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July 10th, 2015:

Friday random ten: Revisiting the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs list, part 3

Here’s their list. You know the drill.

1. Pink Houses – John Cougar Mellencamp (#447)
2. Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley (#444)
3. New Year’s Day – U2 (#435)
4. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple (#434)
5. Tumbling Dice – Linda Rondstadt (#433, orig. Rolling Stones)
6. American Idiot – Green Day (#432)
7. Piano Man – Billy Joel (#429)
8. Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith (#416)
9. In Bloom – Butch Walker & the Black Widows (#415, orig. Nirvana)
10. We’ve Only Just Begun – Grant Lee Buffalo; Modern Barbershop Quartet (#414, orig. The Carpenters)

Song I have heard often enough on TV commercials to not feel the need to own: “Push It”, Salt ‘n’ Pepa (#446). They were selling flip-phones before they were selling car insurance.
Song that’s giving me another reason to buy “The Commitments” soundtrack: “Mustang Sally”, Wilson Pickett (#441). Seriously, I just need to buy it already.
Song that satellite radio has introduced me to: “William, It Was Really Nothing”, The Smiths (#431). The Sirius “Classic Alternative” station loves it some Smiths and some Morrissey. As big as those acts were, I can honestly say I’d never heard any of their music until very recently, mostly thanks to Sirius.
Song I don’t have but should: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, CS&N (#426). I bought the one Crosby, Stills & Nash album that came out in the late 80s, but quickly forgot about it and never ripped it to MP3.
Song I used to have but don’t any more: “Boys of Summer”, Don Henley (#423). I had “Building The Perfect Beast” on vinyl, but must have lost it or sold it before doing my Ripping Vinyl project. I need to re-purchase this one, which ought to come with the same bonus track that was on the original CD version.
Special shout-out: “Ode to Billie Joe”, Bobbie Gentrey (#419), a song that is referenced as a joke by the Austin Lounge Lizards at the end of their version of “Shallow End Of The Gene Pool” – “and that’s why Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchee Bridge”. It always got a big laugh at live shows, but having never heard the song, I never quite got the joke.

Your daily Paxton update

This guy. I can’t even.

Ken Paxton

Despite promising last year to “wind down” his involvement in dozens of real estate and business ventures, Attorney General Ken Paxton continued to expand his holdings in 2014, according to personal financial documents.

Paxton pledged during last year’s campaign to begin divesting from his sizable business portfolio and funnel these investments into a blind trust after his political opponents raised concerns about conflicts of interest.

During the decade he was in the state Legislature, Paxton’s holdings grew from two businesses and real estate investments to 28 last year. Among those was a Dallas-based computer company that has been investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding its investors.

Personal financial disclosure forms Paxton filed at the end of last month show he became involved in three new businesses in 2014.

“As we stated we would during the campaign, we organized a blind trust and placed appropriate assets into the trust,” Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm said in a statement Monday. He did not respond to further requests about which or how many interests Paxton had divested or placed in the trust. He also did not answer several questions about why the attorney general continued to increase his business interests in 2014 despite Holm’s assurances last October that Paxton was “trying to liquidate or wind down many of these investments.”

The Chronicle also found Paxton did not disclose his involvement in one, Cherokee Children’s Camp LLC, on his filings for the last four years.

Holm said the attorney general did not need to include Cherokee in his filings.

“Concerning the Camp, my understanding is General Paxton has no interest in this entity nor has he ever; should an expanded filing be appropriate, then I expect our lawyer will do so.”

The Texas Secretary of State website lists Paxton as the president, secretary and treasurer of Cherokee Children’s Camp and Paxton’s residence as the principal place of business. Cherokee does not have a website or other online advertisement detailing what it is, but two business-related websites list it as a “women’s clothing store” in McKinney. Calls to the Robert Hultstrand of Frisco, who is listed as a “member” on Cherokee’s online documents, were not returned.

Asked how Paxton could have “no interest” in the camp, while acting as its president for multiple years, Holm said, “you can absolutely be president or treasurer or anything else of a business and have zero interest in it.”

Okay then. Just as Ted Cruz says a lot of incredibly stupid things for a supposedly smart guy, Ken Paxton sure says a lot of things that are demonstrably not true for a guy that’s supposed to be such a holy roller. I was always taught that lying was a sin, but then I’m a heathen, so what do I know. Your Attorney General, ladies and gentlemen.

Texas sues the EPA again (and again, and again, and…)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday filed a lawsuit over the agency’s rejection of parts of a Texas clean air program, launching the state’s second battle against EPA regulations in less than two weeks.

Texas has sued the agency 21 times since President Obama took office in 2009.

This challenge centers on how Texas handles pollution that spews from industrial plants during facility startups, shutdowns and equipment malfunctions.

Historically, regulators exempt pollution from those events from overall limits, letting plants to emit more than their federal permits allow. But environmental groups have protested this policy, claiming it has let plants discharge millions of extra pounds of dangerous air pollutants each year.

A federal appeals court in April 2014 found some of the environmental groups’ points valid, prompting the EPA in May to require Texas and 35 other states to revisit how they deal with such events.

The new state plans are due in November 2016.

But Paxton said that because the EPA had approved Texas’ plans in 2010, before the environmental challenge, the agency’s latest directive amounted to “an abrupt and unwarranted about-face.”

Whatever. I guess Paxton has to get all those lawsuits in quickly, before defending his own butt becomes his main job in life. As the story notes, Texas was one of several states to file suit over the EPA’s Clean Water Plan, and there will be another suit coming next month when the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rules get released. Too bad all this litigation isn’t an economic catalyst, we could use a little help on that front.

Legislators ask for a task force to review Capitol monuments to the Confederacy

Fine by me.

On the same day that the South Carolina Legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds, five Democratic lawmakers asked Gov. Greg Abbott to consider the appropriateness of the Confederate monuments at their own Capitol.

In a letter sent Monday to Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, Democrats in the House and Senate asked for the creation of a task force to consider whether the numerous Confederate monuments, markers and statutes on the Capitol grounds are “historically accurate, whether they are appropriately located on the Capitol grounds, and whether any changes are needed.”

The letter was signed by state Sen. Rodney Ellis and state Reps. Senfronia Thompson and Sylvester Turner, all Houston Democrats; state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas; and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

“As these debates play out across our country and state, we ask you to consider the Texas Capitol itself: the building in which we have the honor of working on behalf of all Texans,” the letter reads. “The Texas Capitol grounds feature numerous monuments dedicated to the Confederacy, many of which espouse a whitewashed version of history.”

[…]

There are more than a dozen markers on the Capitol grounds that overtly reference the Confederacy, according to the State Preservation Board. Those include a Confederate Soldiers’ Monument on the south grounds and several portraits that hang in the Capitol chambers.

In the letter, the lawmakers cited the need to assess certain markers — including a plaque in a first-floor corridor of the Capitol honoring the “Children of the Confederacy” — that “assert the outright falsehood” that the Civil War “was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.”

The lawmakers asked that the task force be made up of business, religious and education leaders to allow for a “serious conversation about how best to honor Texas’ heritage and past – while at the same time ensuring historical accuracy and that we celebrate figures worthy of our praise.”

The letter they signed is here. I doubt this will go anywhere – Greg Abbott doesn’t appear to care, as there’s no votes in it for him – but as with HISD schools, I favor having the conversation. And let’s be clear, these are monuments to people who took up arms against the country in defense of slavery, and these monuments were not contemporaneous remembrances but recent additions, put up in defiance of desegregation and the civil rights movement. At a time when we are seeking to distort and deny our own history about the Civil War, this discussion couldn’t be more timely and necessary. This issue is not going to go away. Be sure to see RG Ratcliffe for more.

Deja vu all over again in San Antonio

Are you ready for some more municipal wrangling over Uber and Lyft? Of course you are.

Uber

A post-election push to craft city policies to allow ride-hailing firms Uber and Lyft to operate in San Antonio has also prompted the taxi industry lobby to strengthen its efforts to shoot down whatever is ultimately proposed.

Since Mayor Ivy Taylor’s announcement last week that she’s directed City Manager Sheryl Sculley to craft a pilot program for firms such as Uber and Lyft, some council members say they’ve seen an uptick in lobbying from the taxi industry.

Others say taxi lobbyists never stopped — even after Uber and Lyft shuttered operations here when the council adopted regulations that they said made it too difficult to do business here.

[…]

Lyft

Uber officials insist their background checks are superior — and not a barrier to bringing new drivers onto their platform. That continues to be a matter of debate, which the city may be able to settle if the firm provides sufficient data.

But a pilot program that negates fingerprint background checks could be a hard sale for some council members. Councilman Joe Krier says he’s finely attuned to the “list of problems” Uber has had in cities around the world.

“I am not inclined to give up the fingerprint requirement,” he said. “I have not been persuaded that there is an alternative to that that ensures citizen safety.”

Councilman Ray Lopez, too, hasn’t been convinced that there’s room for negotiation there. He said he believes that the taxi industry’s end game is keeping TNCs from operating in San Antonio, and that’s not realistic.

“Their ultimate goal is to keep (the TNCs) out of here,” he said. “That’s not my goal. I don’t think it’s anyone on council’s goal.”

See here for the last update. The main difference between this time and the last time is that now Mayor Ivy Taylor wants to get Uber and Lyft into San Antonio, where before she was at best indifferent and most hostile to them, to the point that it was a campaign issue against her. That didn’t stop her from getting elected, but she changed her tune anyway. We’ll see how it goes this time.