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Prop 1 opponents known by the company they keep

There’s been a lot of noise – and I do mean noise – against Prop 1 in Travis County Texas in recent days. The people making most of it would be hysterically funny, if the outcome of that ballot measure wasn’t so incredibly important to the quality of healthcare for Central Texas.

The proposition, which has incredibly broad support across the community, would help fund a central Texas medical school, in turn improving specialty care services, trauma services, and overall access and quality of health care in the area. Experts estimate that for every dollar invested now on this, $2.46 will be generated. It’s just a damn good deal all around.

That point is lost on the folks who oppose it. Who are those folks? I’m so glad you asked.

They’re led by people like Don Zimmerman. I tweeted about him yesterday. It’s time for a little context.

Don Zimmerman, leader of the White Noise Movement

Mr. Zimmerman, you may or may not recall, led efforts to sue to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act a few years ago. The Voting Rights Act is the federal law, passed in the 60’s and re-authorized under President George W. Bush, which has done more than anything to ensure that racial minorities can vote freely in elections. Section 5 of the Act is the part that ensures that areas that have historically discriminated against minority voting rights don’t weasel out. So Zimmerman wanted the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out Section 5. The Supreme Court subsequently and very courtiously invited Zimmerman to suck a nut. They didn’t give him what he wanted.

Fast forward to now, and Prop 1. See, Zimmerman is against Prop 1. Presumably because Zimmerman is against pretty much everything, except perhaps cheesy red shirts. But urging people to vote no on it wasn’t good enough for Zimmerman, so he has sued in Federal court to prevent voters from even having a say. The suit is currently pending.

Here’s where it gets good: he sued under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – the very law he tried to get thrown out a few years ago. The hypocricy is stunning in its beauty and perfection.

But here’s where it gets even better: he realized that he made a mistake in filing the suit under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and he has now amended his suit. He now claims that the proposition violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

But here is where it gets the very best: here’s why, in his new and improved pleadings, he says it violates the Voting Rights Act:

The description has not been, as required by statute, limited to the statutory language, but expanded far beyond what is permitted, to promote the ballot proposition. This is a violation of the Voting Rights Act as such change will tend to have a discriminatory effect on minority voters based on historical date [sic] such as reading comprehension. [emphasis added]

Go back and read that key passage one more time – I double-dog dare ya.

Zimmerman just said that Prop 1 discriminates because minorities can’t read. Even more pathetically, Zimmerman’s sloppy writing skills, in explaining that minorities can’t read, only proved that Zimmerman can’t write.

So rest easy, Austin – the future quality and availability of your health care needs rests with the likes o’ Don Zimmerman and his buddies. Unless, of course, you ignore their way-too-white noise, and go vote for Prop 1.

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If you don’t think Austin is happy to see President Obama…

Think again.

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FUBAR-Cam update: graffiti

Neighborhood folks over in East Austin where I live are generally pretty good about erasing street graffiti whenever it appears. But they seem to be taking their own sweet time doing away with this gem, and who can blame them? What it lacks in artistic value, it more than makes up for in its smile-inducing sentiment.

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FUBAR-Cam update: bar procedures

I spotted this sign a few days ago, posted on the door of the walk-in cooler of an Austin bar.

There can only be one kind of mishap responsible for this new policy, so I certainly hope no bartenders were injured in the making of my beer. But feel free to embellish your own “based on a true story” mini-novel leading to the posting of this sign in the comments section.

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Dear SXSW Participants:

Welcome to Austin!  We’re so very glad you’re here, and we’re pleased to provide you the opportunity to take a break from your usual daily routine…

We’re sure you already know that you are key to the success of the conference. Events such as these present such wonderful opportunities to network with others with similar interests…

We’re absolutely confident that SXSW will be a great chance to learn about the latest technologies, and to participate in discussions with the very best of the world’s leading innovators. Because, after all, you managed to convince your very reluctant boss to shell out at least $600 in registration fees alone for you to be here, so he or she is obviously counting on you to come back with many new ideas…

and you will without a doubt leave here with a greater understanding on how best to develop future technologies which will benefit all of mankind…

But please – and we mean this sincerely – no matter what else happens, we hope you really enjoy your stay here in Austin. If, however, you’re not completely satisfied with our fair city, please provide us the feedback necessary to make Austin a better place to visit in the future…

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FUBAR-Cam Update: pre-SXSW edition #2

Perhaps the most ironic FUBAR-Cam update ever, here’s a shuttle bus spotted in downtown Austin, promoting a film being screened at SXSW Film Festival.

[photo courtesy of, and swiped fair-and-square from, Mean Rachel]

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Clearly, SXSW is going to the dogs

I am completely excited, and somewhat terrified, to have been included as an IgniteSXSW speaker tomorrow night at the Austin Music Hall. This, despite the fact that I’ve never attended SXSW, nor have I ever attended an Ignite event. That the event is headlined by titans Bob Metcalfe and Guy Kawasaki doesn’t intimidate me any less, let’s just say.

Here’s the blurb on their website about my big 5 minutes of fame flame:

Political Communication in 2021

Harold Cook

The future of successful political communications in the coming decade is even more uncertain than political communications methods have been over the past decade. Political advisor, analyst, and satirist Harold Cook will explore the range of possibilities for the future, in this very unique pursuit for votes – in which more than half the candidates fall short, almost half the voters are bitterly disappointed, and almost everyone involved takes themselves way too seriously.

Somebody mentioned earlier this week that now that I’m on the SXSW program this year, I’d have to stop ragging on SXSW. She’s about to find out how utterly wrong she is, when a SXSW piece will auto-post in this space tomorrow night while I’m speaking.

Here’s what an Ignite event is all about.

Here’s the line-up of speakers.

Here’s where to register to attend, even if you don’t have SXSW credentials. And yes, the bar in the Music Hall will be open. That’s where you’ll find me immediately before and after my part of the program.

Spoiler alert: this might come up during my remarks. Just sayin’.

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Keep Fort Wayne, Indiana Weird??

Dear People of Austin:

I can’t complain – you’ve done your part. It’s impossible to criticize you, especially when it’s clear that you’ve given it your all.

There’s no better example of that than the post immediately below this one, in which you’re trying your very best to name Austin’s solid waste department something that befits Austin’s proud heritage of eccentricity.

But, dearest People of Austin, I don’t think there’s any way to sugar-coat this, so I’m just going to be blunt: when it comes to naming stuff, compared to Fort Wayne, Indiana, you people are totally sucking hind tit.

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Somebody should have nominated Letters From Texas

The City of Austin asked citizens a simple enough question: help us rename the city’s solid waste department. The department takes care of garbage, recycling, street sweeping, that sort of thing.

With a question that wide-open, you had to know that the “Keep Austin Weird” crowd would not disappoint. The overwhelming favorite at the moment is the Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts, with almost 26,000 votes.

Also getting significant votes at the moment are:

— Department of Neat and Clean

— Ministry of Filth

— Longhorn Alumni Society

— Austin Department of Are You Gonna Eat that?

Also included in the options seeing heavy voting is “The Colbert Solid Waste Department,” an obvious reference to when NASA asked for public input when determining a name for a new node of the International Space Station. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert led a campaign to name it after him, and his name was a runaway favorite among those giving input.

Of course NASA ignored that public input and named their Space Station node “Tranquility” instead, and sadly, the City of Austin is likely to ignore the above suggestions on new names for their garbage department as well.

That said, one of the suggested names did catch my eye as being especially appropriate for an Austin garbage department. But I’m guessing the person who suggested “Texas A&M University” will ultimately be just as disappointed as Stephen Colbert’s fans were.

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Austin weather update

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely exhausted from shoveling snow this morning!

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Austin News Briefs

Members of DeLay Jury Speak Out

Several jurors who sat in judgment of once-powerful former U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay were speaking out for the first time today, despite the judge presiding over the case having ruled against releasing their names to media at the close of the trail. The jury ultimately convicted DeLay of both charges against him.

Courthouse speculation during jury deliberations had been that jurors were wandering off-track, as a series of increasingly odd questions was being sent from the jury room to the judge. At one point, the jury asked the judge to explain the details of a crime DeLay wasn’t charged with, and which isn’t recognized as a crime under Texas law.

One juror, Max Sandlin, said that some jurors wanted to ask questions even farther afield, including why DeLay would not be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

Two other jurors, Nick Lampson and Martin Frost, were reportedly in favor of sending the judge a note to ask if the Nuremberg Trials could re-convene, and DeLay’s fate instead be considered there.

But another juror, Charlie Stenholm, said he was content with the proceeding, and satisfied that DeLay got a fair trial.

“I think we calmed any doubts about whether a man like Congressman DeLay could get a fair trial in Travis County,” Stenholm said. “There’s no doubt that the trial was fair, and my fellow juror Chris Bell completely agrees with me,” he said.

Stenholm also offered an explanation of why deliberations stretched over several days, explaining that one juror, whom he identified as Ralph Hall, kept switching sides as deliberations continued.

Other jurors said their deliberations were further hampered because of the room in which they met. Apparently, the so-called “Lloyd Doggett Jury Room” is a difficult space in which to work, since it is only two feet wide, but almost 80 feet long.

State Representative Elliott Naishtat Briefly Hospitalized After Thanksgiving Buffet Incident

State Representative Elliott Naishtat was released from the hospital this afternoon, after a mishap involving multiple visits to several Thanksgiving holiday buffets caused him to explode.

Naishtat, moments before mishap

Naishtat, well known for accepting dinner invitations and for being a frequent visitor to buffet lines, was reportedly attending his ninth Thanksgiving dinner of the day, when witnesses say they heard a loud pop, just before Naishtat collapsed onto the pumpkin pie table.

“I don’t know how this could have happened,” said one witness. “One minute he was filling up his Ziplock Baggie-lined suit pockets with leftover turkey and dressing, and the next minute we were resuscitating him and calling for an ambulance,” she added.

Police at the scene said that no one else was seriously injured, although several were overcome by baby carrots.

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Is that the UT Tower, or are you happy to see me?

Well, what do you know – Austin is America’s most sexually-active city.

I was kind of proud of our local recognition, until I read where else is on the list.

Number 2 on the list is Dallas, and Fort Worth and Arlington are also included. Clearly this means that big hair is back, and that’s disturbing.

Also on the top ten list is Oklahoma City. I had no idea they were counting farm animals. It also made me wonder why College Station didn’t make the cut for the same reason, until I realized that they couldn’t figure out how to fill out and return the questionnaire.

Anyway, Texas’ cities were well-represented on the list, and while I suppose it’s something else Rick Perry will take credit for somehow, we can sleep well tonight (in what little spare time remains) knowing that Texas is finally not last in something.

Keep up the good work.

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Bill Hammond gives us some lip

Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters took a field trip to Katz’ Deli for lunch today to see if we could weasel our way into the CNBC live broadcast. We failed miserably of course, but got a pretty good ruben sandwich out of the deal.
While there, we ran into none other than Bill Hammond, who heads up the Texas Association of Business. He was undoubtedly there for the same reason, with undoubtedly the same result.
We couldn’t help but notice that Bill is sporting a brand new shiny mustache.
Hammond with Mustache
Hammond without Mustache

Should Bill Hammond keep the mustache?
Absolutely not! free polls

Since he’s not an idiot, Hammond has not agreed to abide by the results of this ultra-turbo-super-duper-scientific poll. But he’s a good sport for playing along.

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Dear Austin City Council:

Both the Hood County Republican Party and the Burleson Tea Party have announced a boycott of Austin, in retaliation for the City of Austin announcing its own boycott of Arizona.

Our secret plan to keep annoying people from Hood County and Burleson out of Austin is working perfectly. Keep up the good work.

PS: is there any way you can see your way clear to getting the entire state of Oklahoma to boycott Austin too?

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Debra Medina trashes Texas

I live within 500 yards of two election day precinct polling places, and about five blocks from one of the most popular early voting locations in Travis County, so it’s no surprise that by election day, my area is well-populated with political yard signs of all persuasions.

Since there were so many contested judicial races in Travis County this time, and since the nomination for Governor was contested in both parties’ primaries, this was a banner year for signs. Or is that a sign year for banners? Whatever, you get the point: my neighborhood was packed with yard signs.

But after the primary election, all the campaigns, both Republican and Democratic, were very good about going through the neighborhood and removing their signs. By 48 hours following the election, there wasn’t a yard sign to be found. Literally thousands of political signs had disappeared.

Except for one candidate: Debra Medina.

Debra Medina’s yard signs are still everywhere. Up and down Cherrywood Road. Scattered on 38 1/2 Street. A metric ton of them up and down Airport Blvd., for miles.

After tweeting about it, I got a reply from a Medina supporter a couple of days ago, asking me where the errant signs are. Although my first thought was “why does that matter – her campaign should be removing her signs wherever they are,” I meekly replied to her and explained where they are. Two days later, the signs are still there.

For the record, Debra, you’re trashing up East Austin. But if you’re still trashing up my area, I’m guessing you’re still trashing up many areas around Texas. What happened to that big enthusiasm your supporters claimed on your behalf?

Note to the City of Austin: it’s clear that the Medina-istas aren’t going to fulfill their legal obligations, so how’s about you taking a break from the important work of searching out the dastardly criminals who are texting while driving, and instead collect the Medina signs, then fine Medina for every one of ’em you collect?

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