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August 9th, 2014:

Saturday video break: Come Together

I think we’re all familiar with the original version of this one, so since I just have cover versions of it, let’s go straight to those. First, here’s Aerosmith:

Steven Tyler was two years younger than I am right now when that was done. I should look so good without a shirt. On that note, here’s Ike and Tina Turner:

Yeah, I could spend a lot of time watching Tina Turner videos. It would not be time wasted.

Finally, while I don’t actually have the Beatles’ version of this, I do have a John Lennon live version. Like this one:

One and one and one is three. Which is your favorite?

Rasmussen: Abbott 48, Davis 40

Make of it what you will.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

The gubernatorial race in Texas is slightly closer than it was earlier this year.

A new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Texas Voters finds Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott picking up 48% of the vote to Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis’ 40%. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate in the race, while nine percent (9%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

In our first look at the race in March, Abbott led Davis by 12 points – 53% to 41%.

Texas moves from Safe Republican to Leans Republican on the Rasmussen Reports’ 2014 Gubernatorial Scorecard.

Both candidates are backed by 86% of voters in their respective parties. Abbott leads 43% to 35% among unaffiliated voters, compared to 50% to 37% in March.

Abbott continues to hold a double-digit lead among men, 52% to 35%. But while Davis held a 12-point lead among women in March, the two candidates are now tied among these voters.

I hadn’t realized Rasmussen had polled in March; if there was any news coverage of it, I missed it. Both results are on the sidebar now. It’s nice to see a trendline in Davis’ favor but I’m not going to hang too much on that, especially when it all comes from Abbott losing a few points of support, which could mean little more than a higher number of his likely supporters saying “I don’t know” this time around. Rasmussen doesn’t provide crosstabs, so we can’t say for sure what that’s about. While Ras notes Davis’ loss of support among women from their March result to this one, you have to click the link for their March poll to see that she made a big gain among men, going from down 66-29 to down 52-35. I doubt either of these represent much more than odd fluctuations among smaller subsamples. Again, I’m not going to make too much of this – no more than I did of the less friendly Internet polls – but I do wonder if this one will attract any coverage, as that YouGov poll did, and if it will change even slightly the narrative from “Davis trails Abbott by double digits” to “Davis trails Abbott by double digits in most polls” or something more favorable to her. We’ll see about that. (And just as I was writing that, Texas Politics posted about the poll, followed a bit later by the SA Current and finally the Austin Chronicle. One daily paper blog post, two alt-weeklies, so far.)

Finally, Ras also polled the Senate race, showing Big John Cornyn leading David Alameel by a score of 47-29. You can credit that bigger lead almost entirely to Davis’ much higher name recognition than Alameel’s. We don’t have the crosstabs, but I’d bet a non-trivial amount of money that they show a much greater proportion of Dem-friendly demographics going “don’t know/no answer” on Alameel than they did on Davis. Cornyn’s equivalent level of support to Abbott is the tell here.

Sobering center status report

It’s working as planned, which is great news.

When Mayor Annise Parker opened the center at 150 North Chenevert St. last year, the idea was to cut police costs and reduce recidivism, creating a place other than jail for those whose only crime is public intoxication. Prior to the center’s opening, police were making about 17,000 arrests a year in Houston for public intoxication, racking up between $4 million and $6 million in police costs.

The sobering center has reduced that number significantly: From June 2013 to June 2014, Houston police booked just shy of 2,500 people on public intoxication, according to sobering center numbers. The center admitted more than double that number during the same time period.

[…]

Officials said the sobering center is still not being used to its full capacity, but the numbers should pick up as more jurisdictions turn to the facility. In April, Metro, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, constable precincts and University of Houston police started dropping off intoxicated people at the location.

The center started with a roughly $4 million contract with the city. Last month, council gave the center $1.2 million more out of a health waiver to expand services at outpatient recovery clinics. It’s part of an effort to make the center not just a glorified “drunk tank,” but also a place for people with addiction problems to connect with long-term treatment.

“Is it a cure-all? Is it the silver bullet for everything? It’s not,” said City Councilman Ed Gonzalez, one of the original backers of the recovery center idea. “But an intoxicated person a year ago would have been taken to jail and put through the bureaucratic system, and they probably wouldn’t have left with the help they need.”

Houston is one of just 10 or so U.S. cities – San Antonio included – with a partially or completely local or state government-funded sobering center. Most are spread out along the West Coast, from Seattle to Portland to San Diego. Another 20 to 25 cities are now considering the model, said Shannon Smith-Bernardin, deputy director of San Francisco’s sobering center. She is studying the growing number of sobering center models and their potential cost savings for her graduate school dissertation.

“There is no one definition of a sobering center right now – they all offer different services and programs,” Smith-Bernardin said. “But we know it’s becoming a trend.”

See here, here, and here for the background. There’s so much to like about this – it’s cost-effective, it keeps police officers on the streets instead of dealing with low-level offenders, it is far better equipped than the jails to direct people to real options for assistance, and it was a key step in closing the city’s jail. This is a win all around and an idea I wish we’d thought of years ago. Keep up the good work, y’all.

Moving out of Fitzgerald’s

Big music news in Houston.

The successful concert promotion group behind Houston’s Free Press Summer Festival has secured land just north of downtown Houston to build a three-stage music venue complex with two indoor stages and an outdoor stage.

Pegstar Concerts head Jagi Katial said Monday the project has been two years in gestation. Plans for the development at 2915 N. Main and North Street were leaked onto Houston’s Reddit outpost Saturday afternoon in part from a resident who attended a meeting about the development, which lead to Katial wanting to clear the air on some details that were bandied about.

This new venue would call for Pegstar to leave its current digs at Fitzgerald’s music venue on White Oak Boulevard, and set up shop at the new site five minutes away. This new complex as of now does not have a name, Katial says. He predicts that the doors could be open by late 2015.

“It’s very much a work still in progress,” Katial says, surveying the grounds late Monday afternoon. As of now there is nothing on the property aside from a real estate sign, trees and a concrete slab. A group of tight-knit investors has been working on the nuts and bolts for some time, he said.

The property backs up to what is called Little White Oak Bayou. Katial says engineers have said that flooding should not be an issue. It’s located just a few blocks from Metro’s North rail line, which could make it easier for concert-goers to commute to the venue.

There are a handful of vacant homes on the western end of the property which will be converted into other things, like parking, farmer’s markets and storage. He wants to get Houstonians acquainted with the area when they aren’t there for a show.

Sarah Fitzgerald, who has owned the Fitzgerald’s venue since 1977, said Monday that Pegstar’s lease is up in September 2015.

Pegstar has leased it from her since September 2010, when they remodeled the venue and began booking live music and comedy on the two stages, downstairs and upstairs, most nights of the week. The revitalization of the building has been a boon for development on White Oak Boulevard, which now has a number of bars and restaurants that are full almost every night.

“This is a bittersweet thing for me, straight up, because I love Fitzgerald’s and the idea of me being a concert producer was forged at that venue years ago,” says Katial. “I’ve seen some of the best shows that I will ever see there.”

Swamplot has a view of the new location plus some design illustrations. Fitzgerald’s, which is walking distance from my house, is an institution in Houston. I have no idea what will happen to the space after the current tenants leave. The owner could make a fortune if she sold the place to developers, but I kind of hope she doesn’t. There’s not many places like it left in Houston, and I’d hope the music scene is big enough here to accommodate both Fitzgerald’s and the new place. As for the new place, it sounds really interesting, and I love that it will be near the North Line. I’m looking forward to seeing what Pegstar does with it. See this Chron gallery of 1980’s photos at Fitz’s for more.

Working on Ebola in Galveston

Given what’s been going on lately I thought this would be of interest.

As the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history sweeps across West Africa, hope for a cure is centering on scientists thousands of miles away at the Galveston National Laboratory, where researchers are working on three of the most promising potential cures.

The National Lab, on the campus of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, has been awarded $6 million from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense to develop cures for Ebola and the equally deadly Marburg virus, UTMB said this week.

The Ebola virus that has infected more than 1,000 people in West Africa and killed more than 700 is a new strain, which could complicate efforts to develop a cure, said Scott Weaver, the National Lab’s scientific director.

The outbreak is the longest-lasting and most widespread Ebola outbreak ever recorded, Weaver said, and cases are being reported for the first time in highly populated cities.

The National Laboratory is the only academic lab in the country to be rated Level 4, meaning it is equipped to research the deadliest biological agents known because of the sophisticated safeguards in place. Weaver said scientists at the National Laboratory have been working with the Ebola virus for 10 years, making them a natural choice to pursue the cures.

[…]

Even if an infected person arrives in the U.S., there is little chance that Ebola could get a foothold here, said T.G. Ksiazek, a pathology professor at UTMB. Ebola can only be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids and is easily controlled with modern medical techniques, said Ksiazek, who will leave for Africa this month to assist in efforts to halt the spread of Ebola.

“We do occasionally have diseases like this imported into the U.S. and we fare well,” he said.

Good to know. I don’t even want to think about the panic and overreaction that would occur here if there ever was such an outbreak, even though there’s not that much danger of actually catching it. This is one of those times when being – how shall I put this? – less scientifically literate that we might be as a society would be a major negative. The politics of ignorance and fearmongering that we already have are quite enough, thanks.

One more thing:

The bulk of the research on Ebola is being done in the U.S. because the federal government has been willing to fund research into cures of what are known as “emerging diseases,” such as the Ebola and West Nile viruses. Private companies are reluctant to invest the millions – or hundreds of millions – of dollars needed to develop a cure for a disease like Ebola because there is little chance of making a profit.

“There is really no market for this in a typical sense,” Weaver said. “There is no company that thinks they can market this in West Africa for a profit.”

Sarah Kliff explored that question in more detail a few days ago. Keep that in your back pocket the next time a debate about the role of government comes up in your vicinity. I wish the scientists working on this problem and others like it all the success in the world.