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June 16th, 2013:

Weekend link dump for June 16

The difference between “geek” and “nerd”, in a detailed discussion that is both geeky and nerdy.

The Longhorn Network really isn’t working out as planned, is it?

Putting your favorite MLB team’s draft picks in perspective.

You know, accurate sex education and access to birth control would be a far more effective strategy.

Ten fun facts about Judge Edith Jones.

Kangaroos are particularly prone to excited delirium. Unfortunately for this particular kangaroo, it didn’t end well for him.

Put a little Man In Black on your snail mail.

Another reason to like Costco – they promote from within, instead of hiring MBAs.

A feature film about the “Archie” comic books is apparently a thing that exists.

Now, if they could work zombies into it, we might have something.

Does anybody have a clear vision of the desirable financial system of the future? Sheila Bair does.

Baseball needs a Lifetime Achievement Award that is something other than Hall of Fame induction.

All things considered, an Insane Clown Posse TV show was probably inevitable.

“The House vote signals that congressional Republicans aren’t afraid to take votes that may jeopardize their standing with Latinos. Indeed, the vote last week was essentially a symbolic measure with no chance of passage in the Senate, but it still got the support of 221 out of 227 Republicans who voted. If they’re voting for that, why wouldn’t they also vote against a path to citizenship?”

Wait, how do mosquitoes avoid getting squashed by falling raindrops?

“Penelope Garcia is the personification of the NSA’s PRISM program.”

“As a lifelong career criminal, although I no longer enjoy the right to keep and bear arms, I’d like to take a moment to express my appreciation to the National Rifle Association for nonetheless protecting my ability to easily obtain them through its opposition to universal background checks.”

“Diamonds are not actually scarce, make a terrible investment, and are purely valuable as a status symbol. Diamonds, to put it delicately, are bullshit.”

From your lips to God’s ear, Chuckster.

I’m thinking that more than an apology may be needed here.

Why are there no real world examples of libertarian governance?

On being a distraction in sports.

“In the long run, women who want abortions but don’t get them adjust to their new lives. They aren’t unhappy at becoming mothers. But there’s not much question that their lives suffer, and as more and more states put more and more roadblocks in the way of abortion providers, that suffering will increase.”

I am not surprised by this. Disappointed and sad, sure, but not surprised.

A smatrphone kill switch could do a lot to deter their theft.

Perry goes on a veto spree

NO

Here’s the full list. Among the victims are the omnibus ethics bill HB217, thus giving Allen Blakemore his fondest wish; two bills aimed at reducing the number of standardized tests some students must take, one of which will make William McKenzie happy; SB15, which would have placed new limits on the power of the University of Texas System Board of Regents to fire campus presidents; a Dan Patrick gun bill (!); the Lilly Ledbetter bill as previously noted; a bill that would have allowed voters to pick an interpreter of their choice, within certain limits, while voting, a bill that Perry either misread or misrepresented; and quite a few others, not to mention the funding for the Public Integrity Unit.

Here are some reactions to the vetoes from the Chron:

Friday, the Austin-based Texans for Public Justice filed a legal complaint that Perry’s threat amounted to official coercion so he could win an appointment and short-circuit the unit’s investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

“No surprise Perry would act to de-fang the state’s corruption watchdog. It’s a watchdog that might bite him and his cronies,” said Craig McDonald, TPJ director. “Our legal complaint against his bullying tactics remains in play, however.”

McDonald and Tom Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, also faulted Perry’s veto of a bill reforming the Texas Ethics Commission. “Perry’s office is an ethical black hole,” said McDonald. “Reforms go in. Nothing comes out.”

Smith pointed out that the bill would have required Railroad Commission Barry Smitherman, a Perry appointee, to resign his office before running for attorney general. “It is stunning that the governor is so intent on protecting one ambitious politician that he would veto a bill that drastically improved enforcement at the Texas Ethics Commission.”
Whether any of this represents Perry reasserting himself (again) in preparation for his next election or just a last middle finger to the rest of us before he rides off into the sunset on the wingnut welfare wagon I couldn’t say. Texas Vox bemoans the veto of the omnibus ethics bill, and I’m sure there will be plenty of other reactions, just in time for Perry to gallivant off to New York. What bills on the veto list – or not on the veto list – surprised you, one way or the other?

[…]

Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chairman of the Senate Higher Education committee, filed Senate Bill 15 after a February dust-up over whether University of Texas System regents had micromanaged or maligned the character of UT Austin President Bill Powers. UT Regents Chairman Gene Powell has denied those allegations.

“Limiting oversight authority of a board of regents … is a step in the wrong direction,” Perry wrote in his veto. “History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance.”

Seliger expressed frustration that Perry vetoed the bill, saying he had accepted all changes suggested by the governor’s staff.

“It is duplicitous,” he said.

In vetoing the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Perry wrote that “Texas’ commitment to smart regulations and fair courts is a large part of why we continue to lead the nation in job creation. House Bill 950 duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel that have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

“I thought Gov. Perry always wanted us to do things the Texas way and not the federal way, but apparently not in this case,” Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said in a statement. “Now, Texas women will have no choice but to rely on the federal government to protect their rights. The governor took office at the dawn of the 21st Century, but you wouldn’t know it from his actions today.”

Rick Perry does what is best for Rick Perry. There are no other considerations. Whether all this is a sign of him asserting his power in preparation for his next campaign or just a parting middle finger to the rest of us as he prepares to ride off into the sunset on the wingnut welfare wagon, I couldn’t say.

Other reactions to Friday: Texas Vox bemoans the veto of the omnibus ethics bill. Grits is bewildered by the veto of one de-incarceration bill, and games out the ploy to defund the Public Integrity Unit. Burka is relieved that things weren’t any worse. Texas Watch applauds the signing of three bills designed to improve transparency for Texas home and auto insurance customers. Juanita is spitting mad at the veto of the Lilly Ledbetter bill. Texpatriate summarizes the whole day’s activity. Egberto Willies talks to Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the author of the Lilly Ledbetter bill, about Perry’s veto. She vows to bring the bill back next session. What vetoes and signatures surprised or didn’t surprise you?

HISD moving forward with North Forest annexation

Despite some legal uncertainty, they pretty much have to keep moving forward.

The Houston Independent School District moved forward Wednesday with its takeover of the beleaguered North Forest school system even as state education officials prepare for a Thursday hearing that could delay the annexation.

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier announced principal assignments as well as changes in the use of some campuses. Parents were notified of the changes by mail earlier in the week.

The Texas Education Agency, citing decades of academic failures and financial mismanagement, in May ordered that North Forest ISD close and be annexed to HISD by July 1. Two weeks ago, a visiting judge in Austin, Jon Wisser, issued a temporary restraining order against the state agency at the request of North Forest supporters.

The supporters will go before Wisser again Thursday to request a temporary injunction. The restraining order is set to expire Friday.

“Until a judge orders otherwise, we have an obligation to continue proceeding as though (TEA) Commissioner Williams’ order for HISD to annex North Forest on July 1 will remain in effect,” said HISD spokesman Jason Spencer.

[…]

However, a federal issue dealing with voting rights must be resolved before the takeover is finalized. The Houston ISD board will need to redraw voting districts. The board will discuss how to incorporate North Forest voters into its single-member districts at its meeting Thursday, Spencer said.

HISD has scheduled community meetings June 25 and June 27 to share information and receive feedback from North Forest parents about the transition.

The meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Eden Event Center, 7540 N. Wayside.

See here and here for the latest news. I have not yet seen an account of the HISD board meeting, so I don’t know what they decided to do about redistricting. On Friday afternoon, a district judge in Austin dismissed that lawsuit filed by North Forest against the TEA, for which visiting Judge Visser had granted a temporary restraining order, so that’s one more obstacle cleared. North Forest will appeal the dismissal, and there’s still the matter of the Justice Department, but it’s getting close to impossible to imagine an outcome in which the annexation does not move forward as planned at this point.

Review ordered for Jones allegations

Moving forward.

Judge Edith Jones

Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court formally ordered on Wednesday that a rare public judicial misconduct complaint against 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones be reviewed by officials in a different circuit — one based in the nation’s capital.

“I have selected the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit to accept the transfer and to exercise the powers of a judicial council with respect to the identified complaint and any pending or new complaints relating to the same subject matter,” Roberts said in a letter addressed to the D.C. circuit’s chief judge that was posted on the 5th Circuit’s website.

It is only one of a handful of times in U.S. history that a federal circuit judge has been the subject of a public judicial misconduct complaint and a formal disciplinary review. Normally such matters are secret under federal law.

“This is a hopeful sign that (federal judges) are taking this seriously,” says a lawyer who signed the complaint, James C. Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

[…]

Chief Justice Roberts’ letter, dated June 12, reports that the reassignment of the judicial misconduct complaint against Jones to jurists in Washington, D.C., came in response to a request for transfer from the current Chief Judge of the 5th Circuit, Carl E. Stewart.

Stewart, who replaced Jones as chief judge last October, apparently requested last week that the June 4 complaint review be assigned to another circuit court for review. However, his request on Friday for transfer was not previously made public.

See here for the background. Chief Justice Roberts’ letter is here, and more on the details of the complaint are here and here. I have no idea what to expect out of this, but I’m glad to see it being taken seriously. BOR has more.

What we missed by not getting a payday lending bill

Better Texas Blog reminds us of what could have been

SB 1247, the omnibus reform bill filed by Sen. John Carona … included the ability to repay standards, loan limits, and refinance limitations, among numerous other provisions. According to the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (OCCC), the refinance limitations alone in SB 1247 would have produced annual savings more than $130 million for more than 300,000 Texas consumers.

Unlike other consumer loan products offered in Texas, the Finance Code contains no payday loan regulation relating to loan fees or effective annual interest rates, loan amounts, maximum number of refinances per loan, loan terms[i], ability to repay or underwriting and type of product. At least for payday loans, the absence of any statewide regulation or consumer protection makes Texas an outlier compared to nearly every state that permits or authorizes payday lending. Only five other states do not cap the amount of fees payday lenders can charge (Delaware, Idaho, Nevada, Ohio and South Dakota).[ii] Even among these states however, Delaware and Nevada have limits on loan terms and all five states limit loan amounts. [iii]

recent analysis of payday lending conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which covers a majority of the U.S. storefront payday loan transactions over a 12-month period, found that 68 percent of payday loan consumers had annual incomes at or below $30,000, and 43 percent had annual incomes at or below $20,000. The median annual income of payday loan consumers was about $22,500; for borrowers making under $20,000, the most common income sources were “public assistance/benefits” and “retirement”.

The CFPB analysis also found that the average payday loan amount nationwide was $392 in 2012. Nationwide data on payday lending appear to be much better than comparable data from unregulated Texas payday lenders, which reveal that Texas borrowers pay much higher fees and loan amounts. Based on 2012 data from OCCC, the average single payment payday loan in Texas was $472.

SB 1247 also included limits on refinances for each loan product, generating a pathway out of debt for consumers who get into trouble with payday or auto title loans. For 2012, single payment payday loans alone comprised about 75 percent of all payday loans, while single payment auto title loans accounted for 83% of all auto title loans.[iv] The original loan amounts of single payment payday loans surpassed $1 billion, while loan refinancing nearly hit $2.1 billion. Over 70 percent of single payment payday loan consumers that refinanced their loan did so multiple times. As shown by the CFPB report, repeat borrowing and renewals represent the lion’s share of all loan volume.   On-time repayment is the exception, with three refinances for every loan paid in full on the original due date.

The good news and the bad news is that city ordinances are still in effect. It’s good news because we almost got an bill that did little more than nullify the city ordinances, and it’s bad because city ordinances only cover a portion of the state. Given what Mayor Parker has said, we will likely be able to add Houston to the list of cities that offer this protection. But until we have a real statewide law, it only means so much.