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November 25th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for November 25

“But what I learned from this experience is that if you’re a Christian — left or right, it doesn’t matter — and if your religious convictions lead you into political activism, do not bring Jesus into it unless you’re prepared to let him shape not only the causes you support, but the way you go about it — and above all, the way you treat your political adversaries.”

Mitt’s Monthly Newsletter. Because blogging wouldn’t be fancy enough for him.

More early voting is a good thing. A Constitutional amendment affirming the right to vote that cannot be arbitrarily abridged by scurrilous elected or appointed officials would be even better.

A “grand trail” of 60 Gromit statues are to grace the streets of Bristol for 10 weeks next summer.

Retail workers need predictable schedules.

“Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what’s wrong with America”.

But cheer up. We may get Mexican Twinkies after all is said and done.

Don’t believe that the GOP has changed until you actually see them change.

Beware health apps for your smartphone, they may be based on junk science.

“On January 12, [Mike] Trout and Andrew McCutchen will receive the Oscar Charleston Award, a distinction granted by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to the most valuable player in each league.”

“The dirty secret of NFL football, one that the league would like to ignore, is that ticket sales are declining at a startling rate and have been over the last several years. The TV ratings are through the roof, but ticket sales are down.”

Despite the whining of their crybaby CEO, Obamacare is better to Papa John’s than they deserve.

“Obama ran his campaign like a business, outsourcing specialized tasks like media buys to outside firms and keeping a tight rein on costs. Conversely, Romney ran his campaign like a millionaire’s personal fiefdom, figuring that his buddies could do the job as well as anyone else.”

What Miguel de la Torre says.

Eight ways President Obama can unilaterally implement much of his agenda.

“The bottom line is that this economy, at its root, is built on a web of scientific knowledge from physics to chemistry to biology. It’s impossible to just cherry pick out parts we don’t like.”

Another example of why outsourcing customer service is so often a lousy idea.

“Thanksgiving + Hostess bankruptcy = Twinkie-stuffed turkeys. It’s simple math, people.”

Where the term “Black Friday” came from.

It’s drug testing all the way down

Looks like the urinalysis industry in this state is going to get a big stimulus package next year, at least if the Republicans get their way.

As top state leaders push to drug-test some Texans seeking jobless benefits and financial assistance, critics suggest the initiative would single out the powerless and hurt their children.

It’s a battle that has been played out in other states – most prominently in Florida, where a drug-testing program for welfare applicants was stalled by a constitutional challenge saying it amounted to an unreasonable search.

Backers of Texas’ proposal cite its narrow scope, since a leading bill targeting welfare recipients would limit testing to applicants deemed high-risk for drug use. Those who failed the test and lost benefits could reapply in a year or, if they underwent drug treatment, six months.

“The reality is, no one wants to see any Texan using drugs,” said state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. But he’s a critic of the proposal, contending the poor and jobless are being singled out “because of politics, and not because of reasonable, rational policy.”

“Whether you are receiving governmental assistance on welfare, whether you are a student receiving a Texas grant, whether you are an executive, a CEO, that’s up here asking for money from the Enterprise Fund – I don’t want to see anybody using drugs inappropriately. Now the question for me is why are we singling out this population?” he asked.

I think we all know the answer to that question. This is a no-brainer for Rick Perry et al – it plays well to the cheap seats, it sounds like something that would save money, and who’s going to stand against them on behalf of drug users? You can’t ask for much more than that.

Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director for the National Employment Law Project, said federal legislation allows testing only for claimants terminated from their most recent employment due to unlawful use of controlled substances, or those for whom suitable work is only available in an occupation that regularly drug tests.

The U.S. Department of Labor is developing regulations to allow states to implement these provisions. It appears the first would be a tough one in Texas, which restricts benefits to those who have lost a job through no fault of their own.

Andy Hogue, spokesman for Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken, who supports such drug testing, said it’s estimated the cost of testing for jobless applications would be about $12.1 million over five years. He said it’s projected the stricter requirements would save the Unemployment Insurance program in Texas $20.7 million in that period.

I seriously doubt we’ll see the kind of savings that Andy Hogue projects. I admit I have no evidence to back up this assertion, I just have no reason to trust such a self-serving projection. If this gets passed by the Lege and doesn’t get blocked by the courts, I’ll be very interested to see how that projection pans out. Bear in mind, of course, that four million bucks a year is chump change in an $80 billion budget – it’s not much more than Rick Perry spends on travel and security. Again, it’s all about priorities being out of whack.

RIP, Larry Hagman

Farewell, JR.

Larry Hagman

J.R. Ewing was a business cheat, faithless husband and bottomless well of corruption. Yet with his sparkling grin, Larry Hagman masterfully created the charmingly loathsome oil baron — and coaxed forth a Texas-size gusher of ratings — on television’s long-running and hugely successful nighttime soap, “Dallas.”

Although he first gained fame as nice guy Major Tony Nelson on the fluffy 1965-70 NBC comedy “I Dream of Jeannie,” Hagman earned his greatest stardom with J.R. The CBS serial drama about the Ewing family and those in their orbit aired from April 1978 to May 1991, and broke viewing records with its “Who shot J.R.?” 1980 cliffhanger that left unclear if Hagman’s character was dead.

The actor, who returned as J.R. in a new edition of “Dallas” this year, had a long history of health problems and died Friday due to complications from his battle with cancer, his family said.

“Larry was back in his beloved hometown of Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved the most. Larry’s family and closest friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday,” the family said in a statement that was provided to The Associated Press by Warner Bros., producer of the show.

The 81-year-old actor was surrounded by friends and family before he passed peacefully, “just as he’d wished for,” the statement said.

I was never into “Dallas” back in the day, though I admit that the “Who shot JR?” story line drew me in, and I watched the episode that revealed the answer like everyone else in America. It was hard to watch Larry Hagman do anything and not get the impression that he was just having more fun doing what he did than most of the rest of us. I’m sure there will be many great stories told about him in the next few days. Harold Cook, who didn’t know Hagman but knows people who did, has more, and you really owe it to yourself to read Mark Evanier’s Larry Hagman story. Rest in peace, Larry Hagman.

Cracker Jack’d

Buy me some peanuts and caffeinated Cracker Jacks

Coming soon to a store near you: Cracker Jack’D, a new twist on the popcorn candy that offers Power Bites with as much caffeine in every serving as a cup of coffee. That could mean kids could get an overdose of caffeine if they consume more than one serving at a time, warns the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit nutrition activist group based in Washington, DC.

The addition of caffeine to a growing number of snack foods comes at a time when warning bells have sounded over the hazards of caffeinated energy drinks. US Food and Drug Administration officials told the New York Times on Wednesday that they’ve received reports of 13 deaths linked to 5-Hour Energy shots over the past four years. And the agency is also investigating heart attacks attributed to Monster energy drink, including the death of a 14-year-old Maryland teen.

An excessive amount of caffeine can cause heart palipitations, increased blood pressure, nausea, dizziness, and insomnia — and kids may be particularly sensitive to the chemical’s effects.

The nutrition activist group fired off a protest letter on Wednesday to manufacturer Frito Lay and to the FDA. “Whether or not they are advertised directly to children, it is certain that young children will consume Cracker Jack’d…and sometimes consume it to excess,” wrote the Center’s director Michael Jacobson.

Besides the energy drink craze, caffeine has also been added recently to foods you’d never suspect like the low-calorie beverage Crystal Light, Sport Beans jelly beans, and MiO Liquid Water Enhancer, a flavoring that’s squirted into water.

[…]

Frito-Lay spokesperson Chris Kuechenmeister pointed out in an emailed statement that the new Cracker Jack’D Power Bites line have “two flavors that will contain coffee, a natural source of caffeine.” The company expects each 2-ounce serving to contain about 70 milligrams of caffeine, the FDA limit for a 12-ounce serving of cola.

“Cracker Jack’D is a product line specifically developed for adult consumers and will not be marketed to children,” wrote Kuechenmeister. “The package design and appearance are wholly different from Cracker Jack to ensure there is no confusion among consumers.”

Yes, I’m sure no children will ever consume this product. At the rate we’re going, it’s a matter of what isn’t caffeinated any more, not what is. Via Jezebel.