Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The NBA's new balls

The composite microfiber basketball adopted for use in the NBA this season has been greeted with scorn by many star players.

Last week, the NBA Players Association filed a labor grievance against the league regarding the use of the new ball (as well as the "zero-tolerance" referee's whistle policy).

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander's newly ex-wife Nanci, an avid animal-rights activist, could be responsible for the league's switch to the synthetic game ball, according to talk show host Joe McDonnell of AM 570 KLAC in Los Angeles.

As far as a hot rumor goes this certainly qualifies, and "word on the street" is that Nanci Alexander was able to convince her good friend, David Stern's wife Dianne Bock, into selling him on replacing the leather ball.

The leather trade is indeed brutal.

This showdown appears likely to be resolved by expensive litigation (or at least the threat thereof).

Update (12/6): the Commish prepares to capitulate ...

“I won’t make a spirited defense with respect to the ball,” Stern said. “In hindsight, we could have done a better job. I take responsibility for that.”

Update II: and Les Alexander debunks ...

"Do you think David Stern would even think about that?" Alexander said. "It's ridiculous. She asked him all the time when she saw him. He's not going to respond to that. David's got a lot of things on his mind. He's going to listen to that? She wanted everything removed that was leather. This was not going to be one of his priorities. If it was, we need a new commissioner."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A few of my best and worst of 2006

As summoned by -- and previously sent to -- Vincent:

' candidates this year had a lot to say. What was your favorite "soundbite?" (A soundbite is something a candidate repeated frequently or something a candidate said only once that you felt was particularly memorable).

Early on in the election cycle, Rick Perry said "Adios, MoFo" to a Houston television reporter. Despite the T-shirts available for sale at Pink Dome, the phrase rarely came up again -- except on the blogs -- after the governor apologized for it, but the words linger as a symbol of the arrogance of this man.

Texans are demonstrably weary of his act, and it's a shame we (that is, Texas' Democrats) couldn't take advantage of Perry's weakness as both politician and person.

Of all the political commercials that ran in Texas this cycle, which one do you believe was the best commercial that exhibited a candidate or campaign in a positive light?

Chris Bell's "Big as Texas". Republicans tried (and failed) to poke fun at it, but it was by far the most effective I saw at introducing a candidate to the electorate.

What do you think was the best negative political advertisement of the 2006 election cycle?

The website slamming Strayhorn that was done by the Perry camp ("Grandma's Attic" or something).

What do you believe was the worst TV or radio commercial by any candidate this election cycle?

Any of Greg Abbott's; he relentlessly ran commercials in every single TV market across the state every thirty seconds, day and night, in the month before the election.

You could not avoid his ads. They were everywhere.

The one where he is surrounded by laughing children -- they were there to hide his wheelchair from view -- was bad, but the one using taxpayer dollars to pay for the video of agents arresting an alleged online predator was the worst. It was a prime example of his publicity-hound nature amplified by his politically corrupt actions.

From Chris Bell's use of the governor's mansion electric bill to Fred Head's use of Susan Comb's steamy romance novel, candidates up and down the ballot had some unique attention getting techniques this cycle. Which one was your favorite?

Tie: the Van Os Courthouse Whistlestop Tour and Bill Moody's 1000-mile walk across Texas.

What race do you believe represented the biggest upset of 2006? (Primary or General election).

Another tie: Borris Miles over Al Edwards in the primary in March. Juan Garcia over Gene Seaman in November.

What do you think was the best political news story of 2006?

Democrats slowly (very slowly) begin to take back Texas.

What do you believe was the worse gaffe by a political candidate this election cycle?

"Ni**er eggs", Kinky Friedman. Hard to choose a single of Friedman's mistakes since they were so numerous.

What, during the course of 2006, do you believe was the most overrated thing when it came to Texas politics? (It can be a candidate, a group, a story, anything!)

An exciting, knock-down drag-out Governor's race, trumpeted as early as 2005. Turned out to be incapable of matching the hype. Perry stayed low and mostly out of sight, Strayhorn blew up on the launching pad, Bell never caught fire, and Kinky ... well, Kinky made a complete fool of himself.

If you had the chance to name one Texas politician the "Biggest Political Prostitute Of 2006," what candidate would you give that title to?

All of the Republican incumbents at the statewide level are high-dollar whores, but Greg Abbott tops even Rick Perry and Tom Craddick in his ability to pander to the lobbyists in exchange for a five-figure campaign contribution.

Abbott raised millions of dollars from the largest corporations in order to run nonstop TV ads against his opponent, and will do the same thing all over again when he runs for higher office in four years.

He is the absolute worst of a really bad lot.

Of all the political news and events of 2006, what (or who) do you believe was the biggest political 'bomb' of the year?

Sadly, Chris Bell. A good candidate with the right message, but was unable to compete because so many gave up on the Democrats so long ago. From the donors with the heavy checkbooks, to the strategists advising the Texas Democratic Party, through the mainstream media which picked up on the defeatist mentality of the movers and shakers, all the way down to the local activists and even the voters -- especially the minority blocs -- almost nobody thought they could win anything big. And sure enough, they didn't.

So maybe it would be more accurate to call the Texas Democratic Party the biggest bomb. The blue tsunami which washed across the United States stopped at the Red and Sabine rivers. As Paul Burka suggested, it was a once-in-a-generation opportunity squandered.

What's the dumbest statement a politician uttered this election cycle?

"Susan Combs wrote a pornographic novel", Fred Head. This statement actually should have gotten some traction in this too-conservative state, but Combs flipped it against him, rallying romance authors (and liberals) everywhere to her persecution -- err, cause. Head would have been far more competent as state comptroller than his Republican rival and should have focused his message on his qualifications and experience.

Moral: never try to out-righteous a Republican.

What Texas newspaper, reporter, television station, etc., do you believe had the best overall political news coverage in 2006?

None. Oh, there were a few things that were good: Peggy Fikac wrote some top-notch entries for the SAEN/HC blog "Texas Politics"; KPRC had a very good resource page for politics, campaigns and candidates which included archives of video snips. But the newspapers barely did their reporting jobs, and the TV stations repeatedly failed to do theirs: WFAA produced but declined to air a followup to their own report about the Attorney General's misuse of taxpayer funds for his video department in the week before the election.

KTSA in San Antonio deserves two kudos, one for a fine job in interviewing candidates (going all the way back to an in-studio face-off between Nathan Macias and Carter Casteel in the spring primary season) and one for Radio Agonist, which is apparently the only local progressive radio program in the state.

But the blogosphere trumped them all. Even the ones on the right.

What Mainstream Media Outlet do you believe had the worst political news coverage for 2006?

The Houston Chronicle. Too slow and too sparse. The Houston Press article on Jim Henley is but one example of their sloth. The Chronic barely ever mentioned the CD-07 race, much less Henley's name.

They exceeded their already spectacularly bad reputation for lousy political reporting.

What Texas blog do you believe is the best Texas Politics blog on the web? (Note: you cannot vote for Capitol Annex).

Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff did yeoman's work. By himself, with a full-time day job and raising a young child, he ran circles around the lazy slobs working in the mainstream media. McBlogger followed Ag Commissioner candidate Hank Gilbert (and his opponent Todd Staples) closely. This blog obviously focused on the Van Os campaign and the foibles of the incumbent Attorney General. Dos Centavos tracked the Poe/Bindarim CD-02 contest along with the three statehouse races in the Kingwood/Spring region. Red State followed the victorious Juan Garcia, and did an excellent job revealing the corruption of Gene Seaman. Burnt Orange Report reported on the statewide contests consistently and gave good insight into the various Travis County races. Musings was seemingly embedded in the Lampson and Matula campaigns and also delved into the corruption and haplessness of their opponents, Shelley Gibbs and John Davis. She played tag-team with Bay Area Houston here, who also posted vigorously on Perry's incompetence and Abbott's corruption.

Capitol Annex did -- does -- a masterful job of analyzing the policy. And really ought to be allowed to get a few votes here.

Kuffner's comprehensive effort, from the podcast interviews with candidates to his seemingly every-race-in-Texas coverage, has to win the prize. Truthfully, none of the rest of us came close.

What Texas politics blog covering a specific region (i.e. San Antonio, Fort Bend County, Harris County, etc.) was the 'best' in 2006?

Muse's Musings, covering all aspects of the Fort Bend County Democrats and their races. Followed closely by Burnt Orange and Travis County.

Don't lie: you know you read Texas Republican blogs, too...just to know what the other side is saying. Which Texas right-wing Republican blog is your favorite?

Lone Star Times. Matt Bramanti showed up at a Sheila Jackson Lee rally and had his picture taken with her.

That wins the Chutzpah Award, at least.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A little postpourri before leaving for Galveston

-- Yes, I know the photos below are slow to load and cause the site to scroll slowly. Update (12/3): the photos have been moved back to their source in order to make this blog more user-friendly.

It's a minor irritant even for those who have high-speed connections. You poor dial-up Neanderthals must be experiencing hell. It looks and works much better in IE7, which is rapidly becoming my favorite browser over Firefox, so try that and see how you like it.

Of course if you are still dialing up, it will take all day and night to download the new browser, so I'll see you back here tomorrow. (My specific advice is to kick the goddamned AOL to the curb and get in the fast lane. It's cheaper and way better. Really.)

-- Capitol Annex wants your input on the Best and Worst of the 2006 political season, so go over there and fill out his survey. I'll have a separate post with my answers to Vince's questions later.

-- This is an absolutely hilarious response by a FReeper in Katy to a planned mosque in his neighborhood.

-- the Young Conservative Goonbats at UT plan a severely retarded nativity scene.

-- this link at Washington Monthly, and others from there, describes the "Texification" of the national GOP and how it led to their recent thumping. It's just too bad the voters in this state are so slow to wake up to the mistakes they have sent to Austin and Washington.

-- Mitt Romney, the Republican evangelicals' Last Hope for 2008, is also a bald-ass hypocrite when it comes to immigration. It probably won't hurt him with this base.

-- and congratulations to Rep. Silvestre Reyes of El Paso, who yesterday was tapped by Speaker-to-be Pelosi to chair the House Intelligence Committee.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dickens on the Strand this weekend

My favorite festival of the year. Edit (12/3): The photos previously appearing in this space can now be found here.

More photos here. Taking the little nephews for their first trip. Weather should be perfect; see you there.