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March 8th, 2014:

Saturday video break: All Around My Hat

Songs from the folks tradition are by definition covers, since there obviously is no original recording. One of my favorites is All Around My Hat. It was a hit for Steeleye Span in the 70s:

Later, Status Quo covered Steeleye’s version, with Steeleye lead singer Maddy Prior on harmony vocals:

The thing about folks music is that there’s never one version of a song. Sometimes, two songs get combined into one – think Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme)”. Steeleye Span’s version of “All Around My Hat” combined it with another song called “Tri-Colored Ribbon”. Here’s The Wolfe Tones with a version of the latter, which was done as a political song:

I have two versions of “All Around My Hat”, both by bands that don’t exist any more, neither of which have any YouTube presence. My absolute favorite version is by The Mollys, which was a Celtic/Tejano fusion band out of Arizona. They took this song and put a modern, feminist twist on it. I’ve uploaded it to my SoundCloud account if you want to give it a listen:

Here’s the Amazon link to buy a copy of the CD that came from. Enjoy!

What will The Dew do this time?

Go negative or go home is the strategy the pundits have selected for him.

The Sad Dewhurst picture never gets old

Political experts have a bit of advice for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s re-election campaign: go negative or go home.

The incumbent Senate president was crushed in Tuesday’s Republican primary by Houston Sen. Dan Patrick.

In all, more than 72 percent of the roughly 1.3 million Texans who cast ballots in the GOP lieutenant governor’s race voted against Dewhurst, an 11-year incumbent who out-raised and outspent his three competitors in the field.

Now Dewhurst, who pulled just 27 percent of the primary vote, faces much more than an uphill climb in the May runoff.

To even stand a chance, Dewhurst will need to convert hundreds of thousands of voters who backed Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples or Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson – no easy task in itself, and neither Staples nor Patterson has lined up behind Dewhurst yet.

Political experts say the multimillionaire Dewhurst will need to unleash a barrage of attacks aimed at loosening Patrick’s stranglehold on the base of Texas’ most conservative voters, the same group that will decide the May runoff.

The good news for Dewhurst is that there’s no shortage of negative things to say about Dan Patrick. The bad news is that for many if not most Republican primary voters, and especially Republican primary runoff voters, they tend to see those negatives as positives. The one thing Dewhurst might be able to hit him with successfully is the charge that Patrick might actually lose the election in November to Sen. Leticia Van de Putte because enough non-Republican primary voters think he’s a big scary jerk. The problem for him here is 1) the only polling data out there so far is that one Trib poll, which shows Patrick leading LVdP albeit by slightly less than Dewhurst; 2) Republican primary voters don’t think they’re in any danger of losing in November even with a huge jerk like Patrick on the ticket, and it’s hard to argue with them about that right now; and 3) nobody really likes David Dewhurst, either. But hey, what are ya gonna do? Go ahead and spend your million attacking Dan Patrick, Dew. It’ll make you feel better, if nothing else.

As the Trib noted yesterday, there’s an effort among the powers that be (i.e., big money donors) to get Dewhurst to drop out, along with Dan Branch and Harvey Hilderbran. Hilderbran has already acceded. Of the three, I think Branch has the best hope of winning in May, but the pressure on him and Dewhurst could be great. There will still be runoffs in the Ag Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner races regardless, but needless to say the turnout level would be much less if Dewhurst and Patrick aren’t slinging around millions of dollars in attack ads. We’ll see how it goes.

We’ll get our new trains in January

We have a deadline.

The company building Metro’s new trains will deliver the final car to Houston five months late, according to a revised schedule submitted to the transit agency.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority is reviewing the schedule, spokesman Jerome Gray said, and hasn’t agreed to the new timeline. The revision was one of the  promises the rail car builder, CAF U.S.A., made when the company acknowledged substantial delays in production in January. Rather than deliver the last batch of 39 train cars in August, the company now expects to deliver the last train in January.

Production problems with the first railcar, sitting at Metro’s south Houston rail maintenance facility, led to substantial delays in production. Workers at CAF’s facility in Elmira, N.Y., are building the second car now, with a fix to a troublesome water leak that led to the problems on the first car. Once the second train passes its tests, and the fix is verified, production will accelerate.

To catch up and deal with other production issues, CAF is expanding its plant, but it still will not meet the contractual deadline to deliver the trains. Under the deal signed in 2011, Metro should already have 16 trains in Houston ready to test and start service. The new train cars are critical to starting service on the East and Southeast lines, set to open later this year.

Without the trains, Metro plans to start limited service on the two new lines by taking trains off the Red Line. Reducing  double-car trains to single cars on the Red Line will lead to severe crowding, officials and riders said.

Based on the revised schedule, Metro would have 21 rail cars by the end of September, when service on the lines could begin. Not all of those trains can immediately enter service, however, as they will need testing and final assembly in Houston.

See here and here for the background. That’s longer than I’d have liked for this to take, but at least there’s a target date. Other than having to temper our expectations for the ridership numbers in the first few months of service, and continuing to be prepared to sue if necessary, I don’t know that there’s anything else to be done but wait and hope this time they mean it.

The Texas Miracle that wasn’t

Washington Monthly’s Phillip Longman takes a closer look at the claims made by the likes of Rick Perry about Texas’ economic success, and finds them largely wanting. Here’s a taste:

It’s hard to think of any two states more different than Texas and Vermont. For one, Texas has gushers of oil and gas, while Vermont has, well, maple syrup. As early as the 1940s, Texas surpassed Vermont in per capita income. Vermont had virtually nothing going for it—no energy resources except firewood, no industry except some struggling paper mills and failing dairies. By 1981, per capita income in Vermont had fallen to 17 percent below that of Texas. That year, the state’s largest city elected a self-described “democratic socialist,” Bernie Sanders, to be its mayor. Vermont, it might seem, was on the road to serfdom and inevitable failure.

But then a great reversal in the relative prosperity of the two states happened, as little Vermont started getting richer faster than big Texas. By 2001, Texas lost its lead over Vermont in per capita income. By 2012, despite its oil and gas boom and impressive job creation numbers, Texas was 4.3 percent poorer than Vermont in per capita income.

This is not an isolated example. Since the early 1980s, Texas has also been falling behind many other states in its income per person. In 1981, per capita income in Texas came to within 92 percent of that of Maryland; now Texans earn only 79 percent as much as Marylanders. In 1981, per capita income in Texas almost equaled that of Massachusetts; now Texans on average earn only about three-quarters of what residents of Massachusetts do. Relative to Connecticut, Texans have seen their per capita income slip from 82 percent to 71 percent.

I’ve noted the per-capita income disparity before, back when Perry was on his little job-stealing sideshow in Maryland. Have you noticed that there’s been zero announcements about businesses actually relocating here as a result of that? Turns out the net population increase in Texas from people moving here from other states is a lot smaller than you think, and that despite a more diversified economy Texas is still heavily dependent on oil and gas, which has been a huge driver of our recent boom. Good times like those last forever, as we all know. Anyway, there’s a lot more to the story so go check it out, then go read Paul Krugman and Forrest Wilder for more.

State Bar investigating Charles Sebesta

Good.

Anthony Graves

The State Bar of Texas has opened an investigation into Charles Sebesta, the former Burleson County District Attorney who prosecuted death row exoneree Anthony Graves.

The organization that oversees lawyers is investigating alleged professional misconduct by Sebesta, which, if proven, could result in his disbarment. The investigation was prompted by a complaint that Graves filed in January. Sebesta will have 30 days to file a response to the complaint.

“It sets a precedent for other state prosecutors that they have to act ethically,” said Ramota Otulana, a clerk at the law firm that represents Graves.

Graves spent 18 years behind bars — 12 of them on death row, where he twice neared execution — before the U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals overturned his conviction in 2006, ruling that Sebesta had used false testimony and withheld favorable evidence in the case.

[…]

State Bar officials have said the previous complaint was dismissed because the statute of limitations on the alleged violations had expired. In 2013, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 825, which changed the statute of limitations, allowing a wrongfully imprisoned person to file a grievance up to four years after their release from prison in cases of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Previously, the four-year statute began on the date the misconduct was discovered.

State Sens. Rodney Ellis and John Whitmire, and state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, all Houston Democrats, joined Graves in calling for accountability for Sebesta at a Wednesday press conference.

“I’m asking prosecutors to cooperate with the highest of integrity,” Graves told reporters in January. “It took me 18 and a half years to get back home. Two execution dates. All because a man abused his position.”

See here for the background. I hope they nail him. Sen. Ellis has more on his Facebook page.