Highlights from Hair Balls
The Texas chapter of the Humane Society of the United States is joining in the push to pass federal legislation that would help enforce the ban on "soring" — hurting show horses to exaggerate a high-stepping gait.
The barbaric practice, which we'll describe in a moment, was barred by legislation in 1970 — but in 1976, the law was amended to allow for industry self-regulation. Which, as we all know, is the most effective kind of regulation. The Prevent All Soring Tactics Act would allow USDA-assigned inspectors to conduct spot inspections and ban certain pain-inducing devices from being used on horses that have already been sored.
The Senate's Commerce Committee — which features Texas's very own Ted Cruz — voted last week. The bill passed and is headed to the full senate next.
Per the HSUS, methods of soring include:
"Applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to 'cook' those chemicals deep into the horse's flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs, inserting bolts, screws or other hard objects into sensitive areas of the hooves, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue in an attempt to disguise the sored areas. Sored horses often live in constant and extreme pain through their show ring careers."
So are we saying that only an asshole would sore a horse, and only an asshole would not want this bill passed? Yes. That is what we are saying.
The Humane Society's Keith Dane tells us via email that the PAST Act would "eliminate industry self-policing by requiring the USDA to assign a licensed inspector if the show's management indicates its intent to hire one. Licensed or accredited veterinarians, if available, would be given preference for these positions. The hiring of a licensed inspector remains voluntary and is not a mandate. The incentive for show management is to ensure an honest and fair show, and protect themselves from liability if soring is found at their show by a USDA spot inspection."
Dane adds: "The amendment is simple and does not cost the federal government any additional money. It is not a mandate, and it protects the health and integrity of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Racking Horse and Spotted Saddle Horse industries, essentially saving jobs."
The bill has the support of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Horse Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, among many others.
A Texas Trojan Horse?
Jim Hogan might be the Republican in the Democratic Runoff for agriculture commissioner.
William Michael Smith
Just as we predicted in our cover story on the Texas agriculture commissioner race last November, it has turned into one of the best political circuses since Claytie Williams went on his dove hunt, opened his arrogant, chauvinistic pie-hole, and handed Ann Richards the last statewide Democratic victory, in 1990.
Since the March 4 primary, Democrats have had to face some rather unpleasant realities. Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III, the party's regal-sounding Anointed One, was embarrassed by maverick Richard "Kinky" Friedman and unknown Jimmie Ray Hogan, a Cleburne insurance salesman.
Candidates such as lieutenant governor hopeful Leticia Van de Putte who closed ranks behind Fitzsimons didn't even bother to address Hogan's candidacy, but she not only trashed Friedman in the press, she also hired a phone bank to bad-mouth him just prior to the election.
Yet in spite of zero recognition by the state Democratic apparatus or the absence of any active campaign — according to Hogan, his cell phone and the Internet are all the campaign he needs ("Just Google Jim Hogan") — the small-time Cleburne rancher received 38.8 percent of the Democratic vote. Friedman, who has massive name recognition, ran a close second with 37.7 percent. Fitzsimons could muster only a measly 23.5 percent.
That result presented stunned state party honchos and up-ballot candidates with a conundrum: They are hesitant to endorse Friedman, who is not part of the party establishment and whose campaign to legalize pot scares the bejesus out of them. But they in no way want to endorse Hogan, who is viewed as a Republican in sheep's clothing.
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How so? According to Hogan's own statements, he ran as a Democrat only because the Republican field was crowded with five candidates in the primary. Hogan told The Texas Observer on the day after the primary, "I can't whup all five of 'em, but I might whup one of 'em."
Hogan has enunciated no platform, offers no well-elaborated positions on issues, and hasn't engaged in any of the traditional campaigning or travel. He didn't even bother to fill out the candidate questionnaire used by The Dallas Morning News to vet candidates for the paper's endorsement.
Speculation among Democrats Hair Balls has spoken with runs mostly along the lines of "It's just an ego thing" or that Hogan is a Trojan horse. Not a single politician or party operative we've spoken with can pinpoint any specific reason why Hogan is seeking the job, but many suspect some kind of backroom Republican shenanigans similar to Rush Limbaugh's 2008 Operation Chaos. (Limbaugh wanted Republicans to cross-over in the primaries and vote for the weakest Democratic candidates to ensure Republican victories in the general election.)
In other words, Hogan could well be an insurance policy for Republican interests in a race where both Republican runoff candidates — former state representatives Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt — are weak and seen as fairly vulnerable. It's also a race where most operatives believe the only real threat to a Republican victory is Friedman.