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March 21st, 2014:

Friday random ten: I’m an old cowhand

We went off to see the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo yesterday, so here are ten songs about cowboys and horses.

1. The Cowboy Song – SixMileBridge
2. Bring On the Dancing Horses – The Picture
3. Cowboys Are My Weakness – Chris Difford
4. Horse – Eddie From Ohio
5. I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart – Mutual Admiration Society
6. A Horse Named Bill – Flying Fish Sailors
7. Cowboy Lips – The Bobs
8. A Horse With No Name – America
9. Sinaloa Cowboy – Bruce Springsteen
10. Whole Heap Of Little Horses – The Chieftains

I’m heading off to ride into the sunset, which is an hour later these days thanks to daylight savings time. Have a good weekend, y’all.

Pot polling

Our favorite pollsters aren’t optimistic about pot legalization despite some good looking poll numbers for it.

In the February 2014 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, we asked respondents for their opinions on marijuana possession and gave them four options to choose from:

  • “marijuana possession should not be legal under any circumstances;”
  • “marijuana possession should be legal for medicinal purposes only;”
  • “possession of small amounts of marijuana for any purpose should be legal;” and,
  • “possession of any amount of marijuana for any purpose should be legal.”

Overall, just under a majority of Texans, 49 percent, said that possession of either a small amount or any amount of marijuana should be legal for any purpose. When combined with those who think marijuana should be made legal for medicinal purposes, 28 percent, it’s clear that the vast majority of Texans think that marijuana should be legal in some form. These results are comparable to national numbers, which show a slim majority of Americans favoring legalization.

But the overall results cloud the distinct ideological and partisan divergence over marijuana. Overall, 23 percent of Texas voters think that marijuana should be illegal in all circumstances, but opposition grows to 32 percent when we focus on Republican voters. Conversely, 77 percent of liberals think that small or large amounts of marijuana should be made legal for any purpose, but among conservatives, that support drops to 35 percent. Add the 32 percent of conservatives who would only legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, and you see that the majority of the voters who drive elections in Texas remain clear-eyed in their opposition to recreational pot use.

This configuration of public opinion illustrates one reason (among the many possibilities) for some Democratic elites’ harsh attitudes toward Kinky Friedman’s candidacy for agriculture commissioner. However much potential there may be for the Democratic — and especially the liberal — grassroots to respond enthusiastically to Friedman’s emphasis on marijuana decriminalizationmoderates and independents are evenly divided between those who are relatively restrictive (favoring, at most, legalization of medical uses) and those who are permissive (supporting legalization of some amounts for any use).

In the midst of a campaign in which Democrats need to persuade at least some non-Democratic voters in addition to mobilizing their own homegrown base, the talk about marijuana is at best a mixed bag, offering Republicans the opportunity to tar Democrats as cultural liberals among the far more numerous conservative and moderate voters.

This divergence of opinion between the different ideological poles is not as strong as we’ve seen in many other policy areas (abortion, for example), but there is a real distinction. This polarization in attitudes — along with the general trajectory of public opinion and the revenue that states like Colorado are pulling in — means there is reason to believe that this issue will be around for a while: There are political and policy reasons for even conservative leaders to consider some form of legalization, but also ideological points to be scored in public opposition.

Like other policy areas that have a potential moral component, such as gay marriage, opposition to decriminalization may turn out to be significant, particularly because it is concentrated in the very constituencies that buttress Republican dominance of elections and the legislative process in Texas.

I would look at it this way. There was widespread public support for changing Texas’ laws about beer distribution to allow microbreweries and brewpubs to sell their wares directly to the public and in retail outlets, but it took several legislative sessions for a bill to finally pass, and even then it was nearly derailed. What it took was mostly a matter of organization and lobbying, with some scaling back of the original legislation to earn enough support from former opponents. Though the opposition was limited to one lobbying group for the beer distributors that had no real argument for maintaining the status quo, they had money and power and it took a large show of force to overcome them.

In the case of pot legalization, we have decent public support but a fiercely determined opposition that likely won’t go away when they find themselves badly outnumbered, and as yet there’s no organization pushing legalization, just one renegade candidate that still has to win a runoff and a general election, and isn’t particularly well-liked in his party. There’s a decent chance that advances will be made to further decriminalize pot, as treatment and alternative forms of sentencing are much more popular these days than jail time, and there’s a conservative push for de-incarceration as a matter of fiscal policy. That’s not the same as legalization, of course, but it’s a large and solid piece of middle ground with a less determined opposing faction. When there’s a commercial interest in favor of pot legalization, that’s when we’re likely to see some real action, assuming such an interest is shown by the Colorado and Washington experiences to be viable. But as with casinos, that’s no guarantee, either. My advice to those interested in advancing this cause is to work on decriminalization. It gets you most of the way there, it’s achievable, it will keep people out of jail, and it will make it easier down the road to take the next step when and if public opinion becomes more firmly in favor. Advocating for medical marijuana is also probably a decent bet. But in the absence of even a rudimentary grassroots movement for legal pot, I wouldn’t expect anything more than that to be possible.

No pay equity problems here

No sauce for the gander, either.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Women in Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ Senate office last year averaged about $3,000 more in earnings than the male employees, according to data acquired by Austin bureau chief Peggy Fikac.

Out of 12 employees in Davis’ office, women averaged $43,050 and men averaged $40,378. There are six men and six women who work in Davis Fort Worth and Austin offices.


Equal pay for women has been the focus of the Texas governor’s race this week and the issue has placed the two candidates on starkly different sides of the issue. Abbott said as governor he would have vetoed the equal-pay legislation sponsored by Davis last year.

See here for the background. Davis has only 12 employees in her Senate office, while the AG’s office has over 7,000, so it’s not really a direct comparison. But it does nothing to derail the story line, and that’s the big thing. Abbott can strain to reach for a counter-argument, but he’s fighting on inherently hostile turf, and he’s his own worst enemy with his admission that he’d have vetoed the Ledbetter bill. He needs to change the subject, but this won’t go away. It’s a key difference between the two candidates, and it’s a relevant, resonant issue.

By the way, I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Dan Patrick opposes the Ledbetter bill, too. “Women should be should be paid the same as a man, but I don’t believe government should enforce it,” Patrick said. You’re on your own, ladies! I recommend taking negotiation classes, if you can find the money to pay for them. Also, too, David Dewhurst doesn’t oppose Ledbetter, but he’s too wishy washy to come out and say it. Honestly, it’s like they’ve got Democratic saboteurs writing their position papers for them.

Another same sex divorce case

In Bexar County. And with it comes another opportunity for Greg Abbott to demonstrate his commitment to non-equality.


The Bexar divorce case was filed Feb. 18, eight days before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex unions and its refusal to recognize out-of-state marriages are unconstitutional. The judge stayed his ruling, though, so the ban remains in effect until a higher court rules on the matter.

The women in the Bexar case, Allison Leona Flood Lesh and Kristi Lyn Lesh, were married on Aug. 13, 2010, in Washington. Their names appear on a copy of their marriage license, which was recorded last fall in Bexar County.

Their divorce has the makings of being a messy split because a child, identified only as K.A.F.L., was born during the marriage in San Antonio. Flood wants to share custody of the nearly 13-month-old girl, but Lesh claims in a court filing that Flood isn’t the child’s biological or adoptive parent.

“This illustrates what Judge Garcia identified as (what) same-sex couples are deprived of,” said Neel Lane, one of the San Antonio lawyers for the gay couples who sued the state over the same-sex marriage ban. “First, they are deprived of the benefits of an orderly dissolution of a marriage. Second, their children are denied the benefit of the many laws to protect their interests in the event of a divorce.”

Those benefits include child support and shared custody, Lane said.


A spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general’s office, which opposes gay marriage and divorce, declined to comment on the Bexar case. Instead, she provided the office’s legal brief submitted in the Supreme Court case.

“Marriage in Texas can only be between a man and a woman, and courts may not give effect to any legal claim asserted as a result of an out-of-state same-sex marriage,” the document states. A same-sex couple can sue to have the marriage “declared void,” though.

The state’s highest civil court took up the matter after different rulings in lower appellate courts. They involved two couples who were married in Massachusetts and later moved to Texas.

The particulars of this case aren’t important. The point is that same sex marriages are taking place all over the country, and some of these couples live in Texas. Until such time as Texas’ anti-same sex marriage law is invalidated, the state is going to have to deal with issues like these. Sticking our collective head in the sand and slow-walking the process does no one any good. The courts, in Washington and here in Texas, will eventually sort all this out. In the meantime, real people who were legally married are being needlessly harmed. We should face up to reality sooner rather than later.

Pearland Presidential Head Park gets different development

What could have been, Pearland. What could have been.

What could have been

A 48-acre swath of land that once was envisioned as a park to showcase oversize busts of U.S. presidents has attracted a Chinese developer to Pearland.

Beijing-based Modern Green Development, an international company and one of the largest green building developers in China, hopes to build a large-scale mixed-use project on the site west of Texas 288 and south of Beltway 8.

The planned development would be its first in the United States and second in North America. The company has constructed 15 million square feet of mixed-use space around the world.


A similar mixed-use project was previously planned for that site around 2007, before the economic downturn stalled the idea and the property was taken over by a bank.

That project, to be called the Water Lights District, was to include a park to display 43 presidential busts by local artist David Adickes.

In Pearland, a suburb where farmland has rapidly given way to residential development in recent decades, the busts were meant to welcome visitors and give the area character.

Only six busts were installed in the Presidential Park & Gardens, and Barack Obama had yet to win election before the project stalled.

Adickes said the busts are now sitting in the yard near his studio in Houston. He said he did not know whether they would be utilized for the new plan.

“The set does exist and is waiting for a final home,” Adickes said. “Theoretically, they would do well there.”

See here, here, and here for the background, because OF COURSE I covered this obsessively. I’m sure this new project will be great and will be needed to deal with the demand of people wanting to live in Pearland. But seriously, you missed out on being the long-term home of the giant Presidential heads. That’s worth way more than any boring old residential development.