Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The TPA's 2008 Texan of the Year

Congratulations to Gerry Birnberg and Bill Kelly and all of the candidates, campaigns, volunteers who made the victories possible:

Harris County Coordinated Campaign Takes Top Honors; TexBlog PAC, Texans For Obama, Late Jim Mattox Named "Gold Stars" For 2008

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The Texas Progressive Alliance Tuesday announced that the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign had been named its "Texan of the Year" for 2008.

Also earning recognition from the Alliance were Texans for Obama, TexBlog PAC, and the late Jim Mattox, who were each named "Gold Star Texans" for 2008.

Winning 27 of 34 countywide races in Texas' most populous county didn't happen overnight, and the Harris County Democratic Party's Coordinated Campaign managed not only to win seats with quality candidates, but to increase Democratic voter turnout and revive the Democratic Party in Harris County.

"The Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign is a shining example of what is possible with the help and support of thousands of grassroots Democrats and a well-run party infrastructure," said Texas Progressive Alliance Chair Vince Leibowitz. "Every person who knocked on doors, made phone calls, and volunteered in Harris County should be very proud of what they accomplished in 2008," he continued.

The Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign is the Alliance's fourth recipient of its "Texan of the Year Award." The campaign joins former State Rep. Carter Casteel of New Braunfels, who won the award in 2005; Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC, who was feted in 2006; and the trio of state reps. Garnet Coleman, Jim Dunnam, and Pete Gallego who shared the honor in 2007.

The Texan of the Year Award is voted on annually by the members of the Texas Progressive Alliance, the largest state-level organization of bloggers, blogs, and netroots activists in the United States.

Here's a bit about the runners-up:

GOLD STAR TEXAN: Texans For Obama

Texans for Obama highlights what a group of activists and politicos can do when they work together. Texans for Obama never was formally part of the Obama campaign, but its size and influence made it a force in Texas politics. In 2007, before Senator Barack Obama had even announced he was running for office, Texans for Obama organized the largest rally in Texas political history with over 20,000 in attendance. Its leadership and numbers grew from Auditorium Shores. Once Senator Obama announced his candidacy, Texans for Obama became the Texas campaign. In a bizarre twist, they become the most interesting campaign in the nation after Super Tuesday and leading into the March 5 Democratic primary. With little early help from a national infrastructure, Texans for Obama talked to hundreds of thousands of Democrats in Texas and beyond. It educated Texas primary voters about the "Texas Two Step" or primacaucus system and even sparked a debate on the future of how the Democratic primary system will proceed. Novice political activists turned into seasoned political consultants overnight and a new generation of Democrats were born. This grassroots campaign's impact is still its infancy, but its potential is limited only by the imagination of everyday Texans.


TexBlog PAC is a group of seven members of the Texas Progressive Alliance that worked to help Democrats win back the Texas House in 2008. TexBlog PAC raised over $65,000 this year for Texas Democrats. Four of five endorsed PAC candidates went on to win their election, with each candidate receiving support in the online community as well as at least $6,000 each in contributions. The PAC also worked on a GOTV program in Travis County. Run entirely through volunteer efforts, TexBlog PAC made a simple yet strong contribution to Texas politics in 2008, and will only grow as the power of the netroots is realized across the state of Texas.

: Jim Mattox

Jim Mattox rose from a working class neighborhood in Dallas to the top of Texas politics, leaving an indelible mark on an entire era in state government and creating a legacy that continues to touch the lives of ordinary Texans every day. A luminary and a fighter, Jim Mattox was hailed in death as a man who, as "The People's Lawyer," helped shape Texas Government in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The son of a union sheet metal worker and a waitress, Mattox rose through the electoral ranks from the state legislature to Congress to the Attorney General's office, a post from which Mattox doggedly fought for the little guy. From taking on the airlines to the insurance industry on behalf of Texas consumers, his heart, always, was with the people. After unsuccessful runs for Texas Governor in 1990 and an attempt to regain the AG's post in the late 1990s, Mattox retired to a more private life, but continued to work for his party. Most recently, Mattox fought to change the complex and time consuming "primacaucus" system that plagued the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary in Texas, calling the system an embarrassment to the party. He spoke out on the issue about a week before his death in what would be his last public appearance. From taking on insurance companies to bringing a truckload of furniture to the Travis County Democratic Party Headquarters this summer after hearing the office was in need, Mattox was always helping the underdog.

Monday, December 29, 2008

End-of-2008 Wrangle

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind ... and if you remember the rest of the song, you're doing one better than we are. At any rate, it is the last Monday of the year and that means it is time for the Texas Progressive Alliance's End-Of-Year Round-Up for 2008.

This was a hell of a year for Texas progressives. The presidential primary came to Texas (for real); we caucused, conventioned, challenged, credentialed, voted, elected, counted and re-counted; we brought Netroots Nation to Texas, watched Tom Craddick fight for his life, said farewell to legends, got a head start on the race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison and more. A lot more.

It is in that spirit that we bring you the final round-up of 2008, with most contributors offering their five best posts of the year by participating blogs. Enjoy.

(Coming shortly: the 2008 Texan of the Year.)

jobsanger has posted on a variety of subjects, including the popularity of George Bush in 11% Of Americans Are IDIOTS, the Ku Klux Klan in The Klan Is Still Stupid, a plan to steal water from the Panhandle in The Coming Rape Of The Ogallala Aquifer, the fall of a county sheriff in Potter County Sheriff Indicted On Felony Charges and Potter County Sheriff Convicted, and the 2010 governor's race in Who's The Dem In 2010 Governor Race?

John Coby at Bay Area Houston blogged issues concerning Bob Perry's home building industry, the Texas Ethics Commission, insurance deregulation, electricity deregulation, as well as some humorous posts. One of his favorite series is Spending Campaign Cash, which has resulted in a number of stories in the corporate media and contributed to a bill to be filed by state representative Senfronia Thompson.

South Texas Chisme covered entertaining South Texas stories, from the original DA Hissy Fit to his poor imitation, various ethics problems including a few felonies to helping Republicans recover and Democrats to prosper. And we never forget about that Republican monument to racism and fear otherwise known as that d*mn fence!

As he approaches his seventh anniversary as a blogger, Off the Kuff decided to look forward rather than back on the year. My thanks to my TPA colleagues for all they do, and my best wishes to all for a great 2009.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks back on 2008 as its first full year on the blog scene comes to a close. The DNC got things started by picking the Jewish-named donkey over the black one for its mascot, in what would become the ultimate irony of the political season. Adding to the ironies, cash-strapped TxDOT gave away $20 million for a Dallas park. We were introduced to GOP family values: 16 US Senators, including our own from Texas, voted against funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, leading to more deaths, and the Palin clan popped out more replacements as part of God's will. Don't forget to carve the backwards B on your face for posterity. 2008 was a whirlwind and couldn't have been more dramatic. Here's to a 2009 with the same kind of flair!

Neil at Texas Liberal wishes everyone good luck in the New Year. Here is his post on controversy regarding what may or may not be the world's largest potato.

Compelling circumstances have limited Refinish69's access to his own blog, Doing My Part For the Left. He's nonetheless written a compelling series hosted on various national and local blogs that shares what it is to be homeless in Austin. Homeless in Austin-An Insider's View is a four-part series so far and Refinish69 wants to thank all those who've helped him get this story more attention. Part 1 at Momocrats. Parts 2, 3, and 4 at Texas Kaos.

Texas Kaos front-pagers have covered a wide variety of issues both national and Texan. Krazypuppy wrote a cautionary tale of how far Republican hubris can go in All Southerner's Should Know Don Siegelman's False Imprisonment Story". Refinish69 shared one man's story of unexpected impact of the historic Democratic extended primary in A Trip to the Gas Station: No it's not a Curious George book. Lightseeker reported on the convention for SD-15 and the contrast between previous years. He also gave great pointers on political discourse with the neighbors. SCCS did a series on the congressional races all over Texas, and was our correspondent in the Big Tent at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Txsharon's contributions keeping us abreast of what Big Dirty Oil and Gas are up to are so valuable it's hard to pick only a few, but proving that a picture is worth a thousand words, Barnett Shale Sludge Pond Pictures is a must see (and read).

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees no other options ... Retirement or Exile, Show Bush The Exit.

At Eye On Williamson the election took up much of our time on the blog. From candidate filings, to the massive turnout for the Williamson County Democratic Party primary and convention, all the way through to electing the first Democratic state representative in Williamson County since 1992 -- Diana Maldonado. There were still the same local issues popping up like road projects that are bad deals for the taxpayers, the county landfill, and the T. Don Hutto family prison in Taylor.

It's been a year of excitement at McBlogger. We've looked deeply at medical tourism and James Dobson's fear of homos. We've also occasionally talked about the meltdown in the financial sector. And Mr. The Plumber.

WhosPlayin shared his experience working the Democratic Primary and then the Denton County Democratic Convention back in March. In May, the Earth opened up and swallowed part of Daisetta, TX. In September he suggested how a financial industry bailout could work and be transparent. Over the Christmas holiday, he rolled out a new Congressional Campaign Finance research website.

Over at Capitol Annex, Vince Leibowitz had a difficult time trying to select his favorites out of 2,470 posts published (so far) during 2008, but finally settled on a few. After a long prima-caucus season and hair-raising state convention, he posted some Random Thoughts on the 2008 TDP Convention. As the election cycle went on, he pondered why anyone would want to re-elect state rep. John Davis (R-Clear Lake), and told the world about a racist mailer that had been sent out against state rep. Allen Vaught. After the election season, he memorialized "The People's Lawyer," Jim Mattox, and noted that Tom DeLay's wife was trying to quash a subpoena in a civil lawsuit related to the now-defunct Americans for a Republican Majority.

Mean Rachel started off 2008 with An Open Letter to Who She Was in 2007, and proceeded to write open letters to just about everyone, including Mark Strama and Elliot Elliott Naishtat. She met Barack Obama, got Obama license plates, and subsequently had her tires slashed because of them. She also wrote for the Texas Observer in Denver and daydreamed about Republican pornography. Finally, in June Mean Rachel asked for serenity now, and wondered if Americans would ever have the wisdom to change. By November, she had her answer.

A worthwhile Canadian initiative

The irascible, independent, effervescent Open Source Dem writes the following:


Thanks for noting these developments.

I would rank these ideas as follows:

1. No Change

2. Merge Voter Registration w/ Clerk’s Office

3. Independent Elections Administrator

First: The no change option is compatible with vigorous political competition and responsibility. The way to defeat a Bettencourt, or now a Vasquez, but also to make fundamental changes of every sort is for the Democratic Party to actually compete for county offices from a position of strength in city government. Come on people! Surely we need at least one party that actually stands for republican democracy.

Sadly, there will be no such competition so long as the slum-lord wing of the Democratic Party collaborates with the land-speculator wing of the GOP for the favor of the rentier class and against the interest of a popular majority. That would be the patriotic majority that Barack Obama has described as “post-partisan” or just as “us”.

A lack of principled competition constrained by uniform application of constitutional law -- not awash gratuitous and notorious racism -- is the very essence of “Jim Crow”. That term applies to the post-Reconstruction regime of cross-partisan concession-tending and coalition government Houston and Harris County still reflect. In city and county government, Jim Crow is euphemized as “economic development” or even “bipartisanship”. Look at Pam Holm, Bill White, and Peter Brown whoring after Ed Wulfe and the Hanover Company. Jim Crow actually consists of using public credit for private gain and financing the resulting municipal government with discriminatory, regressive, or indirect taxation. This is all propped up by a “property-qualified”, now a “credit-scored”, franchise and promiscuous application of “police powers”.

Second: Republican Ballot Board Judge Jim Harding is quite correct that moving the VR functions into the CCO would streamline matters and very likely improve them marginally. But that would be what economists call “sub-optimization”. Specifically, it would leave voter registration in the actual hands of an emerging police-state administered from Austin, not from the Harris County Courthouse. And, it would leave tax matters even more obscure than they already are. Now that Democratic voters have a reliable majority in City Hall and a potential one in the courthouse, look for all manner of schemes from rentier-class “goo-goo” organs to move more and more core responsibilities of government into federal/state/local/public/private “partnerships” answerable only to what the Soviets -- who set the standard for all of that -- called a “nomenclature”.

Third: An independent elections administrator would be, at best, a least-common denominator between the two parties; at worst, even more refractory than what we now have. I have seen these in operation elsewhere in the state. They are wholly unaccountable and by far the worst option.

Who will stand for republican democracy, if there is neither a republican nor a democratic party here -- just colonial administrators installed and propped-up by foreign creditors?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

An elections administration department in Harris County?

Liz Peterson has a good update here on the continuing saga of difficult democracy at the ballot box in the nation's third-largest county:

The departure of Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt has opened the door for some discussion of whether his successor should inherit the job of maintaining Harris County's voter rolls, a duty assigned to that office in the days of Jim Crow poll taxes.

State law allows Commissioners Court to assign that responsibility to the county clerk, who already conducts elections and counts the votes, as long as the county clerk and the tax assessor-collector sign off on the plan. The court also can create an independent elections administration office to handle all election-related duties.

Seventy-three of Texas' 254 counties have established separate elections offices, including every large, urban county but Harris and Travis. Nineteen other counties have assigned the voter registration role to the county clerk.

Earlier this month, Republican precinct chairman Jim Harding proposed moving the rolls to the County Clerk's Office, saying that would "streamline all of the voter activity from initial registration to final certification of an election under county clerk leadership."

Republican County Judge Ed Emmett and Democratic Commissioners Sylvia Garcia and El Franco Lee have said the idea of moving the rolls is worth discussing, though little consensus has emerged over how that should be done.

Emmett said he would be open to shifting those duties to the county clerk but opposed the creation of a new elections administration office. Garcia said she prefers the idea of an elections administrator because that person would be prohibited by law from making political contributions or endorsing candidates or ballot measures. Lee said he is not sure either change would do enough to make the voter registration process more transparent and user-friendly.

So Commissioner Garcia -- who abandoned her support of Diane Trautman for tax assessor/collector and voted for Leo Vasquez last week -- and Commissioner Lee are for the idea; Judge Emmett is lukewarm, and most of the rest of the parties involved are against it: Clerk Kaufman, TA/C Vasquez, and Commissioner Radack ...

For her part, Republican County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said she is not interested in adding voter registration to her many responsibilities. And newly appointed Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez said he believes the current system is very efficient.

"Why create yet another organization, another layer of bureaucracy in Harris County government?" Vasquez said of the elections administrator idea. "It just doesn't make sense."

The idea could also face significant opposition from Republican Commissioner Steve Radack, who said he would not vote for an elections administrator under any circumstance. He said the the current system offers checks and balances while allowing voters to judge whether the tax assessor-collector and the county clerk are doing a good job.

"I think that's good and healthy for the electoral process," he said.

An elections administrator would be appointed by a county elections commission composed of the county judge, the tax assessor-collector, the county clerk and the chairmen of both political parties.

Firing the administrator would take a four-fifths vote of the county elections commission and a majority vote of Commissioners Court.

Oh yeah, there's Federal-Indictment-Any-Day-Now Eversole:

Republican Commissioner Jerry Eversole declined to comment, saying he would make his opinion known if the topic came up during a court meeting.

Don't expect to see anything come of this entirely worthwhile proposal.

Pre-2009 Funnies

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jesus seen in puppy's behind

More at Jesus of the Week.

The difference between Bush and Obama

is like the difference between Crawford and Honolulu:

For the White House press corps, covering Obama's 13-day Hawaiian sojourn is a departure from past holidays hunkered down near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex. They've upgraded their offices from highway hotels in Waco to the Westin Moana Surfrider Resort on Waikiki Beach. They've traded a backdrop of rusted farm equipment and bales of hay for sailboats, longboards and crashing waves.

And they've hung up their winter coats.

"What a difference a year makes," exults NBC White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie, leaning back in a padded armchair on a veranda overlooking the Pacific.

"No offense to the people of Crawford, Texas, but taking the presidential retreat from Crawford to Honolulu is change anyone can believe in," Henry says, borrowing a phrase from Obama's campaign.

Via Kos. Expect to see lots of "liberal media" whining from the usual suspects.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Eating Tips (aka Fast-track to Diabetes)

This advice comes a little late but you still have time to catch up:

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare; you cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think.

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read these tips and then start over, but hurry. January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Eartha Kitt 1927-2008

With her curvaceous frame and unabashed vocal come-ons, she was also ... among the first widely known African-American sex symbols. Orson Welles famously proclaimed her “the most exciting woman alive” in the early ’50s, apparently just after that excitement prompted him to bite her onstage during a performance of “Time Runs,” an adaptation of “Faust” in which Ms. Kitt played Helen of Troy.

Ms. Kitt’s career-long persona, that of the seen-it-all sybarite, was set when she performed in Paris cabarets in her early 20s, singing songs that became her signatures, like “C’est Si Bon” and “Love for Sale.” ...

(In 1952), Ms. Kitt had her first best-selling albums and recorded her biggest hit, “Santa Baby,” whose precise, come-hither diction and vaguely foreign inflections (Ms. Kitt, a native of South Carolina, spoke four languages and sang in seven) proved that a vocal sizzle could be just as powerful as a bonfire. Though her record sales fell after the rise of rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll in the mid- and late ’50s, her singing style would later be the template for other singers with pillow-talky voices like Diana Ross (who has said she patterned her Supremes sound and look largely after Ms. Kitt), Janet Jackson and Madonna (who recorded a cover version of “Santa Baby” in 1987).

Ms. Kitt would later call herself “the original material girl,” a reference not only to her stage creation and to Madonna but also to her string of romances with rich or famous men, including Welles, the cosmetics magnate Charles Revson and the banking heir John Barry Ryan 3rd. She was married to her one husband, Bill McDonald, a real-estate developer, from 1960 to 1965; their daughter, Kitt Shapiro, survives her, as do two grandchildren.

From practically the beginning of her career, as critics gushed over Ms. Kitt, they also began to describe her in every feline term imaginable: her voice “purred” or “was like catnip”; she was a “sex kitten” who “slinked” or was “on the prowl” across the stage, sometimes “flashing her claws.” Her career has often been said to have had “nine lives.” Appropriately, she was tapped to play Catwoman in the 1960s TV series “Batman,” taking over the role from the leggier, lynx-like Julie Newmar and bringing to it a more feral, compact energy.

Yet for all the camp appeal and sexually charged hauteur of Ms. Kitt’s cabaret act, she also played serious roles, appearing in the films “The Mark of the Hawk” with Sidney Poitier (1957) and “Anna Lucasta” (1959) with Sammy Davis Jr. She made numerous television appearances, including a guest spot on “I Spy” in 1965, which brought her her first Emmy nomination.

For these performances Ms. Kitt likely drew on the hardship of her early life. She was born Eartha Mae Keith in North, S.C., on Jan. 17, 1927, a date she did not know until about 10 years ago, when she challenged students at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., to find her birth certificate, and they did. She was the illegitimate child of a black Cherokee sharecropper mother and a white man about whom Ms. Kitt knew little. She worked in cotton fields and lived with a black family who, she said, abused her because she looked too white. “They called me yella gal,” Ms. Kitt said.

At 8 she was sent to live in Harlem with an aunt, Marnie Kitt, who Ms. Kitt came to believe was really her biological mother. Though she was given piano and dance lessons, a pattern of abuse developed there as well: Ms. Kitt would be beaten, she would run away and then she would return. By her early teenage years she was working in a factory and sleeping in subways and on the roofs of unlocked buildings. (She would later become an advocate, through Unicef, on behalf of homeless children.)

Her show-business break came on a lark, when a friend dared her to audition for the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. She passed the audition and permanently escaped the cycle of poverty and abuse that defined her life till then.

But she took the steeliness with her, in a willful, outspoken manner that mostly served her career, except once. In 1968 she was invited to a White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” The remark reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Ms. Kitt’s career.

As bookings dried up, she was exiled in Europe for almost a decade. But President Jimmy Carter invited her back to the White House in 1978, and that year she earned her first Tony nomination for her work in “Timbuktu!,” an all-black remake of “Kismet.” ...

(T)hough Ms. Kitt still seemed to have men of all ages wrapped around her finger (she would often toy with younger worshipers at her shows by suggesting they introduce her to their fathers), the years had given her perspective. “I’m a dirt person,” she told Ebony magazine in 1993. “I trust the dirt. I don’t trust diamonds and gold.”

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lord, help me be the person my dog believes I am

No one expected to find Donna Molnar alive.

Searchers had combed the brutal backcountry of rural Ontario for the housewife from the city of Hamilton, who had left her home three days earlier in the middle of a blizzard to grocery shop.

Alongside his search-and-rescue dog Ace, Ray Lau on Monday tramped through the thick, ice-covered brush of a farmer's field, not far from where Molnar's van had been found a day earlier.

He kept thinking: Negative-20 winds? This is a search for a body.

"Then, oh, all of a sudden, Ace bolted off," said Lau. "He stooped and looked down at the snow and just barked, barked, barked."

Lau rushed to his Dutch shepherd's side.

"There she was, there was Donna, her face was almost totally covered except for one eye staring back at me!" he said. "That was, 'Wow!' There was a thousand thoughts going through my head. It was over the top."

With one ungloved hand near her neck, Molnar, 55, mumbled and tried to scream as Lau yelled to other rescuers. Dressed in a leather coat, sweater, slacks and winter boots, Molnar was carefully extracted from a 3-foot-deep mound of snow that had apparently helped to insulate her.


As for Ace, he's still awaiting his reward: a T-bone steak. It's the least that can be done for a dog who, in his own way, paid it forward.

"A while ago, Ace was rescued from a home where he didn't belong, and now he got to rescue someone. I can't describe the magnitude of that, what that means to me," Lau said.

"He's definitely getting his steak. I'm grocery shopping right now."

Here's a picture of our Teddi, masquerading as the puppy from Grinch:

And here's what happened to ten of Michael Vick's dogs.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pre-Christmas Wrangle

T'was the Monday before Christmas, and all through the 'sphere,
all the bloggers weren't posting about female reindeer.

Time once more for the Texas Progressive Alliance's Weekly Blog Round-Up. This week's wrangle -- the last regular-edition one of the year -- is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex. Next week the TPA will bring you its "Best of 2008", a compilation of the best posts from member blogs and bloggers from the historic year past.

At TruthHugger the crystal ball in BossKitty's head has instructed him/her to share its opinion on how the final month of a pretentious Bush Administration contributes to the destruction of the America we knew: Bush wondered aloud, “How did we get here?”

The Texas Cloverleaf looks, ever so briefly, at Governor 39%'s longevity record.

This week CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme offers unsolicited advice to Democrats: Texas may follow the rest of the country and turn blue, but only if we truly are inclusive and offer value for taxpayer dollars.

Donna at Happinessanyway talks about defending her uber-liberal job to putative uber-liberals.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston details how much money Bob Perry has donated to the members of the Sunset Commission that shockingly spared his home builder commission from being abolished.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that the United Auto Workers are going to be chasing some jobs to Texas -- which were lured from another state by Rick Perry and millions from his personal slush fund, the Texas Enterprise Fund.

jobsanger looks to the future and wonders Who's the Dem in the 2010 Governor Race? There is a dearth of well-known candidates with both Bill White and John Sharp opting to run for the Senate, but he has a suggestion -- although that suggestion may not be well-received by some TPA members.

Neil at Texas Liberal says there is no such thing as a bridge to nowhere. Everything in life connects. Neil also says have a happy holiday.

Off the Kuff considers the possibilities for 2010 if neither White nor Sharp runs for Governor.

Devon Energy says they are "passionate" about clean air. TXsharon says: Okay, Devon: Here is your opportunity to prove it. Spend that $60 million -- 2 percent of your last quarter's profits -- and help Wise County stay off non-attainment list.

This week, McBlogger's kinda irritated at the President-elect over his decision to have Rick Warren lead the invocation at the inauguration.

WhosPlayin published what may be the first quantitative statistical analysis of pipeline incidents -- by Jerry J. Lobdill. Hey Fort Worth, are you ready for a significant "incident" with gas pipelines every 6 months?

Dallas-area auto dealers who took out credit life insurance policies with Texas Congressional Republicans have suddenly figured out that they wasted their money. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has it.

All they want for Christmas is to keep jailing innocent children. The Williamson county commissioner's court is set to vote Tuesday, just in time for Christmas, on two more years of jail time for immigrant families awaiting hearings. Wcnews at Eye On Williamson reports that the court has rescheduled a vote to renew its contract with Corrections Corporation of America to operate the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center for Tuesday, December 23, in order to avoid publicity. In addition to the distractions of the holidays, commissioners are counting that voters will have forgotten about it by the next election, 22 months away.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Sunday Funnies

Dallas auto dealers bought "croak-and-choke" with GOP, now feel ripped off

The money they "invested" in credit life insurance sold to them by the Republicans turns out to be a waste:

President George W. Bush's 12th-hour decision to lend $17.4 billion to General Motors and Chrysler may ease some of the pressures on their finances. But it might not relieve the tensions in a strained relationship between new-car dealers – many of whom are active politically – and the Republican Party.

Many area dealers say they were deeply disappointed that Republicans they had supported essentially put politics over the economy in opposing loans to GM and Chrysler.

Only three members of the area congressional delegation supported the loans – Democrats Eddie Bernice Johnson and Chet Edwards and Republican Joe Barton. North Texas is home to the GM Arlington plant, which employs about 2,500 people, and about 240 new-car dealerships.

"In general, the Democrats voted for it, and the Republicans did not," said influential local Ford dealer Sam Pack, the chairman of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association who traveled to Washington to meet with members of the Texas delegation. "This was partisan politics. And any of us who are concerned about the economy are disappointed with the Republican Party."...

"I am absolutely disappointed in them because this was the most critical vote in modern history," said Mr. Pack, who owns three Ford dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is active in politics. ...

Carl Sewell, chairman of Dallas-based Sewell Automotive Cos., said he couldn't even get two members of the Texas delegation – both of whom he has supported – to return his calls.

"It calls our traditional relationship with our congressional leaders into question," said Mr. Sewell, also one of the most influential dealers in the U.S. "With the exception of President Bush, Democrats seem to be more aware of the importance of the auto industry and jobs than the Republicans."

Some of the Republicans' opposition was disingenuous, dealers said. Several who opposed aid to the Big Three represent states in the South and Southeast where foreign carmakers have built new plants. Others simply wanted more concessions from the UAW.

What kind of response did you get from Senators Cornyn and Hutchison, gentlemen? They voted in favor of letting your industry go under as well. Did they return your calls? And what does this translate to in terms of the 2010 governor's contest? Will you support Kay Bailey in her challenge against Rick Perry or not? How about the gaggle of conservatives, Democrat and Republican, vying to replace her in Washington whenever it is she finally decides to leave? Which ones do you like -- besides your fellow dealer Roger Williams, that is?

I suppose the answer depends in part on how much money you have left next year, or the year after. We'll wait patiently and see. Mr. Sewell certainly ought to be OK; he owns a Lexus dealership, after all.

I also look forward to reading the responses from Houston mega-dealers as well. What say you, Sterling McCall (Group 1)? Charlie Thomas (Champion)? Joe Myers? George DeMontrond? Ernie Guzman?

"'Damaged' is probably too strong to describe the relationship," said Drew Campbell, president of the New Car Dealers Association of Metropolitan Dallas. "But I think it has changed."

Mr. Campbell, a veteran of many political battles, doubts, however, that the divisions will be permanent.

"I was disappointed, too," Mr. Campbell said. "But it's like football, and there will be other games and different alliances."

Red McCombs in San Antonio used to own the Minnesota Vikings. I wonder if he thinks this is the first quarter or the fourth.

American Family Association: Soup is Gay Food

Donald Wildmon -- now entitled to be called Pastor Soup Nazi -- apparently found the words "GOD HATES FAGS" in his Campbell's Alphabet Soup and took it to heart:

Campbell Soup Company embraces homosexual agenda

Send an email to Campbell Soup Company President Douglas Conant. Tell him you want his company to stop supporting the gay agenda.

In the December, 2008 and January, 2009 issues, Campbell Soup Company bought two, two-page advertisements in the latest issues of the nation's largest homosexual magazine, "The Advocate." The ads promote their Swanson line of broth.

In one of the December ads, the Campbell Soup Company highlighted the lives of two lesbians with their son. The others feature New York City chefs. See the ads here.

Campbell Soup Company has openly begun helping homosexual activists push their agenda. Not only did the ads cost Campbell's a chunk of money, but they also sent a message that homosexual parents constitute a family and are worthy of support. They also gave their approval to the entire homosexual agenda.

Emphasis not mine.

So the good Christians over at the AFA are reading The Advocate, but only for the ads, and have discovered that the Homosexual Agenda includes a light, healthy lunch. Mmm, mmm, good. But no one could have predicted that my Bean with Bacon threatened the sanctity of marriage.

Please, no "Cream of Sum Yung Guy" comments.

Shoe me the Funny

Friday, December 19, 2008

Vasquez likely to replace Bettencourt

I didn't exactly predict it, but it looks like they took my hint:

Leopoldo Vasquez, a corporate finance professional who serves on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice board, appears to be the leading candidate to replace Paul Bettencourt as Harris County tax assessor-collector.

Calling the Yale and Columbia-educated Vasquez "very respected and very intelligent" Commissioner Steve Radack said Friday he planned to nominate Vasquez at Tuesday's (12/23) meeting.

Neither Radack nor County Judge Ed Emmett officially would confirm his selection because court members are barred from polling one another outside of meetings.

But Emmett said Vasquez is definitely on his short list.

"I would call him a very, very great choice," Emmett said

Vasquez, 42, did not return a telephone call seeking comment today.

He is chief financial officer for Maximus Coffee Group and Cadeco Industries. Prior to serving on the TDCJ board, he was a commissioner for the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation.

I'm guessing he isn't a Democrat, which would violate one of Emmett's own pronouncements. What else would we expect from this bunch, though? Last we heard of Commissioner Toilet Plunger, he was helping Joan Huffman violate election law.

Update: This Houston Press article from 2003 sheds more light on Vasquez.

TDP hearings on prima-caucus in Houston today

Delayed by Ike and a special election, on for today:

The Texas Democratic Party's Advisory Committee on the Convention/Caucus System convenes (this) morning at 9:00 a.m. at the Communications of America Local 6222 Hall (CWA), located at 1730 Jefferson Street, Houston, TX 77003-5028 to hear citizen input before any action is taken by the state party to keep the system, change the system or tweak the system.

Lots of whining about the Texas Two-Step in the wake of the Democratic primary in March that saw Clinton's victory in the daylight voting nearly overcome by Obama's victory in the evening precinct conventions. A variety of allies have complained loudly about it.

I support the present system as is. I believe it rewards grassroots activists for extra participation and helps the state party identify those activists by harvesting their personal contact information.

Its fate will be determined within the next few months (that is, if it hasn't been already).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coming up short

Despite Joan Huffman's slimy robocalls and election law violations, Democrats in SD-17 still couldn't be bothered to vote in today's special election. They couldn't overcome the stalking-horse Republican Stephanie Simmons who got on the November ballot at the last minute, barely survived a residency court challenge and forced the runoff in the first place. They couldn't overcome the hurdles of a runoff election scheduled nine days before Christmas with no weekend early voting, nor the Harris County EV locations all located in GOP strongholds, nor the wintry weather on Election Day.

No, only 43,000 voters returned to cast a ballot in the special election for state senator (where more than 200,000 did so a month ago), and that enabled the Republicans to turn a 52-48 deficit into a 56-44 victory.

The GOP managed a win in a race Democrats let them have, with a lousy and flawed candidate who will likely face a misdemeanor charge of violating a plain-as-the-wart-on-her-face state election law statute soon after she takes office in January.

Despite a Herculean effort to touch all those Democratic voters multiple times, they just passed on showing up to vote. They got telephoned, they got e-mailed, they got mailed, they had their doors knocked, they received literature at their door, but they still didn't vote early, and they didn't vote late.

Maybe one day they will get fed up with the kind of representation they get in Austin, but today wasn't the day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Vote for Chris Bell" Weekly Wrangle

Tomorrow is Election Day in SD-17. Be sure and vote for the only candidate demonstrating real reform. Here's this week's edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly Round-Up.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is amazed that today's America is repeating the 1930s era of economic depression and prohibition. America's Second Biggest Waste, War on Drugs describes how prohibition of medical marijuana keeps profiteering Big Pharma and the greedy military/industrial complex in the money, while hurting legitimate patients. Keeping medical cannabis illegal hurts everyone.

Joan Huffman's campaign for Texas Senate reached new lows during early voting last week, notes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs. First she violated election law by holding a campaign rally down the hall from an EV polling location, and then her campaign made smear robocalls to Democrats in the middle of the night. Let's put an end to this kind of politics and elect Chris Bell.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has the top 10 reasons Paul Bettencourt quit.

jobsanger discusses America's broken and bloated healthcare system, and decides the best solution offered to date is Rep. John Conyers' National Health Insurance Act (HR 676).

Some unsolicited advice for Republicans from CouldBeTrue of South Texas

WCNews at Eye On Williamson discusses the likely federal stimulus and its implications on infrastructure in Texas in their posting entitled "Possible stimulus money for infrastructure creates debate on spending priorities".

This week, Mayor McSleaze at McBlogger takes on Kay Bailey and speculates on who is best positioned to take her on in 2010.

Off the Kuff finishes up his series of precinct analysis posts with a look at CD-10.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at what could have been contained in Rick Perry's suspicious envelope.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted about Houston mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett writing in the Houston Chronicle about cuts in emergency care and job reductions at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. These cuts, impacting the uninsured and a city reeling after a hurricane, are a classic Texas story of kicking the little guy while he is down.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that sources are denying that state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte (D-San Antonio) will be leaving the Texas Senate for a position in the Obama administration.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"This is the farewell kiss, you dog"

The full statement:

"This is a gift from the Iraqis, this is the farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

It's the height of insult to do anything with your shoes in the Iraqi culture. You may recall that when the statue of Saddam was toppled in Baghdad in 2003, Iraqis took off their shoes and slapped the face with them. Apparently the Iraqi shoe-throwing journalist had a colleague who had been kidnapped and tortured.

That man has more spine than all of the United States Congress.

Huffman smear-dialing SD-17

In the middle of the night, no less. How much lower can she go?

Some Democrats -- I am one -- are getting late-night robo-calls (11:00pm-2:00am) about ethics complaints against an unnamed candidate in the SD-17 runoff. Since this slime is NOT coming from the Chris Bell campaign, it's obviously the latest effort by the usual shadowy group of Republicans who used the same tactic of smear calls and websites on Huffman herself in the general election. The purpose is not to encourage support for Huffman but to simply discourage Democratic voters from going to the polls. The website mentioned in the call,, is a poor ripoff of Drudge and is quite visibly shoddy and hastily thrown together. It contains a sham ethics complaint against Bell.

Yet another robo-call is going out to certain voters trying to scare them by saying Chris Bell will take away their guns if elected, another tired conservative bromide and which is also untrue. Bell has never indicated he wants to place additional limits on second amendment rights.

Tuesday, December 16 is Election Day in SD-17. There's only one choice for reform. And decency.

Sunday Funnies

Turmoil at Hearst reflects uneasy state of newspaper biz

Last week George Irish, senior vice president of the Hearst Corporation and the head of Hearst's newspapers group (which oversees Texas dailies in Houston, San Antonio, Beaumont, Midland, Laredo, and Plainview) abruptly resigned from that position to become a director of the Hearst Foundation. I wrote about my personal saga with the man and the company here.

For a 64-year-old who climbed rapidly almost to the top of the company's ladder, that is NOT a promotion.

Irish follows CEO Victor Ganzi out the door, who got crossways with Hearst's board because he apparently wasn't making bold enough acquisitions. This is a truly remarkable amount of turnover for a conglomerate that has had a reputation for being tight-lipped when it comes to, well, all facets of its business, even (especially) how much money it makes. Because the company is one of the largest privately-owned operations on the planet, it has always placed a premium on loyalty and omerta. So to see this kind of drama play out publicly is itself revealing.

My guess is that he pulled the chain because Hearst vice chairman Frank Bennack, 75 -- Irish's new/old boss -- wasn't going to let him sit in the big chair, and running the dying newspaper division for another few years didn't look to be too hot an option either. That rumor is noted in this NY Post "Media Ink" column, reporting Ganzi's departure in June.

So the FNG is 46-year-old Steven Swartz, whiz-bang Harvard guy with the e-newspapers cred. He's got a tough task ahead; revitalize a company's flagship business at a time when the industry appears to be at the brink of extinction. But with his background in Hearst-related ventures such as magazines and yellow page directories, as well an eye for savvy acquisitions, he's probably the CEO-in-waiting.

All the old guys I used to work with in the business are out of it now themselves -- Rollie Hyde in Plainview, Aubrey Webb in Beaumont, Charlie Spence in Midland, and now Irish. My first Hearst boss after Irish, James Thomas, the long-retired publisher of the Plainview Daily Herald, passed away in July of this year at 84.

End of an era, in every way.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Funny: Please Hurry

Sharp and the Senate (and Bill White)

Another development I have resisted posting my opinion about is the fact that Texas Democrats are -- as of this writing -- reduced to a pair of fat, bald, white male conservatives as standard-bearers in 2010. Harvey Kronberg -- who spoke last night at a town hall hosted by my state rep, Ellen Cohen -- says that Bill White is probably going to run for Washington and not Austin:

For almost two weeks now, the political rumor mill has been breathlessly anticipating Houston Mayor Bill White's announcement of future election plans.

While still rumors, the quality have improved and they have moved up the food chain. Reasonably reliable sources tell QR that the current announcement date is next Monday and that Mayor White will announce he intends to run for what may become an open seat in the United States Senate.

We frame this rumor with caveats galore. Truth is, we will find out whether or not it is true next Monday.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a fat, balding, white male myself. I just keep finding myself farther and farther away from 'conservative' with each passing day.

And unlike some in my circle, I'm not in favor of Bill White for anything. He's far, far too conservative for me. He's demonstrated a particular disdain for the Democratic wing of the Texas Democratic Party, from toadying with Tom DeLay to haughtily dismissing concerns about e-voting.

But John Sharp is even farther to the right than White; "pro-life Catholic", an on-again, off-again pal with Governor MoFo all the way back to their Aggie days, and apparently a consort of Texas religious fundamentalists:

He and Mr. Perry were students together at Texas A&M but became politically estranged until 2006, when San Antonio megachurch pastor John Hagee brokered a reconciliation that led to the governor appointing Mr. Sharp to lead a commission to craft a property tax overhaul.

Like Kuffner, I'm at a loss as to where Vince gets the idea Sharp is a progressive.

Neither of these two comes close to my idea of a Democrat ... even in Texas. While White was a disaster as the Texas Democratic Party chair from 1995 -98, Sharp is a two-time loser for lt. governor, in '98 and '02.

The only thing we need now to hit the trifecta is Kinky Friedman.

Surely we're going to be able to do better than this ... ?

Update: Socratic Gadfly has more on the Republican company Sharp keeps. How is White going to top that?

Update II: Mayor McSleaze nails it ...

Who's Afraid Of KBH?

The answer seems to be pretty much everyone these days. Working off the premise that Kay Bailey Hutchison will resign her Senate seat to challenge Governor For Life Rick Perry in the 2010 Republican Primary, would-be senators have been lining up like WalMart shoppers to replace her.

Auto industry slain last night by Senate Republicans

Been holding my water on this for as long as I could. Can't stand it one more minute:

A bailout-weary Congress killed a $14 billion package to aid struggling U.S. automakers Thursday night after a partisan dispute over union wage cuts derailed a last-ditch effort to revive the emergency aid before year's end.

Republicans, breaking sharply with President George W. Bush as his term draws to a close, refused to back federal aid for Detroit's beleaguered Big Three without a guarantee that the United Auto Workers would agree by the end of next year to wage cuts to bring their pay into line with U.S. plants of Japanese carmakers. The UAW refused to do so before its current contract with the automakers expires in 2011.

The UAW acceded to the politicians' demands to reduce its members' compensation -- they are NOT $70 an hour, by the way; that's another radical conservative urban legend -- just not next year, as Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Richard Selby of Alabama, and a few other tobacco-juice-drooling, slave-owning symbols of the Old South insisted.

That bill — the product of a hard-fought negotiation between congressional Democrats and the Bush White House — was virtually dead on arrival in the Senate, where Republicans said it was too weak in its demands on the car companies and contained unacceptable environmental mandates for the Big Three.

Thursday's implosion followed yet another set of marathon negotiations at the Capitol — this time involving labor, the auto industry and lawmakers. The group came close to agreement, but it stalled over the UAW's refusal to agree to the wage concessions.

"We were about three words away from a deal," said Corker, the GOP's point man in the negotiations, referring to any date in 2009 on which the UAW would accept wage cuts.


Congressional Republicans have been in open revolt against Bush over the auto bailout. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky joined other GOP lawmakers Thursday in announcing his opposition to the White House-backed bill, which passed the House on Wednesday. He and other Republicans insisted that the carmakers restructure their debt and bring wages and benefits in line with those paid by Toyota, Honda and Nissan in the United States.

Hourly wages for UAW workers at GM factories are about equal to those paid by Toyota Motor Corp. at its older U.S. factories, according to the companies. GM says the average UAW laborer makes $29.78 per hour, while Toyota says it pays about $30 per hour. But the unionized factories have far higher benefit costs.

GM says its total hourly labor costs are now $69, including wages, pensions and health care for active workers, plus the pension and health care costs of more than 432,000 retirees and spouses. Toyota says its total costs are around $48. The Japanese automaker has far fewer retirees and its pension and health care benefits are not as rich as those paid to UAW workers.

So let's make sure everybody understands: because the US auto industry is almost a hundred years old, because its workers bled and died on assembly lines (and continue to do so today) before they organized for livable wages, affordable health care, and a comfortable retirement -- things the GOP has dismantled in virtually every other American industry over the last 25 years -- they are to be punished.

McConnell, the happy co-killer of labor unions and by extension the willing assassin of what's left of America's middle class, is married to Elaine Chao, the (so-called) Secretary of Labor. You can NOT make this shit up.

Even the massive financial contributions to the GOP by the auto manufacturers over the years couldn't buy them a break, because the Republicans saw an opportunity to bust a union and couldn't resist ...

An action alert circulated among Senate Republicans on Wednesday called for Republicans to "stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor."

In doing so, analysts said, Republicans were planting the seeds for a fundraising appeal to big business -- other than the Big Three, of course -- as they gear up for a major political fight next year over expected legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize.

Even Dick Cheney
told the GOP Senate caucus that it was going to be "Herbert Hoover time" if they killed this bill.

I believe the Republicans just sealed their fate as a minority party for a generation, isolated in the Southern region of the nation, policed by radicals and extremists. The homophobes and racial bigots throughout Dixie ought to be be real happy this morning. The poor people in Kentucky and Alabama and Tennessee -- and yes, Texas -- who elected these scumbags may yet live to regret voting against their economic self-interest, but they're probably still too stupid to realize it this morning.

Give them another three months, let the REAL depression settle in. I bet they start to smell the coffee.

Update: BooMan ...

When you've let your anti-union ideology move you far to the right of Dick Cheney, you know you're out on a limb. It appears the Senate Republicans decided to play their own game of chicken with the Bush administration. They said, essentially, 'if you don't want to go down in history as the modern-day Hoover administration, bail Detroit out on your own'. And now it is up to the Bush administration to do just that.

The 18 Senators who voted FOR the $700 billion bank bailout, and against the $14 billion loan to the auto manufacturers. Our very own Kay Bailey is one.

And this:

"I don't know what Sen. Vitter has against GM or the United Auto Workers or the entire domestic auto industry; whatever it is, whatever he thinks we've done, it's time for him to forgive us, just like Sen. Vitter has asked the citizens of Louisiana to forgive him, " said Johnson, president of Local 2166. Otherwise, Johnson said of Vitter, it would appear, "He'd rather pay a prostitute than pay auto workers."

-- Morgan Johnson, president of the United Auto Workers local representing General Motors workers in Shreveport

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harris judicial candidate Pierre sues to overturn November result

Because of the voting registration failures of Paul Bettencourt, of course:

The Democratic candidate who lost a Harris County judicial race by 230 votes last month is asking a court to make him the winner, saying a variety of alleged vote count and voter registration failures by the county cost him a victory.

Democrat J. Goodwille Pierre, a lawyer who manages small business programs for the Houston airport system, is no stranger to voting rights lawsuits; he said he worked on such issues in Texas for the liberal group People For The American Way, particularly on behalf of Prairie View A&M University students registering in Waller County.

Now the first-time candidate is filing suit on behalf of his own campaign against Republican civil court Judge Joseph "Tad" Halbach of the 333rd District Court.

This lawsuit is only slightly related to the TDP's own, filed yesterday, which points to the same shenanigans.

Both suits now allege that outgoing Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, a Republican who also serves as voter registrar, rejected legitimate voter registration applications.

Pierre's lawsuit also cites a non-partisan ballots board's rejection of about 5,800 ballots cast by voters who, according to records from Bettencourt's office and other agencies, had not been properly registered. The ballot board chairman said some of the ballots, after being processed by Bettencourt's staff, had information obscured by correction fluid.

"Had all persons who cast a vote in this race been allowed to have their vote counted; it would have changed the outcome of the election by providing Pierre with more votes than Joseph "Tad" Halbach," the suit said. "Moreover, various irregularities make it impossible to ascertain the true outcome of the election."

Ah, the Wite-Out caper again. Recall that it was the GOP ballot board chairman who caught it?

But Republican Jim Harding, a retired Houston business executive who chairs the ballot board of about 35 people, said the counting process was delayed by faulty work by Bettencourt's staff.

The problems included hundreds of voter forms whose information the registrar's staff masked with white correction fluid and then altered with new information, Harding said.

As ballot board members determined whether ballots should be counted, he said, they wanted to have confidence in the accuracy of the registrar's research.

But "that kind of confidence is not replicated here, and then when they see this 'white-out' all over the place they get nervous," he said.

I don't know what to expect out of Pierre's complaint, other than to draw more heat to Bettencourt's misadventure. Pierre is a respected local attorney and Democratic activist; he also challenged Kaufman for the county clerk's position in 2006.

With the breaking news earlier this afternoon that Joan Huffman has likely violated campaign election law by holding a political rally in the same building as an early voting poll, one thing we know for certain is that Vince Ryan is going to be one busy guy.

Huffman violates campaign law with rally at poll

Posted about half an hour ago. Paul Bettencourt probably told her it was OK:

Joan Huffman's campaign for state Senate appears to have broken the law against campaigning on property where voting is taking place, Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said today.

Republican Huffman, opposing Democrat Chris Bell in next Tuesday's state Senate District 17 runoff, hosted a barbecue luncheon for voters today inside the Tracey Gee Community Center in far west Houston. Early voting in the state Senate election is taking place through Friday in another room in the same building.

Commissioner Steve Radack, a Republican, said he attended the luncheon along with Huffman and urged people to vote for her. She is a former felony court judge.

Under state law, it is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, to campaign for or against a candidate "within 100 feet of an outside door through which a voter may enter the building in which a polling place is located."

Radack said a member of Kaufman's staff working at the early voting station took no action after checking into a complaint by a voter. But Kaufman said the event was "ill-advised" and should not have taken place there, regardless of the distance between the two rooms inside the community building.

Kaufman said it was up to a voter to pursue any charges against the campaign. The voter who complained to the election worker said she, indeed, would do so.

Just another reason to go vote for Chris Bell (as if you need one).

Crunch time for Chris Bell

And no, that isn't the snow and ice under your feet (which in my neighborhood was all gone before the sun even came up this morning). No, Politicker suggests that the early vote is going Joan Huffman's way:

Numbers are out from the first day of early voting for the state Senate District 17 runoff, and they appear to point to a more competitive race between Republican Joan Huffman and Democrat Chris Bell.

There are now three days of EV in the can, and while Tuesday's numbers jumped up a bit, Wednesday's were severely depressed by the weather.

Early voting, which began Monday and runs through Friday, brought 3,822 voters to the polls on Monday in the five district counties — obviously a far cry from the 223,295 total votes in the initial election. But on a percentage basis, Bell strongholds aren't voting as much, while Huffman's strongholds are becoming an increasingly larger proportion of the electorate.

For example, in Harris County, which includes Houston, Bell won the Nov. 4 race, 38 percent to 21 percent. However, Harris County voters made up 53.6 percent of the vote in the initial election. On Monday, they accounted for only 41.1 percent. After Harris, the second-largest county in the district is Fort Bend, which represented 27.8 percent of the Nov. 4 vote and went to Bell, 39-36. On Monday, Fort Bend accounted for only 19.7 percent of the vote.

Huffman's biggest strength was in Brazoria County, which she carried, 37-27, on Nov. 4. However, Brazoria County voters were only 9.5 percent of the electorate in the special election. On the first day of early voting for the run-off, they made up 19 percent of all voters.

The numbers aren't all bad for Bell. He dominated the counties of Galveston and Jefferson on Nov. 4 by margins of 49-18 and 58-7, respectively, and both of those counties have more than doubled their percentage of the electorate, based on the early sample. Galveston rose from a 4.1 percent share to 9.9, while Jefferson increased from 4.9 percent to 10.1.

However, even with the increased weight proportionally of those counties, they still only make up 20 percent combined of the vote, meaning potential slides in Harris and Fort Bend would be more important.

Today and tomorrow are the final two days of EV, and the hours are longer, stretching from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days. Let's push this race over the finish line for Chris Bell, and put another much-needed Democratic Senator in Austin.

Yesterday's Bettenquit Follies

Houston's "blizzard" kept me from attending the TDP presser and from posting this update yesterday. Alan Bernstein was there and files this report (as they say on teevee). At the end of the excerpt are a couple of emphasized portions:

"Mr. Bettencourt's late-night resignation announcement is his attempt to avoid bringing to light the inner workings of his office over the past several years and still does not ensure that the problems surrounding Harris County voter registration will be resolved," the state (Democratic) party said Wednesday in a statement distributed by Houston lawyer Chad Dunn.

Republican Bettencourt, the tax assessor-collector, said it was ridiculous to suggest he and his staff purposely foiled voter registrations or that his resignation was triggered by the lawsuit.


Dunn, the Democrats' lawyer, said the lawsuit was expanded to, among other things, include as plaintiffs four people whose voter registration applications were stymied by what the party calls the county's "unlawful and hyper-technical voters registration activities." The lawsuit alleges Bettencourt's staff has disenfranchised voters by using unwarranted technical reasons for rejecting their registration applications.

Bettencourt said the four were rejected for routine, justifiable reasons involving their paperwork, and that the registration system in the county works well.

"You are going to have mistakes made," he said. "What you do is fix them."

The bipartisan ballot board that decided whether to accept provisional ballots cast by voters whose names were missing from the Nov. 4 rolls accepted some that Bettencourt's staff had classified as incomplete. His staff was unable to get thousands of registrations onto the rolls before early voting.

Bettencourt apparently still will have to give pre-trial testimony in the lawsuit after this month and will be represented by the new county attorney, Democrat Vince Ryan.

That first part above is why I believe that a new tax assessor/collector/voter registrar deserves to be relieved of the VR portion of their job title. As explosive as the legal complaint of malfeasance is, the fact that thousands of people didn't get to vote because their paperwork (a postcard, mind you) couldn't get processed in time reveals a incompetence of the rankest order on the part of Bettencourt and his staff. Put aside the partisan rancor and even the alleged criminal mischief for a moment: can a new department head get this job done more effectively than an incumbent with several years of experience at it? I'd have to be pessimistic, no matter how talented that person may be.

Bettencourt kept the inner workings of the voter registration process as secretive as he could. The FNG is going to have to do many things better, and one is to open up the process to observers -- media, political party, and otherwise -- in a significant way. Not for nothing, but Beverly Kaufman has a few cycles of experience dealing with HCDP observers like myself and John Behrman (and others before us) analyzing the county's vote counting -- with us suggesting changes, arguing for more security, and so forth. She has -- grudgingly at times -- moved closer and closer to our requests for improved e-Slate integrity, including L&A and parallel testing, tightened chain-of-custody security, and more. She hasn't done every we have asked; she fights us some and slow-walks us too much, but she has certainly demonstrated far more openness and allowed more "sunshine" into the vote tabulation process conducted by her staff than Bettencourt ever had a nightmare about.

If commissioners court intends to seriously address the mess that is voter registration in Harris County, it will remove the task from the purview of the tax assessor/collector's office and give it to the county clerk.

As for Vince Ryan defending Paul Bettencourt against a TDP lawsuit, that is going to be comedy gold down the road.