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October 14th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for October 14

You’re doing it wrong. I need to remember that tip about boiling eggs.

How “The Big Bang Theory” is helping NASA with its public image.

What’s the expiration date on a spoiler?

Two words: Dilithium crystals. Oh, yeah.

I have the exact same objection to “Imagine” that this guy does.

The first rule of “vote fraud” is don’t talk about “vote fraud” when Republicans are involved.

“If the astronauts in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ had an ESC key, Dennerlein points out, they could have stopped the rogue computer Hal in an instant.”

Just a reminder, the kind of vote fraud that occurs in real life would not be deterred by voter ID.

Fifty years of The Beatles.

The “Friday Night Lights” debate is ongoing.

Some useful thoughts on the latest school food kerfuffle.

Diving With The Stars. It’s exactly what you think it is.

Math is hard, PBS budget edition.

You have to have a soul in order to have a struggle for it.

If there’s one positive to increasingly extreme warm temperatures, it’s that it makes more people believe in climate change.

“Vending machines could know a lot about you, like whether you just broke up with a girlfriend.”

Jack Welch is a big whiny crybaby. Anyone who ever bought one of his silly, self-aggrandizing books should demand a refund.

Netflix has agreed to caption all of its shows by the year 2014, the result of an agreement with the National Association for the Deaf.

I sure hope we get to say Adios, Arpaio this year.

In case you haven’t read that Gawker troll exposé yet.

No Planned Parenthood, no women’s health care

It’s a simple enough concept.

Right there with them

Women’s access to affordable health care will be reduced if the state follows through with its plan to eschew federal funding for the Women’s Health Program and create a state program instead, according to a new study from George Washington University.

The study, a follow-up to a May report from the university on Texas women’s health, examines the impact of excluding Planned Parenthood from the state Women’s Health Program in Bexar, Dallas, Hidalgo, Lubbock and Midland counties.


“While other clinics may be able to care for some of the displaced patients if Planned Parenthood is excluded, there is no evidence that they are prepared to sustain the very large caseload increases that would be required to fill the gaps left after Planned Parenthood clinics are excluded,” the study says.

Planned Parenthood served between 51 and 84 percent of the program’s patients in the counties the study examined. Across the state, almost half of the more than 100,000 women in the program received care at Planned Parenthood, according to a recent study from the University of Texas Population Research Center.

Here’s the study in question. I blogged about the other study referenced in this story here. HHSC continues to claim that they’ve rounded up enough replacement providers to fill the gap that Planned Parenthood’s exclusion will create, while duplicitous legislators like Rep. Sarah Davis try to obfuscate the fact that they voted for this to happen. We’ll know for sure soon enough what the effect will be. Democrats need to pound on this every damn day between now and the 2014 election.

Downtown schools

The Chron notes downtown’s continuing evolution.

Last week’s announcement of plans for a Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage marked the latest in a string of developments in the decades-long march in the evolution of about 50 square blocks west of U.S. 59. It started with lots of vacant land, added a convention center and in recent years sprouted a cluster of venues that has made it an unofficial district. Now, with the market improved and the city offering tax rebates to developers of condos, lofts and apartments, there is talk of something unthinkable a quarter century ago: a neighborhood.

“Ultimately, you need the 24-hour-a-day residents here,” said Bob Eury, executive director of the Downtown District, which marries public and private funds to fuel development. Those residents keep the restaurants and shops alive on the weekends when the conventioneers have gone home, Eury said.

“People walking on the streets, they’re walking their dogs, they’re living in the neighborhood. It makes (other) people feel more comfortable, and they come down. It’s a long-term work in progress,” said Ric Campo, chairman of Houston First Corp., the quasi-public agency that runs the city’s convention business. “Each piece of the puzzle adds to the fabric of the community. We’re getting to the point in the next five years where we’re going to have it. You’re going to start to see things down here that are amazing. People will go, ‘Wow! Have you been down there?’ ”

I can’t honestly say that I have associated the word “neighborhood” with downtown. Downtown does now have a lot of the things that neighborhoods have, but I’ve just never thought of it in those terms. Perhaps one reason why is discussed by a commenter on that story, as noted by Nancy Sarnoff.

The only people living in downtown have no children. People with children look at schools when they move.

I have always thought the best way to incentivize people to live downtown would be to build schools. If there was a good school downtown I think a lot of people would consider living there.

I have always thought the Downtown District is completely missing this. A partnership with the city, HISD, the downtown district, and local business people could work to create a model school that could stimulate a population growth downtown, resulting in increased density, lower infrastructure costs, less congestion on freeways without building more lanes, and a thriving local business community downtown serving the permanent residents. The end result is that we could have a downtown with a real 24 hour a day local community.

That got me curious, so I visited the HISD web page and searched for schools. A look at the Elementary Schools Attendance Zones map informed me that there is one HISD elementary school within the confines of downtown, the Young Scholars Academy For Excellence. Other nearby options include BK Bruce, a music magnet school; Crockett Elementary, which is an HISD internal charter; Gregory-Lincoln, a Pre-K to 8 fine arts magnet school; and The Rusk School, a K-8 science, math, and technology school. Walking to school isn’t likely to be an option, but still, not a bad set of possibilities.

It gets a little thinner when you look at middle schools, though as noted Gregory-Lincoln and Rusk go through grade 8, and high schools, though that’s true pretty much everywhere. Actually, there are several high schools in the Third Ward, just south of downtown, and HSPVA is on its way to downtown. Perhaps the issue isn’t a lack of available schools, but a lack of information about what is available.

The dumbest plastic bag argument I’ve seen so far

This story is about the city of San Francisco rolling out a new ordinance intended to further limit the use of disposable bags by retailers. I’ve heard a variety of arguments against the different versions of this kind of law, but this one takes the cake.

Starting Oct. 1, BYOB in San Francisco will take on a whole new meaning.

Then, shoppers will have to bring their own bags when buying booze – and just about anything else – or incur a charge.

The city’s new Checkout Bag Ordinance requires that all retailers, with the exception of restaurants, bakeries and take-out joints (they don’t have to make the change until 2013), switch from plastic bags to paper or compostable and charge customers a dime for each sack.


Jon Ballesteros, vice president of public policy for the San Francisco Travel Association, said he hopes merchants are transparent about the charge. Tourism in San Francisco is an $8 billion business, and Ballesteros wants to make sure visitors are not caught off guard by the ordinance.

But Stephen Joseph, a lawyer for the Save the Plastic Bag coalition, a contingent of bag manufacturers, distributors and citizens, who unsuccessfully sued the city over the ordinance and plans to appeal, said the charge is bound to affect tourism.

“This is no way to welcome visitors,” he said. “Furthermore, it’s going to cause more garbage. What’s going to happen is they’re going to buy those paper bags – it’s not like they’re going to travel to San Francisco with reusable ones – and then they’re going to dump their bags when they get on their plane to leave town.”

Whether reusable bags are eco-friendly or not, Joseph argues that they are “horribly” unsanitary.

“San Francisco is encouraging people to put their food in the same bags they carry their gym clothes, the same bags in which they carry their underwear,” he said. “These bags don’t get washed, and they are filthy.”

Let me count the ways that this is silly.

1. We’re talking a dime a bag. There are legitimate concerns about such a surcharge being a burden on the poor, but I think it’s safe to say that people who vacation in other cities have the disposable income to handle it. A dime a bag, people.

2. It wouldn’t surprise me if most of the visitors Joseph is fretting about are supportive of the bag fee, assuming they even notice it. Most people like the idea of being environmentally responsible. I suppose there may eventually be some kind of culture-war blowback on this sort of thing (assuming there isn’t one already; I haven’t the fortitude to look), but let’s be honest, the kind of person that would sign on for that kind of crusade probably isn’t visiting San Francisco anyway.

3. Joseph seems to be suggesting that people use gym bags to transport their groceries. I don’t know about you, but we have cloth bags that we use for groceries, and that’s all we transport in them. Actually, as often as not we bring a soft-sided cooler as well, to carry perishables. You can wash cloth bags, too. I can’t believe I even have to discuss this.

If this is the best argument the plastic bag industry has to offer, they’re in sad shape.

Endorsement watch: E-N for Sadler, Parent PAC for Ann Johnson

Having made a good choice for the State Senate, the Express News follows it up with a good choice for US Senate.

Paul Sadler

Former state Rep. Paul Sadler is unequivocally the right choice on the Nov. 6 ballot to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.

Sadler has a strong record as an effective legislator who understands the need to work with both sides of the aisle.

The Democrat is best known for his impressive work teaming up with former Republican state Sen. Bill Ratliff to rewrite the state’s education code in 1995 in a bipartisan effort.

A legislator for six terms from 1991-2003, Sadler rose in the Texas House to be chairman of the House Public Education Committee and was named one of Texas Monthly’s 10 best legislators four times.

Sadler is a pragmatic problem-solver, who advocates a balanced approach to ending the national deficit and comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants, a work visa program and the DREAM Act.

Republican nominee Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite and a former state solicitor general, is touting troubling policy proposals that would not serve the state well.

If a grasp of policy is a factor in these editorial board interviews, Sadler ought to sweep the endorsements, much like Keith Hampton deserves to do. Cruz lives in a fantasy world, with a fairy-tale understanding of economics, foreign policy, and government in general. Assuming he wins, and he is certainly the overwhelming favorite to do so, you have to figure there are two ways for his term in office to go. One, he comes to learn the facts of life, and puts himself in position to be labeled just another sellout RINO by the ever-insatiable GOP primary base, or he remains steadfast in his delusions, and becomes the Senate version of someone like Michelle Bachmann, a sideshow freak who eventually exits elected office with few if any actual accomplishments to show for it. One wonders what his 2018 re-election campaign might look like under the latter scenario. Will whatever remains of the GOP establishment that actually likes getting stuff done – you know, building roads, steering defense contracts to the state’s military bases, that sort of thing – do something to derail him, or will they just accept their fate and bend over when called upon? I’d rather not find out, but I suspect it’ll be the latter if it comes down to it.

Meanwhile, the Texas Parent PAC, which has now begun making additional endorsements for the November election, announced that Ann Johnson was one of the first recipients of their recommendation. From their press release:

Ann Johnson

“Ann Johnson is a proven and effective advocate for children and families, and she will be a respected leader at the state Capitol,” said Darci Hubbard of Houston, a member of the Texas Parent PAC board of directors. “Ann will put kids before politics.” Hubbard said Johnson will seek permanent solutions for public school finance and work for meaningful tax relief for property owners.

Texas Parent PAC was created in 2005 by parents who joined together to elect state legislators who will stand up for schoolchildren. It is recognized as one of the state’s most successful political action committees.

Johnson is an attorney in private practice who represents children, including child victims of harassment and bullying in schools. Her practice includes representation in the newly created alternative courts: Growing Independence Restoring Lives (GIRLS) Court and the Harris County Mental Health Court. In addition, Johnson has been an adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law for 10 years. Earlier in her career, she was a Harris County prosecutor.

Johnson grew up in Houston, and she is carrying on her family’s tradition of public service. Her father, attorney Jake Johnson, was formerly a state representative, U.S. Marine Corps pilot, and teacher at Jones High School. Her mother, former Civil District Judge Carolyn Marks Johnson, taught at Alvin Community College, the University of Houston, and South Texas College of Law.

“Houston families deserve a legislator of Ann Johnson’s caliber,” said Texas Parent PAC Chair Carolyn Boyle. “She is an authentic leader with a unique combination of knowledge, experience, and personal gifts unmatched in the legislature.”

And unlike her opponent, who voted for the House budget that would have cut $10 billion from public education, Ann Johnson is a genuine advocate for public ed. So it all makes sense. In the meantime, take a look at what her former colleague with the Harris County DA’s office, Murray Newman has to say about her.