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July 15th, 2018:

Weekend link dump for July 15

There Won’t Be a Single Moment When We “Discover” Alien Life.

“Serena Williams’ French Open ordeal proves maternity rights in pro sports have a long way to go”.

“For many, the conversation of black baseball and civil rights begins and ends with integration. The hardships endured by Jackie Robinson as he broke the color barrier, along with the slow march to integrate other greats of the Negro Leagues, occupies much of the popular imagination. But the story is much much older than that. African-Americans were playing baseball at least 100 years before Jackie donned Dodger blue. Baseball, which played a vital role in northern Black communities before the Civil War, and was an important part of camp life during the war, was tied to African-American agitation for civil and political rights following the war.”

“The media has treated the notion that Russia has personally compromised the president of the United States as something close to a kook theory. A minority of analysts, mostly but not exclusively on the right, have promoted aggressively exculpatory interpretations of the known facts, in which every suspicious piece of evidence turns out to have a surprisingly innocent explanation. And it is possible, though unlikely, that every trail between Trump Tower and the Kremlin extends no farther than its point of current visibility. What is missing from our imagination is the unlikely but possible outcome on the other end: that this is all much worse than we suspect.”

Twitter is finally getting serious about purging fake accounts, and is now providing a warning about accounts that may be fake.

Keep Scott Pruitt Moist: The Dramatic Reading. Well worth the five minutes to listen to it.

The professional soccer troll is dying off.

How Is NATO Funded? And other questions Donald Trump can’t answer.

Hey, you want tightly controlled borders, you live with the consequences.

Brett Kavanaugh was basically created in a lab for Donald Trump.

“This combination of facts—a president who is under scrutiny choosing a Supreme Court nominee who he certainly knows is disinclined toward holding presidents to account—is not merely unsettling. Without an absolute and unequivocal commitment to recuse from any deliberations involving Trump’s alleged wrongdoing, which no one expects Kavanaugh to make, this nomination cannot possibly be seen by Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, as a credible choice to serve on the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination must be understood as the product of a corrupt process that is, by its nature, disqualifying.”

“The issues you talk about are the issues I care about as well. The problem is in a primary – and you and I are just talking off the record frank – they don’t give a (expletive) about those things. OK. In the general election, they care about it. OK. But they don’t care about it in a primary. This primary felt like it was who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck, and who could be the craziest.”

Good for you, Maude Gorman.

Some potential Game of Thrones prequel news, if you’re into that sort of thing.

“[The Bachelorettes’s] recent controversies illustrate the challenges of contestant vetting in 2018. Is there a way to fix the system—or has reality finally invaded reality TV?”

IHOB, we hardly knew ye.

RIP, Tab Hunter, 1950s movie idol.

“Just to make sure you get that: Republican tax cuts since 2000 are responsible for nearly the entire federal deficit. Repeal them all and the budget would be almost balanced.”

“In a way, this is something of a bookend to that other play involving the Astros. The universe owed them something to make up for the abject humiliation of the last time, and we’re required to study it in the same way.”

Rick Astley loved that Westworld season 2 rickroll, in case you were wondering.

Cut your taxes, buy yourself a yacht with the savings.

“What we know is that a team doctor likely sexually abused hundreds of student athletes over a period of decades, that many people knew about it, and that he was never stopped. We know that one of the men who is accused of knowing about this abuse is one of the most powerful men in America. And we now know that, at the end of the day, said power is more important to him and to those in his party than the suffering of the victims.”

“And so here, for your perusal, is a full list of all the people who have admitted to being tricked by Sacha Baron Cohen so far—organized from best to worst sport.”

Kulkarni reports $234K raised in Q2

From the Inbox:

Sri Kulkarni

Democratic nominee for U.S. Congress, Sri Preston Kulkarni, raised over $400,000 in receipts to date for his campaign to unseat incumbent Pete Olson (R-TX). This is the largest total ever for a Democratic candidate for the current district, with a total of $234,244 raised for the quarter from April 1 to June 30. Kulkarni has already outraised every democratic challenger for the past 8 years combined in District 22. Kulkarni’s campaign continues to push a positive and family values-based message, focused on ensuring children are healthy, educated, and safe, and investing in an economy for the future, not the past. By bringing together a strong coalition of various ethnicities and faiths in the second most diverse district in America, Kulkarni has offered a bold new vision of shared values and shared prosperity.

“This campaign has always been about the people of District 22. Because of our nearly 3,000 grassroots donors, we have increased Democratic fundraising from the previous election cycle by ten times. And we have done this all while rejecting corporate PAC money, unlike our opponent Pete Olson,” said Kulkarni. “This election is going to be won with hard work and sustained voter outreach. Our campaign has made over 120,000 direct voter contacts through multilingual digital engagement, phone calls, and blockwalking our neighborhoods with over 700 volunteers.”

The campaign is committed to a proven strategy of pulling in new voters from the immigrant community, engaging enthusiastic millennials, and offering an optimistic message that constituents across the political spectrum appreciate. By continuing to mobilize voters from every background, race, age, faith, and culture, the campaign will bring together this diverse district in November for a win.

Kulkarni had raised about $233K as of May 2, and $178K as of March 31, so as was the case with some other candidates, he really ramped things up in the last month of the quarter. If seeing the totals he announced make you think something like “oh, that’s not that much”, I will remind you that exactly one Democratic Congressional challenger raised as much as $100K for the entire 2016 election cycle, and he was a former incumbent. In this year, Kulkarni’s totals, overall and for Q2, will likely put him somewhere between seventh and tenth place; he trails the four (so far) million-dollar candidates as well as the not-yet-announced Joseph Kopser and Todd Litton, and his final ranking will depend on how the likes of Jana Sanchez, Dayna Steele, and Lorie Burch did. If you’re not amazed by this, you are not seeing the bigger picture.

UPDATE: Via Twitter, Trib reporter Abby Livingston says that Todd Litton “raised nearly $300,000 in Q2 and over $400K in COH”. I don’t have a press release and I didn’t see anything on Litton’s Twitter feed, but this would put him at close to $850K raised for the cycle. Not in the million dollar club yet, but getting there.

Checking in on Pasadena

How’s it going over there?

A year into his four-year term, [Pasadena Mayor Jeff] Wagner says he is focused on unifying a city whose ethnic and socioeconomic inequities were displayed before a national audience during the 2016 trial over a redistricting lawsuit. Current and former city officials say Wagner’s more conciliatory style serves him well in achieving this goal, but they differ on how much progress he’s made.

Pasadena, like Houston, has a strong-mayor system of government. Isbell, who led the city off-and-on from 1981 to 2017, came to symbolize its reputation for intolerance and inequity as witnesses in the redistricting trial testified that the city had systematically neglected the needs of its mostly Latino northside neighborhoods.

In January 2017, Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal found that a revised council district system, initiated by Isbell, intentionally diluted the influence of Latino voters. The city, under Isbell, promptly appealed.

Last September, in what was arguably the most consequential decision of his first year in office, Wagner dropped the appeal. The city agreed to continue electing all eight council members from districts, and to pay a $1 million settlement to the Latino plaintiffs.

Isbell, who left office because of term limits, criticized Wagner’s decision, saying he believed the city would have prevailed on appeal. In an interview last week, however, Wagner said ending the case was an essential step in bringing the city together.

“I didn’t feel that we (the city) had done anything wrong,” said Wagner, 54, a retired Houston police officer. “But I felt we had to get out of it as quickly as we did.”

[…]

Former Councilwoman Pat Van Houte, who continues to keep a close eye on city affairs, offered a mixed assessment of Wagner’s first year leading the city.

“This mayor started with certain promises and he has fulfilled some,” she said, among those dropping the redistricting lawsuit. “He has shown some leadership skills.”

Van Houte said she had been disappointed, however, with some of the administration’s priorities, including the golf course improvements rejected by the council last week.

“The city has been spending quite a bit of money on buildings, and not much in neighborhoods getting the streets and sidewalks done,” she said.

Cody Ray Wheeler, one of three Latinos now on the City Council, was one of Isbell’s harshest critics. On the day of Wagner’s inauguration, Wheeler expressed optimism that Wagner would be more attentive to the needs of northside residents.

It hasn’t worked out that way, Wheeler said last week.

“I went in optimistic, but it feels after a year that it’s the same old thing with a new, smiling face in front of it,” Wheeler said.

As an example of continued inequities, Wheeler offered data about the city’s neighborhood network program, which provides grants to community organizations for neighborhood improvements. During the trial of the redistricting case, witnesses testified that Isbell’s administration had used the program as a political tool, steering grants to groups that were then encouraged to help get out votes for initiatives the mayor favored.

Wheeler did not allege that the practice has continued under Wagner. He said, however, that wealthy, mostly Anglo neighborhoods south of Spencer Highway had received more than $65,000 in grants, while areas north of Spencer had received about $3,000.

“This is a huge disparity in the way the city is handing out grant funds,” Wheeler said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Settling that redistricting lawsuit was a big deal, and Mayor Wagner deserves credit for that. Sounds like there’s still a lot of room for things to get better. Fulfilling the promise made about bringing transit to Pasadena would be a big step in that direction, but it’s not the only one that could be taken. Maybe Mayor Wagner will make some progress on that on his own, and maybe he’ll need a push from the voters next May.

Uber scooters

Somehow, you knew something like this was going to happen.

Uber is getting into the scooter-rental business.

The ride-hailing company said Monday that it is investing in Lime, a startup based in San Mateo, California.

“Our investment and partnership in Lime is another step towards our vision of becoming a one-stop shop for all your transportation needs,” Rachel Holt, an Uber vice president, said in a statement.

Uber will add Lime motorized scooters to the Uber mobile app, giving consumers another option for getting around cities, especially to and from public transit systems, Holt said.

[…]

Rival Lyft is looking for new rides too. Last week, it bought part of a company called Motivate that operates Citi Bike and other bike-sharing programs in several major U.S. cities including New York and Chicago. It will rename the business Lyft Bikes.

It makes sense, I guess. They’re both app-based transportation services, and they both have a, shall we say, laissez-faire attitude towards local regulation. San Antonio is trying to make things work for the scooter invasion there, and when I saw that story my first thought was “eh, it’s just a matter of time before the scooter venture funders start lobbying the Lege for their own rideshare-like legislation”. I was kind of joking when I thought it, but now it doesn’t seem so crazy. Anyway, look for this on your Uber app soon.