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July 11th, 2010:

Weekend link dump for July 11

Why would you need a USB coffee cup warmer anyway?

If the Fail Whale is your inspiration, you’re doing it wrong.

You tell ’em, Kal.

Um, congratulations, I guess.

The Republicans have no ideas. I know, there’s nothing new or unusual about this.

The real “Climategate” scandal.

How do you say “L’chiem” in Japanese?

Free Kobi!

Yeah, I kinda miss The Boss, too. No, I’m not talking about this Boss.

I’m a soda drinker, and I support a soda tax.

With the right people on the SBOE, there would be hope.

Wrong decision, Governor Lingle.

George Will is still a dishonest hack.

Rick Perry isn’t the only chicken Republican running for re-election this year.

What kind of BlackBerry befits a Queen? (Here’s a more official, less snarky view of that.)

More ways in which the GOP makes things worse for us all.

Wi-Fi wants to be free. Or at least, less expensive.

Ben Sargent is worth a thousand words.

It’s a sandwich – IN A CAN. And here’s the perfect side dish to go with it.

I’m sorry, but requiring sales taxes on Internet purchases is long overdue. The initial argument that the Internet needed to be sales tax-free to enable online businesses to compete fairly with brick and mortar stores is basically flipped 180 degrees at this point.

The nerd bible for my generation.

I think my main regret in life right now is that I will not be having a son that I can name Boaz Hawkins. Or maybe Seaver Crockett. It’s a tough choice.

We should use ships for shipping more often.

Perrybunkport. Bwa ha ha!

Rick and Bill at the Farm Bureau

The gubernatorial campaign, in a nutshell.

Gov. Rick Perry delivered a patriotic speech to the Texas Farm Bureau on Thursday, but gave short shrift to the property rights issue that caused a split between him and one of the state’s largest agricultural organizations.

Democratic challenger Bill White earlier delivered what sounded like a point-by-point legal argument for why the Farm Bureau should turn its back on Perry. Topping the list was the governor’s 2007 veto of a bill to limit land condemnations through eminent domain, a bill the Farm Bureau had lobbied to pass.

Perry’s speech gave the appearance of indifference to Farm Bureau anger, and his lack of contrition led some in the Republican-leaning audience to say they will consider voting for Democrat White this fall.

“Rick Perry gave a very patriotic speech. He didn’t address our issues, and we have issues with him,” said Mike Thompson, a Mount Pleasant poultry producer. “I’ll tell you what I like about Bill White. He shot straight.”

Perry is desperate to talk about anything but his record – hey, if you had his record, you’d be the same way – and he hopes no one will notice. He also refuses to admit the possibility that he might have done something unwise, even to an audience that would have loved to forgive him for it. White can and will speak intelligently on any subject, and if people give him a listen, they’ll come away impressed. Whether or not you think he needs to have a “big idea”, you know he’s got what it takes. The Trib has more.

The softer side of Sharon Keller

The Trib lets us know that there’s more to Sharon Keller than willful indifference to death penalty appeals and rigid fealty to the prosecutorial perspective.

For nearly as long as she has led the state’s highest criminal court, Keller has also served as chairwoman of the Task Force on Indigent Defense. Lawmakers created the task force in 2001 when Texas was a national laughingstock for its dismal provision of legal representation for poor criminal defendants. Now, counties must meet minimum standards for legal representation, thousands more poor defendants get qualified attorneys, and 91 counties — many in rural areas with few public resources — are served in some capacity by a public defender. Both critics and supporters of the Texas criminal justice system agree the task force has overseen a sea change in defense representation for people who can’t otherwise afford it. And despite the roiling controversy over her judicial conduct, most seem to agree that Keller’s leadership has been instrumental. “We started at ground zero,” said state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, a member of the task force and chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. “We were one of the worst states around, and as chairman of the task force, she’s really been in a real sense responsible for building the whole thing.”

Among the major initiatives that have improved representation for the poor is increased funding for counties to provide defense services. Before 2001, the state gave counties no money to provide indigent defense. Lawyers who did the work often received a pittance, making it difficult for courts to find qualified lawyers to take the cases. Last year, the task force awarded counties statewide $31 million to run public defender offices and provide indigent defense. Andrea Marsh, executive director of the Texas Fair Defense Project, said Keller has worked not only to give counties funds they need for indigent defense, but also to give them incentives for new and innovative programs. Task force grants have helped launch programs like Travis County’s Mental Health Public Defender Office. “She has been supportive of giving more of that money to program improvements and not just giving that money for the same old thing that isn’t working,” Marsh said.

Among other things, the TFID would be the grant-awarder for the Harris County public defender’s office. I’d have to go back and re-read that Texas Monthly profile on Keller from 2009 to see if they mentioned this; if they had, or if I had realized what it was, I might have reacted a little less negatively to the piece. I’ll stipulate that she’s done good work with this, that she deserves credit for it, and that any thorough reckoning of her as a person needs to take this into account to be fair. But it has nothing to do with her actions in the Michael Richard case, and it has no bearing on her career as a judge, for which her behavior has been consistently and in many cases overtly hostile to defendants. I give her points for character and humanity, but as a judge she’s beyond redemption. Grits has more.

San Antonio smoking ban protests

The proposal to strengthen the smoking ban in San Antonio has drawn protest from a previously silent constituency.

LULAC, the San Antonio Mixed Beverage Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the San Antonio Restaurant Association joined forces to create the Save Our Jobs Alliance. The coalition opposes strengthening the city’s smoking ban.

LULAC got involved, [its President Rosa] Rosales said, because the organization believes “there is a disparity in the application of this ordinance.”

[…]

The proposal would adversely impact small, minority and women-owned businesses, Rosales said.

She took aim at cigar bars, which could be exempt from the new ordinance.

“Who goes to a bar to buy a $30 cigar? Who goes to a bar to buy a $40 cognac?” she said on the steps of City Hall during the alliance’s news conference Monday. “We don’t do that. We don’t have that kind of money. And that’s disparity treatment.”

Others, including Mi Tierra restaurateur and restaurant association president Ruben Cortez, said the proposed ordinance would put San Antonio businesses at a disadvantage.

“It’s all about economics,” Cortez said. “We’re not fighting the science.”

The San Antonio Mixed Beverage Association’s Bill Johnson, a bar owner who led Monday’s news conference, offered a doomsday scenario if the proposal were adopted later this year. He said it could lead to the loss of “hundreds, possibly thousands” of local jobs in the bar and restaurant industry.

San Antonio’s proposal doesn’t differ that much from what is currently in place in Austin, Houston, and Dallas. El Paso’s “strictest in the nation” smoking ban was enacted in 2002. Only the Alamo City and Fort Worth have more lenient ordinances. I have to ask, how does San Antonio differ from those other cities? Houston’s ordinance specifically exempts cigar bars, too. I don’t recall anyone making this argument about it back then, though I suppose I could have missed it.

As for the claims about job loss, again I say we have many examples to study. The results in El Paso after a year of their new ordinance showed that bars and restaurants did just fine. What San Antonio’s Council is studying isn’t anything new or untested. If you want to make claims about its potential economic impact, show me some data from Austin, Houston, Dallas, or El Paso that backs up those claims. We’re long past the hypothetical stage on anti-smoking ordinances, so please spare me the hyperbole. Show me jobs lost in other cities, or I call BS.

Join Senator Kirk Watson & Bill White in Online Video Town Hall, Monday July 12

State Senator Kirk Watson will host an online video town hall with Bill White on Monday, July 12th at 5:30pm. You can join the conversation yourself, submit questions, and enjoy a high-tech, low-key campaign chat with two of Texas’ most prominent Democrats. They’ll be taking questions in real time during the town hall via Twitter, Facebook and UStream. Or, you can submit your question now on Kirk’s Facebook wall (http://bit.ly/dmrnVa) or his Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/KirkPWatson. The event is free and open to everyone – you just need to log on to Facebook and go to Kirk’s Facebook page from 5:30 to 6:30PM on July 12 to watch or participate. BOR has more.