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August 26th, 2018:

Weekend link dump for August 26

RIP, Sen. John McCain, war hero and Senator.

I endorse all of these Star Trek show ideas, especially the “new continuation” one.

“The history of sports is littered with hardass coaches who blur the line between intense discipline and bullying, and become folk heroes when success follows. Winning, even at the amateur level, is frequently everything, and too frequently the pursuit of victory inspires people to either cover up evil or excuse it altogether.”

RIP, Marvin Taylor, longtime champion of Houston’s parks.

College football needs to update its safety protocols to avoid more heat stroke deaths.

An Open Letter to Ivanka Trump About That “Complicit” Saturday Night Live Sketch She Apparently Hates So Much

“If the future is female and pluralist, it’s also true that Mueller and other men like him are enjoying a heyday. They’ve been crucial to the effort to bring Trump to justice and check his despotic, anti-American instincts, undemocratic. I offer one cheer, then — aw, let’s give them three — for white male traditionalists.”

“For his whole career, [Brett] Kavanaugh has believed in maximal presidential power. Unless it’s a Democrat, unless it’s a president he opposes.”

“I want to walk away from this whole experience having learned some lesson, but only one comes immediately to mind: Not enough people know about colloidal silver and the blue-skinned libertarians who drank it.”

“It was appalling enough to see Trump get elected despite all the credible allegations of assault (and worse) leveled against him, but to see those values begin to translate into actual policy is a challenge to the very idea of the modern woman.”

Roy Orbison’s hologram singing for the lonely/Hey, that’s me, and I want you only…

Important goat news.

“Whether Trump departs by way of impeachment (don’t bet on it), after an electoral loss in November 2020, or on January 20, 2025, after finishing out two full terms, our political reality is unlikely to return to anything like what it was before he rose to office in the first place.”

The coal industry is smaller than the marijuana industry—which is at least growing and basically harmless.”

“But just because the accusations are a few years old and the dust has settled, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to how and when accused predators enter back into the public sphere.”

By the way, Summer Zervos is still out there causing trouble.

“Federal data show that nearly 90 percent of federal criminal defendants end up making plea deals with prosecutors.”

RIP, RPI. Long live NET.

RIP, Trent Seibert, local independent journalist. I met him a few times and he was always a pleasure to talk to. Didn’t always agree with his take on things, but I respected his work, and he respected mine. Condolences to his family and friends.

RIP, Robin Leach, best known for hosting Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

“As I noted two years ago, anyone who had spent time reviewing President Trump’s business history had to know that it wouldn’t survive first contact with real legal scrutiny. Not the past or the present. What stands out to me about the various criminal actions within the Trump orbit is not so much the crimes as their very casualness.”

Call me crazy, but if you’re defending someone by comparing them to Al Capone, you’re doing it wrong.

“Remember All Those Other Times The National Enquirer Squashed Scandals For Powerful People?”

Flood bond referendum passes easily

It was in the 85-15 range as of the 8:30 update from the County Clerk. Only a handful of precincts had reported as of that time, and I’m not going to stay up late waiting for more comprehensive numbers – I’ll post an update in the morning. There were about 95K early votes, and Stan Stanart was estimating another 60K on Saturday. The Yes vote had 70K more votes by this time, so it’s almost literally impossible for it not to pass if Stanart’s count of the Saturday tally is accurate. Not that this would have been likely in any event. The bond passed by a wide margin, so we go from here.

UPDATE: Final result, 129,944 in favor, 21,790 opposed, which is 85.64% in favor. Total turnout 152,305, for 6.66%, of which 57,365 were on Saturday. Some day I’d like to meet one of the 569 people who showed up at a polling place for this one election, and then did not pick one of the options available to them.

Appeals court allows city to post video of pay parity hearing

Probably doesn’t matter much at this point, but there it is.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

A Texas appeals court on Thursday ordered a state district judge to rescind his temporary restraining order requiring the city of Houston to remove video from its website that depicted a public city council committee hearing over a proposal to grant firefighters “pay parity” with police.

District Judge Kyle Carter should not have blocked the city from posting the video of the committee hearing because it is not clear the meeting constituted illegal electioneering, as the Houston firefighters union had alleged, the 14th Court of Appeals justices ruled.

That restraining order had expired last week anyway, said Cris Feldman, an attorney for the firefighters union, adding that the decision does not preclude a court from coming to the same conclusion that Carter did after further hearings in the case.

[…]

The section of state law banning local governments from using public funds to advocate for or against ballot measures was not intended to restrain public discussion of such issues, the justices wrote Thursday.

“It was not unreasonable or unexpected that statements tending to indicate support for, or opposition to, the charter amendment might be voiced at the meeting,” the nine-page opinion states. “Public funds were not being used for political advertising by making the meeting video publicly available, even though an incidental effect of posting the video on the city’s website may be to re-publish statements supporting or opposing the charter amendment.”

See here for the background, here for the Mayor’s statement, and here for a copy of the opinion. As noted, the TRO had expired on August 14, and the Chron posted their own copy of the video shortly after Judge Carter handed down his opinion, so this is all mostly academic. It may mean something after the election when the lawsuits over the wording of the referendum gets filed, but until then it’s mostly a warm-up exercise.

On giving to “longshot” candidates

I have three things to say about this.

Sri Kulkarni

Thara Narasimhan, who hosts an Hindu radio program in Houston, has already given $1,200 to a Democrat running against Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, who once drove around his solidly conservative Texas district with a “NEVER HILLARY” bumper sticker on his pickup. Her plans to donate even more bewilder friends.

“It’s not the question of why I have to support a failing candidate,” said Narasimhan, mingling at a fundraiser for Democrat Sri Kulkarni on a sweltering Texas summer night. “Unless you put some faith in it, you’re not going to make it work.”

The November midterms are on pace to shatter records for political spending. While more than $1 billion raised so far nationally is helping finance battlegrounds that are poised to decide control of Congress, restless donors aren’t stopping there — they’re also putting cash into races and places they never have before to help underdog Democrats.

[…]

At a crowded house party in suburban Austin for Democrat MJ Hegar, Jana Reeves found a seat on a kitchen bench that was a long way from her own Hill Country home that isn’t even in Hegar’s congressional district. Hegar has raised more $1.7 million in large part due to a polished six-minute campaign ad called “Doors” that got attention online and enticed donors like Reeves to give her a hand.

“Even though it’s hopeless? You know why?” Reeves said of the giving to Hegar and other Democratic challengers. “Even though maybe my paltry money can’t do much, I still want to support these people in the deep red districts, because the Democrats (at party headquarters) aren’t going to do it.”

[…]

Near Fort Worth, Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez has raked in more than $358,000 and has campaigned through summer with more money than her heavily favored Republican opponent, Ronald Wright. They’re both running to replace GOP Rep. Joe Barton, who represented the district for more than 30 years but abandoned plans for re-election after a nude photo of him circulated online.

Sanchez bemoaned the “fish fries and pancake breakfasts” that candidates used in the past to raise money and spends six hours a day on the phone, competing with a half-dozen campaigns that she said are “sucking up most of the money” from big donors. On her list of ways to spend that money: hiring a campaign manager who has previous flipped a Republican district.

“People who say, ‘Money doesn’t vote,’ have never run a campaign,” Sanchez said.

1. In a wave environment like we have this year, “longshot” candidacies serve two important purposes. One is that a couple of these longshots are likely to win, thanks to a combination of the overall climate, changing demographics in the district in question, candidate quality, local issues, and more. The larger the group of viable candidates, the bigger the wave has the potential to be. Two, it forces the party that’s on the defensive to spend money where it doesn’t want to and didn’t expect to, and ultimately to strategic about where it deploys its resources. If you can’t afford to protect everyone, you have to make decisions about who gets defended and who gets left to fend for themselves.

(By the way, since this story was written Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball upgraded CD22 from Safe Republican to Likely Republican. Still a long shot, and dependent to a decent degree on the national environment, but well within the realm of the possible.)

2. Supporting these lower-tier candidates is also an exercise in party-building, which we have discussed here before and which is greatly needed on the Democratic side in Texas. Infrastructure built to help these candidates can and will be re-used in future elections. Many more people will now have the experience of working on a serious campaign. The candidates themselves may run for other offices if they don’t win the ones they’re in now. I’ve said before, I expect at least one unsuccessful Congressional candidate here in Houston to run for something in 2019. All these first-time candidates this year have been a huge breath of fresh air and new energy, but there’s real value in candidates who have done this before.

3. It’s a missed opportunity to write a story like this and not mention the fundraising prowess of Dayna Steele in CD36, who has raised more money than either Kulkarni or Sanchez, in a district that is considerably more hostile. Her career as a radio DJ gives her an advantage that most other candidates don’t have, but her success at raking in donations, especially in a 70%+ Trump district, is just mind-blowing. Honestly, if some reporter doesn’t do a full feature on her candidacy and its fundraising success, it will be a tragic oversight.