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April 15th, 2018:

Weekend link dump for April 15

“Facebook’s baseball broadcast was a vision of the hellish future we deserve”.

Diversity in Baseball Begins in Little League.

Wishing all the best in retirement to Phil Coyne after EIGHTY-ONE YEARS of service as an usher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“The federal government under Trump is apparently just a big pot of spoils to be divvied up. Do any Republicans even care about this anymore?”

Hey, you know how your personal information from Facebook gets shared with all kinds of unscrupulous people without your knowledge or consent? Well, don’t make it easier for them.

“POLITICO’s analysis suggests that Trump did, indeed, do worse overall in places where independent media could check his claims.”

A little primer on the perjury trap.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes about Bill Cosby and the good art/bad artist question.

Molly Ringwald takes a long and thoughtful look back on the work of John Hughes.

Congratulations to Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the first sitting US Senator to give birth.

“The image of Michael Cohen as a superlawyer was always laughable, and even the Trump fan club recognized that Cohen was a particular flavor of attorney: The Fixer. His desire to cast himself as a real-life Ray Donovan made him a kind of overwrought, grunting thug character destined for the cutting-room floor in even the most lurid soap-opera script.”

“Once other prosecutors’ offices are involved and have gathered evidence of crimes, though, Trump receives less benefit from firing Mueller, and at an increasing cost. And even if Trump fires Mueller, more prosecutors can carry on the work, with access to some of the same material.”

“Mr. Trump wouldn’t be the first person to stumble into a one-night stand and find he has generated a decades-long relationship. But he may very well be the first president. As matters stand, there is the distinct possibility that the president’s legal clinch with Stormy Daniels will outlast his presidency.”

“The American epidemic of gun violence is both a sin problem and a gun problem; the question is which problem we have the ability to solve. Sin is a power much stronger than us or our individual efforts. Defeating it is an ongoing cosmic project initiated by one greater than us who will complete it, but not on our timetable. Our task is to deal with the other problem: the physical instruments of death that sin has at its disposal. We can’t just keep them away from the bad people, because the bad people might well be us. We have to reduce our firepower.”

Child marriage should be banned. I do not understand anyone who thinks that it’s a good idea for minors to marry adults.

“The National Rifle Association and supporters have fought back against these advisories, sponsoring legislation to stop pediatricians from asking parents about guns in the home — something that really puzzles doctors who routinely ask about other safety issues, such as using car seats and wearing helmets while riding bikes.”

RIP, Mitzi Shore, owner of the iconic Comedy Store.

“But, at this point, with the president* re-enacting the Tell-Tale Heart in public and all over the electric Twitter machine, you have to wonder. Why not give the president* a laurel and hearty handshake and tell him to go slice fairway woods out of bounds for the rest of his life? Thank him for his great service to the ultimate Republican goal of dismantling the Republic for the benefit of their donor class and show him the door. After all, Mike Pence is waiting in the wings.”

Fire Devin Nunes.

“In 1960, we ranked 11th in infant mortality among rich countries. Not great, but not terrible. Today we rank 24th out of 27 rich countries, ahead of only Turkey, Mexico, and Chile. We are behind every single country in Europe by a large margin. This is the price we pay for our horrible health care system.”

“President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer negotiated a deal in late 2017 to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who said she was impregnated by a top Republican fundraiser, according to people familiar with the matter. Michael Cohen, whose office, home and hotel room were raided by federal agents this week, arranged the payments to the woman on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee with ties to Mr. Trump.”

Anti-same sex employee benefits lawsuit moved back to state court

On and on we go.

Nearly three years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the city of Houston continues to battle for the rights of its gay workers.

On Tuesday, a judge struck down Houston’s attempts to defend its city benefits policy in federal court. The case will be remanded back to state court, and the city will have to pay the legal fees of the two men suing to overturn the policy, which extends spousal benefits to same-sex marriages.

The outcome of this case will be limited to the city of Houston. Dallas has a similar policy that has not been challenged.

But the fight is a good example of the war waged to erase, erode or at least stop the expansion of LGBT rights since since the 2015 marriage ruling, Noel Freeman said.

“These are people who are never, ever going to give up. They are going to go to their grave hating us,” Freeman, the first city of Houston employee to receive spousal benefits for his husband, told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday. “And there is no court case … that’s going to change their minds.

“That’s just the way it is.”

[…]

In a last-ditch effort to shift the fight to federal court, Houston asked to move the case to the Southern District Court earlier this year. On Tuesday, Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled the city did not prove federal court was the proper venue and ordered it to pay Pidgeon and Hicks’ legal fees.

The case will be remanded to Harris County District Court. Married gay city employees will continue to receive benefits for their spouses until a final ruling.

See here for previous coverage of this atrocity, which is still a thing because our feckless State Supreme Court allowed itself to be pressured into giving the case a second chance after previously refusing to consider it. Noel Freeman, who’s a friend of mine, is quite right that the people pursuing this action (including Jared Woodfill) will never give up – if this suit is ultimately ruled against them, they’ll find some other pretext to keep LGBT folks from being treated as full and equal members of society. We all need to oppose the politicians who enable these haters, and support those who favor equality. It’s the only way this will get better.

Cruz’s lesser fundraising haul

It’s not that little, Ted. Really.

Not Ted Cruz

When U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke announced his latest fundraising haul earlier this month – a stunning $6.7 million – it was widely expected to surpass what his rival, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, brought in over the same period. Now it’s clear by how much: roughly $3.5 million.

Cruz raised $3.2 million in the first three months of this year, according to his campaign.

O’Rourke, an El Paso Democrat, did not outpace just Cruz – he posted one of the top quarterly federal fundraising hauls ever, outside of presidential campaigns. If not for O’Rourke’s large sum, Cruz’s fundraising would be considered robust for any incumbent seeking re-election.

[…]

Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. But O’Rourke’s campaign has excited Democrats around the country, in part due to his ability to draw large crowds around Texas, including in some conservative strongholds.

Yet the enthusiasm behind O’Rourke’s bid remains perplexing to some national political observers. While repeatedly outraising an incumbent helps a challenger signal that their campaign in viable, most political insiders say privately if not publicly that Cruz remains in a strong position to win re-election.

See here for more on Beto’s haul. I don’t see what’s so perplexing about this. There’s a lot of Democratic energy this year, Texas is a big state, Beto has made a real connection with people, and pretty much everyone loathes Ted Cruz. What’s so mysterious about that?

On a related note:

Texas Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson, targeted by Democrats in his upscale district in west Houston and Harris County, raised $549,078 for his reelection campaign in the first three months of 2018, his campaign reported Wednesday.

Culberson’s take, the largest fundraising quarter of his nine-term career in Congress, edged out the $500,000 haul of his top Democratic challenger, Houston attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher.

Laura Moser, Fletcher’s rival in the May 22 Democratic primary run-off, has yet to report her first-quarter fundraising totals, announcing only that her overall cash total for the election has surpassed $1 million.

Culberson’s latest cash haul brings his total to nearly $1.5 million in the current election cycle, more than the $1.2 million raised as of March 31 by Fletcher.

Culberson also retains a substantial cash advantage going forward, with $920,000 in the bank, compared to $409,000 for Fletcher.

Culberson has never been a big moneybags. He hasn’t had to be one, but then plenty of incumbents who don’t usually have real challenges rake it in. Bearing in mind that the field in CD07 has combined to vastly outraise Culberson, and that at some point the marginal dollars don’t mean much, I wouldn’t worry about who has more in this one. Both candidates will have more than enough to run the race they want to run. I’ll look at all the relevant reports in the next week or so.

There will never be a hurricane named Harvey again

Or Irma or Maria or Nate.

Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate were so destructive and deadly during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season that the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee decided this week to retire those names from future Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone name lists.

Just as no New York Yankee will ever again wear number 3 (Babe Ruth), nor will a Green Bay Packer ever claim 15 (Bart Starr), no future Atlantic hurricane will ever be named Harvey, Irma, Maria or Nate.

Unlike an athlete’s number, however, there is no celebration when an Atlantic name is retired from future use.

Contrary to popular opinion, a committee of the World Meteorological Organization – not the U.S. National Hurricane Center – is responsible for the tropical cyclone name lists.

Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm name lists repeat every six years, unless one is so destructive and/or deadly that the committee votes to retire that name from future lists. This avoids the use of, say, Katrina, Sandy or Maria to describe a future weak, open-ocean tropical storm.

The names Harold, Idalia, Margot and Nigel will replace Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate when the list is reused again in the year 2023.

I think I knew that hurricane names get retired – five names were discontinued after 2005, the year of Katrina, which is the record for one year – but I hadn’t thought about it till I saw this story. It makes sense, for the reason given. Let’s hope that this year no storms give the WMO a reason to take this action.