Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

August 18th, 2013:

Weekend link dump for August 18

“The decision to stay within the narrow lanes of your own fantasies is a choice, not biological determinism.”

First person to write a diet book for animals wins.

The Internet name space is about to get a whole lot bigger.

The paint industry has largely avoided liability for lead poisoning resulting from the use of lead-based paints, despite their knowing of its danger for many years.

Ain’t no party like an IKEA crayfish party, because who doesn’t associate IKEA with crayfish parties?

“So to me, geek is a big umbrella for people who love what they love and love sharing that love with other people.”

“Using data from over 3,000 counties, their results show that when a Walmart store opens, it kills an average 150 retail jobs at the county level, with each Walmart worker replacing about 1.4 retail workers.”

The Global Genome Initiative wants to sequence the DNA of 1.3 million animal species.

RIP, Eydie Gorme.

“There are currently 35 states that have ratified the ERA. We need just three more states for women to have equal rights under our Constitution.”

“The fact that another retailer — even a small regional one — is able to compete and sometimes beat Walmart on prices, while also operating well-organized stores staffed by workers who enjoy their jobs, like their employer and genuinely want the company to be successful? Well, that’s got to alarm the world’s biggest retailer, if not keep executives up at night.”

Proof that anything can be an excuse for a gratuitous slideshow.

“Yeah, just stop and think about that for a moment: The pioneer wildcatter who caused a sea change that has altered the face of the energy world in ways thought impossible, and the famed scientist zooming along in their wheelchairs like a couple of kids.”

Has anyone considered the possibility that Elon Musk is a Bond villain in training? He has the name for a Bond villain, anyway. I don’t really believe this, but if he suddenly buys an island and starts hiring minions, we might want to check into it, that’s all I’m saying.

The 4000 Hit Club is bigger than you might think.

“Obama should be bending over backwards to appoint not the candidate who can best manage a financial crisis, but rather the candidate who is most likely to stop a crisis from happening in the first place. That candidate is Janet Yellen.”

The 3D TV story you don’t know.

The last first day of school is a long way off for me, but I’m sure I’ll be plenty emotional when it happens.

RIP, Kevin Cordasco. Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston are a couple of mensches. Also, cancer sucks.

RIP, Jack Germond, the kind of political reporter they don’t make anymore.

“The moral of this story should be clear to all economists: If you choose to get involved in politics and public policy debates, your position in those debates will determine your popular legacy, and your academic ideas will be remembered only in academia. That is the price you will inevitably pay.”

Or, putting it another way, “Milton Friedman was trying to save conservatism from people exactly like Rand Paul“.

Gmail users do have expectation of privacy, some misunderstandings about a court filing aside.

Go right ahead and fire Jennifer Rubin. Then please fire Richard Cohen and Charles Krauthammer, too.

More nurse practitioners, please.

“Building a business in a state that denies basic rights to LGBT couples is difficult to justify to potential employees — straight or gay.”

When push polls fail.

There aren’t enough days in the year to determine who the craziest member of Congress not named Louie Gohmert is.

Hoteliers for the Dome plan

Count the Hotel & Lodging Association of Greater Houston among the supporters of the Astrodome renovation plan.

Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. Chairman Edgar Colón, with back-up from Deputy Executive Director Kevin Hoffman, presented the agency’s vision for revamping the half-century-old structure into “The New Dome Experience,” a 350,000 square-foot, street-level space they and other county officials say could play host to everything from “the world’s largest” Super Bowl party, to graduations, to cricket matches to political conventions.

“Any event you can imagine,” Colón told a packed room at the St. Regis. The project would take 30 months to complete, and construction would begin immediately if voters approve the bond, meaning it would be done in time for the Super Bowl at Reliant Stadium in February 2017.

One of the first things Colón told the attentive crowd was that the concept would make the world’s first domed super-stadium easily modifiable, in case some private party — with funding in hand — comes forward in the future and wants to turn the structure into something else.

“It actually enhances the opportunity for future development,” said Reliant Park General Manager Mark Miller during a Q&A after the presentation. Other questions touched on whether there were plans for constructing walkways between facilities and, yes, a hotel.

Officials said those very projects are included in the Reliant Park Master Plan, which would likely require another bond referendum to execute.

During the Q&A, Colón also revealed that plans are in the works to form a political action committee that will raise money to promote the Dome referendum. If it passes, county officials have said they would have to hike the county property tax rate — for the first time in 17 years — by as much as half a cent.

“There is going to be a more organized political campaign, a political action committee, to which I’m sure you all of you can donate funds,” Colón said, eliciting some hearty laughter.

Many attendees described the plan as “exciting” and said they wanted to see the Dome preserved.

So in addition to learning that there will eventually be another bond referendum to (presumably) do maintenance and upkeep on Reliant Stadium, we find that there will be a PAC, no doubt created by the Sports & Convention Corp as I suggested, to get this sucker passed. Perhaps that will put PDiddie‘s mind more at ease. I personally think it’s too early to say whether the referendum is a favorite or an underdog. In the absence of any other information or activity, I’d probably bet on it passing, but it’s just too early to say for sure. Let me know when this PAC gets off the ground, and when/if some opposition coalesces, and then we’ll talk.

More views of Abbott’s Section 3 brief

Texas Redistricting:

Claim: It’s Just Partisan Politics

Attorney General Abbott’s second claim is in many ways even more fundamental because it gets to the heart of what the Voting Rights Act is supposed to do.

That claim asserts that:

[R]edistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats … [They] were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations.

To be fair, the claim is not a new one. It’s one the state has made from the very outset of the redistricting litigation.

And given that the Supreme Court has yet to recognize the existence of a legally cognizable constitutional claim for partisan gerrymandering, it’s probably about as good as place for the General Abbott to make his stand as any.

Of course, as one commentator has pointed out, the partisanship/ethnicity question is not always a clear “either/or” one:

So, here’s the question the federal courts must decide: When the white party uses its legislative authority to undermine the brown and black party, is that a racial act or merely a political one?

But as good as that question is, there’s something even more basic at stake.

When people like General Abbott say that they would be fine with non-Anglo people if they would just vote Republican, they are, in essence, dictating the terms for African-American and Hispanic voters to have a seat at the table.

The Economist:

Mr Abbott seems to think that the VRA allows him to abrogate minority voting rights as long as he does so for partisan rather than overtly, provably racial reasons. As a matter of history, I might point out that voting discrimination did not happen “in the south in 1965”. It happened in the election of 1964. And 1962. And 1960. And 1958. And in every single election since the founding of the United States except for those few years during Reconstruction when federal troops made sure that some southerners did not have their constitutional right to vote violently kept from them because of an excess of melanin.

That said, Mr Abbott’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County ruling is not quite right. They, like every previous Supreme Court that has upheld the VRA, noted that Section 5 involves an unusually broad exercise of federal power. But “constitutionally suspect” is not the same thing as “unconstitutional”, and laws are only invalid when the court finds the latter. In Shelby County they had the opportunity to reach just such a finding, but declined. Also, I wonder whether Mr Abbott has read Section 5: Mr Holder does not have to prove discriminatory intent, only discriminatory effect. Mr Abbott tries mightily to show that white Democrats such as Wendy Davis and Lloyd Doggett (whose district, Mr Abbott explains, “was completely dismantled in an effort to drive him from office”—italics 100% his) were affected just as badly as black and Hispanic Democrats. But of course the harm in redistricting is done not to politicians (or not only to politicians); it is done to voters, and the VRA is principally concerned not with keeping incumbents in safe seats but in making sure that everyone can vote and that everyone’s vote is equal.

San Antonio Express News editorial board:

Put aside for the moment what Abbott considers “incidental effects.” Texas minorities have contributed about 90 percent of the state’s growth, but the maps do not reflect that.

What’s most galling here is how unabashedly unashamed is the state’s top lawyer in detailing the partisan aspect of a process that should not be as substantively so. It is written matter-of-factly, as if the public must just numbly accept it.

“Perfectly constitutional” can cover a variety of sins, but here the meaning is clear; legislators keep themselves in power because they can. And if values such as fairness, compactness, competitiveness and communities of interest (when this isn’t code for “safe districts”) get included, that’s purely coincidental.

Ricardo Pimentel:

Challenges to the state’s maps are moot and meritless, Texas says in a court document, because there was no damage done. Those 2011 maps no longer exist. Look! We have new 2013 maps!

And Texas misses the point. The damage is that the state violated the Constitution in enacting those maps in 2011 in the first place. And, as 2011 isn’t ancient history, this amounts to a current, intentionally discriminatory act that demands relief because it proves the case that Texas is unreformed and unrepentant of its discriminating ways.


Again, in my book, the 2013 maps don’t shout out trustworthiness, but these groups are not asking for new maps. First they are looking to amend their original complaints to adjust to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Then they are seeking preclearance, which will have the effect of the state trying to prove that its 2013 maps — and voter ID, by the way — are not discriminatory.

And Texas is reluctant to go there and not just because of states rights. There’s a record.

Another federal court in Washington, D.C., said, in the case of the state’s 2011 congressional maps, that the court had been “provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than (it had) space, or need, to address.” It found the same tomfoolery in the state House maps.

On voter ID, another panel of judges found the law would adversely affect minorities.

Translated: Texas, you knew precisely whom you were shafting.

See here for the background. None of this means that the Supreme Court, at least as it is currently constituted, won’t accept Abbott’s arguments. But we should be clear as to what it is they’d be signing on to if they do.

No kids allowed

I don’t have a problem with this.

Chef Aquiles Chavez said his decision to ban young children from his restaurant during the evening hours was not easy. And the decision wasn’t shared by his wife.

On Monday, La Fisheria, the seafood restaurant helmed by the Mexican reality TV star and chef, announced via Facebook that it is requiring guests be 9 or older when dining after 7 p.m.

The post was simple:

“After 7 p.m., people over 8 years old only. We are a family-friendly restaurant, and we also respect all of our customers, so we introduce this new policy to the restaurant. Thanks for your understanding.”

The decision to implement the policy was not.

“It was hard,” Chavez said on Tuesday. “Two of my kids are under this age, and my partner has young kids.”

The reality is that many of his customers have complained about unruly children in the dining room. It’s a Catch-22 for restaurateurs. Do you pull customers aside when children become a distraction? Or do you, as La Fisheria has chosen, keep the distractions at bay by barring youngsters altogether?

“One woman recently said, ‘I leave my children with a babysitter so I can have a romantic dinner, yet you have children running around here,’ ” Chavez said. “We had a tough decision.”

Chef Aquiles Chavez says he was getting complaints from patrons, “and you can’t tell customers’ kids to be quiet.”

Chavez said his wife didn’t approve the evening ban on children.

“My wife said, ‘Aquiles, I don’t like this.’ ”

“Customers don’t like screaming kids,” Chavez said, “and you can’t tell customers’ kids to be quiet.”

It’s a perfectly reasonable business decision, especially at a higher-end eatery, where customers will have different expectations for their experience than they would at a more family-oriented place. There are tons of good family-friendly places to eat in the area, and it’s not like kids can never eat at La Fisheria, they just have to do so earlier in the day. Which, speaking as the parent of a nine-year-old and a six-year-old, would seem like the thing one would generally prefer to do, but every family’s situation is different and I’m not going to judge. If someone were pushing for a citywide ordinance to require all restaurants to adhere to a similar policy, or if there were no other good options, then I’d be concerned. But this, this is no big deal.

You can see La Fisheria’s Facebook post announcing the policy and which has drawn over 600 comments and over 60 shares so far, here; there’s another 100+ comments on the 29-95 version of the story. I will note that it’s perfectly fine in general to bring kids to nice restaurants. It’s good to give kids experience eating in places where their best manners are expected. They like doing grownup things once in awhile, and in my observation they tend to want to live up to your expectations for them. We took the girls to Artisans last month and they did fine. It helps to establish beforehand that the rules are different than they would be at, say, Berryhill, and it helps if they aren’t already starving when you arrive and don’t get too bored while waiting, but that’s just common sense. I’m actually a little surprised that this was a problem at all at La Fisheria – I honestly can’t recall ever having a meal interrupted or ruined by an unruly child. But clearly it was an issue at La Fisheria, and they took the action they believed they needed to deal with it. I’m curious to know if you have any experiences with obnoxious kids – or really, the parents who are unable or unwilling to handle them – at restaurants. Please share them in the comments if you do. CultureMap has more.