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November 6th, 2016:

Weekend link dump for November 6

“More than 15 years ago, 17 babies were born after an experimental infertility treatment that gave them DNA from three people: Mom, Dad and an egg donor. Now researchers have checked up on how the babies are doing as teenagers. The preliminary verdict: The kids are all right.”

I Waited 96 Years: Women who were born before women had the right to vote and are happily casting their vote for the first woman President.

“A rusty-brown rock found on a beach by a fossil hunter might contain a bit of preserved dinosaur brain.”

You will be able to get your Sherlock on this coming New Year’s Day.

“Could a population of Frankenstein’s monsters have driven humans to extinction?”

The case for firing James Comey.

George Romero does not like The Walking Dead.

Hollywood, or at least a bunch of TV show casts, is really all in for Hillary and against Trump.44″

Here Are All the Insane Things You’ve Probably Forgotten About Trump’s Campaign.

“So these are emails that may or may not be from Hillary that may or may not have been duplicates, may or may not have been classified and may or may not have been related to any other wrongdoing. But they’re on the same computer as Anthony Weiner’s dick picks.”

“For the first time ever, struggling Thanksgiving hosts can contact Butterball’s iconic help line via text with questions about preparing turkey.”

“But instead of trying to get FBI Agents to follow DOJ guidelines, Comey instead decided to violate them himself.”

“A lot of the poll swings we see in presidential campaigns are probably illusions, demonstrating only changes in the willingness to be polled, not changes in voting intention. If this gets confirmed, it represents a genuine sea change in how we interpret polls.”

There’s a trademark dispute over “Nasty Woman”. Because OF COURSE there is.

“The rules in politics haven’t changed that much in recent years. What has changed is adherence to norms, in an increasingly destructive way.”

“I am the 15-year-old (now 16) who was the victim of Anthony Weiner. I now add [FBI Director James Comey] to the list of people who have victimized me. I told my story originally to protect other young girls that might be a victim of online predators.”

“We should not have a woman as president because women are pure and virtuous and angelic. We should have a woman as president because women are people who make up more than half of the US population, and because women deserve to see themselves represented in our representative government.”

“Everything we’ve seen over the past several months points to the fact that Clinton is at her strongest when she’s disintermediated, while Trump unvarnished is a walking murder-suicide. By leaving this contrast unstated, and saying nothing at all about its implications for the presidency, the media is failing those Americans who have a choice to make by November 8.”

“Network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.”

Early voting, Day Twelve: Nearly a million

EarlyVoting

Here’s your final daily EV report and your updated tracker spreadsheet. The final tally from Friday was 105,005 in person votes and 2,882 more mail ballots returned. That brings us to 882,580 people showing up at an early vote location, 94,699 returned mail ballots, and 977,279 total early voters. There will no doubt be a couple thousand more mail ballots coming in between now and Tuesday, so the final early vote tally will be a bit higher – surely north of 980,000, though by how much I couldn’t say. To put this in a bit pf perspective, there were 1,088,793 ballots cast in Harris County in the entire 2004 election. We’re at over 90% of tha total after early voting, and there’s still Tuesday to come.

So how many people will vote on Tuesday? I’ll get to that in a second, but let’s remember that there are some 300,000 more registered voters now than there were in 2012. As I’ve shown before, if turnout in Harris County is the same fair-to-middling rate of 61.99% as it was in 2012, we’d have 1,385,276 total votes cast, or about another 400,000 on Tuesday. Let’s look at the Election Day rates from the last three elections to give us some further guidance.


Year    Mail      Early      E-Day      Total
=============================================
2004  47,619    411,822    629,333  1,088,793
2008  67,612    678,449    442,670  1,188,731
2012  76,085    700,982    427,100  1,204,167
2016  94,699    882,580


Year        RVs   Mail%   Early%   E-Day%
=========================================
2004  1,876,296   2.54%   21.95%   33.54%
2008  1,892,656   3.57%   35.85%   23.39%
2012  1,942,566   3.92%   36.09%   21.99%
2016  2,219,647   4.27%   39.76%

As noted before, the final number of mail ballots will be higher after the Monday and Tuesday post comes in, but this is good enough for now. Let’s project four possible turnout values for Tuesday based on what we have seen before.

Scenario 1: 23.39% of RVs vote on Tuesday, same as was in 2008. This is another 519,175 voters, for 1,496,454 total, or 67.42% turnout.

Scenario 2: 21.99% of RVs vote on Tuesday, same as was in 2012. This is another 488,100 voters, for 1,465,379 total, or 66.02% turnout.

Scenario 3: 19.48% of RVs vote on Tuesday. This is the difference between EV plus E-Day turnout percentages in 2008 and the EV percentage this year. That’s another 432,237 voters for 1,409,516 total, or 63.50% turnout.

Scenario 4: 18.32% of RVs vote on Tuesday. This is the difference between EV plus E-Day turnout percentages in 20012 and the EV percentage this year. That’s another 406,639 voters for 1,383,918 total, or 62.35% turnout.

Something like #s 2 or 3 seem the most likely, possibly in between the two, but anything could happen. And again, remember that there’s probably a couple thousand more mail ballots on their way to the County Clerk’s office, so all of these would be a tad low anyway. For what it’s worth, the County Clerk is projecting 1.5 million voters total, which is more or less my Scenario #1. We’ll know soon enough.

One last thing: Friday was the best day for Democrats of them all. Dems won each day by the metrics used. It seems likely that the Republicans will win Election Day and close the gap somewhat, possibly more than I’d like to think they will. This is one reason why I’m a bit skeptical of those late poll results that have Trump in a double-digit lead, though it’s more suggestive than conclusive. Everything I’ve seen so far tells me that this has been a better election so far for Democrats than 2012 and 2008, but there’s still Tuesday. I’ll know when you know.

Asian voters are much more Democratic than they were before

Just another trend to keep in mind.

Much like Cubans in Miami, the nation’s nearly 2 million Vietnamese-Americans, including about 110,000 in the Houston metro area, have long been regarded as a shoe-in for the GOP. Stridently anti-communist, they were seen as socially conservative and favoring little government intervention. In 1992, the year La voted for the first time, Asian-Americans as a whole supported President George H.W. Bush by a 22-point margin, according to exit polls.

Two decades later, the country’s fastest-growing minority group has undergone a stunning flip, voting Democratic by 47 points in 2012. Last month, 55 percent of Asians said they would support Clinton compared to just 14 percent who would vote for Trump, according to a National Asian American Survey of about 2,300 Asian-American registered voters. In solidly red Texas, home to the nation’s largest Vietnamese population after California, that gap is even wider, 61 percent compared to 12 percent.

It’s the most rapid political realignment of any racial or ethnic group in the country, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, who directs the survey and is associate dean of public policy at the University of California at Riverside.

Some of the shift is prescribed to the natural evolution of political affiliations as immigrants have children, become more integrated and politically sophisticated and move away from single-issue voting. But Ramakrishnan sees another unifying thread among Asians over the past 15 years.

“Since 9/11, the Republican Party has transformed pretty significantly and there’s been a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric,” he said. “That’s turned off a lot of Asian-American voters. They don’t see a party that is welcoming anymore.”

[…]

Immigration has never been a top issue for Asian-American voters, who are much more likely than Latinos to come here legally on professional work visas or as refugees. The settlement of nearly 800,000 Vietnamese between the 1975 fall of Saigon and 2013 is probably the most expansive mass repatriation in American history.

Instead, Asians consistently rank the economy, education and health care as their top three issues. But immigration holds a close place in their hearts. A 2014 AAPI Data survey of Asian-American registered voters found that 41 percent would consider switching their support away from a candidate who expresses strong anti-immigrant views, Ramakrishnan said.

“They’re not just paying attention to whether or not a candidate is speaking ill of their particular community,” he said. “They care about how welcoming these parties are.”

Across Harris County, there’s been about a 25 percent increase in Chinese and Vietnamese voter registrations since 2012, said Cecil Fong, president of OCA-Greater Houston, a national Asian advocacy group.

Jannette Diep, executive director of the Houston chapter of Boat People SOS, a Vietnamese advocacy group, said the spike in registration and citizenship applications is largely because of candidates’ comments on immigration.

“A lot of the comments are very different from previous elections,” she said. “There is an aroused interest.”

Unlike the Hispanic electorate, which shares a common language and similar cultural traditions regardless of which country they come from, Asian voters are incredibly diverse. Chinese and Vietnamese tend to be heavily Republican, bound by a shared hatred of communism, while South Asians such as Indians lean Democratic. Koreans are very religious, many of them evangelical Christian, and socially conservative.

But new data from the National Asian American Survey shows that support for Democrats in 2016 has increased significantly among nearly every Asian ethnic group since 2012, as much as 28 percentage points among Filipinos and 20 percentage points for Vietnamese. A strong majority of registered voters in seven of the top eight Asian ethnic groups now identify as Democrats. The lone exception is the Vietnamese, who support Democrats by 45 percent and Republicans by 29 percent.

“One of the big things that has changed that has been very visible in this election cycle is the anti-immigrant sentiment,” said state Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat and Chinese-American who represents the Gulfton area. “The Asian-American community is very sensitive to that. Even though the community as a whole may be very quiet about it publicly, internally this is something most Asian-Americans have experience with.”

You can see all the reports here, with a summary of the most recent survey here. They thoughtfully broke the data down not just by nationality but also by a few key states with high Asian American populations, which includes Texas. In Texas, Asians identify as Democrats over Republicans by a 47-17 margin without leaners (57-25 with), and support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump 61-12. They’re also notably progressive on a range of social issues. Definitely something to keep an eye on going forward.

Texas Central releases ridership study

From their website:

A comprehensive ridership study conducted by L.E.K Consulting has confirmed that Texas is ready for a privately developed Bullet Train line serving North Texas, the greater Brazos Valley and The Greater Houston Metro areas. According to this landmark study, 90% of the 16 million people living in the Texas Bullet Train service areas would save at least 1 hour on their journey times as compared to air or road travel. In addition, the overwhelming majority of surveyed Texan Travelers (over 83%) said they would use the Bullet Train in the right circumstances, with only 15% of survey respondents stating they would not consider any alternative but their personal vehicle. Looking further into the study, 71% of frequent travelers, and 49% of non-travelers said they either probably or definitely would use the Texas Bullet Train on their next trip to North Texas or Houston if it were an option today!

Bringing together end-to-end journey time analysis, primary market research on perceptions of high-speed trains, and long distance travel market size estimates, it is possible to develop estimates for future levels of demand for the Texas Bullet Train. Ultimately, the L.E.K study concludes that Bullet Train ridership is anticipated to ramp up to 5 million journeys by the mid 2020’s, and 10 million journeys by 2050. That’s 30% of the anticipated number of long-distance trips between North Texas and The Greater Houston Metro Area.

Here’s the study brochure. The main selling point is that travel times via Texas Central will be predictable and generally an hour or so less than either driving or flying, which includes the time it takes to get to the airport, get through security, get on the plane, and get your luggage afterwards. A large percentage of people they surveyed said they would the service, but then we kind of already knew that. I mean, they wouldn’t be investing all this money to build it if they didn’t have good reason to think that enough people would want to use it to make it profitable.

Here’s the Chron story about this. The main question remains whether Texas Central will ever get to build the thing in the first place.

Earlier this week, Waller County’s sub-regional planning commission – which has already stated its opposition to the train line’s passage through its area – filed a lawsuit in Austin against the Texas Department of Transportation, related to the transportation agency’s refusal to coordinate planning activities related to the line.

TxDOT, under the guidance of the Federal Railroad Administration – which ultimately will approve or deny plans for the line – is the state agency overseeing Texas Central’s environmental plans.

Waller County is claiming its objection and concerns to the line are being ignored, as federal and state officials prepare the environmental review.

“Without meaningful coordination, our community will suffer immediate and irreparable harm and that is totally unacceptable,” Waller County Judge Trey Duhon said in a statement.

The main obstacles at this point remain acquiring the land for the right of way, and whether or not Texas Central can use eminent domain. If they can make it through the next legislative session alive, I like their chances, but that remains a big if. Click2Houston has more.

“Denied”, continued

Here’s Part 2 of the Chron’s reporting on special education limits.

A few days before school began here in 2007, district administrators called an emergency staff meeting.

The Texas Education Agency had determined that they had too many students in special education, the administrators announced, and they had come up with a plan: Remove as many kids as possible.

The staffers did as they were told, and during that school year, the Laredo Independent School District purged its rolls, discharging nearly a third of its special education students, according to district data. More than 700 children were forced out of special education and moved back into regular education. Only 78 new students entered services.

“We basically just picked kids and weeded them out,” said Maricela Gonzalez, an elementary school speech therapist. “We thought it was unfair, but we did it.”

Gonzalez’s account, confirmed by two coworkers and district documents, illustrates how some schools across Texas have ousted children with disabilities from needed services in order to comply with an agency decree that no more than 8.5 percent of students should obtain specialized education. School districts seeking to meet the arbitrary benchmark have not only made services harder to get into but have resorted to removing hundreds and hundreds of kids, the Houston Chronicle has found.

In San Felipe Del Rio CISD, in West Texas, officials several years ago stopped serving children with one form of autism.

In Brazosport ISD, on the Gulf of Mexico, employees were instructed in 2009 to end tutoring for students with severe dyslexia.

In Northwest ISD, near Fort Worth, administrators told parents that they no longer gave speech therapy to high schoolers who stutter.

And in Alief ISD, two staff members recalled being instructed to falsely suggest to parents that their kids had somehow been cured of serious disabilities.

“I was told to go into all these meetings with parents of kids with different disabilities and tell them, ‘Oh, Johnny is doing so much better. So we want to try him in general education, and of course we’ll give him support,'” said Christine Damiani, who served as the Alief Middle School’s special education chair before retiring last year. “None of it was true.”

Overall, Texas special education students are now 55 percent more likely to be returned to general education Tweet this linkthan the national average, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

They are five times more likely to be expelled to a disciplinary school, the statistics show.

“It’s OK for a child to be moved from special ed to general education if they truly no longer need the services,” said former Deputy Secretary of Education Frank Holleman, noting that federal law encourages schools to re-evaluate special ed students every three years. “But if a child is moved just to meet some arbitrary number, that’s the type of thing that can affect a child’s entire educational career and entire life. That needs to stop immediately.”

See here for the background, and as before be sure to read the whole thing. The TEA has since offered a tepid response, though not a solution, to the situation. Which I suppose still counts as progress. And speaking of such things, one more key person has finally taken notice of this.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick expressed concern Monday about the Texas Education Agency’s arbitrary 8.5 percent “benchmark” for special education enrollments in Texas schools that has driven the percentage of disabled children receiving therapy, counseling and tutoring to the lowest rate in the nation.

“Helping children with disabilities has been a priority for the Lt. Governor even before he was elected to public office and he was very concerned to learn about prior policies,” Patrick’s spokesman, Alejandro Garcia, said in a statement. “Our office is working very closely with the Commissioner of Education to ensure that students are identified and served appropriately.”

The move aligns the conservative leader of the state Senate with state House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, who also has expressed concern about the benchmark.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office has so far declined comment.

[…]

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said she was “shocked and outraged” by the Chronicle’s report on Sunday, in which one former Laredo ISD elementary school speech therapist, Maricela Gonzalez, described how she and other were ordered to purge the special education rolls. “We basically just picked kids and weeded them out,” she said.

Sen. Zaffirini vowed to join with other lawmakers to create legislation to eliminate the special education “cap.”

It is unclear how Patrick, a former chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee, hopes to address the issue. His office declined comment.

Such leadership. Kudos to Patrick for finally having an opinion, but it doesn’t mean much until he also has an opinion about what to do about it. The whole reason for this 8.5% cap was to save money. Lifting that cap, or whatever else may be done to address this, will necessarily cost more money. Does Dan Patrick support spending more money on special education, or will he simply demand that the TEA lift this cap and tell the school districts to figure it out on their own? I know which option I’d bet on, but for now at least all we can do is speculate, and keep raising hell about this.