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July 9th, 2017:

Weekend link dump for July 9

So is there a limit to human lifespans or not?

A long and thoughtful story on lip synching and our changing attitudes towards it. I fall into the camp of those who prefer actual singing and playing of instruments by people, but I’m old.

The Nuns on the Bus are back on the bus.

Sweet dreams are not made of these.

Is it time to retire the CAN-SPAM Act?

“One of the stupidest aspects of Republican healthcare rhetoric is the idea that consumers want to take charge of their own care by paying routine expenses from special, tax-advantaged accounts.”

All that takeout food we are eating these days has very bad consequences for the environment.

“Trump takes such glee in conflict, and cares so little for standards of decency or compassion, that his assailants often diminish themselves by betraying their own values out of desperation. But this isn’t just true of Trump’s assailants. It is true of all of us. To consistently engage with Trump is to be diminished by him. And we have all been diminished by his presidency.”

“You might flip on the TV in February and see a damn Plumlee in the All-Star Game. Don’t let this happen.”

Star Trek: Discovery is taking this one step further by not restricting death sentences to Red Shirts. And it’s all thanks to one phrase: Valar morghulis.”

“The point Jones needs to communicate is not that he, Alex Jones, believes in the existence of a secret pedophilia-and-human-sacrifice cult operating in pizza shops and on Mars. The point he needs to communicate is that he, Alex Jones, believes that the secret pedophilia-and-human-sacrifice cult operating in pizza shops and on Mars is bad.”

Make sure that’s a certified craft beer that you’re drinking.

Sony Music is pressing vinyl records again, which they last did in 1989.

Support for same-sex marriage continues its steady rise in America. Even among Republicans.

“Americans, therefore, celebrate the Fourth of July under false pretenses. The standard narrative of the Declaration of Independence goes something like this: Colonists could no longer tolerate the British government’s unjust laws or taxation without representation, so the Second Continental Congress voted to compose a document that explained the need for independence and justified the reasons for the revolt. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“After NPR tweeted the Declaration line by line, Donald Trump backers, seemingly unaware of the source document, accused the media organization of playing partisan politics.”

Mighty big rubber duck you’ve got there, Canada.

“The right to speak and remain private clearly has some place. But I would argue that speech without accountability – which is what anonymity frequently enables – creates a basic breakdown in the economy of speech and civic discourse. To put it in market terms, it is the moral hazard of the public square.”

A simple three-step plan to shore up Obamacare.

Hey, Hobby Lobby: Thou shalt not steal. I’m pretty sure that’s a commandment. And stop possibly financing terrorists by your criminally negligent activities.

“How long should a widow sit in isolation before YOU are comfortable enough to release them from their solitary confinement?”

Precinct analysis: Humble ISD

I’d been meaning to go back to the Humble ISD election in May, where two Project LIFT candidates were running against incumbent members, to see what I could learn. The canvass reports are up on the Harris County Clerk website, and I had a bit of spare time, so here we go.


Pcnct  Whitmire  Cunningham  Clinton  Trump
===========================================
83           27          48     1461    758
108          25	        136      919    868
118          52          53     1162    987
199          49          91      631   1921
340          82         107      772   1753
351         115         195      857   2381
357          68          70      672   1580
363          16          36     1435    907
380          52          54     1588   1503
388          45         106     1852   1548
421          21          28      777    636
447          59          99     1024   1649
459         147         194      704   1884
469          75         174      543   1638
546          86         136      362   1385
563          76         178      621   1626
590         126         151      394   1124
599          15          45     1201    572
612         125         147      571   1593
635          47          63      534   1454
658          48          78      674    990
659          62         121     1073   2277
670          92         196      541   1717
674          78         109      830   1950
758         100         122      658   1840
760          63         119      322   1058
764          61          58     1232   1721
776          26          35      798   1038
799           0           2       68     13
840          17          14      672    318
847          11          14      951    299
885          48          55      821    987
888           9          14      714    326
911           6          47      106    179
960           8          14      818    200
964          35          50     1051   1275
967           0           3       65     29
968           3          12      450    106
				
Totals     1975        3174    29924  44090
Percent  38.36%      61.64%   40.43% 59.57%

I just evaluated the Abby Whitmire/Charles Cunningham race because it wasn’t substantially different than the Chris Herron/Angela Conrad race. The first thing we see is that Humble ISD was a pretty Republican place. I limited myself to the Presidential race for comparison because I had to do this manually, but given how much Trump lagged the rest of the Republican slate, it’s very likely that the overall hue for Humble ISD in November was a deeper shade of red than what we see here. The next thing to note is how much lower the turnout was for this election. About 64% of Humble ISD voters cast a ballot in November. Less than five percent of them turned out in May. That’s a big difference.

You can see the distorting effect of this change in voting population in the first three precincts listed, where the Democratic-endorsed candidate lost badly in places that Hillary Clinton had carried. I was afraid after doing these precincts that the numbering scheme was different or the ISD boundaries didn’t line up with the precinct borders or something. But the voter registration numbers matched up, and as you can see Whitmire outperformed Clinton, sometimes by a lot, in some strong Trump precincts. It was just a matter of who showed up, and while the overall partisan ratio in May was comparable to that of November, the distribution wasn’t uniform.

What that suggests is that a Democratic candidate could steal a race like this, as long as the overall turnout rate remains low. That would require a greater investment in identifying and targeting likely Democratic voters in the precincts where they predominate. That’s easier said than done, of course, but on the plus side you don’t need that many of them. Seems to me this would be a great opportunity to test GOTV messaging on people whom you’d really like to see get out and vote in a non-Presidential context. That’s the lesson I take from looking at these numbers.

HCC Trustee Chris Oliver pleads guilty to bribery charges

Hoo boy.

Chris Oliver

A Houston Community College trustee faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to bribery, federal prosecutors said Friday.

The case of 53-year-old Christopher W. Oliver, 53, of Houston was unsealed by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore on Friday, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. Oliver was originally charged in March 2017 and pleaded guilty on May 15.

At Oliver’s plea hearing, it was revealed in open court that he had met with another person on several occasions at restaurants and coffee shops in Houston. Oliver admitted accepting cash in exchange for promises to use his position to help another person secure contracts with HCC, the news release said.

From December 2010 to about August 2013, Oliver allegedly “attempted to obstruct, delay and affect in any way and degree commerce and the movement of articles and commodities in commerce by extortion,” according to court documents.

Also, Oliver agreed between May 2015 and May 2016, to accept cash payments and Visa gift cards totaling $12,000 as a reward for actions that he would take as an HCC trustee, court records said.

Oliver may have to pay a financial judgement of nearly $90,000 because of his crimes, court records show.

What a mess. I’ve interviewed Oliver twice before, once in 2011 for his previous HCC campaign, and once in 2015 when he was a candidate for City Council At Large #1. We can at least be grateful he didn’t win that race. Oliver’s term expires at the end of this year. I don’t know if there were any candidates lining up for that seat, but I’m sure there will be now. The question I have now is at what point does Oliver step down or get removed from the HCC Board? The next Board meeting is August 10, Oliver’s sentencing is August 28, and the Chron story quotes Board President Eva Loredo saying “we will wait for court proceedings to be complete before we make any further statement”, which doesn’t help answer my question. The sooner he’s out of there the better, and if the Board chooses to fill his seat I’d greatly prefer it be with someone who will not be on the November ballot. In the meantime, all I can add to this is “ugh!”. The Texas Monitor and KTRK have more.

Campus carry lawsuit tossed

No surprise.

A federal judge has dismissed a longshot lawsuit filed by three University of Texas at Austin professors seeking to overturn the state’s 2015 campus carry law, which allows people to carry concealed handguns inside most public university buildings.

District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his decision that the professors — Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter — couldn’t present any “concrete evidence to substantiate their fears” that campus carry would have a chilling effect on free speech.

The professors claimed that the law violated their First Amendment rights, since the possibility of a gun being in their classrooms might make them hesitant to discuss controversial issues. In dismissing the suit, Yeakel said the professors didn’t have standing to sue.

The ruling was issued late Thursday, exactly one year after the original lawsuit was filed.

See here, here, and here for the background. I was skeptical of this when it was filed – you would think that if the “well-regulated militia” argument were going to work, someone would have used it successfully by now – so this is what I expected. I don’t care for campus carry and would like to see it thrown out, but that’s going to take a political solution. We will need to have a government that is very different from the one we have now for that to happen.