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March 5th, 2017:

Weekend link dump for March 5

Six tips for parenting your toddler President.

We may never see another catcher’s balk again.

Now this is what one might call an employment benefit.

Where to find good data.

“In just the last month since the concept of a March for Science went viral online, 287 satellite marches across the globe have been organized with more coming online every day, and more than 50,000 volunteers have responded to offer assistance.”

RIP, Judge Joseph Wapner of The People’s Court.

Is Uber doomed? Maybe.

“I don’t expect people to understand it, but I expect them to respect it.”

The Notorious RBG works out harder than you do.

YOLO is good for you.

How to keep track of legal and policy changes under Dear Leader Trump.

My college classmate Mark Pitcavage talks about tracking hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League.

“Nearly a week has passed since two India-born engineers were singled out and shot at an Olathe bar, presumably because they were immigrants, darker in skin tone and possibly viewed by the shooter as unwanted foreigners. People around the world were immediately and rightfully horrified. But our president? Mum. Not a word has been spoken, tweeted or prepped for Trump’s teleprompter.”

“[M]uch of Trump’s appeal was that, as a businessman and artist of The Deal, he could cut through the dithering and gridlock and partisan bickering. Instead, in his first month, Trump has mostly been the loser in his battles against entrenched institutions. Rather than bend Washington to his will, Trump has, in his first month, mainly bent his priorities to the will of Republicans in Washington.”

Our Central Casting-obsessed Dear Leader.

“We rarely think of tourism as something related to U.S. trade, but we should: Inbound tourism to the U.S. is an export—and outbound tourism from the U.S. is an import. And right now, the policies of the Trump administration are threatening to throw that particular trade balance seriously out of whack.”

“If a revolutionary women’s soccer team, the first of their kind for Tibetans, can’t get a tourist visa to attend a very prestigious soccer tournament as VIP, legit guests, then WHO, may I ask, DOES DESERVE A VISA?”

“Whatever the reason Americans voted for Trump, we know that every one of them chose to support a candidate who made repeated bigoted, xenophobic, and misogynistic statements. They supported a candidate who mocked a disabled reporter, demonized an entire religion, made veiled anti-Semitic comments, scapegoated undocumented immigrants, and bragged about sexually assaulting women. Even if one puts all that aside (though I’m not sure how that’s done), they voted for a candidate who lied on a daily basis and who regularly showed he was demonstratively unqualified to be president.”

“You all had the same choices we all had. You saddled the rest of us with misrule and disaster. Own it. I empathize, but I will not sympathize.”

“Amid the nonstop and increasingly tedious theatricality, Trump is only ever performing the role of the president; he’s never doing the job.”

Turns out Jeff Sessions has a bit of a lying-about-Russia problem, too.

Here’s what happened the last time an AG candidate lied under oath to the Senate.

RIP, Aileen Hernandez, feminist trailblazer and former president of NOW.

“We think the ‘cover up’ is worse than the crime because it’s actually very seldom that the full scope of the actual crime is ever known. The cover up works better than you think. The other reason the cover up is a logical response is that it usually works. You only find out about it when it doesn’t. So it’s a good bet.”

“I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.”

It’s come to this: Alec Baldwin got into a Twitter fight with another Donald Trump impersonator.

The reason Trump has become so vulnerable so quickly is because he’s treating Washington like the pathogen when he’s the infectious agent.”

“Pence attacked Clinton for email while conducting public business using an AOL account that was hacked”. And then he created a new AOL account to replace the one that had been hacked. Aren’t we supposed to lock him up for that?

“If, however, Trump’s goal is stigmatizing a vulnerable class of people, then publicizing their crimes—and their crimes alone—makes sense. It’s been a tactic bigots have used more than a century.”

O’Rourke sure sounds like a candidate for Senate

Sure feels like it’s a matter of when and not if Rep. Beto O’Rourke announces his candidacy for US Senate.

Re. Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, is sailing toward a 2018 Senate campaign — an uphill battle that would pit the little-known congressman against one of the state’s most prominent Republicans in the unpredictable era of President Donald Trump.

“I really want to do this,” O’Rourke said in an interview Saturday in which he also promised to run a positive campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — no matter how much animus the incumbent inspires among Texas Democrats.

“Being against Ted Cruz is not a strategy,” O’Rourke said. “It might motivate some folks and might make the election of a Democrat for the first time in 30 years more likely, but it in itself is not a strategy, and so I’m really putting my time and my efforts and my thinking into what makes Texas a better place and what makes the lives of the people who live in this state better, and so I’m just going to stay focused on that.”

O’Rourke has said for weeks that he is likely to take on Cruz but has not set a timeline for an official announcement. He said Saturday he wants to make sure he is mindful of his current constituents and that “I’m thoughtful in how I make this decision and keep El Paso, my family, foremost in mind.”

“I don’t want to run unless we’re going to win, and I’m confident we can,” O’Rourke said. “I just want to make sure the way we do this, we set ourselves up for victory.”


If O’Rourke runs for Senate, fundraising would likely be one of his biggest challenges. While he was the underdog in his 2012 Senate campaign, Cruz has since built a national fundraising network, partly through his 2016 presidential bid.

O’Rourke has already made clear he plans not to accept PAC money in a potential Senate campaign. Asked Saturday if that would apply to money from national Democratic groups who may want to help him out, O’Rourke held firm that he “won’t take money from political action committees — and that’s across the spectrum.”

“I think folks just need to know that, clean and simple,” O’Rourke said. “When you start picking and choosing then, you know, it becomes a slippery slope and you just start doing what everyone else is doing, what everyone is so sick of and what has made Washington so dysfunctional and corporate.”

See here, here, and here for some background. As noted before, we are probably not going to get any kind of positive announcement until after the March 31 campaign finance deadline for the first quarter. I will say again, I really hope Rep. O’Rourke has a plan to achieve the kind of grassroots fundraising success he talks about, because it ain’t easy to do. Neither is running for Senate with less than a full complement of resources, as Paul Sadler and Rick Noriega and Barbara Radnofsky could tell you. Believe me, I’m rooting for Rep. O’Rourke, and I’ll chip in when the time comes, I’m just trying to be clear-headed about the road ahead.

On the matter of whether or not his colleague Rep. Joaquin Castro will join him in this quest, Rep. O’Rourke says that while Rep. Castro is his friend and he’d be a great Senator himself, he can’t and won’t wait to see what someone else does to make his own decision. Fair enough. I still don’t believe the two of them will square off in a primary, but 2018 is going to be a weird year, so who knows what might happen.

The Sandra Bland Act


Sandra Bland

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, on Thursday filed House Bill 2702, dubbed the Sandra Bland Act.

The exhaustive piece of legislation would expand what qualifies as racial and ethnic profiling; mandate people experiencing a mental health crisis and substance abuse be diverted to treatment over jail; and create more training and reporting requirements for county jails and law enforcement.

The legislation is named in honor of Sandra Bland, a black, 28-year-old Illinois woman who was found dead in an apparent suicide in the Waller County Jail in 2015.

Bland was pulled over in Prairie View on July 10, 2015, by then-Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia after she failed to signal a lane change. When Bland’s conversation with Encinia became heated, he arrested her on a charge of assaulting a public servant. She was found dead in her cell three days later.

Bland shouldn’t have been arrested, Coleman said during a news conference to announce the bill’s filing.

“It led to a death that didn’t have to occur,” said Coleman, who chairs the House County Affairs Committee.

The Sandra Bland Act would make several changes to how Texas law enforcement officials and jailers interact with those they stop or detain.

There’s more on the bill in the story, so go check it out. You know how I feel about this. Rep. Coleman has been working on this, which implements the reforms that were agreed to in the settlement of the lawsuit filed by bland’s family, for some time now. If anyone is going to get the details right, it’s Rep. Coleman. Let’s hope this gets a good reception. Grits has more.

A brief look at Pearland’s elections

Pasadena isn’t the only area city with a name that starts with P that will be electing a new Mayor this May.

Every weekday morning, Quentin Wiltz drives about 30 miles from his home in Pearland to his job in the Energy Corridor on Houston’s far west side. His wife Monique’s commute is even longer — almost 50 miles to a Lone Star College campus in northwest Harris County. The couple spends about $250 a month on tolls, the fees silently extracted from their accounts as they streak past electronic monitors.

Thousands of other residents of this booming city on Houston’s southern fringe experience variations of this grueling daily journey. Unlike his neighbors, however, Wiltz, 36, hopes soon to be in a position to do something about Pearland’s mobility challenges and other local issues. He is one of two young candidates challenging 91-year-old Mayor Tom Reid, who has led the city for 34 years, in the May 6 election.

Pearland’s population has tripled, to about 120,000, since 2000, according to the city planning department. This dramatic growth has created many challenges, but none is more vexing than mobility. Pearland has a relatively small employment base, and most of its residents, like Quentin and Monique Wiltz, commute to jobs elsewhere in the vast Houston region.


Reid, Wiltz and the third candidate, Jimi Amos, will no doubt be talking a great deal about this topic between now and May 6. It’s unclear, though, how many people will be paying attention.

In the last mayor’s race, in 2014, only about 3,300 people — less than 5 percent of Pearland’s roughly 70,000 registered voters — cast a ballot. (Reid easily dispatched former City Councilman Woody Owens, 2,278 votes to 1,000.)

The heaviest turnout in Pearland’s city elections generally comes from its older section, along Texas 35, rather than from the newer subdivisions and master-planned communities closer to 288. This limited engagement may account for the lack of diversity among the city’s elected officials.

When Derrick Reed defeated Wiltz in a 2015 runoff, he became the first African-American elected to Pearland’s City Council. A current group photo of the city’s elected leaders shows Reed standing among six white men, including Mayor Reid. This year’s mayoral challengers, Wiltz and Amos, are African-American.

All six council members are elected citywide, a system that tends to limit opportunities for people of color to get elected. Pearland’s population is about 47 percent Anglo, 25 percent Latino, 17 percent African-American and 9 percent Asian.

Quentin Wiltz’s website is here, if you’re interested. I don’t know any of the candidates, so I’m just going to say two things. One is that whatever one may think about Mayor Reid, I hope I have that much energy and desire to be active when I’m 91. Two, the bill to mandate November-of-even-years-only elections would certainly have an effect on the turnout in Pearland. What that might mean for this particular election, or to elections in general in Pearland, I couldn’t say. But it would have an effect, of that I am sure.

UPDATE: Jimi Amos has a campaign website as well, which you can find here.

To the moon!

If this is on your bucket list, you may be in luck.

SpaceX, the ambitious rocket company headed by Elon Musk, wants to send a couple of tourists around the moon and back to Earth before the end of next year. If they manage that feat, the passengers would be the first humans to venture that far into space in more than 40 years.

Mr. Musk made the announcement on Monday in a telephone news conference. He said two private individuals approached the company to see if SpaceX would be willing to send them on a weeklong cruise, which would fly past the surface of the moon — but not land — and continue outward before gravity turned the spacecraft around and brought it back to Earth for a landing.

“This would do a long loop around the moon,” Mr. Musk said. The company is aiming to launch this moon mission in late 2018.

The two people would spend about a week inside one of SpaceX’s Dragon 2 capsules, launched on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. The spacecraft would be automated, but the travelers would undergo training for emergencies.

Mr. Musk did not say how much the travelers would pay for the ride. “A little bit more than the cost of a crewed mission to the space station would be,” he said.

The Falcon Heavy itself has a list price of $90 million.

While the trip appears to be within the technical capabilities of SpaceX, industry experts wondered whether the company could pull it off as quickly as Mr. Musk indicated. “Dates are not SpaceX’s strong suit,” said Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a space advocacy group consisting of aerospace companies. The Dragon 2 and Falcon Heavy are years behind schedule and have yet to fly.

“It strikes me as risky,” Dr. Dittmar said, adding that autonomous systems are not infallible. “I find it extraordinary that these sorts of announcements are being made when SpaceX has yet to get crew from the ground to low-Earth orbit.”


Seven space tourists have paid tens of millions of dollars to fly on Russian Soyuz rockets to visit the International Space Station, which is about 200 miles above the Earth’s surface. This would be a much more distant trip. The moon is about a quarter million miles away, and the trajectory would take the capsule 300,000 to 400,000 miles from Earth.

My advice is to start saving up for it now. I don’t know if travel insurance will be an option, but stuff can happen, so be prepared for contingencies. In the meantime, I leave you with a song:

If they don’t play that on the launch date, someone needs to be held accountable.