Precinct 333

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Sad, But Beautiful

Sometimes you run across a story in the paper that makes you cry. More rarely, it is a story which is tinged with sadness, but contains in it an element of great beauty. This is one of those.

Relatives say Gracie Jackson's wish was always that she and her husband J.C., the love of her life for seven decades, would go to heaven holding hands.

On Thanksgiving Day, her wish came true.

J.C. Jackson, 97, died of congestive heart failure about 2:30 a.m. Thursday at a nursing home in this Fort Worth suburb. Twenty hours later, Gracie Jackson, 88, joined her husband of 69 years, dying of pneumonia.

The family insists J.C. Jackson did not go to heaven 20 hours sooner than Gracie.

"No, Daddy waited on her, and they went together," daughter Cathy Spence, 62, of Hurst said in Saturday's editions of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
I understand that sentiment. My wife is ill, suffering from a degenerative condition that will one day put her in a wheelchair (she already uses a cane in her early 40s, and has for several years), though it is not necessarily life-threatening. I've often said that I don't want to go before her, but don't think I could live without her. I can only imagine this couple felt something like that.

But I was struck by something else. It was the generosity of spirit these dear people showed in life.

Relatives described the Jacksons as a devout, big-hearted couple from East Texas. They married on Christmas Day 1934 in Terrell and raised two sons and three daughters.

During World War II, the couple opened their home -- with hot chocolate and dancing -- to English fly-boys who came to Texas to train.

"The Jackson house was big, with a ballroom. I can still see the winding stairs," said daughter Judy Earhart, 67, of Overton. "It was like a USO show."

J.C. Jackson spent a half-century as a grocer, while Gracie helped make ends meet by sewing. And everyone knew about her cooking, relatives say.

"The tramps and the hobos would be riding the rails through there -- there were a lot of them at the time," Spence said. "She never gave them money, but she would feed them."

Fried eggs mostly -- sometimes bacon, toast and what the family remembers as heavenly biscuits.

I'm told those were tough days, with littel money and rationing for the war effort. But they gave even when there wasn't much to give.

But what seems to be most noted was their love.
"We knew they loved each other, and they loved us," said daughter Toni Hood, 69, of North Richland Hills.
I only hope that the love we each show those we love is such that, when our time here is through, others will be able to speak in this manner of us.


Religious Freedom Watch

Father Bill Carmody is a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is quite active in the pro-life movement in the area, and regularly says Mass for pro-life advocates outside the Planned Parenthood killing center in town.

At least he did until two weeks ago.

That's when the cops came in and busted Father Bill.

The charge? Having an open container of sacramental wine.

It seems that the local ordinance doesn't distinguish between walking down the street with a can of beer or a bottle of bourbon in a brown bag and engaging in First Amendment protected activity on public property.

Fortunately, Father Bill was let off with just a warning for trying to use his constitutional right to Free Exercise of Religion in a public place. But he is subject to arrest next time he tries to say Mass in a public place. The city seems in no hurry to consider his request to modify the open container ordinance to protect religious freedom

Any comments? Any lawyers who want to help deal with this affront to the First Amendment?


The Heflin-Vo Election Contest

Here in Houston, we still have one State Senate race with an outcome still in question. Senator Talmadge Heflin is contesting the results of his race with Hubert Vo over on the west side of Houston. For those of you not familiar with the case, the final vote tally shows Vo with a 32 vote lead, while the Heflin campaign is raising issues regarding results from several Democrat precincts, specifically questioning whether or not a number of votes were legally cast in those precincts.

Let me offer a few disclaimers.

I know Heflin, though not well.

I know his campaign manager much better.

My wife taught and coached his granddaughter and I was always quite fond of the girl.

And I serve on the committee that trains GOP election judges and alternates, as well as some poll watchers. I know some of the precincts we have historically worried about with regard to voting irregularities have been in this district. Thus the questions raised don't surprise me.

Now I've not been involved in this case, but from what I have heard from my sources, there were several Democrat precincts in which they allowed individuals to vote who had moved outside the county. Such votes are invalid, no matter how you slice it. Similarly, there are a handful of voters (about two dozen) who cast ballots during both early voting and on election day. All totaled, there are about 250 questionable votes, more than enough to turn the tables in this election.

Now here is where the problem comes in. Whether you are talking about electronic ballots, punch card ballots or paper ballots with an X marked through a box, there is no way to go back and determine which ballot came from which voter -- nor should there be, as it would eliminate the secret ballot.

What are the options?

1) Seat the winner of the current count, even though the outcome is questionable. This means that the legitimate voters of the district may be disenfranchised by seating a man who probably got fewer of the legitimate votes and was pushed over the top by illegally cast ballots.

2) Seat Heflin, on the basis that most of those votes are from precincts that went heavily against him. This creates a serious question in terms of appearances, as well as never fully answering the question of who the legitimate winner is (after all, we can never know if those illegitimate votes were cast for Vo or Heflin?).

3) Follow state law in the matter and have a second election. If past history is any indication, Heflin will be stomped by Vo, as voters have historically voted against the person filing a contest when a new election is ordered (and it has been 10-15 years since one of these elections has been re-run).

Needless to say, none of the outcomes is desirable. And to be honest, I don't consider any of the outcomes good for Heflin or the GOP in the county or the state (I don't see it having national importance). That is especially true given the fact that the apparent winner is a Vietnamese gentleman in a district with a growing Asian population. Heflin's challenge could poison the well for the GOP for decades to come (I wrote this last night, before the Chronicle editorial today made the same point). But while I think the best of the three bad options is for him to pack it in, but I don't think that there is anything particularly evil about him making sure that every legitimate vote counts and that illegitimate votes are not counted.

Frankly, I thought Heflin ran a crappy campaign this time around. Dan Patrick has a good analysis of the problems over at Lone Star Times. Dan's observation about the failure of the Heflin campaign to advertise on the local station that had the most listeners with an affinity for conservative causes was a big mistake, because that meant Heflin never activated his base. As such, I have to say he deserved to lose just because his campaign was inept.


A Reflection On The CIA Shake-Up

Recent headlines about the "purge" being conducted by Porter Goss at CIA are causing me to flash back to my younger days.

While in grad school about 15 years ago, I applied to work for the CIA, made it through all of the low-level testing and meetings and was invited to Langley for an interview (I wrote a paper for an Asian Politics class about relations between the PRC and Taiwan that impressed someone ).

One of the reasons I turned down that interview was a conversation I had with one of the recruiters. I expressed an interest in being in the Directorate of Operations. For those not familiar with the CIA, that is the part that deals with clandestine operations, agents in the field, and the "hands on" work of intelligence gathering. The recruiter's response was telling.

"Oh, no, you don't want to be in Ops," he told me. "That's not what we do any more. The real action and advancement is in the Directorate of Intelligence, doing analysis of foreign intelligence agency reports, satellite reconnaissance photos, and the stuff that Ops brings in. And you'll probably never have to relocate outside of the Washington area."

The recruiter made it clear that the agency wasn't looking for "James Bond wannabes," and that such field work had pretty much been marginalized since the Carter administration.

Which took me back to an earlier memory as a junior high kid. My father was career Navy, and spent a fair chunk of time in military intelligence. The day that Carter appointed Adm. Stansfield Turner to run CIA, I remember my father telling my mother that it was "bad news."

After hearing that recruiter about a decade later, I finally understood what my father meant. Following the excesses of the 1960s and early 1970s, it was Turner's job to "rein-in" a rogue agency. But in doing so, Turner changed the culture from one of intelligence gathering to one of paper pushing. It appears to me that Porter Goss is trying to change that culture by rooting out the spinners, leakers, and turf-guardians that inhabit any bureaucracy. The reelection of George W. Bush might just give him a chance, if Congress and the press don't get in the way.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, I'm thankful for so many things today -- especially my darling wife (AKA The Loyal Opposition) and Carmie the Wonder Pup. For family, friends, and a roof over our head.

I'm thankful for students,and colleagues, and even the administrators in the district office.

I'm thankful for this country and its freedoms, for those who lead it, and those who defend it.

And I'm thankful for having been touched by the lives of those we've lost this year -- Uncle Doc, Aunt Audrey, and my Grandmother. They will be missed in body, but present in spirit.

And to each of you I wish the most joyous of holidays.


Monday, November 22, 2004

Good News On The Medical Front!

No surgery is going to be necessary. Barring an unforseen flare-up of the uncomfortable condition, it should clear up with no additional medical intervention in the next few days. I'll be back to a more or less normal routine pretty quickly, though I may need to take a little more down-time. I will have some dietary adjustments going on, but they are all ones that a guy in his 40s should be making anyway. But I will be a bit sore for a couple more days, and so might just limit my computer time.


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