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November 27th, 2016:

Weekend link dump for November 27

What Larry Summers says.

From August but worth reading if you haven’t already: Why Twitter has such a problem with harassment and abuse, and has never figured out how to mitigate it.

Homer Simpson Is Now the Subject of a College Philosophy Course.

“Politicians do not deserve respect simply on the basis of the fact that they’re politicians. They do, however, deserve to be treated in accordance with their actions.”

How to encrypt your entire life in less than an hour.

“This is a problem that not even a blind trust can solve. Creating blanket conflict-of-interest laws would hamstring the presidency, but the current laws about emoluments are clearly inadequate.”

If you favor marijuana legalization, or even decriminalization, you shouldn’t have voted for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote over President-elect Donald Trump keeps growing and currently stands at 1.677 million votes.” Just, you know, FYI.

NFL teams should go for two a lot more often.

“We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country.”

If this doesn’t make you ill, there’s something wrong with you.

“This is so obvious, so clear right in front of our faces, that it seems hard to see. These aren’t conflicts of interest. The construct doesn’t work for what we’re dealign with. There is no conflict. Everything is working as planned. He’s leveraging the office like one might leverage a business. When you have your hotel pitch foreign diplomatic delegations on bringing their business to your hotel, that’s not a conflict. That’s a revenue stream tied to owning the presidency.”

“If this is right, the key qualities of presidential politics over the next four years will be instability, frequent policy change, palace intrigues, and Trump looking to reign triumphant above it all, not particularly caring (a la Padgett and Ansell’s Cosimo) about attaining specific goals, but instead looking to preserve his position at the center of an ever shifting spider web of political relations, no matter what consequences this has for the integrity of the web.”

5 Fun Facts About A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, because we could all use that right about now.

Lawyers of the Left, for those who may be interested.

A timeline of fake news on Facebook.

What makes protests work, and what makes them backfire and solidify opinion against the protesters? The answers to these questions, drawn from the research of scholars who have dedicated their careers to in-depth interviews with activists, protesters, and organizers, can both offer guidance to those spearheading the movement against Trump, and offer some interesting glimpses into the surprising political psychology of resistance.”

“Did 2016 represent the biggest gulf between the popular vote results and the electoral college verdict in history?”

“In stretching to paint Bannon as an old-fashioned racist, his critics overshot — and also missed the point. Bannon is more complicated, a whole new political beast. And because of that, he’s more dangerous than his adversaries in both the Democratic and Republican parties yet realize.”

RIP, Ralph Branca, former Dodgers pitcher who gave up Bobby Thomson’s famous home run.

“I love each and every one of you and I am so glad to have yet another holiday together. Come hungry and leave full. Hug one another because you can. Argue if you must, but then agree to disagree. Try something new or let go of something old. Give more. Take less. Oh hell. Listen to me rattle on like I am some sort of philosopher. Screw it. Come for the food and stay for the company. Everything else can be made better with gravy. I mean it. Really.”

RIP, Florence Henderson, most famous TV mom ever.

“What Lessig should have argued is that the Electors should plainly judge Trump a menacing incompetent and reject him with extreme prejudice.”

RIP, Ron Glass, actor best known for roles on Barney Miller and Firefly.

Texting while driving ban bills filed again

We’ll see if this gets a different result.

Drivers know the risks, and in more than 95 Texas counties they live under local cell phone ordinances that ban texting while driving. But the Lone Star State remains one of four states in the country without a statewide ban on the practice.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, hopes to change that with Senate Bill 31, which would make it illegal to text unless the vehicle is stopped. Lawmakers have shot down similar attempts by Zaffirini for four sessions in a row, but she hopes the fifth time’s a charm as lawmakers head back to Austin in January.

“All we can do is try,” she said. “It’s so important because more and more Texans have become aware about the danger that’s posed by texting while driving.”

Zaffirini’s legislation mirrors efforts by Rep. Tom Craddick, the Republican former House speaker from Midland, who filed anti-texting legislation in the last three legislative sessions. He filed his fourth attempt on the first day of bill filing last week. Once again, Zaffirini and Craddick are naming their legislation after Alex Brown, a West Texas high school student who was killed in a crash while texting and driving in 2009.

It will be an uphill climb, however. The legislation was approved by the House in 2015 and 2013but halted by the Senate. Zaffirini was just one senator short of passing the bill through the Senate in 2015. It passed both chambers in 2011, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

But that veto was unusual, Craddick said, because Perry was in the midst of his first presidential bid. Perry called the anti-texting bill “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”

Craddick is hopeful it won’t be vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott if it passes both chambers during the 85th Legislature. He said he’s also heard positive remarks made by Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in Midland.

“(Abbott) has been pretty positive to people that have talked to him about it. I feel like he’ll sign it,” Craddick said. “(Patrick) said he thought the Senate would pass it, too.”

That would be a shift from earlier remarks made by Abbott, who said he opposed the legislationin 2014 and would veto any texting while driving legislation that made it to his desk. After the legislation made it through the House in 2015, Abbott promised to give it the “deep consideration it deserves.”

[…]

AT&T, which has been a big supporter of Craddick’s legislation, released a study that found that the four states without a statewide ban “have a roughly 17 percent higher rate of texting while driving than the 46 states with statewide bans.”

Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute released similar studies on the state impact of texting while driving. College Station, where the university is located, recently passed its own ordinance that banned the use of a wireless device while driving.

Alva Ferdinand, a faculty member at Texas A&M’s school of public health, led a 2015 study that found a seven percent reduction in crash-related hospitalization in states that have enacted texting while driving bans. An earlier study by Ferdinand found that texting bans led to a 3 percent reduction in traffic fatalities among all age groups.

See here for a bit of background. On the one hand, Craddick’s optimism aside, Abbott has previously expressed opposition to a statewide ban, and I can’t imagine this will be any kind of priority for leadership. On the other hand, this did make it to the Governor’s desk once, and passed the House two other times, so the support is there, and if it does get to Abbott’s desk he may not feel compelled to veto it. I wouldn’t bet on this passing, but it has a chance, and that’s more than you can say for most bills.

Texas settles another lawsuit against VW

Hard to keep track, I know.

Volkswagen will pay the state of Texas $50 million to settle a deceptive trade practices lawsuit brought against the automaker. The settlement is part of an $14.7 billion nationwide agreement to resolve the nation’s largest auto scandal.

Volkswagen mislead consumers by promoting diesel vehicles as “clean” even though the German manufacturer knew the cars were equipped with software to cheat on emissions tests, according to the attorney general’s office.

The carmaker sold nearly 43,000 vehicles in Texas with 2.0 liter and 3.0 liter diesel engines, according to the agreement. The affected VW, Audi and Porsche vehicles include model years 2009 through 2015, according to court documents.

Under the terms of the agreement, VW is prohibited from falsely claiming its vehicles are environmentally friendly, selling cars with devices that can trigger false readings on environmental tests and misrepresenting emission levels.

The carmaker must also establish a $2.7 billion trust fund for projects to lessen the environmental harm caused by excessive Volkswagen emissions. Texas’ share is estimated to be as much as $191 million, according to the attorney general’s office.

See here for some background, and here for the original AG press release on this lawsuit. The FTC also sued a few months after this. The earlier settlement that was announced had to do with the actual environmental damage, which is what the $191 million Texas will get is all about. I presume money from this settlement will go to the defrauded VW vehicle owners, but the details are a little fuzzy to me. I suppose if you were one of those people who bought a VW diesel car, you might contact the AG’s office to see if you’re owed a few bucks now. The Statesman has more.

Who wants to go to Mars?

I imagine that sounds like a pretty good option to a lot of people right about now.

Wealthy business leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are creating buzz around and making progress toward the exploration of deep space, experts said Wednesday during SpaceCom in downtown Houston.

“I think we’re entering an era of philanthropic private funding of grand visions in space that start with our own solar system and eventually lead to humanity going to the stars,” said Pete Worden, chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and former director of NASA Ames Research Center.

Worden and other panelists discussed going to Mars and beyond during their presentations at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Such exploration, Worden said, will require public-private partnerships between international businesses and governments.

His enthusiasm lies with exploring the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri. To do this, Worden discussed the Breakthrough Starshot project. This involves small, ultra-light nanocraft – miniature space probes attached to lightweight sails – that will be pushed up to 100 million mph by a ground-based light beamer, according to the project’s website.

“I’m hoping sometime here later this century, maybe in 2076, hopefully sooner, we will fly by the nearest star,” Worden said.

Other panelists focused on human space flight to Mars. NASA wants to get people to Mars in the 2030s.

“Why send humans to Mars? It is the closest habitable planet,” said Brian Duffy, vice president and program manager at Orbital ATK. “And if the human race is ever going to be anywhere else in the universe, then Mars makes the most sense.”

2076 is a little out of my reach, and I’d be too old in the 2030s for it to be practical. But even if I’ll never get to do it I support space travel, and often I think it will be necessary for the future viability of the civilization we have now. I just hope we can get the engineering problems solved in time. If you’re sorry you missed out on SpaceCom, don’t worry – it will be back next year, in December.