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POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE 4 FLOGGING THE POLLS. As reported in the Austin American-Statesman on September 4, employees at the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant near Dallas were caught sending illicit electronic messages to the commissioners of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, currently considering the license application for the Sierra Blanca dump where Comanche Peak would be a prime customer. Comanche Peak’s owner, Texas Utilities, is a party in the contested case hearing over the license, so all communication between the Dallas-based utility and the TNRCC must be public and made available to all involved parties. Addressing the commissioners directly, as T.U. vice president Jim Kelley urged his employees to do in a memo \(which included the commissioners’ Utilities spokesman Eric Schmitt told the Statesman that it was all an “honest mistake.” TNRCC General Counsel Geoff Connor was equally apologetic, claiming it was the first time under the Bush administration that the commissioners had received illegal communications. Several days later, Rick Jacobi, director of the state agency in charge of building the dump, sent an e-mail to the Radsafe Network, a large group of nuclear industry professionals, advising them of an AmericanStatesman website poll on the dump. Jacobi urged network members to make their voices heard in the one-question poll, which asked: “Should nuclear waste be stored near Sierra Blanca?” His e-mail message \(obtained by the Sierra Blanca Legal Defense formerly of the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant near Sacramento, California, wrote to inform Jacobi about similar phone polls held in Sacramento during the debate on whether to close Rancho Seco. “When there was a phone poll, those of us at the ‘Ranch’ would hit redial and vote a hundred times or more to keep the plant open,” Dupray wrote. Though the “Ranch” was finally shut down, Dupray still loves a good poll. “I voted ten times already and plan to vote some more,” he wrote to Jacobi. THE BEST AND THE RIGHTEST. Choosing the Right College is unlike any other U.S. college guidebook. What other guidebook, for ‘example, ranks the University of Dallas near the top of the nation’s colleges and universities? Published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute \(“a non-profit nonpartisan” organization that has set out “to identify the best and the brightest college students and to nurture in these future leaders the American ideal[s] of … limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free enterprise, and JudeoChoosing the Right College emphasizes “right.” That explains how the same Dallas Catholic university of 1,100 undergraduates that made the cover of The Chronicle of Higher Education in .1995 for considering banning sex in dormitories ends up at the top of the list. U. of D.’s conservatism extends into a curriculum that has not been adjusted to accommodate the political correctness embraced at Harvard, which takes a beating in the new guidebook. The I.S.I. warns potential applicants that Harvard has “lost much originality and now marches in lock step with the dominant trends of the intellectual world.” So U. of D. comes out ahead of Harvard, California-Berkeley, Oberlin, Pomona, and Carleton, to name a few of the losers listed in a New York Times piece on the conservative guide. Even the alma mater of I.S.I. founder William F. Buckley, Jr. excoriated in Buckley’s first book, Man and God at Yale failed to make the grade. Not only did I.S.I. pan Harvard and Yale, it gave low rankings to all the other schools in the Ivy League. Not everyone has turned college rankings upside down. To U.S. News & World Report, which publishes a closely watched annual college ranking, the Ivys remain on top and U. of D. is a “fourth-tier academic institution” which might have propelled Buckley onto a different career path, if he had had access to Choosing the Right College when he chose Yale. Boola boola. NOVEMBER SURPRISE? Dallas Democratic Congressman Martin Frost claims the Lewinsky imbroglio will not affect Democrats running for Congress in November. Frost chairs the national congressional committee working to raise money and coordinate the Democratic effort to win back the House. But several Democratic Congressional sources are not so confident. “Do you think this helps us any?” one congressman said in a brief conversation in Texas, before the report was released. An aide in the Texas delegation was more direct. “This kills us in November,” he said. Even before the Starr Report was released, Republicans in the state House were predicting they would win the eight seats needed to make them the majority. Dispelling the notion that Republicans would stick with Speaker Pete Laney, some are laying odds on a Republican speaker. The favorite is Tom Craddick, a sober House veteran from Midland who has worked with his aide Milton Rister to coordinate high-dollar PAC spending _aimed at vulnerable House Democrats. Austin American -Statesman political columnist Dave McNeely has turned up another Republican said to have a shot at the speaker’s position, should the Republicans win the House: Ed Kuempel, a high-decibel bumpkin from Seguin, best known for his service to the big game hunters’ lobby and his weak environmental voting record. CRITICAL IN JAIL? Susan Lee Solar is in the Del Valle Jail serving her time and recalling a exchange between Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson in a Massachusetts jail more than a hundred years ago. Solar is serving five days for an act of civil disobedience that an Austin jury decided was “criminal trespass.” “Like Thoreau,” Solar said, “I will have to ask why everyone is not in jail with me.” Solar, a write-in candidate for governor and member of the Green Party, is protesting a “nuclear policy that continues to waste billions and billions of our tax dollars, while thousands of children and other Texans lack adequate food, shelter, and healthcare and many of our schools are using antiquated equipment and our teachers and childcare workers are underpaid.” Solar was arrested with activist Genevieve Vaughan for blocking the doors of the Federal Building to protest “Operation Bagpipe,” a series of `sub-critical’ tests that began in July , of 1997 and will continue through September. The tests, which use plutonium and other explosives but do not “go critical” and detonate the fissile material, are part of a program to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. For the record, Thoreau served only one night in jail. SEPTEMBER 25, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17