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May 10th, 2014:

Saturday video break: Birdland

Time for some jazz, which in the 70’s was often married with funk. Here’s the standard of that type and that era, “Birdland”, originally by The Weather Report:

Was there a high school jazz band in the 80s that didn’t play this song? Mine sure did. Hand me my sax right now, put me down in the middle of a band playing this, and I could probably jump right in, even if I had to play it by ear.

There are to me two iconic versions of this song. The first is Maynard Ferguson’s rendition:

I’ve highlighted this before, and it’s worth highlighting again because there’s nothing un-awesome about that video. Also from last time, the vocal Manhattan Transfer version:

And finally, for something a little different, here’s the String Cheese Incident:

A little slower than the other versions, but it works. It’s such a simple melody, but there’s so much you can do with it. That as I’ve said before is the mark of a great song.

More on the Pratt resignation deal

I’m still shaking my head about this.

Denise Pratt

The Harris County district attorney still could investigate and charge former family court Judge Denise Pratt, despite striking a deal with the freshman jurist to resign to avoid prosecution on charges of tampering with government records.

Asked to elaborate on the terms of the agreement that led to Pratt’s March 28 resignation, a spokesman for District Attorney Devon Anderson said Thursday, “If new evidence is discovered, we can investigate and move forward with charges if warranted.”

Whether the deal Anderson struck with Pratt made the former judge immune from future charges was one of many questions raised by her critics on Thursday, the day after the county’s top prosecutor revealed the agreement in a statement that said pursuing a conviction would have been difficult.

The agreement, Anderson’s statement said, was the best and quickest way to get Pratt off the bench and bring the “ongoing damage to a stop.”

The district attorney issued the statement in response to criticism from her opponent in the November general election, Democrat Kim Ogg, who said earlier this week that the evidence brought against Pratt was more than sufficient to bring charges. Ogg said the lack of charges was suspicious because Pratt and Anderson – both Republicans – used the same political consultant.

See here for the background. I keep coming back to the question that if this was such a good move by DA Devon Anderson, if this really was the only way to get Denise Pratt off the bench, then why didn’t Anderson say so at the time? Why are we just hearing about it now that Anderson’s political opponent Kim Ogg dug it up started making a fuss about it? The fact that Anderson didn’t say a word about it when Pratt resigned and claimed it was because her opponents were out to get her, the fact that we might not know any of this now if Anderson weren’t on the ballot in November, strongly suggests that maybe this deal wasn’t something to be proud of but rather something to be hushed up.

Webster family lawyer Greg Enos, whose criminal complaints against Pratt prompted at least two district attorney investigations that resulted in no charges, took issue with Anderson’s contention that the resignation was the quickest way to get the judge off the bench.

He said the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the state agency charged with policing Texas judges, typically suspends judges who have been indicted, and that “Any brand new attorney fresh out of law school could have gotten an indictment of Pratt.”

Commission Executive Director Seana Willing confirmed that the commission typically votes to suspend indicted judges.

[…]

[South Texas College of Law associate professor Amanda Peters, a former Harris County prosecutor,] and other experts say Pratt’s alleged actions definitely would qualify as tampering with a government record under state law. Section 37 of the penal code says court records qualify as governmental records and that tampering includes “knowingly entering a false record.”

“My read of the statute is that, if it is true that she backdated court orders, knowing that she was making false entries, this should be a violation of the law,” said Sandra Guerra Thompson, director of the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center.

Anderson’s statements this week, however, suggested there was not sufficient evidence to prove Pratt guilty.

“The process of getting Judge Pratt before a jury for trial would take years,” her Wednesday statement said. “The likelihood of success would be uncertain at best.”

That’s talking about a conviction, not an indictment, which would have been enough to get Pratt suspended. That’s not a “permanent resignation”, but it is at least enforceable. Looking back through my archives, here’s a copy of the first complaint that the grand jury declined to indict on, and here’s a copy of the third complaint. Maybe getting an indictment wasn’t a slam dunk, but then neither does it take years to make that determination. There is an argument to be made here for prosecutorial discretion on Anderson’s part. I’d be more willing to accept it if she’d have been willing to make it in a timely and forthright manner, instead of employing it as defense after being called out for exercising that discretion on the sly.

UPDATE: Texpatriate has more.

Chron overview of Dem Ag Commissioner runoff

It’s the same story we’ve known all along.

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

Texas Democrats’ dreams of taking over statewide offices surely never envisioned the kind of race they have in the primary runoff for agriculture commissioner where musician and writer Kinky Friedman faces off against a Cleburne farmer who has chosen not to campaign or even raise money.

While Friedman travels the state touting a message of marijuana legalization, cattle farmer and insurance agent Jim Hogan is sticking close to home, relying on news outlets and the Internet to boost his name recognition.

As a result, the race is more likely to leave the Democratic Party with a headache than a realistic opportunity to break a 20-year Republican stranglehold on statewide office.

“One of them’s a dangerous commodity, the other’s a guaranteed dud,” Democratic strategist Jason Stanford said.

The race puts Democrats in the position of having to choose between a quasi-celebrity who some believe sapped votes from the party in the 2006 gubernatorial race and a candidate with minimal name recognition who refuses to campaign or help the party, despite winning the most votes in the March 4 primary.

[…]

Despite two decades of Republican dominance, a February letter from Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa urged voters not to overlook the race.

It included an attached letter from state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, who touted Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III, of San Antonio, who, at the time, was the best-funded party favorite for the post.

Van de Putte also made robocalls asking voters to support Fitzsimons over Friedman.

Fitzsimons, however, was eliminated in the primary.

Since then, Democratic Party spokesman Emmanuel Garcia pointed out, Friedman, unlike Hogan, at least has been touring the state and engaging voters.

“It’s encouraging to see somebody taking the campaign seriously and wanting to talk to folks,” Garcia said.

We’ve been over this before. Fitzsimons was my first choice, and he was clearly the best-qualified candidate. Unfortunately, the only thing he’ll do for Texas Democrats this year is serve as yet another lesson that unknown candidates plus few resources equals random results. Be that as it may, at least Friedman is making an effort, and at least he’s articulating some positions that make sense. I don’t blame anyone that might still be carrying a grudge from 2006 and 2010 – it should be noted that Chris Bell has endorsed Kinky, and if there’s anyone with a legitimate grudge to carry, it’s Chris Bell, so if he can bury the hatchet, anyone can – but I’ll be voting for him in the runoff, and hopefully again in November. It’s not the choice I was hoping for at the beginning of the race, but it’s an acceptable choice to me and the best one available. I don’t see any reason to make a big deal out of it.

Shark Week in the Gulf

You got your goblin sharks.

Goblin shark

Shrimpers fishing in the Gulf of Mexico have pulled up an incredibly rare, almost prehistoric looking goblin shark. It’s only the second sighting of such a beast in the Gulf.

The freakish shark is one of the least-known of the shark family, usually living in deep waters off the coast of Japan. The goblin is so rare that the first Gulf sighting of one over 10 years ago resulted in a scientific paper being written.

The new shark, estimated to have been 18 feet long, was accidentally hauled up by shrimpers off the coast of Key West, Florida.

The crew had a net down in 2,000 feet of water and were shocked when they pulled up the usual barrel-load of shrimp. Mixed into their catch was the bright pink giant, which preceeded to thrash around on deck.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” said lifetime fisherman Carl Moore. “I didn’t get the tape measure out because that thing’s got some wicked teeth, they could do some damage.”

Instead, Moore quickly hoisted the creature back into the water. It was only luck that any photos were taken as Moore had only just bought a cell phone with a camera.

“My 3-year-old grandson, he just loves sharks so I’ve been taking pictures of every one we find, when I showed him this one he said, ‘Wow, Pappa!'” Moore said.

I can’t stop looking at the photos in that news story. That is a creature from your nightmares, no doubt about it.

Speaking of nightmares, you’ve also got your great whites.

Gonna need a bigger boat

Divers taking a dip in the Gulf have captured amazing video of a Great White shark that paid them a visit as they explored a wreck about 80 miles off the coast of Florida.

The video shows the group at depths of around 100 feet, looking down through a school of fish. A dark shadow can been seen swimming by with diver Dane Kelly’s brother madly trying to point it out to his dive buddies.

“My brother’s going crazy because he realizes what it is before we do,” Dane Kelly explained to NBC2 News in Sanibel, Florida.

At times, the giant fish is hard to make out but the shape of a shark is as distinctive as it is ominous. Scientists say there is no doubt it was a Great White.

“Fortunately, most other sharks in the Gulf do not resemble white sharks at all,” said Nick Whitney, staff scientist and manager at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota via email.

“About the only species that looks similar is the shortfin mako shark, which does not get as long or as girthy as the white shark. And the shark in the video is long and girthy,” Whitney said.

Whitney estimates the shark in the video is about 12-14 feet long, saying that the body proportions and tail beat give away the fish’s massive size.

I don’t have anything to add here. I just think sharks are cool.