Shit Happens

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The Purge, Part 11

Governor Rick Perry spoke for the first time about his office's questionable policy of deleting emails from its server after seven days. This policy was the reason for The Purge series, and The Purge: Part One inspired open government activist, John Washburn, to request several weeks worth of the governor's emails as a challenge to the policy.

Because of the cost of the emails -- which are considered public records -- Washburn could only get four days worth. From just that snapshot, reporters have been able to find previously uncovered stories about Texas government:

The AP found within those emails that more abused or neglected children are forced to stay in emergency shelters with their case workers.

The Star-Telegram found communication within the office about Governor Perry spending his time campaigning for Rudy Giuliani, among other things.

Perry was asked about the policy in a longer-than-usual press conference in his office this afternoon. Jay Root, the Star-Telegram reporter who first combed through the emails, asked Perry about the policy. In answering the question, he makes a slight personal dig at Root:

"If an email actually has some impact on an issue rather than 'so-and-so had a liquid lunch', which is salacious, and I know you love voyeurism. I mean, I know that about you," Governor Perry said. "The fact of the matter is that if we're allowed to make a decision about keeping records that are important, then I think we do that."

Posted by E
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Serious Sandwich Debate
All right, so I pull up to Burger King for breakfast this morning, a departure from my normal breakfast-of-choice, the chicken biscuit meal at Chik-Fil-A.

When I pull up, photog Todd calls me to say we're working together. I pause to order.

"Uh yeah, could I get the Croissanwich with bacon meal, an orange juice to drink," I said. Note, I pronounced it a "cruh-SAHN-wich."

Several hours later, photog Todd and I are crossing 11th street. He says I pronounce "croissanwich" all wrong.

"Do you think you're French? It's "cruh-SAN-wich." (The last half pronounced like sandwich)

I said I would poll people on how it should be pronounced. He says nine out of ten people will agree it's "cruh-SAND-wich", not "cruh-SAHN-wich." Settle this.
Posted by E
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Double Vision

As Austin City Councilwoman Jennifer Kim revs up her campaigning in the face of a re-election challenge, I have been confused for her at least half a dozen times. We don't actually look much alike. Then again, we are both Asian-American, and you know what they say about all Asians...

Kim and Hu

Tonight, Kim and I finally met. And we BOTH happened to be wearing gray suits. So I HAD TO get a picture with her, for anyone who was still confused. Kim apologized for my recent run-ins with her fans, I said I didn't really mind, it provided excellent blog fodder.

"I'm going to start running campaign commercials soon so you're probably going to get it more," said Kim.

Posted by E
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Dukes Campaign Manager Tells Me to Chill

Colin Strother is a campaign consultant for State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, who's in a primary race against newcomer Brian Thompson in her East Austin district. After I saw that Dukes advertised for canvassers, it was clear that there would be an on-the-ground campaign for the district.

So I emailed Strother, asking how many volunteers signed up as a result of the ad. Strother responded and then some, and he never indicated at any point that he wanted to go off the record. Below is what he had to say in its entirety. Previously, I have summed up his comments or used a direct quote that he designated as a usable quote, but his full response speaks more honestly.

From: elisehu@yahoo.com

To: colinstrother@XXXXX.com
Subject: craigslist ad
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2008 21:34:57 -0600

I just saw a screengrab of this craigslist ad for Dukes volunteers.
Do you have a number on how many volunteers responded to the ad and have joined the campaign?


----- Original Message -----
From: colin strother
To: Elise
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2008 10:03 PM
Subject: RE: craigslist ad

are you serious?

From: elisehu@yahoo.com
To: colinstrother@XXXX.com
Subject: Re: craigslist ad
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 2008 22:24:07 -0600

Yes. I'm covering the campaign and asking a question, political campaigns are open to questions and she's a public official. If you choose not to answer that's absolutely fine, I'm just asking.


----- Original Message -----
From: colin strother
To: Elise
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2008 10:38 PM
Subject: RE: craigslist ad

Wow, defensive much? It sounded like a joke. It sounded like you were poking fun at people trying to make an issue out of us hiring campaign workers. I was just asking if you really wanted an answer.

If you want to follow the lead of Capitol Annex and BOR on every story, go ahead. If you call that "covering the campaign", so be it.

You're not the only one allowed to ask questions, Elise. Your poor attitude whenever I have questions are a major problem. I'm well aware that I can or cannot respond to questions...I'm not sure YOU understand that.

All I asked in this situation was if you were serious. You need to calm down a little bit.

Response to your inquiry for the record:

"We're activitely recruiting paid canvassers on college campuses, community organizations, Democratic groups, and craigslist.

From my experience, craigslist is a great place to recruit field folks. I know of several local groups that use it to great success.

We've been inundated with offers to volunteer. We've hired and trained sufficient paid canvassers to execute both our field and GOTV plans. I'm not at liberty to disclose the numbers of staff, be they paid or volunteer."

you're welcome.

p.s. Dawnna will get re-elected on March 4th. Both of us are going to be around here for a long time. We'd both like to have a productive and friendly relationship with you moving forward.
Posted by E
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Too. Much. Blogging.
I had high hopes I would deftly keep up both my work blog, this blog and my personal journal (which I feel obligated to keep since I started that blog-on-paper back in 1988). Now I'm just plain exhausted, since there's that whole turning-a-television-news-story-everyday element thrown in there.

So, I'm sorry for not posting here as much, but I won't be shutting down. You never know what can happen that will bring about a blogpost. I mean, it's entirely feasible that I could go from just being a lowly paparazzi, when, I dunno, I could be picked up by Britney Spears or something and start a crazy fantastic life as a hanger-on. I would absolutely have to blog about that. You never know.
Posted by E
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The Purge, Part 10

Finally, some actual emails released as a result of John Washburn's original request!

God bless Star-Telegram reporter Jay Root, who has already combed through the four days worth of Texas Governor Rick Perry's interoffice emails requested by Wisconsinite John Washburn. Washburn did mail the CD of the emails to me, so I'll try to put them on an FTP server before the weekend.

Some highlights from the emails released by the Governor's office, which were sent between November 2 to November 5, 2007:

Emails about Ron Wilson, the former state lawmaker turned temporary assistant House Parliamentarian:

One e-mail from former Secretary of State Jack Rains, for example, sparked a heated discussion about the possibility of former state Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, being appointed by Perry to a high-level state post, such as the Texas Department of Public Safety oversight commission or the University of Texas Board of Regents.

"I cannot imagine a worse Republican appointment," Rains wrote Perry's office Nov. 2 in response to a Star-Telegram report about a Wilson appointment. "I would hope every Republican will urge the governor to never consider this racist for any office."

After receiving a copy of the e-mail, Perry's appointments secretary, Ken Anderson, shot back that Rains, a veteran power broker in Texas Republican circles, had been drinking when he wrote the message.

"Ron might be called many things, but racist is NOT one of them," Anderson wrote of Wilson. "Jack must have written that late in the afternoon after coming back from one of his long liquid lunches." (See Rains' response in the story here.)

Emails about State Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo:In one series of e-mail exchanges, aides passed around a news article about state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. In the Texas Weekly article, one of Zaffirini's opponents, former Webb County Judge Louis Bruni, calls the longtime senator an "evil, vindictive, mean woman."

"Can you believe this quote?" Kathy Walt, Perry's deputy chief of staff, wrote in an e-mail to fellow top aides.

"Truth can be mean," responded Perry spokesman Robert Black.

Zaffirini called Black's comments "outrageous" and suggested that he was angry that she had helped lead a successful drive to restore millions of dollars in community college funding that Perry had vetoed last year. She said the unvarnished discussions among staffers "at the very best reflects some poor judgment."

Black declined to discuss the specifics of any of the exchanges or to say whether apologies would be forthcoming.

"I think what you have is a snapshot of very open and candid conversations among staff. ... E-mail has replaced personal conversations or phone conversations," he said. "You're going to have open, candid conversations among staff on a variety of issues."

Black said the discussions about Wilson, Rains and Zaffirini would have been relegated to the electronic ash heap if not for Washburn's request. He called the records "transitory," comparing them to paper notes or a phone conversation that don't have to be retained as government records.

Note: Washburn believes there are emails missing from this release. The Governor's office charged Washburn the $568 for this batch, based on a count of 5,000 to 8,000 emails that needed to be electronically combed through. He received only 1993 email files, totalling 233 MB.
Posted by E
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Adventures in Reporting
Me: Would you be available for an interview this afternoon?
Him: How did you get this number?
Me: I googled you.
Posted by E
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Might As Well Have Been a Snippet from Stiles
Former NPR foreign correspondent Eric Weiner wrote the book, The Geography of Bliss, in which he searches the world for the happiest places. He appeared on Colbert tonight, and this part of the interview stood out:

WEINER: I'm not a particularly happy person, I'm a grump. Worst of all, I'm a journalist, which only exacerbates the problem.

COLBERT: Right, you make other people unhappy.
Posted by E
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If I hear "The Best Political Team on Television" one more time...
Posted by E
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Bloomberg and his Bling Drop By
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a stop in Austin today, and insisted he's not a candidate for president, dammit. I sat there, two feet away from him, distracted by the sound of him shaking the change in his pocket. I wrote up a little TV story about the visit and created his super - the graphic that shows his name/title on the screen:

*cg 2name
Michael Bloomberg

Someone eventually noticed.
Posted by E
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Campaign Warfare
Sigh. I had to eat a shitburger from a campaign manager today, after a story pointing out his Democratic candidate's cash comes from embattled Republican House Speaker Tom Cr@ddick's big lobby donors. I couldn't give an inch, because, well, the story was fair. I offered to put up his email rants directly on my political blog, but for some reason he asked me not to.

Some campaign manager tactics that never seem to work really well with reporters but continue to be used all the time:

1.) Bullying
2.) Crying foul - "How is THAT a story!" "That's an old story!" "That's a non-story."
3.) Listing all the "glaring omissions" on reporter's part
4.) Patronizing.. largely by way of rhetorical questions that are supposed to prove their point
5.) Refusing to respond (this is probably the worst tactic of all)
Posted by E
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Debate and De Primary Livebloggin'

7:37pm: Sorry for the later-than-usual start, polls in Michigan close in about twenty minutes, which is the same time the Democratic debate starts. What a confluence of events.

7:41pm: Coverage on the cable networks has kind of started; Lou Dobbs is still talking about the American Dream "spiritually, physically and materially"... MSNBC has Keith doing his normal Countdown as they prepare to host the debate in a little bit, Fox has their election ticker up and it looks like only about three percent of precincts are in.

7:43pm: Fox News has a segment on what the blogs are saying, and they've called this "Blogitics"... I am guessing this is a made up word.

7:45pm: Curious which "brand" is selling better this political season: MSNBC's "The Place for Politics" or CNN's "The Best Political Team on Television".

7:49pm: Norah O'Donnell is again analyzing exit polls for The Place for Politics. She wore a purple velvet jacket for the NH primaries, tonight it's black leather.

FUN FACT: Norah O'Donnell recently gave birth to twins.

7:51pm: The big development from the exit polls shows very little D to R crossover voting, and fewer independents participating in the Republican primary than expected.

7:55pm: So far in Michigan, Mike Huckabee "hasn't done so hot," according to Brit Hume. He's in third place there. Huckabee is already in Columbia, South Carolina tonight, campaigning there as we get closer to the January 19th SC Republican primary.

7:59pm:Meanwhile in Las Vegas, the "big three" Democratic candidates have taken the stage.

8:01pm: Early returns in Michigan look good for Mitt Romney. Romney 38, McCain 31, Huckabee 16 with 8% of precincts reporting

8:03pm: Over on CNN, Wolf Blitzer is standing in the "CNN ELECTION SITUATION ROOM" (It's not really called that but I'm going to call it that). We're back to the massive pie charts on the screens tonight.

Oooohh, just in time for a PROJECTION (cue projection music). CNN can project Mitt Romney will win the Michigan primary.

FUN FACT: Michigan has the longest shoreline of any state except Alaska.

8:06pm: Our debate hosts tonight will be Brian Williams and Tim Russert, and Natalie Morales will be taking/asking questions from the audience. More projections for Mitt Romney, and more projection music.

8:08pm: Race is a question right out of the gate. Clinton takes it and is calling for joining together and singing kumbayah. Says it's because of the women's, civil rights and human rights movements that they are all there tonight. "We're all family in the Democratic party," Clinton says.

8:09pm: "I think Hillary said it well," Obama says in response. She's nodding. What is going on here? Are they gonna make out?

8:11pm: Timing worked out perfectly tonight. The Romney win was projected just in time to quit watching other networks cover the returns and focus solely on the Democratic debate.

8:13pm: Obama's debate performances have never been super-strong; so far he's on message but seems to be giving a flat delivery.

8:16pm: Clinton also not freaking out or anything. This is like a quiet dinner table discussion so far.

8:18pm: Now we go to a viewer question, read by Natalie Morales. Voter asks what a white male is to do when running against a woman candidate, and a black candidate.
Edwards takes it, of course, and says that Americans will make decisions on who people are and what they stand for and what they fight for; not specifically because of race or gender.

More liveblogging after the jump.http://www.slate.com

8:21pm: Obama is asked whether his comment in the New Hampshire debate in which he says "you're likable enough" is regrettable. Obama says of course he regrets it, he intended to say Clinton was "plenty likable" and the comment was over analyzed. "We're focusing on the wrong thing," Obama says.

8:23pm: This debate is so inside baseball. They have yet to talk about any issues that might be important to a "regular person". Instead, we're parsing previous campaign jabs or things said in previous debates or what kind of things their campaign staffers have done within the last week...

8:24pm: A HECKLER! The first exciting thing to happen in this debate all night. I think the hecker says "These are all race-based questions, race-based..."

8:25pm: Clinton back to her "Who is ready on day one" message. She's woken up a little. The volume is rising, the eyes are starting to pop out of her head a little.

8:26pm: Okay now she's yelling.

8:27pm: Let's start counting how many times Clinton says "35 years". One.

FUN FACT: Where does the "35 years" figure come from? "The experience clock for Sen. Clinton, according to her public statements, started in 1972 as a private attorney in Arkansas for Marian Wright Edelman, who subsequently founded the Children’s Defense Fund," says The Hill.http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2007/10/hillary_clintons_35_years_of_experience/

8:31pm: Let's check back with CNN, where Larry "Never-a-bad-movie-review" King is hosting the coverage of the returns. It looks like the punditry is saying what hurts McCain is that he had the "wrong" base in a Republican primary. McCain traditionally does well with Independents and Democrats, but as we've seen in Michigan, not so well with die hard Republicans.

8:33pm: Back at the debate, Clinton is now taking on Bush, and the failures of the administration. The failures after Katrina, no-bid contracts and cronyism in Iraq. Obama then chimes in, saying that Bush couldn't deal with anybody who disagreed with him.

8:35pm: I feel validated about my point at 8:23pm tonight. Says Rick Klein at ABC News: "OK, I'm a politics guy -- but even I'm missing the substance. This debate is on the news, yes, and that's great -- but what about Iraq, or healthcare? So far, this debate is all about leadership qualities, politics of race, and other intangibles."


8:36pm: Oh, here's an interesting question. Obama is addressing a bunch of false emails going around about him that said he's a Muslim or that he took the oath of office on the Koran, etc etc.

"Fortunately, I think the American people are smarter than people give them credit for," Obama said. "My job is to tell the truth, to be straight with the American people... they will sort out the lies and the truth and make a good decision."

8:41pm: I missed the Romney victory speech, but from what I've heard about it, it sounds like he dissed the Bush administration too.

FUN FACT: Texas Congressman Ron Paul is finishing ahead of former US Senator Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani in Michigan.

8:44pm: The Clinton volume is high again. We're now talking about the economy, how foreign companies are keeping American banks afloat. This issue dovetails right into Edwards' point about the income gap and the wealth of multi-national corporations.

8:48pm: Obama addresses economic problems by talking about more accountability and regulatory oversight over financial markets.

8:50pm: Is anyone having fun watching this debate? There's not a lot of actual debating in this debate; rather, just each candidate getting a turn to discuss his/her particular positions. BORING.

8:52pm: Clinton is yelling again, but it's effective this time, because she sounds OUTRAGED about the mortgage crisis. She also uses this opportunity to pander to Blacks and Hispanics, as they are disproportionately feeling the pain from this crisis. She talks about how "WE NEED TO BE ACTING NOW."

8:54pm: Obama never yells. But consequently, he sounds less URGENT about ACTING NOW.

9:00pm: I'm starting to space out. This is what I'm hearing right now: "Rate freezes... energy bills... unemployment compensation system... five billion dollars...tax rebates for working families."

Questions from the candidates for the candidates time!!!

From Edwards to Obama: Why do you think the big donors give their money? Is it just for good government? Is it pay to play?

Obama: "First of all I dont take money from federal lobbyists or PACs," he says. He then uses this to talk about how he'd like to see public financing of campaigns. In the meantime, he says he's proud of making progress in pushing back lobbyist influence.

From Clinton to Obama: Bush has continued to say that he can enter into an agreement with the Iraqi government without approval of Congress to keep troops in Iraq. Clinton has sponsored a bill that would reign in Bush. She asks Obama if she will co-sponsor the bill?

"I think we can work on this, Hillary," Obama said. Now he uses the answer to talk about his war position.

9:08pm: Russert then says that the three candidates did not pledge to have all troops out of Iraq by 2013, and is now hearing something else? Obama says he didn't pledge to have ALL troops out so that he could maintain some troop presence to protect embassies, etc.

"I think what Barack said is why John and I didn't pledge, too," Clinton said.

"It is dishonest to say that you're not gonna have troops there to protect the embassy," Edwards said.

9:14pm: Fred Thompson, who has yet to finish above fourth in these early primaries, is in Clinton, South Carolina. "Here, I'm gaining, the others are losing, it's all about momentum," Fred Thompson says in a live interview on Fox right now. Is momentum really in Thompson's favor?

FUN FACT: The people in SC insist Clinton, SC is pronounced "Clennan".

9:18pm: We're talking about federal requirements for colleges and universities to have ROTC programs. Will the Senators vigorously cut off federal funding to schools that don't have a ROTC program? All three say yes.

FUN FACT: General Colin Powell was the first ROTC graduate named Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a graduate of the City College of New York.

9:25pm: The debate turns to a local issue, Yucca Mountain, the site of a proposed nuclear waste depository. All three say they want to end this project because of "new science" and "forged documents" that reveal it's a bad idea.

9:30pm: Now we're talking about clean energy. Clinton can speak easily about these topics with breadth and depth, revealing her true wonkiness at each turn. She takes on the oil and gas lobby, saying that they "wrote" the 2005 energy bill that expanded the growth of nuclear power plants.

9:33pm: Edwards pops Clinton saying she takes the most campaign contributions from oil and gas special interests.

9:35pm: 180! Now we're talking about what would be wrong making English the official language.

9:36pm: Clinton gets a question about her staffer telling the New Yorker that "traditionally, Latino voters don't support Black candidates"... Clinton said he was only speaking historically.

9:37pm: Obama scores a nice line when asked whether HE believed Latinos are reluctant to vote for blacks. "Not in Illinois," he said. "They all voted for me."

9:40pm: Obama gets a chance to address the disproportionate number of young African American males dropping out of school. He speaks about this issue with substance and range; discussing the importance of families, getting the youngest children off on the right foot with early childhood education, and even bringing in the fact that his personal experience, that he "grew up without a father" so he thinks keeping fathers involved is critical.

9:43pm: As I continue watching this super civilized debate, the big story emerging from this evening is just how much a free-for-all the GOP race has become. Slate says: At this rate Thompson will win South Carolina and Giuliani Florida. The GOP primary is starting to look like a Pee Wee soccer tournament: Everyone gets a trophy!

9:53pm: Clinton is talking about uniting the country and the world; has she stolen Obama's message?

10:00pm: After three closing arguments about when/why they decided to run for president, Brian Williams signs off. Whew.

Posted by E
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Running For President Must Suck
I was checking out the campaign schedules today, and noticed this little item:

3:20 pm
Fred Thompson tours downtown Greenwood, South Carolina

This is a fate worse than death. I've been to Greenwood a few times for some triple homicides or perhaps a little teacher-on-student sex scandal. So I'm gonna put it out there -- Fred, spare yourself the misery and drop out, man.
Posted by E
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Woe is Me
Seriously, Dallas Cowboys. WTF!??!
I'm so depressed.
Is there any reason to go on with life?
Posted by E
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How Fitz Keeps Almost Dying
Friggin Fitz. My orange tabby likes living on the edge. He comes home on Iowa caucus night bleeding from his neck. This is about to sound bad, but since I was too busy watching the Iowa caucuses and Fitz is perpetually getting into trouble, I just locked him in my room until all the precincts came in.

The vet said he was bitten by a dog somewhere, but didn't need stitches. Now he's grounded for awhile (he had recently become and indoor/outdoor cat). Which made me think, how many times has Fitz almost died? Let me count the ways.

9th life: Being born onto the streets of South Dallas, we're talking Oak Cliff area. Somehow finding his way to "safety" on the infamous grassy knoll, which happens to be at the mouth of a major interstate. (Hence the name "Fitz", short for John Fitzgerald Kennedy Hu-St!les)

8th life: Getting taken into the Spartanburg Humane Society, which has one of the highest animal euthanasia rates in the country. He was miraculously rescued because the same day he was brought in, my friend Myra was outside doing a live report. She saw him and had to take him home with her... which is how I wound up with him.

7th life: Accidentally eating ibuprofen. It looks like he took in at least two Advil liquigels, which is toxic to cats. Almost died, stayed in the Emergency Clinic overnight with an IV in his little arm. Had to shoot him with some sort of subcutaneous fluids for two weeks.

6th life: Running away for two weeks. To this day we don't know where Fitz was during the last half of September, 2007. We thought he was a goner, fer sho. But then he just came strolling back in when October came around.

5th life: Dog bite. How he got away after a dog got him by the neck is still a mystery to me.

So by my count Fitz can almost-die another three times, and then he's gonna be out of lives. Good gracious. The vet fees have cost more than my own healthcare.
Posted by E
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Men of the Crazy Week
Dr. Phil, begrudgingly
Barack Obama
Mike Huckabee
My cat Fitz, 3 of 9 lives left

Snippet from Stiles: Meow
"I don't know how hard it is to break into the world of cat-modeling."
Posted by E
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Down to The Wire
All right, now, I'm not gonna tell you who to vote for. But all I gotta say is Barack Obama told TV Guide that The Wire was his favorite TV show. That's all I'm sayin'.
Posted by E
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Friday Night Liveblog
5:51pm: Moderator Charlie Gibson says his fingers are crossed. It's the high-stakes debate before Tuesday's New Hampshire primaries, and ABC changed up the format a bit by limiting the number of candidates who can participate (top four finishers in Iowa) and/or at least five percent support in any poll. It's also making them sit in a semi circle before a table, hoping to get the candidates to address each other more directly.

5:59pm: Let's get ready to ruuuuuummmmbbbbblllle!

6:10pm: Just an aside, I really like how tonight's moderator, Charlie Gibson, ends his newscasts with "I hope you had a good day". I feel like he's Uncle Charlie when he says that. I wonder whether he will end the debate that way.

6:03pm: George Stephanopolous is bringing up how most of the candidates have been going for days with only three, four hours of sleep a night. I am curious to see how the lack of sleep factor might make things interesting tonight.

6:05pm: ABC is partnering with social networking site, Facebook, where if you download the "US Politics" application, you can take part in the debate in real time on your computer with other Facebook users.

6:07pm: McCain and Obama will be the real targets tonight, as McCain goes into this debate as the favorite in NH. Obama is obviously coming off his big win in Iowa, and the latest poll has he and Hillary Clinton tied.

6:09pm: Republicans go first. L to R we've got McCain, Thompson, Paul, Romney, Huckabee and Giuliani.

6:10pm: OK, the Bush record on foreign policy - "bold, but not exactly humble" - is the first topic of discussion. "Would you run ON Bush's foreign policy or away from it?"

6:11pm: Huckabee sounds hoarse. He says American foreign policy has been arrogant, calling out former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for sending in too few troops to Iraq.

6:13pm: Over on the facebook page, there's a "sound board" as people logged on can just weigh in on what they are thinking and it posts immediately. These comments have nothing to do with what's going on in the debate right now, for example: "Jenn Rock is thinking about when you will stop cutting student loans especially with many careers requiring advanced degrees and bringing my friends home from war."

6:15pm: Rudy Giuliani's calling for an expansion of the army. I don't know how, since the Democratic congress ain't gonna do that, and the US military's recruiting troubles have been well publicized.

6:17pm: Fun Fact Checker, who helps research "fun facts" during our liveblogs, is joining us tonight. Welcome.

6:18pm: Ron Paul is here tonight, and he usually yells a lot during debates. But I think the fact that everyone is sitting down has calmed everyone down. He's going after the Bush foreign policy and American foreign policy "of invading and occupying countries".

6:21pm: Nothing new here. Everyone's talking about how everything changed after 9/11, no one's saying anything they haven't said before. Still waiting on some sparks.

6:22pm: Rudy's now going after Ron, saying that our foreign policy is irrelevant to why Islamic extremists target Americans. He says Islamic extremists hate us because it's part of their radical belief system. Paul says to Giuliani -- if that happened to us -- if other countries came and invaded and occupied us, then how would we feel?

6:24pm: It's the Ron Paul pile-on, now.

6:25pm: Brrrrrrr... Huck and Romney are sitting next to each other. It's cold in here. There must be some chilliness in the atmosphere.

6:26pm: Meanwhile, on Facebook, we have this latest comment: "Eric Williams is thinking that he misses the John McCain that wasn't a Bush clone"

6:28pm: I feel like Mitt Romney is gonna pull out a knife at any moment and just stab smirking Huckabee, still sitting to his left.

6:30pm: Wow, we've spent the last twenty minutes on one topic. Now people are cutting each other off and stuff, and Fred Thompson says, "Charlie, you started it."

6:31pm: Ooh, a video question from President Bush. This is like the Video Daily Double of Jeopardy! "What are the principles which will be the underpinnings of your presidency?"

6:33pm: Okay, so when the Democrats come out, are they gonna get new chairs, or are they gonna have to sit in these warm, possibly sweaty chairs that the Republicans are sitting in?

6:35pm: Each candidate is now going around talking about what they stand for, Giuliani just plugged his book, "Leadership".

6:38pm: FUN FACT: During the Kennedy-Nixon debate of the 1960 presidential race, Kennedy wore a dark blue suit to look striking in black and white, compared with Nixon who sported a washed out hideous gray. Tonight almost all the candidates are wearing blue ties, not sure what that means.

6:41pm: Facebook update, someone says Romney looks as smug as Kerry did in 2004.

FUN FACT: The Giuliani book "Leadership" is not currently ranked in the Amazon.com Top 100 bestsellers, while Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" is ranked #36.

6:43pm: We are now moving to healthcare. All GOP candidates have proposed free-market individual insurance. Why can't we afford medical insurance for everybody?

6:45pm: Giuliani seems to be talking a lot, dropping the "socialized medicine" line for the first time tonight.

6:48pm: Romney touts his state's (Massachusetts) healthcare plan. He said it was less expensive for the state to help people buy their own private insurance, which lowered the cost of deductibles and prescription drugs. Ding-ding! Romney just drops the "socialized medicine" line. He also throws in "Hillarycare".

6:51pm: Thompson says letting the government take over healthcare will sacrifice care, which is in tandem with what everyone else is saying.

6:52pm: Romney: Let me tell you what kind of mandates I like, Fred.
Thompson: Yeah, the ones you come up with.

6:54pm: I like the format because it allows for some meaty discussion of these topics. But it would work better with fewer candidates.

6:57pm: McCain isn't really saying much. Which might actually help, he can come off as "above the fray" and more presidential, and let the rest of the pack snipe at each other.

6:59pm: McCain says the attorney general of South Carolina has sued the Medicaid companies for overcharging patients.

FUN FACT: The South Carolina AG is Henry McMaster. Like the Texas AG, protecting children against online sex predators is one of his major focuses.

7:04pm: Wow, this is gonna be a beat down. There are another forty five minutes for the Republicans, then we have the Democrats. Next topic, immigration.

7:05pm: Lots of talk about the border, border stats, border fence, electronic border fence, securing the border. As the candidates continue talking about whether McCain's plan is "amnesty", I start touring Facebook to look at my friends' photos.

7:12pm: "You could spend a fortune on these attack ads and they still won't be true," says McCain, about his immigration plan.

FUN FACT: This is not the first debate in which candidates are seated. There were at least two seated debates in 2004.

7:15pm: Rudy Giuliani scores a laugh when he says Reagan, "the hero of our party" who "we all invoke" gave amnesty. "He would be the target of one of Mitt's negative ads".

7:17pm: Thompson says amnesty means "Are you rewarded in any way for your illegal status in the country?" Now we're parsing what "rewarded" means. Getting to stay in the U.S.? Is getting to stay in the U.S. but being penalized for doing so NOT amnesty?

FUN FACT: Dictionary defines "amnesty" as general pardon for offenses, esp. political offenses, against a government, often granted before any trial or conviction.

7:21pm: Ron Paul is concerned about a national ID. He further traces illegal immigration back to economic inflation and the welfare state. "Have to deal with this as a whole, can't divorce it from the economics of it," Paul said.

7:23pm: Next question: "This group has targeted a lot of partisan firepower against Hillary Clinton. If the nominee is Barack Obama, why not him?"

7:25pm: Romney says that he and Barack Obama bring about this campaign's buzz word of "change". McCain comes in and says, "We disagree on a lot of issues, but I agree, you are the candidate of change," implying Romney "changes" his positions a lot. The crowd laughs.

FUN FACT: The meaning of the name Mitt is Diminutive Form Of Milton. The origin of the name Mitt is American. (Willard) Mitt Romney, U.S. Politician. Named after a relative, Milton Romney, whose nickname was Mitt.

7:30pm: All the Republican candidates are still talking about Obama. Huckabee is applauding him for getting people excited, bringing people together and back into the process. Calls on his party to "find something to be for, rather than against". If not, he says, the party will lose the election and a lot of ideals with it.

7:32pm: Ron Paul aligns himself with Obama, saying he's a lot like Obama in his opposition to the war and bringing in young people.

7:33pm: The last twelve minutes of the GOP debate were about Barack Obama. All that free press probably helps him, even though the candidates were distinguishing their policies from his.

7:34pm: This is exhausting.... is there an end in sight?

FUN FACT: McCain won a 48%-30% victory over Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary. Then, as the race headed to South Carolina, a mysterious rumor began in SC about McCain fathering an illegitimate black child. This ultimately brought him down and led to a Bush victory, and is said to have Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. No one has been able to prove it, however.

7:43pm: The debate finally ends, with an invitation to all the Democratic candidates to join the six Republicans on stage and all do this awkward kumbaya handshake moment. McCain starts giving the Dems hugs.
Posted by E
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The Purge, Part 9

Thanks to the generous donations of people from around Texas and the country, John Washburn, who requested several weeks worth of emails from Governor Rick Perry's office, was able to pay for seven days worth of email.

The cost? $611.

Washburn requested these electronically, so there won't be any charge for paper. The governor's office estimated dozens of hours of staff time to extract the emails, which explains the cost.

Washburn, a software developer, actually took the time to create source coding to export emails, sort them by date, and automatically redact any non-governmental email addresses found in little to no time at all, but apparently it's not being used.

“The Office of the Governor has chosen the most inefficient method possible to search for and produce these emails. The Governor has asked each member of his staff to interrupt their day, search through their mail boxes, and print out emails the staff believes are responsive to my requests”, explained Washburn. “I deliberately designed these requests so the emails could be exported directly from the email server without bothering the staff at all.”

Now we wait for the emails...

Posted by E
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Happy Caucus Day!
This thing is going to be fun, fun fun! I'm predicting we know who wins on the GOP side pretty early, but that the results for the Democrats will be unclear until early tomorrow morning. I can't wait to watch Chris Matthews yell at me all night long.
Posted by E
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