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October 31, 2003

Republicans to Challenge Black Voters in Kentucky on Tuesday

By Byron LaMasters

@Stake reports:

Jefferson County is home to Louisville, the state's largest city with a significant African American population. Jefferson County Republicans plan to place Election Day challengers at 59 voting precincts in predominantly black neighborhoods. Challengers can require voters to show identification if the challenger does not believe the voter lives in the district.

And why would the GOP want to suppress the Black vote? Heh.. I won't answer that one, but they try it, and do it all the time.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:08 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

YCT Publishes Blacklist

By Byron LaMasters

It's here:

Bob Jensen, associate journalism professor David Edwards, government professor Clement Henry, government professor Jennifer Suchland, assistant government instructor Thomas Garza, associate professor of Slavic languages and literature Stephen Bronars, economics professor Harry Cleaver, associate economics professor Edmund Gordon, professor of anthropology and African American studies Penne Restad, senior history lecturer Gretchen Webber, assistant sociology instructor

It's interesting how YCT said that they'd include all professors that promoted an ideology - conservative or liberal. Yet, they seem only interested in attacking liberal professors.

Of the ten on the blacklist, eight are liberals, one is anti-Israel and one is conservative. While the liberals are hashly attacked, the token conservative on the list is only given a light slap on the wrist:

Instructor: Steve Bronars Department: Economics Course Evaluated: Introduction to Microeconomics Spring 2004 courses: Dr. Bronars acknowledges that one of the reasons he teaches economics is to get more people to agree with his opinions on it. He champions the free market system and believes in minimal government intervention. Although he may try to offer a liberal perspective on economics early on, he will admit that his class focuses instead on efficiency. He is very good at teaching economics, but sometimes his opinions are the main things that shine through in his lectures. You probably wouldn't take a free market economics class if you didn't already believe in capitalism, but Dr. Bronars may try to do the thinking for his students without challenging them to question why they feel the way they do.

None of the liberals on the list receive that sort of treatment. Here's a sampling:


Jensen introduces the unsuspecting student to a crash course in socialism, white
privilege, the "truth"; about the Persian Gulf War and the role of America as the world's prominent sponsor of terrorism. Jensen half-heartedly attempts to tie his rants to "critical issues" in journalism, insisting his lessons are valid under the guise of teaching potential journalists to "think" about the world around them.


Dr. Edwards allows his hatred of conservatism and capitalism to permeate his entire curriculum.


Gordon implied that if you're black and conservative, you're not black enough, and you're not doing what's in the best interest of the black community. He's called himself a radical and displayed a political agenda of changing students' minds toward a far left ideology. Most of what's taught consists of how blacks were and are oppressed, which would seem to deprive students of other important elements of black culture.


Although during class discussions Suchland allows dissenting ideas, all of the course readings greatly accentuate oppression and exploitation in the U.S. along race, class, and gender lines. If you believe in the American Dream and that the U.S. is a land of great opportunity, nothing in the readings from this
class will confirm that belief.


Dr. Restad's goal is not to encourage objective inquiry into the history of this nation, but rather to indoctrinate students with highly subjective, emotional reactions to historical events.

While, some of these are probably fair attacks, a lot of them are pretty cheap. It makes sense that a course on African-American history would focus on oppression of African-Americans, because, well from the time African Americans were brought to America in the 17th century until the Civil Rights Act - they were, by law, (constitutionally 3/5ths) second class citizens. Naturally, the majority of an African-American history class would emphasize the reality and effects of Black oppression. The next professor is critisized for "accentuat[ing] oppression and exploitation in the U.S. along race, class, and gender lines" and that "if you believe in the American Dream and that the U.S. is a land of great opportunity, nothing in the readings from this
class will confirm that belief." Is it not possible to believe both? I think that it's important to understand the exploitation and oppression of underprivledged races, classes and women in America in the context of believing in American opportunity. They aren't mutrally exclusive. And to suggest that recognizing inequalities in America is contradictory to believing in the American dream is quite biased. It's YCT. What do you expect?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:35 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

Over Redistricting. Duh:

The League of United Latin American Citizens today sued the state over redistricting, claiming that the newly adopted congressional districts violate voting rights of the state's Latino population.

According to the lawsuit filed in Tyler, the plan approved by the Legislature in October weakens the Dallas Hispanic community by splitting the population into five congressional districts. Similar splits divide Hispanic communities in Travis, Bexar and Webb counties, according to LULAC.

Pile it on. The map is illegal.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bill White, Annise Parker and Rail for Houston

By Byron LaMasters

Both Charles Kuffner and Greg Wythe have good endorsements for any Democrats in Houston. I haven't followed the any of the races in depth, but check out their endorsements for the best progressive / moderate / Democratic candidates for each race. As an outsider, I care most about White, Parker and rail. My short, simplified take on the races are as follows: As for White, he's a moderate consensus builder and good Democrat. I'd never vote for Orlando Sanchez - he's a conservative Republican pushed by the right-wing wanting a Hispanic poster child. As for Sylvester Turner, he's a decent legislator, but he sold out to the Craddick leadership team during session and refused to go to Ardmore, OK. Unacceptable. I'd support him in a run-off against Sanchez, but White is a far better choice. As for Parker, she's extremely well qualified, a good Democrat and openly lesbian. I won't vote for gay candidates because they're gay, but when they're also the best qualified candidate and a good Democrat, then it's an easy choice. As for rail, it's worked for Dallas, and unless Houston wants to remain inferior to Dallas forever (sorry, I'm from Dallas - I can't resist), then they ought to get started on rail of their own (yeah, I know Owen will give me shit for it - remember, I said simplified).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Update from Byron

By Byron LaMasters

Blogging is funny. I got a call from a friend this morning worried if I was ok, because I hadn't blogged in a few days. I'm fine. Actually, great now. I just had a busy week - with work throughout the week, and tests yesterday and today. I made it. I'm going to Dallas for some meetings for the weekend after some Halloween parties in Austin tonight, so I'll be busy, but fortunately Jim's been on the job posting this week, and I've been happy to see Karl and Andrew chip in when they have the chance. Thanks guys... next week should see more regular posting from myself.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dan Morales Sentenced to 4 Years

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman / AP reports:

Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales was led away to federal prison in handcuffs this afternoon after receiving a four-year sentence for mail fraud and filing false tax returns.

Morales also was ordered to pay more than $330,000 in restitution and fines.

Morales pleaded guilty to the charges in July, admitting that he had cheated the Internal Revenue Service and shipped phony documents during an attempt to funnel money to a friend.

Morales, who had been free on bail while awaiting his sentencing, requested permission to report to prison under his own power. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks refused the request.

The mail fraud charge stems from Morales' lawsuit against U.S. tobacco companies, claiming they owed Texas reimbursement for smoking-related health care. The lawsuit ended with the companies agreeing to pay $17.3 billion to the state.

When it came time to pay the lawyers their fees, which reached $3.3 billion, Morales added his friend Marc Murr to the attorney list and tried to get him 3 percent of the settlement. The other lawyers protested that Murr, a Houston lawyer, did little to nothing on the case.

Morales later admitted to back-dating a contract to make it look as if Murr had done more work than he had. It was a federal crime because he shipped the contract across state lines to the California arbitrators appointed to decide how to divide the legal fees.

Murr, who later declined payment, pleaded guilty earlier this month to mail fraud. Prosecutors recommended six months imprisonment, five years on probation and a fine of up to $250,000. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 19.

Morales' tax evasion charge comes from $420,000 he took from his campaign account for "personal use" — money that he didn't report to the IRS.

It's a shame, but I don't really have any sympathy for him. He's getting what he deserves. Hopefully, he'll come out of prison in four years a better man. Regardless, it goes without saying that his political career is over. Remember, he endorsed both Rick Perry and David Dewhurst last year. It's really a shame. He had so much promise, but he threw it all away.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2003

Bless This Blog (mostly)

By Jim Dallas

While we're not usually into numerology and other cultish nonsense, it is worth noting that the Gematriculator (which previously determined that TBOGG's blog is 66% good), has determined that:

This site is certified 67% GOOD by the Gematriculator

Mark Harden's InSane Antonio blog also scored 67% Good/33% Evil. Although let it be noted that this site is only suppoed to provide an aggregate index of evil, not of its composition.

Thus I take the equivalent rankings as further evidence of Ambrose Bierce's claim that "[a conservative is a ] statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others."

This isn't quite as impressive as Charles Kuffner's most-saintly blog, which was certified as 69% good.

(Kuff be Praised!)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 03:33 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

GDP Up, Employment Down, Confusion Reigns Supreme

By Jim Dallas

DailyKOS is on this one, but I think misses part of the story.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy rocketed ahead at its fastest pace in more than 19 years in the third quarter of 2003 as consumers, their wallets fattened by tax cuts, went on a buying spree, an unexpectedly strong government report showed on Thursday.

U.S. gross domestic product surged at a 7.2 percent annual rate in the July-September period, the Commerce Department (news - web sites) said. It was the steepest climb since the first quarter of 1984 and more than double the second quarter's 3.3 percent rate.

That's all fine and good, but is it sustainable? Looking at the details, one needn't be an economist (and I am not) to worry.

First, consumption of durable goods has been high for the last two quarters, and it stands to reason that this is in large part a function of tax-cutting (purchases of durable goods also bounced up in Q4 of 2001 and Q3 of last year). Obviously, people don't go out and buy durable goods (cars, refrigerators, TV sets) just everyday. And personally I'd suspect that consumers may be blowing their wad all at one time, making future growth in this area unlikely.

Similarly, residential investment went up 20 percent last quarter. That's pretty aberrant. People and businesses don't go out and fix their homes/offices/etc. up everyday, either.

And it's clear where the money for all these improvements is coming from; scroll down to "disposable income." Real disposable income was also up 7.2% last quarter. However, the decrease in tax collections (largely from advance payments on child tax credits - another one hit wonder) outpaced increases in income. In short, the federal budget deficit has been this quarter's sugar-daddy (and we know how that's going to end up).

On the other hand, Brad DeLong, who is an economist, sees a silver lining: a big boost in equipment investment.

That coupled with some signs (noted in Reuters) that the labor market is starting to turn around suggest that we've finally hit rock-bottom in the quest to clear out inventories, and that demand is (finally) catching up with supply. Of course, as KOS and Brad DeLong both note, unemployment isn't going anywhere fast. Which is a crying shame, because it clearly indicates a gap between potential growth and actual growth.

If I had to make a completely amateur guess as to what is going on, it is this -- that low interest rates and tax cuts are fueling a short-term boost in consumption of goods that people wouldn't otherwise buy. This is not bad, but it probably isn't the foundation for job growth and economic expansion that the country really needs right now.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman's NYT column this morning mostly agrees with my hypothesis, arguing that:

First, while there was a significant pickup in business investment, the bulk of last quarter's growth came from a huge surge in consumer spending, with a further boost from housing. These components of spending stayed strong even when the economy was weak, so there shouldn't have been any pent-up demand. Yet housing grew at a 20 percent rate, while spending on consumer durables (that's stuff like cars and TV sets) — which last year grew three times as fast as the economy — rose at an incredible 27 percent rate last quarter.

This can't go on — in the long run, consumer spending can't outpace the growth in consumer income. Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley has suggested, plausibly, that much of last quarter's consumer splurge was "borrowed" from the future: consumers took advantage of low-interest financing, cash from home refinancing and tax rebate checks to accelerate purchases they would otherwise have made later. If he's right, we'll see below-normal purchases and slower growth in the months ahead.

Speaking of all-things Krugman, we should find out in the next 72 hours whether Krugman stalker (and we mean that in the opinionated, figurative sense) Donald Luskin will follow through with his threat to subpoena blogspot in order to obtain Atrios's secret superhero identity.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 29, 2003

Last Man Standing

By Jim Dallas

Sometimes a little cold shower is in order. For me, it involved looking up the estimated allocation of delegates to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

To put it mildly, it's going to be a long, hard slog for any candidate to reach 2170-ish votes on the convention floor for a majority, if more than a handful of candidates remain in the race past February 3.

Perhaps it's just that it's been since, oh, 1992 when we've had a competitive cycle. Or maybe it's just me.

But as I continue to see a string of national and state polls that put 3 or 4 or 5 candidates all in striking distance of each other, the more I tend to think that we're gonna have an old fashioned, rip-roaring, knock-down-drag out convention in Boston next year...

But that isn't to say that this is a bad thing.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 10:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Zell sells out (again)

By Jim Dallas

Not at all shocking, but Instapundit and the Weekly Standard report that Sen. Zell Miller ("D?"- Georgia) will endorse President Bush.

I wish Senator Miller didn't have a driving need to make himself the bęte noire of Democrats generally and Southern Democrats specifically (despite Zell's insistence that the DNC has told "a third of the country to go to hell", upwards of 80 percent of the Democrats in the South have been moderate-to-liberal for years) before riding off into the sunset.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Two shameless plugs

By Jim Dallas

First, I encourage the entire Burnt Orange Report readership to watch CBS's miniseries The Reagans, which will air next month.

The first reason why this is mission critical is because it will piss off Mark Harden (which is practically an end-in-itself).

The second reason is because, despite reactionary whinings about "distortions" and "bias", it may very well present an engaging portrait of what Washington was really like in the go-go 80s (much the same way that Billy Lee Brammer's The Gay Place was said to capture a better caricature of Lyndon Johnson that any of his official biographers ever did; and much the same way that Joe Klein's Primary Colors captures Clinton). Sometimes a little interpolation and "creative writing" is necessary to express what's in somebody's soul, and as Ronald Reagan has been one of the most bedeviling great men of our era to pigeon-hole, perhaps a little "distortion" is necessary.

In any case, a miniseries ought to be judged as art (containing the truth in broad strokes) and not as history, accurate down to the last detail.

(And for pete's sake, the claim that Reagan is being played by "Barbara Streisand's husband" is just stupid. How many actors can pass as Ronald Reagan these days, besides James Brolin?)

The second shameless plug of the evening is a quickie. It's roll call time again in the National Government Simulation (Sign In | Home Page | Sim Democratic Party HQ). It's sort of like an Internet version of a model Congress/model UN -- or would be if we had enough people to make it function properly. Until then, we'll probably sit around in our virtual Tavern and talk about how hopelessly emo we all are. Woe is us.

Everyone who wants to participate is welcome, especially if you can help me pass my national healthcare reform package, my gay-rights bill, and education funding bill. Every vote on the "floor" and in committee helps. Not to mention the fact I'm gonna need to register some new "voters" to get re-elected as the Senior Senator from Texas in December (ha! how's that for subverting the dominant paradigm!)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:51 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Strayhorn Strikes Again

By Andrew Dobbs

Charles has this post about Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn's latest attack on Rick Perry. From the Houston Chronicle:

For the second time in two weeks, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn ripped into Gov. Rick Perry on Monday, blaming her fellow Republican for cuts in community college funding.

"Texas is great, but we can do better," Strayhorn repeated several times in an address to the Texas Association of Community College Trustees.


On Monday, Strayhorn repeated her earlier attacks against Perry over budget cuts in health care and funding deficiencies in the public schools and added community colleges to her list.

"The community college finance system was built around the notion that the state should cover instructional costs and the local (college) district should be responsible for providing the buildings and other facilities," she said.

"This administration, however, has not funded the formula at a level where the state's paying the full cost of instruction. Instead, community colleges through local revenues have been paying a chunk of instructional costs, as well as paying for facilities."


Strayhorn proposed two significant revenue-raising measures -- a $1 per pack increase in the state cigarette tax and video lotteries at racetracks -- during the legislative session last spring, but neither was adopted. Combined, she said, they would have raised more than $3 billion during the two-year budget period.

Strayhorn also criticized Perry for the "lost civility, the lost dignity, the lost honor, the lost effectiveness and the lost spirit of bipartisanship championed by then-governor and now President George W. Bush."

So it looks like the GOP will have a whole mess of primary battles on their hands in 2006. If Kay Bailey Hutchison stays in DC Perry v. Strayhorn will dominate the Governor's office, somebody will be fighting for the comptroller's office and at least a few prominent Republicans- Todd Staples, Susan Combs, Greg Abbott- have got to be thinking about moving up in the rankings. If Hutchison decides to run for Governor shift the fights around to her Senate seat and add Dewhurst, who really wanted to run for Senate in 2002 but settled for Lt. Gov. to enter the mix as well. They will spend a lot of time, money and effort fighting each other in a primary assuming that the general is locked up.

This is why we need very good candidates, very little contention in the primary and a solid fundraising effort between now and then so that the day after the GOP decides its candidates after a bloody primary season the Dems can start attacking them and building up their own profiles while the GOP struggles to tie up loose ends with the different factions. A good, moderate to conservative Dem like Jim Turner or John Sharp or John Montford could get support from GOPers who lost in the primary and can't stand their party's candidate. I think that 2006 has an opening for us and we need to start working now.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 01:16 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The Funny Man Gets Angry

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I spoke too soon last week when I mentioned some positive comments about Al Sharpton being a uniter of the Democrats.

From the Washington Post

Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton launched a blistering attack on Howard Dean yesterday, accusing his rival of promoting an "anti-black agenda."

"Howard Dean's opposition to affirmative action, his current support for the death penalty and historic support of the NRA's [National Rifle Association's] agenda amounts to an anti-black agenda that will not sell in communities of color in this country," Sharpton said in a statement.

This seems odd of him, but is explained in the next line.

He said his comments were in response to a news report yesterday that Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) plans to endorse Dean, the former Vermont governor and presumed front-runner for the 2004 Democratic nomination. Sharpton has had a long-standing rivalry with the congressman's father, Jesse L. Jackson, who twice ran for president.

"Any so-called African American leader that would endorse Dean despite his anti-black record is mortgaging the future of our struggle for civil rights and social justice," Sharpton said.

This is more about Sharpton fearing the loss of support from the only quarters where he had it, the black community via the black community's leaders. Of course, the fact that it was Rep. Jackson probably only made him more angry.

He was a real firebrand in the last debate. He sounded like a southern community preacher calling for the condemnation of the white house and proposing a reclamation of the nation.

These comments just reaffirm the thoughts of those people who think he is a rabble-rouser and a race baiter. I now realize this (being that I wasn't aware of his past actions, being the young'n that I am).

SIDENOTE: So Kuchinch did carry through with his big threat to take Dean to task about his new ads in the Sunday debate. Yeah. Did everyone see those big headlines screaming KUCINICH DEFLATES DEAN: POINTED QUESTIONS SLOW FRONTRUNNER'S BIG "MO"


Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2003

More shockers from the Bush press conference

By Jim Dallas

Financial Times: Bush seeks re-election on 'world peace' ticket

US President George W. Bush said on Tuesday he will campaign for re-election next year by arguing that "the world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership".

But, even as he did so, he conceded that "Iraq's a dangerous place" and shuffled back from his triumphant declaration on board the USS Abraham Lincoln seven months ago that America had achieved its mission in the Gulf.

Would it be trite or cliched to quote Orwell ("War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength") right about now?

Posted by Jim Dallas at 11:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Gay Fatigue

By Byron LaMasters

This was from a couple of weeks ago, but I recently read of Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow's column on his "gay fatigue". Now, I'll start off by saying that I've always liked Steve Blow. In fact, he's one of my favorite Morning News columnists. I've tended to find his columns interesting and insightful. I've emailed him twice, once complimenting him for a well-written column on underage drinking, and once criticizing him for his characterization of anti-war protesters. Both times I received a thoughtful response.

Anyway, Steve Blow wrote that he has gay fatigue:

I think I have "gay fatigue."

Don't worry, it's not catching. But I suspect that many of you have contracted it, too.

Let's talk.

Remember a few years ago when there was lots of talk about "compassion fatigue"? The news confronted us with so many problems, so the theory went, that our ability to feel compassion simply wore out.

If nothing else, it made a nice excuse for indifference.

But to some degree, it also made sense. And that's why I think I'm now suffering from gay fatigue. I'm just feeling kind of overwhelmed.

My moment of self-diagnosis came recently when I was looking through a list of upcoming movies on the Sundance Channel. That's a cable TV channel that shows independent films.

The movie descriptions read something like this:

"... the story of a brooding young lesbian coming to terms with her sexuality in the 1950s."

"... the story of a misunderstood gay teen confronting homosexuality, gangs and poor decorating in Brooklyn."

"... the story of a transgendered Jewish poet's struggle to reconcile love, faith and verse."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But I sure didn't want to watch.

I know I have a fairly acute case of gay fatigue because I have lost the will to watch Will & Grace.

Jack, who once seemed so funny, now just seems annoying. One less penis joke per episode would probably help.

And this is one straight guy who wouldn't let those Queer Eye guys anywhere near him. I could use their help. I just couldn't stand all their yapping.

Well, Steve, I really have three words for you. Deal with it. I don't mean that in a vindictive way at all, but rather as a reality of life. The fact of the matter is that the gay community (and our allies) are winning the culture war. We've seen media and culture undergo a massive transformation in the past 10-20 years from basically ignoring homosexuality at best and demeaning homosexuals as predators (or characterizing all homosexuals in mostly negative stereotypes) at worst.

Now conservatives out there will say that Steve's right, here - that the media and Hollywood are obsessed with gay themes. Maybe so, but I have another suggestion. Perhaps the media has realized something else. Gay themes sell. People are interested. Why else has Will & Grace become so popular? Or Queer Eye?

Well a couple reasons. One, gay themes are new. A lot of people find them entertaining, and probably most importantly, they sell. As for being new, until the mid-90s gay subjects were largely taboo in television and movies. It wasn't until movies like "Philadelphia" (1993), "The Birdcage" (1996) and "In & Out" (1997) and Ellen DeGeneres' 1997 coming out that gay themes really emerged as "acceptable" and "normal" for television and movies. That reality in the late 1990's of the acceptability to middle America of gay themed movies and television in mainstream media has probably done more for the gay rights movement than anything else in my lifetime. Heck, I remember being in 8th grade when Ellen came out. It was shocking. Her show may have been cancelled, but she led the way for Will & Grace (1998) to Queer as Folk (2001) and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (2003). Sure, shows like Queer as Folk that show rather explicit gay sex scenes will generate a backlash, but does it really say anything more about gay people than Sex and the City says about straight people? Hardly. Queer Eye is probably one of the best gay themed television shows because (despite perpetuation of some gay stereotypes, although not in a negative way as it shows the gay men as happy, successful and confident) it shows gay men helping straight men improve themselves so that they can become a better father / husband / boyfriend, etc. It really reflects the reality of the 21st century where gays and lesbians have become integrated into mainstream, heterosexual society (a trend that I and most gay people see as a good thing).

Movies have undergone a similar transition in the past decade as well. Philadelphia didn't ruin Tom Hanks' career. Instead, it got him an Oscar. Just as television has been willing to go more daring, so have movies, now willing to tackle transgenered themes "Boys Don't Cry" (1999) and other complex themes, "The Hours" (2003).

For the first three decades of the modern-day gay rights movement (late 60s through late 90s) the average American had little exposure to gays and lesbians. Many Americans saw all gays and lesbians as represented by the most flamboyant and radical elements of gay pride parades on the news. While the gay community scored many political victories, it was only until the late 1990s when the gay community scored a critical cultural / social victory: the normalization of gays and lesbians into popular culture and mass media.

Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today examined the phenomenon this summer:

If you recently caught a movie at the multiplex, clicked on the TV remote or saw a Broadway show, you might have noticed the world looks a lot more gay lately.

And we aren't just talking about happy and carefree.

Suddenly, with little fanfare or fuss, mainstream entertainment has fallen head over heels for gays and lesbians, and the occasional transgender or bisexual counterpart, with an embrace that goes beyond the passing flirtations of the past.

A subject long explored and exploited by niche venues such as independent films, pay cable and off-Broadway, the gay infatuation started to grow more serious about a decade ago. Before the box-office novelty wore off, major Hollywood studios milked homosexuality for obvious laughs and mawkish tears in "The Birdcage," "Philadelphia" and "In & Out." The AIDS-themed stage drama "Angels in America" won a Pulitzer and Ellen DeGeneres came out of her sitcom closet.

That was then.

This, however, is now: Barbara Walters experimentally locks lips with Julianne Moore, emulating her Oscar-nominated role as a sexually confused '50s homemaker in "The Hours." "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest and judge Simon Cowell josh each other with blatant gay banter. Willow the witch (Alyson Hannigan) and her female companion didn't settle for the usual peck on the lips on the third-to-last episode of UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

That's just prime-time TV in the past couple of months.


Gay entertainment is no longer a ponderous check-off list of historical landmarks that elicit protests and piety. It also can be pure, simple fun - like Bravo's new dating show, "Boy Meets Boy," starting in July. The trick: Some of the contestants are straight ringers.

"There's been an enormous change if you compare what's out there with what was out there 15 years ago," observes gay playwright and screenwriter Paul Rudnick ("In & Out," "Jeffrey"). "Back then, we had no visible gay characters or the ones we did have were used only in angsty docudrama situations to illustrate their sad, lonely lives. Now we are in the era of 'Will & Grace,' and that's been a great leap. To be successful, a movie or show has to appeal to general consumers and everyone wants to watch 'Will & Grace.' I mean, Madonna didn't turn up on 'Everybody Loves Raymond.' "

The attitude shift is a natural progression, says Scott Seomin, entertainment watchdog and spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

"As more and more people come out in this country, the more straight people know a co-worker, a friend or a family member who is gay," Seomin says. "They are going to learn that the gay community is just as human as the straight world. They want to learn more about their lives."

Plus, today's youth - a prime target for advertisers, who also are catering more to well-off and well-educated gay consumers - tend to be more open-minded if not blase about such matters.

" 'X-Men' is based on the exploration of the differences between people," says Lisa Dombrowski, assistant professor of film studies at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Conn. "Do we celebrate those who are different or fear and attack them? It resonates with any teen since they all feel different."

She adds, "This is a generation that has grown up with more images of gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexuals. The issue isn't one of shock. It's one of why aren't we seeing the entire truth."


- On TV. The popularity of "Will & Grace," about a straight woman and a gay man who are best friends, is long established. Next season, though, ABC goes a step beyond with its new culture-clash sitcom, tentatively titled "It's All Relative." The setup: A woman raised by two liberal gay men is engaged to the son of Irish Catholic conservatives who run a bar.

Executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan say it was network executives who felt the time was right for a sitcom with gay parents.

"This is the first time we've seen gay parenting on network TV with a committed couple," says Zadan of the series written by two "Frasier" alums. "If you look at other shows, the men are barely dating. These two guys have spent a long time raising a child." The final shot in the pilot says it all: A split screen with both sets of parents snuggling in their shared beds.


There are still milestones to be met, but they're noted with toned-down hoopla. A possibility for midseason on ABC is "Mr. and Mr. Nash," about gay interior decorators who solve murders. Think "Hart to Hart" with a killer design sense. Says Cumming, who is one Mr. Nash, "It would be the first time on TV where gay people would be in a show and it wouldn't be about them being gay."

After the success of its male-oriented "Queer as Folk," Showtime will unveil the first lesbian-focused series, "The L-Word," next year.

So there's your answer, Steve. Gay themes sell because more and more people know gay people and are intrigued by them (even if "Boy Meets Boy" (2003) was a flop - anyone else have Reality TV fatigue?). Gay themes play well with younger audiences because, well, younger audiences are much more liberal on gay issues and younger people tend to go to the movies a lot. Finally, gay money has a lot to do with it. Gays and lesbians have been targetted by advertizers in recent years. And campaigns like the Stop Dr. Laura campaign and the campaign to get Michael Savage off of TV prove the seriousness in which advertizers and networks take the buying power of the gay community.

That normalization of gay themes in the media in the past decade has had many effects, and inevitably will lead to something of a backlash even by some people that consider themselves "supporters" of the gay and lesbian community. But the positive effects greatly outweigh the negative effects. Polls show that the majority of people 18-25 support gay marriage by a small majority and almost every other gay rights issue overwhelmingly. Why? Because today young people are growing up in a country with Gay Straight Alliances, with Will & Grace, with gay themed movies, with openly gay and lesbian neighbors and friends and most importantly with an open debate in America about homosexuality. It may make some older folks a little nervous, but so did every other battle for equality before us. The Civil Rights movement, the Women's Equality movement and about every other one made a lot of people nervous. But people got over it. If Steve Blow or anyone else doesn't want to watch Queer Eye, or it makes you nervous.... change the channel. It's not rocket science.

To be fair to Steve, he does support gay rights politically. He's wrote: "So thank goodness for all the progress that has been made in righting wrongs." He followed up several days later writing "Boy am I dumb" as his headline. No shit. By writing that he was tired of all the "gay stuff", he opened himself up to attacks from both the left and the right, perpetuating discussion of an issue that he's tired of. From the gay community, opinion has ranged from agreement to calling Blow a bigot. I'd say that I'm in the middle there. Steve Blow is not a bigot. He's generally pro-gay, but expressed some of his concerns about homosexuality in a somewhat insensitive manner. I'll still read him and respect him, but I'd caution him to think twice before he suggests that there be a "National Please Shut Up Day" again.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Alternate Reality 2004 (Back to the Future!)

By Jim Dallas

After reading about President Bush's frayed press conference today, and now that it seems patently obvious that the media are going to crucify Bush over Iraq, it seemed reasonable to construct a more optimistic prediction than the one I offered last week, which was based on a Sept. 2004 job approval rating in the low-to-mid 50s.


Assuming a presidential approval of 40 percent on Labor Day 2004 (which would put Dubya down in the range of his father in 1992, Carter in 1980, and Johnson in early 1968), the previously discussed model would suggest a comfortable Democratic win of about 374 Electoral Votes to 161 EVs for the President. With 331 solid/lean Democratic EVs, 118 solid/lean Republican EVs, and 86 tossups.

All the qualifications, cautions, warnings, and dissuasions from the last post notwithstanding, of course.

The big question mark about next year is how the president's job approval tracks. Despite the likelihood of slightly better economic conditions (albeit still a jobless recovery -- the economic consensus still pegs unemployment at or around 6 percent on Election Day), it seems that President Bush is simply losing the trust of the American people over Iraq (with Bush's situation being compared more and more to the "credibility gap" politics of Lyndon Johnson every day).

If it weren't for Bush's stratospheric approval among self-declared Republicans, his approval rating would be in negative territory (and its already darn close, with the latest polls this week showing a drop back down to about 50).

(The latest CNN/USA-Today/Gallup Poll)

Ironically, it may make more sense for Democrats to run a Dubya-style "honor and integrity" campaign instead of a Clintonian "it's the economy stupid" campaign next year.

(Of course, that's been conventional wisdom for sometime, but it's more relevant now than ever).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Washington Post on Re-Redistricting Legality

By Byron LaMasters

Via The Lasso is a good article from the Washington Post on the legal issues and historical precedents raised by the Republican re-redistricting efforts in Colorado and Texas:

By enacting a new congressional redistricting plan this month that replaced a court-ordered plan used in the 2002 elections, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature did more than demonstrate a willingness to play political hardball against its Democratic opponents. It waded into uncharted legal and constitutional territory, raising a question to which there is no clear answer.

The Texas Republicans redistricted their state even more aggressively than Colorado Republicans did earlier in the year.

According to experts in the field, there is no precedent in modern U.S. politics for what the Texas and Colorado Republicans did: voluntarily redraw congressional district lines a year after lawmakers were elected from districts that had already been redrawn once in this decade.

In both cases, divided state legislatures could not agree on redistricting plans in 2001, after the 2000 Census. Courts stepped in to draw new district lines, the normal procedure in such circumstances. But in 2002, Republicans gained complete control of the legislative process in both states. This year, the GOP has moved aggressively to exploit that advantage, hoping to solidify the party's control of the U.S. House of Representatives through the end of this decade.


The key constitutional issue raised by the cases is whether a state legislature is free to redraw congressional boundaries a second time in a decade after an election has been held using district lines that were legally implemented, either by the legislature or by a court.

"There are no court cases" dealing with that issue, said Tim Storey, the redistricting specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures. "It's essentially a new question."

There is nothing new about using the redistricting process to hammer political opponents. It has often been an exercise in raw political power by both parties. Some 19th-century instances make today's Texas Republicans look restrained by comparison.

According to a paper by Erik Engstrom, an assistant professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in 1878 House Speaker Samuel Randall (D-Pa.) was so concerned about his party's shaky hold on the House that he implored Ohio Democratic leaders to redraw their state's congressional districts to make it easier to elect Democrats. The Ohio Democrats responded by redistricting seven times between 1878 and 1892, Engstrom reported.

But during much of the 20th century, states often did not redraw congressional boundaries even once a decade. The only times they were compelled to redistrict was when, as a result of the decennial census, they gained or lost seats in the House. Washington state did this in the 1950s, creating an "at large" House seat in 1951 and converting it into a traditional district covering only part of the state in 1957.

The states' casual approach to redistricting ended in 1962 with Baker v. Carr, the landmark Supreme Court decision that laid the foundation for the "one person, one vote" doctrine. From then on, states were to redraw House districts to keep their populations about equal after each once-a-decade census. There have been numerous instances of multiple redistrictings during the same decade, but always under pressure or order from a court to comply with constitutional mandates or laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Except in those cases, states have regularly redrawn congressional districts only once a decade.

Storey said about a dozen states have constitutional provisions prohibiting multiple redistricting in the same decade, but Texas is not one of them. Nor do the U.S. Constitution or federal court precedents prohibit the practice.

"There is nothing that says you can't do this as often as you want," said Michael McDonald, a political scientist at George Mason University.

But Texas Democrats say the practice is unconstitutional and contrary to the Founding Fathers' intentions. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Tex., they note that the Constitution requires that House seats be reapportioned among the states after each 10-year Census. An "implicit assumption" of that reapportionment mandate, the Democrats argue, is that the redrawing of district lines within states will take place on the same schedule.

They say that changing district lines after an election has been held "cuts the links" between voters and their representative by shifting voters into new territory represented by someone else.

"All we're saying is that implicit in decennial reapportionment is decennial redistricting," said Sam Hirsch, a lawyer for the Texas Democrats. "American constitutional law is full of implicit assumptions. The idea that reapportionment and redistricting are tied together is a small inferential leap. The reason is that reshuffling districts every two years undermines democratic accountability. People should be able to vote for representatives who served them well and against those who have not served them well."

Texas Republicans have not yet replied to the lawsuit, but in an April opinion Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) laid out their likely arguments. He said that when a panel of federal judges imposed the redistricting plan used for the 2002 elections, it did not foreclose the possibility of the legislature enacting its own plan for the rest of the decade.

"No language in the [federal court] plan mandates application of the plan through 2010, and no court order properly could bar a legislature from performing the legislative task of redrawing lines and enacting a constitutionally acceptable plan for future elections," Abbott wrote. "Absent restraints imposed by state law, a state may redraw its congressional districts more often than every 10 years."

Grofman, a widely recognized redistricting expert, said there is no question that the Texas Legislature could have enacted its own redistricting plan in place of the court plan before the 2002 elections. But, he added, "Is it legally relevant that the [court] plan has taken effect for a year and therefore is it going to prohibit the state from further action? The case law just isn't clear."

Whatever the answers, Thomas E. Mann, a senior scholar at the Brookings Institution, said that the Texas and Colorado experiments in multiple redistricting could have profound political consequences.

"If this is sustained, what we will have is a form of arms race where there is no restraint on keeping the game going on throughout a decade," Mann said. "You ask, who wins in this process? This is a process designed not for citizens or voters but for politicians. It will lead politicians to say there are no limits. I think it threatens the legitimacy of democracy."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

A Letter to Clear Channel

By Jim Dallas

From Brady, a buddy of mine, over at livingindefinitely.com:

Clear Channel Communications
200 Basse Road
San Antonio, TX 78209


21 September 2003

Dear Clear Channel:

I am writing with an important request. As a regular radio listener, I feel that the amount of Toby Keith songs played on Clear Channel stations is way too high and ought to be reduced. To zero.

I don’t ask this because of Toby’s extreme knee-jerk right-wing politics. People of all political stripes should be on the radio. Why, just recently, some broadcast company whose name eludes me at the moment tried to ban Dixie Chicks songs just because they criticized President Bush. How ridiculous is that? No, I’m not asking you to stop playing Toby Keith songs because of his politics. I’m asking you to stop playing his songs because they’re incredibly shitty.


Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Collegiate Class Warfare for Dummies

By Jim Dallas

Barbara Ehrenreich writes in next month's Progressive --

Welcome to higher education, twenty-first-century style, where the most important course offered is not listed in the college catalog. It's called Class Struggle, and it pits the men in suits--administrators and trustees--against the men and women who keep the school running: maintenance workers, groundspeople, clerical and technical workers, housekeepers, food service workers.


Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Soechting Starts with Fire

By Byron LaMasters

Personally, I was surprised and a little dissappointed about Charles Soechting's election as chair of the Texas Democratic Party, however, I'm certainly pleased with his rhetoric in the past day. The Austin American Statesman reports:

Soechting criticized state government's Republican leadership -- Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick -- as "deceitful, deceitful people."


Soechting's aggressive style, which has helped make him a successful trial lawyer, includes bold predictions and challenging rhetoric.

"The simple fact is, we are going to get after the rats that have run things into the ground in this state and this nation for too long," he told committee members after the vote.

Soechting told reporters that Texas voters would reject President Bush next year and give the state's electoral votes to the Democratic ticket.

"I believe it. I know it, because George Bush keeps helping us so much. The economy, the war, there's a multitude of reasons. The simple fact is we can do it," he said, adding Democrats have a chance at winning statewide races next year.


The new chairman's blunt style was on display in Austin on Friday and Saturday as he campaigned toward victory.

On Saturday, he blamed Bush for the nation's economic woes.

In a Friday speech to the nominations subcommittee, Soechting was even more aggressive, questioning Bush's National Guard service.

"He is a dodger. You can't call him anything but that," Soechting said, referring to an unresolved controversy concerning whether Bush ever failed to report for duty while in the National Guard.

After the Friday speech, Soechting said the dodger reference had been made in a joking manner.

Amen. That's what we need. More people willing to tell the truth and attack Bush and the Republican Party directly. As for the vote totals, the Statsman has the details:

Soechting (pronounced seck-ting) picked up 34 votes, one more than needed for victory, on the second ballot after state Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston dropped out after the first ballot. Mauro had 23 second-ballot votes out of a total of 63 votes.

Soechting, who had 28 votes to Mauro's 22 in the first ballot, picked up seven of the eight votes Coleman had received. San Antonio lawyer David Van Os and Bryan accountant Mary Moore also ran.

Mauro, however, plans to run for state chair next year:

Soechting, who will serve as interim chairman, plans to seek a full two-year term during the Democrats' state convention in June. Mauro said he also will run at the convention.

"If he shows some stuff, I'll reconsider," Mauro, the Democrats' unsuccessful 1998 gubernatorial candidate, said of Soechting. "Anybody that can deliver the goods, I'm for."

But Mauro also said, "Talk is cheap."

Hmmm.... I'd like more choices, personally, but I'm willing to give Soechting a chance. I'd disagree with Andrew that Soechting's election was a result of "the forces of cronyism, institutional short-sightedness and a desire to run our party into the ground once and for all". I do think that there was a genuine "anti-Mauro" vote at the SDEC. It's clear to me from the fact that seven of the eight votes for Garnett Coleman on the first ballot went to Soechting on the second ballot (evidence of an anti-Mauro sentiment). I'd like to meet the guy and see what he wants to do. Maybe we'll be able to get him to come to a University Democrats meeting in the next month or so. Hopefully. We'll see. I just wish that someone like Sherry Boyles or Kirk Watson or David Bernsen (who all have the ability to unite the progressive and moterate/conservative/establishment wings of the party) would have run. Oh well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 26, 2003

Excuse Me While I Go Laugh

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I almost put this one under the Burnt Orange Report Humor listing. Read and see.

HEADLINE: Kucinich wants Dean ads pulled from TV in NH

Why do you ask? Oh let me tell you!

Dean began airing two 30-second spots in New Hampshire earlier this week, criticizing his opponents' records on the war in Iraq and prescription drug benefits. The former Vermont governor does not name his rivals, but highlights his opposition to the war and says "the best my opponents can do is ask questions today that they should have asked before they supported the war."

Kucinich, the Ohio congressman and the only candidate who voted against the resolution authorizing the war, took exception to the spots.

"I am proud of my record of opposition to the war on Iraq and the occupation of Iraq, and I will not stand by while a fellow Democrat distorts my record and his own," Kucinich said Friday. "I'm calling upon Dr. Dean to take these false and misleading ads off the airwaves before they do further damage to his own campaign as well as to the campaigns of other Democrats."

Thanks for being concerned Dennis. It's almost touching.

The Dean campaign responds.

"We're focusing most of our attention on those candidates who are attacking us, and those are candidates at the top of the polls. We're not focusing on Dennis so we're not attacking Dennis."

Some days, I just can't wait to see the latest polls. The anticipation, the suspense one must endure in waiting to find out who is in 8th place this week almost KILLS me!

But the entertainment doesn't stop there!

Kucinich's lawyer, Donald McTigue, sent a letter to New Hampshire television stations earlier in the day, asking them to pull the ad and give Kucinich's campaign free air time to respond.


"I think trust may in fact emerge as the major issue in this race," Kucinich said.

Trust will be an issue Dennis. But I'd be more worried about Bush's Iraqi mistruths than NH ads that aren't focused at you. Puh-lease.

The campaign also plans to petition the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communication Commission about the ads.


But Kucinich said he would not let the issue drop, and planned to confront Dean about it Saturday when both planned to attend an AFL-CIO convention in Whitefield.

Wow, I can't WAIT for the political fireworks from this one!

I'm sorry, as much as I can somewhat respect Kucinich for bringing some real issues to the table, the guy is giving the Progressive Caucus a bad reputation. I'm unsure if he makes the Democratic Party seem Liberal and out-of-touch or if he just makes the other challengers seem that much more moderate and mainstream...

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 12:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 25, 2003

All the Small Things

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling this summer declaring sodomy laws to be unconstitutional, we realized how little pieces of law, even if rarely enforced, can be a big deal. They can be used as support for continuing discrimination in other legal battles and of course the death of the sodomy laws chapped a few conservative's collective arses...

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," Santorum said in the AP interview, which was published Monday."

Fast forward to a couple days ago and read the following clip from this article about students being denied the ability to start a Gay-Straight Alliance in Lubbock.

"I would have denied other clubs whose basis was sex," Jack Clemmons, who was the school superintendent in Lubbock at the time, said in an affidavit filed in connection with the case. "I would have denied a Bestiality Club. I would have denied a Gigolo Club. I would have denied a Prostitute Club. Likewise, I would deny any club that has as its basis an illegal act, such as the Marijuana Club, Kids for Cocaine, the Drinking Club, etc."


"Lawyers for the school district argue that the Equal Access Act permits schools to override students' free speech rights and forbids clubs if they jeopardize students' well-being. In support of that argument, they cite a little-known section of the Texas Penal Code that prohibits gay activity between youths younger than 17. Allowing a Gay-Straight Alliance amounts to giving students license to break the law, said Ann Manning, an attorney for the school district."

Though I can't find the exact penal code that this refers to, I believe it is there in the midst of the age of consent statues. It is once again, one of those small sections of code that is rarely enforced but used to enlist a legal argument in aid of homophobia.

In addition, the basis for denying the club is so far off base. Since when have GSAs become clubs for sex? That charge is used simply to provide an excuse to demonize homosexuals and feed the public the same old lines about "gays only want sex" and are a part of a greater sexual perversion. Gigolos? Bestiality? Prostitutes?

This classifies as Santorumesque in my view. And the sad thing is he probably believes it all.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Soechting New TDP Chair

By Andrew Dobbs

Well, it looks like the forces of cronyism, institutional short-sightedness and a desire to run our party into the ground once and for all prevailed again here in Austin as the State Democratic Executive Committee selected longtime TDP General Counsel and integral part of the 8 year campaign for obscurity Charles Soechting as the new Chair of the Texas Democratic Party.

I said a while back that our party chair ought to be someone who is not a part of the power structure that led to so many defeats and the steep decline of the party. We need someone who will shake things up, rebuild our grassroots, develop a much better GOTV effort, recruit candidates, raise money, hone our message and disseminate it and convince people who have voted for the GOP over the last decade or so that they ought to come back home to the Democratic Party. Perhaps Soechting can do this, but I have my doubts- he has been an insider and is rooted in the sort of fuzzy-headed dwelling in the past that plagues our party leadership.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong about all of this.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 04:51 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Every Horse Race Needs a Bookie...

By Jim Dallas

One of the most contentious debates in the field of political science today is over the "predictability" of elections. This question necessarily leads to some questions which grate at our moral conscience as Americans. If an election is predictable based upon economic conditions and "political time", then how much impact can one individual truly make? Are we controlled by fate or destiny?


On the other hand, one could argue that, if voters are really rational, then it's pretty simple to figure out what they are going to do given objective preconditions. Rational choice theory then encourages us to see electoral predictability as fairly flattering evidence that Americans really know what's best for them, and what could be more moral than that?

In either case, I'm not a very moral person, but I did think it would be cool to try and take a stab at divining - just about a year ahead of time - who has the inside track in the race for the White House. I

(In part I did this in the hopes that I could create a reasonably realistic computer game, so I'm not without some pragmatic motive).

Read ahead for the gruesome details.

The Burnt Orange Political Weather Forecast

This month's forecast for the 2004 Election -- still 54 weeks away -- suggests a somewhat competitive election in which President Bush has a slight Electoral College advantage.

The overall forecast suggests an election similar to that of 2000, with probably battleground states being:

(Leaning Slightly to the Democrats)

Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania

(Leaning Slightly to the Republicans)

New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, and Florida

In these states, both parties have a better than one-in-three chance of winning.

Other possibly competitive states - where the chance of an upset falls to one-in-ten, are:

(Leaning to the Democrats)

California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Delaware

(Leaning to the Republicans)

Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, and New Hampshire

Should all of these predictions all come to pass, President Bush will be re-elected with 285 electoral votes, with the as-yet unnamed Democrat receiving 250 electoral votes.

Bush has 235 EVs "solid" or "leaning", with the Democrat having 196 EVs "solid" or "leaning". Slight Lean/Tossup states comprise 104 EVs.

This prediction assumes a presidential approval rating of 55 percent in the Gallup Poll on or about Labor Day of next year. It also assumes an approximate 3 percent increase in real disposable income in the third quarter of 2004.

It does not add in the likely impact of the Democratic candidates's home state advantage (since we do not know who the Democratic candidate will be). Expect about a four-point bounce in the state tally for whomever the candidate is.

Here is a table with the projected two-party vote shares and the probabilities of a Democratic win:

State      Share   Prob.   Rank
AL      41.7%   3.0%    38
AK      32.4%   0.0%    48
AZ      44.9%   13.2%   31
AR      47.9%   31.3%   25
CA      55.1%   84.3%   12
CO      45.8%   17.8%   29
CT      59.1%   96.9%   6
DE      53.9%   77.2%   13
DC      82.8%   100.0%  1
FL      48.3%   34.4%   24
GA      43.2%   6.6%    35
HI      60.4%   98.5%   5
ID      30.4%   0.0%    50
IL      55.3%   85.4%   10
IN      41.5%   2.7%    39
IA      48.9%   38.3%   22
KS      38.4%   0.4%    45
KY      41.4%   3.1%    37
LA      44.3%   10.6%   32
ME      54.8%   85.1%   11
MD      58.9%   96.7%   7
MA      64.1%   99.9%   3
MI      52.3%   67.2%   15
MN      52.3%   67.7%   14
MS      38.8%   0.7%    42
MO      48.3%   34.6%   23
MT      38.8%   0.7%    43
NE      34.9%   0.1%    47
NV      47.1%   25.8%   27
NH      45.8%   17.1%   30
NJ      56.9%   91.8%   9
NM      49.4%   42.9%   21
NY      62.6%   99.6%   4
NC      43.9%   8.3%    34
ND      39.2%   0.8%    41
OH      47.7%   29.9%   26
OK      37.3%   0.3%    46
OR      51.1%   57.8%   18
PA      52.1%   65.5%   16
RI      64.7%   99.9%   2
SC      42.2%   3.6%    36
SD      39.8%   1.1%    40
TN      46.2%   19.9%   28
TX      38.4%   0.5%    44
UT      30.4%   0.0%    51
VT      57.3%   94.3%   8
VA      44.1%   9.7%    33
WA      51.9%   63.4%   17
WV      50.3%   52.5%   20
WI      50.8%   55.4%   19
WY      31.0%   0.0%    49

The validity of this forecast

The model is based on data from 1964 through 2000. Although perfect data for 1956 or 1960 was not available (as I shall explain below), the model was able to make reasonably good guesses as to which states the Democrats would carry in those years.

The 1960 Retrocast --

The model achieved roughly 75 percent accuracy for this election. While it predicted a Kennedy victory over Richard Nixon (345 EVs to 186 EVs; 6 EVs from Alaska and Hawaii not counted), it missed several important states; it mistakenly called Washington, Oregon, Montana Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida for Kennedy, while calling Connecticut, New Jersey, and Nevada for Nixon. Nor could the model foresee that Democratic electors in Mississippi and Alabama would vote for conservative Harry Byrd instead of the official Kennedy/Johnson ticket, which won by a total Electoral College vote of 303-219-15.

Kennedy's unforseen success in Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, and New Jersey may likely have been caused by Catholic voters (and perhaps the reverse is true in Tennessee and Kentucky).

Alaska and Hawaii were omitted from this retrocast as it was the first election in those new states, and the model is heavily dependent on past performance.

The 1956 Retrocast --

The model successfully predicted an overwhelming landslide by President Dwight Eisenhower over Democratic challenger Adlai Stevenson, missing only Missouri (which it called as a "solid" Eisenhower state), North Carolina, and Louisiana (which had a "slight lean" towards Stevenson/Kefauver). Overall this yielded 45 correct calls and 3 incorrect calls, a 93.7 percent correct-call rate.

Within-sample retrocasts (as opposed to these out-of-sample retrocasts) showed a consistent error rate of between 5 and 10 percent. So it is possible that 5 states (or even more) in the 2004 forecast could "flip." Generally, though, this "objective" forecast is roughly in line with the widely-regarded predictions made by Larry Sabato as well as the more subjective ones at PresidentElect.org. Ron Faucheux at Campaigns & Elections, perhaps the world's foremost political oddsmaker, also gives Bush a slight advantage (54.5%) heading into next year.

Factors weighing into this forecast

This forecast was created using a pool of six models, namely --

  • Two linear regression models (one with a constant, the other with an intercept of zero) estimating the Democratic share of the two-party vote;

  • Two probability models gauging the probability of a Democratic win (1) or loss (0) -- one model uses LOGIT, the other uses PROBIT (rhymes with "hobbit");

  • Two probability models gauging the probability of an individual voter voting Democratic (1) or not (0) -- again, using both LOGIT and PROBIT.

All six models use the following variables:

  • Democratic share of the two-party vote in the last election;

  • Average Democratic share of the two-party vote in elections t-2 through t-4 (that is, the last three elections prior to the previous election; in 2004 that means 1996,1992, and 1988);

  • The ideological position of the median voter in that state, ranked on a scale of -3 (most conservative) to 3 (most liberal). This is based on a moving average of the annual scores derived by Fording, Rinquist, Hanson, Berry (1998), who use congressional voting scorecards from Americans for Democratic Action and the AFL-CIO to estimate the ideological leanings of constituents. Since the three-year moving average for 2001-2003 can not yet be calculated (and won't be until early next year), ideology scores for 2000 (the moving average of 1997-1999) are used currently;

  • A dummy variable (1 for Democratic presidents, -1 for Republican presidents) denoting whether the Democratic presidential nominee is the incumbent president;

  • A dummy variable (1 for Democratic presidents, -1 for Republican presidents) denoting whether the Democratic presidential nominee is the incumbent vice president;

  • A dummy variable marking the home state of the incumbent president (1 for Democratic presidents, -1 for Republican presidents);

  • A dummy variable marking the home state of the Democratic presidential nominee (which in all cases is zero for this forecast, since we don't know who the candidate is yet);

  • The incumbent president's job approval rating, as measured by the Gallup organization on or about Labor Day (via David Burbach at MIT for many of the data points). This is positive if the incumbent is a Democrat and negative if it is a Republican;

  • and the natural logarithm of the percent change in per-capita real personal disposable income in the third quarter of the election year (what a mouthful!).

Two additional dummy variables were used to account for unusually poor Democratic performance in the Deep South in 1964, as well as unusually good Democratic performance in the South in 1976. Generally, accounting for the whims of the Southern white bloc vote was the hardest part of producing this forecast -- the Southern tide which propelled Kennedy and Carter was not present for Johnson and Clinton. Moreover, accounting for George Wallace's vote in 1968 created headaches; eventually, I decided to count Wallace votes as Republican votes (since, presumably, the same voters who went for Wallace earlier voted for Republican Goldwater in 1964 and later voted for Republican Nixon in 1972).

Overall the models use 503 datapoints (every state and D.C. since 1976; ever state in 1972; and every state except Alaska and Hawaii in 1968 and 1964). The two linear models have R-square statistics of .86 and .84, respectively; and global F statistics of 264 and 241, with 491 and 492 degrees of freedom. Both voter-probability models have maximum ln-likelihoods approaching -336, and both state-probability models have maximum ln-likelihoods of about -103.

In the future I intend to update this prediction using better data, including the "true" ideological scores for 2001-2003 and more accurate estimates of 2004 Q3 RDI growth. I also would like to experiment using congressional support for the president as a variable (the logic behind that being that a state congressional delegation's support of presidential initiatives is driven, in large part, by the president's popularity back home among the contituents).

The entire Excel spreadsheet will be found here. Criticisms of a strictly mathematical sense (as this was the first time I have applied LOGIT/PROBIT analysis) are very welcome. Be warned, the spreadsheet is about 31 megs large. A non-interactive, HTML version will be found here.

Finally, I am deeply indebted to the prior works of Steven Rosenstone, Douglas Hibbs, Ray Fair, John Zaller and Larry Bartels. I am also grateful for Charles Annis's Web tutorial on implementing generalized linear models like LOGIT and PROBIT on his Web site, statisticalengineering.com. Major sources of data are Dave Leip's Election Atlas, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:46 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 24, 2003

Endorsements of Mauro

By Byron LaMasters

Don't ask my how I got on all of these email lists, but endorsements of Garry Mauro are rolling in... recently by State Reps. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) - even if Garnett Coleman is his first choice, Aaron Pena (D-Edinburg), and more significantly by former Govs. Ann Richards and Dolph Briscoe (yeah, that's a long way back).

Ann Richards says this about Garry Mauro:

I have known Garry Mauro since before I was elected a Travis County Commissioner and we were both elected statewide in 1982. That election made a significant and positive difference in the way state government worked for the people of Texas.

Garry was a hard working progressive Land Commissioner who expanded that office on a number of policy and environmental fronts. He cleaned up and protected Texas beaches, made Texas air cleaner and our state’s natural resources open to all Texans. In addition, his management of the state’s 22 million acres of public lands resulted in increased funding for the public schools of Texas. He honored veterans with expanded, speedy access to low interest Land Board loans.

This is a crucial time for Texas Democrats. Our future depends on leadership with commitment, experience and a desire to unite the Party in a way it has not been united for years. Garry Mauro is up to that task. I believe he has earned your vote because of decades of dedication to our Party, our values and to the people of Texas.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republicans See Killer D's as Boy Band

By Byron LaMasters

Well, here's what the Republicans think of our Killer D heroes, here. Sheesh, I'm not sure how to take it, but it's funny in a stupid sort of way.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 23, 2003

Students are Confused

By Byron LaMasters

A poll came out yesterday saying that 61% of college students approve of President Bush. What I don't get is that these students approve of Bush, but think that he's hiding things (i.e. lied) about Iraq and the vast majority of students are worried about finding a job after school (it's the Bush economy, stupid). Anyway, here's the story:

President Bush has more support among college students than the general public, according to a new poll that also says students have lost trust in Bush over the last year.

The poll done for the Harvard University Institute of Politics found that 61 percent of college students approve of the job done by Bush — about 10 points higher than the president's approval rating in several recent polls of the general population.

But the students indicated they also have concerns about the president's policies, with 86 percent saying the Bush administration has been hiding something or not telling the truth about Iraq (news - web sites).

Seven in 10 students said they think it will be difficult finding a job when they graduate.

Students are funny, aren't they? I think that a lot of Bush's approval among some students is that they see him as a leader (even if he's a failed one) whereas there's a lack of a coherent message coming from the Democrats. On the Iraq issue for example, our presidential candidates range from Dennis Kucinich on the left wanting a full pullout of Iraq now to Joe Lieberman who pretty much ditto's the administration position on Iraq. I think there will be more clarity once we choose a nominee, but this poll is still troubling. I think that while the left is more active on most campuses, the vast majority of students are apolitical and don't pay much attention to national politics until election time (if at all). So, I'm not too worried now. If at this time next year students say they still like Bush, then I'll probably be more worried.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

State Rep. Kino Flores and US Rep. Lloyd Doggett to run in the 25th

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report writes that both Wayne Christian and Kino Flores are planning to run for Congress should the new map be adopted. Christian is running in the new 1st district against Rep. Max Sandlin. Flores would run in the open 25th district stretching from Austin to McAllen. Flores has already lined up impressive support for his bid for Congress:

The "Kino for Congress" bandwagon rolled into Jim Hogg and Duval counties Tuesday, with around 20 political leaders from the Rio Grande Valley traveling in support of their man.

State Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores (D-Mission) has done everything but announce his candidacy for the new "open" Congressional District 25 seat, embarking on an aggressive campaign to win key endorsements from mayors, county judges and commissioners.

Tuesday's tour came as two other potential South Texas candidates announced they were considering running for a seat that extends 350 miles from the Rio Grande to south and east Travis County.

Now, Flores was a Craddick ally, but he's good on most issues and has a (7% Lifetime rating from the Young Conservatives of Texas). However, being anti-choice will clearly hurt him in Travis County. I don't live in the district, but I'd be inclined to support a candidate that was 1) from Travis County and 2) is pro-choice for such a heavily Democratic district.

Talking about Austin representation in Congress, the Daily Texan profiles our Congressman at UT, Lloyd Doggett, who as a former Student Government President has had ties to the University of Texas for decades. Now, because of the GOP gerrymander, he may no longer represent UT in Congress. It's a good read...

Update: Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) has announced today that he will run in the open 25th Austin-to-the-valley district if the current redistricting map holds up. It'll be a tough race against State Rep. Kino Flores (D-Mission), but I'd still consider Doggett the favorite as he has decades-old roots in Travis County as well as some statewide name recognition as US Senate candidate in 1984 and from his time on the State Supreme Court. Doggett will also have a significant money advantage in a primary. Needless to say, I fully support Doggett in whatever district he runs for re-election in. He's our congressman and has served Austin well.

Update II: Greg's Opinion has the best wrap-up of all the redistricting / congressional news for today. So check out his post for more.

Update III: This was just emailed to me:

Opponent Of Texas Remap May Run In New District
Texas state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, one of 11 Democratic members from the state Senate who fled to New Mexico this summer to block a vote on a Republican-drawn redistricting plan, may run in one of the new congressional districts the state Legislature approved earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported.

Barrientos said he would run only if the Justice Department approves the state's new congressional maps and if the new districts survive court challenges. He said he would run in the 350-mile-long, 25th District that runs from his hometown of Austin to the border with Mexico.

"The first priority should be to kill the new districts," said Barrientos. "I hope it gets killed, but, if it doesn't, I am open to running."

Texas lawmakers passed redistricting last week, after state Senate Democrats returned from a 45-day self-imposed exile in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As for Barrientos, he would complicate this race. I'm not sure if his entry would benefit Flores (split the Austin vote) or Doggett (split the Hispanic vote), but my guess is that Doggett is on the phone lining up his Austin support right now. And if Barrientos is serious about running, he needs to announce very soon and start lining up support, because Flores and Doggett are probably both furiously lining up support at this moment.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 22, 2003

Justice Dept. Lawyer Reviewing Texas Map may be member of Bush's 2000 Recount Team in FL

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, we can trust John Ashcroft's department to fairly review the new GOP map. Two lawyers in the department have already recused themselves, and the next lawyer in line to review the map was a member of the 2000 Bush Florida recount team. I'm sure that he's not biased. The Dallas Morning News reports:

Two top Justice Department lawyers have recused themselves from the pre-clearance review of Texas' new congressional districts, spokesman Jorge Martinez said Tuesday.

Mr. Martinez declined to explain any real or potential conflicts of interest that would force such a move. He did not cite a policy or law that bars explanation.

The officials are R. Alexander Acosta, the first Hispanic to lead the Civil Rights Division, and the division's No. 2 lawyer, J. Michael Wiggins. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund honored Mr. Acosta in June for his role in implementing a Clinton-era executive order to help people with limited English skills get access to federal programs; MALDEF is one of the groups challenging the Texas redistricting plan.

A lawyer for Democrats in the redistricting cases, Gerald Hebert, said he's concerned that the next lawyer in line to review the legality of the Texas plan was on the GOP's presidential recount team in Florida. "Frankly, I think the whole Justice Department should be disqualified," Mr. Hebert said, and the matter left in the hand of federal judges.

Not that the Supreme Court isn't biased (Bush v. Gore), but at least we've got a fighting chance with them when the map gets there.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Barbour: Disassociating self from Racists would set "irksome precedent"

By Byron LaMasters

Mississippi Republican nominee for governor, Haley Barbour's put his foot in his mouth again. First, he said that he didn't know anything about the racist Council of Conservative Citizens despite attending on of their fundraisers and having his picture on the homepage of their website. Now, he says that it would set an "irksome precedent" to ask for his picture's removal:

Haley Barbour plans to keep his picture on the Council of Conservatives Citizen's Web site.

Disappointing but not surprising.

Barbour, the GOP nominee for governor, said that asking for his picture's removal would set an irksome precedent.

"Once you start down the slippery slope of saying, 'That person can't be for me,' then where do you stop?" Barbour said of his association with the CCC, a St. Louis-based group that has defended racism, attacked the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and praised Nazi Germany.

Since when was it an "irksome precedent" to disassociate oneself from racists? Is this what the Republican Party means when they say that they are an inclusive "big tent" party?


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Turner for _______ in 2006!

By Byron LaMasters

Via Greg's Opinion, Jim Turner is looking to run for Governor or US Senate if the redistricting map holds up. The Longview News-Journal reports:

Although he says Texas’ new redistricting plan likely won’t survive legal challenges, Democratic Rep. Jim Turner said he may not run for re-election to the U.S. House and instead run for governor, or mount a 2006 senatorial bid.

Turner, of Crockett, said that he’s “seriously considering” the other offices, depending on how the courts view the redistricting plan.

“I am convinced that Texas can do a lot better in leadership than what we’ve seen,” he told The Dallas Morning News. “I have made no decisions, but my interest is in governor or the U.S. Senate.”

Turner said he would not run for governor to get revenge on GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who called three special sessions to pass the new congressional map. State Democrats staged two legislative boycotts to try and thwart the new map that could give Republicans up to seven more seats in the U.S. House.

As I've said before, there's not too much good that's come out of the Republicans redistricting map. Besides disenfranchising millions of voters and being illegal, the one and only good thing is that it will have a lot of talented Texas Democratic politicians looking for a job after 2004. That will likely translate into a few of them running on the 2006 ticket for governor or US Senate. I'm not saying I'm happy about it, but hopefully there will be enough anger left by 2006 over the GOP shenanigans for a Jim Turner or Chet Edwards (among others) to win back the governorship or a US Senate seat.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 21, 2003

A Legal View of Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

A lawyer friend of mine wrote to me about the Texas Democrats lawsuit regarding redistricting. Here's his take on the situation:

I read the Motion that the Dems filed in Tyler in Re-redistricting. You can find it on the State Party's website. It looks promising. It is not a new suit. The three judge panel that drew the current map issued an injunction to use that map. To change the map requires a modification of the injunction, which means that the State cannot "force" a new map without the three judge panel agreeing. The burden is high to modify an injunction. The Motion is entitled something like "Motion to prevent Defendants from modifying Injunction."

The Motion cites authority square on point that you cannot dismantle an minority opporunity district under the rationale of creating a different one in another part of the State. Thus you cannot swap the 25th for the 24th. The Motion also demostrates well why the proposed 23rd is unconstitutional.

Ironically, the case cites "reverse discrimination" precedent as to why the proposed 25th is unconstitutional. In a NC and LA case from the last reapportionment, those States created new black districts by taking isolated pockets of black population centers in far flung corners of the state and stringing them together with thin slivers, often the width of a state highway. The SCOTUS held them illegal, saying you cannot, in the name of creating a minority district, link otherwise unrelated, far-flung minority clusters together. That is exactly what the proposed 25th does (and the proposed 15th for that matter too). The Motion does a good job with the data to show that is what happened. Then, if the 25th goes, you cannot possibly use it to offset the 24th (even if you could do an offset).

I think one of the strongest arguments against redistricting (which was addressed in the Motion - but it was not as developed as I would have liked) is a variation of the "one man - one vote" principal. As you know "one man - one vote" says that districts must have (more or less) equal population. Mid-decade redistricting is based on already obsolete census data, so there is no way to verify if the districts, WHEN CREATED, fulfill the "one man - one vote" criteria. If this prevails, then no mid-decade redistricting period, end of story.

Devil's argument is that "one man - one vote" makes it better to redistrict mid-decade because as population changes, the districts become unequal in population. The response is that yes, BUT, that population shifts are going to happen and you cannot feasibly redistrict every 2 years (or year, or month, or week for that matter - popuklation changes every second) to keep track of population shifts. The point is that we only have reliable population data for the census year. The further we get away from the census year to redistrict, the more likely it is that districts violate "one man - one vote," and there is NO WAY to confirm if re-redistricting even comes close to "one man - one vote" because the data is outdated when the district is even drawn.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dean's Southern Problem

By Byron LaMasters

I've written before that my support of Dean was with full knowledge that Howard Dean will likely fare very poorly in many areas of the south.

Full Disclosure: I'm no longer involved with the Dean campaign, but as of this time I'm not moving to another candidate, nor have I contributed to any candidate other than Dean. I've been waiting a little bit for Clark to grab me, but while his campaign has momentum, it's certainly made more than its share of missteps (Most recently, I disagree with his decision to skip Iowa, while for Lieberman, it makes perfect sense). I want to be able to say "Clark's the one", but at this point, I'm still not sure. I'm waiting to when I'll feel comfortable sending $50 his way, but not yet (I've donated $40 total to the Dean campaign in three seperate donations). Still, I think it's unfair to write Clark off. Dean and Clark are the only two candidates that really excite me (Edwards to a lesser extent), so I'm frankly waiting to see what happens for now.

Anyway, but stories like this from The Hill are what really have turned me from a hardcore Deaniac this Spring and Summer to now seriously considering supporting Clark.

Vulnerable House Democrats are worried that Howard Dean’s negative coattails will whisk them out of office in 2004.

The incumbent lawmakers — especially those from culturally conservative Southern states — are concerned that if he is nominated, the former Vermont governor’s antiwar, pro-gay positions will create a national mood that will make it more difficult for Democratic incumbents to keep their seats, let alone win back the House.

While many of these Democrats have proved their ability to win in seats that Republican presidential nominees typically carry by 10 or more percentage points, they are beginning to wonder how much of a point spread they’ll need to cover to retain their seats should Dean’s campaign for the presidential nomination succeed.


“If Dean were the nominee, it would make it a lot tougher on me,” said Rep. Rodney Alexander (D-La.), who hasn’t endorsed a candidate.

Alexander argued that President Bush has established a connection with many of his constituents, who drive around his rural, sprawling district in pickup trucks with gun racks.

“I can’t find many of them with Dean stickers on their trucks,” said Alexander, who will run for reelection in a district that Bush carried 57-40. “General Clark would make it easier to win. For sure.”

Alexander estimated that he will have “to do 10 points better than the nominee.”

He added, “I am not going to be out there waving the banner for Dean.”

Another Frontline Democrat, one from the Midwest, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “It matters who’s at the top of the ticket, and no matter how independent we think we are, our fates are tied to his.

“I could see both Dean and [Sen. John] Kerry [Mass.] creating real problems in my district, especially on the cultural issues.

“Not so much the war, but more on the gay marriage stuff, with Dean. I don’t need it any harder.”

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in 2000, confirmed that many of the vulnerable Democrats are getting nervous about how Dean will influence tight congressional races.

“Rodney speaks for a lot of people,” Kennedy said, adding, “That’s the reason I support Gephardt, because he plays well in all sections of the country, not just the Northeast or the West.”


Some Republicans seemed to relish the possible effect a Dean candidacy — and his presumed negative coattails — could have on down-ballot races.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a former head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that if Dean is the nominee, “that may create a national atmospherics that is very favorable in House races, especially on the cultural issues in the south.”


The Dean campaign did not return a request for comment by press time.

Sure, here in Austin, both coasts, urban areas, northern suburbs, etc. Dean will probably help the Democratic vote. He'll motivate dissaffected Democrats, Independents and previous nonvoters to get out, organize and bring their friends to vote. It'll help the ticket... in Blue states. But winning the "Blue states" won't beat Bush. Winning the "Blue states" won't help us win back the senate where the battleground states will be places like Alaska, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana (if Breaux resigns). Take a look at an analysis of the meetup.com statistics of Dean and Clark. 65% of Howard Dean's meetup.com supporters come from the 20 "Blue States" carried by Al Gore in 2000. Only 35% come from the 30 "Red States" carried by Bush. On the other hand, Wesley Clark has 43% of his meetup.com supporters from "Red States".

I've said before that if Dean were the nominee, Democrats should expect to lose big in most areas of the south, however, areas like the southwest (Red states like Arizona, Colorado and Nevada) along with Florida, West Virginia, Ohia and New Hampshire would be on the table for Dean (of course this is all dependent upon the situation in Iraq and the economy. If Dean is the nominee and Iraq is going badly still and the economy sucks, I'd say Dean wins with all the Blue states and most of the aforementioned states. If the opposite is true, my guess is a safe Bush victory to Bush landslide. Most likely is something in between). As for Clark or Edwards, I'd see them competetive in places like Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, as well as many of the previously mentioned states. In The Hill article, however, Rep. Rodney Alexander (D-LA) makes an important point. Bush has established a connection with rural voters with pickups and gun racks. Yeah, Dean is pro-gun (which gives him a good chance in Ohio and West Virginia), but not so much in districts that send bigots like John Cooksey (as recently as 2000) to Congress (not to mention Civil Unions and abortion rights).

So is all this a reason not to vote for Dean? No. But it is important to discuss and understand the implications of nominating Dean (good and bad), just as we should do the same for every viable candidate. Thoughts anyone?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:53 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Mauro and Soechting Frontrunners for Texas Dem Party Chair

By Byron LaMasters

I'd be surprised if Mauro doesn't win. Almost everyone I've talked to, from insiders to average speculators see this as Garry Mauro's race to win. The AP reports that the battle is between Mauro and Soechting:

With Saturday's vote by party leaders approaching, former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro and San Marcos attorney Charles Soechting have emerged as front-runners in the race to chair the Texas Democratic Party.

In interviews Monday, each claimed to have a lead over the other. But behind-the-scenes campaigning ultimately will determine who succeeds Molly Beth Malcolm, who is stepping down after heading the struggling party since 1998.

The State Democratic Executive Committee will choose her successor from among several candidates.

One contender, former state Sen. Carl Parker of Port Arthur, dropped out of the race Monday, complaining of "hateful and cowardly attacks" from Democrats opposing his candidacy.


The new Democratic leader will need a majority of 63 votes, if all SDEC members show up for Saturday's meeting. More than one ballot may be necessary. Malcolm will preside but doesn't plan to vote.

Mauro, who served 16 years as state land commissioner before losing the 1998 gubernatorial race to Republican George W. Bush, said he was "way ahead" in the voting and could even win on a first ballot.

But Soechting -- a lawyer for the Democratic Party, former state trooper and former Harris County sheriff's deputy -- disagreed.

"We're very, very pleased with where we're at right now," he said. And his political consultant, Peck Young of Austin, said Soechting had a "substantial lead" over Mauro.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, one of the trailing candidates, agreed that Mauro and Soechting were leading the pack. But he said he was still in the race because it isn't over.

"It's difficult to get an accurate count. But based on the number of undecided (SDEC members), nobody has it locked up," Coleman said.

The new Democratic chairman will inherit a once-dominant party that hasn't won a statewide election since 1994, lost a majority of the Texas House last year for the first time since Reconstruction and, earlier this month, lost a bitter, protracted fight over congressional redistricting.

In a letter to other Democrats, Parker predicted things won't improve anytime soon for what he called a "divided party."

"Others in the current field of nominees will, in my opinion, condemn the party to the same policies and election strategies which have proven to be as exciting as watching haircuts," he said.

Parker didn't name any names and was unavailable for further comment.

Mauro has the longest public track record of any of the Democratic candidates. But a veteran party activist, who didn't want to be named, said that's a mixed blessing for the former land commissioner.

"I guess Garry's running on his experience, and I guess that's why a lot of people are against him," the activist said.

"He lost heavily (in the 1998 governor's race), but he has raised a lot of money for the party. He has scars that come with experience," he added.

Other candidates for the Democratic post include San Antonio lawyer David Van Os, former Railroad Commission candidate Sherry Boyles and Mary Moore of Bryan, a former candidate for the state Senate.

Malcolm said she was resigning to spend more time on family matters. Despite Democratic election losses, she said the party achieved "financial stability" during her tenure.

Garry Mauro certainly has his fans and his detractors. I'm not a big fan of his, but I do think that of the choices out there, he's probably the best option. While I think that a new face, like Sherry Boyles would be ideal, Mauro brings to the table lots of experience and a tested ability to raise money. Even in 1998 when he was trounced by Bush, he was able to raise over $5 Million to a hopeless cause. Well, you could argue that raising money for Democrats in Texas for 2004 is also for a "hopeless cause", but Garry Mauro proved his ability to raise money for one in 1998 and there's reason to believe that he could do it again. While I really like Garnett Coleman, it looks as if this race is between Mauro and Soechting, and between those two, Mauro is, in my opinion the best choice. I'm pretty certain that the majority of the SDEC feels the same way...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 20, 2003

What Makes a City Cool?

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman had an interesting editorial today about what makes Austin cool:

Austin was considered one of the cooler cities in the country before cities were graded on cool. It had Willie, Hippie Hollow, Barton Springs Pool, the Broken Spoke and the Armadillo World Headquarters when no one much knew about them.

The technology boom in the 1990s gave Austin and its cool factor an international profile. Austin was gaining in reputation even as some of the institutions that made the town a center for hipness were declining and dying. But some still hang on, and other people and places have arisen as new Austin icons.


Cool cities did not become cool overnight, so creating them from scratch will be a challenge. Cool cities did not become the way they are because some person or group said they were going to make the place hip. They became that way because they had a critical mass of young people, a hot local scene and an economy to make them work.

But most of all, they were authentic. And that you can't get from a task force, think tank or formula.

The editorial was in response to the "cool cities" initiative pushed by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is pushing a "Cool Cities" initiative to make people want to live, work and shop in Michigan's cities.

"Cool cities mean hot jobs," Michigan's 43-year-old freshman governor said at the Digital Detroit conference on Wednesday.

She launched the project last month, after a Census Bureau report that listed metropolitan Detroit as first in the nation in the flight of young adults between 2000 and 2002.

The report said 33,371 people ages 25-34 -- one of every 20 in that group -- moved away in those two years.

"When young people leave Michigan, they take their talent, entrepreneurial spirit and job skills with them," Granholm said. "How is it that we can make a magnet for that kind of work force?"

The answer, Granholm said, is creating cool cities around the state.

Cool cities are places where people with talent and imagination can find work, along with rich cultural, social and recreational opportunities -- ingredients for a quality lifestyle, the governor said.

In other words, places like Austin, Texas.

The Statesman editorials says that the plan won't work, because "cool cities" are authentic, not planned:

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has launched a "Cool Cities" initiative to bring a little of Austin to the Wolverine state, according to The Associated Press. She's pushing the idea because the Detroit area leads the country in the number of young adults leaving the state.

Granholm said she wants to make Detroit a place that will attract and keep young people and their "talent, entrepreneurial spirit and job skills." And she wants to create cool cities throughout the state, where talented and imaginative young adults can work and play.

The first thing an Austinite might remind the Michigan governor is that Austin is a cool city, not a cold one. A Michigan winter is not conducive to long bicycle rides through the hills, outdoor barbecues and canoe excursions on a local river or lake.

A second reminder would be that Austin didn't set out to create a hip city; it simply allowed it. Trying too hard to be hip can easily backfire, because the first test of a cool city is its authenticity. A Six Flags-Disney-Seaworld version of Austin, San Francisco or Boston simply won't fly.

Michigan can build a Broken Spoke or a Continental Club, but they can only become local institutions after decades of showing people a good time. Michigan can court Starbucks, but it will never have the soul of a Little City or a Jo's. Michigan can create an inner-city hiking trail or a bicycle route, but walking and biking aren't the same on ice.

Well. Some of the criticism here is a little unfair. While many Texans, Floridians and others would object, it is possible to have a "cool city" where there's ice. Take New York, Boston or Chicago for example (or even Madison, Wisconsin, which is often compared to Austin), but the authenticity arguement is on the mark. "Cool cities" don't just pop up. It takes decades to make a place where people want to call home. Then again, a lot of making a place "cool" is rebuilding that authenticity. And that's what Detroit is trying to do:

"Places also are valued for authenticity and uniqueness," Florida said.

For Detroit boosters, that means fostering and publicizing its musical creativity, from the Motown sound of the 1960s to its place as the techno music capital today, officials say.

And it means encouraging entertainment magnets such as suburban Royal Oak and Ferndale and similar urban districts developing near the Wayne State University campus, they say.

In recent years, Ferndale's Nine Mile Road strip shopping district has sprouted with coffee houses, clubs and music stores.

Typical is Xhedos Cafe, with its outdoor seating and an indoor stage that features a nightly open mike for poets, singers and guitarists.

"It's nice to work here," said staffer Kevin Peyok, 30, of Detroit. After work, he frequents the area's restaurants, clubs and music stores.

"I think it's a pretty cool place," he said.

I think they're pretty much on the mark. No, Detroit will never have people biking to work in the winter, but Austin will never have people taking out their cross-country skis to get to work, so you take what you've got. I'll give Granholm credit. She's done more than just look at jobs. What good are jobs if no one wants them? What good is a job if people don't want to move to your city or state? Will Detroit ever be as cool as Austin? Hell, no, but if Granholm can make enough young people willing to stay there or come there, she's done a great service for the future of her state.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Arlene Wohlgemuth to Run Against Chet Edwards

By Byron LaMasters

If the new map holds up in court, State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth (R-Burleson) plans to run for Congress in the new 17th district which includes her home base in Johnson County as well as Edwards' base in McLennan County. The district is heavily Republican and would favor a Republican over Edwards. Wohlgemuth is perhaps the most right-wing partisan Republican in the House. In 1999 she was named one of the worst 10 legislators for her right-wing hack job in 1997 where she killed a slew of unrelated bills in the "Memorial Day Massacre" over a fit with an abortion related bill. More on her from the 1999 Texas Monthly article:

Arlene, of course, is Arlene Wohlgemuth, whose name is enshrined in the legislative hall of infamy as the symbol of wanton, pointless destruction. It was she who, in a flare of anger over Democratic efforts to kill an anti-abortion bill, perpetrated the Memorial Day Massacre of 1997, using a parliamentary device to wipe out an entire calendar of bills. That was then, and this is now, but such actions are not quickly forgotten or forgiven.


She is a worthy and fearless debater who can take on anyone in the House and hold her own, but her ideology and partisanship are so extreme that, in the words of a fellow Republican, "If you solve her problem, she creates another one; if you meet her halfway, she backs up a step."

Or sometimes ten steps. A conservative Democrat wanted to co-sponsor a Wohlgemuth proposal that would have made it more difficult for the Legislature to raise taxes, but she rebuffed him; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram subsequently reported that a GOP political consultant had advised her that only Republicans should be allowed to sign onto the bill. Just as in 1997, she violated the spirit of civility of the Legislature. She yearns to lead—she lost a race for the vice chair of the House Republican Caucus—and will be heard from again, but she remains a marked woman, an ambitious Lady Macbeth, who, try as she might, cannot wash the blood of the Memorial Day Massacre from her hands. Out, damned spot.

So, if Republicans have their way, she'd be representing Waco in Congress, and as you can imagine, the Waco Tribune Herald isn't happy about it. They've leveled repeated attacks on their editorial pages against State Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGregor), who represents Waco and voted for the redistricting map. Check out their attacks here, here, here, here and here. The final headline puts it best: "A symphony of thuggery". That's what this is folks... plain and simple.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:27 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Mavs Aquire Antoine Walker

By Byron LaMasters

I'm excited. He's one hell of an upgrade over Raef LaFrentz, who the Mavs signed to a $69 million, five-year contract before to average eight points a game... Don't ask me why. Anyway, Go Mavs!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:03 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2003

Telford to Retire

By Byron LaMasters

The Quorum Report says that State Rep. Barry Telford (D-Dekalb) will not run for re-election. Telford is one of a rare breed - a white Texas Democrat. His northeast Texas district is a clasic east Texas swing district, usually preferring Republicans on the statewide level, but electing more Democrats on the local level. Both US Rep. Max Sandlin and Barry Telford have won the district easily repeatedly. It'll likely be a toss-up race with it vacant. Here's how the district voted in 2002:

U.S. SENATOR CORNYN, JOHN R 17,532 53.3% KIRK, RON D 15,390 46.7%

LAWRENCE, JOHN R 12,340 37.1%
*SANDLIN, MAX D 20,895 62.9%

*PERRY, RICK R 17,158 51.3%
SANCHEZ, TONY D 16,260 48.7%

DEWHURST, DAVID R 15,876 47.8%
SHARP, JOHN D 17,310 52.2%

TEAFATILLER, DAN R 12,616 38.0%
*TELFORD, BARRY B. D 20,627 62.0%

R 51.6%

Looking further down the ballot there's lots of 51-49% races.

As for other state house races, some races are developing across the state. Katy Hubener (D) is running against State Rep. Ray Allen (R) in Grande Praire. I've worked with Katy in the past and I wish her the best, although the webpage needs some work... Here in Austin there's some buzz on Democratic challengers to Todd Baxter and Jack Stick (if Stick runs for Congress in the new 10th as expected, that would leave his north Austin / Pflugerville district open):

Word on the Democratic street has Austin SafePlace Executive Director Kelly White stepping down to run for state representative in District 48 (currently held by Republican incumbent Todd Baxter), and former legislative aide and cybervote maven Mark Strama is seriously considering Jack Stick's District 50 seat. White didn't deny the rumor, but told Naked City that her tenure with SafePlace runs through Nov. 21 -- "That's what I'm focused on." Strama was traveling and could not be reached at press time, but Elliott McFadden, Travis Co. Democratic Party executive director, said that Strama has indicated he's pretty certain that he'll run. Of course, the way things are going at the Capitol, the primary campaign may not actually get under way until next August. -- M.K.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 18, 2003

Campaign Cash (or lack of it)

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

In the money race for the Democratic Nomination, Carol Moseley Braun seems to be having trouble even leaving the gate, raising ~$125,000 this last quarter, beating only Rev. Sharpton who came in at about $121,000.

"Obviously, we would like to have more money, but we're just going to keep plugging along," Braun said after a candidates forum in Des Moines. "We're a struggling campaign, but I hope we don't ever get to the point where money equals your ability to get votes."

Braun said in May she would have to "fold my tent" if her political comeback bid did not receive greater financial support. She raised about $72,000 in the first three months of the year and $217,000 in the second quarter.

Asked how she intended to continue running in the crucial stretch leading to the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses, she threw up her hands and said with a trademark smile: "Magic."

Braun, who served one term in the Senate after her historic election in 1992, is lagging behind the top Democratic candidates."

No kidding. When compared to Howard Dean's $14.83 Million, her campaign looks like it is lacking some serious "Magic". Even the endorsement of NOW isn't having any effect.

As sad as it is, I really like Carol and even Al Sharpton who are both lacking in financial Magic but not charisma. In every debate so far, I have looked forward to their comments. Braun always makes me smile; she is such a happy person who knows she can't win but is in the race because she really believes in Hope. Sharpton has the best zingers by far, and is like a Democratic Peacemaker and Cheerleader.

They should seriously consider exiting the race (as should others- a different discussion) but I would be sad to see them go when they do because of the above.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Cracking the Books

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'm so glad that we have money to fund the irony of the following news articles.

First we have a story today with Bush commenting on the successes in Iraq reconstruction.

As part of efforts to bring security to Iraq, President Bush said on Saturday that his administration was rebuilding the country's schools and providing calculators, pencils and textbooks free of Baathist propaganda to students.

"As part of our coalition's efforts to build a stable and secure Iraq, we are working to rebuild Iraq's schools, to get the teachers back to work and to make sure Iraqi children have the supplies they need," Bush said.

"He said over 1,500 schools have been refurbished so far -- 500 more than expected -- and that the United States has assembled more than 1 million school supply kits, including pencils and calculators and note pads for Iraqi schoolchildren."

This is remarkable considering the cuts nationwide among states in the educational department- including textbooks. From the UPI Textbook Series:

"Textbook purchases will be one of the first victims in anticipated education cutbacks due to widespread state budget woes, insiders say, leaving the $9 billion textbook industry prospects weak in the coming years.


California and Texas, two of the country's largest textbook markets, have cut state spending 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively. And when states face slashed education budgets, textbook purchases -- with their accompanying high costs -- often seem an obvious and easy place to cut as states can recycle used textbooks.

According to Mike Griffith, a policy analyst at the non-profit Education Commission of the States, textbook purchases are "a cost you can put off and make up for in later years."

Indeed, textbook orders have been delayed in Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas, according to a monthly nationwide survey by National Education Association researcher Daniel Kaufman.

Being the liberal I am, I certainly do support the efforts to rebuild Iraqi schools and their educational system. Every child should have the right to an education free of indoctrination.

But just because Bush has to cover himself overseas, it doesn't mean he can do it at the expense of the educational system here at home.

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 10:03 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Addition to the Family

By Karl-Thomas Musselman

I'm Karl-Thomas, the newest addition to writing staff here. After haunting the comments here for the past few months, I've been accepted into the Burnt Orange Family, not that that is the reason why. Many thanks to Byron, Andrew, and Jim who have done an awesome job to date.

I hope to keep up the proud tradition of high quality Democratic ranting and raving while bringing "fair and balanced" thoughts to the table concerning the world in which we live.

It may be about national politics, the Democratic Presidential Contenders, views on the news, or the latest count of DPS officers looming about in one of my favorite hang-outs, the Capitol Galleries.

I'll get started tomorrow with some serious posts. Until then, thank you and goodnight!

Posted by Karl-Thomas Musselman at 02:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Weddington to step down as GOP State Chair

By Byron LaMasters

So both parties will have new chairs soon in Texas. Susan Weddington is planning to step down as GOP state chair. She's an ultraconservative religious right fanatic, but I'll give her credit, she certainly has a good track record of being chair through two GOP statewide sweeps (1998 and 2002). The Austin American Statesman reports:

Susan Weddington will step down from her post as chairwoman of the Republican Party of Texas on Sunday to take the reins of Gov. Rick Perry's new OneStar Foundation.

Weddington was appointed as party chair in August 1997. Under her leadership, Republicans have claimed every statewide office and a majority of offices in the Texas Legislature.

The OneStar Foundation was created by Perry to help people and charitable organizations build partnerships with the state to assist those in need and to encourage Texans to volunteer in their community.

"The same characteristics that made Susan Weddington a great chairman of the Republican Party of Texas will make her a tremendous leader in the volunteer community," Perry said Friday. "Susan is hardworking, driven, and determined to make a difference for all Texans, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity or political affiliation."

The State Republican Executive Committee will likely elect a new chair within 30 days after Weddington's resignation becomes effective on Sunday, party spokesman Ted Royer said.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 17, 2003

White House Gala Celebrating Redistricting

By Byron LaMasters

Via WhiteHouse.org:


THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Thank you all for showing up to my little impromptu shindig to celebrate our glorious victory over those squirrelly Dummycraps down home in Texas, or as my current favorite minority voting block would say, "Tay-haaas."


You know it's not every day we get to celebrate the political equivalent of an armored car heist in broad daylight. Usually it's just on inauguration day.


But before I introduce our guest of honor, I just want to say that I'm happier than a buzzard with a mouthful of guts to be standing here with y'all passel of real, salt-of-the-Earth Texans, Yankee bluebloods masquerading as rawhide Texans, and their respective, demure, and utterly subservient womenfolk. It's been a darned good victory party so far, and I haven't even shotgunned my tenth Buckler yet.

But hell, why am I yakking? We're all here to congratulate my man Tommy "The Hammer" Delay, without whom us milk-skinned, born-again GOP millionaires could never have managed to lasso democracy like the troublemaking calf it is and do what generations of lonely frontier cowpokes have: fuck it but good. So take it away, Hammerino!

(Thunderous Applause.)

CONGRESSMAN DeLAY: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you. As you all know, I am a man of few words, so I will keep this short.

Earlier this summer, Democrats in the Texas legislature – most of them colored – fled my great state in an act of desperate cowardice, selfishly trying to prevent their inevitable political lynching by refusing to allow a quorum that would enable me and Governor Pretty Boy Not-Bush to erase all those whiny, excessively pigmented voting districts and serve up the gift of five or six new Republican seats to the U.S. House of Representatives.

It was disgusting. Why, I had to use Federal tax dollars and multiple Federal security agencies like the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to hunt those outlaws down. And when they finally came back, do you know that they had the gall to be unrepentant?!


It's true. They said that redistricting should be left to the incompetent and depressingly non-partisan US Census every ten years, and that my new map would "disenfranchise minorities." Well excuse me, but if the good Lord wanted for poor dirt savages and decent people like my dear, departed Momma to mix – much less vote in the same district – then he would have made Mexicans blondes, Negroes thin-lipped, and my Momma a drug-addicted, illegitimate-baby-spewing layabout sex fiend. But that's NOT what the Lord wants, and that's why once again, we Republicans have prevailed.


Yes, we succeeded, dammit. It took a lot of arm twisting, nipple pinching, and anonymous late night phones calls from yours truly threatening so-and-so liberal twat bag a one-way ride on the tar baby Ford F150 asphalt express, but we did it. We managed, yet again, to seize power by using our democracy's obscure parliamentary rules and failsafes against itself – because you can only get a bucketful of moo juice by grabbing ALL the teats at once, folks. And if that means cracking open some low class farmer's skull with the milkin' stool, then God's will be done.

Now I may have started out as just a lowly exterminator who was always being hospitalized for recreational huffing of Raid® Crack 'N Crevice HolocaustTM, but I still know a thing or two between seizures. I know that America may have been built on law – but it rests on the golden rule: those with gold, rule. So it was in the beginning, so it shall be now. If God didn't intend us to rule, he wouldn't have given our ancestors this gold, as well as a stronger immunity to Smallpox.

Our victory in Texas assures us that none of the transparent laws that govern this empire apply to those above the law. We are above the law. We are angels gentleman! We live in the clouds and dictate the fates of the bugs. The pests.

Gentlemen – a toast! Raise your glasses of bug juice! Raise them! And repeat after me:

To Texas, our third legalistic coup!


Next up... Illinois!


Well, that's what they would like to say if they could. WhiteHouse.org, for those of you not aware is a parody site, so no one get hysterical.

It comes as no surprise, however, that the White House doesn't think it's funny. It's amazing how sensative the right gets sometimes...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

My Community

By Byron LaMasters

Here's my block in the new redistricting map:

Modified photo via the Austin Chronicle.

Here's their caption (I live in the Gables Apartment complex in district 10 to the right):

The venerable Marimont Cafeteria at 38th and Guadalupe is now the center of the Austin political landscape -- it's the point where the city's three congressional districts meet. The Marimont itself is in District 25, stretching south to McAllen. Go one block west, across Ronson Street, and you're in District 21, stretching to San Antonio. And cross 38th Street to the Gables apartments and Central Market, and you're in District 10, stretching to Katy and Tomball.

Crazy. Republicans think that my "community of interest" is with Katy as opposed to my neighbors across the street.

Tim Thompson has more of the infamous Marimont Cafetaria at 38th and Ronson.

Here's another view of my apartment complex:

Check out the entire slide show. It gives you a great idea of just how Republicans just obliterated any chance of representation of Austin in Congress.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:54 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

I won't be watching

By Byron LaMasters

Kos is right. I won't watch the World Series. I was ready to watch 7 games of Cubs vs. Red Soxs, but Marlins vs. Yankees? *Yawn* Maybe next year. Maybe next century....

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Barrientos for Congress?

By Byron LaMasters

Via the Quorum Report:

In gathering information for today's story on the potential congressional races in South Texas (see Border Buzz), QR was told by a Rio Grande Valley contact that state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin) had told an Austin TV station today that he was showing interest in running District 25.

And if the new map holds, Republican Mike McCaul will run in District 10:

To clear the way for his congressional run, attorney Mike McCaul formally resigned today from his position in charge of counter terrorism in U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton's office.

Back in Dallas, Kenny Marchant has formed an exploritory committee:

State Rep. Ken Marchant on Thursday formed a campaign exploratory committee for Congress, the strongest indication yet that he plans to run for the 24th District seat now held by Arlington Democrat Martin Frost.

The GOP-controlled Legislature recently redrew the state's congressional boundaries in an attempt to add up to seven more Republicans to the Texas delegation, where Democrats hold a 17-15 edge.

"We're going to wait until the Justice Department has the final say," said Clif Wiegand, the exploratory committee manager. "After that, Kenny's going to be ready."


The new map placed Mr. Frost's home in Arlington in Republican Rep. Joe Barton's 6th congressional district. The new 24th District dropped minority neighborhoods in north Oak Cliff and southeast Fort Worth in favor of suburban cities in northeast Tarrant and northwest Dallas counties.

Political analysts say Mr. Marchant, a Republican who has served in the House since 1987, would be a formidable opponent in the race because the new district incorporates most of his legislative district, including his home in Coppell.

The formation of his exploratory committee will allow him to begin raising campaign funds.

The former Carrollton mayor already has received support from every Republican state legislator from Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 16, 2003

KGSR Pokes at DeLay, Redistricting

By Jim Dallas

Local radio station KGSR 107.1 FM has started airing ads for its "Give Austin to a Friend" promotion making fun of redistricting.

In the ad, which jokingly pits morning DJs Kevin & Keven against a villainous caricature of DeLay, the promotion is threatened by Republican schemes to make Austin "cease to exist."

The DeLay character says he's "carvin' up [Austin] like so much cheap brisket", magically turning West Austin into "East Midland", North Austin into "South Waco", and South Austin into "Laredo del Norte".

Kevin and Kevin: "You're Crazy!"

DeLay: "Well boys, crazy's in the majority!"

(Pardon to KGSR if I misquoted any part of their ad).

Anyhow, it sure reflects a level of political consciousness not normally seen on FM radio morning shows these days... But then again, Austin is weird.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:16 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 15, 2003

Boyles Out of Race for State Chair

By Byron LaMasters

Sherry Boyles announced this evening that she is withdrawing from her race for State Democratic Chair in order to focus on Annie's List (EMILY's List affiliate in Texas) and other opportunities.

Her withdraw makes former Land Commissioner and 1998 Nominee for Governor Gary Mauro the frontrunner in the race, according to several sources familiar with the SDEC.

Personally, I'm dissappointed. Boyles would have made an excellent chair.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Carson for US Senate!

By Byron LaMasters

He's running!

Just as I had hoped. Now if Bob Graham decides to run for re-election, we'll have had a pretty good week for the 2004 Senate battle. Put Oklahoma on the map. It'll be a tight race with Carson vs. Humpherys.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GOP Judge Likely to Run for Congress

By Byron LaMasters

In a new 2nd district, count State District Judge Ted Poe (R) as a likely candidate. The current 2nd district is represented by Jim Turner (D), but the district is seriously altered in the GOP redistricting map. The Houston Chronicle reports.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Texas GOP "Blog"

By Byron LaMasters

Via Slightly Rough.

This is an amusing read...

It's really quite funny, if not sad. First, it's not really a blog, it's sort of a hastily put together log of events. Second, its a really lame attempt to label Democrats as "obstructionists".

Here's one example of how Republicans try to spin Speaker Craddick's flagrant violation of the House rules (Here and Here) into an example of Democratic obstruction:

Democrats mounted a cheap and sneaky attempt to adjourn the state House and end the current special session without a redistricting plan being passed. Speaker Craddick convened the House on Sunday in order to abide by legislative rules requiring that each chamber meet at least every three days during a session. Since no business was scheduled, the Speaker’s intent was to convene and then immediately adjourn – a process that lasted about 30 seconds. There were less than 20 members present on the floor, mostly Democrats. As Craddick banged the gavel to adjourn, the Democrats started shouting that they wanted to make a motion to adjourn sine die (and with so few members present, they would have had the votes to do so). But alas, the gavel had sounded and it was too late. Nice try, obstructionists.

Riiight. Democrats objected before the session was gaveled to adjourn. Craddick didn't recognize them. Craddick broke the rules. Period, end.

It'll be in the lawsuit.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Perry Counterattacks Strayhorn

By Byron LaMasters

Monday, I wrote that Comptroller Strayhorn lashed out at Perry at a speech in Houston. Today Perry has responded with the following press release:

The Quorum Report has Perry's press release:


It is with great regret that I must tell you that Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today launched a campaign-style, negative attack against Governor Perry and the Texas Legislature for standing up for conservative principles.

Below is Governor Perry's response:

"Texas legislators just completed the most successful session in decades. I am very proud of the conservative record we have established for balancing the budget without raising taxes, passing historic and sweeping tort reform that will save jobs, expand business opportunities and improve Texans' access to health care. In addition, we passed significant homeowners insurance reform that will save Texas taxpayers more than half a billion dollars in lower premiums and refunds. And despite a $10 billion shortfall, we increased spending on health care by $1 billion, increased spending on public education by $1.3 billion and established an historic and innovative transportation improvement system."

Senator Steve Ogden released the following statement:
"The Comptroller's public statements, including today's speech in Houston are more political than factual. Yesterday, the Legislature overwhelmingly passed HB 7, a comprehenshive government reorganization bill that, amoung other things, will transfer two programs, e-Texas and the Texas School Performance Review to the Legislative Budget Board. This transfer will increase efficiency and eliminate a serious conflict of interest where the Comptroller both identifies alleged savings and then certifies the amount of those savings. In addition, the message has been sent that the Comptroller needs to refocus on carrying out her constitutionally-mandated duties, which include providing more accurate, less political, revenue projections on which the legislature can base budgeting and policy decisions."

State Representative Mike Krusee also released a statement in response:
"While the transportation needs of Texas are great, transportation advocates have never had a more enthusiastic and effective supporter than Governor Perry... California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has publicly cited theTrans Texas Corridor as an example of what other states should emulate in transportation policy. At every step of the way, the Governor's leadership made the difference. It was Governor Perry's detailed vision which inspired the bills written by the legislature; it was Governor Perry's tireless efforts which led to legislative success; and it was Governor Perry's passion with the bully pulpit that passed the constitutional amendments...

Simply put, because Rick Perry is Governor, all across Texas new roads will be built faster, sooner, and for less taxpayer's money than before. Those of us in public office who wish to contribute would do well to work with the Governor in a cooperative manner to build upon our unprecedented achievements in transportation policy."

For more detailed information about Comptroller Strayhorn's false attacks and our response, please refer to the attached fact sheet. (See Below)


In a speech today before the Greater Houston Partnership, Comptroller Strayhorn launched a campaign-style, negative attack against Governor Perry and the Texas Legislature for standing up for conservative principles. Below are excerpts from her speech and the truth behind her false attacks:

"I was telling the truth when I said the budget did not balance."
Comptroller Strayhorn certified the budget as being balanced.

"I was telling the truth when I said there was $700 million available in early July to restore cuts before critical health care was eliminated for frail elderly and medically needy children."
Approximately half of the federal fiscal relief funds awarded to Texas ($167 million) are being used to increase the Medicaid reimbursement rate for health care providers and expand community care services for the elderly and poor in fiscal year 2004. The remainder of the funds will be used to assist in FY 2005.

"And I was telling the truth when I said new fees, charges and out-of-pocket expenses were going to cost Texans $2.7 billion more over the next two years."
Many of these fees are going toward specific purposes such as getting drunk drivers off our roads. In addition, some of the fees were either supported or suggested by the Comptroller herself.

"What is personal to me is the 160,000 Texas children who have lost their health insurance under this governor’s administration."
· The $117.4 billion budget passed by the Legislature increases spending on vital health care programs by $1.1 billion without new taxes.
· Maintained the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for families whose income is 200 percent of poverty. The same income eligibility level as when the program began in Texas and as found in most other states.
· Increased funding for Medicaid acute care coverage, HIV medications and children with special health care needs.
· Made a $10 million investment to increase the number of federally qualified health centers in Texas to help increase access to health care services. The 181 federally qualified health centers that already exist in Texas provide routine and preventive care, and many also offer dental and pharmacy services as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment. This new infusion of funding will help the centers attract more federal dollars and provide services to an additional 250,000 Texans, many of whom do not have insurance.

"What is personal to me is the thousands of jobs that have disappeared in Texas under this governor's administration."
Under Gov. Perry’s leadership, thousands of new jobs have been created including major business expansion or relocations such as Toyota, Samsung, Texas Instruments, T-Mobile, INFONXX, and EchoStar.
In one month this year, California lost 30,000 jobs while Texas gained 28,500.
"Texas is a land of buccaneering capitalism …The future is Texas." - Quote from The Economist December 22002
The Wall Street Journal called Texas' sweeping tort reforms the "Ten-Gallon Tort Reform", and said, "Texas not only provides an example for other states but also for Republicans in Congress."

"What is personal to me is sky-rocketing homeowner property tax rates and insurance."
After declaring homeowners insurance an emergency issue, Texas legislators passed and Gov. Perry signed into law signed sweeping insurance reforms into law to lower skyrocketing homeowner rates, end deceptive credit scoring practices and enforce tougher regulations on the industry. Those reforms resulted in the Texas Department of Insurance ordering most of the top 32 insurance company groups writing homeowners insurance in Texas to lower their rates. Ordered rate reductions will save Texas consumers more than $510 million.

"What is personal to me is the unacceptable inequity in our public education system that leaves too many children behind."
· The $117.4 billion budget passed bye the Legislature increases spending for education by $1.2 billion without new taxes.
· The 1.2 billion in new funding for public education includes a new science initiative, the Governor's High School Completion and Success Initiative and theEarly Start Initiative to foster strong early childhood learning.
· More than $580 million was provided for textbooks and instructional materials.
· Over the last four years, Texas public schools have received $6 billion in new funding.
· Under Gov. Perry's leadership, Texas has established and funded a Master Math and Master Teacher initiative.

"What is personal to me is that higher education expenditures per student have decreased under this governor' administration."
· Increased funding to the Texas Grant Program to assist in keeping access to higher education open to those students with the drive and determination to succeed in college.
· Funding for research carried out by public universities was significantly increased by allowing universities to retain 100% of their Indirect Cost Recovery for research purposes.
· Health-related institutions were also appropriated funds to increase their research into biotechnology initiatives.
· Over the last four years, Texas colleges and universities have received $3 billion in new funding.

"What is personal to me is the transportation crisis in this state."
· Under Gov. Perry's vision and leadership, the Texas Legislature passed and Gov. Perry signed into law the most comprehensive transportation legislation in the state's history which creates new financing tools to fund transportation projects that will improve commuter drive times, spur economic development and prevent highway tragedies.
· Seed money has been secured to generate billions in bond funds for the Texas Mobility Fund, an unprecedented commitment to building needed road, rail and public infrastructure projects.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MALDEF, Black Leaders Sue, Barton Gloats

By Byron LaMasters

One day after the Texas Democratic Party announced their lawsuit against redistricting in federal court in Tyler, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court in Victoria claiming that the recently passed map does not reflect Latino voting strength in the state. The Austin American Statesman reports:

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has jumped into the court fight over the newly enacted Republican congressional redistricting map.

MALDEF filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court in Victoria on behalf of the American GI Forum of Texas, a group devoted to securing equal rights for Hispanics. The lawsuit contends the new redistricting plan does not create another Hispanic district.

"The newly-enacted congressional redistricting plan for Texas does not accurately reflect Latino voting strength in the year 2003," said Nina Perales, MALDEF regional counsel and lead attorney in the court case.

Although the Republican plan "purports to create an additional Latino majority district in South Texas, in fact it eliminates one district and adds another, with no net increase in electoral opportunity," Perales said.

If Texas is going to redistrict, Perales said, the result should be an increase in the number of Hispanic districts, particularly in South Texas and Dallas.

Two other lawsuits have been filed against redistricting so far. The one filed by the Texas Democratic Party has drawn the most media attention, but a group of African-American leaders have also filed a lawsuit in district court in Marshall claiming that Black representation would be lost under the new map:

At least two other legal challenges have been filed since the Legislature gave final approval Sunday to the new congressional districts.

Democrats are asking a federal court in Tyler to stop the state from implementing the new plan for the 2004 election cycle. That court challenge — a motion filed in a previous redistricting lawsuit — alleges that using the new map would be disruptive because it moves more than 8.1 million Texans into new districts and that there are strong arguments that the map violates federal law.

Also, a group of Democrats has asked U.S. District Judge John T. Ward in Marshall to issue a temporary restraining order to prohibit changing the districts. Rusk City Councilman Walter Session, one of the plaintiffs, said he believes black representation would be lost under the Legislature's new plan.

In other redistricting news, the office of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) continues their shameless gloating. Barton is throwing a Redistricting Victory Party Celebration Fundraiser! How exciting!

The party invitation says it all: Victory Celebration for Republican Re-districting.

But Rep. Joe Barton's fund-raiser Monday in Arlington has Democrats seeing red.

Democrats are hoping to be party poopers by getting the new pro-GOP congressional districts thrown out by the courts. And the invitation's gleeful theme and promise of games for the kids -- "pin the boot on the donkey" -- has them upset.

"This is a fittingly shameful way to celebrate," said Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The Republicans better get their partying in quickly because the courts are going to spoil their fun."

Well, it would be fun to go crash, or at least picket from the outside.... Hmm.. If anyone wants to, "The fund-raiser, at $150 per couple, will take place at the home of Gary and Judi Martin". Heh. I think, however, we'll just have to wait for our day in court. I'm just quite disgusted by it all, though. Especially after the revolting email sent by Barton aide, Joby Fortson. I guess I can just count my blessings that I'm represented by Lloyd Doggett, for now...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:32 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Haley Barbour's Racist Connections

By Byron LaMasters

Mississippi Republican nominee for governor, Haley Barbour is the latest high profile Republican to have connections with the racist Council of Conservative Citizens. He's pictured on their homepage from a CCC event in July.

Now for those of you that may have forgotten, the Council of Conservative Citizens is a neo-Confederate Organization that lashes out at "so-called neo-conservatives" that "have embraced the legacy of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement" (quote is from their website). The Anti-Defamation League gives a good background of CCC:

The St. Louis-based Council of Conservative Citizens traces its roots directly to the racist, anti-integrationist White Citizens' Councils of the 1950s and 1960s.

Its current leader, attorney Gordon Lee Baum, was an organizer for the WCC and built the Council of Conservative Citizens in part from the old group's mailing lists. The CCC drew national attention in 1998 when it was revealed that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was a frequent speaker at its events; subsequent news accounts reported that several other elected officials in the South had appeared at the group's gatherings. Like its predecessor, the CCC inflames fears and resentments, particularly among Southern whites, with regard to black-on-white crime, nonwhite immigration, attacks on the Confederate flag and other issues related to "traditional" Southern culture. Although its leadership claims that the group is not racist, its publications, Web sites and actions all promote the purportedly innate superiority of white people and bias against nonwhites.

So, here we go again...

Haley Barbour is trying the same old GOP game of playing stupid. When confronted about attending a CCC event, Barbour played stupid. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports:

Some of Republican gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour's campaign material features the state flag and its Confederate battle emblem, a symbol many black voters find offensive.

Barbour wears a lapel pin with the U.S. and state flags and he is in a photograph on the Web site of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a neo-Confederate group accused of racist views. Barbour says he doesn't know anything about the council. The picture was taken at a council-sponsored barbecue in July used to raise money for private academy school buses.

But Barbour says he wants to be the state's most successful Republican vote-getter among African Americans and has held closed-door strategy meetings with minorities. If elected, he says he will create a "colorblind" state government.

Ok. How stupid does Haley Barbour think people are? First off, who attends a fundraiser for an organization that doesn't know what their views are? I don't care if it was for a legitimate cause (raising money for school buses), the organization is not. Second, it's particularly ironic that fellow Mississippi Republican leader, Sen. Trent Lott used the same defense when it came out that he had spoken at multiple CCC events where he had told the organization to "stand for the right principles and the right philosophy".

More GOP bigotry eruptions... My only question though, is does this help or hurt Barbour considering it's in Mississippi? Let's hope that New Mississippi wins out. Vote Ronnie Musgrove.

Update: I hadn't checked out kos today yet, but he has a good take on the story as well. My source for the story was also Political Wire.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:01 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 14, 2003

I seem to run into the strangest people...

By Jim Dallas

In high school, I did a week-long job-shadowing program at KGBC, the thousand-watt AM radio station in Galveston. I got to follow around the news director (who, given the fact that Galveston is small-enough so that everybody-knows-everybody, was kind of a local celebrity) for a week. His name was Tim Kingsbury.

Only, it wasn't. His name was really Patrick Welsh, who had left his home in Ohio in 1983 after running afoul of the law. A few months after my mini-internship, he got caught and sent back to Ohio to face justice. The story later became the basis of a Lifetime channel movie and was covered on CBS's news magazine program 48 Hours.

For me, this was really shocking, as it was for many Galvestonians.

In high school, I figured that was going to be my one run-in with history. Although I find out now that may not be the case.

In a Daily Texan column last summer, I made a casual reference to pro-gun scholar John Lott's work, which by then (as I noted) had been heavily criticized if not outright-refuted. I had done my homework, read the journal articles, and felt it was not unreasonable to say that Lott's More Guns, Less Crime hypothesis (to wit, that "shall issue" concealed permit laws were responsible for a drop in crime) had not held up under scrutiny.

Incidentally, I still happen to personally believe in "shall issue" permit laws, simply because I feel that "may issue" laws can become discriminatory, which they have been in the past.

Back to the story. So about a week afterwards, I got an e-mail from an irate John Lott arguing that More Guns, Less Crime had not been debunked. I didnt get into an argument over the details; instead I told him that he was more than welcome to submit a guest column laying out his case to the Texan and that, as a researcher, surely his analysis would be taken seriously by the Texan editorial board. I didn't hear anything from Lott after that, which I thought was unfortunate because I wanted to hear what he had to say.

(And Mr. Lott, if you're out there, consider this a standing invitation from the Burnt Orange Report family to make a guest post on our blog).

Unfortunately the e-mail has long been purged from my inbox; I should have printed it out and framed it.

In any case, this last year has not been a pleasant one for Mr. Lott, and it gets even worse with a full-scale expose in Mother Jones:

If economist John R. Lott didn't exist, pro-gun advocates would have had to invent him. Probably the most visible scholarly figure in the U.S. gun debate, Lott's densely statistical work has given an immense boost to the arguments of the National Rifle Association. Lott's 1998 book More Guns, Less Crime -- which extolled the virtues of firearms for self-defense and has sold some 100,000 copies in two editions, quite an accomplishment for an academic book -- has served as a Bible for proponents of "right to carry" laws (also known as "shall issue" laws), which make it easier for citizens to carry concealed weapons. Were Lott to be discredited, an entire branch of pro-gun advocacy could lose its chief social scientific basis.

That may be happening. Earlier this year, Lott found himself facing serious criticism of his professional ethics. Pressed by critics, he failed to produce evidence of the existence of a survey -- which supposedly found that "98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack" -- that he claimed to have conducted in the second edition of "More Guns, Less Crime". Lott then made matters even worse by posing as a former student, "Mary Rosh," and using the alias to attack his critics and defend his work online. When an Internet blogger exposed the ruse, the scientific community was outraged. Lott had created a "false identity for a scholar," charged Science editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy. "In most circles, this goes down as fraud."

Lott's recent baggage makes him an impeachable witness in the push to pass state-level right to carry laws, and raises questions about his broader body of work. Kennedy and others have even likened Lott to Michael Bellesiles, the Emory University historian who could not produce the data at the heart of his award-winning 2000 book "Arming America", which had seemed to undermine the notion that there was widespread gun ownership and usage in colonial America. But while Bellesiles resigned after a university panel challenged his credibility, thus far Lott has escaped a similar fate. An academic rolling stone, Lott has held research positions at the University of Chicago and Yale law schools, but currently works at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington think tank much smiled upon by the Bush administration. AEI will not say whether it will investigate its in-house guns expert; by e-mail, AEI president Christopher DeMuth declined to comment on the possibility.


Chris Mooney is all over John Lott like white-on-rice on his blog. Check it out.

So here's my second rendezvous with history.

Actually, I hope I'm not being cruel by not considering the multiple occasions on which I shook Marty Akins hand, or the time that Ron Kirk spilled tea on me at a TCDP fundraiser. as my second and third rendezvous (and the John Lott affair as number four).

But as much as I like Marty Akins and Ron Kirk, the whole 2002 election debacle is something I'd rather forget.

ASIDE: Part of why John Lott is being taken to task is because of what some consider the exaggerated use of regression models. I tried recently to predict the 2004 election on the basis of such models -- and unless you believe Bush is going to carry the District of Columbia by a landslide, you'd be well-advised to note that it's a particularly prickly enterprise!

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And the Court Fight Begins...

By Byron LaMasters

Today, Democrats have announced that they "filed a motion in federal court in Tyler seeking to prohibit the state from implementing the new Republican-backed congressional redistricting map". The motion was actually filed on Sunday night after Senate approval of the new congressional lines. A copy of the motion is available on the Texas Democratic Party Website.

The Houston Chronicle reports:

The motion, filed in federal court in Tyler on Sunday night, alleges that the map is illegal, Hebert said.

Democratic lawmakers have argued that the map violates the voting rights of minorities.

The motion was filed in Tyler because that court in 2001 drew the congressional redistricting map that is now in effect, Hebert said.

"We think that any proposal to change the court's map ought to be dealt with by that court," said Hebert, who represents Democrats in the Texas Legislature and Texas' congressional delegation.


The contest now turns to the state and federal courts. Democrats had said they would ask the courts to halt the plan from being used in 2004, arguing that there will not be enough time to try the case before the March primaries.


The new congressional district map now will be submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for review under the federal Voting Rights Act. For the map to be used, the department must first determine that it does not dilute minority voting strength.

The map also will be subject to legal challenges in both state and federal courts.

If used in 2004, the map mostly likely will replace a 17-15 Democratic majority in the congressional delegation with a 22-10 Republican majority.


"We're going to continue the fight in the courts of the United States of America to make sure the people of the state are represented fairly and well," [State Rep. Garnett] Coleman [D-Houston] said.

The legislative redistricting sponsors -- Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine -- insisted their goals were simply political, to replace Democratic districts with Republican districts.

The upcoming court battle will be fought over minority voting rights as protected by the federal Voting Rights Act. The act prohibits the dilution of power and influence of minority voters by either packing them into as few districts as possible or by splitting minority communities into multiple districts to diminish their influence.

Democrats claim the Republican map does both. They say at present there are seven Hispanic districts, two black districts and two districts where the election's outcome is influenced by black voters.

Republicans claim their map creates eight Hispanic districts and three black districts.

Democrats dispute that because the 23rd District of U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, replaces much of its Hispanic population with Anglos. So while the district has a Hispanic congressman, Democrats argue it no longer is a district in which minority voters determine the outcome of an election.

The court battle will occur first in a state district court, but ultimately it will be decided by a three-judge federal court panel.

John Alford is a Rice University professor who has been hired as an expert witness by the Texas Democratic congressional delegation. He believes the federal court will stay the case and not bring it to trial until well after the primaries next March.

"There is no reason the court will feel compelled to move as quickly as the Legislature would like," Alford said.

Alford said in most redistricting cases courts are obligated to act quickly because the existing map is unconstitutional because of national reapportionment following a census. But Texas currently has a congressional district map that has been upheld as legal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jim Ellis, a political aide to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said he does not believe the current map matters. Ellis said once the Justice Department approves the Legislature's work, "we have a new law. It's the law of the land."

Ellis said the Democrats then will have the challenge of halting the use of a legal map.

"They have a very, very difficult row to hoe," Ellis said.

Alford said the key to the case will be a U.S. Supreme Court decision that came down in June called Georgia v. Ashcroft. That case said states have the right to determine how best to draw legislative and congressional districts to protect minority voters.

"Not to say that it will be struck down by a court, but there are some real legal liabilities that you can get your hooks into," Alford said.

Alford said he believes the Texas case will plow new legal ground before it is finally decided by the Supreme Court.

Ellis defended the map's minority voting patterns.

"In the end the map will hold up because it is legally sound," Ellis said. "We had the best redistricting attorneys in Texas and the nation advising us on this."

So there we have it.

Meanwhile, Rep. Martin Frost (D-Arlington) is confident that the map will be struck down. Shocker, I know... The Dallas Morning News reports:

The dean of Texas' Democratic congressional delegation predicted Tuesday that he and his colleagues would run their 2004 campaigns in the same districts they did last year.

U.S. Rep Martin Frost's statement comes on a day when Democrats announced they had filed a motion in federal court Sunday night in Tyler seeking to bar the Texas government from implementing the new Republican-backed congressional redistricting map. The Texas Legislature passed the map earlier this month over the protest of Democratic lawmakers, and Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law Monday.

"I will be running in the exact same district I was running in two years ago," said Mr. Frost, a Democrat from Arlington now serving in his 13th term. "This is an illegal map. This map will fail for a variety of reasons."


He cited the new District 32 as particularly egregious: Low-income Latino voters in the North Oak Cliff section of Dallas are grouped with wealthy residents of Highland Park and University Park. The new redistricting plan reduces the number of "effective minority" districts from 11 to 10, Congressman Frost said.

And in another shocker, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) disagrees:

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, said Mr. Frost is only trying to save his job.

"He's dreaming. He's living in a fantasy world," Mr. Barton said. "The map will stand up in court."

Mr. Frost, who with his Democratic colleagues cling to a 17-to-15 majority over House Republicans, says the approved redistricting plan violated the federal Voting Rights Act by breaking up congressional districts where racial minorities constitute the majority of citizens.


Nothing about the new plan violates federal law, Mr. Barton said. While it does break up districts such as Mr. Frost's, it creates one new primarily black and another primarily Hispanic district, giving minority voters in Texas more political influence than before, Mr. Barton said.

Mr. Frost's current District 24 is unrecognizable compared to the new one, in which Republicans make up 63 percent of voters.

"He can move, he can run against me, he can run against [Democrat] Eddie Bernice Johnson, he can run against [Republican] Kay Granger. He has a lot of options," Mr. Barton said. "Martin Frost and his cronies can file lawsuit after lawsuit. The new lines are going to be the lines we all run in."

Regardless, like Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), Frost has pledged to run for re-election regardless of the district lines. For the new 63% Republican 24th district, Dallas Republicans are talking up current State Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton):

Now that the Legislature has finally passed a congressional redistricting bill, it's time for potential candidates to search for the best path to Washington.

In the Dallas area, the road appears to be paved for state Rep. Ken Marchant, R-Coppell.

Mr. Marchant is eyeing the reconstituted 24th District now represented by influential Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington. Political observers say a Frost-Marchant matchup will be one of the most-watched races in the country.

"I'm going to wait for the governor to sign the bill before I say anything," Mr. Marchant said. "But it looks like a very good opportunity for me."

If the new lines hold up, Frost vs. Marchant would be an interesting race, with Marchant having an advantage, but still, Frost has several decades of roots in representing the DFW area and even in a new district would be tough to beat.

In other races, the Abilene Reporter News profiles the likely race between paired west Texas Reps. Neugebauer (R-Lubbock) and Stenholm (D-Abilene).

In editorials today, the Waco Tribune Herald lamented the loss of representation for Waco. In a much more nationally significant editorial, the Washington Post compared the tactics of the Texas GOP leadership to tactics used in Soviet Russia.

And finally, President Bush has weighed in on redistricting now that it's over:

But President Bush, a former Texas governor, said Monday that all redistricting disputes in Texas have been divisive. "I mean if you look back, I can remember the battles in the '90s and '80s and people who perceived they didn't do well would complain about the partisanship, and hopefully they can get this issue behind them, they being both parties, and move forward with good policy for Texas," Bush said.

Right. Lets just move on and forget this happened. Uh-huh, dream on. Bipartisanship is dead in the Texas legislature. Like it or not, it's dead.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:02 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Send Republicans a Thank You!

By Byron LaMasters


But you can tell them what you think about redistricting here. Oh, but wait, it's already filled in... I guess there's the comments section.

Rick Perry's also doing his job to fabricate artificial widespread support for redistricting, asking people to send him a thank you:

Also on Monday, Perry's political arm, Texans for Rick Perry, distributed an "Urgent Request for Action," urging citizens to send Perry and other Republican lawmakers thank-you letters for their redistricting effort.

The e-mail includes a fill-in-the-blank form letter saying that the state of Texas owes a "debt of gratitude" to Republicans.

Arg. Too bad I'm not on Rick Perry's email list and I'd post what they're putting out there. Is anyone on it?

What a bunch of self-promoting assholes....

Oh, and Bush wants everyone to just put redistricting behind them. Uh-huh. Why didn't he tell that to Republicans two years ago? That's what we're supposed to do after we redistrict the first time for another ten years:

But President Bush, a former Texas governor, said Monday that all redistricting disputes in Texas have been divisive. "I mean if you look back, I can remember the battles in the '90s and '80s and people who perceived they didn't do well would complain about the partisanship, and hopefully they can get this issue behind them, they being both parties, and move forward with good policy for Texas," Bush said.

"Move forward with good policy for Texas"? Again, why didn't you tell the GOP leadership to do that six months ago? I must be confused...

To the courts we go...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Spammers Banned!

By Byron LaMasters

I just banned the following IP Adresses from posting:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and

After getting a few spams recently myself, I banned their IP addresses along with this list I got from Off the Kuff. I'd urge all bloggers to ban these folks. It's unfair to all of us to waste the comment space on spam. Respectful (and yeah, sometimes disrespectful) discussion is fine, but spam is not tolerated here.

UPDATE from Jim D: has also been banned, due to spamming. Death to the Spambots!

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Texas GOP = Communists

By Byron LaMasters

Ok, not really, but check out today's Washington Post Editorial:

The Soviet Republic of Texas

YOU MIGHT THINK America's rigged system of congressional elections couldn't get much worse. Self-serving redistricting schemes nationwide already have left an overwhelming number of seats in the House of Representatives so uncompetitive that election results are practically as preordained as in the old Soviet Union. In the last election, for example, 98 percent of incumbents were reelected, and the average winning candidate got more than 70 percent of the vote. More candidates ran without any major-party opposition than won by a margin of less than 20 percent. Yet even given this record, the just-completed Texas congressional redistricting plan represents a new low.

The plan grabbed headlines as a consequence of the flight by Democrats -- twice -- from the state to prevent its adoption. The Democrats, whose only hope, being in the minority in both houses, was to prevent a quorum, eventually gave in; the legislature has adopted the plan. It's abhorrent on two counts. Texas Republicans, egged on by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, violated a longstanding tradition by redrawing the map in the middle of a census cycle. Their new rule seems to be, why wait 10 years if you can cram something down your opponents' throats today? And their plan is designed to wipe out moderate and white Democrats from the Texas congressional delegation. We don't know whether the plan violates the Voting Rights Act or will survive legal challenge. What is clear, however, is that it will aggravate the triumph of extremes in Washington while further sovietizing America's already-fixed electoral game.

The map Republicans have produced is a remarkable feat of gerrymandering. The 19th District, once confined to the western side of the state, now snakes halfway across it to scavenge voters from the current district of Democratic Rep. Charles Stenholm. Beneath it now sprawls the once-compact 11th District of Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, which has been completely redrawn to help a friend of George W. Bush get elected to Congress. The south of the state now looks like a pinstripe suit, with narrow districts snaking from north to south in order to pack Hispanic-majority voters in just a few districts, including a new one. Dallas liberal Martin Frost, meanwhile, suddenly has a new district, 63 percent of whose voters are Republican. The goal here is not subtle. As Republican state Rep. Phil King, who helped draw the map, put it to the Austin American Statesman, "I would suspect that [any Democrat] who is not in a minority district would have a very competitive race."

The current Texas House delegation includes 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. This balance, no doubt, is a residue of a time when Democrats were more powerful in the state than they are today and reflects deliberate incumbent protection by past legislatures. It also, however, reflects the fact that some Democratic members have effectively represented their increasingly conservative districts and remained popular. The pernicious effect of partisan redistricting in general is the weakening of the center with the creation of "safe" seats for both parties -- which encourages the election of people considerably to the left or right of the state's political center of gravity. Do Texans really want a polarized delegation of 22 conservative Republicans and 10 liberal Democrats, as the current plan envisions? Do they really want a state with a white party and a minority party? Republican politicians are engineering it that way, whatever voters may want. For redistricting -- quite the inverse of elections -- is a process in which politicians get to choose their voters. It is a process that a healthy democracy would seek to reform.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:03 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Entire Fortson Email HERE

By Byron LaMasters

Via Dacha Dude Weblog is a copy of an email sent by Joby Fortson (aide to Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis). Yeah, this is the email that Jim and I have alluded to here and here.

Read on for a copy of the entire email...

Begin forwarded message:


Date: Mon Oct 13, 2003 07:53:36 US/Central

Subject: FW: Redistricting: leak from a disgruntled Republican?

----- Original Message -----

Sent: 10/13/2003 1:22:06 AM
Subject: FW: Redistricting: leak from a disgruntled Republican?
-----Original Message-----
From: xxxxxxxxxx

Sent: Saturday, October 11, 2003 10:54 PM
Subject: Redistricting: leak from a disgruntled Republican?
This was sent to me Saturday morning by a friend who said it is a Republican staffer's memo on redistricting. If genuine, it should be part of the redistricting lawsuit.
--Original Message-----
From: Joby Fortson [ mailto:jobydc@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2003 12:55 PM
To: Joby.Fortson@mail.house.gov;jeinertson@yahoo.com;
scb123@hotmail.com; greg.Facchiano@mail.house.gov; Turner, Robert
(Allen); andy.Halataei@mail.house.gov;Andy.Napoli@mail.house.gov;
cmday@guradaylaw.com; drucifer666@hotmail.com;jboling@nssga.org;
Thomas, Ryan (Appropriations); boulangerT@gtlaw.com;
dhorowitz@digmedia.org; baker_20850@yahoo.com;
Jeff.Janas@mail.house.gov; MillerAG@state.gov;
Subject: R's will pick up 6-7 seats now in Texas
The maps are now official. I have studied them and this is the most agressive map I have ever seen. This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House
no matter the national mood.
A quick rundown
1 - Sandlin - it gets more republican by throwing Tyler into the district. The heart of Turner's district goes to this distrioct. A solid state rep or senator could bat Sandlin/Turner in a tight race. The district is over 60% GOP but Sandlin has roots. (prediction lean staying Dem)
2- Turner - the distrcit is moved to the Houston area in an open Republican seat in northeat Harris County. It is new territory made of Brady, Lampson and a little Turner land.=
but over 60% Republican (switches to Republican)
3 - Johnson - this Plano based diestrict stays the same (remains R)
4 - Hall - Hall will win this distrcit again IF he runs. However, having the area around Texarkana instead of Tyler ight discourage him. If he retires (as inidcations are he will) this will flip. (switches to R)
5- Hensarling - the district is shrunk and becomes more urban picking up East Dallas and becomes more republican (stays R)
6 - Barton - my boss actually was drawn into a district with both Frost's and Turner's homes however, if they would like to commit political suicide, be my guest. The district has gone from 57% R to 63% adding more Republican territory in Tarrant County. (remains R)
7 - Culberson - the Houston Memorial "old money" dsitrict remains the same (remains R)
8 - Brady - Brady keeps staunch Republican Montgomery County as his base north of Houston and goes north tyo chop off the other half of Turner's rural district that the 1st gobbled
up. Montgomery County keeps this VERY republican (remains R)
9 - Lampson - This is a new majority minority african American district drawn for Rep Wilson around Houston Hobby Airport. Lampson is not in it and Bell is effectively drawn out
in favor of Wilson (Remains D)
10 - Doggett - ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - The district goes from North central Austin (NOT liberal Hyde Park but more north conservative Plugerville area) and stretches to Katy Texas outside of Houston. Robert called this the 290 district. It is very Republican
and will be where my friend Brian Walters will be likely running. Littelfield already is a consultant. (sweitches to R)
11 - Edwards - This is the "new" Midland seat drawn for Speaker Craddick protege Connaway who lost a close one of Neugebauer in the Combest open seat. This is very Republican.
(Switches to R)
12 - Granger - Granger's district continues to be a dafe Ft. Worth R seat (remains R)
13 - Thornberry - Thornberry remains pretty muich the smae but the map is very wacky at points to appease Speaker Craddick and State Senator Duncan. (remains R)
14 - Paul - Ron Paul and Nick Lampson are drawn together in a republican district. This could be trickier than thought given Paul's unusual behavior. It IS republican
though centered around Lake Jackson south of Houston, but Brandon can attest that Galveston is a lean D area. Lake Jackson and points south though are HEAVY R. Tus, the district is 60% R. (remains R)
15 - Hinojosa - I do not know if if Hinojosa will take this one or another of the "stripe" districts. One of these is new and part of the voting rights protection element. They run
from Austin area to the border side by side. (remains D)
16 - Reyes - this El Paso seat remains relatively unchanged (remains D)
17 - Stenholm - Really its the one Chet Edwards will run in and . . . bye Chet. Chet loses his Killeen-Ft. Hood Base in exchange for conservative Johnson County. They will not
like the fact he kills babies, prevents kids from praying and wants to take their guns. State Rep Arlene Wohlgemuth come on down, you are the next Congressman from Texas. To be fair, while Edwards will likely lose, at least he has a fighting chance as Waco is the population center (but hasn't he been LOSING Waco lately - yep!) (switches to R)
18 - Jackson-Lee - as much as we despise her, she cannot be drawn out. She still has the 5th ward and downtown Houston. The Queen lives!!!! (remains D)
19 - Neugebauer - thsi is easily the wackiest district and evidently was the last one drawn. It places Stenholm and Neugebauer in the same seat but most of it is Neugebauer's
Lubbock based territory. Stenholm has a chnace because it is very Ag oriented. Abilene just simply replaces Midland as the other population center. Once you see the map, you will shake your head at this one. The overwhelming R nature of it gives the freshman the edge, but Tim Holden in Pennsylvania showed that is not necessarily all it takes. (remains R in a close member-member battle)
20 - Gonzalez - The Alamo still will keep its rep in a similar district. Tony Zafirini's boss is safe (Remains D)
21 - Lamar Smith - this district still has Alamo Heights (rich San Antonio), Westlake (rich west Austin) and San Marcos - (remains R)
22 - Tom DeLay - DeLay, the supposed architect of this map according to Dems, still has his strong R base in Sugarland but gives away enough R's to give Paul and even greater edge
in the 14th. (remains R)
23 - Bonilla - half of Webb County (laredo) goes to Hispanic districts and he gets more of Bexar Copunty (north San Antonio) in return to shore up this slowly more Dem growing
seat. (remains R)
24 - Frost - ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Hello Congressman Marchant (a state Senator). His distrcit disappeared as Burgess takes inner city Ft. Worth, Eddie Bernice Johnson takes his
part of inner city Dallas, Sessions takes his hispanic voters in central Dallas and Barton takes his home in north Arlington. It simply disappears in a Coppell centered district in the VERY republican mid-cities area between Dallas and Ft. Worth. This is the D's best legal challenge as inner city Ft. Worth will now be outnumbered in a Rpublican suburban
district (see CD 26). However, the creation of a new african american seat in Houston so that new map should pass the challenge. (switches to R)
25 - Bell - this seat is removed from the Houston area (in its place is the new african american district) and this is one of the new "stripe" districts running from Austin to the
border. It takes hispanic east Austin and runs to the border. (remains D)
26 - Burgess - the old Armey seat takes on 150,000 inner city Ft. Worth residents but is paired with 450,000 fervent republicans in Denton County. Lewisville, Denton and
other VERY republican areas north make it, over 60% R despite the presence of inner city Ft. Worth. (remains R)
27 - Ortiz - This district still has the Texas coastline from Corpus Christi to Brownsville in the beginning of the strpie districts. (remains D)
28 - Ciro Rodriguez likely will still run in the final "stripe" district that runs from Chinagrove (the little town outside of San Antone from Doobie Brothers fame) all the way
to the border. (remains D)
29 - Gene Green - this is still a hispanic seat that gets even more hispanic in Houston. I expect Gene Green to keep it but watch for the primary challenge (remains D)
30 - Eddie Bernice Johnson - she takes Frost's african American population in Dallas and lets her republican precincts (like las colinas) go. Her district finally for the first time make perfect sense geographically.
(remains D)
31 - Sessions - still has the Park Cities (rich Dallas) and north Dallas. However, he pciks up some hispanic voters from the old Frost district. This is still a VERY republcian seat as people from the Park Cities vote in great numbers. remember this is the infamous 75225 zip
code which raise alomst 20% of Bush's presidential money and voted in the largets precinct 97% Bush-3% Dukakis. This district does not just have people who vote republican but people who ARE republican. (remains R)
32- Carrter - the final district is another gem. Edwards loses the republicans that suppiort him and they now are with John Carter in a Williamson County centered district. This is made for Carter and is still very safe republcian territory. (remains R)

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:32 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 13, 2003

Atrios gets a new laptop

By Jim Dallas

This is one of those touchy-feely stories ("But when all seemed lost, Atrios was saved by the kindness of an anonymous stranger...") that would have made it on to Dateline NBC if only it involved human organ transplants instead of computer hardware.

In any case, I'm glad that other people respect Atrios and are willing to put money up to see his blog continue.

(Incidentally, I also need a new laptop...)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

To the Courts, Strayhorn and Perry Feud.

By Byron LaMasters

Rick Perry signed the new map this evening making it law. Now, to the courts where lawsuits should be filed within days to stop the plan from taking effect.

Perry also signed the government reorganization bill, HB 7, which will take powers away from the Comptroller, Carole Strayhorn. In a speech today, Strayhorn blasted Perry and hinted that she would run against Perry in 2006:

A day after the Legislature passed a bill that would strip two high-profile programs from Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office, she racheted up her verbal attack on Gov. Rick Perry and said today she wouldn't rule out challenging him in 2006.

"I am 24-7 the Texas Comptroller and I will be 24-7 the Texas Comptroller," Strayhorn said referring to a possible gubernatorial bid after she spoke to the Greater Houston Partnership, which is composed of representatives from more than 1,900 Houston businesses. "I never say never. I want to be where I can make the most difference."

Strayhorn told the luncheon crowd at a downtown Houston hotel that she was disappointed in Perry's decision to take her stance on the state's budget shortfall and inability to balance it in June as something "personal."

"Texas taxpayers and Texas school children and the Texas Comptroller's Office are being punished for me telling the truth," she said. "I was telling the truth when I said we had a budget shortfall. I was telling the truth when I said the budget did not balance. ...

"Last Friday, behind closed doors in the Pink Granite Building, the Governor told the House Republican Caucus he wanted these programs stripped from the Comptroller's Office because 'it was personal.' ... My telling the truth is apparently what the governor takes as 'personal.'"

Strayhorn said what she sees as personal is the 160,000 school children without health insurance, the thousands of jobs that have evaporated, higher property tax rates and insurance and "the unacceptable inequality in our public education system that leaves too many children behind." She said the problems, which also include the state's transportation crisis and decreased higher education expenditures, all have come "under this governor's administration."

"What is most personal to me is the lost civility, the lost dignity, the lost honor, the lost effectiveness, and the lost spirit of bi-partisanship championed by then Governor and now President George W. Bush," said Strayhorn, whose son is Bush press secretary Scott McClellan.

I, of course would love to see a nice big internal GOP bloodbath, but we'll see. It's still three years. A lot can happen, and who knows what Kay Bailey Hutchison will do...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 12, 2003

Senate Passes Map 17-14

By Byron LaMasters

The Austin American Statesman reports:

The Senate voted 17-14 Sunday on a Republican-backed plan to redraw the map for the state's congressional districts.

The vote, delayed since Friday while the House debated an unrelated bill, ends the legislative fight on redistricting that has been waged for six months. Democrats blocked redistricting three times, including a boycott from the House and a boycott from the Senate.

In the third special session called on the subject, Republicans found themselves fighting each other. Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, won his battle to create a district that could be won by someone from his hometown. That effort was opposed by other West Texas lawmakers, including Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.

Creating the district Craddick wanted, however, caused a ripple effect through other districts and dire opposition from as many as four Senate Republicans on Friday. With that opposition, Senate Republican leaders began debate on the final map one vote shy of the 16 votes needed to pass it.

In the end, Sens. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, and Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, voted for the map.

In the end all 12 Democrats voted against this map along with two Republican Sens. Fraiser and Ratliff.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

The vote from the Senate on redistricting (the conference committee report on HB3) was 17-14 in favor. Details in a moment.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 06:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

House Does its part of the Deal

By Byron LaMasters

The House has done it's part of the deal by passing a government reorganization bill as requested by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (in return for his cooperation later this evening in guiding through redistricting). The Senate will meet at 6 PM to vote on redistricting:

The Texas House approved a sweeping government reorganization measure Sunday, acquiescing to Senate terms for giving final approval to a congressional redistricting map.

The House approved the measure by a 79-35 vote, then adjourned the third special session.

Final passage of the Republican-backed redistricting map now rests with the Senate.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst previously said the Senate would not approve the map until the House passed the unrelated bill intended to reorganize state government.

"I'm personally ready to call their bluff in the Senate," said Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, arguing against the government reorganization bill.

The Senate was scheduled to convene at 6 p.m.

Dewhurst said senators can only vote on redistricting Sunday, not filibuster, because he has closed down debate.

There was limited debate on the government reorganization bill in the House. Most Democrats were absent:

Rep. John Mabry, D-Waco, tried to thwart the government reorganization bill, raising a legislative objection that the conference committee did not convene in public and no record was kept of the proceedings.

House Speaker Tom Craddick overruled the objection.

Other lawmakers argued that they were assured the bill adopted last month by the House would stay in tact. However, dozens of amendments were added by the Senate and adopted by the conference committee.

"I do not want to be held hostage by the Senate," Carter Casteel, R-New Braunfels, one of the original authors of the bill. "I am sad that I'm standing here today asking you to vote against a bill that I helped author."

Debate on the bill was cut off after about 20 minutes, angering lawmakers who still had questions about some of the measures in the bill.

"I haven't gotten the answers to my questions because there's been no testimony, but we're fixing to make it happen so we better be right," said Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston.


The government reorganization bill has been at the center of a Republican feud between Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn and some senators and Dewhurst.

The fellow party members have fought all year over state spending.

The conference committee adopted Senate changes that would strip Strayhorn of her performance review and school district audit programs, transferring the duties to the Legislative Budget Board.

Keel called the move a "political shot at the comptroller."

Strayhorn has been critical of provisions that remove from her office's oversight school performance reviews and the e-Texas report, a biennial list of cost saving proposals. She has said lawmakers were taking the action to punish her for speaking out.

"There are things in here that I support," Eiland said. "A lot of this is good government. But a lot of this is just about political fights and not necessarily about good government and reorganizing government."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2003


By Byron LaMasters

This hurt. I turned it off at halftime. Ugh.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fortson: "The Queen Lives"

By Byron LaMasters

ABC News reports more details from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis)'s legislative counsel, Joby Fortson's email hailing redistricting:

Barton's legislative counsel, Joby Fortson, sent the e-mail from his personal computer, Barton's office said Friday. It was forwarded to Democrats in Austin and in Washington and to members of the news media.

"As much as we despise her, she cannot be drawn out ... the Queen lives!!!!" Fortson wrote about Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, whose Houston district remains Democratic. He also made jabs at two other Democrats and a fellow Republican.


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 06:24 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Redistricting Football

By Byron LaMasters

Football won out over redistricting yesterday, as Republicans punted an opportunity to send the latest redistricting map to Governor Perry yesterday. The House passed a map in the early afternoon, but Democrats stalled a House vote on a government reorganization bill until enough Republicans had left for the Texas / OU game in Dallas, so that remaining House Democrats could scatter, preventing a quorum as only 88 of 150 members were present by Friday evening. Meanwhile, the Senate held off on voting on the redistricting map until the House passed the government reorganization bill, and also tried to resolve the objections to the map from four Senate Republicans.

Some of this post is repeated from other posts. This post is a summary of the events of the past day or two for the Political State Report.

The latest redistricting map would give the GOP the advantage in 22 of 32 districts. It would eliminate the minority majority 24th district held by Martin Frost (and turn it into a GOP seat likely to be won by State Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton)). It would eliminate Lloyd Doggett's 10th district and split Travis County into three districts, one represented by Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), one by a McAllen Democrat and one by an Austin or Houston Republican. Take a look at how it carves up central Austin. The map would also likely lead to the defeat of Reps. Charlie Stenholm, Ralph Hall, Chet Edwards, Max Sandlin, Jim Turner and Nick Lampson. Personally, I believe that this map flagrantly violates the Voting Rights Act. While it creates a new Black plurality 9th district in Houston and a new Hispanic Majority 25th district (Austin to the McAllen), it's only a net increase of one majority minority district, as the 25th is currently a majority minority district in Houston. On the other hand, Laredo is split in half and the Hispanic population of district 23, represented by Henry Bonilla (R-San Antonio) drops by 11%. Furthermore, district 24, held by Martin Frost (D-Arlington) is retrogressed from a majority minority district to a white majority district. District 10, held by Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) also shows a significant drop in minority influence. A number of other districts also have similar problems, but the ones mentioned above are the ones that I consider the most obvious. If anyone wants to analyse the districts to see if the plan would hold up in court, take a look at the guidebook from the Minnesota legislature on how to draw defensible redistricting maps.

Greg's Opinion offers another, simpler case for the illegality of the current map. He says that the map's author, Rep. Phil King's comment that his goal was to "defeat as many Democratic incumbents" as possible is the definition a gerrymander by the Supreme Court, which says that a redistricting gerrymander violates the Equal Protection Clause when there is "an intent to discriminate against a political group". That is clearly the case here.

The Austin American Statesman had the best headline today:

The Legislature did its best to keep Austin weird Friday.

The story goes on to recap the events of the day:

After fighting Democrats for six months, the state's Republican leadership began the day without enough Senate Republicans to pass the new congressional map. Then, after hours of delay and more intraparty fighting, the House GOP leadership locked its doors and ordered absent members rounded up because there weren't enough members to consider an unrelated bill that the Senate insisted be passed before it would vote on redistricting.

Just before 11 p.m., the House gave up on finding enough members and adjourned until Sunday afternoon. A little later, the Senate also adjourned until Sunday.

"This is a cat-and-mouse game," Rep. John Mabry, D-Waco, said of his Republican colleagues trying to navigate their own differences.

The Democrats had been the ones holding up a new map, but on Friday the Republicans found the last-minute obstacles within their own party.

The House approved the new congressional boundaries 76-58. And after a daylong debate, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst rallied enough Senate Republicans to support the map.

Then the redistricting flap, already the victim of two Democratic walkouts over the past six months, took another detour.

Although both chambers voted to delay next year's primaries by a week, moving them to March 9, Senate Republicans postponed a vote on redistricting for several hours until the House members could vote on House Bill 7, a government reorganization proposal that strips key powers from Republican Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

The standoff underscored the level of mistrust between the Senate and House and the two Republicans who direct them.

Dewhurst said Speaker Tom Craddick had repeatedly given him his word that the House would pass House Bill 7.

"As Ronald Reagan used to say, 'Trust, but verify,' " Dewhurst said.

The House couldn't take a vote on the reorganization bill until 8 p.m. because of internal legislative rules. By that time, there were only 88 members there, not enough to conduct business. Unlike the last time the House didn't have enough members, the ranks of the absent included Democrats and Republicans.

Craddick already had doubted he could keep a quorum because of the University of Texas-University of Oklahoma football weekend in Dallas. Several lawmakers schedule fund-raisers as part of the football weekend.

Nonetheless, about 5 p.m. the Senate and House were forced to begin a three-hour wait to see whether the House would have enough members by 8 p.m. to conduct business.

Told of the reasons for the delay, Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, said, "Unbelievable."

The Republicans couldn't resist blaming one another.

Dewhurst said he had urged Craddick to "put a call" — requiring all members to be present — at the beginning of Friday's debate.

"It's a long weekend. Folks are trying to, in some cases, get up to Dallas for the Texas-OU game, and I was concerned that, with all of our members here, the speaker might have a hard time maintaining a quorum," Dewhurst said. "I was disappointed we lost that opportunity to get all of our business done this evening."

The proposed map would probably increase GOP membership in the congressional delegation by four to seven seats. Democrats hold a 17-15 advantage under a map drawn by federal judges when the Legislature failed to act in 2001.

But Republicans had more problems than football and mutral distrust between House and Senate leaders. Four GOP Senators had reservations about the final map. With a 19-12 majority in the Senate, Republicans were one vote short early Friday (although it looks now as if they have the votes to pass the map):

Yet Thursday's release of the final map, the result of closed-door negotiations between a handful of House and Senate negotiators, caused several Senate Republicans and one Democrat to reconsider their support.

Sen. Ken Armbrister, the lone Democrat who had supported redistricting, opposed the map because of what it did to his Senate district.

With all 12 Democrats opposed and at least four Republicans leaning against, Dewhurst found himself one vote short of the 16 needed to pass the bill.

That drew Gov. Rick Perry in, lobbying members for their support. He called in his childhood friend, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, to drop his opposition. But Fraser insisted he remained "a solid no" because of what the map did to his Senate district.

Even so, between Perry and Dewhurst, the Republicans finally seemed to have rallied enough votes for the map when they regained support from Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte.

The Statesman also has the roll call from the House vote on the map which passed 76-58. Two Democrats, Vilma Luna, D-Corpus Christi and Ron Wilson, D-Houston voted for passage. Republicans Mike Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, Bob Hunter, R-Abilene, Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria and John Smithee, R-Amarillo voted against the map.

The heated debate also turned to the inevitable court fight. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

"This map will establish balance and fairness to congressional districts by properly reflecting current voting trends," said Rep. Phil King, the Weatherford Republican shepherding the bill.

But Rep. Glenn Lewis, D-Fort Worth, said the plan could run afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act. He said the House leadership ignored advice from their own redistricting attorneys.

"It seems to me that it does not make good common sense. I thought we were smarter than that in Texas," Lewis said.

During one particularly heated exchange, King complained of harassment by Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco.

"I'm not on trial here -- I'm not going to be a badgered witness," King said.

The debate on the Senate side was no less heated. Democrats accused Republicans of ignoring minority voting rights, repeatedly pointing out that many of the African-Americans and Hispanics in Fort Worth and Dallas who united behind U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, an Anglo Democrat from Arlington, would be lumped into districts dominated by conservative Anglo suburbanites.

But the Senate sponsor of the plan put up a vigorous defense.

"I would not have brought this plan forward if I had not truly believed that is a fair plan," said state Todd Staples, R-Palestine. "I do believe it respects communities of interests. I do believe it respects minority representation, that it protects rural interests and reflects the voting trends of Texas."

Democrats in both chambers, who will probably see their party lose its 17-15 edge in the Texas congressional delegation, objected strenuously to the unusual mid-decade redistricting effort and vowed to take the matter to federal judges. They predicted it will not hold up under the 1964 Voting Rights Act.

"See you in court," said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.

Sen. Steve Ogden, a Bryan Republican, sharply disputed the notion that only Democrats can represent blacks and Hispanics in Congress.

"Is it fair to stereotype all minorities as Democrats?" said Ogden, reciting the names of several Republican statewide elected officials who are minorities.

The Austin American Statesman outlines the process of the upcoming court fight once a map is passed:

Once the Legislature finishes with congressional redistricting, the fight will shift to the courts — where the precedents are murky and the issues are muddled by the intersection of race and politics.

One outcome is certain, however. There will be an appeal.

Democrats are confident the redistricting map that passed the House but stalled in the Senate on Friday violates the federal Voting Rights Act by reducing the number of minority-opportunity districts — where black and Hispanic voters can control the outcome — from 11 to 10. Further, they argue, the map illegally divides minority communities in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.

"There's not a snowball's chance in hell that it is legal," said U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington, who is targeted for defeat by the new map. "All together, this could disenfranchise as many as 3.6 million minority Texans."

Republicans, taking advantage of sophisticated map-making computer programs and their own cadre of experts, are confident the districts will stand legal scrutiny.

"For Texas, we have advanced minority representation in this state," said state Sen. Todd Staples, one of the map's creators. "I think that's good for Texas."

The Republicans argue that they have either increased the strength of minority districts or created new ones to offset any setbacks. Taken overall, the GOP says, the state will give minorities a greater opportunity to elect the candidates of their choosing.

Once passed and signed into law by the governor, the map will have its first stop at the U.S. Justice Department. The agency will have 60 days to certify that Texas has not reduced the number of minority-opportunity districts.

Michael McDonald, who has studied redistricting as assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University, predicts Justice Department approval.

"They have a lot of guidance from Justice on what they'll accept or not," he said.

Democrats have voiced skepticism that the agency, run by President Bush appointee John Ashcroft, will seriously study the GOP-drawn map. But an agency spokesman said career attorneys, not political appointees, will review the districts.

"We are a law enforcement agency, and we are not beholden to anybody's politics," spokesman Jorge Martinez said.

Far more uncertain will be the map's fate in federal court, where experts for hire and complex statistical analyses help determine the winner. This is where the hot rhetoric will be cooled by a dry recitation of percentages and population comparisons.

"Who knows what the actual end result will be, and perhaps it's why the Democrats feel they have a chance," McDonald said. "A lot of it depends on the court, so I'm sure they're going to be doing some court shopping."

A Democratic congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the lawsuit will be filed in federal court in Tyler, where a three-judge panel drew up the map used in the 2002 elections.

Still, redistricting cases are notoriously difficult to predict, said Mark Rush, a professor of politics at Washington and Lee University who co-wrote the book "Fair and Effective Representation? Debating Electoral Reform and Minority Rights."

This summer's Supreme Court decision in Georgia v. Ashcroft changed a decade of Voting Rights Act precedent by allowing districts to have lower minority populations if minority-choice candidates can still be elected, Rush said.

"It seems the Supreme Court standards allow any map to pass constitutional muster — or so you would think. But the standards are so vague and contradictory that anybody can try," he said. "It's a hornet's nest because of the political stakes involved."

Elsewhere, there's already talk about who's running for congress. Republicans in Central Texas are eager to take on Rep. Chet Edwards in a new district dividing Edward's bases of Waco and Temple:

The new map also prompted a flurry of rumors regarding candidates thinking of running against Edwards, and changed the plans of those already mounting a campaign.

Former state Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, who was challenging Edwards for his District 11 seat, said he will now run in District 31.

Another challenger, Republican Dot Snyder, said that in order to run against Edwards, she will move from Coryell County to McLennan County.

"I've been campaigning in some of the wrong counties, clearly, but I'm going to begin campaigning in the new district," Snyder said.

State Reps. Fred Brown, R-College Station, and Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson, along with state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, were also rumored to be considering a run for Edwards' seat. On Thursday, Brown spokeswoman Melissa Nickolas said he had no current plans to run for a congressional seat.

Ogden spokesman Rich Wright would only say "it's a rumor."

And Wohlgemuth spokesman Alan Burrows said the representative has been receiving phone calls asking her to run for Congress and is "not ready with an answer."

Wohlgemuth has been at odds with Waco leaders in recent years over efforts to control pollution that flows from upstream dairies into Lake Waco, where residents get most of their water.

The Waco Tribune-Herald also weighs in with their editorial urging Sen. Kip Averitt (R-McGreggor) to vote "no". Averitt is considered a solid "yes" vote at this point. Back in Austin, even though the reconfigured district 10 would favor a Republican, Lloyd Doggett has pledged to run for re-election wherever his district may be.

In other editorials, the San Antonio Express-News says that Republicans reached too far. The Beaumont Enterprise slams Tom DeLay's involvement in the redistricting fight.

Finally, the Washington Post is running a story on an internal GOP report on the redistricting battle with some gloating by a legislative aide to Rep. Joe Barton:

The analysis of the plan, written by the legislative counsel to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), provides a rare public glimpse into the inner workings of the congressional redistricting process, which both political parties use to advance their own cause and hurt the opposition.

In the case of the Texas GOP plan, the analysis described how steps were taken to try to protect the plan from legal challenge under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but also how minority voters would be shifted into Republican-dominated suburban districts and how a new district in West Texas was crafted to meet the aspirations of a friend of President Bush.

"This is the most aggressive map I have ever seen," Joby Fortson wrote in the analysis, which he e-mailed to congressional aides. "This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood."

Fortson predicted that Texas Republicans would pick up six to seven new House seats in next year's congressional elections if the plan withstands the expected legal challenge by Democrats. His analysis tracks closely with an analysis by the staff of U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), which said the new district lines would endanger the reelection chances of at least seven Democratic incumbents.

It is not known whether Fortson played any role in drafting the redistricting plan, but his views about its probable impact closely parallel those of Democratic and independent political analysts.

Referring to new districts that would stretch from around the state capital of Austin to the border with Mexico, Fortson said they were "part of the voting rights protection element" in the plan. The districts are designed to be dominated by minority voters even as Republicans would make gains elsewhere.

Fortson appeared to take special delight in writing about what he predicted would be the fate of two Texas Democrats, Frost and Rep. Lloyd Doggett. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha . . .," he wrote before describing how the plan would affect their districts.

Discussing Frost's district, which runs between Fort Worth and Dallas, Fortson said, "It simply disappears." He said black voters in Fort Worth would be shifted into a Republican-dominated district, black voters in Dallas would be sent to a nearby district that is already heavily black, and Hispanic voters would be moved into another GOP district.

"This is the D's best legal challenge as inner city Fort Worth will now be outnumbered in a Republican suburban district," Fortson wrote. However, he added, because the plan would also create a new African American district in Houston, it should withstand a challenge under the Voting Rights Act.

Doggett represents the liberal bastion of Austin and, according to the analysis, his district would be dismembered. His new territory would run from a conservative section in north central Austin to the outskirts of Houston and is "very Republican," Fortson wrote.


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kung-Fu Perrymander!

By Jim Dallas

The Washington Post reports today on internal Republican documents which perfectly illustrates what a JUDO CHOP! the Thursday Morning Massacre Map is.

The analysis of the plan, written by the legislative counsel to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), provides a rare public glimpse into the inner workings of the congressional redistricting process, which both political parties use to advance their own cause and hurt the opposition.

In the case of the Texas GOP plan, the analysis described how steps were taken to try to protect the plan from legal challenge under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but also how minority voters would be shifted into Republican-dominated suburban districts and how a new district in West Texas was crafted to meet the aspirations of a friend of President Bush.

"This is the most aggressive map I have ever seen," Joby Fortson wrote in the analysis, which he e-mailed to congressional aides. "This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood."

"Assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood?" So much for the House of Representatives being the voice of the people in Washington.

Such is the ruthless villainy of redistricting. Heck, they've even got the official "villain laugh" down pat.

Fortson appeared to take special delight in writing about what he predicted would be the fate of two Texas Democrats, Frost and Rep. Lloyd Doggett. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha . . .," he wrote before describing how the plan would affect their districts.

Yeah, it's so funny I can barely contain myself.

Anyhow, the GOP memo is not just a partisan circle-jerk. The Post notes that the report closely follows (in analysis, obviously, but not in tone) as a report put out by Martin Frost (whose district "simply disappears"), who predicts Democrats will lose at least seven seats.

(My prediction was for a loss of five or six seats, but I was apparently overoptimistic).

Moreover, Barton's aide goes on to express confidence that the map will survive any legal ju-jitsu the Democrats try and throw at it:

"This is the D's best legal challenge as inner city Fort Worth will now be outnumbered in a Republican suburban district," Fortson wrote. However, he added, because the plan would also create a new African American district in Houston, it should withstand a challenge under the Voting Rights Act.

Despite the fact that he goes on to write --

Computer technology has made redistricting highly precise, a point illustrated by Fortson's analysis. It said Hispanic voters, who vote heavily Democratic, would be shifted from Frost's old district into a district represented by Rep. Pete Sessions (R), but that Sessions's territory would remain dominated by "rich Dallas and North Dallas."

I wonder what relationship Fortson has with the Kool-Aid Kids who drew the current redistricting map. If he's speaking for himself, then it doesn't mean much. On the other hand, if he's got insider knowledge, this ought to be People's Exhibit Number One that this "fair" redistricting map is an illegal partisan gerrymander.

UPDATE: A little googling informs me that Fortson is formerly an aide to Van Hilleary and:

Joby Fortson, 32, is the new legislative counsel for Barton. The Dallas native graduated from the University of Virginia, where he received his bachelor’s in government and foreign affairs. He also holds a law degree from the University of Texas.

Although I can't tell he'd have much insider business presently in Austin. Somebody (perhaps someone who hangs around the capitol more than I do) --prove me wrong.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:44 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 10, 2003

Redistricting held hostage?

By Jim Dallas

The plot thickens...

Quorum Report suggests that Lite Guv Dewhurst is holding up a vote on redistricting (HB3) until the House passes a government reorganization bill (HB7). QR notes that Sen. Staples has asked for a vote sometime after 8:15 pm.

To me, this seems a little odd, especially since we've been hearing all day that 4 Republican senators need "persuasion."

Regadless, something odd is going down....

We may find out in about an hour.

UPDATE: It's 9:10, and the Senate is still standing at ease pending a quorum in the House (Lite Guv Dewhurst got up and announced at about 8:20 that the House was seven members short of a quorum). It would be surprising to me if anything else happened for a while.

UPDATE 2: The lead graf in this morning's Statesman reads --

The Legislature did its best to keep Austin weird Friday."

Ain't that the truth! The article also claims that Sen. Mike Jackson, R - La Porte, is back on the redistricting bandwagon. So there is a good chance that the votes will be there for passage late Sunday.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 07:14 PM | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Doggett's hat in ring, no matter what.

By Jim Dallas

So sayeth the Statesman.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 05:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

My 14 Block Trip to Campus...

By Byron LaMasters

Would be a journey through 3 congressional districts under the HB3 - Conference Committee Report 10-9-03. I would reside in district 10, represented by a Republican from Austin (if I'm lucky *cringe*) or from the Houston / Katy area. The campus of the University of Texas would be located in a district represented by Lamar Smith of San Antonio, and in between I'd have the opportunity to travel three blocks through a district likely to be represented by a McAllen Democrat:

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

House passes redistricting map

By Jim Dallas

The vote was 77 to 59 in favor.

The Houston Chronicle , San Antonio Express News, and Fort Worth Star Telegram have more.

Quorum Report notes that the House is currently taking up HB1, moving the primary date back a week, and that the first lawsuits are already flying.

The Austin American Statesman reports that 4 GOP Senators are skeptical about the map -- enough to kill the map if they hold firm.

Senator Troy Fraser of Horsehoe Bay says he is a solid "no". Sen. Bill Ratliff of Mt. Pleasant has been opposed to redistricting all along. The other dissenting Republicans are Sen. Mike Jackson (La Porte), and Sen. Teel Bivins (Amarillo).

Debate in the Senate continues, with the outcome suddenly uncertain.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:39 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

October 09, 2003

Reaction to the Thursday Morning Massacre

By Jim Dallas

Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) says that Gov. Perry has reneged on his promise to protect Hispanic voters (who are probably the biggest losers in the spate of proposed districts which would merge Central Texas with the Valley).

Rep. Barry Telford (D-DeKalb) calls it "thuggery"

(See the Quorum Report)

Meanwhile, Gov. Perry says the map was "worth the debate" and Rep. Phil King (R) says the map is "legally sound."

The biggest critics, undoubtedly, will be from Austin, which gets sliced-and-diced (or stabbed in the back, depending on which Ginsu knife metaphor you prefer more).

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin):

Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D- Austin, said the new maps are "bad for Texas".

"The devastating thing is being, the capital city, is being torn into three congressional districts. This is the district that Lyndon Johnson and [Jake] Pickle represented is now going to be mostly in Houston ... 63 percent Republican,” Barrientos said.

Barrientos also said the new congressional districts leave no contested races between the two parties.

From looking at the TLC report (which wasn't available this morning), it looks like there's only 10 real Democratic districts in this map - one in Dallas, three in Houston, one in San Antonio, one in El Paso, and four which run parallel from Central Texas to the Valley.

Chris Bell is a goner. Chet Edwards and Nick Lampson are both in 60-40 Republican districts. I expect Sandlin and Turner to both be in significant trouble. Doggett is almost certainly toast. As is Stenholm.

Most likely this map will lead to a 20-12 or 21-11 split. This is way beyond the 56 percent threshold of "fairness" upon which this enterprise is founded upon. Of course, we knew that would happen.

Here's a color-coded map to simplify things. Red districts are those that went in Republican in 2002; Blue are Democratic districts.


A vote is scheduled for Friday.

SOME NOTES: pc thinks Martin Frost is OUT, and I'm inclined to agree due to the fact that the only Dem-leaning DFW district is probably not going to be his turf.

Incidentally, this map is a work-of-art in terms of one person, one vote. The smallest district has only one less person (at least according to the unadjusted census count; which probably means thousands of Texans are not actually counted, but c'est la vie) than the largest district. 651,619 people in the smallest compared to 651,620 people for the largest.That's not easy to do -- I'm impressed.

Someday I would like to be a gerrymander-er extraordinaire...

EDIT: Yes, I originally said "9 Democratic seats". It's 10. I screwed up the math, which should have been obvious (1+3+1+1+4).

Posted by Jim Dallas at 08:03 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

ATTN: Amateur Legal Scholars

By Jim Dallas

This is an interesting little guidebook from the Minnesota legislature on how to draw defensible redistricting maps.

As the saying goes, it takes a thief to catch a thief.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 01:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

It starts with an "F" and rhymes with "Duck"...

By Jim Dallas

... and it's now legal to say it on TV, thinks to the FCC. (I'd say it, but this is a godly, pro-family blog).

The Statesman has the dirty details (done dirt cheap):

The Parents Television Council and other organizations that make it their business to monitor what your kids hear complained to the Federal Communications Commission, which ruled without fanfare Friday that it's OK to use that word (for which we will substitute "feep") as long as you're not being literal. Follow the logical bouncing ball: You can say "feep" or "feeping" if you don't really mean "to feep."

All of which Bob Peters finds distressing. Peters is president of the National Obscenity Law Center, which is a project of Morality in Media, in Washington.

According to the ruling, quoting from the FCC's Indecency Policy Statement, indecent material "must describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities."

"The word . . . may be crude and offensive, but, in the context presented here, did not describe sexual or excretory activities," FCC enforcement bureau chief David Solomon wrote in the ruling. "Rather, the performer used the word . . . as an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation."

By this logic, Peters notes, Howard Stern could go on his radio show and call someone a cornshucker 68 times -- so long as he meant it as an insult and not as a description of a what a person might actually do.

"What, then, does the word mean?" Peters asks. "I mean, it's almost Orwellian, where what you've just read is the exact opposite of the truth. This statement is outrageous. It's not only outrageous, it's an Orwellian falsehood."

Of course, I blame that stupid motherf**ker, Michael Powell for this.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


By Jim Dallas

Daily KOS has all the gruesome details about Chris "loser with a capital L" Lehane getting on board the Clark campaign.

I once said that Lehane needs to be dragged out and shot. My opinion remains the same, especially after the negativity of the California Recall Election.

I'm almsot starting to feel sorry for John Kerry.

Let me be clear about this -- Wesley Clark is too good of a man to be saddled with this assclown. And unfortunately, it's getting even more strikingly obvious that the Clark campaign is "running the Gore campaign with a 'better' candidate." .

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Republicans Agree on Most Evil Map Ever(!)

By Jim Dallas

As Byron noted, the House-Senate conference committee approved a map early this morning, which ought to be christened the "Thursday Morning Massacre" for what it does to Central and East Texas.

Under the map, Lloyd Doggett is toast (there can be no debate about that). Austin is split three ways into a district that runs from North Austin to Houston, a district that runs from Southeast Austin to the Rio Grande, and a district which lumps San Marcos, South Austin, West Austin, New Braunfels, and Northern San Antonio together.

On the upside, Chet Edwards may yet survive in the proposed 17th. It seems to me that Martin Frost is in trouble. Nick Lampson might pull a victory out in the new 2nd district. Stenholm is most likely a goner.

In a much-needed change, Galveston, Lake Jackson, and Victoria were finally put together into a new, coastal-bend-based 14th district that will put the Island in Ron Paul's district (hey, I might still follow up on my threat to run there in 2008, but it's a pretty reasonable district). Overall I think this will improve the coastal bend's influence in Congress, and I've for that.

The very oddly-shaped West Texas districts have "gerrymander" written all over them, and I

But other than that - and the off possibility that Eddie Rodriguez might want to run for Congress (to put it gently, his chances in the proposed 25th District are very good) - this map is a complete disaster.

Posted by Jim Dallas at 12:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

New Map

By Byron LaMasters

It's Here. I'm sure that there will be a lot of redistricting related news over the next 24 hours, but I'm afraid that my posting will be limited due to school, studying, work, etc. Andrew or Jim might be able to fill in with redistricting news, otherwise, check out Off the Kuff.

Update: I see that Charles will be taking off for Europe later today (Have a fun/safe trip). I'll probably have time to post some headlines tonight, but I'll have to hold off to tomorrow or Saturday for analysis, etc.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Vatican Idiocy

By Byron LaMasters

Yeah, that'll catch your attention. And before I get blasted for religious intolerance, read on...

I'm very open-minded, and while I'm not the most religious person out there, I respect people who are religious of whatever faith, even if we disagree politically. But this kind of crap just pisses me off to no end:

The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which the HIV virus can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk. The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to the HIV virus.

A senior Vatican spokesman backs the claims about permeable condoms, despite assurances by the World Health Organisation that they are untrue.

Promoting abstainance is fine. It's not my policy, but if a church wants to promote it, then fine. Heck, if the Catholic Church doesn't want to talk about safe sex, that's fine. But to deliberately lie about condoms? That's a grave (literally) disservice. I know, condoms don't work 100% of the time, but they save lives. The point is that the Vatican is lying and using scare tactics to discourage condom use:

The WHO has condemned the Vatican's views, saying: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million."

The organisation says "consistent and correct" condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90%. There may be breakage or slippage of condoms - but not, the WHO says, holes through which the virus can pass.

Scientific research by a group including the US National Institutes of Health and the WHO found "intact condoms... are essentially impermeable to particles the size of STD pathogens including the smallest sexually transmitted virus... condoms provide a highly effective barrier to transmission of particles of similar size to those of the smallest STD viruses".

Furthermore, the preachings of the Vatican lead to deadly misconceptions in the lower levels of the church:

In Kenya - where an estimated 20% of people have the HIV virus - the church condemns condoms for promoting promiscuity and repeats the claim about permeability. The archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki, said: "Aids... has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms."

Sex and the Holy City includes a Catholic nun advising her HIV-infected choirmaster against using condoms with his wife because "the virus can pass through".

Blatant lies. Deadly lies. I don't ask for people to agree with me in regards to sexual morality, but for God's sake, don't go around telling people lies that kill people.

Update: Needless to say, I hope that Drudge's sources are wrong about the Pope winning the Nobel Peace prize. Sure, he's more deserving than previous winner Yasir Arafat, but I could think of much more deserving people.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Time for Another Trip...

By Byron LaMasters

Well, it looks like the GOP has a deal. I'd love to see the Democrats disappear to Louisiana or somewhere, but I doubt that it'll happen. The Dallas Morning News reports: (Other accounts in the Austin American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Fort Worth Star Telegram and San Antonio Express-News):

After nearly six months of give, take, punch and counterpunch, exhausted House and Senate negotiators said they finally reached a deal Wednesday on redrawing congressional boundaries so Republicans can win more seats next year.

The breakthrough – termed "an agreement in principle" – came after personal intervention by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as lawmakers settled the nettlesome question of how to remap West Texas.

The plan appeared to meet the one overriding desire of all the Republicans involved: It probably has the votes to pass, over the angry opposition of Democrats, who stand to lose control of the state's congressional delegation.

"We're counting [votes among House members], we're making calls and trying to count right now," said House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland. "We're very hopeful that we'll have an agreement."

The new district map, which was not immediately made public, could net the GOP an additional six or seven seats among the 32-member Texas delegation – and that could solidify the Republicans' hold on the U.S. House. At present, Texas Democrats hold a 17-15 advantage.

Republicans believe they can pick off seven Democratic congressmen: Chet Edwards of Waco, Martin Frost of Arlington, Ralph Hall of Rockwall, Nick Lampson of Beaumont, Max Sandlin of Marshall, Charles Stenholm of Abilene and Jim Turner of Crockett.

In Dallas-Fort Worth, Mr. Frost's congressional district was redrawn to give state Rep. Ken Marchant, R-Coppell, a clear shot at going to Washington.

With most negotiators saying that only minute details remain to be worked out, a slight lingering doubt about the "doneness" of the deal in the Legislature's third special session persisted among participants Wednesday evening.

State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, warned that the supposed resolution of the West Texas question came in a form that might be rejected by three Panhandle Republicans.

According to a person involved in the talks, the resolution followed a closed-door meeting among Republican senators at which it was made clear to one of the key negotiators, Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, that the map finally agreed upon was the best the Senate could get.

Formal announcement of the deal was expected Thursday. The House and Senate could take it up Friday, a legally required 24 hours after the expected Thursday morning printing and distribution of the map. During that wait, the plan will also be checked by staff members and lawyers.

For Republicans, disagreement among their own party members proved stubbornly deep-seated after the return of Democratic senators who had fled Texas to block a vote. In grueling horse-trading, night after night, they were reminded anew of how hometown interests – the essence of congressional mapmaking – can erase the ties that normally bind.

Under terms of the deal, Mr. Duncan agreed that his home district would include GOP-dominated Deaf Smith County – which he wanted – as a condition for accepting Eastland County – which he did not, said a person involved in the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Eastland County also is a Republican stronghold, but one that has favored Mr. Stenholm, an influential member of the House Agriculture Committee. Mr. Duncan had resisted including that county and other Stenholm bases to avoid forcing Lubbock-area voters to choose between Mr. Stenholm and Rep. Randy Neugebauer, the freshman congressman from Mr. Duncan's district.

House and Senate negotiators were planning a joint appearance Thursday to outline details of the new map.

"All of this is a credit to the leadership of the House and the Senate," said Mr. DeLay, who has been in Austin since Monday, meeting in marathon sessions with legislative leaders.

Mr. DeLay appeared to have overcome the longstanding chilliness – at times hostility – between Mr. Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

"It was a good process," Mr. Dewhurst said.

If a deal were formalized Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry's office believes it still is possible to hold the state's primary using the new map March 2 as scheduled, said Mike Toomey, the governor's chief of staff.
The pressure to avoid postponing the primary – which would include the presidential contest – was not the only hatchet hanging over negotiators' heads.

If delays persisted, the negotiating might have bumped into Saturday's big Texas-Oklahoma football game in Dallas.

After that, the end of the 30-day special session looms at midnight Tuesday. If filibustering Democrats in the Senate could delay a vote on redistricting past the end of the session, Mr. Perry would have to call a fourth special session to get a map passed, a move he pledged earlier he would not need to do.

For Democrats, any delay increases the chance that there will not be enough time before the election for the state to get required approval of the new map from the federal Justice Department.

It's expected that Democrats will file lawsuits in an attempt to invalidate the map, saying it illegally reduces minority voting power. The losing side in redistricting battles frequently files such challenges.

"In their political greed, the Republicans have overreached," said state Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "If we have anything other than partisanship out of the Justice Department, this map will not become law. And luckily we have a court to review it and say it's improper."

Mr. Dunnam cited, for example, the treatment of Travis County, where Democratic incumbent Lloyd Doggett of Austin would be forced to run in a heavily Hispanic district running to the Rio Grande.

Democrats also have complained that the Dallas and Houston suburbs will dominate rural areas in many of the redrawn congressional districts.

"We've said all along if a map passes, the true loser is the state of Texas, because we have a senior delegation that delivers a lot of results for the state," Mr. Dunnam said. "Just to get rid of our seniority in Congress just to benefit a few partisans is not putting Texas first."

Republicans have defended their efforts, saying the districts need to be shifted to reflect the increase in voter support of the GOP, which holds all statewide offices.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More on Arnold / Recall

By Byron LaMasters

All the Recall Arnold stuff is here for now. After reflecting upon it more, I'm against it. I think that the Davis recall was unfair and wrong, but I do believe that Arnold has a mandate to have a chance to govern California. Democrats should fight him tooth and nail in the legislature if he tries to steer anything close to a right-wing agenda, but the people of California spoke, and they said no to Davis, and yes to give Arnold a chance. I might be supportive of a recall of Arnold at a later date, but right now, I think it's a bad idea and I won't support it.

Without repeating or reposting, I'll just say that I generally agree with David Flemming's comments on another recall. He gives five very good reasons to oppose another recall at this time from a liberal Democratic perspective. CalPundit has some thoughts opposing a recall as well.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2003

Recall Arnold Underway

By Byron LaMasters

Here, among other places. I believe that RecallArnold.com, Recall-Arnold.com and RecallArnoldNow.com are all under constuction. Personally, I'm not a big advocate of it right now. Arnold received more votes than Davis so I think that it's hard to justify a recall on the "illegitimately elected" angle. I'll hand it to Republicans yesterday. They voted. Democrats didn't. We deserved to lose. Davis was a decent governor in some respects, but really screwed himself over. Bustamante ran a terrible campaign. The California Democratic Party needs to think about where they need to go. They need new ideas and new leaders. After that, and after Arnold's had a chance to figure out that governing is a lot harder than soundbites from his movies, then I'd recommend moving on a recall of him.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

There's a Deal! Wait, there's Not!

By Byron LaMasters

Another Snafu for Republicans, via the Quorum Report:

October 8, 2003 1:27 PM WE JUMPED THE GUN ON THE REDISTRICTING MAP No map yet. Confirmation is that House and Senate adjourned until Friday If there was a map, it would be laid out today on brought to the floor of both chambers tomorrow. While there has been some modest movement, as far as we can tell, it is marginal at best.

October 8, 2003 12:13 PM
Official announcement to be made early this afternoon

Republicans new found progress is largely due to Tom DeLay's visit to the capitol yesterday:

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay spent his second day at the Texas Capitol Tuesday, trying to hammer out a Republican deal on congressional redistricting.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, declared victory near after a meeting with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the lead Senate negotiator.

"It's very, very close. The lieutenant governor has laid out some very interesting maps. We're almost there," DeLay said. But late Tuesday, Staples said no agreement could be reached.

"I really thought we might have reached something tonight, but that escaped us," Staples said.

But Staples and Speaker Tom Craddick's spokesman, Bob Richter, indicated there still were problems in working out districts for West Texas -- problems that have halted a final deal on the map since last week.

"It's generally west of I-35 where we're trying to resolve the differences," Staples said.

DeLay is deeply invested in the Texas redistricting process. He prompted lawmakers to start the battle in April. And last year he founded Texans for a Republican Majority, which poured almost $1.5 million into capturing the Texas House majority for Republicans.

In other redistricting news, House Democrats released the following statement yesterday in a press conference:

Today, House Democrats cited three abusive examples of a redistricting process that seeks to cancel the votes and the voting rights of Texans at the expense of the state’s real priorities at a press conference today.

1. The actions of last Sunday on the House floor, when the Speaker refused to recognize the majority of members on the House floor who had the votes to adjourn sine die;
2. the effort to change the primary election date - a completely unnecessary and
unwarranted move that will take this abusive process from the halls of the Capitol to neighborhoods and a polling places across the state; and
3. the ultimate “bait and switch” Republican map trick - one that ignored Senate and House passed plans that left the existing minority opportunity districts intact and appears certain to produce a “new” and very different final plan that ignores the legal record made on the House and Senate floor to dramatically alter minority districts, illegally reducing the number of effective minority opportunity districts from 11 to 10.

“The press should cover redistricting like a crime instead of a sporting event - because the participants are not “players,” they are perpetrators of a historic and blatant abuse of power that has never been seen before in the halls of this Capitol,” said Rep. Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston).

“The victims of this abuse of power are the people of Texas who have seen their leaders spend $57,000 dollars a day, wasting millions of tax dollars on a partisan power grab while basic needs like health care and education go unmet,” said Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin). “Political power has taken priority over the people's business.”

“The Speaker’s actions on Sunday have put any bill adopted this session in jeopardy, because by all rights, the House should no longer be in session,” said Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont).

“Today, Democrats and minorities are being treated like an afterthought in a ‘bait and switch’ process that is stalled by a West Texas power melodrama, but the whole redistricting effort will come undone because it blatantly violates the Voting Rights Act,” concluded Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin).

Meanwhile, newspapers across the state have renewed their slaming of the redistricting effort on the editorial pages. Predictably, the Austin American Statesman denounced redistricting again, as does the San Antonio Express-News here and here. The Dallas Morning News editorializes against Republican plans to move the primary date, and the Amarillo Globe-News just wants the clowns sent home. The Fort Worth Star Telegram lists Redistricting Wrongs I, II and III. Even the conservative El Paso Times got into the act, urging Gov. Perry not to call a fourth special session on redistricting. Lastly, the Lufkin Daily News . aand the Abilene Reporter News lashed out at the Republicans lack of leadership. Wow. Links via Save Texas Reps.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

First Impressions from the Recall

By Andrew Dobbs

First, I think that the presence of several members of the Kennedy family, particularly Sargent Shriver- George McGovern's 1972 running mate- on the same stage as the newly elected GOP governor of California is a sign that the apocalypse is upon us. I swear to God, if any child of mine marries a Republican politician I'll love them I suppose but there will be no standing on any stage as an elected member of that party on election night damnit.

Secondly Arnold can begin his tenure with the distinct lack of any sort of mandate. According to the California Secretary of State's website at 6:06 AM (I'm pulling an all-nighter for a history test) with 95.4% of the precincts reporting 3,406,346 Californians voted "No" on the Recall portion while only 3,397,505 voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Essentially, more Californians wanted Gray Davis than any of the replacement candidates, including the eventual winner Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's clear that the GOP wet dreams of a Republican California were premature at best- in a head to head race between Davis and Arnold, Davis wins.

Thirdly, Bustamante's gubenatorial aspirations are dashed for 2006 as well I'd say. Being able to muster a pathetic 32.7% of the vote in the most Democratic state in the country as the only major Dem on the ballot is a sign that most Dems in the state don't really care for the guy and nobody likes voting for a loser. I'd expect Attorney General Bill Lockyer or Hollywood star Rob Reiner- both almost certainly candidates- to get the nom and take on Arnold. After 3 years of being wholly unable to do anything with a Dem legislature we should regain this seat.

Fourthly, Californians love their nutrition. In addition to the bodybuilder governor-elect the highest ranking "nobody" on the ballot was San Diego businessman George B. Schwartzman, who's only real issue I could find concerned removing softdrinks from public schools. The independent recieved more than 10,000 votes and placed just below former child star Gary Coleman and just above adult film star Mary "Mary Carey" Cook. This guy will be able to tell people for years that he placed 9th in a field of 135 for governor. That and 99 cents will buy him a cup of coffee at 7-11.

Finally, California's system of recalls, referenda and other direct democracy institutions ought to send the rest of us running to our Federalist Papers. There was a reason that we didn't institute direct democracy in the states- it leads to demagoguery and inflamed passionate decisions devoid of reason. Like voting for a drug-abusing, Hitler-loving, sexually assaulting bad actor and former bodybuilder for Governor of the most populous state. I would discourage all Recall attempts on Schwarzenegger, we must defeat our opponents the right way, the real way.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 06:23 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

78.8 % ( 12001 of 15235 ) precincts reporting as of Oct 8, 2003 at 12:47 am

No On Recall - 2,744,504
Arnold Schwarzenegger - 2,754,377

In my opinion, the legitimacy of Arnold's election will come down to whether he can hold on to his 10,000 or so vote lead over the total "No" vote. He's been leading it all night, but by dwindling margins. I think that Democrats have a creditable cause in launching a recall of Arnold if the "No" vote exceeds Arnold's vote. If it doesn't, I think that the best route would be to just give up the recall idea and let Arnold give it a shot. In fact, I'm leaning towards that anyway. It's hard to hate Arnold like I hate George Bush or most of the Republicans in Texas. Despite all of the allegations against Arnold, which I've done my part as a good Democrat to spread around the blogosphere (and my very small share of it), I kinda like the guy. Nah, I'd never vote for him, and if I lived in California, I'd work my ass off to beat him in 2006, but call me soft, I just don't think that forcing California through another recall at this time is a great idea. We ought to at least wait three months. That's what the GOP gave Davis.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 07, 2003

Davis Recalled, Arnold Wins

By Byron LaMasters

Blah. Oh well. Now Arnold will have his chance to screw up..

The results are here on the California Secretary of State website.

They've also got some great county-by-county maps for the recall vote and the replacement vote. Check out Los Angeles County. Al Gore won Los Angeles County by 830,000+ votes (2:1 margin). It's 50-50 in this election (so far). As Jeff Greenberg on CNN just said, that's all you need to know.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On Bob Graham...

By Andrew Dobbs

Bob Graham is the only presidential candidate other than Howard Dean I have ever met. On July 4 a bunch of people from the Dean campaign traveled to New Hampshire to march in two parades- one in Concord and another in Merrimack- that featured several of the presidential candidates. I saw John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Sen. Graham but after the Merrimack parade we were sitting in a parking lot when Bob Graham came along the route. A few friends and I went up to him to introduce ourselves.

Graham asked each of us our names, where we were from, where we went to school, what we studied and shook our hand. I said "You are a good man, Sen. Graham and we are all on the same side in the end." He then said "Well you work for a good man and I'm glad to see you out here." Truly classy.

I knew then that he didn't have a chance- Kerry had probably 200 ppl, Lieberman at least 100, we had a couple hundred ourselves in our parade. Graham had maybe 10 people, all employees. Still, he had a sense of humor and an honesty and character about him that was refreshing. In the end, Bob Graham was probably too nice to run for president but here's hoping that someday a man as good as Bob Graham becomes our President.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 06:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Recall Thoughts

By Byron LaMasters

Well first off, when is Drudge going to leak exit polls?

Hmm. I think that both the Yes/No and Question 2 will be close, but ultimately I'm expecting Yes and Arnold to win. I hope I'm wrong. As for launching into a recall of Arnold afterwards, I have mixed feelings about it. I could say that we should give him a chance to try and govern, but Issa and the Republicans behind the recall never gave Gray Davis that opportunity launching into their recall effort just three months after Davis was legitimately elected by the people of California to a four-year term. The best posible situation for Arnold to gain some sort of legitimacy would be for his vote to beat the total "No" vote on question #1. That would give him the widespread legitimacy that Davis never had when he was elected with 47% in a low-turnout election. I'm guessing that the recall wins in the low-to-mid 50s and Arnold wins in the high-30s. Such a situation could elect Arnold, even though ten percent more people supported keeping Gray Davis than replacing him with Arnold. Such a result would clearly challenge Arnold's legitimacy and be grounds for a recall of Arnold. As for Democratic strategy, I'm conflicted but adamant in fighting back. I oppose recalls in any state. I oppose mid-decade redistricting in any state. But when Republicans start changing the rules of elections, we can let them railroad us, or we can fight back. Unless we're successful in ultimately stopping the recall in California and redistricting here in Texas, Democrats, in my opinion, have a responsibility and an obligation to return fire with fire. That means recalling Arnold, and redistricting in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Illinois and other states.

Update: Well as always, Drudge delivers:


I'm skeptical, but there ya go...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Brad Carson for US Senate

By Byron LaMasters

With Nickels retirement, Brad Carson would give us a great chance for a pick up. Its good news for Democratic chances of taking back the US Senate (something that I still think is unlikely, but not impossible).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

General Moonbeam?

By Jim Dallas

That's the nickname Taegan Goddard suggests Wesley Clark could be tagged with for his dalliance with space-time apostasy.

Clark, in a forum on the future of NASA, made a remark about faster-than-light travel last week (NY Times | Wired.com), and caught a lot of flak for it:

Admittedly, the newest Democratic presidential candidate could use a health care proposal. And he has struggled to secure such basics as hiring a poster printer in New Hampshire (see Exhibit A: Campaign poster from a recent Clark appearance).

But Clark is the first presidential candidate this year -- and the first ever, with the possible exception of Jerry Brown -- to come up with a policy on time travel.

"I still believe in E-equals-mc-squared," the candidate announced at a gathering in New Hampshire last week, "but I can't believe that in all of human history, we'll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go." According to Wired.com, which reported this bold stand, Clark continued: "It's my only faith-based initiative."

His remarks caught the attention of late-night host David Letterman, who said Clark is already pursuing his initiative. "As a matter of fact, earlier today he went back in time to remove his foot from his mouth," Letterman said.

I took an astronomy class last year that included discussions of the relevant physics, and frankly I think the media are being harsh on Wesley Clark. And of course, if the idea of faster-than-light travel is so far out, why did NASA spend money on researching it?

Taking on Einstein might sound quixotic, at best. Surprisingly, though, a sprinkling of physicists around the world are doing it... Some are down-fight conventional, even highly regarded by the generally conservative physics community. These tamer rebels are taking on just a slice of relativity--the part that says nothing can go faster than the speed of light.

A decade ago that would have been heresy. But now there appear to be several plausible approaches to breaking--or at least bending--that most hallowed of natural laws, and some of them are being demonstrated in the laboratory. Perhaps the universe's ultimate speed limit might someday go the way of the national 55-miles-per-hour statute. Even NASA has jumped on the bandwagon, providing encouragement and a certain amount of funding to a growing band of relativistic scofflaws. After all, who else really needs to get anywhere faster than 186,000 miles per second?


[Marc] Millis runs NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion program. Now that astronomers seem to be on the verge of finding potential life-supporting planets in distant solar systems, it's only natural to start thinking about visiting them. Unfortunately, the prospects for interstellar travel are not cheery. The distances between stars are so vast that a spacecraft moving at the speed at which Apollo capsules journeyed to the moon would take almost a million years just to reach our nearest neighbor. Even at the speed of light, a round-trip to one of the more interesting stars in our neighborhood could take centuries. That's where faster-than-light travel--and Millis's program--comes in.

The program, which consists essentially of Millis, isn't the agency's sole effort to explore strange new technologies for getting us to the stars. An "exotic propulsion" group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for example, is studying new types of rocket engines to that end. But compared with the ideas Millis is looking at, the JPL group is dealing with pretty tame stuff; after all, it is restricting itself to designs that obey the known laws of physics. Even Star Trek seems mundane to Millis. "I get really horrified when people talk about the Enterprise's impulse engines being based on fusion-drive rockets," he says. "Why would they need rockets? They have artificial gravity. All they have to do is turn that sideways and they've got propulsion."


Meanwhile, on the side, Millis once again pulled brainstorming sessions together, this time with NASA engineers and scientists interested in speculating on entirely new forms of spacecraft propulsion and the physics that might underlie them. By 1984, NASA had authorized Millis to use up to a fifth of his salaried time on the brainstorming. By 1990 that was extended to half his time. Last year the agency made it his full-time job and even gave him a $50,000-a-year budget...


But Millis has managed to use his modest resources to become a sort of Oprah of faster-than-light travel. He conducts interviews, holds surprisingly well attended workshops, and his Web site, Warp Drive, When? (www.lerc.nasa.gov/www/pao/warp.htm), fielded over 50,000 visits in December 1997, its first month. Despite his fervency, Millis insists his expectations are realistic. "I'm prepared to accept the idea that we can't go faster than light," he says. "But that's no reason not to try to look for loopholes. searching for a good foot in the door is where we're at right now."

-- from "Faster than a Speeding Photon", Discover Magazine, August 1998.

(Millis's program at NASA had its funding cut last year, but Millis is still working as an aerospace engineer at Glenn Research Center).

In any case, after Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Bush the lesser, should Americans be shocked by a politician wanting to turn back time? I think not.

Indeed, while this is certainly off-the-beaten path, the willingness of Clark to insert himself into a scientific controversy tends to exhibit courage as well as establish his credentials as a Renaissance Man. It fits into Clark's overall theme of long-term vision. And as such, I think what Clark did by mentioning warp drives was really cool.

(Disclosure Number One: I'm a real big Star Trek fan.)

(Disclosure Number Two: I'm still on the Dean bandwagon.)

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:41 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

No comments on Bush Blog

By Byron LaMasters

Does it surprise anyone else that the new official Bush Blog does not have comments enabled?

Didn't think so.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:20 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

It's Official: Graham's Out

By Byron LaMasters

His official statement is here. We all sort of knew that this was coming. It was just a matter of time. So who does this help? Well, Graham was only in the low single digits. I think that his withdraw helps Dean, Clark and Edwards the most. Like Dean and Clark, Graham is anti-war, like Dean, Graham was a former governor, and like Edwards and Clark, Graham is a southernor. Still, the effect of his withdraw is rather minimal, since Graham was polling poorly anyway. Most of the support that would have naturally gravitated towards Graham was absorbed by Dean and Edwards before Graham got in the race. Clarks entry into the race made things even more difficult for Graham, and he knew it. Regardless, lets all hope that Graham runs for re-election to the US Senate so we won't have to worry about defending his seat.

Howard Dean has a good statement about Graham's withdraw.

Update: John Edwards and John Kerry have also issued statements on Graham's withdraw.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:39 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 06, 2003

Craddick Breaks the Rules

By Byron LaMasters

And KVUE News has a record of it. More details in my earlier post.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Marriage Protection Week

By Byron LaMasters


Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Primary Likely to be Delayed

By Byron LaMasters

Today is the deadline to pass a redistricting map that would be able to go into effect by the March 2nd primary as 90 days from now (the time it takes for a law to become effective) is the filing deadline for the primary. Only a two-thirds majority in both houses could shorten the 90 day wait (which won't happen becuase Democrats would oppose the move). Thus the only solution for Republicans after today would be to move the March 2nd primary back. The Houston Chronicle reports:

"Republican infighting over congressional redistricting Sunday apparently will cost Texas its spot in the "Super Tuesday" primaries that could decide who is the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.

The House and Senate had planned to come in Sunday to debate a final GOP congressional redistricting proposal. But after negotiations between Republican legislators broke down Saturday, both chambers met briefly, then adjourned until Wednesday.

Secretary of State Geoff Connor has said that if a plan is not adopted by midnight today he will not be able to conduct a primary as scheduled on March 2. Connor, the state's chief elections officer, said the primary would have to be moved to March 9.

"I know the Senate was very determined to get this done before we had to change any primary dates," said Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, one of the Senate negotiators. "We have, in essence, missed that deadline."

Duncan said that if a redistricting bill is passed, the primary date will have to be pushed back for the new congressional district lines to be used in the 2004 elections.

"Right now, we don't have any choice if we want to move a redistricting bill forward," said Duncan.


If a redistricting bill is passed, it would not take effect until 90 days after Gov. Rick Perry signs it. Connor's office then would need enough time to allow candidates to file for the races, print ballots and hold early voting.

Moving the primary might also cause problems among Republicans. Dan Branch is quoted here as opposing such a move:

The primary date was shifted from March 9 to March 2 under a bill approved during the regular legislative session. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said the primary was moved so it will not be held in the midst of the public school spring break.

Branch last week said he did not believe there were enough votes in the House to move the primary back to March 9.

King and House Speaker Tom Craddick said they have the votes to move the date. Duncan said he did not know whether the Senate could support the date change.

Of course, the change in the primary date would also have national implications:

By moving to March 2, Texas joined some of the nation's largest states in holding a presidential primary on the same day. The other states include California, New York and Ohio.

"If the primary is moved from March 2, Texas Democrats will have no voice in who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party," said state House Democratic Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco.

Dunnam said most candidates will have been winnowed out of the race either before or on March 2.

"I'd like to have a voice in who is going to oppose George Bush," Dunnam said.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, described moving the primary as un-American.

"That's something that happens in other places," Coleman said. "We don't move elections in the United States of America to make room for power grabs."

The drama on Sunday was in the House, where a dozen Democrats attempted to shut down the session. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports:

While Republican legislative leaders continued to squabble among themselves over congressional redistricting, a band of Democratic lawmakers hatched a plan Sunday that could have killed the process, which they have been fighting since spring.

But the plan, which came on the day that legislative leaders needed to have an agreement on redistricting without moving the March 2 primaries, was scuttled by Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick, who was unaware of what the Democrats had been planning.

Here's how it happened:

With redistricting at an impasse, both legislative chambers had been out of action since Thursday. But they had to reconvene Sunday to avoid breaking a state constitutional requirement that prohibits either chamber from taking more than three consecutive days off during a legislative session.

So Craddick called the House to order to hear a motion to adjourn until Wednesday. But just as he was slamming down his gavel to make the adjournment official, about a dozen Democrats shouted their objections.

If Craddick had not ignored them, the Democrats would have offered an amended motion to call off the session and send House members home. And it might have worked because almost none of the Republican members had shown up to vote it down.

"Our intention was to move to adjourn sine die and put an end to all of this," said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, using the Latin phrase that translates roughly to "without a set date" and is legislative slang for calling it quits.

Democrats later accused Craddick of ignoring House rules and operating in a "dictatorial" fashion. Through a spokesman, Craddick, R-Midland, said that the Democrats were late in announcing their objection and that the gavel fell before their voices were raised.

"He didn't know what they were up to," said Bob Richter, the speaker's press secretary. "He knew there were certain troublemakers out on the House floor, and [House leaders] were expecting something, but they didn't know what it was."

Democrats were, of course, outraged:

"In the Texas House of Representatives, the rules have no meaning under Tom Craddick's leadership," said Rep. Paul Mabry, D-Waco. "He blatantly, blatantly defied the written letter of the law as set out by the House rules."

Craddick later issued a statement in which he said that because there was no quorum present, his only options were to recognize a motion to put a call on the House or adjourn.

And here:

"He called us Chicken D's," said Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, recalling Craddick's nickname for the 51 Democrats who fled to Oklahoma in May to stop a vote on congressional redistricting. "But I never saw anyone run as fast as he did. It was a complete act of cowardice."


Dunnam said the speaker's quick gavel was another example of an autocratic leader with a Republican majority overrunning the Democrats — even when the Republicans didn't show up. He said Sunday's brouhaha is likely to end up in litigation over a final map.

The drama continues.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:03 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack


By Byron LaMasters

I'll post on it later today... I promise. Heh.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Arnold: Serial Groper, Spanker, etc.

By Byron LaMasters

It started with six women, now it's fifteen:

Four more women have come forward to say that Arnold Schwarzenegger fondled, spanked, touched and physically restrained them in unwanted encounters that left them scared or humiliated. The incidents took place between 1979 and 2000.

In all, 15 women have now accused the Republican candidate of sexual harassment.

Among the women who told their stories Saturday were: a 51-year-old woman who said Schwarzenegger pinned her to his chest and spanked her in 2000; Tamee Smith, 46, who said he held her and grabbed her breast in 1986; Jan Prinzmetal, 50, who said reached under her skirt and grabbed her bare buttocks in the mid-1980s; and Elizabeth Rothner, 45, who said he lifted her sweatshirt in 1979 and exposing her bare breasts.

The candidate's spokesman, Sean Walsh, said Schwarzenegger said three accounts were untrue and he had no recollection of the other.

That's hilarious. Deny what's not true, but have "no recollection" of the true incidents. I only wish that this would have come out earler. Coming out in the final week of the campaign gives it the appearance as a cordinated smear attack, which is unfortunate since that is not the case, especially if the allegations are, as I suspect, true.

No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante! The GOP power grabs and dirty tricks can END Tuesday. Let's kick their ass.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 05, 2003

Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

By Byron LaMasters

Well Kos ought to be happy. Tonight, the Chicago Cubs won their first postseason series since 1908. So if the Cubs win the NLCS we'll get to see if a meteor will take out a small country as Kos predicts. We'll see. Either way, go Cubs! It's hard not to root for a team that's been bad for so long (which I have first hand experience with growing up as a Texas Rangers fan).

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Indian Media on LA Race

By Byron LaMasters

Upon doing a Google Search on the Louisiana Governor's race, lots of articles from Indian papers appear. It's been interesting to see their take on Bobby Jindal, the Indian-American GOP candidate for governor.

Most of the coverage is glowingly positive. Take a look here and here.

Other Indian media coverage is a little more hesitent. Take this account for example:

Jindal's ability to overcome the disadvantage of race is attributed to his frankly extremist Republican agenda and his promise to introduce education reforms and abolish several state business taxes, which he says have made the southern state unattractive to industry, his campaign secretary Trey Williams said.

It'll be interersting to see what happens. Personally, I predict Jindal to max out in the low to mid 40s. Louisiana still has a 20% racist vote, and that added to a united Democratic party ought to give Blanco a comfortable victory. Go here to take a look the the New Orleans Times-Picayune Elections Forum to get some thoughts from the folks in Louisiana.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Dems win Lt. Gov and AG in LA

By Byron LaMasters

This feels good. Mitch Landrieu (Mary's brother) was elected Lt. Governor of Louisiana last night. And Charles Foti beat Suzie Terrell for Attorney General. It's good to see Suzie Terrell out of politics. I'm confident that despite Jindal's big lead in the primary, Blanco will be able to pull off a victory next month for governor. After all, almost 60% voted for a Democrat for governor. We should be able to unite to pick up Louisiana.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2003

Molly Beth Malcolm Endorses Clark

By Byron LaMasters

Texas Democratic State Party Chair Molly Beth Malcolm has endorsed Wesley Clark.

Update: And Clark raised $3.5 Million in two weeks. It will be interesting to see how much Dean and Clark raise next quarter. There's little doubt in my mind that the two of them will be #1 and #2 in money next quarter.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 11:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Win One for the Groper!

By Byron LaMasters

Gipper, Groper, what's the difference? Well, regardless, it's the GOP rallying cry in 2003 in California. Read the column by Maureen Dowd.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ted Kennedy to Receive Award from Bush Library

By Byron LaMasters

This should make for an interesting evening:

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Oct. 3, 2003 - The George Bush Presidential Library Foundation today announced that United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy would receive the 2003 George Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service at a dinner ceremony held at the Bush Library Center on the Texas A&M campus on November 7. Former President Bush will present the award to the Massachusetts Democrat, who will join former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as Bush Award recipients. The award will be presented in a ceremony at the Library Center following a 5 p.m. address by the Senator at Rudder Auditorium.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Not to be Forgotten...

By Byron LaMasters

All party open Primary Day in Louisiana is TODAY!

My recommendations?

Kathleen Blanco for Governor.

Mitch Landrieu for Lieutenant Governor (yeah, Landrieu. Go Mitch!)

Charles Foti for Attorney General (who's running against our good friend Suzie).

Bob Odom for Agriculture Commissioner (check out his site to hear his name sung).

Robert Wooley for Insurance Commissioner.

There are some other good Democratic candidates for governor, but from my limited look at the race, I think that Blanco is best positioned to beat Jindal in the runoff.

For more on the other candidates, go to Politics 1.

Get your election results tonight, here.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Can't We All Just Get Along (And more thoughts on Clark)?

By Byron LaMasters

This kind of stuff really pisses me off. Now it's on Clark's Blog:

I just saw an article in USA today about this "Is Clark a Democrat" crap. Lots of off the mark quotes from Dean.

I have to say, I haven't been this angry since Bush smeared McCain.

I am registered Independent and I WILL NOT VOTE FOR HOWARD DEAN now, even if he wins the nomination.

Posted by: Indie at October 2, 2003 07:16 AM


Indie: I am with you, Dean is a bitter man and I will sooner leap into the Ohio river than vote for him.

Henry: If the links to the Henniker c-span don't work, try going to C-span site and link from there. Could be your media player.

Posted by: Kramer at October 2, 2003 07:51 AM

Although, to be honest, most of the comments over on Clark's blog are positive. It's also filled with a lot of former Dean supporters. I found this comment to be a very interesting look at the Dean / Clark dynamic. I find myself agreeing with a lot of it:

The Dean dynamic seems to me to be a little bit more complicated. What Dean has is a team that's really, really committed to him but that is probably going to max out at its online support plus a few percent. These people really feel involved in the Dean campaign, because Dean has made them feel so (I spent some time on the Dean blogs and even gave the man a bit of money when I was thinking "Wesley Clark? Too good to be true, so it will never happen.") "You have the power" really energizes his base.

But it stops there.

What we have over here is the same level of commitment among committed supporters but a candidate who comes off much better than Dean does, if only because he has the credentials to say what he's saying without the "raving left-wing liberal from New England" label sticking. The substance of what Clark and Dean say, as has been pointed out numerous times, is quite similar, though Clark brings a better national perspective to it. I'll explain that more later if people want to hear the rationale. But Dean probably doesn't know what the PNAC is, let alone "having their number."

To put it more briefly (hard for a political scientist), Clark has a broader appeal. People will consider voting for Clark who would never consider voting for Dean. These people are the so-called "Reagan Democrats," the people who normally vote Democratic but who put Reagan in office; who came home in '92 and '96 and put Clinton in office. In short, they're the swing voters, the ones who are essential to winning an election.

That's why we've got to get behind Clark and push him through the convention. If he makes it through the convention, he'll mop up the floor with the Shrub. But in the primary process, it's the committed folks who show up to vote in many states. We need to get more folks firmly committed. And we need to get independents to the polls in those states in which they can vote in the Democratic primary, like McCain did with the Republican primary in 2000. We need to get independent Democrat-leaners to reregister in closed primary states (those in which you have to be registered with a party to vote in its primary).

This takes a lot of foresight, and it takes a lot of commitment. Clark can do his part by being who he is -- the ideal candidate to beat Bush. But we also have to do ours, which is reaching out to the people whom we need to pull off the nomination.

This isn't just about getting General Clark elected. It's about saving the country from four more years of the far right. No other candidate, I'm convinced, will do this.

A quick read of Woodward and Bernstein's "All the President's Men" and "The Final Days" is instructive. In 1972, the Republicans bumped off Edmund Muskie with a falsely-planted letter which contained an ethnic slur against (of all people) French-Canadians. It resonated in New Hampshire, and he dropped out. They wanted to run against the weakest possible candidate -- George McGovern. So they got him nominated.

You've heard, as much as I have, that the Republicans would love to run against Howard Dean. They're sure they can bump him off in the general election. Sadly (because I really like the man), I'm afraid they're right. That's why we've got to get a candidate nominated whom they CAN'T bump off in the general election.

And Wes Clark is that candidate.

Posted by: DC Pol Sci at October 3, 2003 09:54 AM

Generally, the Clark Blog (get the pun? Heh.) commenters have been pretty respectful, though. I think that most of his supporters admire the grassroots and fundraising success of Howard Dean, but simply don't see him as the candidate to beat Bush. My main point is simply to remind everyone that Clark, Dean and Kerry are all three good Democrats, old or new. Whoever wins the nomination among them (or Edwards of Gephardt) will need the supporters of everyone else to beat Bush. Nothing annoys me more than seeing Dean supporters say they won't vote for any Democrat other than Dean, and likewise for the Kerry and Clark folks.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Best of Luck

By Byron LaMasters

To Jim... he's taking his LSAT today...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:35 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 03, 2003

I'm Seeing a Trend Here...

By Andrew Dobbs

The last 2 people I worked for politically before leaving for Dean-land this summer were State Rep. Jim McReynolds of Lufkin and Brewster McCracken, an Austin City Council Member. According to a press release from Wesley Clark they are among the 20 Texas Democratic officials that have endorsed Clark. I can understand Jim needing to look good for the conservative rural types back home and Dean really doesn't fit his ideas or personality so I give him a pass. But Brewster just disappoints me.

Funny thing, Brewster had a Dean sign up at his campaign HQ, he was a supporter of Dean and last week at the City Council meeting I talked to his Chief of Staff, Matt Curtis, who told me he was upset with all the people jumping the Dean ship for Clark. Looks like Brewster never got the memo. I got my picture on Dean's site in a Brewster McCracken T-shirt. I always got comments about it. Looks like I'll have to disappoint all my friends back in Burlington now. *sigh*

Clark has not laid out any specific policy proposals. We know nothing about what he would propose for America or what kind of campaign he is going to run. How can you officially and publicly endorse him at that point? Its lunacy. Really, here's what we know about Wesley Clark, politically:

1. He's raised thousands of dollars for the GOP
2. He's praised George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
3. He waffled his position on the war and had to have a handler babysit him
with the media.
4. He might be pro-choice and pro-affirmative action

Woohoo guys- great job hanging your hat on a guy that has been a Democrat for less time than Brewster McCracken's been a member of the Austin City Council (he was elected in June of this year) and who has not said anything that couldn't be reduced to a bumper sticker for soccer moms. Pathetic.

I still really like Brewster and consider him a friend and I will support him for whatever offices he seeks for the foreseeable future. His base of support is Northwest Austin, which tends to be conservative and supporting Clark over Dean will help him perhaps, though I think it will only further denegrate him in the eyes of Central Austinites, who went against him in May and June. Jim is a good man and a great state rep. I don't hold this against them as I like them as individuals. Still, this trend is an unhappy one it seems and I hope that others will wait to see what Clark has to offer before jumping on his bandwagon.

Posted by Andrew Dobbs at 03:24 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Caesar, Charlemagne, Napolean and Hitler

By Byron LaMasters

What do they have in common? They're people that Arnold admired.

Caesar, Charlemagne and Napolean here via Priorities & Frivolities and California Insider.

Hitler from my earlier post via ABC News.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 12:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 02, 2003

Just Enjoy

By Byron LaMasters

I'm sure there will be more on this coming up, but for now, enjoy:

DEWHURST COMPARES CRADDICK REDISTRICTING TEAM TO IRANIAN CAB DRIVERS Impasse now over 8-3 plan, possible Marchant seat, and West Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has told House Speaker Tom Craddick and his redistricting conference conferees to stop playing "Iranian cab driver negotiations where you get what you want and you start adding two or three other requests."

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 09:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Beer Saves Lives

By Byron LaMasters

Well, I always knew there was something about red wine and longevity, but beer? Well, maybe:

WHEN Scott Chippindale saw a youth trapped in the wreck of a burning van, he knew he had to act.

He had no water but he did have a six-pack of beer – which he used to douse the trapped driver's body.

His actions – a rare case of alcohol doing some good on our roads – may well have saved the driver's life.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 08:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pile it On

By Byron LaMasters

ABC News Reports that Arnold admired Hitler:

ABCNEWS obtained a copy of an unpublished book proposal with quotes from a verbatim transcript of an interview Schwarzenegger gave in 1975 while making the film Pumping Iron.

Asked who his heroes are, he answered, "I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."

He is quoted as saying he wished he could have an experience, "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium. And have all those people scream at you and just being total agreement whatever you say."


"I cannot remember any of these," Schwarzenegger told ABCNEWS. "All I can tell you is that I despise everything Hitler stood for. I despise everything the Nazis stood for, everything the Third Reich stood for."

He can't remember??? The answer I'd look for is a "No" or "Absolutely not". Forgeting something and denying something are two different things. All this, of course, comes on the heels of today's LA Times story:

Six women who came into contact with Arnold Schwarzenegger on movie sets, in studio offices and in other settings over the last three decades say he touched them in a sexual manner without their consent.

In interviews with The Times, three of the women described their surprise and discomfort when Schwarzenegger grabbed their breasts. A fourth said he reached under her skirt and gripped her buttocks.

A fifth woman said Schwarzenegger groped her and tried to remove her bathing suit in a hotel elevator. A sixth said Schwarzenegger pulled her onto his lap and asked whether a certain sexual act had ever been performed on her.

According to the women's accounts, one of the incidents occurred in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, two in the 1990s and one in 2000.

"Did he rape me? No," said one woman, who described a 1980 encounter in which she said Schwarzenegger touched her breast. "Did he humiliate me? You bet he did."

New reports are emerging as well, here. Now, I think that Arnold is genuinely decent guy, who's learned from his mistakes, but this stuff does make us all wonder what else is out there. I'll give him some credit for coming right out, and apologizing. Some will argue that these stories amount to character assassination and are unfair. I have some sympathy for that point of view, but the nature of this recall election is that of a three month frenzy. Stories like these show exactly why the recall is wrong. Instead of having a full year plus long campaign to hear the ideas, the past (good and bad) of all the candidates, allowing for an open debate about Arnold's views on the issues (and especially women in regards to his past), the voters of California have only weeks to decide. These stories about Arnold may seem unfortunate, but are only inevitable in this type of abreviated campaign. The best choice is clearly for the voters of California to reaffirm the democratic choices they made last November.

No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante.

Help MoveOn.org air an Anti-Arnold ad.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Another Bold Prediction

By Byron LaMasters

Well last time I made one, I was right (mostly). This on isn't very bold, actually. But, I'm personally betting that Bob Graham will drop out of the race by the end of the month. For one, his his spokesman resigned today, and further staff cuts are going to be made. Graham just hasn't caught fire at all. He's a good senator with a good profile, but he just doesn't have the fire. The St. Petersburg Times best articulates Graham's problems:

Along the way, Graham's campaign has had its difficulties:

Mistakes and poor planning. Graham's press releases and e-mails to supporters include an unusual number of grammatical errors and typos. For example, a release Monday criticized the Bush administration's "wreckless" drilling policy. In July, the campaign e-mailed reporters about a new state political director but did not say which state.

The campaign has often seemed out of synch with Graham, issuing blistering statements that don't sound like the senator.

Lack of identity. Graham tried to position himself as the antiwar candidate and the one who can beat President Bush. But Dean has often been identified as the antiwar candidate and retired Gen. Wesley Clark is now being called the most "electable" candidate.

Missed opportunities. Graham met dozens of voters at the college football game in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday, but campaign workers made little effort to follow up. They had no literature to give voters, nor did they keep a list of names for future mailings.

Internal troubles. Crawford said Graham's family has been playing too big a role in directing the campaign. Crawford said Graham "has got some hired guns around him, but if they've got to take orders from the wife and kids, you've got a problem."

Lack of pizzazz. Graham's speeches have often failed to inspire voters.

He'll be out by the end of the month.

Update: No, I didn't get a tip. I swear.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Deal Falls Apart, Perry Shrugs

By Byron LaMasters

Well, the Great Republican Redistricting Compromise lasted, well, less than a day. The Dallas Morning News reports:

The GOP tug-of-war dragged on Wednesday, as immovable Republican leaders defied the governor's prediction of a deal to end the standoff over congressional redistricting.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, swatted aside the Senate's version of an olive branch, a proposed plan his spokesman said "would not do any of the things that the speaker would want."

"They're absolutely apart" on the specifics of a plan to boost the number of Republicans in Congress, said Bob Richter, Mr. Craddick's press secretary.

Senate mapmakers, in announcing their offer of a compromise over West Texas districts, accused their House counterparts of stubbornness.

Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the author of the Senate's map, said Mr. Craddick appears ready to block passage of any redistricting plan if he doesn't get his way on every detail of a Midland-dominated congressional district the Senate's already agreed to create.

"We believe that position is unreasonable," Mr. Staples said.

They also disagree on the timetable for a deal, and whether it's worth moving back the primary, costing taxpayers millions of dollars:

If a map is not approved soon, Republicans may have to pass another bill delaying the state's March primary to allow enough time for a federal review of the redistricting plan to assure it doesn't violate the Voting Rights Act.

Mr. Richter irritated senators when he said Tuesday that there's no rush to pass a map because the Legislature can delay the primary. The House's top mapmaker, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, echoed the sentiment late Wednesday.

"We're in no hurry. We'll take whatever time we need," Mr. King said.

But Mr. Staples said such a delay would be disrespectful to voters and candidates, and costly, especially if lawmakers opt for two primary elections – one in March for everything except congressional seats and one later for Congress using the new districts.

"We believe that cavalier statements about an issue as important as maintaining the election dates is counterproductive to negotiating in good faith," the senator said. "The deadline, the hour, draws near."

And now, Rick Perry has basically said that he was just kidding when he said that redistricting must be passed by next Monday:

Last week, Mr. Perry called next Monday a "drop-dead" date for passing a bill. As his timetable appeared in jeopardy Wednesday, the governor downplayed his opposition to shifting the primary date.

"If that is what's required, then that is what's required," he said. "When we have that election is not as important as having the election" using a map drawn by elected legislators instead of the current map, which was drawn by judges, Mr. Perry said.

"Now with that said, I would rather them not have to be changing primary dates," he added.

And the problem, once again is once again west Texas. No one wants Charlie Stenholm to run in their district.

The latest volley came at a noon news conference Wednesday.

Mr. Staples, Mr. Duncan and Mr. Hinojosa said the Senate would accept three West Texas districts as proposed by Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, R-Burleson. They challenged the House to negotiate the rest of the state with them later Wednesday.

"The Senate's met the deadline," Mr. Staples said. "We encourage the House to engage in this process."

But Mr. King, author of the House's map, said the House can't accept the senators' proposal. "It's not a template we can work from," he said.

And Ms. Wohlgemuth noted that senators had rejected a key portion of her proposed West Texas compromise – splitting Abilene, Mr. Stenholm's hometown, so that he would be in the most vulnerable position possible.

"The issue was that neither Midland nor Lubbock wanted to be running against incumbent Charlie Stenholm," Ms. Wohlgemuth said.

The Houston Chronicle is now reporting that Speaker Craddick has taken a position that there will be a Midland based district, or their will be no redistricting at all:

With House and Senate negotiators apparently stalled on how to draw a congressional district for Speaker Tom Craddick's hometown of Midland, passage of a redistricting bill seems endangered.

Senate conference committee members criticized the House for refusing to negotiate. They also seized on statements that likely Midland congressional candidate K. Michael Conaway made Tuesday to the Houston Chronicle that Craddick was committed to a Midland district or no redistricting plan at all.

That surprises me, personally. I thought that Craddick would eventually budge. And then now there's the San Antonio Express News reporting on the spat between Wohlgemuth and Craddick:

The senators argued that Wohlgemuth's map was identical to one favored by the Texas Republican congressional delegation, which could change the delegation to 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats. Currently, there are 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

"That being the case, and (Wohlgemuth) being a top member of the House leadership team, how could a top Republican leader offer a compromise on West Texas that the speaker has rejected?" Staples questioned.

But a Wohlgemuth aide countered that the legislator had no idea the senators were going to take just the West Texas part of her proposed map. It's not even the part she wanted changed.

"She had no indication they were going to take her map and graft it like they did, and she is a little surprised, needless to say," said Erica Phillips, Wohlgemuth's legislative director.

Craddick sought to distance himself from the Wohlgemuth map, which he said had not seen.

"Rep. Wohlgemuth is not a member of the House Redistricting Committee, has not participated to date in the House-Senate negotiations on redistricting, and did not speak to me or for me — or the House — in drawing her map," Craddick said in a prepared statement.

Finally, in a weird column, Dave McNeely warns David Dewhurst not to follow the mistakes of LBJ. I can see the connection, but the whole comparison is just quite a stretch in several ways. First, David Dewhurst is not LBJ. One was a President, the other is a first-year Lt. Governor. Second, the wave of compassion LBJ had in 1963 was because of JFK's death. Dewhurst's "wave of compassion" is over, and it was based simply on trust that he had built up over several months this spring. LBJ had built relationships on Capitol Hill for decades by 1963. Finally, I wouldn't compare the two-thirds rule in the Texas legislature to the Vietnam War. It's just a little out there, and it surprises me a bit.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 04:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Karen Hughes Doesn't Know Who Represents Her

By Byron LaMasters

Charles posted this over on his site, but I received this article emailed to me earlier today, and it was too funny to pass up. After a lot of searching, I've found it on the Statesman site, here:

She's worked at the White House, traveled the world with the president and played politics at the highest level.

But, like many rank-and-file Americans, Karen Hughes of Austin discovered Wednesday that she didn't know who represents her in the U.S. House.

At a news conference with Gov. Rick Perry, Hughes, an adviser to President Bush, complained that local Democratic congressman Lloyd Doggett doesn't adequately represent her in the House.

Hughes later determined that Doggett doesn't represent her at all. Republican Lamar Smith of San Antonio does.

Hughes' comments about Doggett had come as she discussed the congressional redistricting effort under way at the Texas Capitol. She sided with Republicans trying to draw a new map that will give them a majority of the state's 32 U.S. House seats.

"I don't believe he frequently represents my point of view, but individually that happens," Hughes said of Doggett, who is as ideologically anti-Bush as anyone in the House.

When Hughes got home, she pulled out her voter registration card and found she lives in Smith's district. Doggett did represent Hughes until the congressional maps were redrawn in 2001.

Hughes dutifully called around to correct her error.

"This is terribly embarrassing but I believe I told y'all my wrong congressman today," she said. "I think I may be in Lamar Smith's district, which I'm sure is a big relief because I'm sure (Doggett) didn't want to try to represent me anyway," she said.

I, for one, am proud to be represented in Congress by Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

GOP Budget Cuts = Lost Jobs, Trashy Schools

By Byron LaMasters

Reaganomics taught us that when you cut spending, and lower taxes, the economy will magically recover. There will be more jobs, more personal spending, more production, etc.


Look at what's happened here in Texas. Yesterday I wrote that due to GOP budget cuts (especially with CHIP), Texas has had the greatest increase in uninsured in the nation. Today, the Daily Texan looked at another GOP budget cut from last session. The GOP budget cuts have reduced custodial services at UT throwing 144 Texans out of work and creating a trashy environment for students to learn in:

Effects of reduced custodial services in some areas of the University are quite obvious in classrooms on campus.

Glass bottles, gum wrappers, half-empty coffee cups and potato chip bags litter the floor of a University Teaching Center classroom - a room with 10 trash cans and one recycling bin, all conveniently located around the perimeter of the room.

"That place is filthy," said Olga Perez, an advertising junior who takes an management information systems class in the room. "I think it's kind of embarrassing."

Is this how Republicans are improving our economy?

Since Sept. 4, the frequency of custodial and maintenance procedures performed by the Physical Plant has been reduced due to a $3 million budget cut and 144 fewer staff positions.

The University-wide hiring freeze and the Employee Retirement Incentive allowed Physical Plant to meet its budget without layoffs, Director of the Physical Plant Ernest Hunter said in August.

When planning the new schedule, Physical Plant leaders expected their biggest problem would be the most significant reduction, which calls for custodial staff to clean offices and office suites only once per week and asks office occupants to empty their own trash occasionally.

But classrooms may be a larger problem than individual offices.

"[The Physical Plant's] biggest challenge has been in the classroom," said Rhonda Weldon, director of communications for Employee and Campus Services.

There are 260 general purpose classrooms on campus. The trash and recycling bins in the classrooms are emptied daily, but trash and messes outside of these containers are cleaned up only once a week.

Weldon said the increase of litter in classrooms is the result of a misunderstanding.

Reaganomics is Voo-Doo economics. While the legislature is in special session, its time that the legislature restore funding for education and higher education. Republicans balanced our state budget on the backs of children, students and the poor. They're divesting the state government from our number one state resource: education. And they're throwing working people out of work while they're at it. What a shame.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Will Kay Bailey Bail on Bush's Bench Bozo?

By Jim Dallas

The Hill thinks it could happen:

One of those with doubts is Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “I have concerns about [Holmes's] writings and some of the statements attributed to him. They raise questions in my mind about whether he has the proper temperament to be a judge,” she said.

Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) press secretary, Ted McEnroe, said his boss “is still looking at his record.”

Another centrist understood to disapprove of Holmes is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), one of Santorum’s colleagues in the Senate Republican Conference leadership. When asked if she had concerns, she said, “I really do not have a comment.”

The setup -- J. Leon Holmes is something of a misogynistic nut (and the latest of President Bush's anti-woman judicial nominees) who just incidentally happens to be a staunch Catholic. According to Rick Santorum, that makes anyone who opposes Judge Holmes an anti-Catholic bigot.

And if there's anyone who knows about bigotry, it's Rick Santorum.

We must concur with TAPPED in expressing frustration regarding Sens. Pryor and Lincoln (both D-Ark.), who are doing the "good 'ol boy thing" regarding fellow Arkansan Holmes, instead of the "good-government thing."

This might not be a bad time to write Sen. Hutchison an e-mail...

In any case, this will once again be an acid test for us spectators to see just how far Kay Bailey (who has throughout the years been branded a closet pro-choicer) will go to appease anti-abortion activists, and more to the point, "how far is too far."

Posted by Jim Dallas at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

Compasionate Conservatism in Action

By Byron LaMasters

Republicans win, and kids pay. And Texas is #1! The New York Times reports:

The number of people without health insurance shot up last year by 2.4 million, the largest increase in a decade, raising the total to 43.6 million, as health costs soared and many workers lost coverage provided by employers, the Census Bureau reported today.


Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, said the numbers showed that "the nation must do more" to help the uninsured. Mr. Thompson said, for example, that Congress should provide tax credits for the purchase of private insurance.

But no action is imminent. Congress is preoccupied with efforts to help a large, politically potent group that already has insurance, the elderly, by adding drug benefits to Medicare.

Ronald F. Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal-leaning consumer group, said: "It's hard to grasp the magnitude of the number of uninsured. It exceeds the aggregate population of 24 states."

And here's where it really hits home:

The proportion of people without health insurance ranged from 8 percent in Minnesota to 24.1 percent in Texas. The rates for Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Iowa, which have made sustained efforts to expand coverage, were similar to the figure in Minnesota.

Texas, facing fiscal problems and unwilling to raise taxes, cut back Medicaid and its Children's Health Insurance Program this year.

Looking at two-year averages, the Census Bureau said that the proportion of people without coverage fell in New Mexico but rose in 18 states: Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. The changes in the other states were not statistically significant.

Yay! Texas is #1. We're #1 in screwing kids. But hey, we get what we deserve. Texans voted for these guys, and they told us they wouldn't raise taxes. They didn't tell us about the other consequences. When will Texans learn?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 07:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Clark Blog

By Byron LaMasters

It's here. And it's good, too. Josh Marshall has a good interview with Clark over on Talking Points Memo. I found it very interesting. It really highlights Clark's knowledge and brilliance on foreign policy / national security issues / history, as well as his need to catch up on domestic issues quickly and his current tendency to speak in vastly broad generalities on domestic issues. Clearly, he'd make a terrific Vice President or Secretary of State for anyone. As for President? We'll get to wait and see...

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 05:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Is there a Deal?

By Byron LaMasters

School (the last week or two has been the first round of tests and papers) and work have kept me busy recently (yeah, I got a job here in Austin two weeks ago to help out with bills and spending money (that doesn't mean I still don't appreciate donations) and all since I didn't have one over the summer. I'd certainly appreciate visitors, but I'm not about to post where I work on here, so if you're interested feel free to email me and ask.). So, in case you all are wondering, that's why posting has been a little lighter recently. As for redistricting, Charles, as always, has been on top of things. Check out his post over on Political State Report today. I've also been a little quiet on redistricting, because well, there hasn't been much new news. The conference committee has been meeting with little success towards working out the west Texas and other conflicts between the House and the Senate. It seems as if there's a new twist each day, but the conflict remains the same.

However, today, it looks as if all that might be changing. The AP reports:

Senate negotiators hammering out a congressional redistricting plan today presented what they called a good solution to solve a dispute with the House over how to draw West Texas on the new map.

It was not immediately clear how the House viewed the proposal.

The plan by Sens. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, and Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, would create a district that includes the cities of Midland and Abilene. Another district would include San Angelo and Lubbock.

Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland has been pushing for a district that would make his hometown the base for a congressional seat. The existing map has Lubbock and Midland together in a district represented by U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a rookie Republican from Lubbock.

"This is a reasonable solution to this problem," Duncan said.

I'm not sure what Robert Duncan's definition of "reasonable" is, but here's the map. It was partially inspired by yesterday's map by State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth. Basically what the map does is put Midland/Odessa in a district with Abilene, and Lubbock in a district with San Angelo. Currently Lubbock is paired with Midland Odessa and is represented by Randy Neugebauer. Charlie Stenholm represents the 17th district with includes San Angelo and Abilene. Duncan opposed a district that paired Abilene and Lubbock, because he feared that Stenholm (with his Abilene base) would defeat Neugebauer. This map, however puts Stenholm into the new Midland / Odessa dominated district. The map is ugly, but it just might be a compromise that Republicans can agree on.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 03:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Huh? Rush Limbaugh at it Again

By Byron LaMasters


"Sorry to say this, I don't think he's (McNabb) been that good from the get-go," Limbaugh said in unscripted remarks. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well, black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Conservatives just aren't good at covering football. Dennis Miller is kind of funny, but he would make you scratch your head every five minutes on Monday Night Football. As for Rush Limbaugh, you'd think he longs for the days when he could keep Blacks "in their place". Ugh. It's comparable to some of the actions of YCT. YCT suggests that all minorities benefit from affirmative action. Rush suggests that Black coaches and Black quarterbacks are recipients of affirmative action. That's even sillier. Affirmative Action does not exist in sports. Teams do whatever it takes to put the best team out on the field and win.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 10:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

The Human Mind

By Byron LaMasters

This is bizarre, but I had absolutely no trouble reading this:

The paomnnehel pweor of the hmuan mnid.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in
waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht
the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total
mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the
huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a

Fcuknig Amzanig huh?

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hybrid Vs. Hummer

By Byron LaMasters

I'm glad that Arianna dropped out and endorsed a NO vote on the California Recall, but still, check out her Hybrid Vs. Hummer movie. It's cute, and trashes Arnold, so I like it. Of course, my father is considering buying a Hummer himself. I told him that I wouldn't give him shit over it as long as he let me drive it sometime. I'm a hypocrite, I know. Heh.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at 01:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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