Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

June 9th, 2013:

Weekend link dump for June 9

I’m recovering from my daughter’s sleepover birthday party today, so forgive me if I’m a little groggy and/or grumpy.

Having said that, better to host a sleepover party for a bunch of 9-year-old girls than to have a pencil in your head for 15 years.

I thought the way that Superman shaved was by reflecting his heat vision off a mirror to melt his stubble away.

Among other things, mosquitoes are bad for killer whales.

“Rep. Stephen Fincher, be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought … and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.”

This California Widow is a real groaker. She watched the spermologer as he jirbled some irish cream into the coffee cup of the soda-squirt with a pussyvan and said nothing. He’s married to the zafty woman with squirrel who’s spent half of her adult life as an underpaid bookwright figuring out whether Arabic words are Englishable or not. She now works for the snoutfair you find lunting around town who took up tyromancy for a hobby when his wonder-wench ex-wife walked out on him because, well, he’s a bit of a beef-wit. Now she helps curglaffed queerplungers by giving them research tasks for her PhD in resistentialism.”

It’s Emma’s world. We just live in it.

The MLB and NFL Players Associations are taking their roles as unions seriously. This is a very good thing.

Do you think the Washington Redskins should keep their nickname? Read this and see if you still feel that way.

I’ll take fast casual over casual dining every day – they’re cheaper, quicker, and generally of better quality.

Actually, these five kinds of things guys say apply to all sorts of situations, not just gaming.

RIP, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the last WWII veteran to serve in the Senate.

Brittney Greiner and the quiet queering of professional sports.

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetza 63-letter word that describes a “law for the delegation of monitoring beef labelling” — has been kicked out of the Deutsch lexicon, thanks to the law’s repeal in a regional parliament.” See, now that’s taking deregulation too far if you ask me.

The iPhone as transistor radio. I’m not sure if Steve Jobs would be smiling at that or not.

I’m even gladder than I was before that Romney, Inc never got to take over the White House.

If Erick Erickson hates you, you’re probably doing something right.

RIP, Deacon Jones, legendary defensive lineman.

Chicks do in fact dig Game of Thrones, in case you were curious.

Why do conservatives hate New York’s bike share program so much?

There’s a set of actual facts and data we can look at to determine whether or not President Obama’s nominees have been more obstructed than those of other Presidents.

Tim Marchman says more or less what I would say about the latest drug “scandal” in baseball.

RIP, Esther Williams, most famous swimmer ever.

Google deep sixes the first naughty app for Google Glass, and in doing so makes a second naughty app unlikely.

It’s not 1978 anymore.

Rep. John Dingell has served in Congress longer than most of us have been alive.

Uptown transit plan gets key funding approval

Good news.

Plans for bus-only lanes along Post Oak Boulevard in the Uptown area moved forward Thursday when a key committee recommended spending $62 million in federal funds.

Members of the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s transportation improvement program subcommittee approved the spending, a month after delaying a decision so staff could study the issue more, especially regarding plans for the buses to use lanes along Loop 610. In the end, after that additional analysis, planners found the project to build bus-only lanes along Post Oak and offer dedicated service between two park and ride lots is worthwhile, even without the freeway component.

“This project would score exactly in the middle of the highest tier,” said Alan Clark, manager of transportation and air quality programs at the Houston-Galveston council.

Two more approvals from a technical committee and the region’s transportation policy committee are needed for the project to receive the federal funds.

[…]

Combined, the Westpark transit center and rapid transit project and Post Oak improvements are estimated to cost about $148 million. The work along Loop 610 is considered a separate $40 million project, which likely will follow the bus upgrades, set to open in 2017.

See here for the background. H-GAC had wanted to get more technical input from TxDOT about the Uptown plan as a whole and in regard to the HOV service before signing off on the grant money. As originally reported, up to $45 million may be available, with that money originating with the federal government and being allocated by H-GAC. I’m not exactly sure where the $62 million figure comes from; perhaps it includes work related to the Uptown project but not for the work on 610. Their next meeting is June 28, and at this point I feel confident the grant will be approved.

The fault lies not with Commissioners Court

Chron columnist Ken Hoffman fired a shot in his Sunday column.

What to do with the Astrodome? It’s had its day. Let it go before it becomes even more of an embarrassing money pit. Dump the Dome!

M. Meagher, Houston

I figured out why the Astrodome is just sitting there falling into disrepair – because the ones who are making all of the decisions on the fate of the Dome are all men – and men can’t throw anything away!

Judy Koch, Houston

What’s wrong with making the Astrodome into an amusement park? Everyone misses AstroWorld, so why not combine the two venues? With all the young and inventive minds we have here in Houston, I know it would be great!

Laura Knowles, Houston

Seen any unicorns lately? Stop expecting the politicians in charge to do anything with the Dome. They will let it rot there, burning millions of dollars each year. They don’t care. They’re political cowards. I dare them to take action on improving or renovating or removing the Dome.

And in short order, fire was returned.

Still cheaper to renovate than the real thing

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett responded to my note last week calling county officials “political cowards” for allowing the Astrodome to rot and become an eyesore burden on taxpayers.

Emmett wrote: “We have set a deadline – June 10 – for all of those with ideas for the Dome to come forward with the finances to support their ideas. If none have finances, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. is to present their suggestion for the future of the Dome on June 25. I wish you had taken the opportunity to report what is actually happening rather than just calling us names.”

I have to go easy here, because Emmett is one of our most effective officials – and I bump into him at Bubbles Car Wash. But give me a break. You’re just getting around to this now? Architects began work on Reliant Stadium in 1997. Groundbreaking took place on March 9, 2000. The Astros moved to Minute Maid Park later that month. That was more than 13 years ago. County officials have done nothing since then to renovate the Astrodome, find another use for it or tear the sucker down. Emmett has been Harris County judge since 2007.

The county spends more than $1.5 million a year just on insurance, maintenance, security and utilities at the Dome, which has become a moldy, unusable, condemned home for rats … and the cats who love them. The domed money pit doesn’t have an occupancy permit. In its present condition, it is good for absolutely nothing.

County officials have held meeting after meeting to discuss the Astrodome, but nothing ever gets done. Now two more meetings are scheduled. Whoopee. County officials are like someone who throws a baby in the river, jumps in and saves the baby … and wants a medal. You caused this problem by doing nothing for the past 13 years. You want a medal for having more meetings? Don’t worry about me calling you a political coward. Do something heroic.

OK, hold it right there. The problem with the lack of action on the Astrodome has nothing to do with indecisiveness or an absence of fortitude. It has everything to do with what We The People want, because for the last dozen years or so that’s what Commissioners Court has been trying to provide. If all that was needed was for a politician to Make The Tough Decisions, then the Dome would have been torn down about five minutes after the crowd dispersed from the last Rodeo event was held there. We’ve already established that demolition has always been the fate of unused sports venues, and let’s face it, that’s how we roll around here. Tear it down and figure out the details later – it’s much easier to find a use for an empty lot than for an empty building.

The problem is that We The People have made it abundantly clear to our elected leaders that we do NOT want the Dome torn down. It’s an important piece of Houston history, and many folks have very fond memories of seeing Jose Cruz or Earl Campbell there, and so we want someone to Do Something and transform the Dome into something else so that we can continue to use it or just look at it and revel in all those nice memories. Unfortunately, it will cost a crapload of money to rebirth the Dome as one of those things that people like to suggest it be used for. So far, no one has figured out a way to finance any of these visions, and the county – which is still paying off the debt from the Dome’s last renovations, remember, in addition to the debt from all the shiny new stadia that we have – is understandably reluctant to float a ginormous bond issue on speculation. I for one have a hard time blaming them for that.

And so the only viable course has been to do nothing, funding a few feasibility studies every now and then on the odd chance that you might strike gold, and hope that sooner or later someone will get one of those crazy ideas financed, or less likely that popular opinion will shift and people will come to accept that maybe the Dome will have to go. That appears to be what is happening now, with an assist (or a shove, if you prefer) from the Rodeo and the Texans. We’re about to see what out choices are, and it will be up to us – as it has been all along – to decide what to do.

From the “It could happen, but it won’t” department

I suppose it could be the case that Texas could get federal pre-K funds, but nobody really expects that to happen, right?

Texas could get an estimated $308 million in grants to fund one year of early childhood education if the state participates in President Barack Obama’s proposal to expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Preschool for All plan would require a one-tenth match by state pre-K funding to teach Texas’ neediest 4-year-olds, expand early Head Start programs and increase parent and family support programs that include home visits.

Gov. Rick Perry, who has declined to compete for federal grant programs in the past, is unlikely to jump on the offer.

The governor was still reviewing the proposal, a Perry spokesman said by email, noting that Texas is “a national leader in providing access to high-quality pre-K programs that ensure students are school ready.”

“Gov. Perry continues to believe that Texas knows best how to educate our children, and we will not sacrifice our standards or local control for one-size-fits-all federal mandates,” the spokesman, Josh Havens, said.

But don’t worry, he’ll judge it on its merits before coming to the conclusion he’s already reached. A bunch of business leaders have sent a letter to President Obama in support of this effort, but my guess is that they’re not the kind of business leaders who give money to Rick Perry, or who have any influence over his thinking when they disagree with him. I’m sure the states that do get these grants will be happy to get whatever Texas turns away as well. See here for more about the business coalition that’s backing this.

Hello, Motorola

Welcome to Texas.

Cellphone pioneer Motorola announced Wednesday that it’s opening a Texas manufacturing facility that will create 2,000 jobs and produce its new flagship device, Moto X, the first smartphone ever assembled in the U.S.

The company has already begun hiring for the Fort Worth plant. The site was most recently unoccupied but was once used by fellow phone manufacturer Nokia, meaning it was designed to produce mobile devices, said Will Moss, a spokesman for Motorola Mobility, which is owned by Google.

“It was a great facility in an ideal location,” said Moss, who said it will be an easy trip for Motorola engineering teams based in Chicago and Silicon Valley, and is also close to the company’s service and repair operations in Mexico.

The formal announcement came at AllThingsD’s D11 Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., from Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside.

[…]

Moss said the Moto X will go on sale this summer. He said he could provide few details, citing priority secrets. He said the idea from the beginning was to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

“It’s obviously our major market so, for us, having manufacturing here gets us much closer to our key customers and partners as well as our end users,” he said. “It makes for much leaner, more efficient operations.”

But Motorola will still have global manufacturing operations, including at factories in China and Brazil.

Motorola has always had a presence in Texas – I have a cousin that used to work for them in San Antonio some years ago – but bringing a manufacturing plant here, especially one that will be making their latest smartphone models, is a nice coup. Even better, as the story notes, Motorola came to this decision without being bribed by various incentives and tax giveaways. Rick Perry is claiming credit for it, of course, but it makes you wonder, if Texas is as dang good as he’s telling everyone it is, why we ever needed to throw money at businesses in order to steal them away from hellholes like New York and California.

Motorola isn’t the only company looking to move high-tech manufacturing back to the US. Part of that is the cost of overseas shipping outweighing the savings on outsourcing – foreign labor is getting more expensive, too – and part of it is about keeping a tighter rein on intellectual property. It’s good news for medium to long term US employment, assuming we can produce enough sufficiently educated workers to staff the plants. At least until the robots take over, anyway.