Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

June 15th, 2014:

Weekend link dump for June 15

We really shouldn’t provide tax incentives to give CEOs even higher pay than they’re already getting.

If nothing else, Seattle’s $15 minimum wage will provide some objective data on the effect of such increases on employment.

It’s not enough to just exercise. You have to enjoy exercising, or it doesn’t count.

On integrating transgender students (or not) into women’s colleges.

Better health care coverage, please.

Read whatever books you want. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it.

The movie Frozen has been a boon for Norway’s tourism industry.

“Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, the health care industry has gained nearly 1 million jobs—982,300, to be more precise—according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates released on Friday.”

The decline and fall of NOM is beautiful to watch.

The lurkers support Ron Fornier on background (see here for the oldtime Internet reference).

All about WalMart, in chart form.

What Charlie Pierce says.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mariano Rivera are the Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals.

You’ve gotta fight for your right to wear sneakers to jury duty.

Why cheerleading is a sport, at least from a medical perspective.

On redshirting your kid. No, not in the “Star Trek” sense.

Fox News makes you dumber. Film at 11.

The Definitive Guide to Every Hillary Clinton Conspiracy Theory (So Far). The over/under on how long it takes before that page is out of date is one week.

RIP, Bob Welch, former pitcher for the Dodgers and A’s.

George Will makes his case for being the worst human being on the Washington Post’s horrible op-ed page this week.

An appropriate eulogy for Eric Cantor’s political career.

Missed this last week: RIP, Chester Nez, last surviving Navajo Code Talker.

It can’t be said too often: Good ideas don’t need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.

“Here’s a particularly depressing number that highlights just how often school shootings are occurring: The shooting near Portland is the 74th school shooting since the Newtown massacre in December 2012, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, which is aimed at promoting gun control measures. Fully half of those shootings have occurred so far this year, and it is only the second week of June.”

RIP, Ruby Dee, actor and civil rights leader.

Yeah, Fox News really is that bad for America.

Grumpy Cat to star in Lifetime Christmas movie. Because of course he is.

“I also suspect that like the politicians who represent them, [conservatives] pay lip service to the gentle lifestyle and all-American values of small towns, but their affection doesn’t quite extend as far as actually going to live there.”

In case you were wondering what the deal is with that iPhone fitness ad with the “Go, you chicken fat, go” song.

I repeat: Greg Abbott owns the RPT platform

This is what I’m talking about.

You want to be the boss, you get to deal with boss problems

At its state convention in Fort Worth last week, the Texas GOP amended its platform to include support for reparative therapy “for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”

In response to the headline-grabbing plank, a spokesman for Davis’ campaign confirmed this week in an email to Lone Star Q that the Democratic gubernatorial nominee would back a statewide ban on reparative therapy for minors similar to laws that have passed in California and New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Abbott dodged a question about his party’s support for reparative therapy during a visit to East Texas on Wednesday. KYTX Channel 19 reports that Abbott “stopped short of condemning” the reparative therapy plank but said the issue isn’t near the top of his agenda.

“First is jobs, second is schools, three is roads, transportation and water, and four is making sure our border is secure,” Abbott told KYTX reporter Field Sutton.

“It sounds like reparative therapy is pretty far down on that list,” Sutton said.

“Well, if government does what it’s supposed to do, and then gets out of people’s way, everyone is a whole lot happier,” Abbott responded.

Objection, Your Honor, non-responsive answer. Look, this isn’t about whether or not Greg Abbott would meddle in the affairs of the Legislature if he gets elected Governor. That’s not the point. The point is that as Governor, the bills the Legislature passes, which may include bills on things like banning sanctuary cities, rescinding the Texas DREAM Act, and authorizing “reparative therapy” in some form, will come to Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature. Does he sign them, or does he veto them? It’s a simple question. Abbott knows this, and he knows he doesn’t want to answer it. He’s following the lead of Republicans elsewhere on this. Reporters like Field Sutton need to know this too, and need to not let him get away with it.

Another taxi survey

From the inbox:

Vehicle for hire industry survey

The City of Houston has retained Taxi Research Partners to conduct a study of demand within the vehicle for hire industry in Houston. The study will review current market conditions, identify key players and stakeholders in the industry and will establish a baseline for demand for those services.

This will allow for an initial review of market conditions and assist in data collection, including the identification of correct market “players” for electronic data requests. Additionally, the study will identify elasticity and cross elasticity of demand between different modes of transportation within the vehicle for hire industry.

Please take a moment to complete the survey by using the link below. Whether you are completely satisfied with the service or if you believe there is a need for improvement, your response is vital to the success of this study. All responses will be held in the strictest confidence, so please comment freely.

Survey Link:

Thank you,

City of Houston Administration & Regulatory Affairs Department

There have been at least two other studies done in Houston, one a taxi study done for Houston commissioned by the Administration & Regulatory Affairs Department, one a taxi demand study commissioned by Uber. I’m not sure what we might learn from this that we didn’t already learn from those, but there’s the link if you want to participate.

Meanwhile, the study process has begun in Austin, and The Highwayman observes the state of play in Houston while noting that all things considered the dispute here has been pretty low-key.

It’s important at this point to note a few things about the status of the negotiations, and this issue in general.

  • City officials and both sides have been at this debate for more than a year.
  • Uber and Lyft are not operating legally in Houston, so long as they accept money for rides without having a taxi medallion.
  • They are, however, doing background checks on their drivers, though not the detailed ones cab drivers face.
  • The city commissioned a $50,000 study, city staff poked holes in and generally disagreed with a lot of findings, which is reflected in their suggested rule changes.
  • The added delay is happening because until recently the city’s largest taxi-limo company, Greater Houston Transportation Company, would not negotiate, saying the entrants were rogue operators, period, end of story.
  • If the city just bars the proverbial gates and refuses to let Uber and Lyft in, everyone is going to end up in court. They’ll likely end up there if they let them in, too, unless Houston finds compromise where no one else has seemed to.
  • Not that it is a guarantee they will abide, but the sooner Houston has a good set of laws that cover everyone, the sooner everyone will follow them.

Taking all of those things into consideration, by the standard set in some other places, this has been smooth. The change taking place is hugely disruptive to the paid-ride market, and Uber and Lyft have racked up 160 citations by last count.

Will mediation and some extra time help things along? Or has our somewhat smooth path just been the precursor to the upheaval?

See Wonkblog for what that upheaval has looked like elsewhere. Things may get more contentious here, but not like that.

Would you let Reliant turn off your air conditioning?

In the name of conservation, of course.

“Our objective is to have more and more customers participate so we can make a material difference in an event when the state needs us to make a difference,” said Elizabeth Killinger, senior vice president and retail regional president for Texas at NRG, Reliant’s parent company.

The program, which Reliant calls Degrees of Difference, is geared toward customers who use Nest, the Google-owned thermostat that can be controlled remotely over a wireless Internet connection.

Under the voluntary program, when electricity demand gets especially high, Reliant – through Nest – could remotely turn off customers’ air conditioning for around 30 minutes or less in an effort to reduce electricity consumption.

Reliant would then pay customers 80 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they’ve avoided using, based on comparisons to their historic usage.

Officials at Reliant and Nest stress that the program is purely voluntary, and participants don’t lose much control, since they can easily override the adjustment and turn the air back on. But they doubt that will be necessary.

“Most folks aren’t really going to notice when their air conditioner pops off for a short time like this,” said Ben Bixby, general manager at Nest Energy Services.


The plan may seem counterintuitive. Reliant, after all, makes money when customers use electricity. But during periods of peak demand – generally, late afternoon in the summer – companies like Reliant can face extraordinary wholesale costs from power generators, which can charge up to $5,000 per megawatt-hour of power.

That figure is poised to increase to $7,000 in June and $9,000 next year. During normal conditions, wholesale prices from generators are generally below $100 per megawatt-hour.

“If we run into a circumstance where there’s not enough generation, and prices are rising, customer participation will help us reduce our costs,” Killinger said. The upside for Reliant is that the money it saves exceeds the value of the credits it would dole out to customers.

There’s already a program in place like this for large industrial and commercial power users, but residential users create a lot of demand, too. Basically, Reliant is looking to keep the peaks below a certain level, above which it becomes really expensive for them to provide the power needed. It reduces their costs, so they can provide an incentive to their customers to participate, and it may mean less need to build more power plants down the line. It’s a win all around if enough people agree to participate. We have a Nest at home, though we’re not currently using Reliant. I suspect we’d be willing to do this but haven’t discussed it with Tiffany yet. What do you think?