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October 22nd, 2017:

Weekend link dump for October 22

On “American Pie”, the Book of Revelations, and the perils of deciphering ancient texts.

When graphic designers rise up.

“Of course, you want as many people to watch your show as possible. But some things are more important than bringing in a big audience. I hope that we, as a nation, get back to a time where I can have a normal, well-rounded show, that’s more focused on Beyoncé and Jay-Z than Donald and Ivanka. But for the time being, this is what’s at the forefront of people’s minds.”

Larry Flynt once offered a million dollars to various famous women if they’d pose in his magazine. He’s offering a lot more than that now to anyone with information that could be used to impeach Donald Trump.

The Republican Party’s overlords have spoken.

Record-breaking hurricanes are even hitting Europe now. Nothing to see here, move along.

“I want to walk through the world as a woman without fear. I don’t want to assume that men are so weak, they need to play a weird pretend game just to not abuse me. Y’all are stronger than that.”

What Gregg Popovich says.

What You Should Know About the ‘KRACK’ WiFi Security Weakness.

The Russians used House of Cards to learn about American politics as they aimed to screw with us in 2016.

RIP, Roy Dotrice, actor who recorded the Game of Thrones audiobooks.

“The disparity between these two scenarios suggests something perverse but inescapable about the media’s expectations for politicians’ response to scandals. Public figures who talk about a social problem in the abstract get pressured to repudiate their associates who contribute to it. Public figures who weren’t vocal about the problem to begin with get to stay silent when it’s one of their friends.”

Is there anything the Trump administration won’t blithely and cheerfully lie about? Literally anything?

“An elementary school in Mississippi is changing its name, scrapping former Confederacy President Jefferson Davis and replacing it with former President Barack Obama”.

Good for you, Doris Burke.

30 day campaign finance reports – HCC

One more time with the 30 day reports. July reports are here.

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz
Robert Glaser
Pretta VanDible Stallworth
David Jaroszewski

Dist  Name             Raised    Spent    Loans   On Hand
4     Evans-Shabazz     1,148      527        0     3,079
5     Glaser                0      200    5,000     8,239
9     Stallworth            0      713        0         0
9     Jaroszewski       1,000       84        0         0

Aaaaaaaand that’s it. Again, only people who are running for office must file 30 day reports, so all the incumbents other than Evans-Shabazz and Glaser are off the hook. I don’t know why Manny Barrera, DC Caldwell, Victoria Bryant, and Gene Pack don’t have reports available – perhaps they didn’t file one for whatever the reason, and perhaps they did but the system doesn’t reflect it. These puny numbers are not surprising, as these races seldom draw much in the way of fundraising, but they highlight the main issue with HCC elections in general: Nobody knows anything about the candidates, in part because the candidates don’t have the resources to communicate with the voters. We need to be prepared for the possibility of random results when all is said and done here.

More pre-trial diversion

DA Kim Ogg moves forward on more campaign promises.

Kim Ogg

During a press conference Tuesday, Ogg laid out in broad strokes the policy recommendations written by the committees and emphasized that she is seeking participation from experts and Houston’s leaders.

“We listen to the community,” she said, flanked by about 30 volunteers including former HPD Chief C. O. Bradford and Thurgood Marshall School of Law professor Lydia D. Johnson. “We are evidence-based and data driven, but it is important to know how the community wants tax dollars spent to enhance public safety.”

Ogg released the full reports from committees on officer-involved shootings, evidence integrity, equality, immigration, bail-bond reform, mental health and diversity.

Many of the reforms proposed using technology and data more efficiently to streamline the criminal justice system, such as moving to a paperless district attorney’s office or using evidence-based risk assessments to determine bail amounts.

Tarsha Jackson, the Harris County Director with the Texas Organizing Project, was on the bail bond committee and applauded Ogg for involving people with different backgrounds, some with conflicting interests.

“It was a tug of war,” Jackson said of her committee that included a bail bondsman and a representative of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “We had deep debate on what the district attorney can do in regard to bail reform, about what’s possible. And the final results were some good policies that she can implement.”

You can see the committee reports here. The themes all came from the campaign, and however you feel about the conclusions, I’d hope we can all respect a process that involved a broad spectrum of stakeholders who worked together across a range of perspectives. The Press read through the reports so you don’t have to.

Among the most noteworthy is the passing mention that Ogg’s administration “will work with all of the Harris County Law Enforcement agencies” to implement cite and release “for appropriate misdemeanor crimes,” which was not mentioned during the press conference. This has been a topic of debate for years, if not a full decade, after the Texas Legislature authorized police in 2007 to issue citations for various small-time crimes rather than arresting people and hauling them to jail. It’d be like getting a traffic ticket, then going to court for it later. It applies to crimes such as driving with an invalid license, criminal mischief, graffiti and possession of less than four ounces of pot (Ogg already diverts most pot cases).


Also noteworthy are plans to expand mental health diversion. Staci Biggar, a Houston defense attorney who was on Ogg’s mental health transition team panel, said that the idea was to transition people charged with low-level crimes like trespassing, often related to a person’s mental illness, away from jail and into treatment. Rather than asking for money to fund a program, she said judges can still issue pretrial diversion contracts to mentally ill defendants and individualize the terms based on that person’s needs.

“The idea is placing more people on bond and placing them in facilities, making pretrial conditions be to go see a particular health provider, or maybe they need to stay in a particular living situation,” Biggar said. “They can order somebody to see a doctor and they can order somebody to be treated by one organization. If you take a misdemeanor [defendant] and maybe that’s the first or second time they’re arrested, yes, you’ve been arrested, but we’ll drop the charges if you go and do these various things. It shouldn’t be that we wait until you’re really, really in trouble before there’s a stronger intervention for mental health.”

Other noteworthy nuggets from the eight transition team reports include the end to hiking bail to sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for suspected undocumented immigrants; vetting expert witnesses in capital murder cases more extensively and never “expert shopping”; and releasing to the public body-cam footage of officer-involved shootings as long as it does not impede an ongoing investigation — among various recommendations from the officer-involved shooting panel headed by former Houston police chief C.O. Bradford.

As Ogg says, you can judge her by her results in 2020. I think she’s off to a great start.

Endorsement watch: More state propositions

The rest of the constitutional amendments, from the Chron.

State of Texas, Proposition 4: For

Everyone deserves to know if they’re being sued – even the state of Texas. The Legislature passed a bill in 2011 that would have required courts to provide notice to the attorney general if the constitutionality of a state statute was being challenged, and requiring a short waiting period before striking down a law.


State of Texas, Proposition 5: For

Fans of the Rockets, Astros or Texans are probably familiar with the charity raffles that have become a staple of gametime entertainment. Right now the state Constitution restricts these sorts of lotteries, which have routinely raised thousands for worthy causes, to the state’s 10 major league sports franchises. Voters should approve this amendment to expand the opportunities for charity to all the minor and major league teams in Texas.


State of Texas, Proposition 6: For

First responders put themselves at risk to keep the rest of us safe from criminals, fires and everything else that goes bump in the night. When one of Texas’ finest falls in the line of duty, we all have a responsibility to keep his or her family safe in return. This means guaranteeing that surviving spouses don’t have to worry about rising property taxes after losing not just a loved one, but also a breadwinner.


State of Texas, Proposition 7: For

Banks used to hand out toasters to lure first-time depositors. Maybe it’s time to bring that back. More than one-third of the state doesn’t have a simple savings account. About half lack an emergency fund that could last three months.

At this point, we’ll support almost anything that encourages people to open up a basic account and take the first steps to financial responsibility. That includes allowing credit unions and other financial institutions to entice savers with promotional raffles or lotteries.

See here for the first three. I’ve seen some differing opinions on these items, but for the most part I don’t think any of them amounts to much. Take whatever action you deem appropriate.