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April 26th, 2012:

“Bum Phillips: The Opera”

Would you like to see an opera based on the life of legendary former Houston Oilers head coach Bum Phillips? Of course you would. And you can make it happen.

BUM PHILLIPS is a world premiere operatic work inspired by the life of retired National Football League coach, O.A. “Bum” Phillips, and produced by Monk Parrots, a New York-based nonprofit performing arts organization.

In 2011, I presented the idea for this opera to nationally renowned playwright Kirk Lynn. My company, Monk Parrots, wishes to commission Kirk Lynn and acclaimed composer Peter Stopschinski to provide the libretto and score. This dynamic trio was introduced in Austin, Texas by the success of two contemporary musical-plays, Stopschinski and Lynn’s I’VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY, and my direction of David Lang and Mac Wellman’s THE DIFFICULTY OF CROSSING A FIELD. Our new, unconventional opera inspired by Coach Phillips seeks to challenge the form and advance the careers of burgeoning artists.

In 1975, O.A. “Bum” Phillips became head coach of the Houston Oilers, one of the worst teams in the NFL at that time. Phillips quickly converted the Oilers into a winning franchise resulting in a “Shangri-La” era in the city of Houston and a citywide phenomenon of devoted fans dubbed “Luv Ya Blue”. This humble hero’s triumphs came with sacrifices, as his obsessions affected his relationship with his family. A devastating termination from the Oilers in 1980 propelled him toward a spiritual quest that he later said he had avoided his entire life. Sunday mornings, previously a time for football and the military (Phillips had enlisted after the events of Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941) became a time for church. As such, Bum Phillips uses the question, “What to do on a Sunday?” as a unifying principle in which to examine themes relevant to contemporary audiences, such as ethics, family, faith, and happiness.

The first fundraising priority is to raise enough money to commission the score and libretto . We must raise $10,000 by Sunday, April 29, 2012 in order to cover the commission fees. Should we raise more than $10,000, any additional monies will be applied to the overall production budget, currently $85,000. The first draft is due by January 2013, in preparation for a concert reading and workshop production, followed by a second workshop and the premiere in fall 2013. Please join the making of this bold new work by contributing to our fundraising campaign today. Your generosity will be proudly acknowledged in the production playbill. Thank you for your support.

For more information about Bum Phillips and Bum Phillips Charities, please visit

I heard about this through my friend Stephanie Stradley. It sounds like an awesome idea to me, so I went ahead and made a pledge. If you agree, please consider doing so as well. Thanks very much.

PPP’s April poll of Texas

Here’s Public Policy Polling’s latest snapshot of Texas heading into May and the primaries.

If Newt Gingrich was going to win a big victory anywhere between now and the Republican convention Texas would be a logical candidate…but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Mitt Romney leads the state with 45% to 35% for Newt Gingrich and 14% for Ron Paul.

Texas really shows the extent to which GOP voters have unified around Romney over the last few weeks. When we polled the state in January Republicans were evenly divided in their feelings about him with 44% rating him favorably and 44% giving him poor marks. Now his favorability is a +43 spread at 66/23. That’s very much indicative of people jumping on board the train.


Texas looks like it will remain Republican in the general election, although it might be closer than it was in 2008. Romney leads Obama by 7 points at 50-43. John McCain took the state by 13 points in 2008. Obama leads Romney 56-34 with Hispanics and 57-35 with young voters. This is not likely to be the year Texas goes Democratic, but the trends with those groups make it seem possible it will happen some day.

One thing that would make Obama more competitive in Texas is the- very, very off chance- that Rick Perry was on the ticket. In that case Romney’s advantage over Obama would be reduced from 50-43 to 50-45. Perry’s Presidential bid clearly did a lot of damage to his reputation. His approval rating has sunk into the 30s at 39%, with 53% of voters disapproving of him. With independents he’s even worse off at 30/62. We’ll have more on how Texans feel about Perry’s political future later in the week but it’s clear the hurt to his image from his failed campaign hasn’t dissipated yet.

I’m sure I’ll have something to say about those results as well. You can see PPP’s full data here. If you scroll down to page 9, which is where the general election matchup stuff starts, you will see that Perry’s approval rating in Texas is slightly worse than Obama’s; the President’s numbers are 42% approve and 52% disapprove. Oh, the humanity!

PPP’s April numbers are nearly identical to their January numbers, in which Romney and flavor-of-the-month Rick Santorum both led Obama by a 49-42 margin. It’s consistent with all other polling we’ve seen so far, with the exception of that UT/Trib poll from the time of Santorum’s surge, and that’s only if you apply their strange “likely voter” filter. I figure we’ll get another set of their numbers soon, perhaps before the May 29 election date, so we’ll see how they compare. While I’m sure PPP did not include Santorum as an option for poll responders since he’s suspended his campaign, he will be on the ballot. I think the effect of not mentioning him likely overstates Gingrich’s support, but it would not surprise me if Romney’s numbers dipped a bit as well. Interesting that even with the consolidation of support Romney still can’t get to 50, isn’t it? As they say, the only poll that matters is May 29.

Our long Amazonian nightmare may finally be over

Negotiations are in progress to get Amazon to pay something like its fair share. is negotiating with the state to start paying Texas sales taxes on online sales and to create some jobs in the state, reviving talks that fell apart at the end of last year’s legislative session, sources involved in the conversations said today.

A deal would apparently end the state’s attempts to force the company to collect sales taxes. Comptroller Susan Combs accused the company of ducking $269 million in sales taxes it should have paid from December 2005 to December 2009. The company threatened to close a warehouse operation in Irving that it said employed about 120 people.

The comptroller’s office had no immediate comment about the talks.

“There are meetings going on, but I can’t tell you much else about it,” said state Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton. He’s been involved in the online sales tax issue at the legislative level, but said he isn’t directly involved in current negotiations.

This week, the company reached agreement in a similar dispute in Nevada and is reportedly negotiating sales tax agreements with other states. No hard estimates are available on what such an agreement would bring into the Texas treasury. In its lawsuit, the state put the annual number at about $70 million. In Nevada, where the sales tax ranges up to 8.1 percent, officials expect the Amazon deal to bring $16 million annually into state coffers.


“As long as they’ll start collecting sales taxes this fiscal year or within the next four or five months, that’s really what’s important,” Otto said. “We’ve got to level this playing field.”

I presume this would also settle the ongoing litigation between Amazon and the state. This has been a long time coming, and I don’t really have anything to add other than I agree with what Rep. Otto says. See here for prior blogging on the subject.

Delay in voter ID trial requested

From Michael Li:

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The only voter ID anyone should need

Intervenors in the Texas voter ID case asked the court today to delay the scheduled July 9 start of trial in the case, citing discovery delays by the State of Texas.  The intervenors said the delays had already put the parties at least five weeks behind schedule.

According to the motion:

From the outset, Texas has asked for speed from others, but conducted itself as if time were not of the essence … Despite months of lead time, Texas has not been prepared to meet the very accelerated scheduled for which it petitioned this Court.

The intervenors cited to what they said was the insistence of the state on formal discovery before producing even basic documents such as transcripts of the legislative process.

More critically, they said the state had yet to produce “essential commuter data” from its voter registration, driver’s license, and concealed weapon permit databases that the intervenors said they needed to prepare detailed expert reports on the effect of the law on minority voters.  They said those problems were compounded by misrepresentations by the state about the information maintained in its databases and the fact that, even when the state had produced information, it delayed in providing the intervenors with the passwords necessary to access the data.

The intervenors also said that the state’s repeated assertions of broad evidentiary privileges had “resulted in weeks, if not months, of delay in discovery.”

The Justice Department has made the same request, echoing the intervenors’ arguments:

Texas has failed to produce critical discovery in a timely manner or at all, and has asserted wide-ranging, shifting, and sequential privilege claims that will continue to require significant resources from the parties and the Court to resolve. These discovery delays have been caused by the State’s own conduct and strategic decisions, and have occurred despite the Attorney General’s best efforts to facilitate the expedited litigation of this matter. While the Attorney General shares the parties’ and the Court’s interest in resolving this matter as quickly as is reasonable, the State’s litigation decisions and discovery delays have rendered a July 9, 2012 trial date both impractical and severely prejudicial to the Attorney General … The State of Texas, which professes that ‘implementing SB 14 for the November 2012 elections is the paramount goal of this litigation,’ (ECF 83) has taken precisely the opposite approach at every step.

Ouch. There are stories about this now in the Express News and Statesman; you can see the intervenors’ filing here and the DOJ’s filing here. A response from the state is due today. One of the reasons for delay has been the state’s insistence that legislators be shielded from depositions; last week the court ruled that in general legislators would not be exempted from being deposed but could ask to be excluded on a case by case basis. No doubt that will drag things out further. Note here that the state’s modus operandi has been similar to that for redistricting. They took their time producing maps, then took the long road for preclearance, and finally threw the entire election schedule into chaos by pursuing and getting a stay from SCOTUS on the original interim maps, all the while complaining about how long this was taking. Note also that the state took its sweet time responding to the Justice Department’s requests for data during the preclearance process for voter ID. It’s entirely their responsibility that it’s this late in the calendar. I see no reason why the court should give them any special dispensation here. This trial will take as long as it takes, and if you don’t like it that’s just tough.

On a side note, because I don’t have any better place to fit this in, AG Greg Abbott’s office accidentally exposed the Social Security numbers of 13 million registered voters in Texas. Thankfully, the goofup was caught before anything that shouldn’t have been was made publicly available. Oops.

Texas blog roundup for the week of April 23

The Texas Progressive Alliance honors the life of Dick Clark by bringing you a weekly roundup with a good beat that you can dance to.