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January 11th, 2005:

Voters subpoenaed

Like Greg, I note that three of the four people quoted in this Chron story about subpoenas being sent to testify before the State House in the Heflin contest voted for the Republican. I think that ought to put a dent in the crazy idea that there was some kind of nefarious Democratic plot to steal that election. What say you, Andy Taylor?

One other thing:

“If a person interferes with an election unjustly, they have no right of privacy as to who they voted for,” [Rep. Will] Hartnett said. “Historically, I don’t believe they have been forced, but that doesn’t bind me. I have the ability to compel illegal voters to divulge who they voted for.”

One subpoenaed voter, Henry Akuchie, described a day of confusion when he tried to vote Nov. 2.

Akuchie, a native of Nigeria who has been a U.S. citizen since 1993, had lived in Vo’s and Heflin’s district until a recent move to Sugar Land. He said he was sent to three different polling sites on Election Day.

“I ran around. It took me almost two hours,” he said. “I just hope my vote counts. How could I have done anything wrong? All I wanted to do was vote somewhere.”

He said he voted for Vo.

Isn’t Rep. Hartnett making a presumption of guilt here in his statement that he could force a voter like Henry Akuchie to give up his privacy? Shouldn’t Team Heflin be required to show some evidence of an intent to “interfere with an election unjustly” before Henry Akuchie can be dragged before the committee? Why isn’t Mr. Akuchie’s word that he acted in good faith given any weight?

Meanwhile, the Senate has set a good example for their brethren and sistren in the lower chamber. Let’s hope the House is paying attention.

Coleman pleads Not Guilty

The perjury trial of disgraced gypsy cop Tom Coleman is underway. He has pleaded “not guilty” to the charges before him.

Tom Coleman is accused of lying under oath during a March 2003 evidentiary hearing about his investigation, which led to the arrests of 46 Tulia residents, 39 of them black.

A jury of seven men and five women was seated Monday, along with one female alternate.

The trial was moved to the 72nd District Court in Lubbock County after Swisher County prosecutors asked for a change of venue.

Coleman’s indictments do not directly relate to the drug cases. Rather, he is accused of lying about stealing gasoline from a Cochran County-owned pump for his personal car and about when he learned that he faced a Cochran County theft charge.

On Monday, prosecutors waived a third perjury count in the indictment.

This trial may have some high-powered witness testimony:

The prosecution’s witness list includes some high-profile names, including [Governor Rick] Perry and Sen. John Cornyn, who was Texas attorney general at the time of the drug busts. Also on the list is retired state District Judge Ron Chapman, who presided over the March 2003 hearings and called Coleman “the most devious, nonresponsive law-enforcement witness this court has witnessed in 25 years on the bench.”

After jury selection, the subpoena for Perry was quashed because a Travis County constable submitted the summons to a general counsel instead of the governor.

Special prosecutor Rod Hobson vowed to reissue the subpoena and threatened to hold the constable in contempt for not serving the governor.

It was believed that Cornyn, whose subpoena was issued Jan. 4, had not been served by late Monday.

According to Alan Bean of Tulia Friends of Justice, other potential witnesses include “public officials from Cochran County, every defense attorney involved in the Tulia drug trials, a laundry list of Tulia defendants, Sheriff Larry Stewart, former District Attorney Terry McEachern, Judges Ed Self and Jack Miller, [and] Lubbock attorney Charlotte Bingham”. Bean has another guest post up from the trial, and I may have to drive up to Lubbock and hound him until he agrees to start his own blog. Anyone who can seamlessly use a word like “contumacious” and be in the right place to overhear a quote like the following about Tom Coleman’s defense attorney is someone we should all be reading every day: “It’s like Gordon Liddy and Johnnie Cochran had a baby and named him John Read.” Go forth and check it out.

Online newspapers come to a fork in the road

This way (via Greg and Keir)?

1.) More blog-style journalism done by the News & Record staff. This is not exactly a surprise, since it was the blogging boss who asked the blogger Lex to compile the report.

2.) More participatory or open source journalism where readers or “affiliated” bloggers from the community are the knowledge engine or the agenda setter.

3.) A new and strikingly different Web philosophy for www.news-record.com, stressing open standards, transparency, interaction, dialogue, linking widely– in a word, a different kind of site. Including a permanent, free archive, in itself a mini-revolution if enacted.

Or that way (via Kevin)?

Newspaper industry consultant John Morton, who heads Morton Research Inc., said he thinks many newspapers want to wean readers off free online content and transform their Web sites into paid-only publications.

Free editions of newspapers on the Web are “quickly falling out of favor,” he said. “I think you will see newspapers selling electronic subscriptions or print subscriptions, or a combination of both, which is what the Wall Street Journal does, and has been very successful at.”

Kevin is quite right to say that this would be the death of political blogging as we know it. I’d be pretty dry of source material, that’s for sure. As a subscriber to the print version of the Chron, I’d expect access to their online edition to be included. Without a whole lot extra in the online version that I can’t get otherwise, I’d never consider paying a second fee. I only pay for content from two places right now – Salon and Baseball Prospectus. I can think of quite a few sites I’ve stopped going to (TopFive being chief among them) because they switched to a pay format.

As for the former option, I think it has more promise than Greg does. Recruiting blogger types to cover low-volume but high-interest-for-those-who-care things like high school sporting events and neighborhood issues is a great idea, as are open archives and the “must link out” policy. Having comments on news stories, however, is something that I think would fail – I’d bet they very quickly become the kind of unreadable wankfest that would make Usenet’s signal-to-noise ratio look good. I’d have more faith in comments on things like restaurant reviews and feature columns, but even those would be no sure thing. Still, there are lots of good ideas there, and almost all of them would be worth considering.

Which way are we more likely to go? Beats me. What do you think?

Radnofsky makes it official

Vince brings us the news that Barbara Radnofsky is indeed now an official candidate for the Senate in 2006. This is reflected on her campaign website, which by the way has a rather cleverly named (though permalink-free) blog on it. No word on Radnofsky’s candidacy in the media yet, so nicely scooped, Vince.

Bye-bye, Beltran

So now that Carlos Beltran has left the Astros, the question is are they better off without having to spend the kind of money it took to sign him? Tom Kirkendall says Yes, while David Pinto thinks the Mets got a bargain.

Personally, I don’t think the annual salary is as important a consideration as the length of the contract. Beltran is a very good player, but he’ll be 34 in the last year of this contract, and for sure he won’t be as good then as he is now. He’s got no history of injury, and he’s got the type of skill set (in particular, speed) that ages well, but those last couple of years are a huge risk. Throw in the no-trade clause, which will cost more to waive in the event he no longer fits in with the long-term strategy down the line, and one can certainly argue that losing out on him is not the end of the world. No guarantees, of course, but it’s reasonable to see it that way.

By the way, did the Mets have a great offseason or what? Omar Minaya did some pretty good things with a spare-change budget in Montreal, and now he’s showing he can spend money, too. Joe Sheehan gives them their props.