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April 7th, 2013:

Weekend link dump for April 7

Ah, baseball. I’ve missed you.

Twenty great Billy Joel songs that haven’t been overplayed.

It’s great living in the future, isn’t it?

“Many big network breaches begin not with brainy hacker code but with workers who are tricked by so-called social engineering, which manipulates people into revealing sensitive information. So companies are trying to get workers to act badly before the bad guys do.” Be careful what you click on, y’all.

You too can be a crowdsourced delivery person for Walmart. You know you want to.

Quotas get results. If you don’t like that, find another method that does.

“Drugs are an important part of the [crime] question if you include alcohol as a drug. Take any dimension of the problem you like, except for source country violence. All illegal drugs combined are to alcohol as the Mediterranean is to the Pacific. We have our whole navy in the Mediterranean.”

Look out, Mars! A comet is coming your way!

“Perhaps even more surprisingly, the private school share of total enrollments has decreased over the past 15 years, from about 12 percent to 10 percent. This trend seems unlikely to reverse.”

I see Bitcoin as being mostly for the underground online economy. When retailers start accepting it, that’ll be a big deal. Well, that and fixing problems like this.

“The worsening conditions for television workers with the advent of reality TV mirror the gradually worsening conditions of the American middle class over the past few decades.”

Ezra and Nick‘s problems with Twitter are also my problems with Twitter. I couldn’t keep up with it, I couldn’t easily put things on it aside for later when I had more time, and too much of it was chaff. I do have a Twitter feed for the blog, which you should totally follow if Twitter is your thing, but I don’t use Twitter as a source for my own regular reading. I periodically check my feed when I have nothing else to do, and occasionally at certain times when it really is useful to me – for breaking news, and when everyone is watching the same TV show as I am – but that’s about it. Partly my own fault – as with Facebook, I followed way more people than I should have – but it’s not worth the effort to fix it. So it’s near the bottom of my priority list, and that has worked out just fine.

RIP, Bob Clarke, versatile and prolific MAD Magazine artist.

Apparently, phablets are a thing now.

“In fact, renewables and shale gas are in a ‘symbiotic’ relationship, the report says, each helping the other increase market share. If that’s true, a moratorium on fracking, called for by many greens, might serve to inhibit the spread of renewable energy.”

RIP, Bullet Bob Turley, former Cy Young Award winner for the Yankees.

Allowing for the resale of digital media seems like a no-brainer to me, but the idea has not caught on with the legal system yet.

RIP, Jane Nebel Henson, widow and business partner of the late Jim Henson.

The ten pitchers before Yu Darvish who lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning.

Remembering Michael Kelly, ten years later.

Has anyone ever told Michelle Bachmann that lying is a sin?

RIP, Roger Ebert. If you haven’t read this 2010 Esquire profile of him, you really should. And here’s what he himself had to say about the prospect of dying.

It’s still OK to be gay at Texas A&M

It was touch and go for awhile there. Here’s the Dallas Voice from Friday:

Texas A&M Student Body President John L. Claybrook has vetoed an anti-gay bill passed by the Student Senate on Wednesday that would have allowed students to opt out of funding the campus GLBT Resource Center with their activity fees if they have religious objections. The GLBT Aggies group just posted the above image of Claybrook’s veto on Facebook.

The Eagle of Bryan-College Station reported this morning:

News this week that some student senators had targeted the center thrust the traditionally conservative university into the national spotlight, and Claybrook said it was time to “stop the bleeding.”

“The damage must stop today,” Claybrook wrote in a letter announcing his intention to veto. “Texas A&M students represent our core value of respect exceptionally and I’m very proud of the family at this university. Now, more than ever, is the time to show great resolve and come together, treating each other like the family that we are.”

The Student Senate would need a two-thirds majority to override Claybrook’s veto. The bill passed by a smaller margin, 35-28. Even if the veto is overridden and the bill becomes policy, it almost certainly would be struck down in court, The Eagle reports:

Ken Upton, senior staff attorney for Lambda Legal’s Dallas office, said even if the bill were signed and adopted as university policy, it wouldn’t last long.

“The most likely result is that a court would step in and stop it before it even happened,” Upton said.

He said there was clear legal precedent on the issue as laid out in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth, where students sued their university because they opposed multicultural, environmental and GLBT groups.

“This issue is pretty well settled,” Upton said.

If somehow the measure did work its way through the courts, he said, top university officials could be held liable.

“… The people with decision making authority who allowed it to happen could be held liable full money damages,” Upton said. “But it would probably be struck down so quickly that money damages wouldn’t be an issue.”

Claybrook’s veto marks the second victory in as many days over measures targeting campus LGBT resource centers in Texas. On Thursday night, under immense pressure from the LGBT community, state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, withdrew a budget amendment that would have prohibited universities from using state funds “to support, promote, or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease.”

Here’s a copy of Claybrook’s letter, via Texas Politics, and here’s a detailed story from the Dallas Voice that gives a lot of the background on this. The story was national news on Friday, and though the matter is settled for now I have a suspicion the underlying issue won’t go away. The temptation to meddle in this fashion is very strong for some people, and people like Bill Zedler and Drew Springer never really go away. BOR has more.

Developer impact fee approved by Council

I did not know that this hadn’t been done yet.

Developers will join property owners in paying drainage fees following City Council’s approval Wednesday.

The developer impact fee was included in the voter-approved 2010 city charter amendment now known as Rebuild Houston, but city officials said the unwieldy process of setting the fee under state law slowed its implementation.

The developer impact fee, a one-time payment instead of the monthly fee paid by water customers, will take effect April 3, 2014, city Public Works and Engineering Department spokesman Alvin Wright said.

Since July 2011, home and business owners have paid about $181 million in monthly drainage fees based on their properties’ impervious cover – surfaces that do not absorb water, such as driveways and patios – to improve the city’s streets and drainage infrastructure.

Mayor Annise Parker said the importance of the fee is not the revenue it will generate but that it links new development with stress on drainage infrastructure, and that it fulfills a request made by voters.

“It’s a relatively small amount of money … but it acknowledges that, as we build parts of the city that are currently undeveloped, we put burdens on our drainage system,” Parker said.

Like I said, it hadn’t occurred to me that this was still a pending item. It’s not a lot of money, but given the strong feelings some people have about ReBuild Houston, it’s nice to see that this got done with no apparent fuss.

Their charter school legislation and ours

How much of this sounds familiar to you?

Charter schools would be given free rein if a proposal from Republicans in North Carolina’s state Senate is passed. Under the plan, oversight of charters would be taken from the state’s board of education and given to a charter school board with nine of 11 voting members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders and with nothing in the law to prevent members of the new board from having conflicts of interest. And that’s not all:

The charters would no longer be required to assure that at least half the teachers are certified.
Charter schools would no longer be required by law to conduct criminal background checks of their staff.

Local control would also be slashed, with, for instance, local school boards required to rent buildings to charter schools for just $1 a year unless they could show that they absolutely didn’t have the space or couldn’t afford to make the lease. Requirements on charter schools to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the local population would be weakened, and since the charters don’t provide transportation to school, many low-income students would also be effectively excluded.

The new oversight board is in Sen. Dan Patrick’s SB2, and there had been a requirement that ISDs sell unused facilities to charters for $1 in the original bill; it has since been replaced by a requirement that charters get right of first refusal on such buildings. I have not heard that any of the rest of this stuff in Sen. Patrick’s bill, but perhaps we ought to keep an eye out, just in case. If nothing else, the fact that similar bills are being pushed elsewhere, likely with the backing of usual suspect ALEC, puts the crocodile tears of Patrick and other supporters of this legislation in a new light.

The federal option for gambling expansion in Texas

There is a way to expand gambling in Texas without going through the Legislature.

For decades the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe fought hard to make the federal government acknowledge that it illegally developed more than 5 million acres of the tribe’s aboriginal land.

The East Texas tribe eventually won when a court said Congress owed the tribe $270 million in compensation.

But now in an extraordinary move, the tribe’s leaders say they will forgo the gigantic sum of money and forget the past if allowed to open a casino to secure their future.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, and Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, introduced legislation this month to amend the tribe’s federal recognition to include the gaming rights allowed hundreds of other Native American governments, but under one important condition: Alabama-Coushatta drops claim to the $270 million in damages a federal court recommended U.S. Congress pay in 2002 and another land-based lawsuit filed last year.

“Nobody pounded us and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do,’ ” said Andy Taylor, an attorney for the tribe. “The tribe is saying, ‘We’re this serious.’ We are willing to forget 200 years of mistreatment. All we want is economic independence.”

At times pausing to fight back tears, members of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council said securing an economic mechanism to move the tribe away from dependency on quick-to-change and slow-to-grow federal appropriations cinched the difficult decision to draft what they see as a generous compromise, catch-all bill.

“With the sequestration and the situation of the federal government, we understand they don’t have $270.6 million to give to an individual tribe,” said Kyle Williams, tribal council chairman. “If we have to go after each individual issue, it would never happen and we would still be pursuing these issues 20 years from now.”

The tribe opened a casino in 2001, but a court order shut it down the next year. This bill could remove the obstacle that led to the closing of that casino. The tribe would still be limited as to what kind of games they could offer, pending action from the Legislature, but they would be able to have a casino, which would undoubtedly help them make a lot of money. The one thing that I’m curious about that wasn’t addressed in the story was what the other gambling interests in Texas think about this. I suppose if the bill in question begins to gain traction, we’ll find out.