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January 22nd, 2012:

Weekend link dump for January 22

Enjoy that penultimate weekend of football while you still can.

I have long thought that what the world needs is more pee-powered electronics.

I don’t recall there being anything about this in the Bible.

That naughty e-book you just downloaded may well have been plagiarized.

Maybe selling off your state Capitol isn’t such a hot idea.

No Labels = no substance. Which is no surprise.

Better check the alarm settings on your phone now while you still can.

MLK Day is a fine day to talk about voting rights and the sustained assault they are under. Really, any day is a good day for that.

Hey, look! Vote fraud! Right here in Texas! Someone call Greg Abbott!

Bill Gates may be the greatest philanthropist that ever lived.

Real fame is having new species named for you. Here are some alternate suggestions as well.

“Everyone always regrets angry revenge puppies.” Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that…

Can we all get along, please?

Clearly, some people just don’t know how to multitask.

I didn’t get around to going black for the SOPA protest on Wednesday, but boy were SOPA supporters amazingly whiny about it.

If obesity rates go the smoking rates did, it’ll be a good thing.

Boy, remember when Rick Perry was the great white hope for Republicans in 2012? Those were the days.

“Dear Mittens: In re: making tax returns public, I suggest you call me. Sooner rather than later. Yours sincerely, Bill White”

Oh, by the way, Rick Santorum won Iowa.

Yes, Facebook may get even more annoying. Sometimes, a deft unfriending is your best option.

Why Mitt Romney should pay higher taxes.

Making the right decision about birth control.

RIP, Etta James.

Meet your minor parties

Will not be on the ballot

PoliTex lists some of the non-standard political parties that hope to put a Presidential candidate (and some others in a couple of cases) on the ballot this year. They range from the good old fashioned Socialists to the (possibly illegally-named) Donald Trump vehicle to the “centrist” flavor of the quadrennia Americans Elect. Get to know them all now while you still can, because our ballot access laws are such that most of them will vanish into obscurity faster than you can say “Harold Stassen”.

Comcast SportsNet Houston

This would be cool.

Coming to Houston?

The NBC Sports Group is seeking about $2 million in state and local support to bring a major production studio and 135 jobs to downtown Houston.

The operation would be for Comcast SportsNet Houston, a new regional television network that will broadcast Astros and Rockets games beginning in the fall.

The media company has identified 40,000 square feet of space in the Houston Pavilions for the operation, which would include two production studios, two control rooms and other broadcast-related facilities, according to a document obtained by the Chronicle. Some $16 million would be spent on equipment, furniture and other interior improvements.

[…]

If Houston isn’t chosen, a smaller facility with 25 employees will operate the network here.

The smaller studio, however, would limit it to Rockets and Astros games, while the larger alternative would allow the network to cover local college and high school sports, as well as local and state charity events, sports-related fundraisers and originally developed and produced programming and talk shows, according to the application.

The additional 110 technical production and digital media jobs would amount to more than $7 million in annual payroll.

A hundred and ten good paying jobs in downtown Houston? Expanded coverage of local sports? A shot in the arm for the Pavilions? What’s not to like?

Last month, NBCUniversal Media LLC submitted an application to the Texas Enterprise Fund requesting $1.2 million for the operation.

Yeah, the Texas Enterprise Fund. That sound you hear is me grinding my teeth. The Enterprise Fund is a wasteful, crony-tastic slush fund for Governor Perry. And now I get to root for it to succeed in this endeavor. Ain’t karma a bitch? If the stupid thing is going to exist, the city of Houston may as well derive some benefit from it. On the plus side, if it fails at least I can go back to hating on it with a clear conscience. Got to find the bright side where you can.

Casinos expanding nationally

I have no idea what the political or budgetary climate will be like for the gambling industry here in Texas when the Lege next convenes in 2013, but they have been gaining a lot of ground elsewhere in the country.

You got to know when to hold em...

States have embraced casinos, after years of trepidation about their societal costs, for two simple reasons: a promise of a rich new revenue source, plus the possibility of stimulating tourism.

“They are faced with tough decisions. They are in recession … And we pay taxes far over and above normal taxes,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association.

Last week alone, Genting’s new gambling parlor at Aqueduct, now limited to 4,500 video slot machines and another 500 electronic table games, made nearly $13 million — putting the “racino” on pace to make $676 million per year, with 44 percent of that take going to a state education fund.

And that total is nothing compared to the $1.4 to $2 billion per year Genting predicts it would bring in at the huge complex it is planning in Miami.

Some experts, however, have questioned whether revenue bonanzas that large are realistic, and say states should be cautious about giving up too much to lure these projects. Competition for a limited pool of gambling and tourism dollars is already fierce, and recent years haven’t been kind to casinos.

Nevada’s larger casinos lost $4 billion in 2011, according to a report released this month by the state’s Gaming Control Board, as the state continued to feel the effects of the global economic slump.

As gambling options have increased in the East, revenue has slid substantially at the pair of Indian tribe-owned casinos in Connecticut and declined by a dramatic 30 percent in Atlantic City, which has lost customers in droves to the new casinos in nearby Philadelphia, according to David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Other than that one mention of Nevada, the story is entirely East Coast-focused, so I can’t say what kind of action there may be in these parts. No question, Texas is a big prize, and I’m sure there will be yet another large push for casinos, slot machines at racetracks, or both. There’s also been a push for online gambling of late, which may add a new wrinkle to the usual legislative battle. As always, worth keeping an eye on.

The Tour de Houston 2012

If you’re not into long distance running, perhaps you might like to go on a long bike ride around town? If so, you will be glad to hear that the Tour de Houston is coming back after a year’s absence. From the press release:

Mayor Annise Parker and Senator Rodney Ellis will ride along with participants in the 2012 Tour de Houston Presented by Apache Corporation. Cyclists will line up at City Hall on Sunday, March 18, as the bike ride kicks off to benefit the city’s reforestation efforts managed by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. The route will take riders on a journey through Houston’s historic East End, the Ship Channel and Brady’s Landing, Ellington Airport, Johnson Space Center to Clear Lake and back to City Hall.

“Through a public and private partnership with Apache Corporation we are able to restore this annual Houston tradition to our civic celebration program,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “Thanks to Apache Corporation, participants will continue to enjoy the city’s premier recreational biking event while replenishing the trees lost to the tragic drought of 2011.”

“Apache is excited to be the title sponsor of Tour de Houston, a great outdoor event for the city, and we hope to see a record turnout,” said Roger Plank, Apache’s president and chief corporate officer. “We are particularly pleased that the proceeds of this event will be used to help restore Houston’s parks with new trees, replacing some of those lost during the terrible 2011 drought.

“Over the past six years, Apache has donated more than 100,000 trees to Houston’s parks as part of our broader commitment to plant 3 million trees across the United States,” Plank said.

“This is not only a fun and exciting event, but also encourages Houstonians to embrace environmentally-friendly transportation and a healthy lifestyle while showing riders the unique attributes of our city,” said Senator Rodney Ellis.

With three distance options, the Tour de Houston Presented by Apache Corporation is the perfect outdoor event for all cyclist levels, from the leisure rider to cycling competitors, and is a recommended BP MS150 training ride. The distance options include a 60-mile route starting at 7 a.m., a 40-mile route at 7:30 a.m. and a 20-mile route at 8 a.m. Beginning and ending at City Hall, the 2012 event is expected to draw 5,000 participants. Along the route, riders will find fully stocked rest stops, mechanical support provided by Sun & Ski Sports, police and medical support. The ride will culminate with a post-ride party for participants and volunteers with music and lunch for all registrants at City Hall provided by Michelob Ultra and My Fit Foods. All riders who register by March 10 will receive a personalized bib; all registrants will receive a Tour de Houston Presented by Apache Corporation t-shirt.

Advance registration begins Jan. 12 and ends Feb. 17 at midnight and is $30 per adult rider. Registration from Feb. 18 to March 10 (ending at midnight) is $35 per adult. Registration after March 10 including the day of the ride is $40 per adult. Children 12 and under are $20 each. More details including packet pick-up locations and schedules for pre-registered riders can be found at www.houstonspecialevents.org.

Sounds like fun. Sign up while you can, and enjoy the ride.