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April 26th, 2014:

Saturday video break: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

The good thing about drafting a couple of these in advance is I don’t get caught late in the week needing to put a post together for Saturday. The downside is that I might forget where I am alphabetically. Oopsie.

So, this song. Let’s start with a classic version, from when it was composed, featuring Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting:

In recent year, since its appearance in the movie Elf, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has become a Christmas standard, and with it has come controversy. Going back at least five years, various writers have decried the song, particularly its “Say, what’s in this drink?” lyric, as a date rape anthem. The song does have its defenders, and one way that some artists have adapted to the criticism – if indeed that’s what they’re doing – is to swap genders. Here’s a recent example by Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, from Lady GaGa’s holiday special with the Muppets:

Whether that addresses the concern or just avoids it probably depends on your opinion of the song. Me, I’ve always liked it. I’m a sucker for a good duet. I get why people have these issues with the song, but to me it’s in the ear of the listener and not endemic to the song itself. Listen to Colbie Caillat and Gavin McGraw’s playful and flirtatious version, or The Priestess and The Fool’s ethereal alternative version, or the Asylum Street Spankers’ version in which Wammo plays up the creepy cad factor for all it’s worth – it’s the mark of a good song to me that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. In the end, it’s a piece of art like any other, and you see in it what you want.

DMN overview of Senate primary runoff

Let me sum it up in four words: Don’t vote for Kesha. Any questions?

David Alameel

David Alameel

Some primary candidates struggle to differentiate themselves from the pack. Kesha Rogers does not have that problem.

The Democratic Senate hopeful’s platform calls for the impeachment of President Barack Obama and compares the Affordable Care Act to Nazism. She campaigns around the state with a poster of Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. Plus, she’s a supporter of extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

“There is this certain unique quality to what I do,” she said in an interview. “I go out and inspire people, especially people who have been discouraged by the party and discouraged by the political situation.”

That has drawn the ire of mainstream Texas Democrats, who know that a Rogers win would disrupt the party’s unified front. The party is touting what it hopes will be its most competitive statewide slate in years, but if Rogers were to win the nomination in the May 27 runoff, she would stick out.

“They want candidates that are traditional and effective, and that’s something I think that they are at a risk of losing here if … Kesha Rogers wins the runoff,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “It makes the party look like they are in disarray. It makes it look like they haven’t adequately vetted their candidates.

Democratic organizations across the state are lining up to discredit the Rogers campaign while David Alameel, the Dallas dentist who led the March primary but didn’t get a high enough share of the vote to win outright, keeps his distance. Even though many Democrats believe Alameel will win, they don’t want to take chances.

“It’s important that Dr. Alameel be the nominee and we do demonstrate that gadfly candidates like Kesha Rogers won’t get nominated in important races,” said Matt Angle, an adviser to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis who runs the Washington-based Lone Star Project. The group recently put out a video opposing Rogers.

State parties usually stay out of primaries, but the Texas Democratic Party has been vocal in its support of Alameel. Rogers’ campaign remains cut off from all party resources, including access to its voter data.

And that’s how it should be. The story goes on to quote a Kesha supporter who says something about being willing to criticize the President. Well, there’s a difference between being critical and calling for impeachment, or comparing the signature health care law to Nazism. Some things really are out of bounds, and really do disqualify you from being worth supporting. We’re a big tent, not an infinite tent. My hope is that this campaign will serve as an education to Democratic voters about Kesha Rogers, so that going forward she won’t be able to sneak into any more runoffs on the basis of a vaguely familiar name and voter ignorance. People eventually figured out not to vote for Gene Kelly – and Lloyd Oliver, here in Harris County – hopefully now they’ll have figured it out about Kesha Rogers, too. See the Chron’s re-endorsement of Alameel for more.

Abbott’s education plan

Some actual policy from Greg Abbott.

Still not Greg Abbott

In the 27-page, footnoted report that accompanied the press conference, he proposed to “create a swift, automatic process under which the very worst schools would be removed from the control of their local school districts each year” and instead run through the Texas Achievement School District. That district’s superintendent, appointed by the head of the Texas Education Agency, would have power to make radical changes to the schools, including the ability to fire personnel or turn the school over to a charter-school operator.

In New Orleans’ similar Recovery School District, the campaign noted, 60 percent of the schools are no longer rated academically unacceptable, and graduation rates and college readiness are climbing.

Under Abbott’s proposal, Texas would limit its recovery school district to elementary schools – an unusual step that would allow the district “to focus on students during the early phase of education when a child’s foundation for learning is first laid.”

Mike Feinberg, one of the founders of the KIPP charter-school chain, praised the Achievement School District concept.

“We’ve got to do something with schools that fail year after year,” he said. “It’s insanity for the state to keep wagging its finger, saying, ‘I mean it! One more year!’ That’s the worst way thing that a parent can do with a child. So why would we have that as state policy with schools?”

Abbott also argued that schools that are not failing need more autonomy.

“The state should set high standards, provide tools for success, then get out of the way,” he said at the press conference. “Our public education system is too centralized, with too many one-size-fits-all solutions being pushed down from the top.”

You have to admire a policy that calls for more autonomy on one hand and state takeovers of school districts on the other. Most people would pop the clutch shifting that abruptly, but Greg Abbott, he’s a pro. There may be some merit to the Texas Achievement School District idea, and the politics of it are complicated, but suffice it to say I’m skeptical. Of course, the 5.4 billion pound elephant in the room is Abbott’s lack of any mention of funding for schools. I can’t blame him for not wanting to talk about it, since he continues to defend the massive cuts from the 2011 session, especially in a time when the state coffers are overflowing. Must have been tough for him to pick a location to make his announcement, since so many districts are suing the state, as they did just a few years ago. Not surprising that he stuck close to themes that are comfortable to him.

Even if the Sriracha factory moves, that doesn’t mean it will move to Texas

There’s a lot of competition for them.

After months of heated negotiations with the city of Irwindale over the smell of Sriracha hot sauce, Huy Fong Foods Chief Executive David Tran is appealing to a higher power: a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) visited the hot sauce factory Tuesday and spoke with Tran about potentially relocating to the San Fernando Valley. Cardenas is one of dozens of politicians nationwide who have publicly invited Sriracha to locate within their jurisdiction. Offers have poured in from Alabama, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Kansas, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico and West Virginia.

Last week, Tran signaled his intent to consider relocating his factory and invited potential suitors to pay a visit. Cardenas was one of the first. His own experience of the odor was pleasant, Cardenas said.

“Full disclosure, they weren’t in chile grinding mode…but it was a mild smell in my opinion,” Cardenas said.


Cardenas and Tran also discussed some federal tax incentives for companies that export a certain proportion of their product overseas – which Huy Fong Foods does – but they did not identify any sites for relocation or discuss any specifics of a deal.

“There’s lots of places in Socal, and Tran provides more than 200 jobs making a nationally and internationally recognized product,” Cardenas said.

See here for the background. Rep. Jason Villalba can talk all he wants about what a great climate for bidness we have in Texas – he can even pay a visit out there and say those things in person – but that only gets you so far. There are a lot of logistical reasons for Huy Fong to stay put, or at least stay nearby, and it’s not like California doesn’t have a card or two it can play. Also, and I know this will be hard to believe, some people prefer to live in states that aren’t Texas. I know, I don’t get it either, but there it is. Bottom line, if I were a Vegas oddsmaker, I’d have “Huy Fong does not relocate anywhere” as the favorite, with “Huy Fong moves to some other location in California” as the runnerup. Sorry, Denton.

Friedman for feral hogs

As the man once said, Why the hell not?

As meat prices rise, a candidate for agriculture commissioner is proposing beefing up the state’s program to harvest and market wild hog meat in a way he says will create jobs and revenue for Texas.

Kinky Friedman, a Democrat running for the statewide office, said feral hogs are a largely untapped industry that could be a lucrative endeavor for the state rather than a waste of life.

“If you are going to kill a bunch of feral hogs, let’s at least do it for a profit and business for the state,” he said. “To kill all these hogs and let them rot doesn’t make sense.”

Wild pigs are one of the biggest problems for many ranch and landowners in Texas, said Billy Higginbotham, professor and extension wildlife fishery specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The population in Texas has increased by about 20 percent each year because hogs have the “highest reproductive rate of any large mammal in the world,” he said. Some food banks and small grocers in the state and country sell the meat, which is described by the state’s Parks and Wildlife service as “tasty” and lean.

Land owners and hunters can trap and sell the live animals to about 100 buying stations in the state, which are licensed and regulated by the Texas Animal Health Commission, where they are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before the hogs are slaughtered and sold.

The stations sell the meat to processing plants, which sell the pork for human consumption across the country and in Europe and Asia, Higginbotham said.

“Texas is literally able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” he said, adding that 460,000 hogs in Texas were federally inspected, slaughtered and sold between 2004-2009.

The state, however, does not pull any taxes or revenue from the transactions of the buyback program, which is the only of its kind in the country.

Friedman, a songwriter and entertainer, said the program is a good start, but the state should become more involved and broaden the program and rake some of the profits.

I confess that I don’t know much about this program, so I can’t really evaluate Friedman’s idea. That said, the feral hog problem is statewide and well-known, and the steps we have undertaken so far to deal with it, even the more extreme ones, have had little effect. I don’t see how it could hurt to try to encourage more participation in hog control by making it financially more attractive for the state and for interested parties. Even if the effect on the hog population is minimal, as it will likely be, the need for food is real and the potential to do good is there. A little outside the box thinking here is welcome. Kudos to the Kinkster for bringing it up.