Texoblogosphere: Week of December 15th

The Texas Progressive Alliance is dusting off its recipes for wassail and figgy pudding as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff says that the actual election results do not support exit polls that claim Greg Abbott received 44% of the Latino vote.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos is not the least bit surprised to learn that two Texas Regulators Get Fired for Doing Their Jobs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is calling for Nora Longoria to resign. How can she be a judge when she got very special treatment?

The Bible verses that contain the words “the poor will be with you always” do not mean what Rick Perry thinks they mean, says PDiddie at Brains and Eggs. And not what many other Christians think they mean, either.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texans Together considers the way forward on campaign finance reform.

Candice Bernd feels railroaded by the Railroad Commission in Denton.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that education is only a priority if it is funded like one.

Natalie San Luis offers a lesson in how not to do PR.

SciGuy laments the budget cuts that will make it that much harder to get to Mars.

The Lunch Tray explains what the “cromnibus” spending bill means for school lunches.

Concerned Citizens bemoans the process that San Antonio’s City Council followed in passing restrictive regulations on transit network companies.

Honorary Texan The Slacktivist chides Rick Perry for his deep ignorance of what the Bible actually says.

 

Wishing all who celebrate a very Happy Hanukkah!!  

Hanukkah

 

 

 

(PEC Lights Display in Johnson City, Texas.  Photo Credit:  Dave Wilson on Flickr)

Music Musings: Taylor Swift Gets Real About the Music Business

Check out Taylor Swift’s incredible speech at the Billboard Women in Music Awards.

The music superstar made the state while accepting the award for Billboard’s Woman of the Year.  Swift, a seven-time Grammy Award winner and twelve-time Billboard Music Award winner, had the year’s highest selling album by a single artist with 1989 (only Disney’s smash hit Frozen has sold more as of now).  Swift is one of the most powerful voices in all of the music industry right now.

So her choice to get right to the problem at hand was heard loud and clear by fellow artists, writers and producers in the room.  For music to continue to truly be an industry, some serious changes need to take place.

Here’s what she had to say…

…I am very well aware that the music industry is changing, and it will continue to change.  I am open to that change.  I’m open to progress.  I am not open to the financial model that is currently in place.  I really believe that we in the music industry can work together to find a way to bond technology with integrity.  And I just really hope we can teach a younger generation the value of investment in music rather than just the ephemeral consumption of it.

There has to be a way for streaming, or any future ways that we access music to fairly compensate the writers, musicians and producers of that music.

If any of this sounds familiar, then you probably caught my earlier post taking a look at the issues surrounding dismal album sales.

When people say that the music business is in crisis over sales, it’s not joke either. Just how much does a hit song actually make from streaming services?  Fusion online has the answer…

Through the first three months of 2014, “Happy” was streamed 43 million times on Pandora, while “All Of Me” was played 55 million times on the service.

But how much money did all those streams make for the artists involved in creating the tracks?

According to an email from Sony/ATV head Martin Bandier obtained by Digital Music News’ Paul Resnikoff, “Happy” brought in just $2,700 in publisher and songwriter royalties in the first quarter of this year, while “All Of Me” yielded just $3,400.

At current rates, Bandier said, one million plays of a song on Pandora typically translates to only approximately $60 in royalties, which then gets shared between the songwriters and publishers.

“This is a totally unacceptable situation and one that cannot be allowed to continue,” he wrote.

When contrasted to the early 2000s (when most people It’s one thing for industry professionals to share their private fears and frustrations over the future of music sales.  But when icons like Taylor Swift speak up, the greater community is sure to listen as well.

Cheers to Taylor for her commitment and bravery.  This speech itself is yet another indicator for why she is indeed Artist of the Year.

Texas Judge Declines To Lift Stay Preventing Marriage Equality

After several days of hopeful anticipation, it appears that LGBT couples hoping to marry in Texas will once again have their dreams deferred.  Here’s the story by Guillermo Contreras of the San Antonio Express-News (via the Houston Chronicle website)…

A San Antonio-based federal judge declined on Friday to allow gay marriages to take place in Texas while the state awaits a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In February, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garciaruled Texas’ same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but — knowing his ruling would be appealed — imposed a hold that prevented gays from immediately getting married. The state did appeal, and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 9.

In early October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review same-sex marriage cases from five other states, effectively legalizing gay marriage in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin. Since then, federal courts in five additional states have overturned their bans, bringing the total number of states with legalized same-sex marriage to 35. It also is legal in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis.

Noting the legal landscape has changed, the two couples who challenged Texas’ ban, Nicole Dimetman andCleopatra De Leon and Mark Phariss and Victor Holmes, requested last month that Garcia lift the stay.

In his latest order, Garcia said he was not persuaded that the actions by the Supreme Court supported lifting his stay. He also denied the state’s claim that he had no jurisdiction in the case anymore.

However, his order shows he appeared on the brink of lifting the stay.

Garcia seemed to anticipate that the 5th Circuit would put the stay back in place in the Texas case if he lifted it. If lifted, he wrote, it would create a rush to courthouses of same-sex couples seeking to get married, only to see themselves in legal limbo should the stay be reimposed by the appeals court.

“Lifting the stay would not bring finality to this Fourteenth Amendment claim,” Garcia wrote. “To the contrary, such action would only be temporary, with confusion and doubt to follow. The day for finality and legal certainty in the long and difficult journey for equality is closer than ever before.”

So in Garcia’s opinion, he wants to avoid the ‘legal limbo’ that would be caused by allowing a brief window for marriage equality in Texas, preferring that couples simply continue to wait until the issue is settled by the Supreme Court.

But many of the couples see things differently, as legal limbo was exactly what they were seeking to create for the state.  As laws stand, Texas is currently able to deny LGBT couples because they do not have official state documentation of their marriages, even in the case that they are legally married from another state.  Like Katy resident Connie Wilson, who was initially denied access to a Texas Driver License because the state didn’t recognize her California marriage certificate, the Texas government is currently using the fact that couples cannot legally marry in the state as an excuse to discriminate.

However, this sanctioned discrimination becomes much tougher to accomplish when the documentation is from Texas itself.  That is why even the small window of time that would allow a few couples to marry could prove critically important once cases do reach the Supreme Court.  Lifting the stay would be far from a final solution, but it could serve to strengthen the overall case for marriage equality in Texas.  But that is not the direction Judge Garcia has chosen.

 

PETITION: Raise Houston’s Minimum Wage

If you are a regular Texas Leftist reader, then you have probably come across some posts regarding the Minimum Wage.  This blog was even mentioned on the Forbes.com website over the issue.

It’s important to blog about why an increase in the minimum wage is needed.  But along with the blogging, I am exploring some options for how to take more substantive actions within the city of Houston.  We all know that there is not much hope for a statewide wage increase after the results of this year’s election, but individual municipalities may be able to make more progress.

May is the operative term there, as just this week, we are seeing more disturbing news from the office of Governor-Elect Greg Abbott.  For all of the talk he preaches about “small government” local control, he sure is swiping the hand of big government against Dallas County by trying to prevent Commissioners there from raising the minimum wage for their employees and contractors.  It’s a preview for what may happen if other counties and cities tried to raise wages as well.

As it stands, current Texas state law prohibits cities from raising the minimum wage via ordinance or charter provision.

But Abbott’s convoluted ethics shouldn’t prevent Dallas County, or anyone else from trying to do what is right.  In the interest of this goal, I decided to create a petition on Change.org calling for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the city of Houston.  Here is the text of the petition…

We the citizens respectfully call for a ballot initiative which mandates that the City of Houston enact a raise of the minimum wage to $15 per hour over a series of reasonable increments.  This measure should be taken up by Houston City Council without delay.

The current minimum wage throughout the state of Texas is the federally mandated $7.25 per hour, including Houston, Texas.  But for residents in the city of Houston, this wage is not enough for a full-time working individual to support themselves, especially if they would seek to do so without government assistance. The city has experienced astronomical increases in property taxes, which then get passed on to renters, and the entire consumer population.  Houstonians deserve to be paid a living wage.

We can’t survive on $7.25!

If you support the cause, please sign the petition, and share it with your friends.  With enough interest, we can make this happen for the City of Houston, and hopefully other Texas cities will follow suit.

Texoblogosphere: Week of December 8th

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the Garner and Brown families in the quest for equal justice for all as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Guest blogger Kris Banks at Off the Kuff provided a visual guide to turnout comparisons in Harris County.

Libby Shaw writing at Texas Kaos and Daily Kos believes Greg Abbott’s recent lawsuit against the President’s action on immigration is not only lame, it is yet one more example of conservative racist disrespect for the duly elected President. Ease up on the hate, please, TX Gov. Elect.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme calls out Republicans for cutting public works while spending money on racist, empty gestures.

Texas atheists are blessed to be able to run for public office in Texas, reports PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value said that he is very white, male and European. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast celebrates an ruling from the Court of Criminal Appeals that allows for a wider use of Texas’s so-called “junk science writ”.

The Texas Election Law Blog pushes back on the argument that voter ID laws had little effect in 2014.

The Lunch Tray offers thoughts on a national food policy.

Offcite analyzes the case for a swimming hole in Houston.

Texans Together will take a “Texas way” forward on Medicaid expansion if one is there to be taken.

Alan Bean asks what Jesus would do with the current immigration debate.

Raise Your Hand Texas released a report showing how Texas falls short of best practices with its pre-k program.

Texas Clean Air Matters explains the new ozone standard.

Gray Matters bids farewell to Houston Chronicle employees as they prepare to leave their downtown building for the old Houston Post location.

 

(Photo credit: Glenn Stuart on Flickr)

Riverwalk Christmas

In ‘Immigration Action’ Lawsuit, Abbott Forecasts Future As Governor

During the 2014 campaign Texas Governor-Elect, Attorney General Greg Abbott said gave this as his current job’s description…

“I wake up.  I sue Obama.  I go home.”

Even as he prepares to assume the state’s highest office, Abbott still has time to file yet another frivolous lawsuit claiming that the President’s Executive Action on Immigration is somehow in violation of the United States Constitution. Here’s more on the news from Michele Richinick of MSNBC

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and governor-elect of Texas said that his state’s immigration lawsuit against President Barack Obama is to prevent executive actions from causing “harm” to the U.S. Constitution.

Seventeen states, including Texas, filed a joint lawsuit against the White House on Wednesday for its executive actions. Abbott, who will replace current Gov. Rick Perry next month, is leading the legal action. He previously cited his beliefs that the country’s immigration system is “broken,” and that the Constitution says the immigration policy must be fixed by Congress, not by presidents.

What we’re suing for is actually the greater harm, and that is harm to the Constitution by empowering the president of the United States to enact legislation on his own without going through Congress,” Abbott told NBC News’ Chuck Todd Sunday on “Meet the Press.” He continues to argue that the president’s actions will inspire a fresh wave of undocumented immigrants into the country.

The only problem with Abbott’s argument??  President Obama is not enacting any legislation of any kind.  He has not halted deportations, or granted any form of citizenship to undocumented persons.  The Executive Action has simply created a more logical way to deal with the reality of people that are already here.

Given his new job next month, perhaps the Governor Elect needs to brush up the skills of being an executive.  Continuing to throw useless lawsuits at Obama does not instill confidence that Mr. Abbott is ready to assume the new job.

However, it could get him into hot water with a large part of his statewide constituency, as Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune reports…

Along with his 20-point margin of victory, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott accomplished something on Election Day that many naysayers doubted the Republican could: He took 44 percent of the Hispanic vote.

For Texas conservatives, Abbott’s performance indicated that Republicans are making headway among this increasingly crucial voting bloc, which tends to lean Democratic. But upon taking office, Abbott will find himself in turbulent political waters.

[…]

Abbott, the current attorney general, had to fulfill a campaign promise by filing a lawsuit challenging President Obama’s executive order protecting up to five million undocumented immigrants, including half a million Texans, from deportation.

“By winning the election and being successful among Hispanics in a low-turnout election, Greg Abbott has not solved the fundamental problem that he has politically,” said Jim Henson, a Texas Tribune pollster and director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

The thorniest issue Abbott may face is a proposed repeal of the so-called Texas DREAM Act, which allows some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public universities and community colleges.

For most of his campaign, Abbott avoided taking a definitive stance on the act. He urged reform of the program, not a repeal. In a September debate with his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis, Abbott said he would not veto a repeal of the tuition law if it reached his desk.

Campaign promise or not, why would Abbott, now safely on his way to office, choose to take step guaranteed to divide many parts of the Texas Republican party?  Simple… it’s because Abbott truly doesn’t believe in Immigration Reform.  If he did, he would drop the act and let people know just how non-controversial and sensible the President’s actions are.  Or at the very least, not spend the time and energy needed for this lawsuit.

Ask any politician their most favorite time of their political career, and they will likely tell you it was just after being elected.  The grueling work of campaigning is done, and nothing but a bright future of what could be lies ahead.  This is a time to make big plans, and go for bold ideas.  But for the man set to lead the Lone Star State, that’s not what is happening.  Instead of looking to a bigger and better future for Texas, Greg Abbott has decided to just play in the weeds of blanket Obama hatred like his predecessor.  If first actions are any indication, the Greg Abbott version of Governor really be much the same as that under Rick Perry… maybe worse.

Get ready Texas… it’s going to be a long 4 years.

About the Same

Music Musings: #RealFansBuyMusic

When we’re living in real-time, it’s tough to spend much of that time in reflection mode. We get up and go on to the next big project or new gadget. We keep moving forward. Because of this forward motion, it’s also tough to tell sometimes just how drastic some of the changes around us really are.

But ask anyone who works in the music industry, and they can tell you without fail that in the last decade-plus, everything about the way consumers interact with music has changed. Once a world of several huge, competing record labels flush with profit from impressive album sales is now an industry reeling from debt at virtually every corner. 2014 has now seen the lowest year for platinum-certified album sales ever recorded.

Lowered… some might say tragic music sales are now being accepted as the new normal in music. Even the official Billboard charts in the US acknowledges as much in a recent retooling of how it determines chart placement. Here’s more on the new chart formula directly from Billboard.com

The Billboard 200 albums chart will premiere its biggest upgrade in more than 23 years, transforming from a pure sales-based ranking to one measuring multi-metric consumption.

[…]

The revamped chart will premiere with data from Thanksgiving week (ending Nov. 30), one of the most active music release periods of the year. The new methodology aims to provide a better sense of an album’s popularity by reflecting not just sales, but consumption activity.

The updated Billboard 200 will utilize accepted industry benchmarks for digital and streaming data, equating 10 digital track sales from an album to one equivalent album sale, and 1,500 song streams from an album to one equivalent album sale. All of the major on-demand audio subscription services are considered, including Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play and Xbox Music. Current artists likely to benefit from this change in methodology include Ariana Grande,Hozier and Maroon 5, among others, as their streaming and digital song sales have been outperforming their album sales in recent weeks.

Yes it’s true that YouTube views, Soundcloud plays and subscription services are important ways of connecting with music today.  But let’s be honest for a minute about what they also do. Online sources make it really easy for consumers to just not buy music, and that’s exactly what they are doing.

Contrast this reality with the growing online fandom of contemporary music stars and it’s even more shocking.

The biggest-selling solo artist of 2014, Taylor Swift, boasts an astounding 48 million Twitter followers, and a loyal legion of fans– #Swifties– that profess their unyielding devotion to her at every turn.  Many in the fandom world proclaim to know all of her songs, have tons of Taylor merch, and have been to every single concert. it’s no doubt that upon the release of Swift’s 5th album 1989, her most loyal fans were a huge part of earning her the best album sales week in more than a decade. Weeks later, 1989 has cleared the 2 million mark and continues to top the recently revamped Billboard charts.

But the question remains– if Swift presumably has so a huge legion of fans, why have so few chosen to actually purchase the smash hit album? 48 million Twitter followers, yet only 2 million in sales?  This is not to sound diminutive, as almost any other artist would give the first available limb to have anything close to the sales power of mighty Taylor Swift.  Still there seems to be a huge disconnect between those that proclaim fandom, yet aren’t buying the album.

The answer can be found promptly on YouTube.  One look at the 339 million view count of the album’s lead single Shake it Off and 144 million view count of second single Blank Space gives a proper indication of how some fans are learning the artist’s material.  For all the so-called fans out there that are actually making an investment in Taylor Swift, and everyone that worked so hard to make her smash hit album what it is, there’s still a lot more that are enjoying the music free of charge.

Investment is the key word here.  It takes a lot of talented people to make a commercial album– writers, producers, mixers, singers, musicians and a gaggle of development experts.  If fans choose to skip out on buying the album, they are not only robbing the artist that is behind the album, but endangering the entire music business itself.

This culture of reward without purchase needs to change.  Whoever your favorite artist happens to be, don’t just stream their music or pirate it for free by racking up YouTube hits.  Take a chance on these people and actually BUY their album.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly find that the holistic journey of an artist is much more important than their promo singles sailing through the radio.

Had I never chosen to invest in the full album Days and Nights by British singer Daley, I would have never discovered one of R&B’s most incredible songs of 2014– the hauntingly beautiful She Fades.  It’s now one of my favorite songs to listen to.  Likewise with fellow Brit Jessie J, her musical talent extends far beyond the girl power single Bang Bang, but also is embodied through awesome Sweet Talker tracks like Get Away, Seal Me With a Kiss and Masterpiece.

So whoever it is that you enjoy, be a real fan in 2014 and 2015.  Take a chance on them, and actually BUY their music.

 

Buy Music

 

 

A Voice for the Rest of Texas