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November 5th, 2017:

Weekend link dump for November 5

“It is rare for a new animal species to emerge in front of scientists’ eyes. But this seems to be happening in eastern North America”.

What if horror movies actually stop crime, not cause it?

It was the flu pandemic, and it swept the whole world wide/It caught soldiers and civilians, and they died died died.

Superstorm Sandy, five years later.

So why did Paul Manafort go to work for Donald Trump?

Facebook’s bigotry problem goes well before the 2016 election.

“What the U.S. Olympic Committee can — and can’t — do about sexual abuse”.

“The recent torrent of public allegations against celebrities such as Harvey Weinstein, Terry Richardson and James Toback is unprecedented. But the stories have been circulating on the industry grapevine, and on blogs and social media, and among women especially, for years. The headlines are shocking — unless you read Gawker before it was shut down, in which case this may feel like a throwback, to a time when sexual aggressors roamed the land, but had not yet occupied the presidency.”

Buffy the Middle School Vampire Slayer. I may need to pick that up for my girls and see if they like it.

“An estimated 126 million Americans, roughly one-third of the nation’s population, received Russian-backed content on Facebook during the 2016 campaign”.

There’s little evidence to suggest that corporate training about sexual harassment is effective.

“The National Braille Press has been churning out millions of pages of braille books and magazines a year. But as it turns 90 this year, advocates of the tactile writing system are wrestling with how to address record low Braille literacy.”

My high school classmate Jessica Safran is among those quoted in this Chicago Tribune story about dealing with a recurrence of cancer. She died this week, leaving behind a husband and 12-year-old daughter and about a million friends. Rest in peace, Jessica.

RIP, Rick Hader, minor league baseball entertainer known as Myron Noodleman. I saw him perform at a game in Butte, Montana (seriously) in 1996. He was a hoot, and one of the ways in which minor league baseball is awesome.

Yes, there are limits on attorney-client privilege.

Poor, pitiful Papa John’s. Make better pizza, I say. And tell your CEO to quit being an ass.

“Okay, fine, you’re allowed to propose at a stadium if you just won the World Series there”.

“There are many good reasons to criticize Sarah Huckabee Sanders. This isn’t one of them.”

2017 EV daily report: Final numbers and our attempt at projecting turnout

Here are the final numbers. Believe it or not, people did vote on Friday despite the fact that the entire metro area appeared to be at the Astros parade. Here are the daily totals from previous years:

2015

2013

2011

2009

2007

And here’s a select comparison:


Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
=======================================
2017   46,224  12,205   58,429   19,875
2015  164,104  29,859  193,963   43,280
2011   49,669   8,676   58,345   15,264
2007   43,420   6,844   50,264   13,870

So 2017 early voting is almost identical in total to 2011 and ahead of 2007, but the source of the votes are different. 2017 trails 2011 with in person voting but makes up for that in absentee ballots, and holds a sizable lead in absentee ballots over 2007. That’s a clear change in voter behavior, and something to continue to watch as we go forward.

One other difference to point out, which requires another set of numbers. Here are the last day in person totals for the odd year elections going back to 2007:

2017 = 9,092
2015 = 35,493
2013 = 18,893
2011 = 10,559
2009 = 17,072
2007 = 10,473

Even with more people voting early, this year’s last day totals are the weakest we’ve ever seen. I’d attribute some of that to the Astros parade, and some of it to the overall lack of campaign activity compared to previous years. One possible effect of this is that more people will wind up voting on Tuesday than we would have expected. Turnout wasn’t just lower than one might have thought on Friday, after all. The whole week was lighter than it might have been, and to the extent that was a real thing and not just the way this year would have played out anyway I’ll cite the World Series as a reason. Unless the term limits referendum gets thrown out and we get put back on two year terms, we’ll next have a chance to see what a non-Mayoral election year is like in 2021. And who knows, maybe the Astros will be in the World Series again then.

So we turn our attention to final turnout. For once, I’m not going to overthink this. As we’ve already established, city turnout in odd years is roughly 70% of the county; it ranges from about 67% in years where there isn’t something that specifically drives non-city voters to the polls to 73%, and we’re splitting the difference. In odd years past, early voting has been between 40 and 50 percent of final turnout. I continue to believe that early voting will be a higher share of this year’s tally, partly because of trends we’ve seen in other years and partly out of the belief that hardcore voters are more likely to vote early, but I’m not going to put all my eggs in that basket. If we assume the range of outcomes is that early voting will be between 40 and 60 percent of the final total, then when the dust clears we should expect between 54,000 and 81,000 voters. Which, again, corresponds pretty well to my original gut-feel estimates of 50 to 75 thousand. I love it when reality seems to line up with my intuition. All that said, I could be off in any number of directions, and that guesstimated range is wide enough to cover a lot of potential error. Feel free to make your own guesses in the comments.

More on Democratic Congressional candidate fundraising

From the Statesman, with a focus on Austin-area candidates, but also with a more holistic view of what the atmosphere is like.

Joseph Kopser

“Trump’s lower than average net approval ratings for a Republican in Texas, as well as anger and dismay within the activist ranks of the Democratic Party, has resulted in more than 50 Democratic candidates launching bids to flip the state’s 25 Republican held seats in 2018,” said Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor.

“More than a dozen of these candidates are considered to be high-quality candidates, and 12 have already raised more than $100,000 so far this cycle,” said Jones. In the 2016 election cycle only one Texas Democratic congressional challenger, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, raised more than $100,000. (Gallego narrowly lost to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes.)

Joseph Kopser, an Austin tech executive and 20-year Army veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq, reported raising $213,000 during the three months ending Sept. 30 — $14,000 more than incumbent U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, raised during that period.

But Smith, who was first elected to Congress in 1986, has almost $1 million cash on hand while Kopser has a little over $219,000. The 21st District, which includes staunchly liberal pockets west and south of downtown Austin, encompasses conservative Hill Country counties, and was drawn to elect a Republican. Still, Kopser and two other Democratic challengers are counting on Smith’s climate change skepticism as chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to draw Democrats and independents to the polls next year.

“Lamar Smith needs to be paying close attention,” said Calvin Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor. “His district is evolving, and he has some issue positions especially on global warming he’s going to have to defend.”

“There is an energy on the Democratic side that is showing in a larger number of candidates,” said Jillson, who added that Texas being a red state made it “very difficult” to defeat Republican incumbents.

Kopser, at least, is playing to that energy.

“It’s becoming apparent that Smith is so out of touch he doesn’t even realize how fired up his district is today,” said Kopser, who co-founded a clean energy transportation company and is being supported by a pro-science group, 314 Action. Other Democratic candidates challenging Smith: Derrick Crowe, an Austin organizer and former congressional staffer, who raised $25,000, and Elliott McFadden, CEO of the nonprofit Austin B-cycle, who raised $16,000.

[…]

In Round Rock, Mary Jennings Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, reported raising $93,000 July 1-Sept. 30, in her bid to run against U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who raised $113,000 during the same period. Carter, a former state district judge who was first elected to Congress in 2002, has $437,000 in his campaign coffers, compared with just $54,000 for Hegar.

The district, which includes a large part of Fort Hood, skews Republican, but in several Round Rock and Cedar Park precincts, Democrat Hillary Clinton outpolled Trump last November.

“I’m really pleased we out-raised him by about $10,000 in individual contributions,” said Hegar, attributing Carter’s fundraising edge to corporate and PAC contributions. “We have the grass roots on the ground.”

See here for the full roundup of Q3 finance reports. Lamar Smith has since announced his retirement, but the main point still stands. That statistic about Pete Gallego being the only Democratic challenger to raise as much as $100K in the entire 2016 cycle highlights how different this year is. I mean, we’re a year out from the election and already a dozen candidates in the Republican-held districts have reached that mark, with two more having topped $75K. We’ve literally never seen anything like this. I don’t have any broad point to make beyond that – insert the usual caveats about money not being destiny, we’re still a long way out, much of this money will be spent in primaries, etc etc etc – I just want to make sure we’re all aware of that point. It may well be that the end results in 2018 will be like any other year, but we cannot deny that the conditions going into 2018 are not like any other year. It remains very much to be seen what that means.

Save the bats

In case you needed something else to worry about.

Texas researchers have closely watched the state’s bat population for years, looking for signs of a disease that has killed millions of North American bats: the white, powder-like substance on their nose and wings, the erratic hibernation patterns, the piles of dead bats at cave openings.

And every year, those researchers breathed a sigh of relief. Their bats were safe.

That changed last year. Swabs from three different kinds of bats in the Lone Star State’s panhandle came back positive for white nose syndrome, aptly named for the white fungus that grows on the tiny winged creatures.

The discovery of the disease, which has a nearly 100 percent mortality rate, was “devastating,” said Winifred Frick, senior director of conservation science at the Austin-based Bat Conservation International (BCI), at a news conference Tuesday.

But about $600,000 in grants announced Tuesday by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation could help researchers stop the disease’s spread in Texas. That amount is part of $1.36 million being handed out in the U.S. and Canada for six projects. The money comes from public and private entities: the foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Shell Oil Co., and Southern Co., an Atlanta-based gas and electric utility business.

With these funds “we’re hoping to make a stand,” said Paul Phifer, assistant regional director for ecological services at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast region. “They show that the government working with the private sector can really turn research into action … so I’m really hopeful.”

I’m hopeful, too, because Texas is a very bat-ful state, and we need them around. Go visit Bat Conservation International if you want to learn more or get involved.