Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It’s That Time of the Year Again

Some of us might recall an infatuation that we all had with the phrase “Where’s the beef?” We all loved to say it until one day it just disappeared from the culture because we were all sick and tired of hearing it

And if you’ve really been around awhile you might remember “Look Ma, no cavities!” and how it got twisted into lots of other things you wanted Ma to look at.

Both of those examples were from commercials. These days commercials don’t have the same impact on our culture as they did back a couple of decades ago.

But those tired and often repeated words and phrases are still with us, but they now come to us from news, entertainment, the internet and politics. Case in point: Lake Superior University has an annual list of words and phrases that they would like to see “Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.”

I couldn’t agree more. So for your perusal, here are the 15 finalists: words and phrases they’d like to see disappear from newsprint and the airwaves . . . forever.
  1. Green
  2. Carbon footprint
  3. Maverick
  4. First Dude
  5. Bailout
  6. Wall Street / Main Street
  7. -monkey (used as a suffix)
  8. <3
  9. Icon
  10. Game changer
  11. Staycation
  12. Desperate search
  13. Not so much (as in “I wish they wouldn’t use the term ‘not so much’ not so much”)
  14. Winner of five nominations
  15. It’s that time of the year again

Monday, December 29, 2008

On the Perils of Addition

I follow a canon in life that has served me well over the years. On its face, it seems a little obvious, and that’s part of its elegance. It’s a simply stated obvious fact, but I think people forget about its truth sometimes. Here it is:

Some of it plus the rest of it equals all of it.

Now where am I going with this? It has to do with the public pronouncement of 64 Democratic Texas House Members who have publicly proclaimed that they will vote for Anybody But Craddick on January 13th.

Now 64 votes don’t make a majority but that’s the point. These 64 ABC votes represent the “some of it” in my equation. The announcement comes on the heels of the notice that a 12th House Member has thrown his hat in the ring to become Speaker. These 12, a mish-mash whose views run across the political spectrum, represent “the rest of it.” The intent here is to demonstrate that there are 76 ABC votes out there and Tom Craddick’s hope for a 4th term as Speaker is doomed.

That is, if indeed we have 12 actual “rest of it” votes, and I’m not so sure we do. And therein lies the rub: when we do this addition, we need to be certain we have the right numbers.

First we have the enigma that is Sylvester Turner. Now Turner announced that he was running for Speaker just before the end of the 80th Legislature. Right at about the time that he was supporting Craddick’s refusal to recognize a motion to remove him from the Speaker’s office. Sylvester Turner, I think, is not part of “the rest of it” and from the lack of his signature on the ABC 64 document, he’s not part of “some of it” either.

And you really have to wonder about the sincerity of Dan Gattis. Is this guy still playing the role of stalking horse for Craddick? Granted I am influenced by his filing of a constitutional proposition that seemed on its face to be anti-Craddick. Now you have to wonder, as Matt Glazier does on BOR, whether this is just another ploy.

All of this has such a familiar ring to it, you know. This is how things were playing out the last time we went through this. We have conflicting lists of supporters now as we did then. Indeed, the only names on that list of 12 that I think are “for real” is Senfronia Thompson, Scott Hochberg and Pete Gallego.

We see mostly the same Democrats not signing on to an ABC document. Flores, Dukes, Giddings, Peña, Dutton, Guillen, King, McClendon, and Turner. However, two former Craddick supporters, Rose and Lucio, are now aligned against him.

So the shell game is afoot again and it would normally be such fun to watch, except that there is more at stake this time than last.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Let’s All Run for House Speaker

In the wake of a near-nuclear melt-down in the waning days of the Texas House 80th Legislature, when House Speaker Tom Craddick refused to recognize a motion from the House floor to remove him as Speaker, you would think that there would be a deliberate line-up of ducks to avoid a repeat performance.

You would think.

But the only line-up we are seeing in the days leading up to the January 13th vote to elect a Speaker is the line-up of twelve, count ‘em, twelve declared candidates for the spot.

Among the Republicans we have Craddick, of course, along with Delwin Jones, Jim Keffer, Tommy Merritt, Burt Solomons, Edmund Kuempel, and now, just announced today, Dan Gattis.

Among Democrats we have Senfronia Thompson, Pete Gallego, Scott Hochberg, and Sylvester Turner.

That field, however, should thin by mid January when the vote comes up. It always does. Case in point. Tom Craddick was the only House Member nominated in the 2007 Speaker’s race. Even with all of the jockeying for pledges that took place in the run-up to the January 9th election of Speaker Craddick to a third term, in the end, the vote went to Craddick when he demonstrated his supporter base and maneuvered through the maze of setting rules for voting for Speaker.

This last announcement by Gattis has all of the earmarks of many of the other Craddick challengers. A former shill for Craddick, Gattis has publicly turned on his former patrón. In fact, the common denominator among these Republican candidates (and Turner) is that they are former Craddick allies – in public anyway. In fact, Gattis came out against Craddick in a big way two weeks ago when he filed a constitutional proposition that would allow for the removal of the House Speaker by a 2/3s vote.

And we are now seeing Craddick-esque behavior by Keffer who laid out a smokescreen before the general election saying that his election as Speaker is a done deal and he has the votes.

So the shell game is now being played in earnest. The winner will be the one who plays it best. In the past that has been Tom Craddick. But with a net gain of 3 House seats by the Democrats, my bet is not on Craddick this time. Democrats missed getting parity by a narrow margin, but hopefully they will play a cannier match this time around and not squander their pledges on meaningless advances and advantages.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Saving Trees for Dunes Day

You learn something new every day. For instance, up until today I didn’t know that we are now preserving sand dunes on our barrier islands with used Christmas trees.

Odd but true as revealed in this Houston Chronicle piece.
“For more than two decades, volunteers have staked down Christmas trees in a long horizontal line, trunk to trunk and crown to crown. After a few weeks, blown sand collects around the trees, anchoring them to the area and beginning the sand dune process. It's a fairly common practice along American coastlines.”
In neighboring Brazoria County, it seems that while Hurricane Ike was blowing my backyard fence over, it was also ripping up the Christmas tree-anchored sand dunes on Quintana Beach.

The sand dunes are a barrier islands natural line of defense against wave erosion, something that has become a problem in the past few decades, and something that will be of increased concern as ice melts and sea level rises.

They need 1000 trees to anchor one mile of beach, and they have 21 miles of beach dunes to build. So you do the math. The paltry 263 orphan trees that WalMart didn’t sell so were donated to the “Dunes Day” project won’t make a dent in the effort.

It will again, be up to individuals with the spirit of public service to come up with the difference.

Want to help out? After your tree comes down in the next week, take it down to Pearland and drop it off at the Pearland Recycling Center at 5800 Magnolia in Pearland. Best to call them for directions, though. The center is new and not reliable yet on Google Maps and Mapquest.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Reapportionment by the Numbers

Election Data Services, a Virginia-based consulting firm that specializes in redistricting and analysis of census and population information has just come out with their latest population estimates.

Splitting 435 congressional seats among a total population of 303,467,891 souls (excluding Washington, D.C. which doesn’t rate representation) means that each congressional district will now have within its boundaries an average of 697,627.3 constituents. The actual number varies between 967,440 (Montana) and 532,668 (Wyoming), but for the most part hovers in there at around 700,000.

With this as the new basis for apportioning congressional districts to the states, we find that the following states will lose one representative in their congressional delegations:

Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

And the following states will gain one representative:

Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Utah.

And one state will gain three representatives: Texas.

Now here is the bad news. With the notable exception of Louisiana, every one of the states that is losing a congressional seat is now considered a blue state. And every state that is slated to gain a congressional seat, save Florida, is a red state.

Worst case scenario then, is a net Republican pickup of 6 seats in 2012, assuming things remain static in these 14 states.

This again underscores the absolute necessity of regaining a majority in the Texas House in 2010. If Republicans remain in the majority we are guaranteed another round of gerrymandering and those three new seats will all go to new Republican-leaning districts.

It’s probably not too early to be looking around for HDs that are about to flip away from the party of the Dark Side.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Meddy Chreesmas

Nobody is reading the blogs over the holidays unless you are one of my 6 readers. So for you, here is as Christmassy as it gets around the Half Empty Hovel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Tree Grows in Richmond

A lot of them do. The city of Richmond, county seat of Fort Bend County, has a whole bunch of big oak trees in it.

And the county’s Office of Emergency Management wants to chop down three of them.

The problem is, they say, if a hurricane blows any of them over, they might just take out their radio antenna. The antenna, you see, was placed right next to the trees.

Soon-to-be ex county commissioner Tom Stavinoha, whose Precinct 1 office shares a boundary with the OEM saw the OEM workers fixing to chop down one of the trees and immediately ordered them to stop.

Said Stavinoha to the Fort Bend Herald:

“I just feel like the beauty of the trees far outweighs any risk; and there’s not much of a risk, anyway. Richmond is known for its massive oak trees. If everybody cut them down because of what might happen, there wouldn’t be any oak trees in Richmond anymore.”

For now, the situation remains at a stand-off, with neither side budging, nor neither moving forward. Stavinoha claims that when he leaves office on January 1st, the trees will be dead meat.

Apparently he feels that Richard Morrison will not stand in the way of the chain saw.

Now first, I have to wonder why the antenna was erected where it was in the first place, if the trees are now such a menace to it.

I also have to wonder about Stavinoha’s new-found tree-huggery. How this laudable inclination in the direction of conservation meshes with his past penchant for laying wide ribbons of concrete across vast acres of untouched wilderness is beyond my understanding.

But in the end, I have to come down on the side of the common good, which, by the way, is what any true public servant should be inclined to do. To make the specious argument that there wouldn’t be any trees in Richmond if everyone cut them down because of what could happen misses the point. The point of the whole OEM argument is that should a natural disaster strike, and one of those trees demolishes one of the county’s main means of communicating during this emergency, their effectiveness in responding in this disaster is impaired.

And in this age of the lessons of Katrina, obstructing these emergency responders’ attempts to make their means of communications more secure seems a little delusional.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sol Invictus

Merry Winter Solstice.

Today, is the shortest day of the year.

Today, the sun stops its long trip to the south, a journey it began on June 21st. It will stop in its tracks, setting in the exact same spot for the next three days, and then will turn around and head back north, bringing on the promise of the return of warmth.

The Winter Solstice is celebrated by cultures around the world, and it has been like this for millennia. Ever since man watched the sun, stars and planets, we knew this about the sun.

In ancient Rome, Winter Solstice was celebrated in a three-day festival called Saturnalia. This was a pagan celebration of the invincible sun, which was called Mithra by the Persians who instigated the religion. Mithra’s birthday was naturally celebrated at the Winter Solstice, then celebrated on December 25th – the Winter Solstice fell on that day according to the Julian calendar then in force.

It was a great holiday. So great that in the 4th century Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered then-Christian Rome to celebrate on December 25th, choosing that day because they already celebrated the pagan holiday. And the birthday of the Sun became the birthday of the Son.

And it has been with us ever since.

So when you hear people complain about how we need to “put the Christ back in Christmas,” or that “Jesus is the reason for the season” just smile and nod in agreement. Then put another ornament on the pine tree, have another pull at the Wassail bowl, put on Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” and read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to your kids one more time.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

GM and Chrysler Get Billions; Execs Promise to Work for a Dollar

Well he did it. George Bush just soaked us for another $17.4 billion to give to his friends in the auto industry. This brings to a close one of the biggest blackmail cases in US history, where the compensation, 17 billion dollars, is the largest payoff in history, and the hostages, 3,000,000 workers, also the largest in history.

The ransom note said something like this: “We have your country. Pay up now or 3,000,000 will people lose their jobs and the economy will be laid waste.”

And so, unbelievably, rather than call their bluff and nationalize the industry that they themselves pointed out was a threat to national security, Bush ponied up.

But the loan, the White House says, comes with some strings attached. The corporate executives have to give up their corporate jets and take a reduction in pay. No problem said Ford and GM CEOs the last time they were in DC, we’ll work for a dollar a year.

Well Katy bar the door, as the saying goes. Here comes a fleecing.

When you look at how GM compensates its executives, here, their salary pales in comparison to all of the other compensation instruments available to the big boys.

I summarized it all below in a table of non-salary compensation. Click to enlarge.

That’s right, those 5 guys take $33 million a year in other-than-salary compensation. Their salaries are a mere 17% of that compensation. This means that they get all of that money to buy stock at lower than already low market prices, and the loan itself drives up the price of their stock.

But that’s OK, if the execs fail to deliver on a restructure plan, the Obama government, Bush promises, will call back the loan and effectively kill off two of the big three auto makers.

Bush knows how to cut a deal, doesn’t he?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Al Franken Pulls Ahead in Minnesota Recount

Is it possible? Will we get to 59 Democratic senators?

For the first time in the Minnesota senatorial race, Al Franken, the former comedian and Air America radio personality, is ahead in the Minnesota recount.

Ahead by over 400 votes.

Both Franken and his opponent, incumbent Norm Coleman, are challenging ballots that were not counted on election night. And an interesting thing is occurring. When they started counting these ballots from areas of Minnesota that went heavily for Coleman in the original count, they found that the vast majority of the uncounted ballots were for Al Franken.

Isn’t that a big surprise?

No, I wasn’t surprised either.

Apparently when you run things your way in your area, when you hold all the cards and hire and fire government workers, like elections officers, you have the power to pull legally cast ballots if they don’t vote your way.

Here’s what I wonder. I wonder if you can do a statistical analysis on the withheld ballots and come up with the probability that there was a deliberate attempt to suppress Democratic voters by voiding their ballots. And whether that probability, if high enough, is enough to bring these scum to federal court and try them for election fraud.

If he wins, Franken probably won’t care one way or the other about looking for these perpetrators. After all, what’s in it for him, Al Franken.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama’s Inaugural Invocation Pick: Why All the Surprise?

In an announcement outlining some plans for Barack Obama’s historic inauguration as President of the United States, the bit of news of an evangelical minister, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Southern California managed to gain the attention of gay rights activists.

Warren, it seems, is going to deliver the opening invocation.

This has sent the GLBT community on its ear and many activists are calling for Obama to retract that choice.

Warren, you see, although becoming known for his moderation in all things rightwing, was on record as supporting Proposition 8, a law that actually takes away rights, the right of gays to wed. And, it seems, he was being a real stinker about it, comparing homosexual love to all sorts of banned fornication.

Gay community reactions run the gamut between a "genuine blow against LGBT rights" and "a grave disappointment."

But here’s the thing: In the campaign, Barack Obama promised that he was going to do just things like this in his presidency.

So what’s the big surprise?

Recall that Obama appeared on stage with Rick Warren at his Civil Forum on religion. In that forum Obama agreed to disagree with socially myopic views of Warren.

Recall that Warren invited Obama to speak at an earlier forum on AIDS, and this move earned Warren the enmity of older evangelicals.

They know each other.

And of late, Obama has been shopping around for a new spiritual leader, having thrown his old one under the bus. He couldn't really invite his own minister, as he is between spiritual advisers at the moment

So I reiterate, this should not be a big surprise, and I would expect more of the same in the future.

So what do I think about his choice? I think it’s a little insensitive, and I think that he just thumbed his nose at the gay community. But listen, that’s politics. And that’s religion. In either case, there’s no pleasing everyone.

Frankly I’m a little disappointed. Not with his choice, but that he didn’t invite an Indonesian Imam to conduct the invocation. Can you imagine the reaction to that?

The right wing evangelicals would come absolutely unglued and book one-way passages on steamships to New Zealand and the like.

And America would be a better country for it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thoughts at the End of the 2008 Election

With the Senatorial race in Minnesota remaining the only undecided race, because of a slow recount process, it’s time to take a minute and think about what the 2008 campaign season and elections mean, and what bodes for the future.

Here in Texas, I’m afraid we still have a southern red state on our hands. Indeed, as revealed by the voter trend map published by the New York Times, Republicans did better than the last election in small pockets of Texas. But the in vast majority of the state, Democrats performed at the same level as in the last election, or actually improved their performance.

The trend is clear. Texas is slowly but surely swinging to blue.

Yes, Democrats won at the top of the ticket (no thanks to Texas), and that is going to affect national policy, but as they say, all politics is local. A win that is truly life-changing is a win at the local level.

And we had one. Precinct 1 voters in Fort Bend County stopped the Republican juggernaut in its tracks as 800 voters decided that Richard Morrison was going to be a better bet in office than former Fort Bend Toll Road Authority Treasurer, Greg Ordineaux. Morrison made the issue of ethics a cornerstone in his campaign, and it appears he will carry on the fight to introduce ethics to county government (at this point, a novel idea in the county). And who knows, if contractors are finally made aware that they cannot buy votes for contracts, they just might bid more competitively. And who knows, that just might save taxpayer dollars. Another novel idea in Fort Bend County.

But for the most part, what we saw statewide and locally was only a slight change in the legislature, but with Republicans holding only a slight edge in the Texas House, 76-74, and a 19-12 margin in the Senate, it should prove to be more of a challenge for Republicans to carry out their agenda this next year.

No, our main victory is that overall we lost most of our races less spectacularly this year. This was not so apparent in nearby Harris County where a significant number of races were won by Democrats. But here in neighboring Fort Bend County, Republicans are still in the majority.


Fort Bend County has gone from a 60-40 county in 2004 to a 51-49 county.

What this tells me is that if the demographic trend continues, Democrats must run a candidate in every available county race in 2010, and must be well-poised to mount an aggressive well-funded campaign á la Harris County’s coordinated campaign.

The last race of the election season underlines the point.

In the SD 17 race, as I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, we saw a possible 5% demographic shift toward the left in a two-year period. Now this is counter-intuitive if you consider that most low turnout elections favor the Republican. Should not, then, the victory margin be at least the same as it usually is in that district? 61-38? Instead, in this low turnout election (12.34%) the historic margin was cut to 56-44.

So we have a very promising trend here in SD 17, a trend that should improve over time.

This brings me to Chris Bell’s election night speech. It was caught on video by one of his staff members, on her camera phone, no less. So I have embedded it below.

By the way, I’ve always thought that this particular staffer had a novel title: Online Instigator. The only online instigators I was aware of until now are the rabble rousers that incite flame wars. Times change.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sixty-One Thirty-Eight

What have those two numbers in common with Texas Senate District 17?

In 2006, across the vote in Texas Senate District 17, Kay Bailey Hutchison beat Barbara Ann Radofsky by a vote of 86,533 to 54,505. Or 61.4% to 38.6%.

That’s the best comparison you can do to today’s special election vote in SD 17 because in the same year, Kyle Janek, incumbent state senator, ran against an independent.

In today’s special election vote, with 91% of the total vote in, Chris Bell has closed that 61-38 gap to 57.2% to 42.8%. At this point it looks like a deficit that cannot be made up.

Now, how are we to treat this data?

First, absent any demographic movement, Chris Bell’s campaign succeeded in scaring up more Democratic voters in this special election than normally represent the district.

But what if the demographics are representative in the voter appearance data? Doesn’t that mean that SD 17 has experienced a 5% shift toward the party of the light? In two short years?

Either way, this is good news. Even in the face of almost certain defeat, Chris Bell has again sounded the first peal of the death knell of Republicanism in SD 17. Voters in SD 17 may have traded an orange for a rotten apple in this special election, but the vote holds promise for the future.

Chris Bell is now located where he has always been: in the vanguard of the overturn of Republicanism in Texas.

Well fought.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chairman Boyd Richie: Vote Now! Vote Bell!

I was going to make one more final post on the SD 17 special election with a reiteration of the essential information, but now I find that Boyd Richie has done my work for me. Here is what I found in my email inbox from TDP Chairman Richie

Dear fellow Democrats,

Election Day for the Senate District 17 runoff between Chris Bell and his Republican opponent is TOMORROW, Tuesday, December 16th. Chris and his supporters have been working tirelessly by knocking on doors, making phone calls and talking to voters across the district. Chris can win this race, and we can return responsible leadership to Senate District 17, but only if we get each and every one of Chris's supporters gets to the polls on Election Day. Below is information about voting in the runoff election.

Election Day for the District 17 runoff is Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Where to Vote
Click on your county to find a list of polling places, by precinct and by Zip Code:

Fort Bend

When to Vote
On Election Day, Dec. 16, polling places are open from
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Report problems immediately at (713) 667-8990

Need A Ride?
Call (713) 667-8990 or Email

Have a Ride to Share?
If you would like to volunteer or help get people to their voting place, call (713) 667-8990 or Email

For more information visit the Chris Bell Website or call (713) 667-8990

Let's help Chris finish strong. Working together, we can overcome Republican cronyism and take back this State Senate seat. Thank you for your continued support, and thank you for being a Texas Democrat.

Your friend and fellow Democrat,

Boyd L. Richie


Texas Democratic Party

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bush Displays His Vast Skills at Dodging in Iraq

Now we knew that George Bush is an adept dodger of issues. An expert at the evading of questions. A man truly skilled at ducking the truth.

We all knew those things.

What we didn’t know is the depth of this man’s talent in the general area of evasion. As it turns out George W. Bush has displayed to the world in the waning days of his presidency how deep this knack is buried in the very fiber of his being.

George Bush is also an expert at dodging a skillfully aimed Iraqi shoe.

Two of them, actually.

I don’t know about you, but I have finally witnessed an aspect of George W. Bush that truly impresses me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

America’s New Image Abroad as Revealed By Robin Williams’ British Audience

Watch this You Tube video that someone showed me today. It’s Robin Williams at his usual best, but watch the audience reaction.

It’s a British audience.

They like his jokes, too. American humor, it seems, isn’t unfathomable as British humor is sometimes.

But watch the audience reactions to Williams’ remarks on the impending Obama presidency, and the end to, as he puts it, Bush’s “Reign of Error.”

Don’t underestimate how America is now viewed in the world now that we have undone the horrible thing we did when we foisted George W. Bush on the world.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Low Voter Turnout in SD 17 Special Election

You have to give them credit. When the Republican deciders who still plague Texas government at every level decide to run an election that will guarantee a low voter turnout, they generally get their wish.

It’s such an easy task. All you have to do is schedule the election within two weeks of Christmas, hold early voting for 5 days only and none of those days a weekend day, and have the polls open on three of those 5 days only between 8 AM and 5 PM, when most people have to work.

And then on top of that, have one of the polling locations located outside the district’s own boundaries.

That last one was a nice little touch courtesy of Fort Bend County government.

The early vote numbers are in at the Fort Bend County elections website, all except for the final day, today.

As of yesterday, Thursday, 2242 voters have cast their ballot in the SD 17 special election runoff, and 919 requested mail in ballots have been returned. That’s a grand total of 3161 voters out of approximately 95,000 Fort Bend County voters eligible to vote in the SD 17 election.

That’s a 3.33% turnout so far.

Now it’s beyond the data predict what would have happened had the runoff election taken place on December 2nd, as it did in Georgia for their US Senator, where they had a 57% voter turnout. There was a lot at stake in that election, what with the magic number of 60 being approached. But I am willing to bet that had they held that election on the 16th instead of the 2nd their turnout numbers would have been considerably less.

The attention span of the average voter is about one month. That’s all the politics they can stand.

So while the late election date does its expected damage, what effect, I wonder, are all of the other machinations that our deciders have decided on, doing to voter turnout in Fort Bend County?

So for your edification, or for my sheer love of asking “what if?” I’ve crunched some numbers to see the effects of what the curtailed hours and the poor choice of a polling location did to the totals.

It is clear that the early vote poll hours for Monday through Wednesday, when the polls were open only during 8 to 5 business hours did do a number on turnout. Witness the huge jump in the number of votes cast between Wednesday and Thursday. An across the board jump of between 42% and 62%. Had the polls been open from 7 to 7 for all 5 days, using Thursday as the go-by, the early vote totals as of yesterday could have easily been 65% higher than what they are as of now.

And a slightly improved 4.6% turnout.

If you look at who is showing up to vote where, you see that the Rosenberg Annex, a location found squarely within the SD 18 state senatorial boundaries, you see that this singularly poor choice for a location performed by far below par compared to the 4 other polling locations that are all located within SD 17’s district boundaries.

A grand total of 88 voters appeared at the Rosenberg Annex location in the 4 days we have data. That’s 3.9% of the total turnout. Compare that to the 4 other locations which accounted for between 18 and 32% of the turnout (24% per location on average). If the Fort Bend deciders picked a fifth location within SD 17’s boundaries, and it performed as well as the least performing polling location among the other 4, an additional 316 votes might have been cast, increasing turnout from 3.33% to 3.6%.

Imagine that. The Annex doing so poorly, when during the General Election early voting, it was among the top performers in terms of voter attendance.

What if I combine the effects of both voting hours and poor choice of a polling location? The combined effect of both together might have meant an additional 1500 or so votes by yesterday, or a turnout rate of 4.8%.

The Bell campaign is engaged in a Herculean effort to get voters out. The campaign office in Fort Bend is abuzz every day and volunteers are using their virtual phone bank system to call from their homes. It’s still not to late to get in on this action.

There is still an effort to get out the vote on Election Day.

What else were you planning on doing this weekend? Go Christmas shopping? I hear it’s best to wait until December 18th and go shop online where the vendors will offer free shipping.

So save your Christmas fund and go make calls for Chris.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Joan Huffman Pulls a Shelley

And here I was moping around the Half Empty Hovel because we didn’t have Shelley Sekula “Draculac__t” Gibbs to kick around any more. Out comes Joan Huffman, the often unnamed opponent (on this blog) to former Congressman Chris Bell in his heroic effort to take one more Texas Senate seat in a low-turnout special election.

Huffman, a district court judge, by the way, purposely held a barbecue luncheon at the Tracey Gee Community Center in west Houston. The Tracey Gee Community Center is a voting location for early voting in Harris County. This is a violation of Texas Election Code Chapter 61.001, and is punishable by a 500 dollar fine. It's a class C misdemeanor.

According to this article by Alan Bernstein of the Houston Chronicle, the political event took place in a room in the same building that a vote was being conducted. An event where Joan Huffman along with Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve “Toilet Plunger” Radack, urged attendees to vote for her.

Now Shelley Sekula Gibbs did exactly the same thing in 2006 when she entered an early voting location in Sugar Land in her successful run to finish Tom DeLay’s unexpired term in the Texas CD 22 seat. Well not exactly the same thing. She was electioneering outside the limits set by chapter 61.001 of the Texas Election Code, when, it was reported she felt the need to relieve the pressure building up in her bladder. However, on her way to the restroom, inside the First Colony Conference Center, she stopped by several voters and introduced herself to them.

This isn’t exactly what Huffman did. What Huffman did was a 1000 times worse. It was calculated electioneering on the premises of an early vote location. Sekula Gibbs was, at least, sneaky and sly about it as a good Republican, Huffman was in deliberate violation of the law, and quite frankly, didn’t care.

Is this the kind of person we need in public office? One who violates the law whenever it suits his or her needs? Haven’t we after all had just about enough of this?

The Bernstein article reports that one voter complained about the rally to a poll worker, but the poll worker simply told the voter that it would be up to him to complain.

In the 2006 crime, a complaint was lodged but the County Elections administrator of the time, J.R. Perez, declined to follow up on the complaint, and there it sat. With a Harris County Republican DA coming into office, I doubt we will have a better result this year, and Huffman’s crime will probably go unpunished. Should this happen, then it will be clear that in Harris County it is still a place where your Republican political affiliation allows you to violate the law at will.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who Says Religion is at Odds With Science?

Traditionally we regard science and religion as opposing systems of ideas where one cannot prove or profit from the ideas of the other. St. Augustine made this point, and was a little less than charitable than is usually observed toward the system of knowledge he considered as anti-religious, math and natural science.

“The good Christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of Hell.”
St. Augustine must be spinning in his grave with today’s news that the religious are making good use of the devil’s tools to preserve and protect their icons of faith.

It’s in the Chron, an AP article by religion writer Eric Gorski.

It seems that every year about this time a rash of thefts takes place at Nativity scenes from coast to coast.

They keep stealing Baby Jesus.

Jesus in the manger keeps getting swiped, sometimes more than once a year. This comes to some consternation of churches and families that put together these displays because in some cases the statue representing Jesus is an objet d’art, and worth some significant coin.

For example:

“For two consecutive years, thieves made off with the baby Jesus figurine in Wellington, a well-off village of 60,000 in Palm Beach County, Fla. The ceramic original, donated by a local merchant, was made in Italy and worth about $1,800, said John Bonde, Wellington's director of operations.”
So these people don’t get mad, they get a GPS location system.
“So last year, officials took a GPS unit normally used to track the application of mosquito spray and implanted it in the latest replacement figurine. After that one disappeared, sheriff's deputies quickly tracked it down.”
Now I call that a fine marriage of science and religion, don’t you?

So Savior snatchers, be on notice. That Baby Jesus you just lifted just may be bugged.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Illinois Governor Arrested By Feds for Uber-Corruption

So this morning, in an effort to bring a stop to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevitch’s corruption “crime spree,” FBI agents went ahead and arrested the governor and his chief of staff. Blagojevitch, a Democrat (and not a very progressive one at that, apparently) had been under scrutiny for the past three years.

They had to. The governor was poised to sell Barack Obama’s US Senate seat to the highest bidder.

The Feds’ 76-page affidavit unsealed today contained quotes that were recorded by phone wiretaps and bugs in his office. Here is a collection of these incredibly incriminating little gems:

“It’s a #$%&*!@ valuable thing — you just don't give it away for nothing."

“They're not going to offer me anything of value I might as well take it.”

“I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain.”
Now Barack Obama had his own idea of whom Blagojevitch should pick and let him know about it. But the Gov. had some words about that, too.

“They're not going to give me anything except appreciation. #!%&*!"
Isn’t it amazing? This guy must have thought himself to be truly bulletproof. The utter gall of it is just another indication of how institutional Illinois state political corruption is. But now with an Illinois politician about to take power, a guy who knows the ins and outs of Illinois politics, maybe we will finally see the Feds take a broom to that place. Or maybe I should say take a plunger to it.

More appropriate.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Supremes Won’t Hear Obama Citizenship Case

In another attempt to deny Barack Obama his rightfully won office as President of the United States, the Supreme Court wisely refused to hear the case lodged by a New Jersey man, whose claim was that Obama was not constitutionally qualified to be President.

The case claimed that because Obama’s father was not a citizen of the United States, but a Kenyan – at the time a British colony – Obama was not a “natural born citizen” of the United States, but actually held dual citizenship.

Other claims have held that Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, and that Hawaii has a falsified birth certificate in its records.

The nutjobs, it seems, will not give up.

They must sign on to the notion that this thing is a done deal. We have a black president-elect and in 35 days that will change to black president and no fiat decision by the Supreme Court is going to change that.

And not because there is no substance to these false claims, that is irrelevant.

The relevance is that using the courts to prevent an Obama presidency, and having that succeed, would be inflammatory. The people wouldn’t stand for it.

Not a second time.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Special Election Early Voting Begins Tomorrow

My guess is if you are reading this blog and have not stumbled over this site by Googling “Giving Head” or “Class C Misdemeanor” (my two most common Google hits) you well-know that the early vote for the special election runoff to get a 13th Democratic state senator to Austin begins tomorrow, and Chris Bell could sorely use your vote.

This election has been engineered to be a low turnout election. Early voting hours on Monday through Wednesday are 8 AM to 5 PM, eliminating everyone in SD 17 who still has a job and has to be at work during those times. No weekend early voting days have been scheduled. And Election Day is December 16th. Nine days before Christmas.

However today the Houston Chronicle gave the Chris Bell campaign a big lift. They endorsed this Democratic candidate over his Republican opponent. Again.

“With the 81st legislative session looming next month in a weakening economic climate, residents of District 17 need an experienced public servant with a firm grasp of spending priorities. With his commitment to bolstering public education, reining in college tuition increases, and controlling skyrocketing insurance premiums, the Chronicle believes that Chris Bell is the best candidate to represent the diverse district in the Texas Senate.”
There may be those out there that don’t know if they live in Senate District 17. The answer to that is simple. Just think back to the General Election. You live in SD 17 if the first thing you saw on your ballot was the SD 17 Special Election with a field of 6 candidates running. If you don’t recall, then there is another way. Go to this Texas Secretary of State website and fill in your home address in the boxes and click the “submit” button. You will get a list of all of your government representatives, from US Senator to School Board member.

But then again, my 6 readers are fairly well-informed and know what to do. The thing to do then is to make sure that others know to go out and vote. It will come down to just a few hundred votes to decide the victor, I think, if the turnout is as low as the Republicans who have fixed the election times and dates hope. It is critical to get Democratic voters back to the polls. So plan to help out this week. Help Chris Bell get to Austin. Help to remind Democrats that there is one more election this year. One more victory to be had.

And the campaign has made it very easy for you to help. You don’t even have to go to a campaign headquarters. You can call from your own home via their “Virtual Phone Bank.” Click here to sign up.