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December 3rd, 2017:

Weekend link dump for December 3

Is this the end of the line for Microsoft Excel?

“It should not be possible for anyone observing James Dobson in 2017 to be disappointed, because it should not be possible, in 2017, to have still retained any illusions about Dobson’s morality or honesty.”

Kids these days, and the Availability Heuristic.

Lots of things the NY Times could have done to avoid writing a puff-piece profile of a fucking Nazi.

“Michigan State must be held accountable for enabling Larry Nassar’s abuse”.

Cut the technobabble in TV scripts, save valuable time.

“If you’ve cooked out of a book, magazine, or newspaper in the past three decades or so, chances are pretty good that many of the recipes you’ve used have called for kosher salt. It’s been an American standard for a good while. The trouble is that the two major kosher salt brands—Diamond Crystal and Morton—perform in wildly different ways.”

“A woman who falsely claimed to The Washington Post that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.” Of course lying liar James O’Keefe was behind this.

“But who hired O’Keefe to make this specific video? One where, once again: O’Keefe hired a woman to lie about sexual assault in order to protect a sexual predator by discrediting women who had actually been assaulted.”

Meet Flash Drives for Freedom, one of the leading forms of resistance against North Korea and Kim Jong Un.

A documentary about Mister Rogers is set to come out next year.

“YouTube’s Creepy Kid Problem Was Worse Than We Thought”.

“@JamesOKeefeIII thought he was going to WIN a political argument with CNN by abducting one of their reporters, trapping her in a sex dungeon & videotaping her crying for fear she’d be raped. Now, he’s busted trying to fake cover for a child molester. Is America great again yet?”

How to write about Nazis without making them sound sympathetic.

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but don’t eat raw cookie dough.

“But I think we should recognize this basic point: news coverage can’t force people to care about something they don’t care about.”

Like many other men who have been accused of sexual harassment, Matt Lauer had a history that was there to be seen.

“Donor dissatisfaction has translated into meager Republican fundraising hauls.”

RIP, Jim Nabors, singer, actor best known for playing Gomer Pyle, and honorary Marine.

“But if you want to see a bill rammed through, right now Republicans are showing us how it’s done.”

A profile of Zainab Ahmad, one of the two prosecutors who procured today’s guilty plea from Michael Flynn, and who used to hunt terrorists in Brooklyn federal court.

Just a reminder, CHIP is still running out

In case you were wondering.

Nearly 400,000 Texas children could lose healthcare coverage in late January unless Congress renews funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a decades-old federal program that provides health care to millions of children across the country.

Texas officials have asked the federal government for $90 million to keep CHIP alive through February, but without that funding, letters could go out later this month from state officials alerting parents that their children’s benefits could be at risk.

Congress allowed the program to expire on Sept. 30, leaving Texas and other states with dwindling coffers. CHIP typically receives bipartisan support, but lawmakers have failed to agree in recent months on how to fund it.

“We’re closely monitoring congressional efforts to reauthorize the program and are hopeful that it will be extended prior to the exhaustion of our current allotment,” said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman with the Texas of State Health Services. “Based on our conversations with [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] … we are confident that a redistribution of funds will happen.”


If the state doesn’t get additional funding soon, it will have to begin shutting down the program, officials said. State law requires termination notices go out to parents a month before they lose coverage; those letters would likely go out days before Christmas.

Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston, said many children on CHIP have chronic diseases and rely on regular, monthly appointments.

“That’ll put a lot of stress on families who don’t know if they are going to be able to continue to get that kind of care,” she said.

Unlike other states, Texas doesn’t currently have any plans to fund the program. If the state runs out of money, it will send all CHIP recipients to the federal government’s health care marketplace.

See here and here for the background. This is 100% the fault of Congressional Republicans, who let this lapse during their months-long obsession with Obamacare repeal. They’re not paying attention to it now because of the need to cut taxes for millionaires. Better grow up to be rich, kids. It’s your only hope.

Appeals court upholds Reynolds barratry conviction

Not good.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

A Texas appeals court has upheld the conviction of state Rep. Ron Reynolds, who was found guilty in 2015 of engaging in a scheme to illegally solicit potential clients for his law firm.

The three-judge appellate panel ruled Wednesday that there was sufficient evidence to convict Reynolds and that the trial judge did not violate any rules relating to the introduction of evidence.


In a phone interview Thursday, Reynolds said he plans to continue appealing his conviction and remain free on a $25,000 bond. He said he couldn’t respond to the appellate judges’ ruling because he hadn’t read their opinion.

“It would be premature of me,” Reynolds said. “Once (my lawyer) gets everything filed and once everything is adjudicated, I feel very confident I’ll be vindicated and cleared on appeal.”

In his appeal, Reynolds argued that he believed Valdez did not initiate contact with the potential clients for legal representation. Reynolds said he thought Valdez referred clients who had initially sought out Valdez for treatment at his medical clinics.

The judges found enough evidence to uphold the conviction, noting that Reynolds paid Valdez in cash, did not document the payments and used code words in text messages to cover potentially nefarious motives, among other tactics.

“The evidence here supports a rational construct that (Reynolds) was aware of Valdez’s scheme and knowingly permitted his conduct,” Eighth Court of Appeals Chief Justice Ann Crawford McClure wrote.

Rep. Reynolds was convicted of misdemeanor barratry in November of 2015, and received the maximum sentence of a year in jail a couple of days later. He has alleged that racial bias was a factor in his prosecution and conviction. His law license is on suspension while his case is being litigated. You know how I feel about this – I wish Rep. Reynolds would step down so he can better take care of his own business. I have no idea what his plan is for dealing with his legal issues at this time, but he’s once again running for election, and once again he has a primary opponent. One way or another, at some point this saga will come to an end.

Golf courses against flooding

The Washington Post looks at how Clear Lake made it through Harvey.

Like many parts of Houston, Clear Lake City has a history of flooding. The area got an unexpected break when Hurricane Harvey dumped record rainfall, thanks to its decision years ago to sacrifice one of its golf courses to flood control.

After 12 years of planning, crews in November completed the first of five construction phases of Exploration Green. Three months ago Harvey gave the budding project its first trial, and planners say it saved 150 homes from inundation.

“It held the water like a champ,” said Doug Peterson, a retired NASA employee and 30-year Clear Lake City resident who helps lead the community effort to turn the 178-acre former golf course into a combination wetland park and floodwater reservoir. “This project is a model for other areas where we’ve had these massive rains.”

When Exploration Green is completed in 2021, it will drain up to half a billion gallons of storm water and protect up to 3,000 homes, officials say.

While Houston struggles to develop a more robust regional drainage system, Exploration Green shows how a local community can claim land for local flood control. Planners have turned from the concrete basins of the past and look instead to existing green space to drain floods.

“Its being a golf course made construction really easy,” said Kelly Shipley, project manager for Exploration Green and an engineer with LAN, Inc. “You can just dig a hole, essentially.”

The greater Houston area has its share of golf courses as well, and this idea has been suggested as one tool in the box of flood mitigation. I’m not sure who gets to decide which golf courses would be better used as detention ponds, but to the extent that it makes sense to do, I’m fine with it.