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January 27th, 2019:

Weekend link dump for January 27

“One month after controversial adult-content purge, far-right pages are thriving on Tumblr”.

Now that’s what I call a great white shark.

A brief but informative lesson on modern baseball economics.

“It’s crucial to remember that vaccine hesitancy is a complex, multi-tiered issue affecting the entire planet, and it shouldn’t be defined solely by the well-known maniacs of the anti-vax movement that provide so much fodder for disdain and dismissal.”

“Why do people on TV use blatantly fictitious and janky-looking search engines when Google exists?”

“For each 10 percentage-point increase in household gun ownership, the youth suicide rate increased by 26.9 percent”.

Rudy Giuliani, explained. The scary thing is, that makes sense.

“Here’s what to expect in cybersecurity in 2019″.

AeroMexico knows how to troll.

“To be completely transparent, my opinion is that what happened on the National Mall this weekend, under Abraham Lincoln’s granite stare-down, would never have happened if those privileged, MAGA-hat-wearing white dudes had been properly raised by the responsible adults in their lives. If they had parents, teachers, or community leaders capable of imparting both the necessity and the wisdom of respecting people who hold differing opinions from their own, this all could have been avoided. Clearly, that was the original failure.”

Birtherism never dies, it just changes targets.

“Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg will have a cameo role in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, and Her Honor will get her very own Lego figure to boot.”

“The ongoing partial U.S. federal government shutdown is having a tangible, negative impact on cybercrime investigations, according to interviews with federal law enforcement investigators and a report issued this week by a group representing the interests of FBI agents.”

“From the NFL to rec leagues, football is facing a stark, new threat: an evaporating insurance market that is fundamentally altering the economics of the sport, squeezing and even killing off programs faced with higher costs and a scarcity of available coverage”.

Nothing has made me identify more strong strongly with Generation X than this.

Let me call you Sweetheart, but not till next year.

RIP, Russell Baker, Pulitzer-winning humor columnist for the NYT.

It’s about time someone was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame.

“The Trump campaign conspired, colluded, and coordinated with WikiLeaks to disseminate stolen, private communications of U.S. citizens and the Democratic Party in order to seek an advantage in a political campaign. We no longer need to have any debate about that question.”

Patton Oswalt is a mensch.

RIP, James Frawley, Emmy-winning director of The Monkees TV show and the original The Muppet Movie.

“Nothing is going to happen. This is surrender. I don’t see how it becomes anything. It’s just complete, total surrender.”

The president delivered nothing for his base and created financial instability for millions of others, uniting Democrats around House Speaker Pelosi, who emerged as his foil during the stretch.”

“The identity of whoever was allegedly directing Bannon and Stone to seek other damaging information about Clinton isn’t disclosed in the indictment. It was likely someone in the very upper reaches of the campaign – possibly a member of the Trump family or Trump himself. Regardless, the indictment’s 24 pages offer one of law enforcement’s most thorough descriptions to date of how intimately Trump’s closest advisors worked with WikiLeaks and Russian-sponsored hackers during the 2016 campaign. The indictment also draws a very full portrait – via testimony, public statements, email and other evidence – of just how readily and actively the Trump campaign colluded with foreign interests in its bid for the presidency.”

Early voting ends in HD145

Turnout ticked up considerably on Friday, which is an alternate headline for the one given to the Chron story.

Early voting to fill state Sen. Carol Alvarado’s former seat in the Texas House ended Friday with just 1,528 ballots recorded, setting up what could be one of Texas’ lowest-attended special elections of the last few decades.

Registered voters in House District 145 now have one more chance to weigh in on their next representative in the Legislature’s lower chamber: Election Day is Tuesday, with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The early voting tally is about 2 percent of the registered voters in the district, which runs from the Heights through downtown, along Interstate 45, to parts of Pasadena and South Houston.

[…]

The lowest turnout in a Texas legislative special election since at least 1992 occurred in May 2016, when state Rep. Jarvis Johnson won the House seat vacated by Mayor Sylvester Turner, according to Texas Election Source publisher Jeff Blaylock. That election drew 1,841 voters.

See here for my previous update on HD145, as well as my explanation for why voting has been so slow. The comparison to the 2016 special election for HD139 isn’t really a good one, because that election was completely without consequence. It was for the last few months of now-Mayor Sylvester Turner’s unexpired term, during which the Lege was not in session and was not about to do anything. The real election in HD139 was the Democratic primary, which had already been won by Rep. Johnson. All the special did was give him a leg up in seniority over his fellow members of the legislative class of 2016. There was no campaign for this, and he had one token opponent.

A better comparison would be to the March 31, 2015 special election in HD124. Like this one, that was to fill a legislative vacancy following a special election to fill a vacancy in the State Senate. Those voters had an even better claim to fatigue, as the SD26 special election had gone to a runoff, so this was their third post-November campaign. A mere 1,961 people voted in that election, which was 2.25% turnout of the 88,006 registered voters.

The 1,528 voters so far in HD145 represent 2.15% turnout of the 71,229 registered voters (that figure is as of last November). HD145 will easily surpass HD124 in turnout as a percentage of registered voters, as it has already surpassed it in total voters. As I suggested in my earlier post, the turnout in the SD06 special election was 4.69%, and 4.69% turnout in HD145 would be 3,340 voters. We’re a bit short of halfway there now, but it’s certainly doable on Tuesday.

Oh, and I mentioned that the 2015 HD124 election also had a runoff. Turnout in the HD124 runoff was 2,439 voters, or 2.77% of registrations, in an election that was exactly three weeks later. We saw the same pattern in the runoff for SD06 in 2013 and the runoff for City Council District H in 2009, both of which had higher turnout than the original elections. The runoff in HD145, I boldly predict right now, will have higher turnout than this election has.

How much more danger is HISD in of being taken over?

Hard to say for sure, but they’re not in a good place right now.

The threat of state takeover has loomed over Houston ISD for months, largely due to chronically low-rated schools and mounting frustration with its much-criticized school board.

Now, another factor could give state leaders more reason to pull the trigger: a new investigation into potential violations of open meetings laws by five trustees last year.

It’s far too soon to tell whether state investigators will dig up any dirt on the five board members, but the fallout from the disclosure of the investigation is leading to speculation about what sanctions could befall the state’s largest school district.

The worst-case scenario for those who want HISD to remain under local control: investigators find extensive wrongdoing that provides cover for Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration to wrest jurisdiction over the board.

“I’m inclined to think this gives them the opportunity to really seize the public discourse,” said Jasmine Jenkins, executive director of Houstonians for Great Public School, a nonprofit that monitors HISD’s governance practices. “Part of the problem about the governor taking over is that it’s politically unpopular. It’s easier to do that if you remind the public how dysfunctional the board is.”

[…]

A special accreditation investigation allows Texas Education Agency staff members to obtain documents and interview witnesses to determine whether school officials violated laws or threatened a district’s welfare. If investigators find one-time or minor missteps by HISD trustees, TEA officials could mandate relatively light sanctions, such as additional training on open records laws.

However, more egregious or systemic wrongdoing could allow TEA to lower the district’s accreditation, opening the district to a wide array of escalating sanctions. Given that HISD already is monitored by a state-appointed conservator — one of the most severe interventions at the TEA’s disposal — some district onlookers fear a state takeover of the district’s board could be next.

Trustee Jolanda Jones, who has called for state and criminal investigations into her five fellow board members, said she believes the inquiry “very well could be the cause for us getting taken over.”

“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, to ask for an investigation from an agency I don’t even respect,” said Jones, an ardent critic of the TEA and supporter of Lathan. “That bothers me, but I can’t stay silent and turn a blind eye.”

See here for the background. Let’s see what the investigation turns up first. The five trustees have maintained they did nothing wrong and have pledged to cooperate. If they’re right on both counts, then this ought to blow over and I don’t think HISD will be in any more real danger than before. If they’re wrong, to whatever extent, that’s when things get dicey. I tend to agree with Jasmine Jenkins here: The state would, all things considered and Greg Abbott’s mini-Trump tweets aside, rather not take over HISD. They are not equipped to run a big school district, and there’s no empirical reason to believe they will get any better results by stepping in. But the board is on thin ice, and they don’t have many friends in positions of power. If this investigation gives weight to the critics, that could be enough to overcome the resistance. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that.