5/11/2002

Another sign the GOP is taking the Democratic "Dream Team" ticket seriously: President Bush is getting involved. He's started taking pot shots at Ron Kirk and Tony Sanchez, and is scheduled to speak in Houston during the Texas Democratic Convention, presumably to draw press coverage away from that event.

Not a word about the Lt. Governor race, though. Given that the real power in the state lies in this office, I find that a bit curious. Of course, Governor is the high-profile job, so from a PR viewpoint the GOP really doesn't want to lose that office, but in terms of day-to-day activity, Lite Gov is where it's at.
That's our Lege Apparently, in 1999, the Texas Legislature passed a law making COLIs legal in the state. Problem is, that wasn't what the bill was meant to do.

And with the [Sen. Florence] Shapiro [R, Plano] bill, a company automatically has an "insurable interest" when an employee gives his consent to the coverage. The rule took effect Jan. 1, 2000, on new or renewing insurance policies.

But that's not what the House sponsor, Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, intended the bill to do, said his aide, who asked not to be identified. McCall had no intention of making corporate-owned life insurance legal if it wasn't already legal, the aide insisted.

The aide said McCall was concerned that a company could take out a policy on an employee's life without his knowledge.

The bill was a way to empower employees, the aide said, adding McCall wanted to avoid the situation in other states that permit employers to take out the insurance without employees' consent.

McCall, currently a candidate for the speaker of the House, is an insurance and investment consultant. Until he sold his insurance agencies, he was the president and CEO of McCall Insurance Agency and A.M. Scott Agency in Plano.

Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, vice chairman of the House Committee on Insurance, said he had no idea Shapiro's bill would allow companies to buy policies on the lives of their low-level employees.

Eiland said he thought the bill would expand the definition of who's a "key man" to include top-level employees below the rank of CEO. For example, a law firm might like to insure a partner who brings in a lot of business because the firm could stand to lose if the partner died, said Eiland.

But janitors and laborers?

"No one envisioned it would be used in this manner," he said, adding that he can't imagine McCall envisioned it either.

Another concern: The law doesn't specify what level of consent is required, said Ana Smith-Daley, Texas Department of Insurance's deputy commissioner of life and health. And nothing in the law prevents a company from requiring an employee or applicant to consent to the insurance as a condition of employment.

I'm not going to revisit the question of whether COLIs are a good thing or not. Go read More than Zero (here and here) for what COLIs are supposed to be about. I just want to mention that it's a tad bit unsettling to see laws get enacted without anyone really knowing what effect they're going to have.

Ours is a Legislature that meets every other year for a limited period of time. Many members of the state House have full-time jobs outside of politics. There's a lot to be said for this, but the main downside is that a whole lot of laws get passed without proper scrutiny or debate. It usually happens at the end of sessions, when many votes are taken all at once to beat the clock, but it can apparently happen any time.

It will be interesting to see if the Lege manages to pass the bill they thought they were passing this time around. I wonder if Sen. Shapiro, who wasn't reached for comment on this article, is as upset about all this as everyone else. It could be entertaining if this is what she had intended all along.
A small victory over evil From today's Chron:

Harris County Civil Court at Law Judge Gary Michael Block ordered the owner of a telemarketing company to leave his name and home telephone number on his company's recorded messages so that frustrated recipients can return the favor and call him at home with their complaints.

Block ordered Lone Star Utility Savers Inc., which does business as Home Improvements of Texas and Kingdom Builders, to stop making recorded telephone solicitations without the specific consent of the recipient.

Joe Shields sued the company and its owner, Donald Stafford Borden, along with several other telemarketers, claiming that they violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Block ordered the company to pay Shields $5,000. Shields' attorney, Kenneth Kaye of League City, said Shields has already won nearly $100,000 in judgments and settlements with other telemarketers.

Way to go, Joe!

5/10/2002

Sorry, Mom A new study says that having sons shortened the life span of Finnish mothers by about 34 weeks per son. Daughters nurtured to adulthood helped prolong mothers' lives.

OK, Mom. I promise. I'll take my vitamins, I won't read in the dark, and I'll always bring a sweater with me. Does that help?
Baby, it's cold inside Today's literally cool science news:

The coldest place in Houston isn't the Galleria ice rink, it's physicist Randall Hulet's lab.

The temperature inside a small tube there isn't absolute zero -- at minus 459 Fahrenheit, the lowest possible temperature -- but at one-billionth of a degree above it, it's as cold as any place in the universe.

The physics and astronomy professor and his Rice University colleagues have cooled atoms to sub-freezing temperatures to study a phenomenon theorists first thought possible decades ago: that matter, like light, could take the form of both a particle and a wave.

In his latest experiment, the results of which were published Thursday in the journal Nature, Hulet created a tiny bundle of matter that, in wave form, can be transported a short distance.

It's not a Star Trek transporter -- the collection of 10,000 atoms he transported is a far cry from the trillions in a human body -- but the matter sent a fraction of an inch in the lab traveled back and forth in tube as a coherent wave.

"This has never happened in the universe," Hulet said. "It's something that can only be found in a laboratory."

I love news stories that have to use Star Trek for context.
Poll: Lawyers favor ending partisan judicial races More than 80% of lawyers who responded to a survey favor ending partisan judicial elections. Those who voted for change were moderately in favor of merit appointments followed by retention elections over simple nonpartisan elections. I'm indifferent as to which alternative is better, but you don't have to watch too many TV ads for judges to think that anything has to be better than what we're doing now.

Neither party is too exercised about this poll:

"The survey is moderately interesting, but historically Texans have wanted partisan elections in courts," said Court Koenning, new executive director of the Republican Party of Harris County.

"It seems like a Democratic attempt to take the judiciary back," he said.

County Democratic Chair Sue Schechter, a lawyer who participated in the survey, questioned whether it accurately reflects lawyers' sentiments, given the low response rate. She said she's open to considering alternatives to the present system, but doesn't believe most voters are familiar with the merit option.

Changing the system would be politically difficult.

"Whoever is in power at the time is usually against changing the judicial selection," Schechter said.

Schecter's assertion about the party in power is certainly true. I just believe that a judge elected on a brand name - which is what a party is in this context - is a judge that's been elected for a bad reason. There's no way to fully avoid cronyism and coattails, but I believe minimizing those things is the right thing to do.
Can we call it a rotary? A European-style traffic circle will be installed at an intersection not too far from Stately Kuff Manor. The area has been undergoing some revitalization and already has some decent places to eat and drink nearby. Washington Avenue, the street in question, has a fair amount of character to it, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they make of this.
Still in a musical mood The other day while at the hardware store, I heard The Girl from Ipanema, the song that defined the bossa nova sound. It's a classic, made famous by legendary sax player Stan Getz, but it was the fact that it is the canonical bossa nova song that got me to thinking.

It's often hard to pin down a style of music, at least to anything more general than "rock", "jazz", "country", and so on. One place where you can get a certain amount of specificness is in songs that are closely identified with a kind of dance. So I started thinking about what other songs can be called canonical for a given dance style.

If you're old enough to remember the Billy Crystal years on Saturday Night Live, you've probably heard Hernando's Hideaway, which may be the definitive tango song, though a good case could be made for Jalousie
as well. Hearing a tango leads me to the cha cha, as they have a very similar beat. I don't know of a song that is obviously "it" for the cha cha, but the song that really defines it for me is Brave Combo's version of O Holy Night (believe it or not).

Brave Combo, which also has a cha cha version of the Rolling Stones song (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, is probably the band I think of first when I think of the polka, since they call themselves a "nuclear polka" band and won a Grammy for their Polkas for a Gloomy Planet album. Songs like In Heaven, There Is No Beer and of course The Beer Barrel Polka would be the first ones to come to my mind (and say what you want about the polka, any musical genre that's this focused on beer is all right in my book).

Despite its accordion-and-lederhosen stereotype, the polka is actually a pretty versatile style of music and dance. It's a popular style of folk dance, for instance. I always think of John Ryan's Polka, which (to the best of my failing memory) was featured in the movie Titanic. It's not on the soundtrack, at least not by that name - the closest match is something called An Irish Party in Third Class - Gaelic Storm. Of course, it's common to combine two or more jigs/reels/polkas/whatnot into medleys, so who knows. In any event, the ubiquitous polka also shows up in country/western music - if you ever take a class in C&W dance, the first two styles you'll learn are the two-step and the polka, which have very similar footwork. Just about any up-tempo country song is likely to be a polka. My choice for the definitive country polka song is Lyle Lovett's That's Right (You're Not From Texas).

I suppose I lied somewhat in saying that any fast country tune is probably a polka, since that gives short shrift to western swing. The
aforementioned Hot Club of Cowtown and Asleep at the Wheel are the western swing artists I know best. I'd pick Wheel's cover of the Glenn Miller song Chattanooga Choo Choo as the standard for the sound, but I'm on less solid ground here.

Finally, I can't talk at such length about music and dance styles without mentioning that I think Glenn Miller's In the Mood is not only the greatest swing dance song ever written, it's one of the best songs ever. One of the many benefits of learning to play the saxophone in school is getting exposed to Miller's music. The recent swing dance fad has peaked somewhat, but the music will never go out of style.

By the way, in case you didn't know, the Girl from Ipanema is a real person.
Soothing the savage beast Saw a great performance last night at the local live music pub The Mucky Duck by Eddie from Ohio, a Virginia-based folk/rock group. They were recommended to me by an old high school buddy who lies them so much he drove round-trip from Austin on a Thursday to hear them - and they're playing in Austin on Saturday (which he's also attending). That's a pretty good recommendation in my book, and it was on the mark - EfO rocked the house with tight music, interesting (and often hilarious) lyrics, and excellent stage presence. There's really nothing that compares to hearing great live music at a small venue. It's a great antidote to the overmarketed hype that infests our airwaves today.

One aspect of EfO that really impressed me is that they allow their fans to record their performances. My friend had sent a message to their mailing list on Wednesday asking about the particulars. He got a response an hour later from their soundman, who offered to help him plug his recorder into their board as well as the use of an AC adapter.

Now, EfO is the kind of band that doesn't get much radio airplay. They are on an independent record label. They also have a squadron of loyal fans (their mailing list has 20,000 names on it) who spread the gospel by word of mouth, and they've sold 100,000 CDs to date. They made a point several during the show times to thank their fans for encouraging them to come to Texas in the first place, and for bringing new people out to hear them. Do you think that their willingness to let fans record their concerts might have something to do with the fans' loyalty and the band's success? Hey, RIAA, I bet these guys don't fear Napster.

(By the way, if you do a Yahoo! search on "riaa", the first link listed is this one. Take that, Hilary Rosen!)

Take my advice. Go find a pub in your area that features live music and try it a few times. There's a big world out there that you'll never know about if all you ever listen to is Hot Hits and Classic Rock. We're going to see four more shows at the Duck this month, including the fabulous Austin Lounge Lizards on Saturday, Guy Forsyth on Tuesday, and later on Western Swing band par excellence Hot Club of Cowtown and the Asylum Street Spankers. It's gonna be a great month.
MailBombBoy overview Kathy Kinsley points to this summary of how Luke Helder was caught, compiled by Mary Wehmeier.

Yesterday about 5 PM Pacific Time, Luke J. Helder, AKA Mailbomb Boy was arrested after he tried to outrun the Nevada Highway Patrol for over 50 miles on I-80. The car chase exceeded over 100 mph at times . Federal authorities were tipped off by his father after a letter he received according to court documents filed Wednesday. Obviously Dad wasn't thrilled at the letter he got from Luke.

The hand-written letter, Helder told investigators, referred to death and dying and contained several anti-government comments. After receiving the letter at his home in Pine Island, Minn., Cameron Helder talked by phone with his son's roommate in Menomonie. The roommate, James Divine, and two friends searched Luke Helder's bedroom and found clues under the bed that suggested Helder might be involved in the bombings. They found a bag with nails, paper clips, a funnel and two plastic bottles labeled shotgun or gun powder, according to the court papers.

All I can say is that if you can read the word "Menomonie" without immediately humming "do doo de do do", well, you're a better person than I am.
Vote early, vote often TAPped is taking nominations for "the best liberal blogs (and blog-equivalents) out there", which they may incorporate into a site redesign. At the very least, they'll do a post with links to the nominees. Take a moment and send them the liberal blogs you like best.

5/09/2002

I'm in a New York state of mind The Donk gives an amusing report about the state of free speech at Safeco Field, where the ban on wearing "Yankees Suck" T-shirts by rabid Mariners fans has been lifted. This reminds me of New York Rangers fans, who would (and for all I know, still do) at random points during games chant "Potvin Sucks" in honor of hated NY Islanders' defenseman Denis Potvin. Didn't matter who the opponent was, all of a sudden you'd hear "Potvin Sucks!" ring out from the cheap seats. The fans felt strongly about this and so by God they were going to let you know about it. I always liked that about them.

I'm a lifelong Yankees' fan, so I can't exactly endorse the sentiment, but I am glad to see that this sort of New York initiative has reached the formerly-mellow West Coast. I feel that my parents, who moved from New York to Portland in 1999, are somehow partly responsible for this, even though they're crazier about the Yankees than I am. Good work, Mom and Dad! Too bad the same sentiment hasn't spread to bagel making out West yet. Give it time.
Nice way to start the day Today when I checked my mailbox, I found a note from a high school classmate who had stumbled across this piece I'd written about an encounter with Frank McCourt last year. She had also taken Creative Writing with Mr. McCourt at Stuyvesant and wrote to thank me for bringing back some fond memories for her.

You don't need a tip jar to get rewards for writing. I'm a happy man.

5/08/2002

Strange bedfellows Joshua Trevino has some harsh words regarding the assassination of Pim Fortuyn and those who would equivocate about it:

It's not terrifically surprising that Pim Fortuyn's assassin is a radical leftist. I've long maintained that the hard left is the greatest threat to social order in the West, and this only drives the lesson home. From near-insurrections in Seattle, Prague, Washington, Genoa, and Sweden; to pipe bombs in the Midwest; to the killing of Italian technocrats; to the FARC; to race riots in Cleveland and Crown Heights; to apologists for Islamic terrorism -- it is today's left that aids, abets, and/or apologizes for most of the violence in and against the Western world. (Notable non-leftist standouts are the Rockwell/Raimondo crowd of libertarians; but unlike the left, they've never actually killed anyone.)

The strange thing is that the left seems not to notice. Its rhetoric, after all, is the rhetoric of justice -- sometimes even of peace. And all manner of self-deception is employed to keep it that way[.]

[...]

By this light, Fortuyn brought his murder upon himself, by preaching "hate." That he did nothing of the sort is irrelevant. Cause must be tailored for the effect to be palatable. One may easily argue that Roger Boyes is an idiot -- he goes on to assert that JFK, shot by a committed Marxist, was a victim of the right. But that misses the point, which is that almost nothing -- not civil disturbance, not a massacre in Manhattan, not a slaughter at a Seder, not decades of Soviet barbarism, nor the cold-blooded shooting of Pim Fortuyn -- nothing will convince the hard core of the left that its goals, which necessitate its methods, lead inevitably to woe.

Not that all leftists are murderers. They're not. But just as neo-Confederates have a duty to root out the racists in their ranks; just as the right has a duty to weed out its paranoiacs and violent element; so too does the left have a duty to disavow and disassociate itself from its loathesome extremists.

But for the most part, they don't. In Europe, the FARC and Hezbollah remain off the official lists of terrorist organizations, and EU money demonstrably funds Arafat's terror. Here in the US, the Democratic party does not shun Al Sharpton; pacifists see no problem marching alongside Palestinian terror-apologists; and Tom Daschle and Al Gore do not repudiate the extremists of EarthFirst! or PETA -- after all, they're a reliable voting bloc, even if they block common-sense measures.

The main problem that I have with this analysis is that it commits the same sin described in the Reason magazine article that Joshua cites:

[T]he process of straining political events through the standard journalistic narrative templates - especially the right-vs.-left narrative -- can simplify a story so greatly that it emerges as a different story, perhaps even the wrong story.

Any definition of "leftist" or "the left" that includes both Al Gore and EarthFirst! is overly broad to the point of meaninglessness. Both of them agree in a broad sense that something ought to be done to protect the environment, but the paths diverge pretty sharply from there - Al Gore would like to raise fuel-efficiency standards on SUVs, while EarthFirst! would happily firebomb the plants that make SUVs.

More to the point that Joshua is trying to make, Al Gore and EarthFirst! have no use for each other. If any members of EarthFirst! bothered to go to the polls in 2000, I'll bet a sizeable chunk of my income that they voted for Ralph Nader. These people hate Al Gore with a passion because they consider him a sellout, the kind of person that Phil Ochs had in mind when he wrote Love Me I'm A Liberal.

In other words, there's no commonality between them. Joshua is arguing, as I myself have, that words of condemnation mean more coming from ideological soulmates than from political enemies. I agree with the theory, but I disagree with this particular application of it. My quarrel is that the examples he cites are, for the most part, examples of enemies. They're being cited as soulmates because they're all enemies from Joshua's perspective, but on the spectrum of "leftist" opinion, Al Gore and Tom Daschle are to PETA and EarthFirst! as right is to left.

This is not to say that those who equivocated about Pim Fortuyn's death, whether out of dislike of his politics or an actual sense of commonality with the whackjob who killed him, have any excuse for doing so. Regardless of whether you agree more with Fortuyn's ideals or those of Volkert van der Graaf, if you don't hold the basic premise that killing people because you disagree with them is absolutely wrong, then I hold you in the same contempt that Joshua does.

But what I want to know is, how much must one have in common with a malefactor in order to have a moral responsibility to speak out against him? I say that Al Gore is sufficiently far removed from EarthFirst! that he has no more need to condemn them than George W. Bush does, but if the Sierra Club were to express admiration for their violent tactics then common decency would require Gore to denounce them. It's wrong to extend the legitimate criticism of European lefists for their failure to decry this crime to a more general critique of the much broader and less cohesive American left. There's no parallel here.
Clyde Matt Welch points me to this interview with Walt Frazier. Frazier, nicknamed Clyde, was as famous for his cool and excellent play on the court as he was for his stylish demeanor off court. My mom had a big crush on Clyde when I was growing up. You know how some married people will say that they'd never leave their spouses, but if they ever did it would be for one particular person? Walt Frazier was that particular person for my mom. Lynda Carter was the equivalent person for my dad. They had pretty good taste, if you ask me.
RIP, Seattle Slew Seattle Slew, the last living Triple Crown winner, died Tuesday morning in his stall. Affirmed, the most recent Triple Crown winner in 1978, died last January.
Decline of Western Civilization Dept. That bastion of quality family programming known as Fox is putting a twist on The Bachelor with its latest reality show I Want A Husband: Alaska in which five single women from the Lower 48 head up north in search of a stud. It starts May 23, so get your TiVo ready.

Meanwhile, Fox's The Girl Next Door: The Search for a Playboy Centerfold has drawn the ire of Concerned Women for America.

It's men victimizing women for the sake of money and ratings," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel of Concerned Women for America. CWA is one of seven groups, including the Christian Coalition and Focus on the Family, that protested the show in a letter to Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Fox's parent News Corp.

[...]

LaRue said she was concerned the special would encourage men to treat women as sex objects and send a dangerous message to girls.

"It communicates to 12- and 13-year-old girls that this is what you have to do to be attractive to men," she said.

In case you're curious, CWA thinks women shouldn't work outside the home, that condoms are "virtually useless" in protecting against sexually transmitted diseases, and that homosexuality is evil. Which is to say that they know a thing or two about sending dangerous messages to girls.
Milestone approaching Looks like I'll get my 10,000th visitor some time next week. I'd greatly appreciate it if whoever sees the counter hit 10,000 would be so kind as to mail me a screen shot. Thanks.
Today's weird Google referral is "Girls gone wild passwords footage". Yes, come to Off the Kuff to see crazy college coeds logging on to their network accounts. How far will they go to get their passwords reset? We've got the goods!

5/07/2002

COLI wrapup More Than Zero responds to my previous post about COLIs. We were arguing about different things, which he makes clear. There's some good stuff in the comments as well, so check it out.

One thing I mentioned in the comments that I'd like to reiterate here is that I did a poor job of saying what I intended to say in that last post. When I said

Further, most employees make zero direct difference to a company's bottom line.

what I intended to mean was that the sudden loss of most employees wouldn't affect a company's bottom line. The meaning was clear to me, since I was talking about companies collecting large life insurance payouts, but unless you had direct access to my synaptic processes you might well have missed that particular nuance. Obviously, as MTZ rightly points out, all employees have some kind of effect on a company's bottom line, usually a positive one for companies that manage to stay in business. I apologize for the confusion. I sentence myself to a week of reading George Will without snorting or guffawing.
Never trust anyone who spells "cool" with a K From Salon comes this story about a "family entertainment portal" called Flowgo and how a pop-up ad that ran on Flowgo's server installed a nasty piece of spyware on many user's computers.

The ad, purchased by a Los Angeles Internet marketing firm named IntelliTech Web Solutions, was designed to automatically redirect visitors away from Flowgo (no mouse click required) and to dump them at a booby-trapped site called KoolKatalog.

Once at KoolKatalog, visitors were invited to feed an e-mail address into a digital slot machine created in the Shockwave animation format. Solve the puzzle faster than anyone else, and KoolKatalog would send you a swell prize!

In the nanosecond it took most people to recognize the obvious junk mail trap, the real damage was already nearly done. According to virus experts, code in the pages at KoolKatalog exploited a known flaw in an old version of the Java engine of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser to covertly download the first of 10 files onto visitors' computers

The thing that caught my eye about this was that Flowgo is one of the domains we've blocked from sending SMTP mail into our company because they were identified as a spammer. I suspect that someone complained about mail they had probably signed up for (though they may not have realized what they were doing) rather than genuinely unsolicited mail, but in any event we were seeing several hundred messages from them per day for awhile there. We don't see much anymore; maybe they took all the undeliverable messages as a hint. In any event, while Flowgo was certainly wronged here, I'm not going to weep for them. I will, however, take this opportunity to make sure my antivirus software is up to date...
Another view of media bias I've taken conservatives to task several times in this space for whining about liberal media bias. One of the reasons why this is such a hot-button issue for me is that here in Houston you have to go out of your way to come across liberal media in the first place. If all you do around here is read the Houston Chronicle and listen to AM talk radio, one thing you won't get is an overexposure to "liberal orthodoxy", whatever that may be.

Here's an example from today's Chron. Perhaps this will help illuminate why the notion of liberal media bias is so laughable to me.

The Page One headline reads Bush's budget promise goes bust. It's pretty obvious from the get-go that blame for this broken promise will fall everywhere except at President Bush's feet.

President Bush's campaign promise to control government spending grows more elusive, with the nation's wartime budget about to mushroom and election-year politics promising huge new programs, particularly for the elderly.

Added to the mix are an enormous farm subsidy plan finalized by the House last week and to be cleared by the Senate this week; billions of dollars in child care funding Democrats want to add when Congress updates the nation's welfare laws later this year; an expensive drug subsidy both parties say they'll give senior citizens this year, and the inestimable cost of protecting the nation from another terrorist attack.

The bottom line for Bush, as diligent as his administration tries to be about clamping down on spending not related to the war on terrorism, will be a discretionary spending budget reaching $740 billion.

In other words, despite President Bush's heroic efforts, that nasty Congress will force him to spend more money than he wants to. But still, like the adult in charge that he is, he's in there fighting:

To try to contain nondefense expenditures, the Bush administration last week set the tone on two fronts for this year's budget battles.

First, it floated plans to rescind spending on programs such as student loan consolidation subsidies to help cover Bush's $27.1 billion emergency budget request for the war on terrorism and homeland security. Then the White House used a veto threat to try to stop lawmakers from adding their own spending priorities to the emergency measure.

What they don't mention, of course, is that the student loan consolidation subsidies amount to $5.2 billion, which as you may note is considerably less than $27.1 billion. There's no futher mention of any veto threat in this story, so what in particular the President threatened is unknown to the reader.

One place the President isn't threatening a veto is that enormous farm subsidy plan mentioned in the second paragraph. That bill, which has been roundly panned by pretty much everyone, will be signed into law by President Bush once it passes the Senate. It will add $73 billion to federal spending over ten years. That's a lot of student loans.

Naturally, this being the Chron, Bill Clinton must have something to do with whatever it is that's bad:

The added spending is expected to push the federal deficit for this year to more than $100 billion. The new spending continues an upward swing that began in the second half of the Clinton administration, while both the House and Senate were controlled by Republicans.

"We're very concerned that we don't continue the trend that was started under Clinton," said Neil Bradley, director of the Republican Study Committee, representing a group of 70 fiscally conservative GOP House members.

He and many other conservatives blame the federal government's bad spending habits on Clinton. However, even GOP aides acknowledge that lawmakers from both parties took advantage of the surpluses created by strong economic growth in the late 1990s.

If only Bill Clinton hadn't set such a bad example, then the congressional Republicans would have remembered that they once called themselves the party of fiscal responsibility and not gone on the wild spending orgies that are now so bothersome for President Bush.

Now that the word "deficit" has been mentioned, you might wonder what the effect Bush tax may have. Well, it's all explained here in Paragraph 26. Don't blink or you might miss it:

But all that extra spending -- combined with revenue losses both from increased unemployment, continued lower than expected corporate revenues and major tax cuts Bush ushered through Congress last year and again this year as part of an economic stimulus package -- promises to produce hundreds of billions of dollars in deficits.

See, the problem is SPENDING. Cutting revenue is merely an ancillary effect.

So the next time you complain about that nasty liberal press, log on to Houston's Daily Information Source (formerly known as Houston's Leading Information Source; scroll down to the last section to see what I mean) and give yourself the antidote.

5/06/2002

The show will go on Missed this last week - the Conroe production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas will be staged after all. Chalk up another triumph for Art.
Another new kid in town Christina Quinones, the "chief snugglebunny to Mr. Pigs and Fishes", has started a weblog. She has this interesting post about Colin Powell, his whereabouts on 9/11, and how it ties to the recent failed coup in Venezuela. Check it out.
That Guardian reporter who did a hatchet job on Alabama is now in Mississippi, according to Mac Thomason and Lee Ann at Spinsters.com. All I can say is God help us if he ever comes to Texas. Molly Ivins once wrote about how, for a visit from Queen Elizabeth, we should acknowledge our true selves and greet her with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, the Kilgore Rangerettes, the entire Texas Legislature, and so on. Of course, she meant that fondly. I suspect Mr. Engel would fail to see the humor.

Should Mr. Engel set his sights on our home state, I'll suggest that Lyle Lovett sing a slightly modified version of his song for him:

"That's right, you're not from Texas
And it's fine with us if you stay that way"
Update your links Electrolite has moved to a new home. Congrats on getting that settled, Patrick.
Grist for the mill Today's op-ed pages in the Chron includes this piece by a former death row inmate who was recently freed by DNA evidence. Regardless of where you stand on the death penalty - I'm more for it than against it - it's worth reading.

BTW, I predict that at least one crayon-wielding yahoo will send a letter to the Chron accusing them of having some kind of liberal-soft-on-crime bias for printing this. If said yahoo is a member of a so-called "victims' rights" group like Justice for All, I will be very non-surprised.

On an odd side note, the GIF they use for their runoff endorsements link is (modulo the text) the same image I've seen in various get-rich-quick spams. Very weird.
Another interesting political race The 23rd Congressional District in Texas, pitting the only Republican Hispanic representative from Texas against his first real challenger, is profiled here. State Rep. Henry Cuellar is looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla as part of the national Democratic strategy to retake control of the House. Cuellar is from Laredo, the same hometown as Tony Sanchez, and is clearly hoping that a big turnout for Sanchez will help carry him into office. Have I mentioned before that turnout is going to be the key to all these state races? Yes, I believe I have.

Bonilla's District 23 is geographically the second-largest congressional district in the United States, outsized only by an Alaskan seat. The district includes 625 miles of U.S.-Mexico border and sprawls from Laredo at the south end, north to pick up a portion of Bexar County and San Antonio, then west for a slice of El Paso County.

The population is diverse and dispersed, spanning from needy colonias and border towns to salt-of-the-earth West Texas farms and ranches, to flush and mainly Anglo suburban enclaves in northwest Bexar County, Bonilla's home turf.

Laredo's Webb County is one of two population anchors of the district with about 193,000 people. The other is northwest San Antonio and Bexar County with about 173,000 people. But because Webb turnout in general elections historically has hovered around 20 percent, the high-vote Bexar portion has dominated the district.

In the last nonpresidential election, Cuellar's home base produced only about 20,000 votes; Bonilla's home base, 38,000.

"Historically, the Anglo precincts in Bexar have had very high turnout, while the poor border precincts have done terribly," said University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray. "But you've got to throw out those recent election histories."

By the way, be sure to click on the district map in the story. They're not kidding when they say this district is huge. Of course, it's huge because, like the universe itself, it's mostly empty. You really don't know the meaning of the word "desolate" until you've driven I-10 through West Texas.
Phillie Phutility This column by Rob Neyer explores the long and mostly sorry history of the Philadelphia Phillies. If you think incompetent ownership is a recent phenomenon, you won't after you've read Neyer's overview.

5/05/2002

And as long as we're on hot-button topics, let me get this longstanding gripe off my chest. Every now and then, I see a woman make the claim that "if men could get pregnant then abortion would be a sacrament". Any woman who truly believes that the sides of the abortion argument break down neatly along gender lines has never spent any time as a clinic defender. The ability that some people have to not see reality never ceases to amaze me.
Why diversity is important I've been following the dustup about anti-gay remarks at the recent NRA convention with some interest. Ted Barlow has been on InstaPunditWatch throughout (see here, here, and here for full coverage) and documents how Reynolds eventually said the right things about this.

In his latest installment, Reynolds quotes at length from a note he got from David Rostcheck of The Pink Pistols. Rostcheck and Reynolds speak at length about the NRA's image problem. Both of them lay blame on the media (Rostcheck identifies it as more of an "editor problem" than a "reporter problem") for the fairly widespread perception that the NRA is, as CastleBravo on The Firing Line put it "a bunch of paranoid future spree killers, redneck Bambi-blasters and neo-Nazis".

To be fair, Rostcheck, Reynolds, and CastleBravo all recognize that the NRA itself contributes to this image, in no small part by having speakers who, as CastleBravo says, "at best can't keep their foot out of their mouth and at worst has an anti-gay bias and doesn't have the sense to keep it to themselves". None of them, though, really put the finger on what I believe is the leading contributor to this problem and its obvious cure: The NRA's most visible spokespeople are a bunch of angry white men.

Think about it. Who do you think of when you think of the NRA? Well, there's Wayne LaPierre, who at this same convention compared the founder of a gun-control group to Osama bin Laden and whose infamous "jack-booted thugs" remark caused Bush Sr. to tear up his NRA membership card. There's Charlton Heston. There's...well, I have no idea who else. And that's my point.

I believe Rostcheck and Reynolds when they say that the NRA is a largely diverse and welcoming organization. So why don't they act like a smart organization and take advantage of that diversity? I've heard of the Second Amendment Sisters. Thanks to Reynolds and Rostcheck, I've now heard of The Pink Pistols. I forget who pointed me to Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. That's three gun rights advocacy groups whose members would otherwise be associated with the Democratic/pro-gun-control side of things. I'm sure a bit of Googling would find more. Why the NRA doesn't give these folks a more prominent role in making its public statements is a mystery to me. I'm sorry, but if the public at large thinks that gun owners are mostly right-wing white men, the NRA has no one to blame but itself.

If I were an NRA member, I'd wonder why my organization hasn't taken the easy step to blunt my opponents' rhetoric by finding a nice unassuming soccer mom to replace Wayne LaPierre as its public face. Anti-abortion groups figured this out years ago - most of their spoksepeople are women for this very reason. Really, what are they afraid of - being accused of tokenism? A Maureen Dowd column which tries to make a case for that is an irony even a non-gun lover like me would relish.

It's a no-brainer. I fail to understand why they haven't thought of it.
The downside of living in the same town as other good bloggers is getting beaten to the punch. Ginger mostly sums up my feelings about the editorials today by George Will and Clay Robison. It's fair game for John Cornyn to play the control-of-the-Senate card in his race against Ron Kirk, but if that's the most compelling reason he can supply I think he's going to fail. And it goes without saying that a candidate for Lieutenant Governor who runs against Tom Daschle is a candidate in deep need of a self identity.

These races are going to come down to voter turnout. Both sides know it, and I think the GOP is scared of it. Stay tuned.