Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

April 2nd, 2017:

Weekend link dump for April 2

Apparently, fans of the classic TV show CHiPS are not fans of the movie that they have not yet seen. I will say, if there isn’t at least one scene done in a roller disco, the movie will not be true to the spirit of the show.

Beware the “can you hear me?” phone scam.

“The South’s manufacturing renaissance comes with a heavy price.”

“Generally speaking, astronauts who travel to the ISS tend to stay in orbit for a period of 4-6 months, which is enough time to learn quite a bit about human physiology in microgravity.”

What happens to people who drive for a living when driverless cars become common?

“The first dinosaurs may have originated in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly in an area that is now Britain.”

Many Moore is not having your crazy fan theories about Frozen, Tangled, and The Little Mermaid.

RIP, Tom Amberry, world record holder for most consecutive free throws made.

“So let’s just pause for a second and appreciate just how quickly the Trump administration is managing to torpedo America’s comparative advantage in this area.”

“It was bad policy, not poor tactics or negotiating skills, that doomed the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare”.

The real obstacle to the passage of health care reform is the Republican Party itself, and any full reckoning with what just happened has to grapple with that fact.”

How to write a bestselling science fiction novel, in seven steps.

Five Ways Cybersecurity Will Suffer If Congress Repeals the FCC Privacy Rules. By the way, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz co-sponsored the Senate bill that will do this.

Don’t hire a businessman to do a politician’s job, and other lessons of the Trumpcare debacle.

“[Ivanka] Trump’s brand emphasizes empowering women at work, and there is nothing feminist about a woman stepping in to do all the work with no credit or pay. If Trump truly wants to preserve her commitment to the cause she supposedly takes the most pride in, she would disclose what her own work entails.”

“There’s a good chance at least one spider is staring at you right now, sizing you up from a darkened corner of the room, eight eyes glistening in the shadows.”

RIP, Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist and friend of Nelson Mandela.

Good for the US women’s hockey team, and for everyone who supported them in their quest to be treated equitably. Now let’s do the same for the US women’s soccer team.

You can now mute spoilers on Twitter, if that’s a thing you want to do.

“Democrats are on a torrid fundraising pace in the first months of the Donald Trump era, powered by enraged small donors who are plowing millions of dollars worth of online contributions into campaign and committee treasuries.”

“‘Cards Against Humanity’ Creator Vows To Buy And Publish Congress’s Internet History“. Good for him.

“The preoccupation with eroticizing all male-female interactions also reminds me of something from the other end of the literary spectrum — of rugged man’s man Rayford Steele, the hero of Left Behind, and his endless cruelties toward Hattie Durham. Rayford never touched her, and he and the authors of the World’s Worst Books want us to admire him for that. But Rayford also spent years thinking about how he could have touched her if he’d wanted to. He was living out all the obsessive fixation of a cheating spouse, but without ever cheating. Something about the Billy Graham rule reminds me of that.”

Six ways to tell if Trump is sabotaging Obamacare.

RIP, Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag that has become a widely recognized symbol of gay rights.

State files opposition to motion for new Congressional maps

From Texas Redistricting:

The State of Texas has filed its opposition to redistricting plaintiffs’ request for an order that would permanently block the current Texas congressional map and require a redraw of the map for the 2018 election.

The state told the court that any ruling on the injunction request was premature since the court had only ruled on the now superseded 2011 congressional map (Plan C185) and not the court-modified map (Plan C235) that Texas adopted as its permanent congressional map in 2013. Although portions of the maps are the same, including at least two districts that the court found violated the Constitution, the state said the court needed first to decide the rest of the claims related to the 2013 congressional map as well as weigh whether the state’s adoption of the 2013 map remedied findings that the 2011 map had been adopted with discriminatory intent.

The three-judge panel has not indicated whether it will hold oral argument on the plaintiffs’ injunction request.

See here, here, and here for the background. The plaintiffs’ motion included a schedule that would wrap everything up with an approved map by July 1, more than enough time for people to file for whatever district and mount a campaign. There are too many moving parts to know what may happen – remember, the court has not ruled on the legislative map yet – so we are back in the familiar position of waiting on the judges. In the meantime, Michael Li published potential alternate maps for CD27 and CD35, based on maps that had been previously filed during the 2011 and 2013 sessions. We could get an updated map fairly quickly because we are not starting from scratch, if indeed we are going to get a new map.

Reintroducing recapture

The tune has changed, and it’s time we make sure everyone knows it.

It felt like déjà vu to many of the 150 people who packed into Tinsley Elementary School’s auditorium Wednesday evening.

Facing another controversial Houston ISD school finance referendum, speakers debated two unfavorable options, both of which will cost the school district millions of dollars.

Wednesday’s forum served as the latest update in a school finance saga that has pitted Houston ISD against the state after 62 percent of local residents voted in November against paying the state millions in so-called recapture fees.

Board President Wanda Adams, who hosted the town hall, thanked those present for voting against recapture in November. But she asked them to vote in favor of writing a recapture check. “Because of your no vote, you actually won. We were the first district ever to tell the state no, the first to say we will not write a check until you fund public education,” Adams said.

The Houston ISD Board of Education voted in February to hold a second referendum on the issue May 6 after the state lessened the amount HISD would pay in recapture fee and threatened to “detach” commercial properties.

Glenn Reed, general manager of HISD’s Budgeting and Financial Planning, said this referendum is different than the one that appeared in on the November ballot.

“This is not a vote on recapture; it’s a vote on how you want us to pay it,” Reed said.

Well, to be exact, the November referendum was about how to pay for recapture, too. Adams is right that we got what we wanted out of that No vote. As you know, I believe we should accept that victory and vote Yes this time around. Early voting begins April 24, which is just over three weeks from now. We’re not used to voting in May in Houston – we have primary runoffs in May, but that’s different. There’s no turnout model for this, we’re all just going to be guessing. Those guesses are going to be on the low end, it’s just a matter of how low. HISD is going to have to convince some people to show up for them if they want to win again.

Firefighters will oppose pension reform bill

So it goes.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Hopes that Houston’s firefighter pension board might agree to a compromise set of benefit reforms and end their opposition to Mayor Sylvester Turner’s landmark reform package proved too optimistic, after the two sides passed a Thursday deadline without a deal.

It remains unclear what effect counting the firefighters as confirmed foes will have on the bills now working their way through both chambers of the Legislature.

The Houston Firefighters Relief and Retirement Fund had joined police and municipal worker groups in backing preliminary terms last fall, but did not join their counterparts in agreeing to final legislative language.

Fire pension board chairman David Keller reopened the door to an agreement in testimony before a state House committee on Monday, saying recent talks with Sen. Joan Huffman – the Houston Republican whose committee approved the reform proposal last week – had been productive and that he was “hopeful” his board could agree.

Keller acknowledged he verbally agreed to a compromise Turner offered that included more than the estimated $800 million in benefit reductions the board had approved last October but less than the nearly $1 billion in cuts currently reflected in the legislation.

After the final numbers were crunched, however, Keller said the proposal cut too deep.

Things had looked more positive for consensus earlier in the week, but these things happen. I feel like we have come along far enough that success is more likely than failure, but failure is always an option. The question I have at this point is if the Senate version of the bill makes it through, will the firefighters oppose the pension obligation bond issue, in hopes of scuttling the deal by whatever means they can? This is the part of requiring a vote that makes me nervous, precisely because it’s another opportunity for people who don’t like this plan for whatever the reason to kill it. But first we need a bill to pass in the House. Look for the arguments made by opponents there as a preview of what we may get in November.

Let the clerks out of it

I approve of this.

The state’s leading LGBT advocacy group has thrown its support behind a bill that would accommodate county clerks with religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Under Senate Bill 911, by state Senator Joan Huffman, R-Sugar Land, marriage licenses in Texas would no longer specify the names of clerks who issue them, instead listing only the counties where they’re obtained.

Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, said though he hasn’t spoken with anyone from Huffman’s office about SB 911, his group is supporting the bill as “a simple solution.”

“If there are county clerks who want to make a stink, then this proposed legislation cuts their feet off,” Smith said. “Your name isn’t on it [the license]. Nobody would know. Do your job.”

[…]

SB 911 is one of at least four proposals in the 85th Legislature dealing with county clerks and marriage licenses. Others would allow clerks to opt out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples altogether, in some cases forcing them to travel to adjacent counties, which experts say would run afoul of the Obergefell decision.

“The delivery of the service, the access to a license, has to be the same for all people, and if that can be accomplished, we are supportive of that,” Smith said. “I would suggest that [SB 911] is the solution to eliminate any of the other proposed legislation related to county clerks or related to marriage licenses that we would oppose.”

The story notes the Hood County saga, and quotes the Irion County Clerk, who allows that this might satisfy the objections of people like her. I personally don’t think that County Clerks should need to be accommodated in this way since none of this is about them, but whatever. If something as simple as this will get the complainers to knock it off, then I’m all for it.