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December 19th, 2009:

Saturday video break: More Muppets

Now this is how the “Carol of the Bells” should be done:

I don’t know what has spurred the recent outbreak of Muppets videos on YouTube, but I certainly do approve of it. Thanks to Oliver Willis for the find.

Earle files for Lite Guv

Well, this was unexpected.

Former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is running for lieutenant governor of Texas.

Earle, who retired last year after more than three decades as district attorney, filed paperwork with the Texas Democratic Party late Friday to seek the party’s nomination for the statewide office. The winner of the Democratic primary in March will probably face the Republican incumbent David Dewhurst next fall.

At this point, Earle is the sole filer for the party’s nomination, but Austin deli owner Marc Katz is also planning to run, a campaign spokeswoman said Friday.

Labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson is also considering a bid. She was out of the country on Friday and not available for comment.

I’m more puzzled than anything else, partly because I’d already started thinking about Linda Chavez-Thompson for Lite Guv, and partly because after however much time of being in radio silence, I’d figured Earle had decided to enjoy his retirement. Guess you never know. Anyway, whatever his reasoning is, I’m happy to have as many contested primaries between quality candidates as we can get. It sure beats the alternative. Welcome to the race, Ronnie, now make your case to be the nominee.

Miles files

For the third straight cycle, former Rep. Borris Miles will face Rep. Al Edwards in the Democratic primary for HD146. Mary Benton has the details plus Miles’ press release. I like Miles, I thought he had a lot of potential to do good in the one term he had after winning in 2006, but I do hope he’s gotten his personal demons under control. I look forward to seeing how the rubber match plays out.

From the “Will they never learn?” files

Back when I was having my Trib-based conversation with David Benzion, he mentioned a web ad that was released by the Texas GOP to attack Bill White in anticipation of his jump to the Governor’s race. That ad featured a song by The Platters. Apparently, the state GOP hasn’t gotten the message that using an artist’s copyrighted song for unauthorized political purposes isn’t such a good idea. But they’re about to find out.

Now, attorneys for the Platters founding member Herb Reed are considering their options. “Herb would never agree to let his music be used in a political way,” said Reed’s manager, Fred Balboni.

The Internet ad, titled “Bill White: Too Liberal for Texas,” went live on the Republican Party of Texas’ YouTube account on Dec. 2. When asked whether his party had received the required permission from the copyright holders of the performance and the original composition, RPT Communications Director Bryan Preston said no licenses were required because the ad was “covered under fair use and political parody.” Legal precedent, however, suggests he’s wrong, especially in light of a recent high-profile defeat for Republicans.

In 2008, Jackson Browne sued Sen. John McCain, the Republican National Committee, and the Ohio Republican Party for copyright violation and falsely implied endorsement after they used his 1977 track “Running on Empty” without his permission in an anti-Obama attack ad. The U.S. District Court in California threw out McCain’s motion to dismiss using a public interest defense, forcing the Republicans to settle out of court in July 2009. As part of the agreement, they pledged “in future election campaigns to respect and uphold the rights of artists and to obtain permissions and/or licenses for copyrighted works where appropriate.” Browne’s attorney Larry Iser said, “The law is very clear that the parody must be a parody of the song itself.” Since the latest ad is attacking White and not the Platters, he called the Texas GOP’s claim that the ad is protected free speech “nonsense.”

This really isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. There are plenty of examples of campaigns, mostly Republican ones, getting in trouble for doing this. I guess some people need to learn the hard way.

More on Market Square

Back in October, we heard that the historic Market Square Park downtown was set to get a facelift. Now Nancy Sarnoff has a few details.

The renovation will include an area for pets, art installations, a 9/11 Memorial garden and a Niko Niko’s Greek & American Cafe.

It sounds like a smaller version of Discovery Green, the much livelier urban park on the east end of downtown.

Sounds good to me. Groundbreaking is supposed to be next week, which makes it a bit late; Miya had reported it was supposed to start before Thanksgiving. That suggests to me that the stated completion target of Memorial Day weekend is optimistic as well. But we’ll see.