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September 17th, 2017:

Weekend link dump for September 17

How Game of Thrones spoilers happen. Because people want them to happen would be my explanation.

“We’re not talking here about anything as puny as political economic power. No, climate is about something far more terrifying it its capacities: Climate change is about planetary power.”

What’s really going on with Google Drive.

“Why the Equifax breach is very possibly the worst leak of personal info ever”. And what you should do about it.

RIP, Len Wein, influential comics writer who co-created characters including Wolverine and Swamp Thing.

RIP, Don Ohlmeyer, one of the original producers of Monday Night Football.

“If Mark Zuckerberg runs for president, will Facebook help him win?”

China versus Bitcoin. Who ya got?

How Jeopardy! questions get written.

Just so we’re clear, Donald Trump is a Republican. This is what you call someone who wins the Republican primary for President.

Remembering Bretagne, the Last Known 9/11 Search-and-Rescue Dog. Warning: the video at the end will choke you up.

“This is one of those things — a hurricane strong enough to change the shape of an ocean.”

“Three cheers for Missouri, the upside-down land where Christians perform the gruesome animal sacrifices and Satanists bring the religious freedom lawsuits.”

RIP, Edith Windsor, gay-rights activist whose landmark Supreme Court case struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.

“The blinding rise of Donald Trump over the past year has masked another major trend in American politics: the palpable, and perhaps permanent, turn against the tech industry. The new corporate leviathans that used to be seen as bright new avatars of American innovation are increasingly portrayed as sinister new centers of unaccountable power, a transformation likely to have major consequences for the industry and for American politics.”

RIP, Frank Vincent, best known for playing Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos.

Hot oligarch on oligarch violence. May they all lose.

White evangelical Christians are huge hypocrites. I’d say it’s all Donald Trump’s fault, but no one made them do it.

Cassini’s Mission to Saturn in 100 Images. Godspeed and thank you for your service, Cassini.

Four words: Nun with a chainsaw. You’re welcome.

The actress who starred in the porn video liked by Ted Cruz’ Twitter account doesn’t approve of him watching it for free.

I’m so excited about the forthcoming adaptation of Good Omens, I can’t even stand it.

RIP, Harry Dean Stanton, brilliant character actor from Alien, Pretty In Pink, Repo Man, and many more.

City goes to SCOTUS over same-sex spousal benefits


The City of Houston and Mayor Sylvester Turner filed a petition Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision that came down earlier this summer, concluding that states did not have to provide publicly funded benefits to same-sex couples, according to a news release from the city.

The decision in Pidgeon v. Parker from the Texas Supreme Court on June 30 said states did not have to provide government employee benefits to all married persons, regardless of whether their marriages are same sex or opposite sex.

The Texas court claims the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges, that recognized marriage rights among gay couples did not determine whether same-sex couples have spousal benefits. The court also said the Pavan vs. Smith case does not conclude whether same-sex couples are entitled to spousal benefits.

See here and here for the background, and here for the city’s press release. There is also a lawsuit filed by affected employees against the city to force it to continue paying the benefits, which as this statement indicates the city is doing and intends to continue as long as a court doesn’t order it not to. The Pavan v. Smith case held that “Having chosen to make its birth certificates more than mere markers of biological relationships and to use them to give married parents a form of legal recognition that is not available to unmarried parents, Arkansas may not, consistent with Obergefell v. Hodges, deny married same-sex couples that recognition”. Seems pretty damn clear that the same standard would apply for employee benefits, but as we know some lessons have to be learned the hard way. Kudos to the city for trying to short-circuit this homophobic nonsense.

House to study Harvey-related issues

Good to see.

Rep. Joe Straus

House Speaker Joe Straus is asking three House committees to wade into issues related to Hurricane Harvey, including how the state can maximize federal funds and whether to rethink how to grade schools affected by the storm this year.

Straus issued five interim charges Thursday, focused largely on education issues, like the scope of damage to schools and figuring out how to help districts absorbing students displaced by Harvey. He also wants lawmakers to look at student testing and accountability to “prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts.”


Straus’ other charges include taking a close look at the state’s infrastructure and use of state and federal funds during storm recovery and review the role of regional entities to developing flood control projects.

“Hurricane Harvey has devastated our state and upended the lives of millions of Texans,” said Straus said in a letter to House members asking for further suggestions of issues lawmakers should study leading up to the next legislative session that begins in January of 2019. “The importance of getting these issues right when we meet again demands that we start working on them now.”

As we know, the TEA isn’t inclined to cut school districts any slack at this time, so it’s nice for the Lege to look at that. I’ll be very interested to see what they come up with regarding infrastructure. As noted before, we authorized a fund for building reservoirs and the like. What are we doing with that, and can we use it for flood mitigation instead of drought mitigation? This seems like as good a time as any to find out. The Trib has more.

More on Stefano de Stefano

Our favorite double-named Ted Cruz primary challenger.

Stefano de Stefano

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is one of the state’s best known conservative politicians, but one GOP long shot is hoping he can oust the firebrand Republican with a simple appeal: “A return to normalcy.”

Stefano de Stefano, a little-known Houston energy attorney with no prior political experience, said Cruz’s brash politics have contributed to national divisiveness, and that he’s running as the candidate for “anybody who wants to see Cruz gone, see change, see more normal politics in this country.”

“Thus far I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” de Stefano, a self described “free market” and pro free trade Republican, told The Dallas Morning News. “It takes a little time because, as a normal person, I don’t have a long career of building a political network.”

He’s the first of potentially many to challenge Cruz in what most political observers expect will be an easy primary victory for the sitting senator. Dan McQueen, the former mayor of Corpus Christi who resigned after just 37 days, has also said he’s eyeing a run.

See here for some background. A McQueen candidacy would also be awesome, but we’re all about Stefano de Stefano over here. He has a chance to be the Phelps Phelps of his generation.

Dallas Observer Q&A with CD32 candidate Ed Meier

Also a good read.

Ed Meier

You’ve spent a lot of time traveling around the world, starting by growing up in Africa as a missionary kid. What keeps bringing you back to Texas and Dallas specifically?

I was born in Dallas. Lived north of Inwood Village and lived up in North Dallas with my family. I’ve always had a tremendous amount of Dallas pride. If you ask any of my local friends or friends outside of Dallas, [they] will tell you. It’s just something about being Texan; I think Native Texans have a tremendous amount of pride in where we’re born and where we’re from.

I always had this connection back here. We’d come back from Nigeria, where my parents served as medical missionaries in a teaching hospital. We’d come back home to Dallas, and I just loved the community and love the people here. I always felt like it’s home.

After grad school, I returned home to Dallas and worked for Regina Montoya when she ran for Congress against Pete Sessions. Then went down to Austin and worked for a Dallas legislator, Helen Giddings at the state legislature. After UT Law School, I really wanted to come here and start my family in Dallas.

I love the city and love the community. The more and more you start to invest yourself in a place, the more and more you want to stay invested in that place. There have been times that I’ve gone to D.C. and served the country. I had the opportunity to go and work in the state department, President Obama’s administration, and most recently was working for Hillary Clinton as a senior adviser, helping her on the campaign and then her pre-election transition team.

In all those times in between, I’ll always come back home to Dallas. This is where we started our family. We’ve got a daughter and a son, and we’re instilling in them good Texas values. Love the Texas sports teams, too.

What was it that made you decide that this was the time to run against Pete Sessions? Was running for office something you always intended to do?

I’ve always been committed to public service. I’ve always been interested in politics. In 2004, my wife worked for Lupe Valdez when she became sheriff for Dallas County. I was a lawyer at the time. I’d spend my nights and weekends canvasing. I always had a passion for public service and the importance of politics.

I never thought I would necessarily run. It was after the election, after Nov. 8, when that really was apparent. My daughter looked at me and asked me, “Is Donald Trump going to do all the mean things he said he was going to do?” It was after the inauguration, we started to see. Yeah, he’s going to implement a lot of awful policies with those executive orders the first week.

It really was a moment I realized I wanted to be home. I wanted to be back in Dallas. I wanted to fight for what I believe in. Fight for working people. Fight for treating people with dignity and respect. That’s what I believe in. That’s how I was raised. I love Dallas. There was no better place to be and no better thing to do then to be in the fight and take on Pete Sessions, who was standing up for Donald Trump 100 percent of the time.

It sounds like you feel passionate about taking on Pete Sessions specifically.

With Sessions, there’s a couple of pieces. One is, for me personally, I have a lot of experience in working with foreign policy, working on federal policy issues, on domestic economic and foreign policy issues at the federal level. These are issues I’m passionate about. I’m knowledgeable about it. I’ve experienced it.

It was really the opportunity to come home. Take on Pete Sessions, knowing that we can beat him. He’s been in Congress for 20 years. Again, he is standing up and pushing Trump’s agenda through the House as chairman of the Rules Committee. Everything that ends up on the House floor comes through Pete Sessions and his committee. When Trumpcare landed on the House floor without a CBO [Congressional Budget Office] score, then we saw that 23 million people were going to be kicked off of health insurance.

This is somebody that needs to be removed from Congress. I’m passionate about the issues. Passionate about folks here in Dallas. It makes sense that this was the place where I could have the greatest impact. Really take my public service to the next level.

This is a companion to their Q&A with Colin Allred, who are the two main contenders for the nomination in CD32. Like Allred, Meier is an Obama administration alum who like many other people has felt compelled to take action following the November electoral disaster. I kind of have a hard time imagining there being a similar storm of former Trump staffers running for office after his tenure ends, if only because they have been so lackadaisical about hiring anyone, but I hope we get to find out beginning in 2021.