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August 5th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for August 5

Happy Contraceptive Mandate Week! Here’s something you can do to make it a little more awesome. Also, too, this and this.

You want to watch brown bears fishing for salmon, don’t you? Of course you do.

Two words: Exploding termites. You’re welcome.

The universe could come to an end six billion years earlier than originally thought. So go ahead, have dessert. Life is short.

The wingnut welfare gravy train sure is a sweet ride.

The best part about the Olympics is arguing about which sports belong in the Olympics and which ones don’t.

Maybe it would be easier to count up who would be allowed to vote in Pennsylvania under their voter ID law.

I declare this to be a Godwin’s Law corollary.

A year of gay marriage in New York. Civilization stubbornly refuses to collapse.

Universal health care is great…for other countries.

Stance versus substance. Stance usually wins.

Some tasty alternatives to Chick-Fil-A. Somewhat Houston-oriented, but that’s OK.

Gender is harder to define than you might think, and that makes gender testing at the Olympics either a challenge or a waste of time, depending on your perspective.

Speaking of the Olympics, it’s just a matter of time before joggling is an Olympic sport. Well, it should be, anyway.

I didn’t know people were still using Hotmail, to be honest.

Bridge World refers to this as “sportsmanlike dumping”. There are way more examples of it out there than you might think, and Kevin is absolutely correct to blame it on the tournament organizers.

Here’s the story of a man named Brady, who apparently took after his dad in at least one way.

“The reason Romney’s plan doesn’t work is very simple. The size of the tax cut he’s proposing for the rich is larger than all of the tax expenditures that go to the rich put together.”

“If you’ve never seen a race to the bottom, this is what it looks like.”

Have fun in Tampa, Republicans.

It takes a fraudster to catch a fraudster.

Chick-fil-A

So there’s been protests and counter-protests and editorials and clever menu ideas, and that’s only in the past week. I don’t think the Chick-fil-A saga is going to come to a resolution any time soon, so let’s remember what it’s all about in the first place. It isn’t that Dan Cathy opposes marriage equality or that he publicly said so. This isn’t news, it’s been well known for a long time. What was news, and what got people up in arms, was that Chick-fil-A was financially supporting the hate group the Family Research Council. Fred puts it better than I can:

The Family Research Council hates LGBT people. It hates them and it works hard to hurt them at every turn. The Family Research Council is a far, far bigger threat to the LGBT community than Chick-fil-A will ever be.

FRC’s crimes against its neighbors include telling hateful lies about LGBT people every day, 24/7, in every media outlet and every media platform it can find. It tells those lies to promote hate — to stir up anti-gay sentiment and spread it as widely as possible so that they can solicit funds from anti-gay donors and so that they can use those funds, in turn, to influence legislation. The legislation FRC supports denies civil rights and legal protections to LGBT people. It hurts them. It changes the law so that the law will hurt them. That makes the Family Research Council a much worse enemy of LGBT people than Chick-fil-A. So let’s put the focus on them. Let’s go upstream and use this boycott opportunity to make the corner boys roll over on the bosses.

More here. This isn’t about what Dan Cathy said or believes, it’s about what his company does. That’s something we can and should work towards changing. Towards that end, Business Week has some advice for Cathy and his company as well. As someone who used to patronize Chick-fil-A and whose kids love going there for ice cream and the play area, I hope they figure it out before they do more damage to their brand.

Judge halts anti-voter registration laws

Good.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa of Galveston ruled that a law that prohibits third-party voter registrars from working in more than one county and another that mandates registrars in Texas be residents of the state violate the First Amendment.

“During the 2011 legislative session, the Governor signed two bills that imposed a number of additional requirements,” U.S. District Judge Greg Costa wrote in his 94-page opinion. “The result is that Texas now imposes more burdensome regulations on those engaging in third-party voter registration than the vast majority of, if not all, other states.”

The judge also struck down provisions that required deputy voter registrars be paid hourly, that prevented registration certificates from being photocopied and that prohibited completed forms from being mailed in to elections officials. A final judgment must still be rendered, Costa declared. Until then, the laws cannot be enforced.

More from the Chron:

“Today’s ruling means that community groups and organizations like Voting for America and Project Vote will be able to run community voter registration drives in Texas,” plaintiff’s attorney Chad Dunn said. “These drives are important to reaching the millions of Texans, including three-quarters of a million African-Americans and 2 million Latinos, who are eligible but still not registered to vote.”

Dunn represents two Galveston County residents and the nonprofit voter registration group Voting for America, an affiliate of the nonpartisan Project Vote based in Washington, D.C.

“They don’t care how you vote as long as you get registered and participate,” Dunn said.

[…]

The plaintiffs had asked Costa to block eight sections of the law enacted in 2011 so that they could register voters before the national election in November. Costa declined to block enforcement of laws that make it a criminal offense for a deputy registrar to submit a partially completed form, a restrictive training requirement, and a requirement that deputy registrars wear an identification badge. He left the legality of those laws to be decided at trial.

Dunn said the attorney general could appeal the injunction to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Dunn, who has represented Democrats in redistricting lawsuits, said the Legislature’s redistricting plan, photo identification bill and registration requirements are evidence of voter suppression.

“This Legislature will do anything to prevent Texans from voting,” Dunn said.

See here for some background, and see Ballot Access News for more on the decision, which you can read in full here. This is just an injunction preventing these laws from being enforced until there’s a final ruling, but it’s still a very big deal. These laws were petty little attempts to make it harder for people to vote. They served no other purpose. The fact that they flew so completely under the radar is a sign of just how atrocious the last legislative session was, and of how many mind-bendingly bad things they did. They got the treatment they deserved from Judge Costa. I’m sure there will be an appeal – there’s already been a motion for a stay of the injunction – because neither Rick Perry nor Greg Abbott can accept that they might be wrong about something, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. This was a good ruling, and we should be happy about it. Texas Redistricting has more.

HISD tweaks its bond proposal

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier presents Bond Referendum 2.0 for your approval.

Terry Grier

Grier’s amended proposal adds five high schools to a list of 20 that would get new buildings or partial replacements. The additions, originally slated for smaller renovations, are Davis, DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Barbara Jordan, and the Young Men’s and Young Women’s schools.

Grier also reduced the size of several high schools, acknowledging that demographic data and enrollment trends should have been reviewed in more detail earlier.

[…]

To help fund the new schools, Grier’s revised plan excludes four elementary campuses that were in his original: Condit, Kelso, MacGregor K. Smith and Tijerina.

[…]

Bellaire and Lamar high schools, among the most popular in the district, would be rebuilt to hold 3,100 students – 100 more than originally planned. Both campuses enroll even more students now, though in smaller buildings.

Grier said the principals at Bellaire and Lamar would have discretion to cap enrollment – which could limit the number of students allowed to transfer into the two schools.

Wilson Montessori landed on Grier’s revised list, joining four other campuses that would be expanded to serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

No board members have pledged publicly to oppose the bond issue, but Juliet Stipeche, Greg Meyers and Anna Eastman said Thursday they have concerns about the proposal. Manuel Rodriguez Jr. has aggressively questioned it.

Trustee Harvin Moore said he supports the plan, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones declared herself close to backing it. Larry Marshall has praised the plan repeatedly, and Paula Harris has expressed no strong reservations.

You can see the full proposal here. I don’t have any strong feelings about this. I’m predisposed to support these issues, I just want to know that everyone who has a stake in it feels like they’ve been heard. There’s still some work to be done on that front, apparently. First, though, the trustees need to be happy with it. I suspect there may yet be another tweak or two to come.

UPDATE: The Leader has more.

Yale Street Bridge to get makeover

You may recall that last November the load limit on the Yale Street Bridge was reduced by TxDOT to 8,000 lbs per single axle and 10,000 lbs per tandem axle, which has resulted in truck traffic being forbidden on the bridge. That hasn’t stopped trucks from actually using it, of course, but they’re not supposed to. Anyway, since then a few more things have happened:

– An inspection and assessment of the bridge by Entech Civil Engineers says that it really should have a load limit of 7200 lbs, which is basically a full-size SUV with multiple passengers.

– Neighborhood leaders sent a letter to the city asking for Something To Be Done about this:

Necessary Action

As indicated above, based on the ratings of the Yale Street Bridge, corrective action is required; based on the current ratings, according to TXDOT, this bridge is either one of the top or the top bridge in Texas eligible for replacement based on TxDOT’s and the Federal Highway Administration’s criteria for distributing Federal and State Funds. The required corrective action is reconstruction of the Yale Street Bridge. Since this is a City-owned Bridge, the process to prioritize the Bridge for replacement and to solicit the necessary funding begins with the City. With City budget and CIP discussion now underway, this is the time to address it so that it will be included in the current CIP priority list. Eighty percent (80%) of the funding would come from the Federal Highway Administration, 10% from TXDOT and 10% from the
City’s budget. This means that this problem can be addressed promptly and with a limited impact on the City’s budget. The Bridge should be reconstructed BEFORE it has to be closed due to low ratings.

– The city sent a reply saying that the Department of Public Works and Engineering was working with TxDOT to apply for federal funds to help with the cost of fixing the bridge, for which candidate projects will be nominated to the Federal Highway Administration in 2012.

Not clear what happens if the project doesn’t get the federal funds, though the city did say that it would try to work it out through the District C Council office. See this press advisory, this letter from CM Cohen, and this story in The Leader for more.

UPDATE: Here’s a direct link to that story in The Leader.