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June 29th, 2007:

I do not have an iPhone

Nor will I be getting one any time soon. I like whizzy gadgets as much as the next guy, but at some point, one must say “Get a life!”

AT&T’s Dan Feldstein says 80 percent of the store managers in the Houston area say they’ve got folks waiting in line for the iPhone.


At the Galleria, another three dozen were in line around 10 a.m., the queue wrapped around the clear plexiglass balustrade across from the Apple Store on the mall’s second level. The first to arrive, 24-year-old D.J. Lewis, told Kevin Moran he’d gotten there about 4:30 a.m., and had to wait until 8 a.m. to get into the mall.

Lewis told Moran that, when it comes to gadgetry, he’s gotta have it all on Day One.

“Every electronic gadget, I have tried to get it the first day it comes out,” Lewis said. “I normally get a new phone about every six months.”

The iPhone, he said, “will complete my collection.”

Until the next gotta-have-it gizmo comes along. I’ll wait, thanks.

Aiyer takes a plea

I was pretty sure that this would be the ultimate outcome.

Houston Community College Trustee Jay Aiyer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of tampering with a governmental record Thursday and received a year of probation.

Aiyer, one-time candidate for Houston City Council, also must fulfill 160 hours of community service and pay a $750 fine. He also is prohibited from working on any political campaigns during his probation.

Aiyer, 38, a lawyer and former chief of staff for former Mayor Lee Brown, has served as an HCC trustee since 2001.

“I’m glad we were able to resolve this quickly. I look forward to practicing law and spending time with my family,” Aiyer said.

He said he had not given any thought to whether he will keep his seat on the HCC board.

Aiyer originally was charged with a state jail felony, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid a trial.

“It made sense to make peace,” Aiyer’s lawyer, Dennis Cain, said. “It could have had a massive impact on his future had he pleaded to a felony. It doesn’t make sense to risk that kind of exposure. He wanted to put it behind him.”

It’s also a huge financial burden to defend oneself against a felony charge. Whatever the merits of the charges against Aiyer – and I have no idea one way or the other – the downside to fighting it out is huge. You’d have to be pretty non-risk-averse to go for it. As I said before, Jay is a friend of mine, and I hate that this has happened to him. I sincerely hope he does put this behind him.

Couple points that I feel need to be mentioned.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office accused Aiyer of committing the offense by removing and destroying a portion of his campaign finance report and putting another document in its place in March 2005.

The charge stemmed from a complaint filed with the Texas Ethics Commission more than two years ago. The complaint accused Aiyer of trying to hide expenditures from his HCC campaign account, failing to report payments to political consultants and failing to itemize credit card payments.

The commission referred the complaint to the district attorney’s office in April 2006.

Why did it take the DA so long to act on this? I’m not having any luck finding a citation for this, but doesn’t the greater-than-two-year time span between the alleged offense and the filing of the charge mean that the statute of limitations would have run out for a misdemeanor offense? I have to wonder what might have happened if the specter of a felony conviction had not been hanging over Aiyer’s head. That’s something you do fight.

There may be nothing to that line of thinking – again, we don’t know that much about the actual case. But this is pretty egregious:

“This isn’t the end of his problems,” said Donna Goode, the division chief over the district attorney’s public integrity unit. “He still has to deal with the State Bar, he still has issues with the Texas Ethics Commission and a decision has to be made by trustees about whether this disqualifies him from serving.”

Aiyer did not attend Thursday’s monthly HCC board meeting. Christopher Oliver, chairman of the board, said it was not clear how Aiyer’s plea would affect his service on the board.

Aiyer’s term is up at the end of this year. HCC often is viewed as a political springboard and Aiyer’s political future once seemed limitless.

Under state law, a person convicted of a felony is barred from public office, unless he or she since had been pardoned.

“I don’t know if it’s a disqualification,” Goode said of Aiyer’s sentence. “It’s certainly something an opponent wouldn’t have to go very far to dredge up and use against you.”

Is it really appropriate for a member of the DA’s office to be speculating in public about the potential ramifications of one of its cases? Because if we’re going to bring up politics, Chuck Rosenthal and his people have a very spotty history. From the ludicrously weak perjury case they brought against former Police Chief CO Bradford, which ended in a directed verdict of not guilty by the trial judge, to their no-billing of Steven Hotze on a DUI charge, to their refusal to investigate Texans for True Mobility, the DA has been pretty consistent in who he chooses to go after, and who he does not. Again, without knowing all the details, I can’t say for sure that Aiyer’s case fits the pattern. But you’d be naive to not be at least a little suspicious.

Where the votes are: HD136

Continuing my series on blue precincts within red State House districts (see here for the first installment), today I’m looking at HD136, where incumbent Beverly Woolley defeated Democrat Scott Brann with just over 70% of the vote. Unlike HD126, HD136 has basically no genuinely blue areas. It has only three precincts that were carried by Brann. Here they are:

Pcnt RVs Votes Turnout Brann Brann% Sharp Sharp% Henley Henley% ==================================================================== 179 1749 421 24.07% 189 50.9 211 55.4 N/A N/A 272 2415 506 20.95% 233 51.1 243 51.7 232 48.6 807 2127 387 18.19% 242 67.4 256 69.4 N/A N/A

(As before, “Sharp” is Jim Sharp, the top Democratic votegetter in Harris County; “Henley” is Democrat Jim Henley, whose CD07 covers most of HD136.)

Only Precinct 807 qualifies as a place you’d clearly want to target for GOTV operations. Naturally, it had the lowest turnout in the district – overall turnout was 42%, with quite a few red precincts topping 50%. That doesn’t mean I think the other two precincts should be ignored, but it does suggest that perhaps a different approach might be needed to ensure that any new voters turned out are voters you actually wanted. I’m not an expert in those matters, but there’s plenty of those folks around. My task here is to point out where the opportunities are, and I say Precincts 179 and 272 are opportunities.

In fact, I’d expand the definition here to include precincts where at least one Democrat topped 40%, since that is still significantly better than the district as a whole. There are a half-dozen of those precincts:

Pcnt RVs Votes Turnout Brann Brann% Sharp Sharp% Henley Henley% ==================================================================== 298 2332 798 34.22% 263 36.3 297 40.3 286 38.8 312 4148 1367 32.96% 476 38.0 515 40.5 480 37.2 313 2711 794 29.29% 312 42.6 339 46.6 319 42.9 330 2311 564 24.41% 240 47.7 250 49.6 N/A N/A 569 3098 1076 34.73% 416 42.3 460 46.7 454 45.4 572 2969 905 30.48% 374 44.6 400 47.4 381 44.5

These precincts, especially the bottom four, are close enough to the 50% mark that a project to figure out who the desired voters are and then target them makes sense. I should also note that an eyeball comparison with the 2002 numbers in the Lite Guv’s race also indicates that each of those precincts became bluer in 2006. The material is there – it needs extra work, but it’s there. And again, I won’t say we’re maximizing our efforts to win Harris County in 2008 unless we’re giving precincts like these the work they need. More to come, so stay tuned.

Fly like an eagle

Great news: The bald eagle is no longer endangered.

Conservationists have hailed the successful recovery of the eagle as clear evidence that the Endangered Species Act, which has been under attack in recent years from business groups and some members of Congress, can work.

Government biologists have documented nearly 10,000 nesting pairs of bald eagles, including at least one pair in each of the 48 contiguous states. This compares to only 417 such pairs in 1963 when the bird was on the verge of disappearing everywhere in the country except for Alaska.

While no longer declared endangered, the bald eagle will continue to be protected by a 1940 federal law that will make it illegal to kill the bird — as well as state statutes.

Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service also is preparing guidelines for protecting the bird’s nesting habitat under the 1940 law and developing a permitting process that landowners will have to use if eagles are found on property they want to disturb.

“This is truly one of America’s great wildlife success stories,” said John Kostyack, director the National Wildlife Federation’s endangered species program. He said it shows the Endangered Species Act is needed and can work to save plants and animals on the verge of disappearing.

Said John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society: “The rescue of the bald eagle from the brink of extinction ranks among the greatest victories of American conservation.”

Amen to that. I remember as a kid in the 70s seeing a bunch of stuff on TV about how the eagle was dying out, and what a national disgrace it would be for this great American symbol to go extinct. Thank God that won’t happen. Link via Dig Deeper Texas.

Sports guy talk radio

Somewhat related to the previous post, did you know that there are now about to be a total of four sports talk/”guy talk” radio stations in town? No, I don’t understand it any better than you do. I’ve listened to many sporting events on the radio, including postgame shows, but have never, not once, tuned into a sports talk show. They’ve just never appealed to me.

Just one thing from that article that I want to comment on. It’s on how “sports talk” radio has morphed into “guy talk” radio, where the topics can include things other than just sports:

Dallas’s attachment to the Cowboys is, of course, legendary; you could probably program Cowboys talk 24 hours a day and draw big numbers. But The Ticket has also become known for more wide-ranging discussions — an hour may go by in the morning where sports doesn’t even come up and the talk instead is on the latest celebrity flap or hot movie.

Programming execs here are moving in that direction. You’re going to hear a lot less talk about fantasy-baseball numbers and a lot more about The Sopranos or Paris Hilton.

So what you’re saying is basically that this is the Roula and Ryan show with sports but no crappy music. Am I missing something here?

Great show! You’re fired!

Well, what did you expect?

Filling in for conservative talk-show host Michael Berry Tuesday morning, Houston lawyer Geoff Berg was direct with KPRC radio’s listeners.

“I am a moderate,” he announced. “Michael is a right-wing fanatic. We are going to disagree.”

He was on point.

Listeners — and apparently advertisers — disagreed so much that KPRC/950 AM fired Berg after one day on the job, ending his brief stint as a talk-radio host.

“Right after the show, the producers told me that I’d done a great job as host,” Berg said Wednesday.

“(But) later in the day, they said don’t come back.”


Berry, when asked for comment, sent the following reply via e-mail: “Geoff is a personal friend. I also think he can develop into a good talk-show host. He is quite to the left of me, but I think there is an audience for him. 950 is not that place.”

Berg said he does not have any ill will toward Berry or KPRC, joking that the station fired him after “one day of diverse opinion.”

You know, I don’t have any problems with KPRC’s actions here. You’ve got to figure that if, say, Michael Berry had sat in for Amy Goodman one morning on “Democracy Now!”, KPFT listeners would be pretty vocal about it. People tune into a show like that expecting one thing, and when they don’t get it, they’re not gonna like it. While this is certainly amusing, and while I agree with Jack that it would be nice to have a little more diversity in the airwaves, I also agree with Berry that it’s not going to happen by mixing and matching on an established station. It’ll take a different outlet establishing its own brand. Which means it’ll probably never happen, but that’s what it’ll take.