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December 16th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for December 16

Happy birthday, Aunt Judy!

More apps = less television. I don’t think this is what all those people with the “Kill Your TV” bumper stickers had in mind, though.

Less whining about Christmas is a good idea in general.

Ten ways to reduce inequality without raising tax rates. Which does not mean that raising tax rates is not also necessary.

Is this the end of Windows as a brand?

Mike Judge takes on Silicon Valley. I’d watch that.

Vaccines save lives. I’ve always been flummoxed that this somehow became controversial.

Do you want some Texas-themed ornaments for your Christmas tree? Silly question – of course you do.

“I’ve said a lot of contemptuous things about Republicans over the last several years, but their degree of disarray right now exceeds anything I might have anticipated. And to think: if the elections had turned out differently, they might all be focused with amazing unanimity and specificity on enacting the Ryan Budget. Elections do have consequences.”

“Romney’s somehow like the anti-Zelig. He’s seemingly everywhere.”

This is why you need a longer password. Eight (characters) is not enough.

Remember when TV commercials on kid’s shows was the biggest threat to their sensitivities?

John Stewart and Stephen Colbert have a chat. Worth your time to read about it.

Our long national hot yoga nightmare is finally over.

If you’re staying in a hotel over the holiday, you might want to ask the manager if the hotel door lock hack affected them, and if so if they have received and implemented the fix.

Cracking the Roger Williams code. Very, very cool.

Idiots gotta be idiots, I guess.

“Have you ever thought, Montrose Boulevard is pleasant enough, but it would be vastly improved by a giant vuvuzela? Me too. Our long wait is almost over.”

On Ben Affleck, whitewashing, and identity.

RIP, Ravi Shankar.

Put this kid down as the early frontrunner for the 2060 GOP Presidential nomination.

A pink slime lawsuit.

Truly, this is the end of an era.

The “a-hole factor”. Hilarious.

Mitch McConnell unskews himself into a knot.

My man card never expired, thanks.

On school shootings

I have four things to say about this.

In the national collective grief rising from Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut, one apparent trust seems to have completely shattered: that an elementary school was sacred and safe ground.

Left in the wake of 20 children and eight adults massacred by a lone gunman is a renewed debate over how secure should schools be and at what cost. Closer to home at least one teacher’s union is now calling for more armed guards on Houston school campuses.

Several local school districts acknowledged they focus their full-time security staff on high school and middle school campuses and only send patrols to elementary schools. They said it was too early to say if that strategy would be changed or if there was money to pay for it.

Other officials and experts questioned the expense of providing enough security – the kind that could turn a school into a virtual fortress – to repel a heavily-armed intruder.

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers union, said she favors placing more armed police officers in schools, even on elementary campuses. It’s a proposition she recognizes would be “very expensive.”

“We really need more security,” she said. “You never know what nutcase is suddenly going to decide that shooting up the local school is a good idea.”

Fallon, however, said she does not support arming teachers with pistols, as a small school district in Harrold, Texas, did in 2008, drawing national attention.

[…]

HISD spokesman Jason Spencer noted HISD has 279 campuses, and only 200 full-time officers who are assigned to high schools, middle schools and secondary school campuses. HISD officers patrol the elementary schools.

“We don’t have enough officers to have one stationed full time at each campus,” Spencer said. “We do the best we can with the resources we have.”

1. What does it say about us as a society that we are talking about the benefits of having armed guards stand over our children? I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s not what I want for my kids.

2. For those like Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who do believe that having armed guards in place is the key to preventing this kind of violence, I’d like for you to please explain the Fort Hood shooting to me. (Patterson conveniently omitted that tragedy from the list he gave in support of his argument.) Surely the problem there was not the lack of armed and trained personnel in the vicinity.

3. After cutting $5.4 billion from public education in 2011 and causing the layoff of thousands of teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, support staff, bus drivers, and God knows who else, we’re going to find the money to hire thousands of armed security guards? Seriously?

4. If we really want to do something constructive, and spend our money in a way that might actually help the problem, then let’s finally get serious about mental health in this country. Right now, it’s far easier to buy an assault weapon than it is to access mental health services, and the latter is much more expensive if you can get it. I hope we can all agree this is a problem.

Actually, I have five things to say: Screw Mike Huckabee. That is all.

Greanias to step down from Metro

Bummer.

George Greanias

George Greanias, appointed to lead the Metropolitan Transit Authority in September 2010 after political squabbling and inefficiencies led to widespread criticism of the bus and train system, is resigning, a Metro spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

Greanias has stated his intent to resign from his position as president and chief executive officer, but a formal letter isn’t expected until Monday, said spokeswoman Margaret O’Brien-Molina.

Metro’s board of directors will discuss Greanias’ departure Thursday. A closed session scheduled at the end of the board’s monthly meeting includes “consideration of the resignation of the president and CEO,” as well as consideration of a transition and consulting agreement with Greanias and appointment of an interim chief executive.

[…]

Greanias took over an agency mired in problems related to the expansion of light rail. Greanias, who had no transit agency experience, was tasked with turning the agency around. His first step, he said in a recent speech to the Greater Houston Partnership, was to change Metro’s internal culture.

“When I got there, the employees were afraid to raise their hands and make decisions,” he said.

Frank Wilson, Greanias’ predecessor, agreed to leave after months of rancor over the validity of the agency’s rail efforts, and after scandals about money mismanagement and alleged document shredding worsened Metro’s image.

[Mayor Annise] Parker campaigned in 2009 on a platform to clean up Metro. She appointed five new members to the nine-member board, and the new board hired Greanias, who had deep ties to the city and once ran for mayor.

Greanias did a great job at Metro, and accomplished pretty much everything he set out to do. He was an excellent hire by the Board, which has also done some fine work in the time they’ve been there. No question that Metro is in a much better position now than it was when Greanias took over as CEO, and whoever is hired to replace him will have some large shoes to fill. Best of luck with whatever comes next, George Greanias.

Two minus five is still less than zero

It’s nice that Speaker Joe Straus wants to restore public education funding, but let’s be clear about what that means.

Joe Straus

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Friday he’s committed to pumping billions of dollars back into the state’s public schools, even though the Legislature approved historically deep cuts just last year.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the San Antonio Republican said “we will fund enrollment growth going forward,” which he estimated will be a $2 billion item when lawmakers head back to work Jan. 8.

“The good news is we’re dedicated to doing that, committed to doing that,” Straus said.

Texas’ booming population means its current 5 million-plus public school enrollment increases by as much as 80,000 every year. But the 2011 legislative session failed to provide enough new funding to keep up with enrollment, instead passing $5.4 billion in overall cuts to public education and classroom grant programs for things such as pre-kindergarten programs — sparking the state’s first decrease in per-student spending since World War II.

Straus wouldn’t say he will push to find the additional $5.4 billion necessary to roll back all of those funding cuts. He did say, though, that since Texas’ economy has weathered the recession and is strong again, lawmakers have more options.

Covering growth for this two year period and going forward is one thing – in fact, it’s what the Lege always used to do. Putting schools back where they would be if the $5.4 billion in cuts from the 2011 had never occurred is another, and it’s hard for me to see how adding in $2 billion will do that. The Lege changed the way the basic funding formula was calculated. Is Speaker Straus talking about reverting that back to how it was, or coming up with a better formula, perhaps in anticipation of the ruling in the school finance lawsuit, or is he talking about a one-time band-aid? What about the money that was cut from pre-K, is that in scope here or not? I’m just trying to understand whether this is a real attempt to undo something bad, or just a little sleight of hand to make it look like such an attempt. We can’t tell from this story. Perhaps Democrats can get some clarity on this as they discuss whom they might support for Speaker this session.

One more thing:

More than 600 school districts have sued the state for failing to meet Texas constitutional mandate to fund public schools. Most observers expect them to win, but it could be years before the case works its way through the appeals process.

Actually, as I understand it, there’s just one appeal, to the Supreme Court, and it is supposed to be expedited. The expectation is that the Supreme Court will make its ruling in 2014, in time for the 2015 legislative session.

Craft beer is good for Texas

Because it can’t be said too often, am I right? Here’s a brief Q&A with Charles Valhonrat, the executive director of the Texas Craft Brewer’s Guild.

Q: What are your goals for the 2013 legislative session, and how do you plan to get lawmakers on board?

A: There are two primary goals we are driving with respect to legislation. One is legislation that will allow package breweries – breweries that today keg, cask, bottle or can their beer for sales into the distribution tier – to sell a limited amount of beer at their breweries directly to their patrons. This would mean selling beers in a tap room setting for enjoyment while on premises.

Additionally, this change would also allow the brewery to sell their packaged beer to visitors to be enjoyed at home. By taking advantage of the opportunity of having craft beer fans on site, craft brewers would be able to make the most of the marketing opportunity this creates and build greater demand for their product in the traditional three-tier system of distribution.

Another legislative goal is to allow brewpubs to sell their beer into the wholesale tier.

Today, brewpubs can sell their beer on premise, including packaged beer that usually goes out in things like growlers. But, fans of a certain brewpub cannot find that brewpub’s beer at a local liquor or grocery store.

We are advocating statutory changes that would allow brewpubs to package and sell their beer through the three-tier distribution system here in Texas.

We’ve heard this before, and there’s nothing new to add. I repeat it here as a reminder that we’ve been through this before – this is the fourth time that the craft brewers have tried to change Texas’ archaic laws regarding the sale of beer in a way that benefits consumers rather than distributors – and we’re going to have to keep saying this stuff until we finally get what we want. It may not happen this session, it may not happen in the next session, but it will never happen if we stop talking about it and advocating for it.