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March 2nd, 2014:

Weekend link dump for March 2

No, the Scooby Gang has nothing to do with the Five College Consortium.

The credit card data theft will continue for the foreseeable future.

The power of third parties compels you.

Sometimes it’s better to help from a distance than up close.

In other news, Tom DeLay is still an idiot.

Girl Scout cookies and medical marijuana clinics: Two great tastes that taste great together. In California, anyway.

Zoos have successfully used contraceptives on their animals for years. Ceasing the use of contraceptives and getting those animals to breed again, that’s a different story.

“Indeed, this is the reason [shaken baby syndrome] is such a convenient diagnosis. It allows prosecutors to charge a suspected abuser despite no outward signs of abuse. But we now know that other causes can produce these symptoms, which means that some percentage of the people convicted in SBS cases are going to prison for murders that may have never happened.”

What House of Cards got wrong on phone surveillance.

Maybe we should all lean out a little more.

Hope you’ve patched your iPhone.

Hard to believe, but Amazon is worse than WalMart at treating employees.

RIP, Maria von Trapp, last surviving member of the singing Von Trapp family.

“Still: a significant portion of what Whole Foods sells is based on simple pseudoscience. And sometimes that can spill over into outright anti-science.”

RIP, Harold Ramis. As Mel Brooks said at the passing of Harvey Korman, the world is a more serious place today.

Science journalism versus sports journalism, in a steel cage death match (okay, maybe not).

“With one fake apology, Nugent has forever revealed himself as someone playing the same political game as all of the phonies his outspokenness was meant to call out.”

RIP, Alice Herz-Sommer, believed to be the oldest survivor of the Holocaust.

The last harrumph of Fix The Debt.

“Any Christians who want to can believe that gay people are sinful and wicked, or that gay marriage is a terrible thing. What they can’t do is use those beliefs as a get-out-of-jail-free card that gives them permission to break the law or escape civil liability when they harm other people.”

Sometimes making a scene is the right thing to do.

“In a sentence: The GOP health-care fix will push people on to government health care, raise the deficit, affect more workers and increase the number of uninsured.” In other words, it’s perfect.

Are you craving more Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski? Well, you’re in luck.

The Supreme Court will get another crack at software patents.

715 new planets, none of them Pluto.

Dear Paula Deen: Please stop talking. Seriously, for your own good, just stop.

Another Bill Watterson sighting, along with what may be his first piece of comic art since he ended Calvin and Hobbes.

RIP, Jim Lange, host of The Dating Game.

It’s almost always a better deal to order the larger pizza. Also, math.

If you look up the word “empathy” in the dictionary, you won’t find this guy‘s picture.

“Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that public attitudes toward gay marriage changed at about the same rate as attitudes toward interracial marriage.”

Republicans don’t care about the deficit. Repeat that till it sinks in.

Early Voting concludes for the primary


Here are your final daily early voting totals for the March primaries in Harris County. As is usually the case, the last day was the biggest. Republicans ended up with 75,400 early votes, Democrats with 30,108; that’s about 10,000 more R early votes than in 2010, and about 10,000 fewer D early votes. In 2010, in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, about 60% of the vote occurred on Election Day. If that were to happen this year, Dems would finish with about 75,000 votes, and Rs with about 175,000. If you want to go back to 2006, Republicans split their vote almost evenly between early and Election Day, while Democrats were in no rush to get to the polls, and cast two thirds of their ballots on E-Day. That year, barely 10,000 Dems voted early, and 33,00 voted in total, just more than the number of early voters this year. That’s what a truly slow year looks like. Anyway, it’s plausible to me that Dems may be more inclined to turn out later this year and that Republicans might have emphasized voting early, and if so those projections could move up a bit for Ds and down a bit for Rs. I’ll be surprised if Republicans don’t wind up with double the number of voters, however.

That’s for Harris County, at least. Elsewhere, Democrats are generally exceeding 2010 totals, as are Republicans in many counties. The Secretary of State only has totals for the top 15 through Thursday. If you compare those totals to the final totals for 2010, Democrats have already exceeded the overalls for 2010 in Dallas, Tarrant (by more than double), Travis, Collin, Denton, Williamson, and Cameron, with Bexar falling just short. Overall, Dems had 181,036 early votes through Thursday in these counties, and Republicans had 289,687; the final EV totals in 2010 were 184,694 for D and 306,422 for R. Adding in the Friday totals from just Harris County would make 2014 top the 2010 totals for Ds and would bring the Rs close to their 2010 number, so I think it’s fair to say that early voting was up for both parties overall, and in the end I think the final tallies will be as well. The Republican number to beat is about 1.5 million, and for Dems it’s about 700,000. We’ll see how it goes. Any predictions you’d like to share about totals and outcomes, go right ahead.

No stopping the San Felipe Skyscraper

Not at this time, anyway.

A Harris County district court judge has denied an opposition group’s request to immediately halt construction on a 17-story office tower in a River Oaks area neighborhood.

The group, which filed suit in February against the project at 2229 San Felipe being developed by Houston-based Hines, has said it will continue to fight the tower.

Its lawsuit argues the project would be “abnormal and out of place” in the neighborhood. Last week, five more residents joined the six who sued, and attorneys targeted the contractor, Gilbane Building Co., in addition to the developer.

In its request for a temporary restraining order, the group claimed that since the work on the site began in December cracks have appeared in residents’ patios, noise and exhaust from construction equipment have invaded properties and property values have dropped by the day.

The group also claims that the developers and contractors hope to progress far enough into construction to reach a “point of no return.”

Both sides presented arguments to State District Judge Elaine Palmer Thursday. She denied the request for a temporary restraining order, which would have immediately stopped construction for a short time. The resident group plans next to request a temporary injunction, which would halt construction, but for longer.

In a response to the restraining order request, the Hines attorneys argued the residents cite no legal reason supporting a drastic action like stopping construction and said the residents offered no substantial proof to back claims for such an “extraordinary” action.

They also said that the project is fully permitted by the city and argued that the city, which has been monitoring construction, has not issued any traffic or noise citations and that there have been no accidents or injuries.

See here for the background. The lawsuit sounds a lot like the Ashby Highrise lawsuit, but I suppose there are enough differences between that project, and that lawsuit, and this one to allow this one to go forward. For now, anyway. We entered uncharted waters with the outcome of the Ashby lawsuit, so who knows what comes next.

Pushing marriage equality into new frontiers

I love the idea behind this.

Less than two weeks after a federal judge declared Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, a new effort has been launched in the South seeking to build wider acceptance of gay and lesbian couples in the hope of overturning similar bans across the region.

The $1 million effort will be focused on field organizing and sharing the stories of gay couples through local community and business events as well as social media in 14 Southern states.

The key, supporters say, will be to share stories like those of Linda Ellis and her partner, Lesley Brogan, who appeared at Monday’s event. The two have been together since 1988 and are raising their sons John, 15, and Sam, 12, in Decatur, Ga.

“They will tell you we are just like any other old married couple,” Ellis said. “They will tell you that, and it’s not true. Not yet. And we’re ready for it to be.”

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was among those kicking off the “Southerners for the Freedom to Marry” campaign Monday, saying he believes gay marriage supporters are on the “right side of history.”

“This is about a trajectory. This is about the fact that marriage equality is on an irreversible path toward being legalized across the United States of America,” said Reed, who spoke of his initial reluctance to move from civil unions to supporting gay marriage based on religious reasons.

“And some folks have to decide, just like I did, where they want to be on a historical issue,” said Reed. “I was wrong, and I changed my opinion.”

Texas is one of the states in which this push is occurring. The announcement for this effort came out before Wednesday’s historic ruling, but just because a judge has spoken doesn’t mean that a campaign of outreach and persuasion isn’t still needed, because it is. The co-chairs and public faces of the effort here are Rep. Joaquin Castro and media/political strategist Mark McKinnon, who advised the George W. Bush and John McCain campaigns. Here’s the press release on this from Freedom to Marry, the driving force behind the whole thing:

Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, today launched a $1 million multi-state campaign to build majority support for marriage in the South. The new effort, called Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, will include significant field and media work over the next year in partnership with supportive organizations across the region. Bipartisan co-chairs include civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who kicked off the campaign in a web ad; U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA); and George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon from Texas.

“Our investment in the South comes at a pivotal time in the marriage movement,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “The South is home to hundreds of thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples – and to a majority of the nearly 50 federal marriage cases now underway in courts across the country. Our new campaign will give voice to the many in the region now ready to move forward, including clergy, business leaders, conservatives, and family members, to show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

Despite growing support in the South, Southern states continue to discriminate against the more than 200,000 couples and their families who make the region their home. According to 2010 Census Bureau data, same-sex couples raising children are more common in the South than in any other region of the country. A recent poll of registered Southern voters showed that support for the freedom to marry in the region is now evenly split.

In the kick-off ad, Rep. Lewis shares his private photos of his heroic civil rights leadership, and passionately declares, “You cannot have rights for one segment of the population – for one group of people – and not for everybody. Civil rights and equal rights must be for all of God’s children.”

The Southerners for the Freedom to Marry campaign launched with 13 honorary co-chairs:

• Alabama: State Representative Patricia Todd (D)
• Arkansas: TV producers Harry Thomason & Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan (D)
• Florida: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R)
• Georgia: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), Rep. John Lewis (D)
• Mississippi: Lance Bass, musician and author
• North Carolina: Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt (D)
• South Carolina: Rep. James Clyburn (D)
• Texas: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D); Mark McKinnon, chief media advisor to President George W. Bush
• Virginia: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D)

“As a conservative, I don’t believe you or I or the government can tell people who they can love or marry,” said McKinnon. “Freedom means freedom for everyone, not just for some. That’s why I’m a southerner for the freedom to marry. And the political reality is that the marriage wedge has lost its edge. This train has left the station and we all need to get onboard.”

Southerners for the Freedom to Marry is led in partnership between Freedom to Marry and the following: the Equality Federation, the Campaign for Southern Equality, Georgia Equality, Equality Alabama, Equality Florida, Equality Louisiana, Equality Texas, Equality Virginia, Equality North Carolina, South Carolina Equality, the Equality Network of Oklahoma, and the Fairness Campaign of Kentucky.

They have more on the co-chairs here, a video of civil rights hero US Rep. John Lewis discussing marriage equality here, and more on the campaign kickoff and the people involved here. I wish them all the best of luck.

Who will be the next Steve Stockman?

No one can truly replace Steve Stockman, one of the most gifted performance artists that the Congress has ever seen, but many are trying to win his now-vacated seat.

No clown shortage here

In some ways no one can replace Steve Stockman, who chose not to seek re-election to Texas’ 36th Congressional District and instead mounted what many see as a quixotic primary challenge to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

None of the 12 Republicans running in the primary to replace Stockman is likely to match the shenanigans that, analysts say, made Stockman an embarrassment to some in the party.

“In many ways Stockman did the party a big favor,” said Rice University political science professor Mark Jones. “They couldn’t get rid of him. Whoever replaces him will be much less of a distraction and have much less of a negative impact on the image of the Texas Republican Party and the Republican Party more generally.”

No single candidate has emerged with a clear advantage in the 36th District Republican primary, which likely will decide the race. The district is so strongly Republican that the other candidates – one Democrat, one Independent, one from the Green Party and two Libertarians – have only a ghost of a chance, said Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political science professor.

The 36th District gave President Barack Obama 26 percent of its 2012 vote.

Because there are so many candidates, a runoff May 27 is likely, Jones said. He said a candidate could win a runoff spot with as little as 15 percent of the vote.

For once I agree with Mark Jones. With Stockman gone – assuming he doesn’t manage to knock of Sen. John Cornyn in that primary, which no one expects – Texas will be down to two nationally known embarrassments in Congress. While there is plenty of B-level talent among the delegation, none of them likely has what it takes to join Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz on the main stage. Ben Streusand, whose nasally voice from millions of TV ads for CD10 in 2004 is still wedged in my brain, may have an edge in the race and is sure to say some stupid things if elected, or even just if he makes the runoff, but it takes a lot more than that to be Stockman quality. Stockman has that certain je ne sais quoi about him that while I can’t say it will be missed, it will be notably absent.