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October 21st, 2005:

Arraignment postponed

Tom DeLay’s day in court has been pushed back while the presiding judge waits on a ruling to determine if he should be recused.

State District Judge Bob Perkins put all other motions in DeLay’s case aside, saying he will ask Judge B.B. Schraub, the administrative judge for the 3rd Judicial District, to set a hearing on the motion to remove Perkins from the case.

“It seems to me that this is going to be continuing to be an issue any time there’s a Democratic judge and a Republican defendant or vice versa. So we probably need to get some hearing on that by the presiding judge of the region,” Perkins said.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has asked Perkins to be removed from the case because of his political donations.

[…]

[Travis County DA Ronnie] Earle after the hearing said he sees no reason for Perkins to remove himself.

“I think what this means is that if this judge had contributed to Crime Stoppers, that the judge then couldn’t hear a burglary case,” Earle said. “I think carried to its extreme, that’s what this motion means, and I think that’s absurd.”

In the motion for recusal, DeGuerin listed 34 political donations totalling $5,185 made by Perkins over the past five years.

Schraub, the judge to hear the recusal motion, is based in Seguin, and has been the administrative judge for the region since 1990. He is a Republican. Three Republican and one Democratic governor have appointed or reappointed him to his job, his assistant said.

It was not clear how much the motion would lengthen proceedings in the case. The Texas congressman has said he wants a speedy trial.

Whatever. Far as I’m concerned, the longer the circus is in town the better.

Team DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin took the opportunity to spread a little more fertilizer about the parties involved.

Attorney Dick DeGuerin of Houston said District Attorney Ronnie Earle wants to dismiss his motion as just partisan. DeGuerin noted in particular that Perkins has contributed to MoveOn.org, a group that is using political attacks on DeLay to raise money.

“Mr. Earle seems to think it’s just a Democrat-Republican thing,” DeGuerin said. “But I noticed yesterday that MoveOn.org, to which you have contributed, was selling T-shirts with Mr. DeLay’s mug shot on it to raise money.”

Perkins replied: “Let me just say, I have never seen that T-shirt, number one. Number two, I haven’t bought it. Number three, the last time I contributed to MoveOn that I know of was prior to the November election last year when they were primarily helping Senator Kerry.”

Perkins was referring to the help MoveOn.org offered to Sen. John Kerry in his 2004 campaign to unseat President Bush.

MoveOn.org denied it was selling any such shirts, and issued a statement that said, “DeGuerin has either bad information or lied in court.”

I confess, I never really got into the Durst trial, and I don’t know any real specifics about the rest of his body of work, so I have to ask: Is DeGuerin always this profligate with the BS, or is this case somehow exceptional? I know that the PR was is at least as important as the courtroom battle, but outright falsehoods are usually a bad idea. Kudos to the Chron for linking directly to the response; usually, all one gets is a summary or a one-sentence quote. Think Progress has more, noting that the AP took DeGuerin’s bait uncritically.

Lindsay Beyerstein is in Austin to witness the proceedings, and she was able to get some pictures, including a couple of snaps of DeLay making his entrance. Please note this one, which I think pretty conclusively demonstrates that however toothy DeLay’s grin may have been in his mug shot, it won’t actually matter to those who want to incorporate his image into a message. Link via Amanda, who is also chronicling the events in Austin.

Finally, I do think the funniest thing that has been or will be said about this whole spectacle is the following bit of unintentional hilarity penned by the Statesman.

Seven county sheriff’s deputies were assigned to maintain order in the 70-seat courtroom. The crowd, made up largely of reporters, was calm.

Well, that’s a relief! We all know how raucous those newsies can get at an arraignment. I hope the deputies will carry pepper spray when the pretrial motion hearings begin, just in case things really get out of hand.

Endorsement watch: HD143

And another jump, this time from ballot propositions to the special election in HD143, where the Chron endorses Ana Hernandez. I don’t have a dog in that fight; Hernandez is the only one of the HD143 candidates I’ve met (very briefly at a Heights Democrats meeting in August) and she certainly seems capable enough, but without a basis for comparison I can’t give a full assessment. Marc Campos is the main proponent of Laura Salinas, who seems to be the next most prominent contender. Read through his writings if you want to know more about her.

Meanwhile, the Morning News hops on the anti-Prop 2 bandwagon with an editorial that’s so spot-on I’m going to quote it in full:

Proposition 2 on the statewide ballot next month would prevent state judges from overturning current law banning gay marriage. Given that state judges in Texas are elected, and therefore answerable to the people, the chances of a judge doing so are about as good as the Texas Supreme Court outlawing barbecue, so this proposed amendment essentially uses a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito.

Still, if that were all Proposition 2 did, it might be easier to support.

But Proposition 2 goes beyond protecting the definition of marriage. The real impact of Proposition 2 will be to throw into question the legality of other sorts of contracts affecting gay Texans, many of them widely supported by society as a whole.

It is for this reason that we recommend a “no” vote on Proposition 2.

The first part of the proposed constitutional amendment says that marriage “consists only of the union of one man and one woman.” Fair enough. That’s already state law and has been since the state Legislature adopted the Defense of Marriage Act in 2003.

The second part of the proposed amendment prohibits “any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” This would seem to undermine the ability of gay couples to enter into any partnership whose benefits stem from a recognized relationship. This is a problem.

A big problem.

Dallas and Travis counties provide certain health benefits to the partners and families of gay workers. So do hundreds of jurisdictions elsewhere in Texas and across the country. An amendment outlawing “any legal status … similar to marriage” seems to subject these benefit plans to legal challenge. For what gain?

Proponents of this amendment argue that it won’t affect private contracts between gays, and they cite language that was part of the resolution referring this issue to the ballot as proof that the intent behind the amendment isn’t to undermine private contracts. But that language doesn’t appear on the ballot. (The sorts of contracts we’re referring to include arrangements to assure gays visitation rights when a partner is hospitalized, the ability to make the same sort of health care decisions for incapacitated partners as married partners, etc.)

In fact, the state House expressly rejected an effort to clarify the amendment’s effect on private contracts when it voted 96-44 earlier this year against including on the ballot a provision stating that the amendment “may not be construed to prohibit the recognition of any contractual relationship currently available.”

We doubt most Texans want to make it more difficult for gays to visit loved ones in the hospital or the like. These and other private contracts are already largely accepted by society – and even considered good for business. Thirty-eight of the Fortune 50 companies offer benefits to same-sex couples. Four of North Texas’ largest private employers added domestic partner benefits last year.

Proponents say Proposition 2 is about protecting marriage and promoting family values. That may be, at least in their minds, but the unavoidable fact is that this amendment would make it significantly more difficult for gays to protect the health and well-being of their loved ones.

Why on earth deny to these men and women, not special privileges, but ordinary human decencies?

We recommend a “no” vote.

Amen and hallelujah. The reason why the likes of charlatans such as Kelly Shackleford keep harping on “protecting marriage” is because they have no answer to these points. Misdirection and disinformation is all they’ve got. If after all this time you’re still thinking about voting Yes on Prop 2, I hope you fully understand just what it is that you’re standing for. Thanks to Elizabeth H-T for the pointer.

UPDATE: Forgot to note that today is also District C day, so read and learn (a little) about the candidates in that race. I work and spend a lot of time in District C, and I had the chance to meet several of these folks, so even though I’m not voting there I’m interested in how this one turns out.

HD48: Baxter to resign

The race for HD48, which was decided by 147 votes in 2004, just got more interesting as incumbent Todd Baxter has announced his resignation as of this November.

“I am stepping aside because my family and my professional career come first,” said Baxter, 37. “My wife and I are expecting our second child this spring, and I am looking forward to spending more time with my family. As I prepared for yet another winning campaign, I realized the full cost of elective victory was the lost time with my family and professional endeavors.”

Baxter’s move sets up a special election in the coming months that could give the winner the benefit of incumbency, however brief, heading into a November 2006 contest for a full two-year term. The winner of the special election would serve until Baxter’s term is up at the end of 2006.

Baxter’s full statement is here (link via BOR). As the Statesman piece notes, Baxter was a TRMPAC poster child, and both of his Democratic opponents (Andy Brown and Donna Howard) have been pounding on him to return the dirty DeLay money. I suppose either Baxter decided he was unlikely to prevail in 2006, or maybe he just figured it wasn’t worth the aggravation, which is certainly understandable.

The BOR thread speculates on whether Baxter’s exit will help Democrats take the seat. Maybe, maybe not. If you look at the other race totals in HD48, you see that while it went mostly Republican, two Dems (Jan Patterson and Margaret Cooper) carried the day there. This is a fairly evenly-matched district overall – in contested races excluding Baxter/White, the vote totals are 346,189 R to 310,347 D, or 52.7% to 47.3%. From where I sit, that makes this a tossup, with the outcome to be determined by the candidate and his or her GOTV efforts.

You can argue that Baxter was damaged goods and thus an easier target for Brown/Howard/whoever. That’s true, but he’s also a known quantity with some district-friendly votes on his resume, in particular his opposition to toll roads. The two Democrats who got majority support in HD48 were both running for open seats. He may have been the lowest performing incumbent in that district, but he still won in the end. In general, I’d rather not have to compete with incumbent’s advantage.

We’ll see when Governor Perry schedules the special election, since the time frame he picks may give a clue as to whether or not he calls another special session on school finance, and if so when that would be.

Gov. Rick Perry can set a special election sometime between the end of November and May. Perry spokesman Robert Black would not speculate Thursday on the election date, because Perry had not received official notice of Baxter’s resignation.

Relevant election laws are here and here, for those of you with more aptitude for legal interpretation than I. For what it’s worth, if Perry calls the election for May, I’d say that’s a clear sign that he intends to put off school finance until 2007. The earlier the date, the more likely he’ll call a session in 2006. Just my opinion.

Procedures are for the little people

I assume you’ve all seen the Tom DeLay mug shot by now. If not, it’s in this story, and will forever be in The Smoking Gun‘s collection. I just want to note that once again, Team DeLay is demonstrating that they believe their guy deserves Special Treatment:

The Sugar Land Republican was fingerprinted, photographed, taken before a judge, posted $10,000 bail and left shortly before 1 p.m. His lawyer told reporters DeLay was put through the process because of a political vendetta by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, the Democrat who brought the case.

“Now Ronnie Earle has the mugshot he wanted,” DeGuerin said.

“I wanted to avoid the circus,” DeGuerin added. “He wanted a perp walk, and we did not want to do it.”

With all due respect, who cares what you think about this? If your guy were named Tom Smith, he’d be routinely subjected to arrest, fingerprint, and mug shot like everyone else, and he wouldn’t have a national forum to bitch about it. If DeLay doesn’t like the way indicted felons get treated during their processing, he has way more power to do something about it than most other people who’ve gone through it have. It really is amazing how sensitive some of these law-and-order types become to the rights of the accused when they’re the ones being told to hold up the numbers and face the camera.

Anyway. You may notice that DeLay is smiling in his mug shot. The Statesman asks why that is.

Answer: A photo of DeLay grinning from ear to ear doesn’t pack quite the punch in a Democratic attack ad as one that looks more like the mugshot of, say, actor Hugh Grant.

Note the House of Representatives security pin on DeLay’s lapel.

He looks in the photo like a proud member of Congress who might just have won the lottery, not one indicted on charges of money laundering. The photo looks like it could have been taken anywhere.

And that was just the point.

Please. Have we never heard of PhotoShop? I grant you that DeLay would have been foolish to show up looking like this, but his Dapper Dan expression won’t prevent any attack mailers. Any picture, or any alteration to this picture can be used – it’s not like most people will remember what his actual mug shot looked like, if they ever saw it in the first place. Or this image could be taken unaltered, with a headline of “WHY IS THIS MAN SMILING?” and a footer that lists all the sins he and whoever he’s being tied to are accused of. The actual picture is incidental – it’s the reason for the picture that matters.

A threesome of TV-related complaints

Have the critics turned on Desperate Housewives?

ABC’s hit is second only to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as television’s most popular show this fall, although several critics have taken issue with how its second season has begun. Joanne Ostrow of the Denver Post said the hour is “edging toward vapidity.”

“The tone is off,” Ostrow wrote. “Not campy enough to make the comedy clever, not real enough to make it engaging as mystery-drama. The story is too rooted in convention to be truly outrageous, too melodramatic to make it plausible as anything but goofy comedy.”

David Bianculli of the New York Daily News said the series doesn’t have any traction. This season’s new story line, with Alfre Woodard’s new character, Betty, imprisoning someone in her basement “has not only wasted Woodard’s talent, but also our time, as well,” he wrote.

This season finds the series “clinging to old plots while fumbling with new ones,” wrote Robert Bianco of USA Today.

Whatever. I think it’s basically the same piece of fluff that I enjoyed last year. I don’t think they’re “clinging to old plots” so much as they’re taking the natural continuations of them. We got answers last season, but very little really came to a conclusion. Which current thread would you have them drop, and why?

For what it’s worth, I find Bree’s situation to be very engaging. I want to know when and how she’ll figure out she’s dating her stalker. Given how every action has consequences on this show, I feel confident that Susan is in for some future unpleasantness based on what she did this last episode (I’ll put it in the comments as a spoiler buffer). Lynette continues to impress me with her endless ability to be devious. Only Gabrielle hasn’t had much to do, and I think that will change with that new lawyer on the scene.
Overall, then, no real gripes from me.

Meanwhile, Sue is unhappy with the current season of The Amazing Race.

1. The “racearoundtheworld” aspect is gone. Now, it’s a race around North America. La dee fricking da. […]

2. Fewer Roadblocks. I’ve seen all the legs of this Race and I only remember seeing two Roadblocks so far. Lame.

3. The tasks suck. Go here and get a clue which will tell you to go someplace else and get another clue. Yawn. […]

4. There’s too damn many people. […]

5. Too little cultural interaction. […]

6. The tasks haven’t been physically demanding or intimidating. […]

7. There’s no really wonderful team and no villain. Mama Paolo is annoying and I’m sick of her berating her family, but she’s no Frank, Karen, or Ian. Let’s face it: TAR is reality TV and it’s not reality TV without somebody to love (Kris and Jon, Uchenna and Joyce, Don and MJ) and somebody to hate (Jonathan, the Guidos, Flo).

Well, they fly out of the US in the next episode, so that’s one. I agree there should be more roadblocks and detours, though I do think the ones they have had have been good (and demanding, especially in this last episode). They’ve been a bit sneaky with some of the travel tasks, which I like even if that helped trip up a family that I liked (again, in the comments). And I agree that more cultural interaction would be nice.

I disagree about the contestants, though. There may not be an easy villain like Jonathan or Boston Rob, but as long as the Weavers (whom everyone else clearly dislikes) are in the race, there will be some tension. No one respects the Gaghans, which has some potential for conflict as well. And while I don’t have a clear favorite rooting interest at this point, there are several families I like, especially the goofball Branson, Linz, and Godliewski crews.

So overall, maybe not the best Race ever, but good enough for me.

And we can’t have a post about TV-bashing without noting that those sex-obsessed watchers at The Parents Television Council have once again done us all the favor of pointing out which shows are worth TiVoing. That Brent Bozell really loves his job, doesn’t he? As well he should – all he does is watch naughty TV shows and complain about them, and get paid for it. Pretty sweet gig if you can get it. That’s pretty much all there is to see here, so on to the spoilers in the comments.