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April, 2005:

Video? What video?

Defense attorneys in the Enron Broadband trial are claiming that a video which shows one former EBS executiva making false claims about the company’s capabilities, was never shown to stock analysts, contrary to prosecution claims.

Defense attorney Tony Canales on Friday showed jurors video production records of a 2000 analyst meeting that did not reference the taped presentation that was shown to the jury on Tuesday.

He also introduced into evidence raw video footage taken of the entire Jan. 20, 2000, conference in Houston that he says proves the tape was never shown there.

But U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore ruled that the raw video could not be shown to jurors until Monday, after the prosecution team had a chance to review it.

The Enron Task Force has said it will not comment while the trial is ongoing.

Throughout the 2000 presentation, video speeches of company technology experts were played to explain to analysts the capabilities and business plans of Enron Broadband Services.

Jurors on Tuesday saw two brief video segments that featured Rex Shelby, the former senior vice president of engineering and operations for EBS, who is one of the five executives currently on trial.

The first segment focused on the Enron broadband network, which had some technical capabilities. The second was of Shelby touting current capabilities of operating-system software that prosecutors maintain never worked.

Canales, who represents Scott Yeager, a former vice president of the Internet division, claims the latter segment was inserted sometime after the conference.


Under questioning Friday, Ken Rice, the former co-CEO of EBS, maintained the tape was indeed shown to analysts at the conference.

Rice, who is cooperating with the government as part of a plea agreement, told jurors Tuesday he had seen the Shelby video at the conference and at the time was “surprised that it was so consistently present … because I knew we hadn’t created that.”

That’s a pretty big claim by the defense. If they can back it up, it’ll blow a huge hole in the prosecution’s case. There’s a risk here, though, which is that I think juries are pretty skeptical of claims about evidence being tampered with. If the jury doesn’t buy the defense’s claim, I think they’ll be much more likely to convict. Stay tuned.

Radio from the road

Yes, I managed to survive Olivia’s swim lesson today and make it to my cellphone on time to do the weekly gig on BizRadio 1320 today. And before anyone asks, no, I wasn’t talking while driving – Tiffany drove us all home while I gabbed. We talked about Olivia’s poolside debut (and later on, Olivia spoke up to make her radio debut as well), about the mega telecom bill that you’ve been seeing ads about, about the Enron Broadband trial (check for an update on that one today), and finally about the awesome Plunk Biggio blog. Kevin (who talked about homeowners’ association madness, a sexual harassment lawsuit against HPD, and the new library rules) and I were on for quite awhile this time, longer than either of the first two times. That was cool, but boy do I expect a much bigger MP3 file this week.

And speaking of which, here at long last are the MP3s from the first two weeks: my radio debut and my Peter Brady voice-change performance. I will probably only keep two or three of these on my site at a time, so click to listen now as they won’t be there forever.

I admit it – somtimes I’m a complete Luddite

Dwight asks a good question:

Why do cellular-phone ringtones — which last about 15 seconds at most — cost $2.50, while the full songs from which they are derived are only 99 cents?

Confession time: Not only does my cellphone play the same default ringtone it played when I first got it two or three years ago, I don’t even know how I’d go about updating it. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never cared, and now that I know it’d cost me money to get a new ringtone, I’m even less likely to care in the future. Yes, I can be a real Luddite sometimes.

I will say this: if I ever do decide to change ringtones, I’m going to ask Lair for a copy of his.

Regular radio reminder

Tomorrow is my now-apparently-regular gig on BizRadio 1320 at 10:30 along with Kevin. This one will be from the road, as Tiffany and I are taking Olivia to her first swimming lesson at 9:30 out in West Houston (long story short – we “won” these baby swim lessons at a silent auction). The lesson is supposed to be done by 10, so I will hopefully be out of the pool and dried off in time for their call to my cell at 10:15. If not, Tiffany may have to pinch hit for me, in which case hijinx is certain to ensue. Tune in tomorrow morning to see for yourself if I can avert catastrophe and make it to the phone on time.

The 300 Club revisited

Roger Clemens faces off against Greg Maddux tonight in a rare battle of 300-game winners. Not counting four matchups between Pud Galvin and Tim Keefe in the 1890s, such an event has happened only four times before, all involving Don Sutton, and all in the 1980s. If you’re at the Juice Box tonight, be sure to enjoy being a part of history.

Of course, we can’t have a story about 300-game winners squaring off without a bit of existential woolgathering on the nature of winning 300 games as a Major League pitcher.

Sutton doubts there will be many more of these types of games once Clemens and Maddux retire. With 263 career victories, Mets lefthander Tom Glavine is the closest active player to 300 victories, but he’s 39 and hasn’t won as many as 12 games since 2002. Randy Johnson, 41, is next on the active victories list at 248, followed by David Wells, 41, at 214 and Mike Mussina, 36, at 212.


Clemens tends to agree with Sutton’s assessment that specialization in relief roles and the money invested in pitchers are reasons why today’s young starters might find it more difficult to claim 300 victories.

“With specialization now, everybody watches pitch counts,” Clemens said. “Early in my career, I was able to complete games and reach 125 pitches. You don’t see that much anymore. And it’s really hard to control whether you’re going to get a win or not.”

Once a starter gets to 100 pitches these days, the manager and pitching coach start plotting a plan to call on the bullpen. And some of today’s pitchers actually take pride in going six innings without giving up more than three runs.

When Seaver, Sutton, Carlton and Niekro were active, a pitcher would want to fight a manager who called on the bullpen in the sixth of seventh inning. Nolan Ryan, another of Sutton’s contemporaries in the 300 club, was only getting warm at 100 pitches.

“Unless there’s a change in philosophy in managing and coaching, there won’t be many more 300-game winners,” said Sutton, who is tied with Ryan for 13th on the all-time list with 324 wins. “There are some very talented young men pitching who are probably more talented than I was but probably won’t have a chance to win 300.”

If Sutton lasted only six innings, he would be embarrassed. His motto was simple: “Go nine innings and either win it or lose it.”

There is, of course, a growing body of research which demonstrates that a pitcher’s risk of injury greatly increases with each outing of 120 pitches or more. Pitchers with arm problems don’t win 300 games, but the fact that there exist superhuman freaks like Clemens and Ryan are held up as examples of How Things Should Be. But that’s a rant for another day.

In any event, I don’t believe the macho ethic of completing games has much of anything to do with winning 300 games. I think the two biggest factors are the levels of offense and the five-man rotation.

Here are the all-time leaders in wins. Twenty-two pitchers have 300 or more victories to their credit. Of those, eleven debuted in 1911 or earlier, in the original dead-ball era. Eight others came into the league in 1962 or later, with six of them clustering their rookie seasons between 1962 and 1967, at the beginning of a 30-year stretch of relatively low offense (you can see season-by-season league totals, including ERA, here and here). Only three began their careers in between 1912 and 1961 – Warren Spahn, Early Wynn, and Lefty Grove.

What I’m getting at is this: You’re more likely to have pitchers with long careers and gaudy win totals in an era that depresses offense, which in turn favors pitchers. If and when conditions in the leagues begin to turn in the hurlers’ direction – and though I remain a skeptic of the whole thing, perhaps the focus on steroids will help to accomplish that – then the odds that someone will have the kind of long and fruitful career needed to win 300 games will increase.

By the same token, the five-man rotation, which reduces the number of starts a pitcher can make over the course of a season, is a factor. Look at the yearly leaderboard for games started. The high-water mark these days is 35 or 36. Thirty years ago, in the four-man rotation days, workhorse pitchers would regularly get 40 or more starts. No one has had that many since Charlie Hough in 1987; no one has done it in the NL since Phil Niekro took the hill 44 times in 1979. That can be the difference between winning 18 or 19 games and winning 21 or 22, which over the course of a 15 or 20 year career can really add up.

But everything in baseball is cyclical. I believe that we’ll see a lower-scoring period again, I believe some innovative managers will experiment with a four-man rotation again, and I believe we will see 300 game winners again, though it may well be that the next one is in Little League right now. Who knew in 1962, as Warren Spahn’s career was winding down and no heir to the 300-win club was in sight, that we were about to usher in the next great wave of pitching stars? Never say never in this game.

Is the Talton Amendment dead or not?

Well, if push comes to shove, Governor Perry would prefer privatizing CPS to stigmatizing gay foster parents. I guess that’s progress.

Perry said he didn’t think the House amendment against gay foster parents, which faces strong opposition from senators, will survive a House-Senate conference committee.

But he added, “If the bill has the funding in it (and) if it does the things that we’ve laid out needs to happen, I’m going to sign the bill if that amendment’s on it or not.

“CPS is really important, getting it fixed,” Perry said, noting he had declared the legislation an emergency in the wake of a series of highly publicized deaths of children who weren’t adequately protected by the agency.

Perry said that in an “ideal world” he would want foster children placed with “a family that had a mom and a dad.”

But gay foster parents who are “loving and caring,” he added, are “better than having the kids being abused, obviously.”

You’d think that would be obvious, wouldn’t you? It’s not to Crazy Bob Talton, however. Someone’s way out of the mainstream here, Bob, and I’m thinking it’s you.

Crazy Bob does have company, though, in the form of Cathy Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum, who cited some incredibly bogus research in an appearance on CNN defending his anti-gay amendment.

Ms. Adams told me that her source for the claim was an article she had read on the conservative site WorldNetDaily, about a study published in February by Paul Cameron, chairman of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Family Research Institute, a group that says homosexuality is a major public-health threat. In the journal Psychological Reports, Dr. Cameron analyzed cases of sexual abuse committed against foster children and children in subsidized adoption homes, as reported to Illinois’s Department of Children and Family Services from 1997 to 2002. There were 270 reports, and 34% of those were same-sex in nature: committed by a male adult against a male child, or a female adult against a female child. Dr. Cameron called those homosexual acts of abuse, and, citing several studies, including a joint report by the University of Michigan and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded that gays make up between 1% and 3% of the adult U.S. population. “Thus, homosexual practitioners were proportionately more apt to sexually abuse foster or adoptive children,” Dr. Cameron wrote.

This required several leaps of logic, some of which I’ll discuss later. The biggest is that Dr. Cameron had no data about the makeup of homes in which the Illinois children were abused; indeed, a state DCFS spokeswoman told me the agency doesn’t record whether households are same-sex. It’s possible that much of what Dr. Cameron calls homosexual abuse occurred in what would be considered heterosexual homes.

Yet Ms. Adams simply divided 3% into 34% to get her 11 number. When I asked her about this discrepancy between what the study found and what she said, she replied, “I believe I didn’t have that articulated as well as I should have.” But she also said it seems unlikely that abuse would be homosexual in nature yet committed by an apparent heterosexual. “It just requires more explanation than what you can do in soundbites,” she said.

Naturally, CNN’s anchors let her get away with it completely unchallenged. As a tonic for that, you can also see a clip of Jon Stewart from The Daily Show ripping into the CNN airheads here – click the “Gaywatch” icon, it’s the second item in. Via Lasso. WSJ link via LGRL and PinkDome.

RIP, HB1348

HB1348, the Smith-Eiland campaign finance reform bill, appears to be dead after an attempt yesterday to circumvent the usual committee process and bring it directly to the floor for a vote. That attempt failed on a 95-36 vote and some harsh words on the House floor.

“This is an unusual tactic,” said Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galvston, one of the bill’s 93 sponsors. “But we’re afraid we’ll never see (the bill) again.”

But Republican Rep. Terry Keel of Austin, also a sponsor of the bill, questioned whether Democrats were using the bill as “a political tool to take shots at a member of the House.”


Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, whose Senate run last year was stumped partly due to corporate-funded political ads that ran against him, asked Craddick Thursday afternoon to allow a vote to expedite the bill.

But Keel discouraged his colleagues from allowing the bill to circumvent the committee process, charging House Democratic Caucus Chair Jim Dunnam of using the bill to get a “partisan shot at the speaker.”

Merritt said Keel also told him that pushing this legislation would mean “your political career will be over.”

Keel said he didn’t want to discuss the specifics of his exchange with Merritt, but said: “I do believe his effectiveness as a Republican in the House is over. … Tommy Merritt betrayed the Republican Party today.”

He said he thought Merritt’s motivation in pushing for the measure stems from his dislike for Craddick, which Keel said is “commonly known around the House floor.”

Merritt dismissed Keel’s statements as politics and said he thought it was all part of an effort to draw attention away from campaign finance reform.

“This has nothing to do with the speaker. This whole issue is all about ethics,” he said.

“A lot of people say things,” he said. “And when the bill dies, the issue dies.”

Dunnam said Republicans overreacted to Merritt’s measure.

“They don’t want to vote on an ethics bill,” he said. “The use of corporate money in this manner is a trademark of the Republicans and I don’t think they’re willing to bring it up. Obviously it’s not in their interest.”

I’m not sure how wise a tactic this was – at the very least, someone didn’t count noses very well. But I can at least understand the motivation:

Rep. Mary Denny, the Elections Committee chairwoman, has said the bill probably will die on a 4-3 committee vote as early as Monday.

Although almost two-thirds of the House co-sponsored the bill, supporters considered its passage a long shot because Craddick, R-Midland, and several of his lieutenants, including [Rep. Bryan] Hughes and Denny, were helped either directly or indirectly in the 2002 elections by corporate money, the type of spending that would be banned under the bill.

If a bill that has 90 sponsors can be killed in committee where the fix is very obviously in, then one can certainly see why desperate measures were taken. I just hope this doesn’t poison the well for future Legislatures. The Red State, A Capitol Blog, PinkDome, and Save Texas Reps have more.

The Alamodome

Cicero and The Jeffersonian talk about the Alamodome, quite likely the least utilized stadium in all of Texas. I believe they are both correct in saying that San Antonio will never get an NFL team, but I don’t believe it has anything to do with media market size. Since the NFL’s TV deal has always been a national deal, one in which each team shares equally, the physical location of the franchises doesn’t matter that much. If the NFL really cared about that, they never would have let the Rams leave LA for St. Louis or the Oilers depart Houston for Memphis. I agree with The Jeffersonian – the single biggest obstacle to an NFL team in the Alamo City is the Dallas Cowboys (or as I like to think of them now, the Dallas Cowboys of Arlington), with the Texans next in line.

I also think the biggest reason why San Antonio is such a relatively small media market is because there’s no big suburbs around it. Here’s the census map for Texas. The biggest county neighboring Bexar is Guadalupe, with 97,000 people, followed by Comal with 88,000. There are four counties adjacent to Harris that are each bigger than those two combined – Fort Bend, Montgomery, Galveston, and Brazoria. Together those four counties have well over a million people in them. The combined population of Collin and Denton counties up near Dallas is also over a million. Bexar has nothing like that. San Antonio is a big city, but that’s all there is.

I’m racking my brain trying to recall what was the justification for building the Alamodome (I believe it was the San Antonio Current that gave it the Dillo Dome nickname that Cicero refers to), but I’m coming up blank. I don’t recall there being any serious speculation about getting an NFL expansion team – heck, at the time I don’t think there was any speculation about any further NFL expansion, period. Didn’t the Spurs play there briefly in between the old HemisFair Arena and the new SBC Center? There may have been some pie-in-the-sky dreaming about the place being the dual home of the Spurs and a longed-for NFL team, I don’t remember. I can’t see the city tearing it down now, though, whatever it may cost to maintain, as that would be a huge and embarrassing admission of defeat. Like it or not, it’s yours to keep.

Invoking the ghost of Clutch City

After taking the first two games on the road against Dallas in their playoff series, Coach Jeff Van Gundy reminded the Rockets that the franchise has been here before from the other side.

The locker room was rocking.

The Rockets had not just won Game 2 to take a 2-0 lead in their playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks, they had won a sensational game with a thrilling fin- ish.

Then coach Jeff Van Gundy entered the room, bringing a question. Van Gundy asked if anyone knew how the Rockets’ “Clutch City” nickname was born.

No player raised his hand.

Van Gundy gave them more than a history lesson. The Rockets received a warning.

The Rockets were told that their 1994 descendants lost the first two games of a playoff series at home, as the Mavericks have, and headed to Phoenix in desperate trouble. The Rockets rallied to win Game 3, won the series and beat the Knicks, with Van Gundy a Knicks assistant, for the NBA championship. And “Clutch City” was born.

“I could tell he had that ready as soon as we won Game 2,” Rockets guard Bob Sura said. “That’s the first thing out of his mouth. We’re all aware of it now.

“The locker room was clearly excited. Guys were pretty fired up. He came in in his typical manner. ‘Sit down for a second. Does anybody know where the Clutch City thing came from?’ He refreshed our memory pretty quick.”

I remember Game 2 of that Rockets-Suns series. Back in those ancient days, all first-round and some second-round home games were only available on pay-per-view. Being too cheap to spring for that (heck, I was too cheap to have cable back then), I watched the game at Griff’s on one of several huge screens they’d set up to accomodate the extra crowd. Man, were we all pissed when the Rockets coughed up that 20-point lead in the fourth quarter and went on to lose in overtime. The screaming headline in the Chron the next morning was “CHOKE CITY!”, which was the genesis of the “Clutch City” moniker after they came back and won.

Only 14 NBA teams have done what the Rockets have done in the series, winning Games 1 and 2 on the road.

Of those 14, only two failed to win the series, most recently the Suns, as the Rockets drove to their first championship, turning the Western Conference semifinals around in Phoenix after dropping the first two games at The Summit.

I guess if you want to be a pessimist, you could say that this means there’s a one-in-seven chance that Rockets will lose.

No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series.

Speaking as a Yankees fan, that’s very cold comfort. I’ll relax when this one is officially over, OK?


Anyone else noticed the ads on Time Warner Cable lately that are agitating against letting “mega-telcos” get their way in the Legislature, which (we’re told) would lead to only rich people getting cable TV? I’d assumed these spots had to do with HB789, but wasn’t sure what TWC’s angle was. Now I see.

The bills would remove certain barriers to competition such as unequal treatment and take out ambiguities that lead to lawsuits, said sponsor Phil King, R-Weatherford. The legislation would affect cable TV, wireless and landline phone service, Internet and other video companies.

The first bill, House Bill 789, overwhelmingly passed the House last month, and the second part, HB 3179, was approved by the Regulated Industries Committee Tuesday and will be eligible for debate by the full House if it is cleared by the Calendars Committee.

“We’ve regulated this to death,” King said. “This is aimed at allowing new competitors to come in and fight for business and remove unnecessary legislation.”

The Time Warner ad claimed passage would lead to redlining, where cable companies could pick and choose which markets they want to serve, said Ray Purser, vice president of public affairs for the company. A similar ad was placed in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle.

Current law mandates that telecommunications companies must get separate franchises in each city they want to service. If a city grants a franchise, the company must serve all residents within the municipality, Purser said.

King’s legislation would give franchises automatic rights to do business in any city in Texas and would allow companies to pick and choose who they serve, Purser said.

“It is state-sanctioned redlining,” he said. “It allows telecommunications providers to only build in the wealthier neighborhoods. We are trying to educate the consumer on the fact that it is bad public policy to allow redlining.”

King said consumers benefit the most from competition, and cable companies such as Time Warner are upset because they have had a monopoly on the market for so long and don’t want new competitors.

“The cable companies’ arguments are not valid,” he said. “What they’re promoting is bad policy. They want to continue the monopoly and I don’t think the legislators are buying it, so they’re going to the public.”

Hoping to compete with cable companies, SBC recently announced plans for a new project to provide cable service, and King’s legislation would help push that initiative forward.

Do cable companies really have a monopoly any more, now that satellite TV is widely available? I’m not saying that having a second cable provider in a given area would be a bad thing, but I don’t think the absence of such is necessarily monopolistic. What’s for sale here is content, and consumers do have a choice. Not a great one, perhaps, but one does exist.

The Austin Chronicle notes that these bills are another form of intereference in municipal revenue by the State Lege.

Municipalities can also generate revenue through leasing rights-of-way, through fees charged to cable and telecom providers in exchange for the use of public streets. Last year, Austin took in just under $22 million in rights-of-way fees from cable and telecom providers. But under HB 3179, cities would no longer be able to negotiate right-of-way use agreements. A statewide standard would determine such things as the maximum number of PEG (public educational government) channels any cable provider was required to offer, and right-of-way fees would be replaced by a statewide 3.95% fee on each sale of a communications service. The precise provisions are still to be worked out (should the bill advance), but municipalities fear a legislated sweetheart deal for providers, with a consequent loss in revenue for cities.

That was written before HB3179 made it out of committee, so I don’t know if the concerns about revenue loss are still relevant. I do know that we already have plenty of reasons to fear and loathe HB789, so I’m not inclined to give HB3179 much benefit of the doubt. Still, it’s not like TWC is a warm, fuzzy, consumer-friendly face, so I’d like to hear more about HB3179 before I’m convinced. I just hope it gets enough coverage for me to do so. AusChron link via Save Muni Wireless.

That’s one way to reduce labor costs

Kimberly Reeves has a nice article in this week’s Press about the upcoming privatization of many Texas Health and Human Services Commission functions. Did you know that a fundamental aspect of the privatization plan is to outsource a bunch of work to volunteer charities? That was news to me.

Suzii Paynter and her small band of intrepid, faith-based foot soldiers recently found themselves trouping down to the basement of Christian Life Commission in Austin for an unusual experiment of sorts.

Most of her crew were longtime retirees who had helped the needy and helped the state in the past. They were First Baptist “regulars” who volunteered their time at the downtown homeless shelter. Paynter, public policy director of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, had several co-workers along.

They were committed to providing more assistance in what has been touted as a major overhaul of the welfare system in Texas.


Then they found out just how much of the load they were projected to shoulder to make this new system as success: one million volunteer hours of work every year, much of it in tedious chores like entering data into state computers.

“We were a significant part of the plan, yet no one had held a forum or sent out a letter or recruited a round table or asked for an advisory committee,” says Paynter. “There had been no outreach about this plan whatsoever to say we were written into this role, and certainly no money for it.”


Stephanie Goodman, spokesperson for the human services commission, argues that the million-hour volunteer component was an estimate of the time already spent by nonprofits in assisting the process of helping the needy obtain benefits.

That time can account for simply referring a client to a phone to make a call to the state’s call centers, she says. If that’s the case, they’ve got a lot of community groups fooled. They are mobilizing to figure out their role in the process.

Joe Rubio of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston Catholic Charities is already talking about additional training and liability needed for his own volunteers. Basically, the nonprofits have advised and assisted the needy who look to them for help, but they hardly embrace the idea of taking over the bureaucratic work of state agencies.

Rubio says this new role for religious groups — replacing government, rather than assisting — is slowly eroding the effectiveness of faith-based organizations.

Some leaders of nonprofits say it’s one thing for government to embrace the faith-based community. It’s another thing to balance the budget on the backs of volunteer groups and the poor in the process.

“It’s missing a certain spirit, a caring spirit, that we’re going to make it better to serve people better,” says Rubio. “I just see us trying to cut back on government by exposing the vulnerable to more risk than they’re taking already.”

According to the business plan, faith-based and community-based organizations would handle the initial application process for up to one-fourth of the needy seeking welfare.

The business plan expects all enrollment and screening — that is, the work not done by faith-based and community-based groups — to be done over the phone or online. Paynter can already feel the tug of desperate non-English-speaking hands on her sleeve, given that the average call-center call is estimated to last only seven minutes.

Paynter says, “When you talk about the initial stage of the application, any kind of face-to-face meeting is going to happen with these community organizations.”

Do read the whole thing. The more I learn about the THHSC privatization plan, the more I dread it.

Must see Greg TV

Greg Wythe gets to burn a few minutes off of his fame clock tonight as he appears on “Texas Politics-The Real Deal”, a talk show hosted by liberal Democrat attorney David Jones and former Harris County GOP chair Gary Polland. It’s on Time Warner channel 17 in Harris County from 6:30 to 7:30, and you can call in and heckle him at 713-807-1794. I need to tell the TiVo that this channel exists so I can record it. Knock ’em dead, Greg!

HJR6 predicted to sail through Senate

You know how I had a smidgeon of hope that HJR6 would fail to make it through the Senate? Looks like that hope was sadly misguided.

Senate leaders Tuesday predicted support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in Texas but said senators will oppose a separate effort by the House to prohibit homosexuals from being foster parents.

“The Senate’s very, very united in our belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said, one day after the House had approved the gay marriage ban 101-29.

Sigh. Any two of those eighteen gutless Democrats who voted for HJR6 could have stopped this. They wouldn’t have even had to have voted No. Just find an excuse to be absent, and the thing fails for not getting a two-thirds majority. (See Marc Campos? Not everyone is giving passes on this. I’m not forgetting any time soon.)


It’s pretty sweet to see the Republicans in the House retreat on yet another special rule they implemented to coddle and swaddle Tom DeLay, isn’t it?

“I’m willing to step back,” [House Speaker Denny] Hastert said after a closed-door meeting with members of the GOP rank and file at which he stressed the need to end the controversy.

“Now that we again will have bipartisan rules in place, we can begin to rebuild Americans trust in the ethics committee,” said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. “Members of the House must allow the … committee to do its job without partisan rancor and ensure that its deliberations command the respect they deserve.

The Republican lawmakers had endured weeks of intense Democratic criticism — and hometown editorials — complaining that the GOP rule changes were an attempt to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay from further investigation.

DeLay, R-Texas, was admonished by the committee on three matters last year, and new questions have been raised about whether a lobbyist paid for some of his foreign travel in violation of the rules. DeLay has denied wrongdoing and has volunteered to appear before the ethics committee.

Republicans leaving their weekly meeting in the Capitol basement generally praised Hastert for pivoting on the issue. DeLay seemed annoyed at the crowd of reporters.

“You guys better get out of my way,” he said. “Where’s our security?”

Poor Tom. It’s not easy having special needs, is it? The Stakeholder is taking a victory lap, and they deserve it.

Compare the reactions to the latest retreat from the Texas delegation:

“I don’t know that I’m necessarily uncomfortable with the way things are right now,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound. “The rules we put in are not bad rules.”


Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, said Democrats had “politicized” the ethics committee, but added, “I think it’s important the ethics committee get on with its work.”


“I think we should do what’s right and not respond to political news every day,” said Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio. “This is not an issue that everyone is talking about at the fairs, in the malls, at the rotary clubs.”

To that of the Illinois delegation:

I said to him, ‘You’re the only one who can resolve this thing,'” said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), recounting a conversation he had with Hastert last week. “He knows that. He knows it is in his lap.”

LaHood said he also told a senior Hastert aide: “You have to pivot, you have to eat some crow, you’ve got to get it behind you.”

Hastert, however, is expected to face some resistance today when, aides said, he plans to put his proposal before his GOP colleagues at their weekly strategy session.


LaHood said many Republican lawmakers were frustrated at the prospect of being asked — for the second time this year — to roll back a vote that had proved politically unpopular.

“People fell on their sword” when they rescinded the rule in January concerning possible indictments of GOP leaders, LaHood said. “Now it’s the same thing.”

He and others are concerned about negative publicity that the rule changes involving the ethics committee have generated, LaHood said.

“My hometown [newspaper] in Peoria has written three editorials about this — every editorial writer in the country is writing about this,” he said.

Almost like Mars and Venus, isn’t it?

UPDATE: When someone asks “Who’s your daddy?”, these guys know what the answer is:

The 20 Republicans who voted against the reversal included seven Texans: Reps. Joe Barton, of Ennis; Michael Burgess, of Flower Mound; John Carter, of Round Rock; John Culberson, of Houston; Louie Gohmert, of Tyler; Ted Poe, of Humble; and William “Mac” Thornberry, of Clarendon.

Congratulations, gentlemen, for going above and beyond the call of duty in making sure that no value trumps partisanship. Your Golden Toadie Award is in the mail.

Plunk Biggio

How can you resist a blog that’s devoted to one man’s (probably unintentional, possibly unconscious) quest to become baseball’s all-time hit-by-pitch king? I can’t, so I’ve added a subscription to the oddly compelling Plunk Biggio to my Bloglines subs. Thanks to Lair and Pete for the heads-up on this one.

The Star-Telegram on blogs

In the Pink points to this article on Capitol-focused blogs. It’s a good piece – in fact, I’d say it’s the piece I thought Gardner Selby was going to write when he contacted me last month on the same topic. Kudos to Aman Batheja for taking us seriously.

ItPT’s Eileen Smith gets some nice publicity out of this, but the part I liked best was the quotes from various reps, starting with the Lege’s own blog evangelist, Rep. Aaron Pena.

Peña has become an avid reader of blogs in recent months, sometimes re-evaluating his positions after considering their arguments.

Last month, Peña started his own blog, originally called Aaron’s Blog but now titled A Capitol Blog. It’s a great way to communicate directly with his constituents, he said.

“For me, it is apparent that this is the future. There is a very democratic element of communicating via the Internet as a blogger,” Peña said.

This month, Peña started Lone Star Rising, for which he’s solicited legislators from both parties to write.

Peña said some colleagues expressed interest in contributing to the blog, but others were wary.

“Politicians generally don’t like putting something in writing because they fear it can be used against them in a subsequent campaign,” Peña said.

Among the first to accept his invitation was Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. His April 13 entry focused on his work on a campaign finance reform bill.

“I thought it was a good way to take the message straight to the people,” Anchia said, adding that he likes the way blog postings can’t be reduced to a sound bite by the media.

Anchia said he occasionally reads political blogs, as do other politicians and members of their staff.

“There’s valuable strategic intelligence in those blogs,” Anchia said. “I think it’s becoming an important part of legislative culture.”

I do, too, and I think by next session we’ll see the next step, in which legislators debate and defend some of their initiatives in a bloglike setting as Senator Feingold has been doing at the Daily Kos. Whatever else may be going on in our Lege this year, I think that is a trend that bodes very well.

From the It Takes A Thief Department

Who better to comment on campaign finance reform than a true insider?

A Republican political consultant under indictment on charges of taking illegal corporate contributions in the 2002 House races is urging lawmakers to defeat a bill to tighten the state’s ban on corporate and labor union spending in Texas political campaigns.

John Colyandro was indicted by a Travis County grand jury last year on charges of illegally accepting corporate contributions for Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC.

Colyandro, as executive director of the Texas Conservative Coalition, a bipartisan group of 83 House and Senate members, recently wrote an analysis for the group urging legislators to vote against a bill that would completely ban corporate and union money from Texas elections.

“The Texas Conservative Coalition cannot support any attempt to curtail or limit the freedom of speech as secured under the First Amendment,” the analysis says.

Fred Lewis, executive director of Campaigns for People, said Colyandro should have stayed away from commenting on the bill as long as he is under indictment on campaign finance law violations.

“It seems to me that someone who has been indicted for allegedly violating a statute should not be allowed to analyze bills to clarify the law,” Lewis said. “It seems to me that they are too emotionally involved and have too many conflicts of interests.”

Sometimes you just have to laugh. What more can I say?

A bit of DeLay fatigue

I haven’t had much to say lately about everyone’s favorite corrupt House Majority Leader. Not because there hasn’t been anything to say or because I’ve lost interest in watching his inexorable descent, not at all. It’s just that there’s so darned much out there, it’s impossible to keep up. Thankfully, there are several good places to go for a regular and fairly comprehensive dose of DeLay coverage. Jack, who suffers from being a DeLay constituent, is on a tear with his And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer demagogue series. The blog has been keeping up with the local anti-DeLay protests as well as the more national stories. And of course there are the heavy hitters, the Daily DeLay, the Stakeholder, and Josh Marshall, all of whom cover a broad and deep range of territory. Keep these sites in your rotation and you’ll stay on top of all the dirt. And don’t worry, I’ll be looking for stuff to post on as well. I’m just happy for now to enjoy their hard work.

Catching up on the Enron broadband trial

Former Enron Broadband Services CEO Ken Rice, who has already pled guilty to a charge of fraud for his role in the EBS flimflammery, has been testifying busily for the past couple of days in the trial of five other ex-EBS execs. This is from his early testimony:

“I lied about the status of Enron Broadband Services,” said Rice, who appeared nervous at the start of his one-hour testimony near the end of proceedings on Friday.

“Did you do this alone?” asked U.S. Attorney Ben Campbell.

“No,” Rice replied.

He then named [Jeff] Skilling, who is not being tried in this proceeding, and four of the five former EBS executives who are currently on trial as accomplices in making analysts, investors and the public believe that Enron’s Internet business had more capabilities — and in turn more value — than were true.


Prosecutors showed jurors video clips of a Jan. 20, 2000, analyst meeting in Houston and had Rice respond to statements made by some of the executives.

In one clip, [Joe Hirko, the former co-chief executive of EBS and the highest-ranking executive now on trial], standing beside Rice, touts the capabilities of EBS’s software capabilities, which Rice then told the court did not work at the time. He said it was a lie designed to bolster Enron’s stock value.

At another point in the video, a smiling Hirko motions to Rice and asks him in the style of a showman if the capabilities of the broadband network were “a pipe dream” or even years away from being developed.

“No,” answered Rice “This is something that exists today.”

Prosecutors turned off the video and asked Rice if that was a true statement.

He replied the statement was also a lie.

Prosecutors also showed a clip of [Rex Shelby, the former senior vice president of engineering and operations for EBS] touting the software that Rice again testified was untrue.

Prosecutors said they would be showing the jury more clips of the analyst meeting as well as the video in its entirety.

Rice testified that the lies were to puff up Enron’s profit.

“The purpose in telling the lies was to make Enron Broadband Services look better than it was,” Rice said, adding that in turn, Enron’s stock would rise.

The Jan. 20, 2000, meeting is widely seen as the catalyst for a huge increase in Enron’s stock price in the following year.

Enron’s stock climbed 25 percent that day and began its gallop up to a record high of $90.56 that August.

Earlier testimony from techie types was about how the software Enron purportedly had to manage excess broadband capacity was “pixie dust” and how a demo for NBC executives was faked. A lot of this was covered in the Smartest Guys In The Room movie. Maybe it’s easier now to see what a dumb idea this was, but it’s still amazing how thoroughly the stock analysts got duped on this one.

I kind of hope that the trial examines the ill-fated deal EBS had with Blockbuster to deliver video on demand, because I never really understood how that was supposed to work. Was the idea really to pipe movies to people’s computers? I have a much nicer computer now than I did in 1999, with a much nicer monitor, but I’d still never choose to watch a movie on my PC instead of my television. Did they believe enough people would do so? If that wasn’t the idea, didn’t they also need to have deals in place with cable companies so that there’d be a channel on which the movies could be viewed and controlled? Was anyone asking these questions at the time, or was it all just hype?

And it wouldn’t be an Enron trial without a sideshow diversion, in this case Jeff Skilling being asked to leave the courtroom because he’s a potential witness in the case. Tom thinks he got a bum ruling, however.

New frontiers in vice peddling

You know, I was just thinking that the problem with buying lottery tickets these days is that you have to actually leave your house and go to some kind of retail store to do it. Well, thanks to our ever-forward-thinking Lege, that may not be true for much longer.

A bill approved Monday by the House Appropriations Committee would make Texas the first state to let lottery players buy tickets via the Internet and pay with a debit card.

Players also could also establish a Texas Lottery Commission account that would draw down as they purchase tickets.

House members barely discussed the measure at Monday’s meeting. It was inserted in a larger bill that also allows drivers to display only one license plate if it’s on the rear.

Unless you’re driving to go vote, in which case you need three license plates plus a copy of your birth certificate hanging from the rearview mirror. Beware the power of Mary Denny!

Letting lottery players use their credit cards first surfaced a year ago as one of several wacky schemes by Governor Perry to fix school funding without doing anything substantial. It was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now, with or without the new online-purchase bit tacked on. I do wonder if Perry still supports it, though, given his 180 degree turn on other gambling matters.

The Lottery Commission was taken by surprise. Officials said they weren’t told of the bill ahead of time and don’t yet know what kind of games they would offer via the Internet.

Duh. Create virtual scratchoff games, where you can use your mouse to simulate rubbing a quarter against the ticket to see if it’s a winner. You know it’s what the people will want.

Defining tax breaks down

Remember the days when the air was filled with promises from the statewide leadership that they would cut property taxes by one-third, maybe even one-half? Reality can be such a bummer sometimes.

Texas property owners would get a small tax break next year, with another cut coming in 2007 if voters approve a statewide property tax, under the latest version of the Senate’s school finance plan unveiled Monday.

The plan would reduce taxes for school maintenance and operations by 20 cents to $1.30 per $100 assessed valuation next year. In 2007, property owners would see another 20-cent reduction to $1.10 if a constitutional amendment authorizing a statewide property tax passes.

If the amendment fails, the tax rate would remain at $1.30.

In January, senators promised to lower property taxes from the current $1.50 to $1. Senate leaders said they still would like to provide the full 50-cent reduction but may not be able to fund the final 10 cents until 2008.

As you know, I’m not particularly thrilled with the Lege finding another way to hamstring its own ability to fund government services, so my heart isn’t exactly breaking at this news. Doesn’t mean I can’t needle them about overpromising and underdelivering, however.

The finance committee still is working on the details of a business and sales tax plan to pay for the property tax cut and education spending boost. [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve] Ogden said the long-awaited bill might be discussed by the committee on Friday.

Which means that it’ll be time for all the oxen that are in sight to be gored by whatever expansion or increase lurks in the new business and sales tax plan to start lobbying to be spared the pain of any new burden, for the good of the affected industry, the children, and the very future of our way of life. We’ll talk again about how viable those property tax reductions are after the inevitable knee-buckling begins.

Life in Midlothian

D Magazine has a long essay by Midlothian resident Tom Boyle, whom I’ve mentioned here before in conjunction with the fight against pollution from cement plants there, on how he and his wife Julie came to be environmental activists. It’s a very interesting read, and the followup story about birth defects in children and animals in the area since the plants started burning hazardous waste is hair-raising. Check them out.

Blog stuff in the op-eds

So there were a couple of op-eds in Sunday’s Chron that had blog themes to them. One was by Cragg Hines in which he chided bloggers on the right for their role in the case of the “Schiavo memo” that emanated from Sen. Mel Martinez’s office. All I really want to do here is offer some advice to Hines: Next time you do this sort of thing, name names and quote excerpts. Not only will it help the sizable portion of your audience which isn’t up to its eyeballs in blog stuff on a regular basis know what it is you’re talking about, but it’s what other bloggers (myself included in times past) will do to you. Arguing with unnamed and unknown opponents is not a winning strategy.

Elsewhere there was this piece by Scott Henson on the demise of the federal drug task force in Harris County (more background on that here). I can’t help but note that the byline they ran did not include Scott’s blog URL, which seems to me to be a pertinent omission. I’ve commented before about the Chron’s inconsistent byline policies, and this is another example to add to my collection. But don’t let that keep you from reading Scott’s piece – it’s a good one.

Reflecting on Morrison’s withdrawal

After sending out his withdrawal email yesterday, Richard Morrison posted a Kos diary with the same message, getting many well-deserved messages of thanks and expressions of support for his mother. He specifically responded to several people who muttered about DCCC interference and was quite clear about there not being any, and exhorted his followers to support whoever the nominee winds up being, Nick Lampson or Gordon Quan. He’s a class act to the end, and that’s a big part of the reason we all like him so much. I’ll take this opportunity to thank Richard Morrison again for being the kind of candidate who could make us all believe that DeLay had a glass jaw. We wouldn’t be where we are now without that.

It’s been 24 hours since I first heard the news now, and it’s still a bit unreal. Having been a supporter of Richard’s for so long, it’s hard to say goodbye, especially in such a sudden fashion after a frenzy of activity. That’s life, I guess.

I’ve invested a fair amount in Richard and his candidacy. While I never feared the prospect of a contested primary, I did feel as though he had more than earned the right to a second shot at DeLay. I’ve talked many times about his overperformance relative to other Democrats in this district, and as a result I have always believed that he was the candidate with the best chance to win. I believe his performance was as much about his hard work and personal qualities as it was about the sleaze and corruption of his opponent. I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that he won’t get the chance to build on that.

But that’s the reality, and dwelling on what might have been is a fool’s game. I don’t know if Nick Lampson will now have a clear path to carry the banner next year, or if Gordon Quan or some other contenders will jump in as well. I do know that if Richard had to bow out, I’m glad that a candidate as strong and qualified as Lampson is already in place to keep going. Of the Congressmen forced out by DeLay’s redistricting scheme, Lampson was my favorite, and had he chosen to take on DeLay in 2004 instead of now I’d have been as passionate a supporter of him as I was of Morrison.

In addition to being a good, solid progressive candidate, Lampson brings a number of assets to the table – fundraising ability, name recognition, and a story line (“Congressman drawn out of a job by DeLay takes the fight to the embattled Hammer”) that the media ought to find enticing, especially in conjunction with DeLay nemesis Chris Bell running for Governor. I can’t say he ran the best campaign I’ve ever seen in 2004, however. I do hope he’s learned from that experience.

If Lampson gets challenged by Quan, I expect I’ll remain neutral through the primary, as I think both men are worthy of fullblooded support. I can’t really think of anyone else who might give this a try, but if someone does, I’ll reserve judgment. You all know where I really want Quan to run, so let’s just leave things at that for now.

The Chron picks up the story today. I have to wonder who wrote the headline, since Nick Lampson is a declared candidate, something the Chron itself reported last week. Whatever.

To wrap things up before I get into total ramble mode, I’m sad about yesterday’s events but as optimistic as ever for the future, and ready to regroup and move forward. Richard, we salute you, we’ll miss you, we wish you the best for you and your family, and we hope to see you on the scene again soon. Nick and Gordon, get your game faces on. Time’s a-wasting.

Reaction to yesterday’s announcement from elsewhere: BOR, Nate, Dos Centavos, The Red State, Pink Dome, Stina, Lyn Wall, Greg, The Jeffersonian, PDiddie, Fort Bend Democrats, The Stakeholder. Kos gives Richard a front page sendoff today though he can’t help speculating about nefarious DCCC involvement. Fortunately, the commenters seem to be looking past that to Richard’s statement (he’s also added a comment reiterating what he said) and the level of support for Lampson appears to be good. Unity is a good thing here.

UPDATE: Supreme Irony chimes in.

HJR6 makes it out of the House

HJR6, the bill that would make gay marriage Double Secret Illegal via a constitutional amendment, passed out of the House today by a 101-26 vote. As this was a vote on a proposed Constitutional amendment, the magic number was 100, as in 100 votes to pass. With every Republican but Martha Wong (who did not vote) casting an Aye plus three Republicans absent, that means it took 17 Democrats to take this disgusting thing one step closer to reality. Eighteen of them shamefully stepped up. Here are the bad guys:

Rep. Robert Cook, D-Eagle Lake – Yes
Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston – Yes
Rep. Juan Escobar, D-Kingsville – Yes
Rep. David Farabee, D-Wichita Falls – Yes
Rep. Stephen Frost, D-Atlanta – Yes
Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D-Alice – Yes
Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City – Yes
Rep. Mark Homer, D-Paris – Yes
Rep. Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville – Yes
Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville – Yes
Rep. Pete Laney, D-Hale Center – Yes
Rep. Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin – Yes
Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Rosenburg – Yes
Rep. Joseph Pickett, D-El Paso – Yes
Rep. Inocente Quintanilla, D-Tornillo – Yes
Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo – Yes
Rep. Allan Ritter, D-Nederland – Yes
Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs – Yes

I wonder if any of these clowns bothered to consider the possibility of this amendment being on the ballot next year as races for all statewide offices and a Senate seat are up for grabs. Do you think its presence, and the campaign to get it passed that would accompany it, might help one party over another? I’m just asking.

UPDATE: Ignore the paragraph above. If there is a referendum on this stupid resolution, it will be this year. Thanks to Karl-T and Bobby in the comments for the correction.

How bad is this thing? Let’s count the ways:

The measure would change the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights to define marriage as “a union between one man and one woman.” Fourteen states have similar constitutional bans.

Mr. Chisum’s measure would also prevent the state or any city or county from creating or recognizing “any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” He called that a pre-emptive strike against any future Legislature allowing civil unions, which afford all the legal benefits of marriage for same-sex couples.

Earlier in the session, Mr. Chisum was warned by House Republicans to abandon a section of his bill that he said addressed civil unions. Some GOP attorneys had said the language in that section could have banned common-law marriages, domestic-partner benefits, power-of-attorney contracts, living wills and other contracts.

The bill went to the House floor Monday as simply a definition of marriage. Mr. Chisum’s proposed addition of a ban on civil unions – worded slightly differently from the version that nearly killed the whole amendment in committee – passed the House with an overwhelming majority.

The current version, Mr. Chisum and other supporters said, does not affect the contracts at issue. But Democrats, saying that the state attorney general had yet to issue an opinion on the new language, weren’t so sure.

So. As a constitutional amendment, it could only be undone by another amendment, meaning that some day in the future, a minority of 1/3 plus one could ensure that this form of discrimination could not be repealed. Any municipality that might have wanted to pass a law allowing civil unions would be thwarted. And the cherry on the sundae is the possibility that all sorts of existing contracts and legal arrangements could be rendered null and void. All this and we still don’t have an agreement on a budget or school finance.

There is one minor consolation at this time:

For the ban to be incorporated in the Texas Constitution, it must next be approved by 21 of 31 senators. Chisum said no senator has agreed to sponsor the bill in the upper chamber. If approved by the Legislature, the ban must also be approved by a majority of Texas voters Nov. 8.

If this sucker ever makes it to a ballot, it will get approved, so the last bastion of hope is the Senate. I can’t say there are 11 solid No votes against it, so I can only hope that the upper chamber is too busy to take it up. I’m a little surprised that someone like Tommy Williams isn’t on board as a sponsor, but hey, I’ll take my blessings where I can.

The LGRL has more info. Doing yeoman’s work following this crapper through the process were PinkDome (here, here, here, and here), and In the Pink (here, here, and here).

Morrison withdraws from CD22 race

Talk about things happening quickly: Richard Morrison has sent out an email to his supporters in which he announces his intent to withdraw from the CD22 race next year. Here’s the email:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It is with great sadness that I must withdraw my name from the race for District 22. As you all know I devoted 2 years of my life to win and placed my law practice on hold. With the prospects of having to spend another 2 years winning a primary and then challenging DeLay, my family’s financial situation is not the rosiest. My wife is expecting our 5th child in August and I feel that I must devote my time to getting my financial house in order. I think the biggest issue this county faces is our national debt and for me and mine to be facing debt that could quickly become unmanageable is irresponsible and unwise.

My mother and children’s grandmother has also been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. She has vowed to me that she will fight it every step of the way and I have committed to help her with that fight. I ask for your prayers for her and my father.

I am not giving up my fight. I will continue to stay active and work hard for Democrats. I ask that you do the same. Tom DeLay is bad for democracy and bad for America. If I can be so bold, I demand that each one of you will commit to work as hard for Congressman Lampson or Councilman Quan as you did for me. Democracy will suffer if you slack off even one bit.

Please do more in your community than just Democratic politics. Become active in Rotary, the local Chamber of Commerce, or your church, mosque or synagogue. Volunteer and began to carry the load in these organizations. Become indispensable to them. And when the conversations turn to politics, let them know that you are a Democrat. Demonstrate by your service that the Democratic Party cares. Through our service we can win back what we have lost and make this great county better.

Finally, I want to thank each one you who has contributed their time, talent and treasure. This campaign was a campaign of service to the people of District 22 and each of you deserve all of the credit. I would not have been the candidate I was without your support.

Fight on!
Richard Morrison

I’ll have more to say about this later. Suffice it to say that although I heard about this from Richard himself a few hours before the email was sent, it’s still rather a shock. For now, I just want to offer my congratulations and lasting respect to Richard Morrison, and to wish him and his family the very best of luck in the future. And yes, I’m prepared to give my full support as promised to Lampson, Quan, or whoever the nominee turns out to be.

How risk averse are they?

Greg comments on this story from the weekend which assessed the odds of a primary challenge to State Sen. Jon Lindsay (a prospect which makes my fellow toll-road critic Anne Linehan positively giddy). I’m sure almost any one of the State Reps mentioned could give Lindsay a good fight if they wanted to, but I think there’s an angle here that’s been overlooked. Every single rep mentioned, with the exception of Moldy Joe Nixon, is in an extremely safe district. Are they willing to give up that kind of security for a 50-50 shot at a better job? Note that in this case, any of them with covetousness in their political hearts would be better off jumping in now with the stated intent of taking out Lindsay, since if they did they’d probably scare off anyone else and wind up in a two-person race with those even odds of winning. Instead, if they wait it out they run the risk of Lindsay deciding to call it a career, which would open the floodgates to multiple challengers and thus reduce their overall odds of winning. So who among that crowd is the least risk averse?

That in turn is a compelling argument for Nixon to switch races now and be the one who chases off the others, since the hold he has on his State Rep seat is a bit shaky to begin with, and that’s before the HCDP and TDP put the target on his back as they surely will next year. He may be an underdog in any primary for SD7, but it can’t be much worse than his chances of staying put are, and the prize is not only more power but a safe seat again. Frankly, I can’t think of a good reason for Nixon not to go for it, and the sooner the better for him.

As to the other possibilities Greg mentions, two thoughts: One is that the idea of nutball former CD10 candidate Ben Streusand spending more of his millions on this seat is almost enough to make me cancel my cable now, before there’s even the slightest chance I’ll hear his godawful nasal twang on the tube again. Two, regarding City Council member Mark Ellis, this is the one place where Jared Woodfill could extract a pound or two of flesh for Ellis’ refusal to aggressively oppose Mayor Bill White. I’m sure Steve Radack’s endorsement will carry weight as Greg says, but I can already see the anti-Ellis attack mailers that will bubble up from the swamps if he sets his sights on SD7. Sometimes karma really will run over your dogma, you know?

The next face of CD22

The Chronicle brings up an interesting point about CD22:

The two words that usually follow U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s name in the news are “Sugar Land.”

After DeLay leaves Congress, some political experts say, the next representative of the 22nd District will likely come from Houston, not his hometown.

Because of redistricting, the area he represents is no longer dominated by the landscaped subdivisions and small towns of Fort Bend County. The district takes in parts of Fort Bend, Harris, Brazoria and Galveston counties, with Harris making up the largest piece.

I guess that depends on how you look at it. Both the Harris and Fort Bend pieces of the district recorded a smidge under 110,000 votes in 2004 for this race (Galveston had 22,000, Brazoria 31,000). I presume the Harris piece has more voters in it overall, with Fort Bend having slightly better turnout this time around. But the point that this district is no longer “Fort Bend County, plus some surrounding areas” is accurate, and may very well be a factor in future elections.

This, however, is just wrong:

[Bob Stein, professor of political science at Rice University] said DeLay has strong support in all four counties.

There’s no quotes here, so maybe what Stein actually said was misrepresented. But please. Here are the results from Galveston:

Tom DeLay REP 9,193 41.46% Richard R. Morrison DEM 12,377 55.82% Tom Morrison LIB 400 1.80% Michael Fjetland IND 203 0.91%

If that’s “strong support”, then I’d like to know what “weak support” looks like. And let’s not forget, DeLay drew only 53% in Fort Bend despite moving several strongly Democratic precincts there into CD09. Again I say, how is that “strong”?

Upcoming City Council campaign events

I know the races in San Antonio and CD22 have us all spellbound, but the City of Houston will be having an election this year, and while I don’t expect this year’s slate to be full of barnburners, there are certainly some races of interest going on. The following is an email from the Houston Democratic Forum about some upcoming Council campaign events of interest:

Peter Brown (candidate for City Council At-Large Position 1) will have a campaign kick-off event from 5:30pm to 7:30pm on Monday, April 25 at the Holiday Inn Select on 2712 Southwest Freeway (between Kirby and Greenway Plaza). All are welcome, minimum donation of $25 for event.

Mark Lee (candidate for City Council District C) will have a campaign kick-off event from 5:30pm to 7:30pm on Wednesday, April 27 at the Holiday Inn Select on 2712 Southwest Freeway (between Kirby and Greenway Plaza). All are welcome, no minimum donation listed for event.

Jay Aiyer (candidate for City Council At-Large Position 2 and former President of the Houston Democratic Forum) will have a fundraiser event from 6:00pm to 8:00pm on Wednesday, May 4 at the Continental Club on 3700 Main Street. All are welcome, minimum donation of $10 for event.

Make your plans as needed. I can tell you that I’ve been running into these three guys all over town – Peter Brown was at my neighborhood civic association meeting where we endorsed the CTC proposal on toll road accountability – so they’re clearly ready for action. These events are usually pretty small, so they’re an excellent opportunity to meet the candidates for yourself and to make good contact with the campaign if you want in on it.

Seeing double in San Antonio

I saw the story of the Case of the Mistaken Candidate Identity in San Antonio last week but never had a moment to talk about it. The San Antonio blog crowd had it covered – see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The first thought that came to my mind in hearing about this was the strange case of the other Bill White from Houston’s 2003 elections. Obviously, that caused Mayor White no difficulty in getting elected, though it seems clear to me that there are a couple of important distinctions between that and the Castro Twin Switch. For one, while both happened towards the end of the campaign cycle, the White story was still a month out from Election Day, while this little circus is happening with two weeks to go, meaning that it will likely still be news as early voting begins. The Jeffersonian shows that not too many people are paying attention and most of those who are don’t care all that much, but it seems clear to me that this will further (if not fatally) wound Julian Castro’s chances of avoiding a runoff and the uncertainty it will bring. In addition, Bill White had more money than God and was in a position to respond forcefully if he had to – Castro’s war chest is almost nonexistent compared to his main rivals. It may be risky for them to pursue that line of attack, but if you’re running third and have little to lose, why not hope to peel off enough votes to vault yourself into the runoff? Finally, while the “other Bill White” imbroglio was a bit hard to boil down into a sound bite, this one’s a no-brainer. If Castro comes out of it with no loss of support, he should consider himself very, very lucky.

I’m sad to say that between this and his campaign finance reporting woes, I’ve lost some respect for Julian Castro. These are errors of carelessness and overconfidence, neither of which are particularly attractive. I’m glad I don’t have a vote to reassess.

Get the smelling salts!

I love this line from this Washington Whispers piece on how Howard Dean is doing so far as the Chair of the DNC:

So far, Washington likes what it sees, surprised he’s not the oddball that newsies pegged him as last year.

Wait…you mean the national media misrepresented someone’s character? Hey, Julia! Can I borrow that picture you use for situations like this?

(Link via Political Wire.)

Support Senator Hinojosa

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa has apparently been targeted by the South Texas Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force in retaliation for some bills he’s filed that they don’t like. It’s pretty ugly. See Grits for the full story.

Catching up on the Morrison campaign

Now that I’m feeling more like a human being, I want to catch up on the state of things in CD22 on the Democratic side. Richard Morrison wrote a Kos diary asking if he’d still get netroots support if he had to face a well-funded primary opponent – I haven’t read through all the comments, but I’d say the clear answer is Yes. Kristin Mack wrote about a meetup between Morrison, Gordon Quan, and Nick Lampson in Houston, the goal of which was to come to a meeting of the minds regarding the CD22 race, though in the end it now appears that Lampson has committed to running (link via Houtopia). Finally, there are now a couple of blogs which are either anti-Morrison or at least openly skeptical of a second run by Richard. What to make of this?

I think everyone knows how I feel about Richard Morrison. I think he did an awful lot with an awful little in 2004, and I think he’s a big but underappreciated reason why DeLay drew his infamously soft 55% (and why DeLay has had to be dishonest about the makeup of the district he drew for himself). That said, my goal is to unelect Tom DeLay. To some extent, I don’t care who the candidate is because Morrison or anyone who could replace him as the Democratic nominee would be several orders of magnitude better than DeLay. If someone else thinks he or she can present a bigger challenge to DeLay than Morrison can, I’m open minded. Prove it to me and I’m yours. If that means a big nasty contested primary, so be it. May the best candidate win. It’s the American way. And for the record, if someone does knock off Morrison next March, I promise no hard feelings on my part as long as the race is clean. The goal here is beating DeLay. Everything else about this race is secondary.

There are three reasons why I support Richard Morrison, and why it will be very difficult for any other candidate to get me to change my mind. First and foremost is that I’ve met Richard several times, and I have a great deal of affection and respect for him as a person and as a candidate as a result. I’ve said before that Nick Lampson is the first candidate I ever gave money to, so I still like and respect him a lot, too, just not any more than I do Richard. I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting Gordon Quan, but I’ve no doubt I’d feel similarly about him. Nobody gets more than a break-even here.

Second is Morrison’s performance in 2004. Everybody talks about DeLay’s weak showing, but it’s important to remember that this wasn’t simply a case of people abandoning a corrupt, amoral politician out of disgust, for if it were, then Morrison wouldn’t have consistently outperformed every other Democrat on the ballot with him. Voters did not have a binary choice in CD22. They could have selected Mike Fjetland, the two-time Republican primary challenger to DeLay, or the Libertarian Thomas Morrison, if all they wanted to do was cast an anti-DeLay vote. (Or, of course, they could have not voted in that race at all.) That’s not what thousands of them did – they chose Richard Morrison. Despite having more competition than other Democrats, he consistently drew more votes than they did. That’s something concrete to build on in 2006 that no other candidate will necessarily have.

You may try to tell me that a different Democrat would have done even better than Morrison in 2004 given the same conditions. If you do, you’re basically arguing that Kansas would have made it to the Final Four this year if only they hadn’t lost to Bucknell in Round One. It’s utterly meaningless, and frankly, any candidate who would make that claim now, such as Lampson whom I know from personal communication was contemplating a run in CD22 last year, will have to explain why they didn’t put their money where their mouth was. The wouldas-coulda-shouldas cut no ice with me.

Lastly, while I’m glad to see so many Democrats on board with the idea that CD22 can be had, there were way too many potentially competitive races last year which went wanting for a decent candidate. In order for me to accept the opportunity cost of a Lampson or a Quan or anybody else who’d have to move into CD22 not running elsewhere, I have to be convinced that the odds of their winning are sufficiently greater than Richard’s to cover that cost. I can think of four or five races I’d like to see Lampson enter. I want to see Quan run in CD07 so bad I can taste it. You guys want my support in a CD22 primary? Tell me why that race and no other is the best use of you as a resource.

Byron has some thougts on this as well. Like him, I don’t expect the DCCC to have anything to do with this race until after the primary, and like him I don’t fear a primary. I just want to know that those who are entering it are doing so for the right reasons. That’s a tall order to fill.

Nelson vows to kill Talton amendment

Thank you, Senator Nelson.

The Senate author of a bill designed to overhaul the state’s protective service agencies said Thursday that she will work to strip a controversial provision that would prohibit gays and lesbians from serving as foster parents.

“I will strenuously object to that amendment going onto the bill,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville. “I do not want this bill being at risk of being tied up in court.”

Nelson’s remark came two days after the Texas House voted to include the ban on gay foster parents in what state leaders say is a desperately needed measure to fix systemic problems in the state Department of Family Protective Services. The agency oversees Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services, which have been under criticism for more than a year amid reports of widespread and sometimes deadly abuse and neglect.

Nelson said she is concerned that the ban on gay foster parents, pushed by state Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, would probably become a magnet for lawsuits and that it might cause upheaval for the thousands of children in homes where the foster parents might be gay or bisexual.

And that still doesn’t take into account the potential cost of making DFPS into a kind of Gay Police, tasked with investigating and rooting out potential foster parents who might be homosexual or bisexual.

The House sponsor of Senate Bill 6, state Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas, said she would not support uprooting children already in a foster home. Hupp said she might be amenable to language in the bill saying that gays and lesbians should not serve as foster parents, but would not require state workers to determine an applicant’s sexual orientation.

“I understand the concern,” Hupp said. “My concern is for the child. I could care less what two consenting adults do behind closed doors. I just don’t care. But, when we are yanking a child out of a home … it’s traumatic to that kid. And then we’re planting them into the home of strangers, which is traumatic.

“If [the child is placed] in a home with an openly gay couple, I think that could create further upheaval in that child’s life,” she added.

For the record, Rep. Hupp was not one of the Republicans who voted against this amendment. What she seems to be standing for here is some form of don’t-ask-don’t-tell, which we all know has been such a wonderful policy for the armed forces.

We’ll see who’s stronger, Senator Nelson or the Talton wing of her party. I’d make Nelson a slight favorite, but you can bet there will be an awful lot of public pressure coming from the so-called “family values” crowd to keep any waverers in line.

More from the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby, Inside the Texas Capitol (both of which feature this photo of the gentleman from Pasadena, which should be in every mailout his opponent next year makes), Pink Dome, Burnt Orange, and most intriguingly from Hope, who posts the following from a Senate staffer:

As repulsive as the vote for Talton’s amendment is, rest assured that it is dead. Sen. Nelson is telling other senators that its adoption would kill the bill. Not sure if that is because of a filibuster or the fiscal note or that Republican senators are even saying they’ll oppose it or all of the above. It also would take away all the great publicity they and the Governor want from reforming CPS and APS. But the senators are really just laughing about it as just the latest from Crazy Bob Talton.

More campaign material. Make my assessment that of Nelson being more than just a slight favorite. We’ll see how it plays out – to be totally honest, it wouldn’t grieve me to see this torpedo the whole enchilada, but I feel confident in saying it won’t come to that.