The Texas case, Jackson vs. Perry, offers just such an opportunity. Like Vieth, it presents a textbook example of partisan gerrymandering — one so egregious that the state itself admitted that maximizing electoral prospects for Republican candidates was “the single-minded purpose of the Texas Legislature.” But the Texas reapportionment has a new characteristic that is potentially even more dangerous: It was adopted mid-decade to replace valid, court-approved district lines.

Redistricting had always been a once-in-a-decade affair — a necessary response to population changes revealed in the decennial census. But in 2002, Colorado Republicans shocked observers by abandoning this tradition, redrawing the state’s congressional districts barely a year after new districts had been adopted. Although a state court invalidated that gambit, Texas — where Republicans had just taken control of both houses of the Legislature — followed suit last year. Republicans in Georgia and Ohio have made noises about doing the same; Democrats in California, Illinois and Oklahoma have as well.

This difference between the Texas and Pennsylvania gerrymanders serves up precisely what the Vieth case didn’t: a judicially manageable standard. The court should declare that mid-decade redistricting is unconstitutional when adopted by a single-party-dominated legislature, unless narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest.

True, this test would address only a piece of the partisan gerrymandering problem, leaving unanswered what courts should do about partisan gerrymanders enacted during the ordinary decennial cycle.

But it is a critical piece nevertheless. Decennial gerrymanders are self-limiting because, over a decade, voters die, move, even change political views. The mere passage of time reduces its power. But by gerrymandering more frequently, in mid-decade, legislatures restack the deck.

We’ll see. Unanswered for me is what practical effect this would have in 2004. I don’t see any way that the new Congressional lines can be undone now. Even if you restored them for 2006, what good would that do any incumbent who loses in the meantime? Or would the court essentially rule that the Texas GOP can get away with it this once, but no one else can? I agree that this is a good, reasonable, and easy-to-define and understand standard that SCOTUS can set, but I’m hard pressed to see what difference it’ll make.

One other thing: Will we get to see this op-ed in any Texas papers? I’d love to know if the LA Times was this UT prof’s first choice, or if they were just the first to have a spot open in their queue. I guess we’ll see if it appears elsewhere soon enough – frankly, this looks like a Sunday piece for the Chron. Besides, they had other important articles to run today.

Thanks to reader JD for the tip.

The undecideds

Electablog puts the rest of the Presidential campaign in context.

How could anyone be undecided about anything or anyone at this point?

The true believers were decided at birth. The believers have been decided since Florida. The sort of believers have been decided since Iraq. Even the “I caught a bit of the news while flipping between the WWE and Family Feud reruns on the Gameshow Network” have decided by now.

The handful of people left are the ones who could determine the outcome of this election.

And there’s the rub. In the next several months, political insiders must figure out a way to convince the people who they can’t possibly understand to see things their way. Now that should be fun to watch.

Indeed. Via Political Wire.

“The Day After Tomorrow”

There are two op-eds in today’s Chron doing some kind of point-counterpoint about the “science” of the movie The Day After Tomorrow.

Two. Freaking. Op-eds.

People. Listen to me. This movie was written and directed by the same guy who gave us Independence Day and Godzilla. That would be one movie in which the world is saved by a computer virus written in ten minutes and magically uploaded to an alien spaceship, thus causing their entire fleet to crash and burn, and a movie in which a nuclear bomb creates a giant lizard which can alternately hollow out the Chrysler Building yet still fit inside the New York subways.

Even talking about the “science” of this movie without using scare quotes is moronic. We’re all ten points of IQ dumber now because of this movie entering the sphere of public debate. Go read Julian Sanchez and Kevin Drum to put you in the right frame of mind for this movie if you insist on seeing it (Pete gave it three stars, so it must have some redeeming features). And throw those op-eds away.

Texas political briefs

Checking around the Texas blogs for (mostly) political news and notes in our state:

Greg will be looking at the electoral maps for each of the endangered Texas Democratic Congressional incumbents and from that he’ll project the outcomes they’ll need to win in November. That sounds like a must-read to me, so check out his initial effort on Rep. Chet Edwards and be sure to check back.

Byron reports that Rep. Martin Frost has got some mailers out and that former Secretary of State Madeline Albright will be in Dallas at a fundraiser for him. Cool.

Here’s an update on how things are going in Richard Morrison’s campaign. Nearly $4000 had been raised as of last night via the dKos 8 effort. And check out the story of the first Morrison House Party in Clear Lake.

Dean Terry says Dallas needs to start recycling.

The Joe Hill Dispatch found this editorial slap at Tom DeLay for his egregious hypocrisy regarding foreign interventions. Technically, that came from Oklahoma, but the JHD folks are in Forth Worth, so that counts. And they also want to invite you to hear State House candidate Ruby Woolridge speak next Wednesday.

Liberty notes some grumbling in Galveston over the Parks Board.

Writerrific notes the bad news that Texas is now number one in incarcerations, just outpacing the way-more-populous California.

Totally tubular

Looks like there will be ideal conditions for tubing on the rivers this weekend.

NEW BRAUNFELS — With excellent tubing flows expected on both the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, tourism officials are expecting business to boom this weekend as tens of thousands of tourists flock to town to kick off the summer.

“Mother Nature has been good to us,” New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce President Michael Meek said. “The releases from Canyon Dam will create optimum conditions all the way from Canyon Lake to New Braunfels.”

Riverside campgrounds reported being booked full.

“We are looking for a big weekend,” said Jerry Lara, manager at the River Haus on Farm Road 306 in Sattler. “We’re blowing up new tubes and getting ready.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Canyon Dam announced plans to cut the release rate into the Guadalupe River from 1,000 cubic feet per second to 400 cfs Thursday night and keep it there until Tuesday, when the release will jump to 2,500 cfs.

The flow for the weekend is in the prime range for tubing and rafting. The nearby Comal River is also in prime shape for tubing. The 2,500-cfs level on the Guadalupe, which will start Tuesday, is suitable only for experienced rafters and kayakers.

With Canyon Lake a couple of feet above normal and good flows into the reservoir, good tubing conditions are expected to last long into the summer this year. That should give outfitters an opportunity to continue their recovery from the disastrous 2002 season, when the July 4 flood destroyed many of the buildings and washed out business for the rest of the year, Lara said.

Meek said it would be difficult to underestimate the importance of the Memorial Day weekend to the city.

“Summer is condensed into about 10 weeks now, and the three holiday weekends (Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day) account for half of that business.”

New Braunfels police said they will be ready for the flood of river tourists as well, with extra officers patrolling the rivers.

“Play nice, be safe and don’t make waves,” Meek said. “Don’t leave your manners at home.”

“But do leave the damn beer bongs at home,” he did not add.

The Bush twins

I’m with Ted here. I see nothing good, politically or morally, coming out of an attack on Jenna and Barbara Bush. Yes, I know, they’re adults now, and they’ve done a few things to make themselves inviting targets. They’re also in the spotlight by the circumstances of their birth, not by anything over which they had control. Cut them some slack.

Now, anything they say on the campaign trail can be legitimately attacked, and if it turns out they have the same reverence for truth as every other member of the Bush team, that can be discussed as well. Just do yourself a favor and review the definition of ad hominem before you fire up your blog editor if you feel such a post coming on.

Yates house sold

The house in Clear Lake where Andrea Yates lived has been sold.

After being on the market for almost six months, the house where Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub has been sold.

Real estate agent Mike Canary said today that the home in the 900 block of Beachcomber in the Clear Lake area was sold last week. Details about the sale price and buyer were not disclosed.

The 1,620-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home in the Camino South subdivision was listed for $109,900.

A good friend of mine who lives in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago told me once about the long and frustrating search for an affordable house in that neighborhood that he and his wife undertook. One day, he came upon a place that was not only suitable for them, but within their price range. It had recently come on the market and needed some work, but was basically in good shape. While looking at the place with the realtor, though, he noticed that there was something about it that she was reluctant to tell him. Eventually, he got the truth from her: The house had been the scene of a gruesome murder not that long before, in which a man brutally killed his wife.

My friend, being of a practical nature, was actually relieved to hear this – he had feared there was a major structural flaw with the house or something like that, for why else the low price? His wife agreed with him, and they made an offer which was ultimately rejected, as another couple was even more eager to get the house. They eventually found another place and are happy there.

Knowing nothing about that crime, I had no problems seeing things my friend’s way. Knowing what I do about the Yates house, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to buy it, even if it were the perfect house for me in other respects. I’m not a superstitious person, but as far as I’m concerned that place has ghosts in it. I wish the new owners well, and hope they won’t have the same willies about it that I do.

Link dump

Lots of good stuff out there…

Al Gore’s speech. ‘Nuff said.

Kash mentions a scary word from the late 70s.

Dwight Meredith pokes a hole in the Governator’s proposal to tax punitive damage awards.

Ryan Lizza discovers that those 4 million evangelicals whom Karl Rove said didn’t vote in 2000 may be a myth (via).

Pete eulogizes Phish.

I just knew this was going to happen. Via Oliver, who needs a little help with his Google ranking.

Have I mentioned recently that Slacktivist is a national treasure? Just read his most recent “Left Behind” posts and see for yourself why.

This is not to say that The Poor Man isn’t also a treasure.

Archpundit has the last word on the story of Barack Obama’s stalker.

Mark Evanier gets the last word on “Andy Kaufman’s” blog.

In the end, though, nobody dumps links like Julia.

Road watch

Boy, that spiffy new Westpark Tollway is something else, isn’t it? Now they’ve had to close the exit ramp to the Southwest Freeway because it’s a safety hazard.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority closed the eastbound exit from the 4-week-old highway to northbound U.S. 59 on Tuesday afternoon because of concerns that its design, combined with bad driving behavior, is a recipe for collisions.

Art Storey, the county’s director of public infrastructure, said he anticipates the decision will cost the authority thousands of dollars a day, and the entire tollway might have to be closed for a time to make the safety modifications.

Here’s the problem: The ramp dumps fast-moving tollway traffic into a notoriously congested area where the Southwest Freeway approaches Loop 610. Tollway drivers wanting to reach the Inner Loop are placed in the freeway’s right lane, which shortly becomes an exit-only lane to Chimney Rock. Because the West Loop is under construction, many motorists lately have been using Chimney Rock as a back door to the Galleria area.

As dozens of cars line up while trying to move right to reach the Chimney Rock off ramp, the entering traffic attempts to merge left, creating a hazard. Adding to the trouble: A car that’s just come off the tollway then has to merge across a couple more lanes to continue on U.S. 59 because those right-hand lanes are used as exits to the Loop.

“Just envision somebody coming off our ramp at 45 mph trying to cross all that to get into the inside lanes,” Storey said. “It’s a difficult movement under the best of circumstances.”

Wow, that’s pathetic. The real problem, as I see it, is that this tollway is essentially right next to the Southwest Freeway, and there already was a spaghetti bowl of exit and entrance ramps, with lots of lanes for crossing traffic, at the 59-610 interchange. Adding in that other freeway and an extra merge just before that always-congested interchange is a recipe for disaster even without the current construction. What were they thinking?

Storey announced the ramp closure at Tuesday morning’s Commissioners Court meeting. Steve Radack, whose precinct includes the tollway, blames impatient drivers for the current design’s failure.

“It wouldn’t be this huge problem if people would not break the law, if they would pay attention to the solid white stripes” that prohibit lane changes, Radack said. “Since we have a tremendous amount of people ignoring the striping, it creates a hazard.”

Right. I will remember these words the next time a light rail critic blames confusing signage and not moron drivers for the car/train collisions. Between this and the flood problems, I’m really not feeling confident about all the other road work going on now.

Elsewhere, I see that Mayor White’s new tow truck rules, a big part of his overall transportation package, have gone through.

The key piece of the plan divides the city’s freeway network into zones and authorizes the auctioning of exclusive towing authority to one wrecker firm per zone to ensure vehicles crashed or stalled will be removed promptly.


White’s towing plan survived mostly intact, though he did agree to three modifications prior to the council meeting. In the next few months, the Houston Police Department will draft rules, set towing prices and begin negotiating contracts. White agreed to council’s request to require its approval of those rules.

The administration blessed two other changes: Wrecker companies will not need to possess heavy-duty equipment in order to bid on the segments and separate contracts will be issued for towing large trucks.

The Police Department must consult with the industry when designing the zones.

The object of all this is to prevent a logjam of tow trucks at every fender-bender, and to remove all disabled vehicles as quickly as possible. I have some sympathy for the plan’s opponents, but overall I think this is a good idea.

Another Bacardi-DeLay overview

The weekly San Antonio Current gives a brief overview of the Bacardi/DeLay story, which in their case now has the local angle of involvement from Reps. Lamar Smith and Henry Bonilla, both of whom are just shocked that anyone would dare call them sleazy. Check it out. Thanks to AJ Garcia for the tip (story also noted by The Stakeholder).


I know, it’s a silly little time-waster – then again, what on the Internet isn’t? – but I enjoyed the “Republican Survivor” trailer at DTripTV, and I signed up to watch the whole thing and participate in the voting. I’m curious to see what the DCCC has in store for its band of castaways. Check it out while registration is still open – the eliminations begin on June 3.

Morrison on TV

I may have mentioned this before, but a reminder never hurts: Richard Morrison will be on TV tonight in the Houston area (checking around, I see that this was originally scheduled for last week). Here are the details, via an email from Rob Booth:


The Real DealHouston Cable Televisions’ longest running political discussion broadcast. Now in its 15th year and hosted by liberal local attorney and longtime Democratic Party Activist, David Jones, and conservative attorney, editor Texas Conservative Review and former Republican Party Chair, Gary Polland.

TEXAS POLITICS – The Real Deal is broadcast exclusively in the Houston/Harris County area by Houston Media Source which is located on Time Warner Channel 17/18/66/82/96 (depending on your area), TV MAX (previously called Optel Cable) Channel 17 or 69, and Kingwood Cable Channel 98, respectively. No matter where you live, even an apartment, you should now be able to watch TEXAS POLITICS – The Real Deal on Houston Media Source.

This Week’s Guest: May 27, 2004
Richard Morrison
Democratic nominee, Congressional District 22 vs Tom DeLay
Remember, Thursday nights 6:30-7:30 p.m. on your local cable channel…..
and be ready to call in live with your questions for our guests! 713-807-1794

Check your local listings, as they say, and set the TiVo accordingly.

Pizza rules

Strict rules set for pizza-making

ROME — Pizza-makers beware: Italy has issued strict guidelines to protect the real Neapolitan pizza from bogus copies.

The regulations touch on everything from size to ingredients to the type of oven — and rule-abiding restaurants will receive a special label attesting that real pizza can be eaten there.

The rules, issued by the Agriculture Ministry and printed Tuesday in the country’s Official Gazette, are part of Italy’s efforts to protect its cuisine across the European Union, although it was not immediately clear what steps would be taken for enforcement.

Were she still with us, I’d have suggested a good stern talking-to by my grandmother as the enforcement mechanism. There’d be no concern about recidivism, that’s for sure.

The standards recognize only three types of real Neapolitan pizza: Marinara, with garlic and oregano; Margherita, with basil and mozzarella from the southern Apennines; and extra-Margherita, with fresh tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella from Campania, the region that includes pizza’s hometown, Naples.

The dough must be rolled out manually and baked in wood-burning ovens that can reach the required temperature of 905 degrees.

The regulations were approved after surveying pizza-makers in Naples and surrounding areas.

Restaurants that abide by the rules will get a label saying their pizza is a “guaranteed traditional specialty.”

“These norms protect one of the most ancient and most important gastronomic traditions,” said Antonio Pace, owner of one of Naples’ oldest pizza restaurants and the president of a pizza-makers’ association.

“We don’t want the others not to make pizza, only we want them to make it as we make it — as it should be done,” he said Wednesday.

I just want to say that fresh buffalo mozzarella is quite possibly nature’s perfect food. I like other stuff on my pizza too much to get hung up on what constitutues an Official Real Neapolitan pie or not, but any pizza that starts with buffalo mozzarella is going to be worth eating.

Damn. Now I’m hungry.

Morrison one of the dKOS 8

The Richard Morrison campaign ought to get a decent fundraising boost out of being named one of the eight highlighted races at Daily Kos. There are some interesting comments in this thread, with this one being easily the most noticeable.

Of course, all the money in the world won’t help if there aren’t enough voters there who are willing to push the button for change. I note with some pleasure that there’s at least one new Morrison voter in the district.

Tom Clancy on Iraq

So, you know that Tom Clancy is the coauthor with Gen. Anthony Zinni of the new book “Battle Ready”, in which Gen. Zinni is highly critical of the Bush administration for its invasion and occupation of Iraq. Here’s what Clancy has to say about one of the main architects of this miserable failure:

In discussing the Iraq war, both Clancy and Zinni singled out the Department of Defense for criticism. Clancy recalled a prewar encounter in Washington during which he “almost came to blows” with Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser at the time and a longtime advocate of the invasion.

“He was saying how (Secretary of State) Colin Powell was being a wuss because he was overly concerned with the lives of the troops,” Clancy said. “And I said, ‘Look, he’s supposed to think that way!’ And Perle didn’t agree with me on that. People like that worry me.”

“Overly concerned with the lives of the troops”. Put that on one of those “We support President Bush and the troops” yard signs and smoke it.

More for the Anecdotal Evidence of Republican Disenchantment With Bush Department:

Both Clancy and Zinni praised President Bush but would not commit to voting for him. Clancy said that voting for Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, would be “a stretch for me,” but wouldn’t say that he was supporting Bush.

Zinni, a registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, said he could not support the president’s re-election “if the current strategists in the Defense Department are going to be carried over.”

As Big Media Matt notes, while the reluctance of Bush’s wavering base to actually take the last step and embrace Kerry is a problem, just getting them to sit it out would still be a win.

Charlie Cook on the races

In case you’re wondering why so many of us have been pounding the Texas Tuesdays concept these past few weeks, check out what Charlie Cook has to say (PDF) about (among others) the Texas Congressional races. All the races highlighted there are considered tossups, but it’s clear that all of them are uphill battles. That’s why we’re here, to do what we can to help make a difference. Via Political Wire.

UPDATE: Byron summarizes the Texas races for those who don’t want to launch Adobe PDF Reader.

Texas Tuesday wrapup: Max Sandlin

Thanks for another successful Texas Tuesday, featuring Rep. Max Sandlin this week. We hope you enjoy reading about the candidates and getting the chance to help them out.

We were asked in the comments yesterday about an RSS feed. This is a Movable Type site, so it creates a feed automatically – it’s One thing we hope to have soon is a little utility that can be added to one’s sidebar which will show recent posts. We’ll announce that here when it’s ready.

Next week we’ll be featuring Rep. Chet Edwards. You can get an early jump on helping Edwards, as well as giving one last boost to Sandlin, by voting in this Longview News-Journal poll. It’s not scientific, of course, but what the heck, it’s fun.

Thanks to everyone who helped promote this week’s event:

A Perfectly Cromulent Blog

Burnt Orange Report

Greg’s Opinion

Sisyphus Shrugged

The People’s Republic of Seabrook

Appalachia Alumni Association

Barefoot and Naked

Get Donkey!


The Joe Hill Dispatch

The Stakeholder

A number of blogs (which I haven’t yet fully counted) have also added the TT link to their sidebar. We thank you very much for that, too!

Free bikes

Say what you will about the Harris County GOP, they’ve got a lot of money and they’re not afraid to spend it.

The Harris County Republican Party took a marketing strategy successfully used by Coca-Cola and Nike to the East End on Tuesday in hopes of building inroads with Houston’s Hispanic voters.

Local GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill and two Hispanic Republican judges handed out about 246 bicycles to students of J.R. Harris Elementary School.

The bicycles were awarded to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who passed all portions of this year’s Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

“We hope this will encourage them to study hard and improve themselves,” Woodfill said. “Of course, we would also like to see them vote Republican when the time comes.”

That the Republican Party chose J.R. Harris is no coincidence. Both major parties are wooing the growing Hispanic population, and J.R. Harris is in the middle of one of the city’s most heavily Hispanic neighborhoods.

Many residents are first- and second-generation immigrants who have not built the same party allegiance that often passes down from parent to child in white, black and longer-established Hispanic families.


J.R. Harris Principal Jaime Casteñeda said whatever the political implications may be, the reward spurred students to work harder with hopes of getting one of the free bicycles. Many prepared for the test after regular classes and on Saturdays.

“These kids work hard all year,” Casteñeda said, “but the bikes made them work harder.”

He said 78.4 percent of the 301 students who took the TAKS passed all portions.

That is a remarkable achievement, he said, since two-thirds of students who start kindergarten at the school speak only Spanish. By the time they reach fifth grade, all students take TAKS and other standardized tests only in English.

The school’s population is 96 percent Hispanic, and three of every four students is considered at-risk to fail or drop out. Ninety-eight percent of the students receive free or reduced-price meals.

Woodfill said he expects to expand the program, called “Christmas in May,” to five other schools in minority neighborhoods that historically have voted Democratic. The party worked out a deal with Wal-Mart to get the bicycles awarded this year for $30 each.

Later this year, the party plans to open a second headquarters in a Hispanic neighborhood.

What can I say? It’s a brilliant idea, a modern twist on the old Tammany Hall playbook. Will it get a few more people to vote GOP? Probably. Your move, Democrats.

Panhandle Truth Squad

Via Byron, I’m pleased to discover a blog called the Panhandle Truth Squad, run by three liberal types out in West Texas. The Texas Political Bloggers list is pretty much dominated by Houston, Austin, and Dallas. I’d love to see some folks from out west (especially El Paso, which is in many ways unlike every other city/region in the state), in the Valley, the Hill Country, and East Texas get on the blogwagon and keep us urbanites up to date on what’s going on around there. This is a good start. Check it out.

More on Max Sandlin

It’s still Tuesday, so there’s still time to participate in Texas Tuesdays and lend a hand to Rep. Max Sandlin. Check out what Gary has posted about him, and do what you can to make a difference in this tight race.

Oval Office Space

This re-interpretation of Office Space is pretty damn funny. Long, but funny. Check it out. Via The Gadflyer.

Texas Tuesdays: Max Sandlin

A bit of a late start today, but that’s OK because today’s featured candidate, Rep. Max Sandlin, is worth waiting for. He’s got a spiffy new website and another cookie-cutter redistricting-abetted opponent, so hop on over, check him out, and toss him a few coins if you can. Be sure to check back later today for more info – there’s been some action up in the 1st CD lately.


Man, Julia really is something else when she gets on a roll, isn’t she? Marvelous.

One thing to note, from this WhiteHouseForSale post that she quotes:

The Associated Press reports that while Democratic-leaning 527 groups are receiving in large contributions, Republican-leaning 527s are having difficulty finding super-sized donors of soft money.

“They don’t seem to exist, or they’re afraid to come forward,” David Keating, executive director of the Club for Growth conservative anti-tax group, said of million-dollar-plus GOP donors. “We’re certainly going to work to try to change it.” And a number of explanations are being offered.

Republican fundraiser Matt Keelen suggests that most Republican donors are businessmen who are inherently more conservative with their money.

And Jackson “Steve” Stephens of Arkansas says that CEOs must report to boards, whose members may not be comfortable giving big money to organizations that are independent, less well-known and, therefore, less “reputable” than an established political party.

Aren’t we overlooking an obvious reason here? I’ll give you a hint – it’s a three-word Latin phrase that means what for what.

And I agree with Jesse. They should definitely use the Club for Growth as their spiritual guide.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum reminds us that the GOP version of the 527 is the 501(c).