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August 6th, 2016:

Saturday video break: The Long Black Veil

Here’s Dave Matthews and Emmylou Harris paying tribute to Johnny Cash with a cover of a classic country tune:

You’d be forgiven if you thought that was an old folk song, but it’s actually a 1959 Lefty Frizzell song, covered by many artists including the Man in Black. It also has what is surely the rare distinction of being cited in an opinion by a federal appeals court; see the Wikipedia link for the details. Another heavyweight act to take on this song is the Chieftains, with Mick Jagger on lead vocals:

The album that’s from, which features the redoubtable Irish group in harness with a bunch of other music stars, is called “The Long Black Veil”, and it’s very much worth adding to your collection, even if you’re not all that crazy about Irish music. It’s that good. What’s your favorite version of this song?

HD146 nomination process is today

You know the drill.

Borris Miles

Borris Miles

Twenty-seven southwest Houston precinct chairs are set to tap a replacement for Democratic state Rep. Borris Miles on Saturday, the third time in less than two months many of them have convened to fill a hole on the party’s November ballot for non-judicial seats.

The vacancy is the latest result of former Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee’s death in January, which set off a chain of openings. Precinct chairs in June selected state Sen. Rodney Ellis to replace Lee as the Democratic nominee for Precinct 1 commissioner, and they later chose Miles to fill Ellis’ legislative seat.

At least four candidates are running to represent Miles’ district of more than 175,000, which stretches from Sharpstown to Sunnyside.

Harris County Board of Education Trustee Erica Lee Carter and attorney Shawn Theirry are seen as frontrunners, with former City Council candidate Larry Blackmon and activist Valencia Williams also seeking the Democratic nod for District 146.


Precinct chair Tiffany Hogue, of Brays Oaks, discussed the challenge of trying to represent the views of her constituents, as well as the opinions of those in surrounding areas who do not have a precinct chair.

“A process that people never expected to use has been used three times in the course of a month and a half,” referring to the Democratic Party meetings to replace Lee, Ellis and Miles.

“We’ve definitely seen some of the pros and cons of filling vacancies on ballots this way.”

See here for the background. As this is now the second sequel to the process to replace El Franco Lee on the ballot, there have been plenty of complaints about how we go about doing it. I don’t have a whole lot of patience for the complaints – everyone is welcome to address them to their legislators, along with their proposed alternative method – but it has been strange, and it has consumed a whole lot of time and energy.

The good news is that this was a particularly singular set of circumstances, whose like we will probably never see again. For that matter, I couldn’t tell you when this process was last used to fill a vacancy for something other than a newly-created office. The Republicans almost went through it back in 2006 when Tom DeLay tried to declare himself “ineligible” to run for re-election. He was later ruled to have withdrawn and could not be replaced, but until a final ruling came in there was candidate activity by various interested parties (then-State Rep. Bob Talton was considered the frontrunner) prior to what would have been the selection. Before that, I have no idea when this was last done. Anyone out there recall a previous instance?

Anyway. As before, you’re only actually running for this if someone nominates you, and for a 27-voter universe the old saw about every vote counting has never been more accurate. Erica Lee Carter, whom the Chron endorsed on Wednesday, would seem to be the favorite, but we won’t know till it’s over. I’ll have a report tomorrow.

SCOTUS blocks order on transgender bathroom access for students

For now.


The Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily blocked a court order that had allowed a transgender boy to use the boys’ bathroom in a Virginia high school.

The vote was 5 to 3, with Justice Stephen G. Breyer joining the court’s more conservative members “as a courtesy.” He said that this would preserve the status quo until the court decided whether to hear the case. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

The court’s order has no effect on any other case.


The case in the Supreme Court concerns Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as a male and will soon start his senior year at Gloucester High School in southeastern Virginia. For a time, school administrators allowed Mr. Grimm to use the boys’ bathroom, but the local school board adopted a policy that required students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms for their “corresponding biological genders.” The board added that “students with gender identity issues” would be allowed to use private bathrooms.

Mr. Grimm sued, and a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled the policy unlawful. A trial judge then ordered school officials to let Mr. Grimm use the boys’ bathroom.

The school board has said that it will file a petition in late August asking the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. In the meantime, the board submitted an emergency application that asked the justices to let school officials continue to bar Mr. Grimm from the boys’ bathroom.

See here for some background. Think Progress analyzes what this means.

Breyer, in other words, believed that this stay should be denied. Yet he provided the key vote to grant it, nonetheless, as a “courtesy” to his conservative colleagues. Such courtesy votes are an ordinary practice in death penalty cases, when four justices wish to hear a case but a fifth vote is necessary to stay the execution — lest the inmate be executed before their case receives full review. But Justice Breyer’s decision to grant such a “courtesy” in a case such as this one is more unusual.

Unlike in death penalty cases, no one will die and the case will not become moot simply because a trans student is granted a measure of civil rights.

In any event, Breyer’s decision to grant the stay allows the school district to continue its policy at least until the Supreme Court returns to work at the end of September. The content of his concurring opinion, however, suggests that Breyer will ultimately join the Court’s three women in affirming the Fourth Circuit’s decision, should the Court decide to hear this case.

Beyond the temporary implications of Breyer’s vote, however, there are also two reasons why liberals should be concerned about the order in this case. The first is that Breyer’s willingness to grant a courtesy stay in this case hints that he may be willing to do so in others, most notably in voting rights cases where supporters of the right to vote are counting on the fact that conservatives no longer enjoy a majority on the Supreme Court to protect lower court decisions halting voter suppression laws.

Additionally, it is worth noting that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who typically favors gay rights, joined his fellow conservatives in voting against this trans student. That suggests that Kennedy’s sympathy for victims of anti-gay discrimination does not extend to victims of anti-trans discrimination.

In this case, the Court is in recess, and the school board’s petition for review is not due until August 29. If they then decline to take up the case, the lower court’s ruling is restored, and if they do take it up it will remain on hold until they rule on the merits. We’ll know soon enough. SCOTUSBlog and Daily Kos have more.

Harvin Moore to resign as HISD Trustee

Best wishes.

Harvin Moore

Harvin Moore

Harvin Moore, one of the Houston school board’s longest-serving members, said Thursday that he is resigning his seat.

Moore, who has served on the board since late 2003, has asked the board to call an election for November, a year before his term is set to expire. Moore said he expects voter turnout to be high with the presidential election. The board could decide to appoint someone to the post, but Moore said he supports the democratic process and intends to serve until a replacement takes office.

“I wanted to stay on until we had a new superintendent named, and I’m pleased with the choice,” Moore said in a message to the Houston Chronicle.


“After serving for 13 years, I’ve decided to resign to spend more time on my business and family,” Moore said in a statement. “I’m proud of the significant improvement in teaching and quality of principals and district leadership HISD has achieved over those years, and also the huge increase in the number and quality of magnet and neighborhood schools, including some of the most innovative and successful in the nation.”

I’ve chatted with Moore a few times, and interviewed him in 2013, when he was last on the ballot. He always struck me as a good guy, knowledgeable and caring about Houston’s schools. I wish him all the best in whatever comes next. If he gets his wish and there’s an election this November to replace him, it could be interesting. His district leans Republican, but it includes some usually low-turnout Democratic turf. In a Presidential year, especially with Donald Trump on the ballot, who knows what effect that could have? That said, this would be a non-partisan race, very likely with multiple candidates and a strong chance of a runoff, which would then be held in a much lower turnout environment. Plus, whoever wins that race would have to run again for a full four-year term in 2017, and that as things stand now would happen with n citywide races on the ballot, though possibly a bond issue and revenue cap referendum. So again, who knows? Be that as it may, my thanks to Harvin Moore for his service. The Press has more.