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January 5th, 2013:

Saturday video break: Everybody Knows

Song #37 on the Popdose Top 100 Covers list is “Everybody Knows”, originally by Leonard Cohen and covered by Concrete Blonde. Here’s the original:

Is it just me, or does Cohen bear a striking resemblance to another famous Leonard, Leonard Nimoy? I’m now picturing Cohen as an alternate-universe version of Mr. Spock, which I think would make Captain Kirk that universe’s lead singer for Air Supply. I could be wrong about that. Anyway, here’s the cover:

Now that is a damn fine Leonard Cohen impression, until she cranks it up a notch or two and makes it even better. As with Dylan songs, it’s amazing what Cohen tunes can sound like in the hands of a really good vocalist. A non-acoustic version of the song is here, in case you’re interested. What do you think?

Endorsement watch: GLBT Caucus for Sylvia

From the inbox:

Sylvia Garcia

The Caucus membership met Wednesday evening to consider endorsement for the vacancy in Senate District 6 created by the passing of Senator Mario Gallegos. Members had to make a very difficult decision between two amazingly qualified and pro-equality candidates, former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Carol Alvarado. After a lengthy round of thoughtful and in-depth deliberations, members voted to endorse Garcia. Prior to the meeting, Garcia and Alvarado completed a thorough questionnaire and met with an eight-member screening committee.

“Sylvia Garcia’s strong record of public service and personal experiences supporting and defending members of the LGBT community will make her a strong advocate for the interests of our community in the Senate.” said Caucus President Noel Freeman. People interested in volunteering time to help our election efforts can email us at volunteer@thecaucus.org.

I’m sure that was a tough decision for the screening committee to make, and if my limited experience with Caucus meetings is representative, that discussion was very spirited discussion as well. This is the kind of election where this sort of endorsement matters, as it can serve as a tie-breaker for anyone who might be otherwise on the fence, and with turnout likely to be low, every vote really matters. The last big endorsement to look for will be the Chron’s, which I presume will be any day now since early voting begins on Wednesday. I’ll have my interviews with Commissioner Garcia and Rep. Alvarado up on Monday and Wednesday of next week, respectively.

Speaking of early voting, via Campos here are the early voting locations:

Harris County Administration Bldg., First Floor
1001 Preston
77002

Holy Name Catholic Church – Gym
1912 Marion St.
77009

Ripley House
4410 Navigation
77011

H.C.C.S. Southeast College, Learning Hub – Bldg. D
6815 Rustic
77087

Galena Park Library
1500 Keene St.
Galena Park, 77547

Hardy Senior Center
11901 West Hardy Road
77076

Baytown Community Center
2407 Market Street
Baytown, 77520

And via Stace, you can see a Google map of these locations here. For my fellow residents of the Heights who are still in SD06, the admin building and Holy Name Church are the closest early voting locations to you. Early voting runs from the 9th through the 11th, the resumes again on Monday the 14th and continues until the following Tuesday the 22nd. There is no early voting that first weekend, the 12th and 13th. Early voting hours are 8 to 4:30 on the 9th through the 11th, and 7 to 7 all other days except Sunday the 20th. Yes, it’s a bit confusing. See Harris Votes for more.

It was a very good year for Gene Wu

Rep.-elect Gene Wu has some big shoes to fill in HD137, but I am confident that he will do a fine job of it.

Rep. Gene Wu

Wu relates much of what he plans to do and why he sought public office to his experiences growing up in Sharpstown.

His family emigrated to the United States from China when he 5.

“When my family first moved here we were dirt poor,” he said.

His parents settled first in Odessa and then found an apartment in Houston’s Parkgreen Apartments near the Sharpstown Golf Course.

Wu’s father, Zhengyi Wu, worked as a nurse. At age 45, he pursued a new dream, and started attending law school. He now has his own immigration law practice.

His mother, Anmei Tang, is an electrical engineer.

“The first thing we did was save money for a house,” Wu said. “My parents worked long, crazy hours.”

The family ultimately found an affordable house in Sharpstown’s Crane Park subdivision. Wu’s parents still live there today.

[…]

Wu said he knows the idea of saving world sounds idealistic. But he’s unapologetic about his goals.

“It’s still possible to save the world, and it’s still worth saving,” he said.

During his graduate studies, Wu completed a fellowship at the Texas Workforce Commission, where he worked on improving community college and technical school standards.

After graduation, Wu became the chief clerk for the House Higher Education Committee for the Texas Legislature.

Wu came to the conclusion that while his master’s degree in public policy helped prepare him to create law, he needed a better understanding of how the law is enforced.

“Half the coin was missing,” he said.

Wu was drawn to the trial advocacy program at South Texas College of Law and earned his law degree there in 2008.

Shortly after graduation, he joined the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

“I went to trial on my second day in the office,” Wu said. “I won that trial.”

Throughout his time with the DA’s office, Wu volunteered in the community. He has been president of the Houston 80-20 Political Action Committee, a board member with community advocacy organization OCA Greater Houston, a mentor and teacher for Skills for Living, a tutor for at-risk youth at Sharpstown High School’s Grad-Lab and Twilight programs and a trainer for Neighborhood Centers Inc.

“The quality that stands out about him is his dedication to the community,” said Sacha Lazarre, senior director of civic engagement for Neighborhood Centers.

For the past five years, Wu has trained Neighborhood Center volunteers to help community members complete their citizenship applications during monthly citizenship forums.

“I think he loves what he does,” Lazarre said. “He’s passionate about it. And he takes time to bring in stories to make it relevant to (the volunteers). That’s appreciated.”

All this and he got married to KTRK’s Miya Shay this year, too. Having interrupted his blogging to help get Wu elected, Greg Wythe will continue to interrupt his blogging to work for Wu in Austin. Needless to say, I expect great things. May 2013 be an even better year for Rep.-elect Gene Wu than 2012 was.

Tar Sands Protesters Are Texas Progressive Alliance 2012 Texans Of The Year

The Texas Progressive Alliance, a consortium of Lone Star-based liberal weblogs, has selected the protesters of the Tar Sands Blockade as Texans of the Year for 2012.

The award has been given annually to the person, or persons or organization, who had the most significance influence — for good or ill — on the advancement of progressive interests and causes over the past twelve months.

“As with previous winners (like Fort Worth city council member Joel Burns in 2010, the Harris County Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign in 2008, and Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC in 2006), the Tar Sands Blockaders represent what progressive Texans strive for: correcting injustices through direct action. Sometimes that takes place at the ballot box, sometimes in the courtroom, and once in a while it happens in the streets. In 2012, it happened in a handful of pine trees in East Texas,” said Vince Leibowitz, president of the TPA.

The Tar Sands Blockade began when TransCanada, the company constructing the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, began seizing property from East Texans via eminent domain to connect the pipeline, which will transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur. Despite the fact that the pipeline hasn’t yet been approved by the US Department of State, TransCanada and other operators have been busily cutting down swaths of forest, appropriating the land along the route as necessary, and when challenged by the small group of people protesting, responded with threatening measures and occasionally brute force.

When petitioning, lobbying, and public hearings failed to slow the construction of the pipeline, concerned citizens took to non-violent protests, risking arrest in order to demonstrate the will and demands of Texans concerned about the environment, about the nation’s continuing dependence on dirty fuels, and the collaboration of government officials with the corporate interests. A group of protestors climbed into a stand constructed in a grove of pine trees and halted construction for weeks.

The movement began in June of 2012 with the formation of the Tar Sands Blockade, and the first lawsuit was filed in July.

As construction began in August, protestors began putting themselves on the line. Seven protestors were arrested in Livingston, Texas just before the Labor Day holiday. Even as a judge allowed TransCanada to seize a swath of farmland in Paris, Texas, more protestors chained themselves to construction equipment in rural Hopkins County.

The New York Times and the Washington Post picked up the story in October.

Along with the property owner, actress and activist Daryl Hannah was arrested as the two women physically blocked a piece of heavy equipment and its operator from clearing land for the pipeline. Even as the number of arrests climbed past thirty, the protests grew. A few days before the November election, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was arrested at the construction site in Winnsboro. In Cherokee County, sheriff’s deputies pepper-sprayed protesters. All of this occurred while the legal battle went back and forth — in December, a judge granted, then vacated, his temporary restraining order on pipeline construction.

And the efforts to stop the pipeline continue today, even as its construction proceeds apace. On November 29, Bob Lindsey and prominent environmental activist Diane Wilson were arrested by Harris County sheriff’s deputies outside Valero’s refinery in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, where the pipeline will terminate. They chained themselves to tanker trucks outside the gates, were promptly taken into custody, and continue a hunger strike to this day.

With training and mobilization of additional protests and protestors scheduled for early January, 2013, there will be more to report on this action. This week’s Houston Press has a cover story on the protests so far.

The Texas Progressive Alliance salutes those who have sacrificed so much of themselves to underscore the seriousness of America’s fossil fuel addiction, and how the system of corporate and political corruption has come to manifest itself in the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline.

Runners-up for this year’s Texan of the Year included the following…

– The emerging scandal of the Texas cancer research organization, CPRIT;

– The spectacular failure of Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign;

– Attorney General Greg Abbott’s woeful losing record in court in his many lawsuits related to the federal government, including redistricting, voter ID, Obamacare, etc.;

– Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who defied conventional wisdom and was re-elected to the Texas Senate despite the best efforts of Republicans to deny her;

– The expansion of the Texas Congressional delegation to 36 as a result of the 2010 census and apportionment of extra seats based on population growth in the Lone Star State. New Texans in Washington DC include former Democratic state representatives Pete Gallego and Marc Veasey, but also — and unfortunately — ultraconservatives Randy Weber and Steve Stockman.