6/08/2002

On to Omaha! The Rice Owls will play in their third College World Series since 1997 after shutting out five-time national champs LSU in consecutive games in the Super Regional. Rice will play the winner of the Houston-University of Texas series next weekend in Omaha. Go Rice!
Maasai on NPR In case you slept in this morning, there was an interview with Kimeli Maiyomah, a member of the Maasai tribe of Western Kenya, about the Maasai's gift of 14 cows to the American people as a gesture of consolation for the 9/11 attack. You can hear it via Real Audio here.

6/07/2002

I Don't Want To Know Dept. Today's weird Google search referral: "Olsen twins legal age count down". There's an R. Kelly joke in there somewhere, but I'm not quite feeling up to it right now.
Jay Zilber has a nice rant about the music industry. Personally, I've bought about ten CDs so far this year. Every single one of them was bought from a band I saw at the Mucky Duck. There are some CDs that I eventually want which I'll have to buy a an actual record store, but with the possible exception of the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, none of them will be chart toppers. By God I'll embrace my descent into Old Fogeyhood if I can strike a mortal blow at the RIAA in the process!
This would be funny if it weren't so pathetic Ginger notes that the Chron's least useful columnist Thom Marshall has written in praise of the Valentine Foundation, the charitable organization headed by onetime would-be womb-renter Whitney Broach. She's not sure whether he disagress with the Houston Press report that I cited previously or simply hasn't read it. Like her, I suspect the latter. The Press has made some sport of ragging on the ineffably irrelevant Marshall, who so richly deserves it. Look no further than ol' Thom for a good part of any smart Houstonian's contempt for the Chron.
The political season has officially begun here in Texas with the state GOP convention occurring this weekend in Dallas. The Dems get together next weekend in El Paso. The Rs are trying to figure out how they can win without Dubya's coattails, a nontrivial matter since Rick Perry and Carole Keeton Rylander both eked out wins in 1998. They'll have plenty of advantages this year but no guarantees.

Of course, the Dems continue to be unable to articulate why they're a better choice. We received a Tony Sanchez For Governer leaflet on our porch the other day. The themes he highlights are Education, Health Care, and Bringing Business Experience to Government. Let's see, Bush actually acheived some education reform, and HMO reform legislation passed on his watch (against his will, of course, but he still claimed credit for it). It's kind of amusing to realize that Business Experience is a claim that the Democrat can make against the career-politician Republican, but with all the business disasters lately I wonder how much of a plus that is. My point here is that Sanchez, like Ron Kirk, is running on Bush's themes. I still fail to see how they can hope to compete in that area, since Bush himself will be giving visible support to their opponents. Can someone explain this to me?

Kirk, meanwhile, is still floundering around with a charge that he's reversed himself on support for making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Please tell me again why we have a Democrat running if all he's going to do is support Republican policies? I really hope Kirk is learning from these mistakes, because if he's not he's going to get his ass handed to him in November.

6/06/2002

And now a few words about exploding toilets. You have been warned.
Equal Time Dept. I saw a few conservo-bloggers link to this Ruben Bolling cartoon, which mocks Democratic attempts to claim that Bush should have known about 9/11. I'm willing to bet that most of them will not be linking to this week's Bolling cartoon.
RIP, 55 MPH The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) has voted to shelve the new 55 MPH speed limit for in and around Harris County. TNRCC has bowed to pressure from people who've said all along that it won't do squat to help air pollution. Don't mean to say "I told you so" but...

Naturally, Governor Goodhair is trying to make political hay out of this:

With his effort to help restore higher speed limits on Houston highways, Gov. Rick Perry stepped on the gas in his own race to remain in the Governor's Mansion.

And while Perry can expect to face scrutiny about his dedication to clean the air, political analysts say he scored with voters on an issue that will be difficult for Democratic opponent Tony Sanchez to oppose.

"It doesn't take much imagination to understand that almost every Texan wants to drive faster," said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein. "The candidate who can deliver a 70-mph speed limit to the people of Harris County will have, if not their votes, their gratitude."

I have a lot of respect for Bob Stein, but why in the world should people be grateful to the governor for this? I mean, on whose watch was this stoopid plan conceived? On whose watch do we have to pay for the 55 MPH signs to go up and then come back down again? And as the other story notes, it'll be awhile - maybe not until 2003 - before most of these signs come down, and until they do, the 55 MPH limit is in effect. If so, there may be a backlash instead of a reward.

And how is it that Perry got to the front of this parade? The main people fighting the lower speed limit have been the counties surrounding Houston, who had threatened a lawsuit to exempt themselves. And according to the EPA, it was in part to "the leadership of Governor Rick Perry" and others that the TNRCC plan, including the lower speed limit, was enacted in the first place. Here's Rick Perry and that noted environmental activist Tom DeLay joining EPA Regional Administrator Greg Cooke for the October 15 signing of the State Implementation Plan (SIP) that imposed the lower speed limit. Here's a TV sound bite from March 25 in which Perry says "everyone is a part of the solution". Only in April, a good six months after implementation, do we see Perry ask the TNRCC to "consider" alternatives to the 55 MPH limit. The man has no shame.

(Oh, and how nice it would be if Houston's Leading Information Source could have pointed this out as a counter to Perry's shameless politicking. How nice it would be if I didn't have to go Googling for this information. How nice it would be if we had some of that famous liberal bias in our daily fishwrap.)

Of course, our Democratic leadership seems to want to insist on handing Perry the victory:

Some Democrats, including U.S. Reps. Ken Bentsen, Gene Green and Sheila Jackson Lee, have complained about the lower speed. But it has been largely a Republican effort.

"I'm sure that Democrats are more concerned with the environment, and the 55-mph speed limit is part of the effort of cleaning up the air," said Harris County Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Schechter.

Earth to Sue: The lower speed limit was a loser with a capital L. It put a lot of time and money into a low-return effort and pissed people off in the process. The new emissions testing, and the long-overdue proposed new rules for refineries will have a real effect. Had any of our previous governors (like, oh, say, the last one) done anything about the fact that in 1999, a bunch of refineries were still allowed to pollute at 1970 levels thanks to a 28-year-old long-outdated grandfather clause in the state's environmental regulations, maybe this whole lower speed limit fiasco could have been avoided. Why not act like you have two brain cells to rub together and talk about the wasted effort and Bush's oh-so-strict call for "voluntary" emissions reductions instead?

I'd feel much better about the Democrats' chances in this year's election if I saw actual evidence that they had an idea about how to win. Sheesh.
Elephants vs. RINOs The good news for us Dems is that the Republicans may just be serious about enforcing party purity, according to the Houston Press. This expands on the Chron story I linked to on Sunday.
Oops Turns out George Will wasn't endorsing the position that pilots shouldn't carry guns, as I thought he was. He was merely giving the other side's viewpoint. Now he gives his.
The Katy Corridor Coalition, a group of activists dedicated to rethinking the ungodly plan to widen I-10 West into 22 lanes, reports a a crowd of over 500 at their most recent public meeting. I was unable to attend, but I certainly support their efforts. Let's hope the politicians take notice.
Whoring wrapup Salon readers defend Media Whores Online and its style. It's clear that a lot of MWO fans read Salon, and most of them didn't care much for this article.

Meanwhile Atrios responds to my previous thoughts about MWO and its tactics. He makes a lot of good points, as does Avedon Carol, who wrote in the comments "If it didn't work, we wouldn't be hearing about MWO all of a sudden. Consortium News has been doing careful, measured articles for a long time and you don't hear their name in the media at all."

I'll say again that I'm glad someone is doing this. It clearly needed to be done. I still wish it could be done in a less strident way, but I can't argue with success. It's interesting to me that sites like MWO, BuzzFlash and the Daily Howler have gained a lot of traction since the 2000 election. We've heard "the liberal media" and "liberal media bias" tossed around so much in conservative circles that it's nearly become conventional wisdom despite all the evidence that there's plenty of non-liberal media and media bias. Perhaps now that such sites have started fighting back we might hope to change some perceptions. If that happens, then I'll retract all my doubts and equivocations about MWo and its ilk.

On a side note, Atrios printed an email he got from Jennifer Liberto prior to the Salon article, in which she tried to find some sources to interview. I expect there to be more on this, so stay tuned.

6/05/2002

Losing Strategy Dept. So Ron Kirk has sent a letter to the Senate urging confirmation hearings for President Bush's nominees, despite the fact that earlier this year he sent a fundraising letter which criticized GOP attempts to "pack the federal courts with conservative jurists who oppose Democrat rights and principles, including a woman's right to choose." Naturally, his GOP opponent, John Cornyn, has reacted with delight to this boneheaded move on Kirk's part:

A spokesman for Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, Kirk's Republican opponent, said the Democratic candidate was "wilting" under pressure from Cornyn, who has repeatedly criticized Senate Democrats for delaying confirmation proceedings.

[...]

Cornyn has repeatedly challenged Kirk and other Democrats on the judicial confirmation issue. He has specifically gone to bat for Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, whose nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been on hold for more than a year.

I call this a boneheaded move not because I don't think that Priscilla Owen is a bad judge who should be kept off the Federal bench (I do, but that's beside the point). I call it boneheaded because I can't see the point in running as the candidate who promises to work the most closely with Bush. There's no way that Ron Kirk can win that way, since Bush himself will do whatever he can to get his fellow Republican elected. This is a huge asset for John Cornyn. For Kirk to fight on those terms is suicidal.

Look, George W. Bush is hugely popular in this state. Ron Kirk isn't going to win by running strongly against Bush. But to try and paint himself as the man in Bush's corner is counterproductive to the Demcratic strategy, which is based on black and Hispanic voter turnout. With enough turnout from those groups, Kirk will need something like 35% of the Anglo vote. A no-name no-money perennial candidate got 35% of the vote running against Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2000. There's enough baseline Democratic support for this.

What Ron Kirk can and should do is to identify himself with popular policies, including some popular Bush policies, but stress the ways in which he can do better. For example, Kirk can offer the obligatory support of the War on Terror while questioning our cozy relationship with Arafat and the Saudis. Even in an oil state like Texas, I think support for the war will override the economics. Kirk can praise Bush's education reforms, such as standardized testing, while questioning the need to move oversight up a level to the federal government. And of course there's much fertile ground with Enron and accounting reform, making the FBI and CIA more efficient and accountable, rational environmental concerns - remember Houston? what can you do about air quality here? - and lots of other things.

So I don't understand why Ron Kirk is wasting his time on this. It's not an issue he can win with.
Governor Goodhair rocks on From today's Chron:

With a sly reference to his own need for speed, Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday ordered the Texas Department of Transportation to use clean diesel in its Houston-area fleet, a measure that could bolster the case for repealing the end of the unpopular 55 mph environmental speed limit.

[...]

Neither Perry nor TNRCC Chairman Robert Huston would speculate on what will happen with the 55 mph speed limit at the commission meeting. Asked flatly whether he supported repealing the limit, Perry became slyly cryptic.

"Being a young man who grew up in the '60s and '70s and '80s, drove on relatively large and open and straight and long highways, I'm a big fan of Sammy Hagar," the governor deadpanned.

For those who didn't grow up in those decades, Perry was referring to a track on Hagar's 1984 album VOA titled I Can't Drive 55.

Duuuuuude...
Separated at birth? You make the call. Images taken from the blogs in question.


 


Ginger Stampley


Kimberly Swygert
Minute Maid Park? Well, the Astros have found a corporate sugar daddy to pay the big bucks to rename EnronAstros Field. Hell, I didn't even know Minute Maid was based in Houston, but there it is. All I know is that if they go back to the orange uniforms of yesteryear in honor of the new sponsor, I may have to start a fan revolt.
Found it! Though it still wasn't reported on ESPN, I have found Ralph Nader's letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern. It's good to know that like Al Gore, Nader has kept himself busy with Important Issues since the election.

6/04/2002

What the? All of a sudden my referral log is full of people searching for a letter that Ralph Nader sent to NBA Commissioner David Stern. What's up with that? I can't find anything at ESPN or Yahoo. Is there some group-mind thing going on out there, or am I just seeing a bunch of variations by one obsessive but misguided Googler?
Media whoring Jennifer Liberto's article in Salon about Media Whores Online has gotten some buzz lately. As is often the case, Atrios is all over it.

While I generally agree with the criticisms that are being made of Liberto's piece, I find I'm not wholly comfortable with MWO. Oh, their anonymity doesn't bother me. There's plenty of anonymous bloggers out there. When you can't judge someone by a name and reputation, you have to judge them by the persuasiveness of their writing and their fidelity to facts, and by that standard many of them put certain Actual Professional Journalists to shame. MWO and other collaborative efforts like them should be judged by the same standard. Plus, as one of Atrios' commenters says, we seem to have no problem accepting the word of "real" journalists, including Matt Drudge, when they use anonymous sources. With MWO you have unknown writers citing names. How is that less trustworthy?

No, what bothers me is the tone of their writing, and especially the tone of the email campaigns that they've led. I can certainly sympathize with those like Digby, who comments that "[c]ompared to Freep or Lucianne, MWO is St. Francis of Assisi". It's hard to see the value in making like Emily Post when you feel you're being shouted down at every turn.

But still. Maybe I'm just too squishy-nice for my own good (*cough* *cough*), but I'd rather maintain a civil tone and with it the moral high ground. How else can I maintain my aura of Self-Satisfied Liberal Arrogance if I'm getting my hands dirty like that? Seriously, it's just not my style to go all ballistic like they do. I suppose I'm happy that someone else is doing it for me, but I still find it all a bit cringeworthy sometimes.

For example, in the infamous case of Stenographer Sue, I have to say that I don't consider the emails in question to be at all constructive. Frankly, if I'd gotten them as feedback I'd dismiss them as cranks. I'd probably feel more secure in my righteousness if what I'd said could spur people like that to spew invective at me.

Of course, maybe the fact that Sue resorted to a hamhanded attempt to get her correspondents fired indicates that they'd struck a nerve. I just know that whatever I may think of MWO, I'd have never written such emails, even from a throwaway address. It's just not me.
Brush with fame The Chron discovers blogs in its Technology section this week. Right there, along with the Prof and Asparagirl, is H-town blogs, our local group page. I was wondering why I'd started getting so many referrals from that page, since it's usually only updated when we announce new members or a Happy Hour. Now I know.
Objectionable alter egos? Ginger quotes Eve Tushnet about the origins of Spider-Man, American innoncence, and Baby Boomer self-absorption. Oh, hell, let me give you the full passage, from one of Eve's blogwatches:

Unqualified Offerings: David Broder gets spidey-smacked [...] I need to add my own rant to the Broder-bashing, because this passage promotes an idea that seriously gets (and annoys) my goat: David Broder writes, "In 1962, when the first Spider-Man comic appeared, the notion of making his alter ego a New York City kid was unobjectionable. We were an innocent country then, not yet familiar with assassinations, urban riots and terrorist attacks." I HATE this cliche. I hate how America didn't lose its innocence with slavery--or the removal of the Cherokee--or the Civil War--or the World Wars--or Hiroshima and Nagasaki--but a pretty president pulls a Lincoln and suddenly America's lost her virginity? What kind of blinkered, privileged, everything-everyone-hates-about-the-Boomers perspective is this? C'mon.

Um. Jim Henley does a fine job with smacking Broder for being incredibly prissy about Spider-Man, a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. Eve is right on with the Baby Boomer Baloney. But what I want to know is, what exactly is "objectionable" about making a superhero's alter ego a New York City kid nowadays? Who is objecting to this, and how can I best administer a cluestick to their noggins? Is there some Department of Objectionable Superhero Origins that I'm not aware of? (If so, it must be Clinton's fault. Surely this began during the prior administration.)

I've read the Broder column that Henley so neatly dismembers, and I still can't understand that line about "the notion of making his alter ego a New York City kid was unobjectionable". I can grok the concern about havoc being wrought on New York - though let's face it, if depictions of havoc-wreaking are wrong, they're wrong regardless of whether it's New York or some other place that's being stomped. I say that some depictions of havoc-wreaking are more respectful and less gratuitous than others, and I say that if we can't show ugliness and violence any more, we won't be able to adequately show heroism and goodness. In the meantime, David, here's a movie that hopefully won't offend your delicate sensibilities.

6/03/2002

It was humbling to pick up the Times at Central Market today and read this story about the Masai of Kenya, who were sufficiently moved by the tragedy of 9/11 to donate 14 cows to its victims. I'm grateful for their charity and their understanding. If only we had more friends like them.
Three of the four teams I was rooting for yesterday lot, but the one winner was sweet: Rice bounced back from losing on a walk-off homer to advance to the Super Regional in the NCAA baseball championships. The Owls get to take on five-time national champs Louisiana State this weekend for the right to advance to the College World Series. Go Owls!
Sleeping lawyer is incompetent counsel So says the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the appeal of the state of Texas in the Calvin Burdine case. This case is Exhibit A for death penalty opponents and people who think Texas is barbaric. Justice was served here. Let's learn our lesson and move on.
You snooze, you lose Recently I mentioned that there ought to be a Sexiest Female Blogger poll to go with Dawn Olsen's Sexiest Male Blogger poll. I said I'd be willing to host such a poll if people cared. Well, I waited too long - Matt Moore beat me to it. Let your voices be heard, folks.

FWIW, as one who primarily reads political blogs, three women whom I'd have liked to see nominated are not on Matt's list. Under penalty of death and dismemberment, I ain't saying who they are.

UPDATE: One of the women I'd have nominated is now there. Figure it out for yourself, I still ain't saying.

6/02/2002

Am I missing something? I see that Mark Steyn is writing about how political correctness, in the form of a reluctance by the FBI to single out Arabs and Muslims as more likely to be terrorists, is a threat to Americans now and in the future. While he does note that the Bush administration hasn't done much about this, he never mentions the fact that Bush specifically campaigned against profiling Arab- and Muslim-Americans in 2000. This was part of a concerted effort, led by GOP activist Grover Norquist, to court Arab-American votes and endorsements, especially in swing states like Michigan. It worked, too. So why doesn't Steyn call a spade a spade? If this was a failure, it was a failure of Bush's policies. Do I really have to play the if-this-had-happened-while-Clinton-was-President card here?
TS Allison one year later It's hard to read about the effects of Tropical Storm Allison one year after. I was actually out of town during the worst of it, so I'm still awed by the pictures and stories of the devastation. We're still nowhere near being fully recovered.

Naturally, events of this magnitude are going to be an irresistable opportunity for grifters and shysters, such as Whitney Broach, a woman who first gained notoriety in 1993 when she put up a billboard advertising a womb for rent. Like cockroaches, people like that never truly go away.
Ahead of the curve Back in April I printed this excerpt from Joshua Trevino's blog, in which a former coworker of Josh's who is now on Ron Kirk's campaign speculated that Karen Hughes resigned in part because Dubya and the national party are worried about the 2002 Texas races. Today in the "Personality Parade" section of Parade magazine, the following letter appears (reprinted due to lack of linkage):

Q. I applaud Karen Hughes' decision to return to Texas to spend more time with her husband and son. But was that really the only reason she quit as counselor to President Bush?

A. No. President Bush asked Hughes to buck up their state's Republican Party, which is in danger of losing this fall's governor's race and the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Phil Gramm. Such a defeat would be a major (ed. note: surely he meant to say "major league"?) humiliation for the President. Hughes, 45, is intimately familiar with the Lone Star State's rough-and-tumble politics, and Mr. Bush is counting on her to save face for him and the GOP.

Remember, you heard it in the blogosphere first! Take a bow, Josh.

For what it's worth, the state GOP is focusing on voter turnout and winning half of the more than 4000 partisan seats in this election. They do have some obstacles to overcome, including a proposal to enforce ideological purity:

Some Republicans fear that at least one item up for consideration at the convention could work against that mainstream appeal. It is a proposal that the party require its candidates to assume all core positions of the party platform.

Opponents believe that some of the more conservative planks of the platform -- such as strict opposition to abortion or a return to the gold standard -- could scare away many middle-of-the-road voters.

The gold standard? What century are we in again? Party platforms are generally little more than the distilled beliefs of the True Faithful. Real politicians, who recognize that they need the support of people here on Planet Earth in order to win elections and govern effectively, generally ignore them. The best thing the state GOP could do for Democrats like me is to force all their candidates to subjugate their beliefs for those of the True Faithful.
Calling Matthew and Glenn I need some perspective here on this report that Harvard is changing how it investigates sexual misconduct allegations.

Under the old policy, the school would automatically look into any claim of a peer dispute, including a sexual assault. The May 7 change mandates anyone filing a dispute complaint provide "sufficient independent corroboration" of misconduct before the school investigates.

The new policy -- believed by some to be the first such requirement in the nation -- sparked soul-searching among faculty who approved it, a protest from angry students and women's groups, and fierce debate over Harvard's responsibility to investigate difficult-to-prove claims.

Any thoughts, guys?