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July 28th, 2004:

“Simpsons” goes gay

Do I really need to tell you that when a character on The Simpsons is going to be coming out of the closet, your first stop for exhaustive speculation as to who that character might be should be A Perfectly Cromulent Blog? I didn’t think so.

Morrison poll numbers

Hard not to get at least a little excited at these poll numbers.

Beattie Hamilton & Staff for the DCCC. Poll details unknown.

DeLay (R) 49
Morrison (D) 39
Fjetland (I) 7

DeLay is running 11 points behind Bush/Cheney (which means Bush is garnering 60 percent in the district). DeLay also runs poorly in Galveston County, which has just been added to the district. The theory is that the county, which was cut in half by DeLay’s redistricting, is unhappy with the maneouver — a theme echoed by every Texas Democrat I have talked to the last week.

Morrison’s name ID is apparently non-existant, so there’s room to grow.

Andrew D, Greg, and Sarah are all doing the happy dance with me.

I basically agree with Greg that most of Fjetland’s support comes straight from DeLay – Fjetland did get 20% or so of the vote each time he ran in the Republican primary against DeLay. It’d be nice to turn some of those supporters, or to convince Fjetland that dropping out and endorsing Morrison is in his best interests, but I’m not going to sweat it too much.

I do believe that this year is the best chance to get rid of DeLay. Everything is going as well as it could be – Democrats are fired up, Galveston County voters have a beef with DeLay for his role in splitting them from the rest of the county, Morrison is as good a candidate as one could hope for, and of course there are all of DeLay’s ethical problems. Maybe if he wins and later resigns the seat could be turned, but I’d have to give the nod to a less-encumbered-by-baggage Republican in that scenario. The time is now, that’s pretty much all there is to it.

I got email from a friend today asking which Democratic Congressional candidates he ought to donate to. I ranked them in different ways for him, and listed Morrison first even as I characterized him as a huge underdog. Well, maybe I was wrong about calling him that. Consider this to be my penance for that.

UPDATE: MyDD notes that Common Cause and CREW have joined the outside-counsel chorus. It should be noted that Melanie Sloan of CREW drafted the complaint for Chris Bell. There’s also a link to this AP wire story which notes that the Republican half of the jury pool from wihch the Ethics Committee could draw consists entirely of DeLay PAC money recipients.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s political action committee gave $81,077 in the last decade to 10 Republicans who could be asked to investigate allegations that the Texas lawmaker misused his office.


Should the committee choose to investigate, it could appoint four of its members, two from each party, to conduct the inquiry.

Or the committee could assign the investigation to two of its members – one from each party – and one Republican and one Democrat from a larger pool. The pool, appointed by party leaders, consists of 10 members from each party.

All 10 Republicans appointed by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., received money from Mr. DeLay’s PAC, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan organization that tracks contributions. The donations ranged from the $545 to Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas to $20,000 to Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk.

Mr. DeLay has said the contributions do not create a conflict because, he noted, Democrats on the committee also have accepted donations from party leaders’ fund-raising groups.

Mr. DeLay also said congressional watchdog groups that criticized his fund raising activities are tools of the Democratic Party.

Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s two PACs have given $55,000 to three Democrats in the pool since 2000, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

That last bit would be relevant if Nancy Pelosi were being investigated, but she isn’t. Tom DeLay is, and this is just another smokescreen on his part.

Comment problem fixed (again)

Apparently, I had a repeat of the webhost problem which gave “permission denied” errors when commenting, and which also prevented me from posting before now. I saved a few things in draft and have now published them. Dreamhost has assured me that they fixed the underlying cause, so I trust this will be the last of this particular problem. Thanks!

Where’d I put those backups?

I’m sure you’ve seen the story of Florida’s latest voting woes by now.

A computer crash erased detailed records from Miami-Dade County’s first widespread use of touchscreen voting machines, raising again the specter of elections troubles in Florida, where the new technology was supposed to put an end to such problems.

The crashes occurred in May and November of 2003, erasing information from the September 2002 gubernatorial primaries and other elections, elections officials said Tuesday.

The malfunction was made public after the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a citizen’s group, requested all data from the 2002 gubernatorial primary between Democratic candidates Janet Reno and Bill McBride.

In December, officials began backing up the data daily, to help avoid similar data wipeouts in the future, said Seth Kaplan, spokesman for the county’s elections supervisor, Constance Kaplan.

The loss of data underscores problems with the touchscreen voting machines, the citizen’s group said. “This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. “Of course it’s worrisome.”

The group is concerned about the machines’ effectiveness, following revelations about other problems with the system. Last month, state officials said the touchscreen systems used by 11 counties had a bug that would make a manual recount impossible. Earlier this month, a newspaper study indicated touchscreen machines did not perform as well as those that scanned paper ballots.

I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, that I believe the touch-screen voting machines should merely be used as an interface, with a printed ballot that’s counted by optical-scan machines used as the actual vote of record. I could be persuaded to support using the machine counts as official, with paper ballots as backup only and for recounts, but either way I feel that having that kind of redundancy built into the system is a Good Thing. What happens if the two don’t match? Well, then you’ve got a problem on your hands, as the whole point is that the two are supposed to match, but I’d say the paper ballot, which each voter gets after pushing the buttons and then drops into a ballot box, is the official record any time there’s a discrepancy. I really don’t see what’s so controversial about this.

Greg has been on a bit of a tear lately about the perceptions of security of electronic voting machines and allegations that they lack in various areas, and while I think he makes some good points, the point that I keep coming back to is that we’ve all basically been told to trust Diebold, Hart Intercivic, and all the other voting machine makers. What alarms me about this Florida article isn’t my tinfoil-hat “oh my god they’re going to steal the election!” instincts, it’s the thought that it took a catastrophic failure – and its discovery by a citizens’ group – for anyone to suggest that regular backups of this data might be a good idea. How can you put any faith in that kind of process? Has anyone asked Beverly Kaufman what kind of backup procedures Harris County has? At least with paper ballots, you can point to a locked storage room somewhere.

We don’t really know how robust and stable these machines are, and the reason we don’t know is because the manufacturers won’t tell us. That would mean parting with their trade secrets. Given a choice between their intellectual property and the integrity of my voting system, I’ll choose the latter every day. I’m not an open-source evangelist, but I can’t see why that isn’t the right model to emulate here.

I certainly have no desire to go back to punch cards. I actually like the eSlate interface, and I feel confident that with such an interface all kinds of problems such as overvotes and undervotes can be eliminated. All I’m really asking for here is transparency. Can we all agree on that?

Popup redux

Awhile back, I bashed the GOP for including pop-up ads as part of its Internet outreach strategy. I stand by my assertion that pop-ups are a stupid way to reach consumers, especially considering their looming obsolescence thanks to pop-up-blocking technology, but as Rob has pointed out, the madness now appears to be a bipartisan one. If you’ll excuse me, there’s a wall around here that needs a little head-banging. And if one of you convention-attending bloggers could figure out who in the Kerry camp was responsible for this and give him or her a dope-slap for me, I’d be much obliged.

That’s why they call it “parody”

You’d think that with all of the scandals and investigations surrounding him that Tom DeLay wouldn’t have a whole lot of free time for frivolity, but apparently you’d be wrong.

A super-sized Statue of Liberty, holding aloft an order of french fries, is adorning food tray liners in Subway restaurants across Germany. And House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, is angry enough about it to lose his lunch.

“This is every bad stereotype about corporate America come true,” DeLay said in a news release.

The ad in German, whose headline translates as “Why are Americans so fat?” is a promotional tie-in to the movie Super Size Me, director Morgan Spurlock’s take on life in the fast-food lane.

In his award-winning documentary, the American filmmaker eats nothing but McDonald’s Quarter Pounders, Egg McMuffins and the like for 30 days, gaining 25 pounds and reportedly risking his health.

Milford, Conn.-based Subway has long marketed its restaurants as a healthier alternative to fast food.

Jared Fogle, the Subway spokesman who once tipped the scales at 435 pounds, only to lose 245 pounds on a diet of Subway sandwiches, makesa brief appearance in the movie.

Subway officials point out that the prime images on the tray liners — the goateed, fry-stuffing madman and the Rubenesque Lady Liberty — were both borrowed directly from the movie promotions running in Germany.

No similar Subway ads ran in the United States.

And Subway officials dispute the notion the tray liners are somehow un-American.

“It’s an American movie, made by an American, made about an American issue, shown to Americans,” Subway spokesman Kevin Kane said.

Here’s a picture. I thought it was pretty funny, but then maybe I’m just another America hater.

“I guess for some companies, corporate patriotism is as flexible as Jared’s waistline,” DeLay said.

DeLay objected to the ad’s parody of the Statue of Liberty, “one of the most recognizable American symbols.”

So I presume then that DeLay would have objected to a parody like this, too? I don’t recall hearing about his press release for that one, but maybe I just missed it.

I can’t believe Tom DeLay has never seen a parody of the Statue of Liberty before. Did he grow up without ever once seeing a Warner Brothers cartoon in which a low-flying plane or other fast-moving object caused the statue’s skirts to billow up? Has he never once looked at a MAD Magazine? The Statue of Liberty, like Uncle Sam and Santa Claus, gets parodied precisely because it’s so recognizable a symbol. What’s the point of parodying something no one’s ever heard of?

Here’s a bunch of parodied images from art and pop culture – I’ve linked directly to a few favorites below. I’m sure there are plenty more out there, but I don’t have the time to do a really thorough search. If you’re in the mood for some research, please do feel free to leave any results in the comments.

UPDATE: Jack takes his shots at DeLay as well.