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October 27th, 2004:

I knew TiVo would get it right in the end

After complaining about how ABC was running a couple of shows I like past their expected end time, thus causing TiVo to stop recording too soon, I was pleased to see an urgent programming note on my set the other day informing me that “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives”, among other shows, are now scheduled to go an extra minute and to check my season passes as needed. Hurrah for TiVo!

Mark Evanier, TiVoholic extraordinaire, proposes a more general solution. Sounds good to me.

Anecdotal evidence update

I took another drive through my neighborhood, making sure I covered every block this time, to get an updated yard sign count. With a week to go before the election, the count stands 163 for Kerry, and 33 for Bush. That’s actually a pretty substantial improvement for Bush since last time – the new signs tally as 89 Kerry, 27 Bush, taking the ratio from over 12-1 to just under 5-1. That’s also still a better performance for the Democratic ticket in my highly Democratic neighborhood than in 2000, and from what I can tell there’s just a heck of a lot more signs overall.

A few notes:

– I didn’t see the Michael Badnarik sign this time around, but I did see one lonely sign for Green Party candidate David Cobb.

– Other candidates for whom I saw signs were Democrats Richard Morrison, John Martinez, Jim Dougherty (none of whom would represent this neighborhood, as their districts are elsewhere), Sheila Jackson Lee, Kathy Stone, Bruce Mosier, Jim Sharp, and Dale Gorczynski; Republicans Ted Poe (also not representing this area; typically, the sign in question read “Bush/Cheney/Poe”, with Poe’s name barely visible on the bottom), Chuck Rosenthal, Sharon McCally, and Riecke Baumann; and Libertarian Congressional candidate Brent Sullivan (running against Jackson Lee, who actually does represent this area). There were in fact quite a few signs for Jim Sharp, which is not too surprising since he lives here. Though I could probably infer support for one Presidential candidate or the other via these signs, I didn’t count a house unless it had a genuine Kerry or Bush placard.

– I saw exactly one house with a sign for the city propositions (it advocated a vote for Prop 2). Two hundred plus houses with campaign signs, and one having anything to do with the election that will have the biggest impact on all of them. That’s what I call confusion.

When Hammers attack

Tom DeLay, less than two weeks ago, on why he wouldn’t debate Richard Morrison:

“His name ID is nothing.”

DeLay must now be assuming that people know who Richard Morrison is, because he’s got an attack ad running that links Morrison to various evildoers (John Kerry! Howard Dean! Teenage immigrant welfare mothers on drugs!), which I saw last night on Channel 11. And now he’s continuing the attack himself.

DeLay supporters have pointed to a calendar listing on the Morrison Web site as a smoking gun linking Morrison to the LaRouchians.

“LaRouche is a con felon and all I can tell you is that Mr. Morrison has supported and campaigned with LaRouche followers and Mr. Morrison also has taken money and is working with the Daily Kos, which is an organization that raises money for fighters against the U.S. in Iraq,” said DeLay.

Morrison called DeLay out of line, accusing his connections in the capital for fighting his battles.

“Instead of addressing the real issues between us, the (National Republican Congressional Committee) decided to make a public calendar of political events in the 22nd district to make outlandish charges against me,” Morrison said.

“He should come forward and address (his recent legal and ethical problems) openly instead of using his Washington friends to lodge attacks.”

Via the aforementioned Kos.

Go back and read that again. This is the Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives. He’s one of the five or six most powerful people in the country, he’s got access to zillions of dollars, he’s got over a quarter-century of experience representing his district in Austin and Washington, DC, and in the waning days of a campaign against a modestly-funded, longshot first-time candidate, he’s screeching about bloggers and Lyndon LaRouche. He can’t campaign on who he is and what he’s done any more, mostly because what he’s done lately is get his ass reprimanded left and right for sleazy behavior, so this is what’s left for him. Does anybody out there still cling to the belief that he isn’t running scared? What a sad, pathetic little man he is.

The poor man is becoming delusional, too.

SUGAR LAND, Texas — “I did 95 doors yesterday in a little over two hours,” said Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who has traded his hard-soled dress shoes for white running sneakers since Congress recessed for the election.

“I love knocking on doors,” DeLay said Sunday, after giving a pep talk to nearly 20 precinct-walking volunteers in his campaign headquarters, tucked near a golf course in the Greatwoods planned community on the outskirts of Houston.

[…]

DeLay’s reelection campaign committee has organized precinct walks in the past, but not to the extent it is now — at least, not in years. His campaign is also airing an estimated $250,000 in television advertisements, after buying virtually no TV time during the past several elections.

And, personally, DeLay is throwing himself into his reelection effort, an effort that in the past required little of his time and attention. This past weekend, the solemn business suit, the standard uniform in Washington’s corridors of power, was gone, dropped in favor of collared shirt sleeves embossed with the American flag, all the better for navigating precincts in the heat and humidity of southeast Texas, still sweltering in late October.

DeLay decided unexpectedly last week to participate in a debate against Democrat Richard Morrison and two third-party candidates organized by a local high school’s debating team. It was the first time in political observers’ memory that DeLay had exposed himself to the barbs of political pygmies in a campaign debate.

He loves block walking, but it’s been years since he’s done any. Given the choice between knocking on doors in Clear Lake to introduce himself to new constituents, and holding big-money fundraisers for fellow Republicans – you know, like the ones who are trying to win in the new districts he drew for them – which do you think DeLay would rather do?

Validation time:

[Poll] numbers have prompted the conservative Club for Growth to spend tens of thousands of dollars on television ads in the district defending DeLay. David Keating, the group’s executive director, said that it wouldn’t have if DeLay had an easy race.

“People wouldn’t pay attention to them and [the ads] wouldn’t be a factor in what people are thinking regarding these issues,” he said.

Which is what I’ve been saying all along. Via The Stakeholder.

UPDATE: In case you want to find out more about Tom DeLay’s fascinating claims about Kos’ fundraising, you can contact his campaign via these addresses and phone numbers.

UPDATE: The Morrison campaign responds to DeLay:

“Tom DeLay has crossed the line many times before but this time he’s gone beyond the pale…even for Tom DeLay. In a desperate attempt to shore up his support by making outrageous claims about me he has libeled an American veteran. He claims Daily Kos is an organization that raises money for anti-American Iraqi fighters. This is a bald-faced lie. The Daily Kos is not an organization. It is a blog written by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, a veteran of the U.S. Army. Daily Kos doesn’t shy away from pointing out DeLay’s ethical and legal problems but that doesn’t make Markos a terrorist sympathizer. This is the United States of America and freedom of speech is a right that Tom DeLay can’t over ride just because he doesn’t like what you’re saying…even if he thinks he is the federal government.”

Indeed.

RIP, Robert Merrill

Opera singer and New York Yankees fixture Robert Merrill has died at the age of 87.

Merrill died Saturday at his home in suburban New York City, family friend Barry Tucker said Monday. Reference books gave conflicting ages for Merrill, 87 or 85.

Merrill performed around the country with Tucker’s father, tenor Richard Tucker, the younger man said. “My father felt that he had the greatest natural voice that America created,” he said.

Merrill, once described in Time magazine as “one of the Met’s best baritones,” became as well-known to New York Yankees fans for his season-opening rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner — a tradition that began in 1969.

[…]

Merrill’s lifelong enthusiasm for baseball led to his long tenure at Yankee Stadium, where he sang the national anthem on opening day for three decades.

Merrill, who often appeared in a pinstriped shirt and tattered Yankees necktie, performed the same duty for the Yankees during the World Series, the playoffs and at Old-timers Day.

He took the job seriously and once said he didn’t appreciate when singers tried to ad lib with “distortions.”

“When you do the anthem, there’s a legitimacy to it,” Merrill told Newsday in 2000. “I’m bothered by these different interpretations of it.”

Yankees team spokesman Howard Rubenstein called Merrill “a true inspiration for us, the ballplayers and all of our fans. … We dearly miss him.”

When I ranted about some modern “interpretations” of the National Anthem, it was with Merrill’s version in mind as the gold standard. Nobody did it better than Robert Merrill. Rest in peace.

Crime up, crime down

I’m not quite sure what to make of this Chron story about crime rates in Houston and Harris County.

Crime was down inside the Houston city limits last year, but the FBI reported Monday that many of the crimes committed in the unincorporated areas of Harris County continued to rise, furthering a trend that became apparent in 2001.

[…]

Houston’s crime numbers met or bested improvements seen nationally. It was an improvement from 2002, when the city recorded increases in most types of crime.

Last year, the city posted a 3.9 percent drop in violent crimes from the previous year, edging out the 3 percent decrease reported nationwide. The city also reported a 3.4 percent drop in property crimes, outpacing the nation’s marginal decrease.

Homicides increased 8.6 percent last year, but Houston recorded fewer forcible rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts, car thefts and arsons than the year before.

Unincorporated Harris County did not fare so well. While some numbers dropped — most significantly, homicide and auto thefts — there were increases in most types of crime, including rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and thefts.

The FBI report notes that the county numbers “do not reflect county totals, but are the numbers reported by the sheriff’s office or county police.”

The Houston numbers were slightly better, marking a nearly 11 percent jump in robberies, a 5 percent rise in burglaries and a nearly 4 percent boost in larcenies and thefts.

Reported rapes during this period declined nearly 19 percent, while auto thefts dropped 11 percent and aggravated assaults dropped marginally, Houston figures show.

The bit that puzzles me is in the penultimate paragraph. The accompanying graphic does not go into that much detail, but it shows a decrease in robberies in Houston from 2002 to 2003 (no data on burglaries or larcenies). How that squares with “a nearly 11 percent jump in robberies” is a mystery to me.

Regardless, the overall trend is a good one, and one that I’m sure correlates with the real estate boom in and around downtown. The Houston Heights was considered a scary place to live 20 years ago, and I can recall looking at quite a few rent houses in the Montrose area circa 1990 with burglar bars on them. Not any more.

Have you voted yet?

Well, I did my civic duty this morning at the Fiesta on Kirby, which is a couple of blocks from where I work. I arrived at about 6:50, and there were already 20 people lined up ahead of me. We had to wait until the doors opened at 7, but it didn’t take me long after that. Early voting ends at 7 PM on Friday, so don’t wait too long.

Just over 200,000 people in the Top 15 counties voted on Monday, including 42,000 in Harris County. That was the heaviest early-voting day so far. I think Harris County will break 20% turnout by the end of the week; of course, Collin, Williamson, and Travis Counties are at 20% already, with Denton close behind. Those guys ought to break 30%, which is truly astounding.