Friday, June 29, 2007

Repeating Dallas in Houston

No, not the traffic or the sprawl -- we already own that -- and not the success on the professional gridiron nor the failure on the diamond, though we're trying hard. Back to the local political scene for a moment.

Kristen Mack -- who wrote a truly atrocious report of John Edwards' Houston stop -- provides a pretty good update on Harris County's strategy to go blue in the next cycle:

Democrats in Harris County have been eyeing Dallas County since last November, when their counterparts recaptured every countywide seat. The locals hope to mirror that success here.

"I've had extensive conversations with Dallas about what their strategy was," Harris County Democratic Party Chair Gerald Birnberg said. "I believe we can replicate that here in Harris County and intend to do so."

Birnberg will likely call on Matt Angle, of Lone Star Project renown, to run the county's campaign, filling the local party office with at least one staff member tapped by the Angle/Martin Frost/Fred Baron brain trust. More on that later. Birnberg has been busy recruiting prospective candidates as well:

Former Houston Police Chief C.O. Bradford will take on GOP District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia is eyeing a challenge to incumbent Sheriff Tommy Thomas. And former Houston City Councilman Vince Ryan will run against County Attorney Mike Stafford.

Former county Democratic Party Chair David Mincberg will run for county judge against whomever emerges from the GOP primary. The incumbent, Ed Emmett, is in. District Clerk Charles Bacarisse continues to test the water.

Pausing to address that last bit, former HCRP chair Gary Polland wrote in his "Conservative Stench" newsletter of the Bacarisse/Emmett spat:

Is It Time For The Bacarisse Campaign For
County Judge To Come Out Of The Closet?

Texas Conservative Review believes that everyone who wants to seek elective office should go for it. The present situation involving Charles Bacarisse and this shadow campaign for County Judge is not acceptable. He's not in and he's not out. Of course under the rules, a Harris County official must resign once they declare for another office.

Regardless of that fact, the Bacarisse exploratory campaign continues to snipe at Harris County government while he says nothing on the record. Those in the unofficial shadow campaign are only going to end up hurting the ultimate GOP nominee, be it Bacarisse or incumbent County Judge Ed Emmett, against a growing Democratic threat led by former Democrat County Chair David Mincberg.

If it's the goal of the Bacarisse exploratory committee to midwife a Democratic victory in November 2008, then they are off to a great start. If not, call off the sniping spokesman and get into the race now.


Mack has more on the Bradford/Rosenthal "grudge match" (her words), too:

Bradford, who served as police chief in Mayor Lee Brown's administration, still has some battle scars.

Among them, a last-minute pay raise Brown gave Bradford that increased his pension, the crime lab debacle that began during his tenure, and an indictment on a perjury charge that eventually was dismissed by a trial judge.

Bradford was considering running for sheriff — going from the top cop in the city to the top officer in the county seems a more natural jump — but his strategists advised him that Thomas would be able to capitalize on each of those mishaps.

A matchup against Rosenthal would play like a grudge match, potentially giving Bradford some inoculation.

It was Rosenthal who prosecuted Bradford on the perjury charge, which a judge dismissed in mid-trial saying the case was weak. Rosenthal also holds some responsibility for the state of the crime lab.

Rosenthal questioned the former chief's credentials for the DA's job. Bradford has a law degree, but he's never practiced law. He has served as a senior associate at Brown Group International, the former mayor's consulting group, since leaving the city.


In the 2004 election, the last time Rosenthal's term was up, he garnered 55 percent of the vote to a relative unknown. Facing a well-known challenger, even one with baggage, is a different game.

This last point is significant also for this reason: so many Democrats came so close to winning, particularly judicial candidates like Jim Sharp and Mary Kay Green, that the average percentage for a Democrat on the ballot in Harris County was 48% (according to Birnberg).

We're flipping this county Democratic in 2008, and no amount of coordinated voter suppression tactics on the part of Republicans is going to be able to stop it.

Not even Matt Angle's minimalist strategy and maximist credit-taking for the results will be able to screw it up. I hope.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Number three thousand

Nineteen years ago

... I had been married for a year and a half, was the advertising director for the Plainview Daily Herald, and had no way to keep up with my Astros at all, so I didn't know any of this:

Nineteen years ago today, Craig Biggio took a red-eye flight from Tucson and walked into the Astrodome for the first time on almost no sleep. Clubhouse man Dennis Liborio found him a place to nap. He might have slept 10 minutes. Regardless, manager Hal Lanier woke him up and asked: ''Can you play?''

''Yes,'' Biggio said.

He caught Jim Deshaises that night, didn't get a hit but threw out two base runners. He didn't play much after that for awhile, and was sent back to the minors briefly when Alan Ashby returned from the disabled list. But that was the beginning for Craig Biggio.

He got his first hit off Orel Hershiser, a line-drive single. ''No break from the official scorer,'' he said. He got his first home run off Goose Gossage, a game-winner.

''I'm like, 'Yes!''' he remembered

Those early months are still etched in his mind, especially those days in the bullpen when he'd sit and listen to Danny Darwin, Dave Smith, etc., tell their stories. This week, the memories have come rushing back. Small things like how Nolan Ryan would bring fried pies from Alvin on the days he pitched. He remembered Glenn Davis would hoard pies to take home.

He smiled the other day recalling the day Alex Trevino failed to tag the runner after a Nolan Ryan strikeout bounced in the dirt. He simply rolled the ball back to the mound and headed for the dugout as the runner took off to first.

''Nolan was one angry Texan,'' Biggio said.

There was the day Doug Harvey told him a pitch caught the plate by "an eighth of an inch.'' He has remembered countless acts of kindness by John McMullen and the emptiness he felt at Ken Caminiti's passing.

We're left with a sorry ballclub that needs reconstructive surgery, but those are stories for another day. This week belongs to Craig Biggio.

As I finished this post, Biggio slapped #2,998 to left field. History to be made for the little catcher/second baseman and the franchise, maybe later tonight.

How time flies

Just one week ago, the headlines were: Bush vetoes the stem cell research legislation, Michael Bloomberg dumps the Republicans, and Fred Thompson flirts a little harder with running.

I could have spent this week writing about Dick Cheney's bullshit, or Ann Coulter's horse shit. Too bad I was too busy.

I did take time yesterday to go to Melissa Noreiga's reception and John Edwards' appearance in Houston, but since others wrote and photographed it already, I'll skip that, too.

A few hours ago the Senate defeated immigration reform, sending nativists, bigots, and xenophobes across the country into orgasmic frenzy. Yawn. No one except the vilest conservatives give a damn about immigration anyway.

Speaking of racial, there's a Democratic presidential debate coming up shortly that will feature some of the issues that concern African-Americans. This comes hot on the heels of the Supreme Court's decision which disfavors public education's efforts to achieve racial diversity. Guess what the candidates will be talking about?

I may watch, but at the moment I'm tuned to the Astros and Craig Biggio's chase for 3,000 hits, along with the NBA draft.

Priorities. For sanity's sake.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stem cell research vetoes and the willful ignorance of conservatives



In the wake of Bush's rejection of the stem cell bill, it's important to acknowledge there are loyal conservatives who are well informed, who do employ critical analysis, and who unsurprisingly come to the obvious conclusion that the President's veto and his rationale for it makes no sense. For the dwindling remainder who still cling desperately to Bush’s nonsense, you'll see several interlocking themes crop up: transparent hypocrisy, blatant, comical, and seemingly willful ignorance, misrepresentation of alternatives, almost pathological cruelty, and blind, partisan hatred. Here’s one of the better written examples which utilizes some of those tactics:

Redstate -- Since the Democrat Congress did not heed the president’s veto warning when it passed its legislation, the president will now show them how stem cell research can be conducted without destroying embryos and without creating human life for the purpose of harvesting its parts.

This poster neglected to stress that the material was created by In Vitro Fertilization Clinics for the express purpose of treating infertility and ultimately going to be discarded. He chose instead to state it would be 'created for the purpose of harvesting its parts,' and clearly left the impression that Bush prevented that from happening. In fact, part B (1) of the SCREA states, "The stem cells were derived from human embryos that have been donated from in vitro fertilization clinics, were created for the purposes of fertility treatment, and were in excess of the clinical need of the individuals seeking such treatment."

We can perhaps forgive those conservatives who don't know better, and who inherently trust that their more informed comrades will provide them with sound information and honest assessment. But unless the RS author and others like him are sloppy or ignorant to a point that defies plausibility, they know exactly what they're doing. They are intentionally deceiving their readers to excuse one of the many unpopular and inexcusable failures of George Bush, with no thought for those they're potentially condemning to a lifetime of misery or death, and they deserve every bit of scorn that comes their way because of it.


I'm 48 years old, with a type II diabetes diagnosis now three and one-half years old, so I have a little self-interest in seeing medical science make some advancements in these arenas. And on the day that Michael Moore's SiCKO is slated for sneak preview, let me say that one of the things corporate medicine is very good at is maximizing their profit opportunities. And with the explosion of diabetes in the United States, even among children, corporate medicine is highly motivated to develop the latest treatments.

Here in Houston -- indeed, less than five minutes away from where I sit typing -- is one of the finest medical centers in the world, with world-renowned experts hard at work researching and devising treatments, battling and even curing the most insidious diseases known to man.

But they remain hamstrung by the religious and moral zealots still clinging to control in our government.

The same question asked of those who ignited a civil war in the Middle East over a series of lies can be posed to those who would thwart the doctors trying to defeat cancer, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes:

How many more people have to die before you extremists will get the hell out of the way?

Saturday Postpourri

Indian reservations will get FEMA trailers

As many as 30,000 have a new, untreatable form of tuberculosis

Precedents start falling under Roberts-led Supreme Court

Ashcroft contradicts Gonzales, saying top administration officials fought over wiretapping

Tony Soprano didn't just get whacked, he got a funeral

Border fence's proposed route cuts South Texas university in half

McAllen chamber president calls for wall around D.C.

Requested delay in Houston smog cleanup would extend non-compliance again from regulations first proposed in 1975

Friday, June 22, 2007

Kay Bailey doesn't heart Dubya any more

Q. What's the difference between the senior senator from Texas and a washing machine?

A. A washing machine doesn't follow George W Bush around for weeks after he dumps a load in it.

And if the President had known that all it would take was a little immigration reform legislation for Senator Perjury Technicality to get off his bandwagon ...

... he would have proposed it sooner.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kronberg: "A Hispanic with charisma (and money) will transform Texas politics"

Last week I attended a town hall forum with the editor of Quorum Report, Harvey Kronberg, sponsored by my previous state representative and my current one. Truth to tell, I went mostly to see and hear them. I respect what Kronberg does, I just think there are a few of us New Media types -- such as Charles and Vince -- who do what he does better and without the annoying $300 subscription.

Let me first say that I left with a tremendously increased respect for Kronberg, who after 18 years of following the Lege is probably better connected than anyone. Better than Burka, better than Selby, better than Radcliffe. What I never really got from him before were the insights from all of that history. Most of you know I'm a history buff; "lessons/doomed to repeat" and all that.

In an evening filled with one cogent analysis after another -- at one point I saw even Rep. Cohen taking notes -- the one that kept my ears ringing a week later is the one in the headline. But I'll come back to it in a moment.

Kronberg doesn't get back to Houston all that often apparently, and speaks to the public even less frequently, but the Kaplan Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in Meyerland holds a special place for him. He grew up in Houston, went to Bellaire High School, and his first summer job was as a projectionist "up there", as he pointed to the booth over our heads. He also noted that he was perhaps the only journalist who is also a "practicing capitalist" -- as the owner of two flag and flagpole businesses, in Austin (where he lives) and Houston -- so he knows about the challenges of making payroll, meeting the onerous small business regulations, and so on. This appears to give him, in his media role, the philosophical ability to cross seamlessly from one side of the aisle to the other, keeping amiable acquaintance with both D's and R's while at the same time buffing his non-partisan credentials.

The first observation I noted was that redistricting marginalizes the general election voter. Every two years the voters get to choose their representative, and every ten years (or less) the representatives choose their voters. With the inherently polarizing nature of the redistricting/gerrymandering sausage-making, the end result is that a successful politician is compelled to accede to the wishes of his district's most active voters, i.e. his or her "base", also known as the Democratic and Republican primary voters. These people are not renowned to be moderate or centrist. In fact, quite the opposite. Because the districts have been specifically populated to elect and re-elect a Democrat or a Republican, then the real electoral challenge comes -- you guessed it -- in the primary. Thus, in November many contests between the parties are viewed as no contest.

What kind of politician does this produce? The kind viewed as "extreme" -- by both ends of the political spectrum.

The second observation Kronberg made was of the Republican Party at large, not just in Texas -- the social, libertarian, and economic wings of the GOP are splintering, and thus their dominance of government is coming to an end.

He's dead solid perfect in this analysis. Just look at how the xenophobic crackers, the base of the party for too long now, are abandoning Bush and the rest of the Republicans who are pushing for the compromise Senate legislation on immigration.

One of this coffin's final nails will be driven in 2008 by a neoconservative third-party presidential challenge from the likes of Tom Tancrazy or another of that ilk. And the popularity of Ron Paul's quixotic bid among a Kucinich-sized segment of Republicans points out how, *ahem*, "diverse" the GOP is suddenly becoming.

The announcement yesterday of Michael Bloomberg's resignation from the Republican Party -- meant to fuel his own political ambition -- is an example of the moderate conservatives getting out from under the GOP's tent. (I predict we will very shortly see a similar announcement from Joe Lieberman. The only difference is that he stopped being a Democrat years before Bloomberg did.)

Abortion, taxes, property taxes at the state level -- all issues that the social or libertarian or economic zealots feel strongly about, but their respective counterparts grimace in distaste over. That spells doom for the legislative coalition that Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed and Newt Gingrich cobbled together almost twenty years ago.

(Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.)

The remaining observations I scribbled down were more Texas-centric but no less accurate: that members in both chambers pushed back successfully against their leadership. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst stepped into a big pile of his own dookie when his office released the letter that was hyper-critical of the Senate's efforts to throttle the voter ID bill. Kronberg noted something that he found to be one of the most profound developments in his tenure of covering the Lege, and that was the Senate's virtual unseating of its leader for a two-week period following the dustup.

Senators, Kronberg noted, operate almost as chief executives of their regions. They have, for example, a near-gubernatorial power to veto the governor's appointments of people -- judges, state commissions, etc. -- who happen to reside within their district's boundaries. Dewhurst, after all those years presiding over the Senate, simply forgot or perhaps ignored the fact that he serves as their leader at their pleasure. And they pointedly reminded him of that fact.

Speaker Craddick's self-inflicted troubles are already well-documented, of course.

One other politically astute thing Kronberg pointed out was the percentage of voters within a statehouse district who opposed Proposition 2 -- the one banning gay marriage, in 2005, which passed with 76% of the statewide vote -- might indicate a district that could be ready to flip from red to blue ... if that percentage was somewhat closer to 50%.

And finally, to the Q&A:

-- Kronberg anticipates a special legislative session over property taxes. And after that, perhaps one on Voter ID.

-- Harvey does not agree with me that Hillary Clinton is bad for Texas Democrats down the ballot in 2008. He says, and I quote as nearly verbatim as possible, that "there are already too many districts voting R at the top and D down-ballot" for this to be a problem.

-- And to the headline, as well as to both the voter ID and the immigration brouhaha, Kronberg noted that he was puzzled by the conservative hysteria over both issues. "Texas Latinos who are legal now and don't vote make up more than 50% of the state's population. The numbers are huge in west Texas." With that comment I suddenly flashed on my experience in Plainview -- hardly "west" Texas, between Lubbock and Amarillo -- as a Junior Achievement counselor at the high school there, and a remark made by one of the school's administrators: that over 50% of the children in grades K-12 were Hispanic. This was in 1988.

Texas, you may recall, became a majority-minority state in 2004.

The Hispanic vote, statewide and nationwide, is apparently waiting to be motivated by the right candidate -- probably irrespective of party affiliation. They will be an electoral tsunami, completely altering the political landscape, once the tide finally reaches the shore. Who will be the candidate that does this? Will it be Bill Richardson?

Or Rick Noriega, perhaps?

And starring Hillary Clinton as Tony Soprano

"Sheer brilliance"? Gee, I suppose -- if handing your opponents a loaded shotgun falls in the same category:

Hillary walks into the Mount Kisco diner in Westchester, N.Y., and takes a seat. Seconds later in comes Bill, dressed in a short-sleeved, untucked shirt. "No onion rings?" Bill asks when he sees that his wife has ordered a bowl of carrots. "I'm looking out for you," replies Hillary, who peruses the diner's jukebox selections, the same tunes voted on by her campaign supporters. Tina Turner's "The Best." KT Tunstall's "Suddenly I See." Smash Mouth's "I'm a Believer." Bill says he thinks Smash Mouth will win. "We'll see," Hillary says.

Then the camera fades to black.

You don't suppose this is the end for her campaign, do you?

Naaahh. We couldn't be so lucky.

Clinton's camp is pushing hard for video cred, and yesterday's effort is proof. Forget that the self-inflicted analogy -- the Clintons as the Sopranos -- might be too irresistible for her detractors.

Guilty, Your Honor.

And for hard-core fans, the video might bring to mind the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In the show's third season, Carmela, wife of the philandering Tony, talks about her admiration for how Hillary handled her marital woes. "She's a role model for all of us," Carmela tells her gussied-up gal pals.

Another association the junior senator from New York couldn't have missed.

"It shows that Hillary Clinton is very adeptly using the Internet to humanize herself."

As if the Clintons haven't been "humanized" enough as it is.

"Yet the jury's out on whether everybody finds it charming that they're self-effacing or that they are in fact drawing a parallel that is really ironic and not flattering regarding what's seen as the liabilities of the Clintons. That they're very aggressive in trying to scare away donors from other campaigns. The perception that they engage in strong-arm tactics. Still, you have to hand it to Hillary. You can't get more Joe Sixpack than Tony Soprano."

Then again, nothing is more anti-Tony Soprano than Celine Dion.

Bada bing.

Update: Firedoglake has a response to a truly unhinged right-wing reaction to the video.

Update II (6/21): Prairie Weather:

Maybe the "vast right-wing conspiracy" stuffed the electronic ballot box with votes for a tune by a French-Canadian diva most famous for presiding, musically speaking, over the sinking of the Titanic.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Speaking of people thinking about running for political office

... there's several places in the mainstream media (here's one -- scroll down to near the end -- here's another) where my good friend and birthday buddy Barbara Radnofsky is indicating that she might run for Texas Attorney General in 2010. I thought I'd ask my man David what he thought about that, so I e-mailed him the following questions:

Q: Barbara Radnofsky reports she is considering a run for attorney general of Texas in 2010. Are you going to campaign for that office as well -- or will you support her candidacy if you don't?

Q. On the assumption that you will run for AG, why should Democrats vote for you in a primary election (three years from now) instead of Radnofsky? What are the differences you would highlight between you?

And here's his response:

A. I would like to answer the two questions together if that's OK. Barbara is my friend. We both have our strengths and we both have our weaknesses. Any political race between us in a Democratic primary would be enjoyable for the two of us and would give Democratic voters a good choice between two good Democrats and two good lawyers. Beyond that, I really think it's too early to be talking about 2010. Talking about 2010 will distract our focus from the job we have to do in 2008. We have to carry our state in 2008 and that is where we need to be concentrating our attention.

As Charles Kuffner would say: make of that what you will. Or maybe "stay tuned". Or both.

Monday, June 18, 2007

There's a Draft Noriega in here

Another member of Houston's distinguished Noriega family was beseeched today by several of your favorite blogs to take a run at John Cornyn. Since I'm going last, I get to sample everybody else. First, the Fort Bend County Democrats (via Hal):

We, the Fort Bend Democrats, as an organization, do hereby declare our support for State Representative Lt. Col. Rick Noriega to run for the United States Senate from Texas. We pledge our support – with our money, our time, and our manpower – to help Noriega win in November 2008.

Then there's Lyn:

I had the opportunity to speak with him at his wife Melissa's victory party Saturday night. I'm confident that with enough grassroots support, and funding, he will answer the call to run for Senate. He will run a great campaign, beat Mikal Watts despite his money and easily replace Box Turtle Cornyn in 2008.

And Vince:

No other announced or exploring candidate in the race has either Rick’s distinguished record of accomplishing things for the people of Texas or the ability to unify the Democratic base to take U.S. Senator John Cornyn on. We urge Rep. Noriega to seriously consider entering the race.

And Stace:

In my opinion, for a Democrat to win back our U.S. Senate seat in '08, it will take much more than just money. It will take a Democratic candidate that can effectively communicate with all sectors of the diverse community that is Texas; it will take a Democratic candidate with whom Texans identify; and it will take a Democratic candidate that has more than proven his/her ability to lead. DosCentavos readers, that Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2008 should be Rick Noriega--citizen, leader, father, worker, and soldier. I urge my readers and all Texans to declare their support and urge Rick Noriega to seek the Democratic nomination for United States Senate.

And Kuffner:

I think we will finally have a confluence of establishment and grassroots support at a statewide level with a Noriega candidacy. I believe people will get fired up about getting Rick Noriega elected. If nothing else, it's refreshing to see someone who isn't a same-old, same-old name as a standard-bearer. It feels like a changing of the guard, one that's long overdue. I think he can be a game-changer, someone who can alter politics in this state in a fundamental way, and in doing so alter Texas' image nationally. I'm told Harvey Kronberg expressed similar sentiments at the town hall meeting Ellen Cohen hosted last week; he apparently said this has been the talk of Austin as well. Who was the last statewide Democrat to generate that kind of buzz? Maybe Henry Cisneros, if you overlook the fact that he never ran a statewide race. It's about damn time.

And Burnt Orange:

Rep. Noriega is from Houston, and served recently as deputy garrison commander of the KMTC training facility in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He also served as the Laredo Border Sector Commander for Operation Jump Start. During the previous legislative session, Rep. Noriega successfully passed an amendment to the state budget to raise teacher pay as much as the rules allowed. (Read more on Rep. Noriega's background here). Overall, we believe his work and his experience make him an interesting candidate, and one who should be in the race to replace John Cornyn.

And McBlogger:

It's not often I'll jump out for a candidate this far away from the primary. It's also somewhat rare that the Mayor and I will disagree on anything. However, I'm doing something a little unusual because I'm ready to make some waves and I'm ready for a candidate that will


IMHO, that guy is Rick Noriega. Now, if we can only get him to run...

And Eye on Williamson:

Noriega has literally fought for our freedom and exercised it in the Texas House of Representatives for the benefit of working families. Others have written at length about Noriega’s qualifications. The most important thing you need to know is that Rick Noriega has served this nation and this state with honor. We hope in the days to come you will learn more about him and agree that he has the strength of character and leadership to spark hope in the hearts of long-suffering Texas’ working-class voters.

And the Great Orange Satan: is alive and kicking, while Richard Morrison gave us all an introduction to Noriega a couple of months ago. If all goes well and this doesn't fizzle like Alabama, we'll be hearing a lot about this race.

But before I wrap up this post, I'll leave you guys with this:

That's Major Rick Noriega with his right hand up. He was getting sworn in for his fourth term in the State House.

While serving in Afghanistan.

What could I possibly add to all that?

(Maybe a nasty post about Mikal Watts, but it can continue sitting in "draft" status for now. And maybe something to say later about the rumor that Chet Edwards is looking at making a run.)

Update (6/19): I should have added South Texas Chisme to the list above:

The race for the 2008 senate seat in Texas should be about building a new Democratic Party. If we want to win at all costs, the price will be our soul. The race for the 2008 senate seat in Texas should be about public service.

Rick Noriega stands out as a man ready for the job. He's already been called to public service as a National Guardsman in Afghanistan and a representative in the house. Rick is called again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sunday Funnies (Immigration Edition)

From the central counting office (not quite a live-blog)

Councilwoman-elect Melissa Noriega and her husband Rick.

4:00 p.m. Saturday, June 16: I arrive downtown at the Harris County administration building and proceed to the elections office on the 4th floor. I will be the Noriega campaign's poll watcher, which means I get to observe all of the operations of the county election officials as they process the vote. I meet Beverley Kaufman, county clerk and others and they begin tabulating the absentee and early voting results.

Two early voting locations list a report of broken seals on DREs. I document these carefully, but broken seals are not necessarily evidence of malicious activity. The seals are flimsy -- they have the thickness of a small paperclip and are similar to the kind you would see on your electricity meter, so they could break simply from normal handling (never mind sloppy or rough).

On the other hand, a missing seal or a seal whose serial number doesn't match its accompanying records would be evidence that might trigger a felony vote-tampering investigation. There is no evidence of anything like this witnessed by me; the county officials are experienced, thorough and committed to quality control.

5:35 p.m.: The absentee ballots favor Morales slightly -- by about 70 votes out of more than 5,000 -- but Noriega amasses a 1,300-vote margin in the early ballots, and takes a lead (54.5% to 45.5%) she will never relinquish. These results will not be made public until after the polls close at 7 p.m. Our cellphones are silenced, and leaving the room even to go to the bathroom is strongly discouraged. There is a sheriff's deputy present (for any variety of order enforcement scenarios).

7:00 p.m.: Polls close, the results above are posted online. In the Gadget Age, most everyone who cares gets the count from the website now; there is only one media representative in the adjacent press room. He's a very young man from the Chronicle who looks no more thrilled about spending his Saturday night in a downtown office than the rest of us.

7:15 p.m.: The tabulators downtown touch base with the county's subordinate officials collecting the mobile ballot boxes at the George R Brown convention center; this is where the precinct judges around the city are arriving with their e-Slates, from which is extracted the computer cards which are read and the results fed back to us. These updates continue until ...

7:59 p.m.: ... the results from 20 precincts are posted, showing Noriega with about a 1.400-vote lead out of 13,635 ballots counted. The counters continue to post results online about every fifteen minutes, and the raw numbers naturally go up but the end result doesn't change. Melissa is cruising to an easy win.

9:23 p.m.: With 80% of all voting precincts counted, Noriega has 12,453 votes to Morales' 9,910. The percentages are 55.7 -- 44.3.

The first interesting and-not-in-a-good-way development: there is one precinct's ballot box unaccounted for, and reports from the field indicate that the precinct judge is as well. Attempts are initiated to determine his whereabouts, involving the afore-mentioned sheriff's deputies. He was last reported leaving his home at 7:45, dropping his wife off before driving into town from one of the far west exurbs.

10:04 p.m.: Almost in time for the evening news, 99.61% of precincts (256 of 257) show Noriega still holding 55.5% of the tally. In the nation's fourth largest city, with a population of four million -- greater than that of 16 states -- an at-large representative gets elected with less than 25,000 votes cast.

10:45 p.m.: That AWOL judge and his ballot box show up at last, and his 100+ votes complete the count. One worthy note: Houston residents residing in Fort Bend county go Noriega 164-44. That's the absolutely final, fitting stick in the eye to Tom DeLay (it was Shelley Gibbs who resigned this city council seat to sit in the Hammer's chair for a month before Nick Lampson took it over).

I can't wait to work a presidential; I'll get to stay up 'til dawn providing you with such stimulating after-the-fact commentary.

Sunday Funnies (Non-Immigration edition)

Friday, June 15, 2007

New Orleans turns to international assistance

Bush Inc. has turned parts of the United States into the third world. An American city forced to ask for foreign aid after a national disaster -- I find that simply astounding. And repulsive.

I also have to wonder if Houston, as the home of his parents as well as some of the country''s most virulent Republicans, would be faring better:

The cash-strapped city of New Orleans is turning to foreign countries for help to rebuild as federal hurricane-recovery dollars remain slow to flow.

Kenya Smith, director of intergovernmental relations for Mayor Ray Nagin, said city leaders are talking with more than five countries. He wouldn't identify the countries, saying discussions were in the early stages. But he said the city is "very serious" about pursuing foreign help.

"Of course, we would love to have all the resources we need from federal and state partners, but we're comfortable now in having to be creative," Smith said. He did not know if the city would have to overcome any obstacles if it got firm pledges for aid, but "we want to make sure we're leaving no options unexplored."

Perhaps New Orleans will erect a bronze statue of Condi Rice trying on shoes, Bush strumming a guitar and "Heckuva Job" Brownie talking on a cellphone -- in Jackson Square -- to commemorate the profound indifference of the administration to the plight of the Gulf Coast during Katrina.

Darfur refugees attend NBA Finals

Congratulations to the Spurs on their sweep of the Cavs last night; here's a story you won't see much about:

Cavaliers reserve swingman Ira Newble hugged and shook hands with 15 refugees from southern Sudan, his special guests for Game 4.

Newble has become an activist for Darfur, a region of Sudan where four years of warfare have left more than 200,000 dead and 2.5 million people displaced.

"A lot of people are losing lives right now. This needs to stop," Newble said. "This is a form of genocide. It's no different than the Holocaust."

Newble has been gathering signatures from fellow players for a letter he plans to send to China, a major backer of Sudan. China is also the host of the 2008 Olympics, an event in which NBA players will participate.

China, which buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports, sells the African country weapons and military aircraft and has blocked efforts to send U.N. peacekeeping forces to Darfur without Sudanese consent.

So far, Newble has 15 signatures on the letter. He said more are to come.

Newble decided to take action after reading about the conflict, including the involvement of professor Eric Reeves, a Sudan expert at Smith College in Massachusetts.

"He's a guy who could have easily looked away," said Reeves, who attended the game. "Ira has fashioned a dream team of consciousness."

Newble, who was inactive for Game 4 and has only played one minute in the series, invited 15 of Sudan's "Lost Boys," orphaned and made homeless in Sudan's civil war, to Quicken Loans Arena.

Ngor Aguen, 27, came to Cleveland six years ago from Sudan with help from Catholic Charities. Wearing a blue Cavs hat and a wine-colored "Rise Up!" T-shirt, he met Newble for the first time Thursday night.

"He's got a heart," Aguen said. "He can see outside of here and say, 'What can I do to help?' God put it in his hands. I think he will be a messenger."

Newble plans a trip to Darfur in August.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when local rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government, accusing it of decades of neglect. Sudanese leaders are accused of unleashing the pro-government Arab militia, the janjaweed, to fight them -- a charge they deny.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My response from Bartcop

He basically told me it's all a lie. Which is kind of disappointing:

It's Hillary's election to lose.
People hate it when I state the facts, but what choice do I have?

Hillarty's (sic) going to win every state Kerry won
- then add about 6 million women voters and pop the champagne.

But when she takes the oath, people can't hold me responsible for everything she does..

He didn't address the whole toxicity issue, but Bart really only ever talks about Congress to complain, Dems or Repukes.

Still love him, still think he's wrong about Hillary.

"Crapping our pants with musketballs of joy"

Jesus, please just let me post this before I crap my own pants with musketballs of jocularity:

Mitt Romney: That jaw! Those FAA-approved shoulders! So tall! So presidential-looking! And thank goodness someone's willing to stand up to the arrogant, know-it-all truth and insist that Saddam rejected IAEA inspectors. Can we double Guantanamo now, daddy?

Rudy Giuliani: Tough! Steely! Take-charge hero of 9/11! He'd be a great hunter if he hunted! Messy divorces? Bernie Kerik? Megalomania? Water under the bridge. And if you make Lieberman your veep we may crap our pants with musketballs of joy. Now, tell us more about Iran nuke plans, daddy!

John McCain: Maverick's hittin' his stride? Straight Talk Express back on the tracks? Answer to immigration question at last debate puts him in driver's seat? Even nuke-ier on Iran than the cross-dresser? New slogan---"Iraq 4evuh, my friends"---has edgy, youthful ring to it. Can we sit on your lap and do pony rides, Granddad?

Sam Brownback: A sweet man who's simply getting overshadowed by his wealthier rivals. But he's a shoe-in to head the new Department of Womb Management. ("Ya keeps the baby or ya gets the lash!")

Mike Huckabee: Started off strong by scaring the fur off the Great Orange Satan's hindquarters, and had us in stitches by attributing 110lb weight loss to a stay at "a concentration camp held by the Democrat Party of Arkansas." Then, to nation's horror, turned heretic by forgetting Ronald Reagan's birthday. No more funds, governor, 'til you make Simi Valley pilgrimage and atone.

Tommy Thompson: Hate to break it to ya, son, but if you can’t control your bowels, you can't control the country.

Fred Thompson: Christ is risen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hillary loses to all three top Republicans

and Barack Obama defeats them all (LA Times/Bloomberg, .pdf):

Hillary - 41
McCain - 45

Hillary - 41
Romney - 43

Hillary - 39
Giuliani - 49


Obama - 47
McCain - 35

Obama - 50
Romney - 34

Obama - 46
Giuliani - 41


Edwards - 40
McCain - 45

Edwards - 46
Romney - 32

Edwards - 46
Giuliani -43


Also, 18 percent of Democrats polled say they will never vote for Hillary under any circumstances. That is true for only six percent for Edwards and five percent for Obama.

Texans are lovin' Hill hard at the moment.

Now if that's not enough evidence to those who do not accept the premise that Clinton is ruin to Democrats down-ballot -- and their numbers include EOW, Kuff, and Greg -- then just wait a while longer, gentlemen, and there will be some more coming shortly. Just please don't wait until November 2008. Or next summer. Or even next winter. (And please do tell me again how I cannot infer such a result from these abysmal numbers. Please.)

In Austin today, John Edwards -- the Democrat Republicans fear the most -- picked up several endorsements, from Senator Kirk Watson to Rep. Garnet Coleman to Ag Commish candidate Hank Gilbert.

I'll take two, please

Apple Computer announced today that it has developed a computer chip that can store and play music -- inside a woman's breast implant.

The iBOOB will cost between $499 and $599.

This is considered a major technological breakthrough, addressing the concerns of women who complain about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.

Regarding Tony

Nothing happens. Credits. What?

It is what it is. Whaddyagonnado?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Melissa Monday -- and Tuesday, then Saturday

My dear Boadicea, Warrior Queen (Google it):

With a hat tip to Kuff, I'll let John Whiteside at Blue Bayou do the heavy lifting, because he does it so well:
When there are just two candidates, the distinctions become clearer than when you've got a whole pack running.

Front-runner Noriega has behaved like a front-runner, with some get out the vote activities. Morales has, to be kind, stopped making a lot of sense. Before the first election, his focus seemed to be statements about dramatic property tax cuts (but not, as far as I was able to see, any details about what cuts to city services would make this possible). Now he's talking about "sanctuary."

What that means, of course, is the police department's policy of not asking everyone they encounter whether they are in the country illegally. It's a reasonable policy, and one that you will find in a number of large cities; aside from the drain on police time (a particular problem for our understaffed department), there are practical matters. Could you prove that you're in the country legally during a traffic stop? I couldn't. Think what would happen next would depend on your accent and skin tone? You bet.

The police department does, of course, cooperate with Homeland Security on immigration enforcement activities and DHS has had positive things to say about the relationship. This is not "sanctuary," which means protecting someone. If you're providing "sanctuary" you're not cooperating with the authorities trying to catch somebody.

Anytime you hear someone talk about "sanctuary" it's a sure sign that they are misinformed, or - in the case of a politician - bending the truth to stir people up.

Election day for the runoff is June 16, but the number of voting locations has collapsed, so it's going to be confusing.

Better to early vote at a convenient location.

2% turnout is being expected. That's approx 15,000 voters deciding this city council race in the fourth largest city in the country.

If you're a Houstonian, be one of the few, the proud, the actual voting public.

Vote early.

Vote for Melissa Noriega.

Vote with a friend.

Be one of the approx 7,501 deciders of this race.

You'll be glad you did.

Bush Defends Immigration Bill to His Rapidly Imploding Base of Xenophobic Crackers

Straight from the source --

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today I want to take a minute to gab atcha about the new bipartisan immigration bill which I'm betting the farm will be the only part of my legacy that isn't a big sloppy shit sandwich. Now for some mysterious reason, lots of folks don't like my policy – and a big chunk of my base is even trying to get it killed in Congress. Luckily, it's not the all-important Corporate Gazillionaire Plutocracy part of my base. No, it's just the piss-ignorant, dirt-poor, trailer trash KKK Bible zombie part of my base. And me and Karl Rove know how to play them like a cheap jew's harp. [Thumbs Up.]

That's why today, I just wanted to issue a friendly reminder to all those millions of red state Rush Limbaugh fans who have worshipped me without question for the past seven years:

Folks, we've been together through a lot. And you've stood by me through it all. Through the illegitimate election of 2000. Through the double-dip recession. Through the terror attacks of 9/11TM. Through Enron. Through the botched war in Afghanistan and failed hunt for Osama bin Laden. Through the clusterfuck kickoff to the Iraq war in 2003. Through the Patriot Act and illegal wiretapping of innocent Americans. Through "Mission Accomplished." Through Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and a policy of torture. Through Katrina. Through failed Social Security reform. Through Armstrong Williams & Jeff Gannon. Through Terri Schaivo. Through Tom Delay. Through Mark Foley. Through Scooter Libby. Through $3.00 gas. Through Walter Reed. Through "the Surge". Through Alberto Gonzales. And now even through 3500 US troops killed in Vietraq.

And after all that, the thing it takes to get you folks pissed at me is letting a few million Mexi-Ricans pour over our borders and steal your jobs so you can't afford to put Ramen on the table? Well, I think I understand your problem. On one hand, you correctly accept that I'm practically Jesus. But on the other hand, you can't help but feel a surge of simple-minded, paranoid racist hatred every time you hear one of those dirty Spics yammering away in that nonsense gibberish of theirs – when even Star Trek nerds know that English is the only language in the universe. So yeah, I know, it's awful confusing for y'all.

That's why today, I just wanted to shoot out a quickie reminder to you folks that should clear everything up:

I am your divinely appointed ruler.

God picked me.

Never question my (His) opinions.

Immediately resume being the obedient brainwashed hicks I know and love.

Or you will rot in Hell.

[Thumbs Up.]

I have spoken.

Thank you.

A No Confidence Monday

It's hard to imagine how anyone can still have any confidence in this Attorney General's ability to do his job. His credibility is in tatters, his memory is apparently shot too, and at least six Republican senators have publicly called for his resignation.

There's plenty of reasons for Gonzales' resignation -- even impeachment. We could start with his egregiously partisan behavior in the US Attorneys scandal, and continue to his lies under oath regarding the matter. Or we could go with his blatant politicization of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, or his FBI's widespread abuse of PATRIOT act powers to spy on ordinary Americans.

Chuck Schumer said it best: "If all senators who have actually lost confidence in Attorney General Gonzales voted their conscience, this vote would be unanimous. However, the President will certainly exert pressure to support the Attorney General, his longtime friend. We will soon see where people's loyalties lie."

It will be especially telling to see how those six Republican Senators who have already called for Gonzales to resign -- including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon and John McCain of Arizona -- cast their votes.

The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, has promised to lard up the resolution with meaningless amendments and slow it down procedurally.

I wonder how Kay Bailey and Box Turtle Cornyn will vote?

Update (6/11, 2:30 p.m.): Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary committee and someone who has previously stopped short of calling for Gonzo to step down, will vote in favor of the no-confidence resolution. A vote scheduled this evening will require sixty votes -- ten GOP senators (in addition to all the Democrats and independents) -- to invoke cloture and proceed to the resolution. Besides the six named above and Specter, three other Senators have spoken disparagingly of the attorney general: Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Jeff Sessions of Alabama. I'll update this post with the votes of all ten later tonight.

Update II (5:50 p.m.) Motion fails, 53-38. Six Republicans -- Coleman, Collins, Hagel, Smith, Snowe, Specter, Sununu -- supported the measure. Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska voted 'present'.

Joe Lieberman opposed it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Funnies (late edition)

Lebron, Duncan to get whacked by Tony Soprano

NBA versus the mob tonight. Basketball players figure to lose:

When the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs tip off Game Two of the NBA Finals, they will be up against the last episode of "The Sopranos" and figure to get whacked in the TV ratings.


"Me and my guys have definitely sat down to think about it," James said. "My friends think that either the Feds are going to come and get him or he's going to make friends with the Feds and maybe snitch on a lot of people.

"Or he's going to be whacked, which I don't think is going to happen. I hope that he's just able to get away and not worry about nothing."

James has a small problem. He has a previous engagement Sunday night and won't be able to watch the final episode when it airs for the first time. He plans on catching up when he gets back to Cleveland next week.

"I did have my girlfriend TiVo 'The Sopranos,' definitely, so when I get home I'll be able to watch it," James said. "But I think I'll be more focused on Tony Parker."


"I'll watch it during vacation," said Parker, who also is planning a wedding in France (to "Desperate Housewife" Eva Longoria) that is less than a month away. "I'll watch the whole season. I missed the whole season. I've got a lot of catching up to do."

I'll be DVR'ing the ballgame and watching HBO and trying hard not to blink.

Sunday Funnies (early edition)

And starring Scooter Libby as Paris Hilton

The Wonkette, via Editor and Publisher. Schadenfreude levels are dangerously elevated:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Screaming and crying, Irve “Scooter” Libby was escorted out of a courtroom and back to jail Friday after a judge ruled that he must serve out his entire 30-month sentence behind bars rather than in his home.

“It’s not right!” shouted the weeping Libby, who was convicted of four felonies in a reckless spy-outing case. “Mom!” he called out to Dick Cheney in the audience.

Libby, who was brought to court in handcuffs in a sheriff’s car, came into the courtroom disheveled and weeping, hair askew, sans makeup, wearing a gray fuzzy sweat shirt over slacks.

He cried throughout the hearing, his body shook constantly and he dabbed at his eyes. Several times he turned to James Carville and Mary Matalin, seated behind him in the courtroom, and mouthed, “I love you.”

Federal District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton was calm but apparently irked by the morning’s developments.

“I at no time condoned the actions of the Dick Cheney and at no time told him I approved the actions,” he said of the decision to pardon Libby after three days.

Really though: why should Scooter receive a presidential pardon? Has he ever gone down on anyone in a bootleg Internet video or flashed his kootchie to the paparazzi?

Friday, June 08, 2007

"I am so wasted"

Today this blog received about seven times its usual traffic because a poster at Daily Kos noted that Bush was drinking again, and linked to this earlier evidence of European alcohol abuse.

Update: It's worth noting that the Telegraph reported that Bush spent twelve hours in his hotel room with a stomach ailment the day after these pictures were taken.

When even is getting in on the action, you know your president is a failure. Why are we not impeaching this fool again?

You are invited to add your own caption in the comments.

Update II (6/9): Pensito Review has more ...

Even if there was video of Bush puking in the bushes in Germany yesterday, the White House would never admit that the president got drunk and then was sidelined from the conference today because he over-indulged. It’s a moot point in any case because even if the media types who cover the president saw evidence that he’d been drinking, they would not dare to ask if it were true.

Chronicle's readers admit to hiring undocumented workers

Farmerjones wrote:

Sadly, this is just a result of many of the stupid laws we have in place right now. I hire "wetbacks" because they will work...if they don't work I can get rid of them and not worry about being sued for discrimination. If they do work, I pay them and treat them quite well. I would prefer to hire US citizens, but I need them to work and not cry about how they are victums and how much they are owed.

minniemax wrote:

Want to talk about cheap labor?? You go try to hire someone off one of those street corners. Tell them you're looking for someone to work for less than $10 an hour, and watch them walk away laughing. I know what I'm talking about because I've done just that...

These are but two recent examples of Houston Chronicle posters to news stories freely admitting that they're hiring or attempting to hire undocumented immigrant labor.

That is against the law, isn't it?

It's a unique strain of chronic conservatism that runs rampant here; people who type on the daily newspaper's website about the "scourge of illegal aliens", that they ought to be "rounded up" and so on are, when they're not at their computers, out driving down North Sheperd in their pickup trucks trying to hire a few unauthorized laborers to do their odd jobs for five dollars an hour.

As they have said so many times themselves: what part of "illegal" do they not understand?

Clue to you, goonbats: if you're hiring an undocumented worker, you're part of your immigration "problem".

You might want to stop that. You might want to stop hiring them to do your lawn or clean out your garage or look after your children -- or your parents. In fact, just stop eating at your favorite Mexican food restaurant, because the person cooking -- or serving -- your food, or bussing your table might not have papers. In fact, it's possible none of them do.

And you just wouldn't want to support all of this "illegal" activity with your dollars, would you?


We're going to

If it's the last thing we ever do.

John Cornyn, the junior Senator from the Great State, has been the epitome of bad representation in Washington during the past six years. He was elected in the first Bush red tide of 2000, getting a promotion from Texas Attorney General.

I wrote to him earlier that year, asking him to kindly give back the contributions he received from the Enron Corporation (some of us may recall the implosion of the World's Leading Energy Company that same year). One of Cornyn's lickspittles wrote me back to tell me that Cornyn never took money from Enron for his Senate campaign. Well, that was accurate; he took money from them for his attorney general race. I wrote back to say that I thought it was quite disingenuous to make that statement, and that if this was the kind of forthrightness Texans had to look forward to that we would be better off without him in DC.

That was the last time I ever got a written response from the Senator's office, and I have probably written, e-mailed, and faxed him over one hundred times since.

Since then John Cornyn has spoken eloquently -- even lovingly -- about torture, about inter-species relationships, and about his relationship with Our Leader, George W Bush. Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court Justice, casually mused that physical violence against the judicial branch is just an unfortunate consequence of their unaccountability to the public. As attorney general he gave an award to the law officer who participated in the Tulia drug bust, now discredited as a racial frame-up.

Among the many insipid things he has said, this one is classic:

"None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead."

Six years is long enough to endure this man's crap. To that end, a merry band of bloggers has launched, dedicated to the retirement from elective office of this abomination. We'll use it to chronicle the coverage of the final months of his tenure, to support the person(s) who stand up to challenge him, and to laud the champion of the people who will end this darkness.

You're welcome to join us in this quest, if only just to read along.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Melissa Monday, on Thursday

To say I have been remiss in reminding my six loyal readers, four of whom live in Houston, to vote for Melissa Noriega for Houston City Council is, as the title implies, an understatement.

So join me and Kuff and Stace at an early polling location today through June 12th to cast your vote for Houston's next exemplary councilwoman.

If you'd like to do more than just vote, contact the campaign office for phone lists to call voters. or 713-MELISSA (635-4772). They are easy calls to make, and they are to Democrats, so the reaction is usually "thanks for the reminder" or "I thought she already won!" They'll send a script along with the names.

Polling locations will be condensed to a greater degree on Election Day, June 16th from what they were on May 12th due to the anticipated low turnout. It's going to be confusing as to where to vote, so get it out of the way early.

Block walking will be conducted this Saturday and next Saturday (election day) from 9 a.m until 1 p.m. It breaks down like so:

-- Arrive at headquarters, 7401 Gulf Freeway 77017, at 9 a.m. for donuts, training and to pick up supplies
-- Out at your block walk location at 10 a.m.
-- Back to HQ by 1 p.m. with your completed lists

Once we complete the process of getting Melissa elected, we can turn our attention to getting her husband to run for the Senate.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

If the Democrats would only listen to them

Melinda Henneberger, former NYT reporter, former Newsweek contributing editor, regular contributor to Slate and political editor of The Huffington Post is the author of If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Politicians to Hear. Here's an excerpt, courtesy of

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

March 28, 2003

The Girlfriend Gap

"What you've got to understand is that nobody ever asks us what we think."

I made the mistake of letting my seven-year-old twins watch President George W. Bush address the nation before we invaded Iraq, and they both burst into tears: Would Iraqi children die in the attacks? What about their moms? They were still upset -- and I was still annoyed at myself -- as I drove to West Virginia a few days later to meet up with my three closest friends from high school. The timing was not the best; there was snow in the forecast and "multiple terror attacks" predicted in the event of war. The threat level had just been jacked up again, so all of Washington was a little extra twitchy -- and we were not a real low-key bunch to begin with.

Now that Baghdad was in shock and awe, I was tempted to stick close, with my duct tape and bottled water at the ready. But this weekend had been planned for months, in part to celebrate the end of my treatment for breast cancer, and it was a big deal for the four of us. Pam, Kim, Cathy, and I have supported each other through first dates and divorce, teen pregnancy and infertility, good fortune and loss. We've dissected every relationship in our lives and lately listened together for the disquieting little scratch of mortality. In our forties, we still need to check in.

We grew up together in Mount Carmel, Illinois, population eight thousand, on a bluff overlooking the Wabash River. It's a pretty little farm town -- or was, before the Target moved in, wiped out Market Street, and then moved on, like a bad storm. They all still live around there, six hours south of Chicago, in an area so conservative it went for Alan Keyes over Barack Obama for the U.S. Senate in 2004. And though I'm over a day's drive away now, we try to meet up somewhere at least once a year -- sort of a Same Time Next Year for girlfriends -- to tell secrets, swill girlie drinks, laugh at ourselves, and thank God for one another. After thirty years of friendship, I would have said we knew just about everything there was to know about one another. But I would have been wrong, because until that weekend, politics had never really come up. When it did, we found that we were as divided as the rest of the country, over the war and more.

It all started when Kim suggested that we sing patriotic songs as we hiked along, in support of the troops -- and ended in a fairly astringent disagreement over whether weapons of mass destruction had been discovered in Iraq. "FOX News would have told us" if they had not been located, Kim was sure. But no such weapons had turned up yet, I insisted. She wanted to know where I got my news, and when I mentioned The New York Times, she laughed at what she dismissed as brand loyalty to my old employer. "You have your sources of information, and I have mine," she said.

I had just spent some time at the United Nations, working on a profile of Kofi Annan for Newsweek, and I had to say that nobody there seemed to think there were any WMDs to be found in Iraq; from the lowest-level functionary to the guys on the top floor, they were convinced that Iran and North Korea posed far more certain threats. But America was not about to let a bunch of wilting, Saddam-coddling diplomats tell us what was what, so telling my friends "Hey, I heard it at the UN!" was about like saying Harry Potter's house elf had come to me in a dream.

The last time any of us had quarreled like this had to have been in high school, when my friends decided I really ought to break up with my boyfriend if I had no intention of marrying him. They all did marry their teen sweethearts, the last of them at age nineteen, and had high school kids of their own by the time I made it down the aisle at thirty-three. As adults, the four of us had always respected one another's choices and taken one another's part. But now, over George W. Bush, we found ourselves taking umbrage and taking sides. Pam lined up with me, though a tad to my left; she couldn't quite bring herself to acknowledge Bush as our legitimately elected president, she said, and the other two blanched. "Are you a Democrat, Miss?" Cathy asked, calling me by my childhood nickname. There was something I had never heard before in her voice, though, and I doubted she liked it any more than I did. Was it possible that in all our hours of heavy talk, we'd never really gone there?

In Washington, political discussion is the preferred elevator music, and even children go around humming the tune. When my son, who was eight by then, learned early in 2004 that a relation of ours would be supporting neither John Kerry nor John Edwards in that year's presidential contest, he assumed this could mean only one thing, and was incredulous: "She likes Dennis Kucinich?" In '06, at the height of Plamegate, he burst into my room early one Saturday morning shouting, "Karl Rove has been indicted!" Then, after I snapped to consciousness: "Not really. Could you get up and make me breakfast?" My friends have alerted me to the fact that most of America does not live like this -- and wouldn't want to.

We survived the contretemps, of course, and retreated to our respective bubbles. In my suburban Maryland village of aggressive recyclers, a Bush-Cheney yard sign was the talk of the town in the fall of '04, and at my polling place, John Kerry received 76 percent of the vote. Back in Mount Carmel, the smattering of "other candidates, mostly" who turned out for a campaign speech by the Democratic Party's brightest star had a hard time hearing Obama, Pam reported, over the sound of workers putting up the carnival rides for Ag Products Days. And on Election Day, 70 percent of Wabash County went for Bush. Had Kerry won the White House, I would have said that proved we'd take back the last four years if we could -- that Americans do not condone torture as a tool of interrogation, or consider the Geneva Conventions even remotely "quaint." I would have said we know a mess when we see one. When he lost, however, I had nothing but questions: What did that outcome say about us? What did that result prove? For therapeutic as much as journalistic reasons, I really wanted to know.

True, I'd never met a single person thrilled beyond reason by Kerry's candidacy, including his own wife, whose underawed staff sometimes referred to him as "the husband." Yet until the very end of his timid campaign, I thought he had an even shot -- because Gore did win the popular vote, and I had a hard time imagining that too many Gore supporters would look back over the last four years and conclude that Bush sure had proved them wrong.

Some did, though. Both parties improved their turnout, and "Values Voters: Myth or Must-Have" became the favorite post-election chew toy of political analysts. Another factor in Bush's win went virtually unnoticed: a small but consequential shift among women voters, who have long preferred Democrats as more reluctant to make war and more willing to fund schools and social programs. Women still favored Kerry, but the gender gap narrowed to seven points from the ten-point advantage Gore had in 2000. And in a contest this close, it mattered. As the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University put it in a post-election report, "Despite the gender gap, President Bush succeeded in increasing his overall share of the women's vote this year... a major reason why he took the popular vote this time around." A look at exactly who defected made the slippage look a little more ominous; Kerry not only lost ground with blue-collar women, he did worse than Gore had with the college-educated women the party counts on. He lost support with every female demographic, in fact, except women under thirty. Black women still voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, but the margin there also narrowed, by four points. Of the total increase in Bush's support from women, "two thirds came from black women," says David Bositis, a senior policy analyst at the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies. "The shift had the most to do with moral values, and this is something that the Republicans are using to win elections." For those defectors, what had changed? Were American women becoming more conservative?

We are not some monolith, of course, politically or in any other way, and campaign season efforts to appeal to us as such -- "W. Is for Women" was surely the most overt -- can seem patronizing. As the Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg says, with some irritation, "We're fifty-two percent, not a minority special interest group." Still, Kerry had made the bluntest, most straightforward appeal -- on pay equity, affordable health care, early childhood education and a Supreme Court dedicated to upholding Roe v. Wade. Yet we were not sufficiently won over. Why was that? The pat answer during the campaign was that "security moms" focusing on terror threats saw Bush as the better protector. But was that the case? What do women want from their president?

After George W. Bush was returned to the White House, I could not wait to ask them. And for answers, as usual, I turned first to my oldest friends. As 2008 approaches, the Democrats ought to be turning to them, too. They need to know how Kerry's pitch on fairness in the workplace could fail to resonate with Kim, despite the long years she put in as a secretary, making male bosses look good in a company that only recently began considering women for executive positions like the one she now holds. They need to understand how Cathy, a nurse who cares for the elderly and cites health care as her number one priority, could possibly blame the Democrats for "broken promises" on that issue -- even in the years they were in charge of nothing. Like Kim, she went with Bush, which made about as much sense to me as the fact that Pam and I -- Catholics who voted for Kerry without a twitch or a blink -- must have made to them. Clearly, I had a lot to learn.

Henneberger spent some time on the road with Barbara Radnofsky during her campaign for the US Senate; here's a shorter sample from the chapter entitled "In the Belly of the Bubba", where they visited with some women in Abilene:

But the biggest problem her party faces here, as Anna ( Martinez Vedro, the president of the Big Country chapter of the Texas Democratic Women) sees it, is that so many Hispanics "are just one issue, abortion, which means that on the local level, we need to do more work on the third part of 'safe, legal, and rare'. We've been neglecting the 'rare'." Bah, Jewell (Halford) says: "Everyone's against abortion until your thirteen-year-old comes up pregnant." Barbara Bachus thinks Democrats have gotten too intimidated to talk about social issues at all any more. "We're scared, and the far right has made us this way." Nooo, Anna answers. "Losing elections has made us this way." Barbara Bachus says what she is pining for is a candidate who "would get up there and tell us what they really feel" -- the true F-word for Democrats, who seem to have lost all confidence in themselves while trying to behave like slightly more reasonable Republicans. "They're good and decent, but they're frightened."

Henneberger will be the guest of Radnofsky Friday, June 8 to sign her book and also speaking at the River Oaks Area Democratic Women's "True Blue Texas Women" luncheon on Saturday June 9. She will appear just prior to the luncheon at the Heights Area Democratic Club's meeting at Chatter's Restaurant, 140 S. Heights Blvd, at 10 a.m.

RSVP to any of these by contacting Katie Floyd at or at 713-858-9391.