Sunday, November 30, 2008

On Packing Heat in Texas

Now you may have already heard somewhere that I’m not from around here. I’m from the state that, in the very same year, granted the right to same-sex marriage by virtue of a state Supreme Court decision, and then had a majority of its population revoke that right.

I’m originally from California.

California, it seems has a love-hate relationship with marriage rights. In a state that is widely regarded for its liberal social standards, I am sometimes startled at some of the very backward thinking that goes on there from time to time.

So what is the first thing that you think of when it comes to gun ownership rights in Texas? Yes, me too. Texas has a worldwide reputation for being not only a gun-loving state, but occasionally a gun-shooting state.

Texans love guns and low taxes. In that order.

So imagine my shock and surprise when I come to find out that Texas is one of only six states in the country that has laws on its books that specifically forbids the wearing of handguns out in the open.

It is legal, in Texas, to carry a concealed weapon on your person. You need a permit, but one thing that George W. Bush did for Texas gun owners as governor was to sign a concealed weapon bill into law.

Yes, before George W. Bush was governor, it was illegal in Texas for most people to carry a weapon on their person, concealed or not.

And the law is still on the books that specifically forbids your average person to “open carry” a handgun. Yes, here in wild and wooly Texas, where we have the Castle Law that gives a person the right to use shoot first and ask questions later when someone is trying to enter your dwelling, you can’t wear a handgun in plain sight.

And wouldn’t you know it; the law comes out of Reconstruction. The law forbidding the open carrying of a gun outside of your own property line was one of a series of Jim Crow Laws passed in 1870, and this one was meant to keep guns out of the hands of former slaves.

I find this to be absolutely fascinating.

And now we have a group of outside agitators coming to Texas to change this law. Their website is here.

From UPI:

“Opencarry.org co-founder Mike Stollenwerk said supporters of the proposed state law have begun targeting both state residents and lawmakers in attempt to get the state Legislature to pass the bill in January, the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram said Sunday.”

“‘We are targeting Texas,’ Stollenwerk said. ‘Texas is probably the most pro-gun state, but doesn't have open-carry laws.’”

It came as some surprise to me that Texas is one of 6 states that forbid the wearing of a handgun: four other southern states, Texas, and New York. It is permitted everywhere else they say. So this group is concentrating on gun-loving Texas so that Texans can take their handguns out of their closets and nightstand drawers and put them onto their gunbelts where they rightly belong.

So while Californians concentrate on revoking the marital rights of their gay and lesbian neighbors, Texans concentrate on getting their state’s law changed that will bring guns out of the closet and into the streets.

I can’t figure out which is crazier.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What to Do With Turkey Leftovers

You would not believe the number of websites that are dedicated to the handling of Thanksgiving leftovers. Take a look. Click here, I’ll wait.

Turkey Tetrazini? Turkey Chile Rellenos?

Whatever happened to the good old Turkey Sandwich?

A turkey sandwich is a good Democratic sandwich. It is inclusive (contains all the food groups), and gives you a warm cozy feeling, especially if it is the open faced kind with lots of turkey gravy poured on top.

A turkey sandwich is THE official turkey leftover dish at the Half Empty Hovel – a tradition of long standing. A good turkey sandwich is yet another thing that I have in common with Ross Geller, the nerdy paleontologist who was a main character in the extinct television series “Friends.”



Yes, I too know about the “moist maker.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

Election Day Voting Places for SD 17 Special Election

Well the good news is that if you live in 36 of the 53 (previously reported as 54) Fort Bend County precincts within Senatorial District 17, you can go to your usual polling place on Election Day (December 16th) and cast your vote for Chris Bell there.

The bad news is that 17 of these 53 precincts have new polling places for one reason or another. John Oldham reported to the Commissioners Court that these moves were because of conflicts due to “holiday scheduling.”

Maybe so, but there are a few changes I do have to wonder about.

But anyway, to deliver the information, here are the 36 precincts that go to their usual polling locations on December 16th (the same ones as on November 4th).

1018, 1058, 1068, 1087, 1118, 2028, 2030, 2033, 2034, 2061, 2090, 2091, 3009, 3020, 3022, 3032, 3069, 3086, 3098, 3100, 4029, 4044, 4046, 4047, 4062, 4064, 4065, 4084, 4094, 4102, 4105, 4107, 4109, 4119, 4121, and 4127.

And here are the 17 precincts with their new locations (and former ones).
  1. 1007: Williams Elementary 5111 FM 762 Richmond, TX 77469 (Was Cindy's Palace)
  2. 1021: Schultz Trucking Company 18602 Hwy 36 Guy, TX 77444 (Was Brazos Bend Home and Ranch)
  3. 2092: Quail Valley Elementary School 3500 Quail Village Dr Missouri City, TX 77459 (Was Meadow Creek Clubhouse)
  4. 2117: Meadows Place City Hall One Troyan Dr. Meadows Place, TX 77477 (Was Calvary Church at the Fountains)
  5. 3035: Sugar Land Church of God 1715 Eldridge Rd. Sugar Land, TX 77478 (Was Eldridge Park Conference Center)
  6. 3043: Townewest Town Hall 10322 Old Towne Ln. Sugar Land, TX 77478 (Was Southwest Calvary Baptist Church)
  7. 3053: Sugar Land Church of God 1715 Eldridge Rd. Sugar Land, TX 77478 (Was Barrington Place Clubhouse)
  8. 3099: Mission Bend Elem School 16200 Beechnut Houston, TX 77083 (Was Providence Community Clubhouse)
  9. 4011: Colony Bend Elem School 2720 Planters St. Sugar Land, TX 77479 (Was Settlers Park HOA)
  10. 4042: Knights of Columbus Hall 702 Burney Rd Sugar Land, TX 77478 (Was Sugarland Comm Center)
  11. 4049: Lexington Creek Elem School 2335 Dulles Avenue Missouri City, TX 77459 (Was Brightwater Clubhouse)
  12. 4080: Colony Meadows Elem School 4510 Sweetwter Blvd. Sugar Land, TX 77479 (Was First Colony Church of Christ)
  13. 4083: Highlands Elem School 2022 Colonist Park Dr. Sugar Land, TX 77478 (Was Lost Creek Park)
  14. 4110: Colony Bend Elem School 2720 Planters St. Sugar Land, TX 77479 (Was Sugar Land City Hall)
  15. 4111: Settlers Way Elem School 3015 Settlers Way Blvd. Sugar Land, TX 77479 (Was Colony Bend Elementary)
  16. 4129: Fort Settlement Middle School 5440 Elkins Rd. Sugar Land, TX 77479 (Was Commonwealth Clubhouse)
  17. 4131: Austin Parkway Elementary School 4400 Austin Parkway Sugar Land, TX 77479 (Was First Colony Conference Center)

I guess it could be worse. As Susan says on her not-a-blog, they could have chosen to hold this election in Oklahoma.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Our Last Thanksgiving with Bush as President

Yes, despite everything that has happened over the past 8 years, we do have one thing to be thankful for, and can give George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, full credit for it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SD 17 Special Election Early Voting Locations Are Up

Well, not up at the county elections office website, anyway. Not yet anyway. But I got a call this evening advising me that the commissioners court was indeed apprised of the voting locations – my previous informer was misinformed by the elections office worker – and it actually appears on yesterday’s agenda, Item 30 on yesterday’s agenda.

On viewing the meeting video, I could see some of the thoughts that went into assigning voting and early voting locations. The county reports that there are 95,000 active voters in Fort Bend County who may vote in the special election. They are spread over 54 precincts, however due to the fact that “customary locations are unavailable due to holiday scheduling” total Election Day voting locations were “clustered down” to 27 locations. So, yes, voters need to know where their polling locations are going to be because maybe half of them will be going to a new location.

For early voting, 4 early voting sites were originally allocated, one in each precinct, but 1st Methodist Church on Eldridge was added yesterday due to anticipated heavy traffic from holiday shoppers who are expected to flock to the nearby Sugar Land mall.

Anyway, here is the list of five, yes you read that correctly, five early voting locations in Fort Bend County for the SD 17 special election.

  • Fort Bend County Rosenberg Annex (that’s right, centrally located in SD 18) 4520 Reading Road Rosenberg [map]
  • Meadow Creek Clubhouse 2410 La Quinta Dr. Missouri City [map]
  • Meadows Place City Hall One Troyan Dr. Meadows Place [map]
  • Sugar Land City Hall 2700 Town Center Blvd North, Sugar Land [map]
  • Sugar Land 1st United Methodist Church 431 Eldridge Rd., Sugar Land [map]

Early voting locations will be open between 8 AM and 5 PM from Monday December 8th until Friday December 12th.

These convenient voting hours courtesy of your Fort Bend County Commissioners Court and the Fort Bend County Elections office.

Does A Low Voter Turnout in Special Elections Favor Republicans?

Common wisdom has said yes. So I was interested to see an analysis by Matt Glazer on Burnt Orange Report that gave facts that belied this so-called truth.

And I was not convinced.

Yes, I was also interested in the HD 97 results that had the same two opponents with opposite results, favoring the Democrat in the low voter turnout special election, as opposed to favoring the Republican in a general election. But thanks to Elbridge Gerry the patron saint of district boundary manipulation, districts vary in their affinities to one party or another.

So what I decided to do was to look at nearly every state house or senate special election or special election runoff held since 2000 and look for central tendencies. Nearly every special election because some of these are held in lopsided districts where no member of the minority party would bother running.

And by my count, there are about 13 special election races between then and now, with 7 of them, or just over half, classified as low turnout. Low voter turnout, by my definition, is any election where total voter participation is 12% or less.

And of these 7 races, 5 were won by Republicans and 2 were won by Democrats.

If voter turnout is moderate (20-30%) or high to very high (35% and greater) it doesn’t seem to matter. 3 races with moderate turnout favored Democrats 2 to 1, and 3 races with high turnout favored Republicans 2 to 1.

It’s only the low voter turnout elections that seem to be anomalously tilted toward Republicans.

Glazer also cited the extremely low turnout in HD 29, pointing out that “House District 29 hasn't elected a Democrat since 2000” which is absolutely true. However, HD 29 is a consistent R:D 60:40 district, even when a dead woman is the R. However, in 2006, Democrat Anthony DiNovo could only scrape together 22.5% of the vote in a district that by all rights should have delivered 40% of its votes to him.

So I am still pessimistic about Democratic chances in low turnout special elections.

Which is why it is more important than ever that Texas Democrats should band together in SD 17 and help deliver the upcoming special election to Chris Bell.

The trouble is, and has been pointed out here, that, in Fort Bend County at least, there is no information on where a voter is to go and vote in next month’s runoff election. And it’s obvious that this is some basic information that a phone banker or a block walker would want to have to better inform the voters.

It’s one thing to tell voters to go and vote. It’s yet another that they know where to go when it’s time.

Now, in reaction to my posting from yesterday, I was contacted by a reader who went ahead and phoned the Fort Bend County elections office and got some information. That yes, they had settled on a list of voting locations, and no they would not be making that list public anytime soon. The voting locations, it turns out, need to be approved by the County Commissioners, and they only meet on Tuesdays.

And, oops, Tuesday was yesterday.

Oh, wait, they don’t meet on the third Tuesday of any given month.

And, oops, that was the Tuesday of last week.

So the earliest we get an idea of the special election voting locations is Tuesday December 2nd.

What better way to keep the vote totals low than to have a special election 9 days before Christmas, and withhold the voting locations until a less than a week before early voting starts?

This is your Republican-dominated county government, playing those 5 to 2 odds, 24/7.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Special Election Early Vote and Election Day Polling Locations Still Not Announced

By my count, it is now less than two weeks before early voting begins in the Senate District 17 runoff special election between Chris Bell and that Republican judge.

Less than two weeks.

Phone banking and block walking has already begun in the Bell campaign, but without the critical information on the early voting and Election Day voting locations these calls and door-to-door visits are less valuable in terms of getting the information out to the voter. Here is what I could do today if I chose to make some calls.
"Hello, my name is Hal and I am calling to remind you that early voting in the State Senate special election for Senate District 17 begins on December 8th and runs through until Friday, December 12th. Election Day is December 16th. Please cast your vote for Chris Bell who is the Democrat running in this race. "

"Sorry ma’am, I don’t know where you go to vote. No, I don’t know whether it is where you usually vote. The county hasn’t published the list of voting locations yet. No, we don’t know when they will. Ma’am? Ma’am? Hello?"
Do you suppose that the County Elections office is aware that this omission is harmful to a campaign? Here is their webpage that is supposed to list the December 16 polling locations. As of 5:57 PM CDT the page is blank. So is the list of December 8 to 12 early voting locations.

This is why we need to elect more Democrats to county offices. With Richard Morrison as the Commissioner-Elect we are on our way, but we have a long way to go before we can stop Republicans from taking advantage of incidents such as this with their colossal stranglehold on Fort Bend County.

Honestly, I’ve seen more government transparency in a banana republic.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Texas Board of Education Reconsiders Evolution

Coming on the heels of a Florida state school board decision to place in their curriculum the notion that Evolution was merely a theory, Texas’ State Board of Education is reconsidering its stance on the teaching of Evolution in Texas’ public schools.

The occasion is the board’s task to rewrite the state’s curriculum 10 years after its 1998 adoption of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS.

On November 19th the board met in a public hearing to hear testimony on the teaching of Evolution in public school, an occasion that was live blogged here.

It should come as no surprise that Texas’ state board of education contains several members from the religious right that have an agenda to suppress the teaching of evolution in public schools in favor of their preferred theory in use, the one called Intelligent Design.

That is, God did it. Did it all.

Now the fact that other state boards of education have taken this on, and have had their members voted out of office doesn’t faze the Texas board. Not in the least. These creationist school board members know that they have the backing of a strongly religious Texas population.

For now.

To get a feel for what they are attempting to do, take a look here, at the second draft of the high school science TEKS that was posted a week before the public meeting.

I’ll tell you what the first thing I looked at was after reading the link in the title to this posting. §112.43.c(3)A.

Here is what it says in the adopted 1998 document:
“analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information;”
This little gem was placed there by the religious right members of the board in 1998 to use as a wedge in the years to come to encourage students to challenge scientific principles and theories, and pressure textbook publishers into making equivocal statements on scientific knowledge.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this document at the TEA website, which lists challenges to biology content in a high school biology textbook published by Glencoe.

The challenges were lodged by the Discovery Institute a supposed nonpartisan institute that promotes the conservative evangelical agenda. They make heavy use of §112.43.c(3)A. For example.
“Because of its factual errors and lack of information, the text does not enable students to “analyze, review, and critique” this scientific explanation as to its “strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information” (TEKS 112.43c(3)A). ”
Now what does the science curriculum team propose to do with this infamous section? Delete it and combine it with draft version 1 of section (3)B. It is proposed that (3)A now say this:
“analyze and evaluate strengths and limitations of scientific explanations including those based on accepted scientific data, and evidence from students’ observations, experiments, models, and logical statements;”
So in place of “weaknesses” we have “limitations.”

This, I suppose, is in response to the scientific community’s objection that “strengths and weaknesses” is not a valid scientific concern. As in what these guys say.

So by entirely dropping the word “weaknesses” the state board thinks it has the problem solved. But I just checked my thesaurus. “Limitation” is a synonym for “weakness.”

So it’s still there, only better hidden than it once was.

They just don't get it do they? For the same reason that there are no weaknesses in evolution, there are also no limitations. A scientific theory or a biological principle cannot and should not be “evaluated” based on its weaknesses, nor on its limitations. This isn’t even science.

It’s Sunday School.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

At the Chris Bell for Texas Senate Headquarters Grand Opening

In the build-up to his SD 17 special election runoff race that will end in just 3 weeks, Chris Bell is opening up campaign headquarters all over the senate district, which gerrymanders its way along the Gulf Coast from the Texas-Louisiana border, takes a right after passing Freeport and hooks through Brazoria County up to Fort Bend County.

Today a Grand Opening celebration took place at his Fort Bend County headquarters.

A small but dedicated group of supporters helped him celebrate the opening along with nearly all of the Democrats who hold office in and around Fort Bend County.

I took photos.







I took video.

Here is video number one. I apologize in advance for the shaky picture. I was not in the best place to take the shots that I took, and even had to hold the camera over my head at times. Richard Morrison, appointed the master of ceremonies for the afternoon because, he said, of his recent election into county office, introduced Fort Bend County Constable Ruben Davis, and Congressman Al Green.





Then Chris Bell spoke.





Nick Lampson was running late, but finally showed up just as Chris Bell was winding down his speech. Here is Nick Lampson showing support, finding out about when Election Day was, and recalling his own runoff race in December 1996 against Republican Steve Stockman.




One thing I am going to miss about Nick Lampson, other than the fact that sometimes I had my congressman vote my way, is that thing that he does with his voice. That thing that got Howard Dean in so much trouble several years back.

Nick does it just right.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Importance of Language

The old joke is this:

Q: What do you call a person who speaks many languages?

A: A polyglot.

Q: What do you cal a person who speaks two languages?

A: Bilingual.

Q: What do you call a person who speaks only one language?

A: An American.

But it takes more to speak another language than just getting the words and syntax. It takes proper pronunciation. Witness:


video

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Night With the Fort Bend Democrats

At their irregular monthly meeting, the Fort Bend Democrats again celebrated the election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden as our new President- and Vice President-Elect.

They had lots of Obama memorabilia on sale with lots of buyers.

There was a good sized crowd that attended.

Don Bankston gave them the low down on what transpired on Election Night. The short version: we're not there yet. But with the latest results, we are closer to a Democratic majority in decades. One interesting statistic is that it was predicted that we would win the majority of votes if 70% of Democrats in the county came out and voted. Well, 67% of them did and we were barely edged out.


Then Geri announced plans for an Inauguration Ball that will take place locally at the Sugar Creek Country Club. We had two options, to hold it on Inauguration Eve or Inauguration Night and the vast majority of hands went up for Inauguration Night.

That settled, Albert Hollan was asked to say a few words as a recent candidate for District Judge. Albert got it right when he said we won the one that we had to win, the one at the top of the ticket.

The Fort Bend Democrats had not one but two National Convention delegates in their number. These two then got up and described their convention experiences.



All of that was a look to the past.

Looking toward the immediate future we had a campaign worker from Chris Bell's SD 17 state senatorial campaign speak to us on the importance of volunteering to help get out the vote in the upcoming SD 17 special election runoff.

And you know? I can't think of a better way to end this short report than to quote a man I think we all know and respect, Senator Ted Kennedy.

The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On Running a Country into the Ground

George W. Bush and his cronies “Dead-eye” Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Phil Gramm, to name a few, have had a few shining years to run America right into the ground, haven’t they?

Inheriting a country at peace, with a budget in the black and employment and job creation at all time highs, they slowly and deliberately altered it into a country with two wars, huge budget deficits, unemployment at 7% and rising and news of massive layoffs coming in daily.

And a few people got as rich as Croesus, and a few more people went below the poverty line.

And you’d think that that would be enough, wouldn’t you?

But I guess not. Not with news today out of the Associated Press that Bush’s people in the Department of the Interior are feverishly working to rewrite the rules that govern how public officials can decide whether a species is endangered or not.

At present, when you want to build a dam or a highway you have to clear it with biologists, experts in species population renewal, who will either OK or not OK the funding for the project, or even alter the project to ensure the survival of endangered species.

Interior Department people are trying to rewrite the rules so that governments can essentially skip that step.

Interior Department people are also trying to rewrite the rules, and bar federal agencies from deciding whether to build coal-fired power plants based on how much green house gases the plants will produce, how that will affect global temperatures and therefore how those temperatures will affect endangered species habitats (ahem . . . polar bears).

It seems that the “Greening of George Bush” was something of a palliative. Something to keep the environmentalists at bay. Bush never did come around, did he? He was just waiting for this time to rewrite the rules and make it that much harder for Barack Obama to govern.

I know, in 60 days our National Nightmare will be over. I’m just a little concerned though. There are many, many busy, busy hands working right now behind the scenes in Washington. It’s as if my house were infested with Formosan termites, out of sight, but you know that there is damage being done and nothing can be done about it until it is perhaps too late.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nationalize the Auto Industry

I have been watching the to and fro arguments on why or why not to bail out the Big 3 auto industry: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The arguments are shrill on both sides.

Conservatives of both parties are arguing that these companies are “dinosaurs” and the only thing that has occurred that threatens their existence is fatal mismanagement by their own obscenely overpaid management. They don’t build what Americans want and have ignored market trends. Their workers, union workers mind you, are overpaid and lazy.

Sure, they argue, let them file Chapter 11 and let them reorganize. This has happened before and it is what makes our capitalist system the resilient system that it is.

Liberals, Democrats for the most part, argue that this is the premier manufacturing industry in America. To let it die on the vine would be tantamount to inviting a full depression with the 3 million jobs that the auto industry directly or indirectly supports.

Some argue that letting GM go under would be a blow to our national security because of the many defense industry products that it produces.

And that got me to scratch my head.

Defense industry? GM?

Well, yes, in the past. In years past GM had a military division that produced all manner of weapons and things that promoted the killing of our fellow man. GM Defense it was called. But to my recollection, that division was sold off to General Dynamics in 2003.

Another model decision from GM’s management, selling off a military war materiel manufacturing division right in the middle of two shooting wars.

But they still retain a corner in the market of military trucks. They still make and sell the LSSV (Light Service Support Vehicle) also known as a pick-up truck. There is also their
EMP (Enhanced Mobility Package) – God knows what that is. Maybe it’s an automobile.

I can see both sides points here. That is a fatal flaw in my character. Both sides make good points.

So here’s the thing. Are the three companies that dominate America’s largest industry being led by incompetent jerks who are now engaged in begging for corporate welfare? Absolutely. Do I trust them with $25 billion of public money? No way. Is this industry so important that the collapse of it will have a domino effect that will doom our country to an unrecoverable depression? Alas, that is also true.

So what is the answer? Are we going to fork over these sums to these incompetents anyway? No way.

The answer is clear, and I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but the answer is for the Feds to buy up the auto industry.

Nationalize it.

Think of it. If this is the premier industry of our nation, and its collapse will drive the rest of us into economic ruin, this industry is a threat to our national security.

Letting the private sector mismanage this uber-industry when it is so key to keeping us economically sound makes no sense at all. It makes as much sense as privatizing our military services. Letting GM management take over at the Pentagon.

So see? There are not two alternatives that may or may not work. There is a third alternative that eliminates all of the minuses of having a critical industry managed by idiots whose solution to the gas price crisis was not to engineer lower mileage autos, but to guarantee $1.99 gasoline to SUV customers.

And it eliminates the feeling of throwing good money into a garbage disposal. If we, the people make the investment in buying out the Big 3, we the people get to share in the profits. Right?

After all, we’re not Communists.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Governor Proclaims SD 17 Special Election Runoff Date

Well you could have knocked me over with a feather. Three minutes after I uploaded last night’s posting, out comes the announcement that the SD 17 runoff election was set for December 16.

This is what I thought it would be, but not hearing of any proclamation at 30 days out I figured Perry was going to take this election up to the ridiculous date of Christmas Eve Eve.

Don’t get me wrong, December 16 might as well be Christmas Eve for all of the damage it is going to do to voter turnout.

Anyway, also shown on the proclamation, found here, are the early voting dates. Early voting for the special election runoff will begin on Monday December 8th, and extend to Friday, December 12th (sorry, no weekend voters need apply). There is yet no information at the Fort Bend County Elections website on which polling locations will be open for early voting, but there is a notice that the ballot position drawing on the Fort Bend County ballot will be held at 4 PM on November 20th at the Election Administrator’s office.

What, at this point, would be the Get Out the Vote strategy? Well, it’s obvious to me. First and foremost, get out the base. This will not be a race over whether there are more Democrats in SD 17 or Republicans. This race will have such a low turnout that the race will be over who can best rouse their base.

And the challenge could not be more difficult.

Democrats have been lulled into a sense of accomplishment. We elected the top of the ticket. That’s all that has been in the news. It is going to be very hard getting Democrats to go back to the polls after all of that excitement.

This is in contrast to Republican voters who have been shown the door. What I cannot fathom, though is whether being shown the door is something that will give Republicans impetus to come back and try for another local smackdown, or whether the whole thing has dispirited them, and Joan Huffman won’t be able to buy a vote.

So the challenge is difficult and the outcome is uncertain.

At least we have the uncertainty this time.

In SD 17, that’s saying something.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chris Bell Opens a Fort Bend County Campaign Office

Keeping a high profile as we zero in on a yet undesignated special election runoff date, Chris Bell has opened a campaign office in a strip mall in Stafford, Texas this week. I was just there myself this afternoon delivering yard signs that formerly bedecked the walls of the Fort Bend Democrats Rosenberg headquarters.

It’s a classic campaign HQ. Bare walls, folding tables and chairs, computers in various states of set up.

If you want to go down there to volunteer on their phone bank, here is the address.

869 Dulles Avenue, Suite E
Stafford, TX 77477

Here’s a map.

Here’s what the strip mall looks like from Dulles Ave as you are passing it and completely missing the single driveway entrance.

When you do get into the parking lot, keep going toward the back, past the coffee shop and look for the glass door with the Chris Bell campaign sign on it.

Better still, why not go down this Saturday for the Grand Opening? The event begins at 1 PM Saturday November 22nd, and goes until 3 PM. They tell me that they are getting several elected officials in the area to come and show their support, including Commissioner-Elect Richard Morrison and State Rep. Dora Olivo. Former congressman Chris Bell will be there to whip up the crowd.

And the word is, they even want to feed you.

If you have questions, call the headquarters at (281) 208-1990, or email Garrett Graham at Garrett@chrisbell.com.

While we are on the topic, what is your pick for the day that Governor Perry will proclaim the special election runoff? There is no guarantee that it will occur this year. Last time there was a special election runoff it occurred on January 16, 2007, several days after the 80th Legislature convened.

If past performance is any measure, Governor Perry will select an election date that will guarantee a low voter turnout. This is the ultimate in voter suppression tools, but it has served Republicans well in the past.

Example, in 2006 Perry called for a special election to fill the vacant seat resulting from the death of Glenda Dawson. That election was called for on December 19th.

Six days before Christmas.

As a result, the one Democrat who was running in the four-candidate field, Anthony DiNovo, got just 22.4% of the vote in a district that usually draws 40% of the vote for the Democratic candidate.

So how about December 23rd?

It would not surprise me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Shifty Fifty

So I had a couple of hours this morning after watching the Sunday morning newsfest to do some number crunching. There are those of us who are saying that Texas is slowly but inexorably going to the left. After seeing the results in the local elections you would be hard-pressed to convince anyone of that, but that is looking only at the surface and who won and who lost.

So I decided to look at the 150 State House races and sound them for any changes.

First, you have to eliminate 100 districts right off the bat as “safe districts.” By my count there are 47 “safe” Democratic districts and 43 “safe” Republican districts. I base this on whether, in 2006, there was a Democratic opponent in a district. If not, it is safe Republican. Same goes for a Republican opponent in a district. If not, it is safe Democratic. Then you add in the districts where results weren’t reported in 2008 at the Secretary of State’s statewide results webpage, where there was no opponent, then look at the split in 2006. If the Republican won in 2006 it is safe Republican, if the Democrat won, safe Democrat.

100 safe districts. That’s 2/3rds of the state, right now slightly favoring the Democrats.

This leaves 50 House Districts where there is some action going on, and even some flips. These I looked at in more detail.

For instance, I looked to see what were the percentage differences between those voting Democratic and those voting Republican. Intriguing if anything.

Overall, in these 50 districts, Democrats had a net increase of the vote by 1.26%, and Republicans had a net loss of the vote by 0.82%. Or a 2.08% net difference.

Big shifts were seen in two House Districts. In 2008 the Republican House candidate in HD 33, a Democratic leaning district had 12% less of the vote that the Republican candidate had in 2006 and the 2008 Democratic candidate did 7% better than the one in 2006.

HD 55 has suffered a similar fate. While the Republican won in HD 55 in 2008, it was by a decidedly smaller margin than in 2006. A heavy Republican district in 2006, outpolling Democratic candidates by 2:1, in 2008 the Republican won by a mere 10%.

And really, looking at overall trends of Republican leaning districts, 12 of these 50 house districts had Republican victors in 2008, but the per cent difference that separated winners from losers narrowed compared to the 2006 differences.

Now the trends in Democratic leaning districts are also telling. 7 of these 50 are districts where the winner was a Democrat, but that win, again, was by less of a margin than in 2006. So we see some districts trending from Democratic to Republican also.

But only 7 Democratic as opposed to 12 Republican.

Finally, I wanted to look at Republican leaning districts that are getting more Republican, and Democratic leaning districts that are getting more Democratic.

Essentially, we are in a dead heat in this. 15 Republican districts had Republican winners in 2008 that won by a larger margin than the candidates that ran in 2006. Among the 2008 Democratic winners, 14 districts had Democratic winners that won by larger margins than the Democratic winner in 2006.

Another one is HD 105 where we don’t have a declared winner. But you might as well include it in the column of a district whose Republican edge is on the wane, as Harper-Brown has had her 14% 2006 margin, as the 2008 results cut this lead to a fraction of a percent.

HD 29 had no change. HD 29 is a 60:40 R to D district. In 2008 Randy Weber won by the same margin that a dead woman won in 2006.

Conclusion? Texas is moving to the left. It’s slow, and some parts of Texas are moving the other way. I would imagine these are parts that appear on those red areas in the northeast corner seen on the New York Times map that inspired this effort.

But I didn’t check.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Have You Ever Had One of Those Days?

One of those days where everything you believe in come into question?

One of those days where everything you dream will come true someday all of a sudden seem like they are light-years distant?

One of those days where the dog that you think adores you gives you a nip on the finger as you feed it a tender delicacy?

One of those days where you discover the unvarnished truth about the fabled pot o’ gold that exists at the end of every rainbow?

No. Me neither.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Time to Rename the Blog “Half Full”? Probably Not.

I was thinking the other day about something a reader left in the comments section of my posting of photographs taken on Election Night.

“Will we have to start calling you 'Half Full' now?”

Frankly, things went so well at the top of the ticket that I started wondering that myself. Are things going to get better? Are we Americans finally turning the corner to becoming a more just and decent people?

These are the main reasons I hold to my pessimism so fiercely. I have very little regard for the ability of Americans, my fellow citizens, to do the right thing. To do the fair and just thing. To do that when it is actually harder to do the wrong thing or the unfair thing.

So has this election finally driven it home to me that I can finally cast away my pervasive pessimism? I was leaning in that direction until today.

Then I read this.

It seems that Nebraska legislators passed a humanitarian law that provides a safe haven to those who have infants but don’t want to keep them. Rather than finding infants in dumpsters or toilets, these lawmakers thought it would be better to provide as safe havens, the state’s hospitals, where unwanted infants could be dropped off without any fear of being prosecuted.

Geez, what a great law. What a fine show of humanitarian spirit by the Nebraska state legislature.

And how do people respond? Well it says nothing in the Nebraska law about what the age of the child is to be, no upper limit, so my fellow Americans, parents have been dropping off their children at these hospitals, children ranging in age from 5 years to 17 years.

And not one infant has been dropped off at a hospital, as the law intended.

Parents are using this humanitarian Nebraska law to abandon their own children with no consequences or criminal prosecution.

Doesn’t that just take the cake? A really good law gets subverted by people who want to abandon their own children, a heinous act that I have come to regard as lower than the lowest.

So what does the Nebraska legislature have to do? They have to change the law. They have to include language that specifies an age limit.

In doing so, and announcing it will happen, the state hospitals have been hit with a flurry of abandoned children as the legislature works to close the loophole. People have come from far and wide into Nebraska to abandon their kids

That’s it, fellow Americans. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Abandon your kids in Nebraska while the getting is good. No mess, no fuss, no consequences.

No consciences.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Judge Hebert: Just Say “No” to Ethics Reform

In a story buried in the Houston Chronicle on November 10th we find that Precinct 1 Commissioner-Elect Richard Morrison has a full plate of ethics reform to serve to the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court when he takes office in January.

The hors d’oeuvres to this 7 course meal are pasted below from Morrison’s website where you can also get a copy of the full resolution.

I. CONTRIBUTION LIMITS

  • Starting with the 2010 election cycle, limit individual contributions to a County Jude or County Commissioner to $250.
  • Limit PAC contributions to $500.

II. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

  • Any gift in excess of $100 to a County Judge or County Commissioner (or immediate family members) from a party with business before the County will require that Judge or Commissioner to recuse themselves from ruling or voting on that issue.

This isn’t news to anyone who knows Richard Morrison. Morrison has made it all about the unethical behavior that has been the curse of Fort Bend County government for far too long. And it’s time for a change. We changed the party affiliation of the 1st Precinct commissioner, and now it’s time to change out the feeding trough in the Commissioners Court and replace it with transparency and accountability.

News of the coming of this resolution was greeted with a smile and a yawn by County Judge Hebert. The Chron reports this reaction to Morrison’s resolution:

“He is entitled to his opinions. But I don’t know what good it will do if the commissioners court passes a resolution. It wouldn’t be binding on any elected officials. He needs to go to Austin and work with the state Legislature to change the law. We have to follow state rules in our fundraising.”

His hands are tied, you see. Tied. Hebert seems to be saying that if the state ethics commission [itself an ethically-challenged body in my opinion] doesn’t see a problem with how things are done now, can and should the county make these changes?

It’s non-binding, he says.

That is, if you violate the precepts found in the resolution, no one can punish you, or fine you.

I find it hard to say this to a government official, but here goes. What does it say about your ethical compass when the rules that you follow are only the ones that have monetary consequences if you violate them? What about what is right for the county taxpayers?

What is wrong with being right? What is wrong with being just? What is wrong with being fair? Texas ethics laws need revamping. That anyone can tell you. But why not serve as a model of ethical reform?

Show county taxpayers, and voters, that you are above the chicanery that Texas politics are famous for. Be an agent for change.

Or at least don’t get in the way of it.

Because the alternative is an unsaid admission that you like it as it is.

You like it just fine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sore Losers: Obama Won, Get Over It

My but the fanatic right wing fringe are sore losers, aren’t they? They have been caught saying and doing all sorts of idiotic things the past few days in an effort to out shout the millions of voters who last week massed at the polls and turned out Republicans at all levels of government, including right up there at the top.

So it’s kind of fun to see these people who have commanded such large audiences now make themselves irrelevant.

Want examples?

Here is Rush Limbaugh who has somehow in his odd leaps of logic, concluded that Barack Obama is right at the bottom of our economic crisis.

“This is an Obama recession, might turn into a depression. He hasn't done anything yet, but his ideas are killing the economy."
Someone needs to reacquaint the Rushter to former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, who almost single-handedly delivered a thriving economy to a toxic dump.Or how about shemale pundit Ann Coulter, who recently suggested that Obama’s government will bring back Janet Reno.

“Sounds like there's going to be a lot more Waco raids, Elian Gonzalez snatchings.”
Or Sean Hannity, who predicts that Obama will be making mistakes in his term, and wondered why they should wait until the mistakes are made before everyone should start criticizing him.
“Do we wait until he makes a mistake?”
I guess it is an extension of the Bush Doctrine. Why wait until Barack makes a mistake? Why wait until Iran has a nuclear missile? Attack now!

But we don’t have to confine ourselves to right wing fanatics. Why, wasn’t it just the other day we heard struggling star Lindsey Lohan sing the praises of Barack Obama? That he is “our first colored president”? Now if she were a person of my age, I might be able to understand this comment as one that comes from residual racism which infects my generation. But Lindsey Lohan was born AFTER that phrase lost its sparkle with polite southerners who shunned the “N” word.

Or what about the Arlington, Texas high school history teacher, Patrick O’Toole? Here is a public servant who flies an American flag outside of his house every day, upside down beneath a solid black flag.

“It is not about race and don't ever throw the race card at me," he said. "It's about values. It's about people that work hard and want to keep what they own.”
Now let me let all of you non-white people out there who read this in on a little secret. Whenever we white people say “It’s not about race…” it really is all about race. It’s one of our code words.

And finally, the silliest of all. Barack Obama will be the next Adolf Hitler. This in a comment by Georgia congressman Paul Broun who accused Obama of planning to build a well-funded civilian military organization (read, Gestapo).

Defending himself, Broun now says this:

“I never called Mr. Obama a communist, nor did I accuse him of being Hitler, but I do not apologize for stating the obvious: his socialist views are out of the mainstream of American political thought, and history shows that 'civilian national security forces' bode ill for citizens.”
So I guess if there was any doubt whether or not Broun compared Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, those doubts have been well laid to rest, haven’t they?

Yes he did!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Salute to Veterans

So it’s Armistice Day again.

Well that’s what they used to call November 11, anyway. But now we call it Veteran’s Day and that’s OK. November 11th was originally Armistice Day because that is the day that The Great War, as it was called then, came to a conclusion. November 11th 1918.

On the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour no less.

This is when hostilities ceased on the Western Front. In Europe. The Turks were a little behind on things so they fought for awhile longer before their country, the Ottoman Empire, was segmented into smaller countries, one of them being Iraq.

Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, is still celebrated as such in many countries of the world, in remembrance of the 20 million who died between the years 1914 and 1918.

But after fighting in a war that saw the deaths of double that number, some US veterans argued that Armistice Day was somewhat passé, since we had learned not to name our world-wide wars, but to number them instead. In 1953 it was proposed to honor all veterans on Armistice Day, and the bill to change the objective of the day was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 26th 1954. On November 8th of the same year Congress amended the law to change its official name.

So on Veteran’s Day, I wish to honor my forefathers who served their country during the World Wars.

The guy in this first photo is my grandfather. He was the son of a German immigrant (who left his country before they called it Germany) who enlisted in General Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force.

There he is in France.

He’s standing there with a running board full of guns. The auto is the one that he was repairing at the time.
This guy is my father. My father was drafted in 1943. He tried to enlist but he was rejected because of his perforated eardrum. Imagine his surprise and glee when he was drafted into the USAAF so he could repair shot up B-24s in El Paso.
And this guy is my uncle. Sure he looks young. He was 15 when that photo was taken. Too young to fight in the war in the Pacific, he enlisted in the Merchant Marines and sailed from one end of the Pacific Ocean to the other under the gun sights of Japanese submarines, delivering war materiel to combat areas.

They served, but not one of them fired a shot in offense or defense.

But they served, nonetheless.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Texas House District 105 in a Cliff Hanger

What better way to end this election season in Texas state politics than by having a state rep race go from an under-the-radar sleeper to a cliff hanger whose outcome has monumental consequences for the political make-up of the 81st Legislature?

This year, incumbent State Rep Linda Harper-Brown (R-Dallas) was faced by poorly funded Bob Romano who also ran against her in the 2006 general election, and lost to her with a total of 21,568 votes cast, Romano getting 8,865 votes (41.1%) to Harper-Brown’s 11,881 (55.08%).

Prior to that, Mike Moore achieved about the same results when he ran against Harper Brown in 2004 and garnered 14,884 votes (40.8%) to Harper-Brown’s 21,599 (59.2%).

But we are learning about Dallas, aren’t we? The Dallas area continues its swing to the left, making 3-term incumbent Harper-Brown’s safe Republican district anything but safe for her.

This year, with a total of 40, 243 votes cast in the race, Romano and Harper-Brown are in a virtual dead heat with only 29 votes separating them (unofficial Secretary of State results have 25 votes separating them), Harper-Brown leading.

The race will be decided within the next day or so by the counting of 17 overseas ballots that were received today and the counting of provisional ballots.

At this hour with overseas votes having been tallied, Harper-Brown’s lead has widened by 5 votes, and she is now 34 votes ahead.

What lies ahead is the counting of provisional ballots, roughly 230 of them are regarded as valid.

Who wins makes for some interesting times in the Texas House next year. If Romano is the winner of this race, the Democrats will have picked up a net of 4 seats in the House, bringing the total number of Democrats in the House to 75. Yes, if Romano wins, the State House is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Not only will this seal the fate on the re-election plans of Tom Craddick as House Speaker, with all of the frills and power that comes with the position, but it just could mean the next Texas House Speaker will be a Democrat.

Now I am pessimistic by nature, but I wonder what are the chances that a Republican will cast a provisional ballot in this state? Isn’t it more typical for Democrats, who historically have been far more lackadaisical and disorganized with respect to their voter status?

I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

UPDATE:

The provisional ballots have given Bob Romano a lift, but not enough to close the gap and surpass Harper-Brown's total.

So . . .

RECOUNT.

Not just the name of a great HBO film on the 2000 Florida recount (judiciously debuted just before the 2008 elections as a small nudge to voters), it is the official request of Democratic candidate Bob Romano.

From the TDP Press:

“I am proud and humbled that so many voters in our community believe I should be our district’s voice in the Texas House. In the coming days, my focus will be on doing everything I can to see that every ballot is counted and that every voter’s intent is known. We must respect the voters, and protect the trust they have placed in our democracy. To that end, I intend to request a re-count of the ballots cast in this election.”

-Bob Romano

The Texas Democratic Party has pulled out all stops to ensure that this recount is fair.

Now with Dallas County totally enveloping HD 105 all eyes will be firmly fixed on their county elections office, and their elections administrator.

A guy with the improbable name of Bruce Sherbet.

I’m kind of partial to the orange variety of that.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nick Lampson’s Miscalculation Revealed in the Numbers

Now when Harry S Truman uttered this memorable quote, “When given a choice between a Democrat who votes like a Republican, and a Republican, voters will vote for the Republican every time,” he really did not have Nick Lampson in mind at all.

But he might as well have.

Because Nick Lampson, who ran against a write-in candidate in 2006, found himself between a rock and a hard place when he took office.

He was a centrist Democrat elected by a bare majority in a decidedly right wing-dominated congressional district.

How do you get yourself re-elected in a congressional district whose boundaries were personally redrawn in 2003 by Tom DeLay himself? You can hope for the demographics to shift in two years, or you can do what Nick Lampson finally calculated: bring money into the district, excel in constituent services, and vote with the Republicans whenever you can.

Whenever you can. If a bill is doomed to failure, vote with the Republicans. This, in combination with the other two was a calculation that could produce a winning year for Nick Lampson.

And then along came the FISA bill. The bill that not only extended the extreme measures that the Bush regime granted itself to spy on American citizens, but also made it impossible for these citizens to redress colluding telecommunications companies in its courts. Nick Lampson voted with a majority of Republicans to pass this heinous bill, and we Americans collectively lost some of our 4th Amendment rights.

In that vote, Nick Lampson enraged the left wing voters of his party.

But in Nick’s calculation was this: who are the left wing going to vote for if not for Nick? Nick was unopposed in the March primary. He was the Democratic Party nominee, and the only alternative would be to vote for Pete Olson, a Phil Gramm acolyte.

So we had no choice, and anyone who simply fails to cast their vote either way is simply howling into the wind.

Apparently that is not how some of those of us in the left wing of the party felt.

Looking today at the Fort Bend County portion of CD 22 (because Harris County has yet to post their precinct canvass reports), I arrived at the not so startling conclusion that Nick Lampson just may have miscalculated on two fronts.

The Republican votes he hoped to attract were few and far between, and the Democratic votes that he hoped to retain may have been less numerous than his vote totals could withstand.

I put it on an Excel spreadsheet. I listed all Fort Bend County precincts that fall within CD 22, and recorded the votes for Lampson, Olson, Obama, and the total ballots cast in each precinct.

To get an idea of the number of Republican voters who voted for Lampson, I subtracted the number of votes that Obama got in each precinct from the number of votes that Lampson received. A positive number resulted in 81% of the precincts, but this vote total was only 1,984 voters, or 1.4% of the total votes cast.

Now in many countywide races, 1.4% would have been enough to put the candidate over the top. Fort Bend county is a 51:49 Republican to Democrat county right now. But this didn’t happen in Nick’s case.

And I think the reason it didn’t happen was the left wing undervote.

Now I vote a straight unadulterated Democratic ticket. I do. But I am acquainted with others in my party who did not. I heard more than just a few confess that they voted a straight Democratic ticket when they went to the polls, but then deselected Nick Lampson when presented with the next eSlate screen.

Rather than vote for his opponent, Pete Olson, they simply did not vote in this race.

Now that’s called an undervote with authority.

To find out the total number of Fort Bend County voters who did not vote in the CD 22 race, I added the vote totals of Olson and Lampson in each precinct and subtracted that from the total votes cast.

And the total Fort Bend undervotes for the CD 22 race was 7046, or 5% of the total votes cast.

Now does this number reflect a 100% left wing Democratic voter participation (or non-participation in this case)? Who knows? But even if half of the undervotes reflect voter disaffection with Nick Lampson, this undervote represents a nuclear explosion in a wind storm. An explosion that undoes any effect that the wind has on anything.

So is this the story? Nick’s failure to garner more Republican votes was exacerbated by left wing voters who withheld their votes from him?

Maybe so.

All I know is that in Fort Bend County Nick Lampson lost to Pete Olson by exactly 6000 votes. He improved on this number by 1,984 Republicans, but may have suffered the loss of 7000 or so votes that were cast in neither direction.

That, and a 1% difference in voter party preference cost him re-election.

Now here’s the question: who will we see coming up to the CD 22 plate in 2010? Will it be a sadder but wiser Nick Lampson?

Or am I just dreaming this whole thing up?

The World Welcomes America Back

Never in our 232-year history has the United States of America had such a negative image in the world. The America of the Marshall Plan, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Voting Rights Act became the America of the Bush Doctrine, the Patriot Act and Abu Ghraib.

There are those of us who really don't care about how people throughout the world view this country. These are likely to be those among us who have never set foot in another country, let alone interacted with the locals. There is something about having done this for a number of years that sets some of us apart from our countrymen.

I have done this. For several years I lived and worked in an Islamic nation. The same nation, I might add, that Barack Obama lived in and attended school. It gives you unique views and a general concern for how others see us.

In other pursuits I have had the chance to reestablish contacts with European descendents of my ancestors. Contacts that have been lost for 3 generations. So I have had the chance to hear about the thoughts and feelings of Europeans on news of the victory of Barack Obama in a direct sense. Here is what my 4th cousin, Jean-François says about our victory:

"I guess you're a happy man! It is so good news that Obama won. Really you would be amazed by the event it creates here, it was like if the vote was for our own president! People in the streets singing and crying..."

"We have the feeling that the America we love is back; it is like if a shadow were removed or a "parenthèse" in our long friendship is now closed."

You may already know also that I am an educator. If I may, I’d like to make an analogy of what just happened last week to a classroom situation.

It’s as if the child in the classroom who always gets his name written on the board, the miscreant who makes it hard for others to learn has, over night, become the model student who now gets gold stars on his homework.

Let’s all hope that the praise we are receiving from around the world this week remains well-deserved.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another Election Story: Toilet Plungers and Republicans

I heard about this last Monday evening, and got an actual copy of the memo on Election Day, but things prevented me from posting a story on this uniquely silly set of circumstances until today.

Steve Radack is a County Commissioner in Harris County, the third precinct to be exact. How he got in that position is an insight into the former Republican majority in Harris County. Radack decided to, from a Fort Bend perspective, pull “an Andy Meyers.”

Andy Meyers, it will be recalled is the County Commissioner of Fort Bend County, by coincidence, the third precinct as well, who spent some of his own campaign cash to print up big morally offensive signs and posted them all over his precinct late in the 2006 campaign season. For a brief review of his past antics, go here and here.

Steve Radack decided to go Meyers one better, and bought 1,000 toilet plungers. These toilet plungers, Radack claimed, represented his partisan choice for President of the United States, John McCain.

A curious choice for a symbol, that.

A toilet plunger representing a presidential candidate.

To me, a toilet plunger represents a tool that is used to free a blockage that prevents the proper conveyance of feces into the sewer line. So to me, this toilet plunger idea is one that would make more sense as a symbol to the voters who flushed down a majority of Republican Harris County office holders last Tuesday.

But that wasn’t Radack’s line of thought. Radack made a leap of logic, relating the plumbing occupation to a toilet plunger. Relating a toilet plunger to “Joe the Plumber.”

Again, this leap of logic escapes me. A toilet plunger is something you use before calling a plumber, not during or after. You call a plumber when the plunger fails to resolve the situation.

But Radack had himself a great idea, to his own mind, and sought to distribute these toilet plungers to Republican voters who would carry them into the polls on Election Day.

Sneaky, sneakyx sneaky. Who in their right mind would object to a voter carrying such an innocent object as a toilet plunger to a polling location? Especially since there are lots of people out there who would never make that logical connection that seemed so clear in Radack’s anomalous mind.

But Radack had an answer to that one, too. Explain the logical relationship, just as one has to explain the punchline of a poorly delivered joke.

So he did.

And in answer, the Obama Voter Protection team issued an advisory to Harris County Poll Watchers, Election Judges, and Voter Protection Attorneys. One of these was manning a phone at the Fort Bend Democrats headquarters on Election Day, and he showed me the advisory.

Now here’s the thing. It’s as serious as a heart attack, but when you read it, it sounds like it was meant to be a seriocomic construction.

You have to read it to understand what I am saying, so here it is in all it’s glory. (Click on the images to enlarge)

Page 2:

I just have to repeat it:

“Plungers represent support for a presidential candidate.”

This election for all its ups and downs, will go down in history as not only the historical event that saw the election of the first black president, but as an election that presented voters with just about the silliest electioneering ploys in US history.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Fort Bend Voters in the Final Analysis

So I want to put this election to rest today, or so I hope. The headline on the Fort Bend Star this week says it all: “Fort Bend voting breaks records but Republicans still triumphant.”

And all but for the very bottom of the ticket, that is a correct statement.

While Barack Obama carried the day in the Electoral College and popular vote, he failed to win in Fort Bend County, despite the huge voter turnout. My guess is, because of the very strong feelings Republicans in this county have against having a black Democratic president, Republicans themselves turned out in their greater numbers.

They did that everywhere but in Precinct 1, where they may have split their vote between the Democrat, Richard Morrison, whose name is forever associated with opposition to the Grand Parkway toll road, and Greg Ordineaux whose name is intricately linked with toll roads in general.

The theory goes that voter demographic shifts can be best revealed in looking at the non-controversial county-wide level.

Judge races in other words.

And this time we saw some races in the very uncontroversial areas like district judges and appeals court justices that were much closer than in any time in the past.

Except for Jim Sharp, who actually won his race this time for 1st Court of Appeals Court Judge, these races were squeakers for the Republican incumbents.

Look at my graphic. I deduced the way Democrats and Republicans voted in these non-controversial races and can see a trend. From a near 40:60 Democratic to Republican ratio in the nineties, we see the spread between the two parties get narrower. From 40:60 in the early nineties, to 42:58 in the late nineties, and ’00 to ’02, to 45:55 in ’04 and ’06, to 49:51 this year.

And this is ahead of the “Obama Bump,” I think, because of the undervotes associated with these judge races, and because even after discounting undervotes, the proportions voting for Obama were just about the same as the ones voting for Democrats for judgeships.

No, I think we are witnessing an effective shift in voter demographics in Fort Bend County, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 2% per election cycle.

That being said, as Bev Carter mentions in her weekly Fort Bend Star column, if Democrats don’t file for every countywide race there is in 2010, there is something seriously wrong as it looks like, barring any change in the trend, it will be their big year.

Our big year.

Our big year to flip this county.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election Night Part Deux

Yesterday’s posting had still photos of various parts of Election Day at the Fort Bend Democrats’ Rosenberg headquarters. Today, why not go to video.



Now that was a party.

Now it’s 75 days until the end of our national nightmare.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Endgame: A Day at the Fort Bend Democrats Headquarters

And it finally came.

Election Day. November 4th 2008.

The day started slow enough, but over time more and more volunteers came in to help get out the vote. We had people driving the elderly and disabled to the polls. We had people calling voters who hadn’t voted in the early voting.




We had people analyzing data and looking for areas of opportunity.

We had lawyers standing by to help voters who were having trouble getting in to cast their ballot.

We had people making more campaign buttons to meet the high demand.

We had people showing voters who came in where they were supposed to vote.

We had people coming in all day to buy campaign memorabilia.

And then, all of a sudden it was 6:30 and the calling stopped.

And at 7:00 the polls closed.

And the election night victory party crowd started to stream in. People came in and out all night so an accurate head count is impossible, but the estimate is that more than a hundred and fifty celebrants crossed our front entrance last night.

Every once in awhile, especially at the top of the hour, the election watchers would burst into spontaneous applause as another state’s projected vote totals went into Barack Obama’s column. The crowd grew more agitated as the electoral vote surpassed 100, then hit 200, then pegged at 207 where it stayed.


Then at 10:01 CST the polls closed on the west coast and vote projections took Barack Obama’s lead to 284. At that point the crowd erupted in a deafening roar.


And the champagne came out.


And the exuberant youth among us went outside to wave Obama signs at passing motorists, screaming and yelling, and getting gleeful honks from many of these cars.

Lots of self-congratulation went on. Lots of feelings of gladness and relief.

And we had one more victory. Richard Morrison won his race to become County Commissioner. He won by 802 votes. It was announced, and Richard responded with a salute to the crowd.

Then the crowd thinned as we waited to hear Obama’s speech to a crowd at his Chicago victory party. Then Barack Obama gave his memorable speech to the throng in front of him, and to millions around the world.

This last one is of Richard Morrison taken during Obama’s speech. It looks like he is watching the television intently, but in actual fact I was standing between him and the TV. No, that is a shot of Richard’s 21 foot stare in a 20 foot room.

It is a very candid shot of a successful candidate in a close political race who is now in deep thought as he moves to the next step.

Making a difference in Fort Bend County

Yes We Did

Exhausted tonight (this morning).

Photos and movies tomorrow.

And . . . oh yeah . . . we won.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Where to Vote In Fort Bend County

It’s pretty easy. All you need is your Voter Registration Certificate. It’s that card that the Fort Bend Elections office sent you. It has orange rectangles on it.

Then you look in the box that says Precinct. There will be a 4 digit number in that box, whose first number is 1, 2, 3, or 4.

Then go here to look up the name of the building and its street address. If you don’t know where that is, click on the polling place and then click on “Google maps” to get a street map of the area.

Now if you have misplaced your Voter Registration Certificate, don’t fret. You can use your driver’s license as a form of identification at the poll. But you need to find your precinct number, right? So to do that, click here and scroll to the bottom of the county’s voter database and enter your last name in the first box and your first name in the second. If you have a unique name, after you click “Start Search” one name will be returned with your precinct number. It will also show whether you are an active voter or are in “suspense”. If you have a name like 18 others, you can narrow the search by using the name/birthday search option.

Then go vote. You have no option not to this year. The stakes are too high and there will be H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks to pay if we are stuck with another four years of Republican policies that do nothing for us, but plenty for the fat cats and corporations.

Monday, November 03, 2008

More Early Voter Stats From Fort Bend County

Yesterday I looked at early voters and young voters and compared them. Today I thought I would look at the statistic that is being reported all over the country: How many Democrats voted in the early vote vs. Republicans.

Now the Texas Voter Activation Network is still not right in tune with numbers reported by the county elections office, but it’s closer now. And again, I am looking at trends, not raw numbers. Well rough raw numbers later.

Of the total voters who showed up at the early voting polls in Fort Bend County, 46% of them voted in the 2008 Democratic Primary. Of these numbers, 1% of these registered to vote in Fort Bend County this year. My guess is that these numbers are in and among the voters who are in the 18-30 age group studied yesterday.

Republicans who early voted? 21% of Republicans who early voted also voted in the Republican Primary. Not a single one of them registered to vote this year. Now it is known that Republicans like to vote on Election Day because it is all over TV that they do.

But not in Fort Bend County.

In fact, in Fort Bend County Republicans have beat Democrats to the early vote every year. In 2006 early votes for Kay Bailey Hutchison in Fort Bend County numbered 24,611 (62%) to 13,186 (34.4%) for Barbara Ann Radnofsky.

In 2004, Fort Bend County Republicans cast 50,663 early votes for Bush/Cheney (60%) where Democrats cast 33,351 early votes for Kerry/Edwards (40%). That year, it was the Democrats who cast more votes than Republicans on Election Day.

Things are kind of different this year.

If Republicans can scare up the 43,000 votes that they voted on Election Day in 2004, that gets them up to 70,000 votes more or less. These are sure thing votes I would think. Then you have to guess how many of the remaining 33% of early voters who did not vote in the March primary were Republicans. That’s around 50,000 votes.

Likewise, if Democrats can bring in the 35,000 Democratic votes in 2004, that brings them up to roughly total 85,000 votes.

Get it? Democrats will only need 36% of those 50,000 unknown early votes to win in Fort Bend County, Republicans will need 64% of that pot.

And that’s assuming that the Democrats will keep to their unexceptional 2004 turnout numbers.

And what are the chances of that happening?