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January 5th, 2014:

Weekend link dump for January 5

Anyone know how to quit bringing auld acquaintance to mind?

Anonymizing data is pretty much an oxymoron.

We may yet have Anthony Weiner to kick around again.

The Jon Swift Memorial Roundup for 2013.

Would six Californias be better than one? Spoiler alert: Probably not.

Spectacular photos of abandoned places around the world.

Ah, Louie, Louie, if only you would go now.

Now we learn that Phil Robertson thinks girls should get married when they’re “fifteen or sixteen”. Who wants to ask Ted Cruz what he thinks about that?

“It seems that no one has actually been injured or attacked by any of these clown impostors, although some of the incidents have clearly frightened people and there was at least one unconfirmed report of a quasi-clown brandishing a knife. Which is in no way funny. Probably.”

Whoa there.

2013 was another bad year for psychics. Not that that will stop them in 2014, of course.

“Pay-as-you-go” is a bad idea that leads to bad public policy. Extending emergency unemployment benefits will be worth far more than any “deficit reduction” achieved by not extending them.

“Add all these up and you get a number between 9 and 10 million people who now have health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.”

One hundred things we didn’t know last year. Somewhat British-oriented, but fascinating nonetheless.

“So, all in all, an estimated 4.9 million workers will lose out on EUC compensation by the end of 2014.”

Some engagement photos you’re unlikely to see in your local society pages.

Isaac Asimov’s future wasn’t all that different than anyone else’s. Actually, Ladies’ Home Journal made some pretty decent guesses in 1900 about what life would be like in a hundred years’ time.

Five rules for talking about Obamacare now that it’s a thing and not just an abstraction.

If the media were as transparent as they want the government to be.

The two Americas will likely be with us for a lot longer.

“The Reformation helped to undermine Catholic traditions of all kinds, including its centuries of speculation on the provenance and status of Christ’s foreskin.”

“The 10th anniversary of the [Puppy Bowl] will feature guest appearances by two YouTube sensations — classic Internet fave Keyboard Cat and youthful millennial sensation Lil Bub.”

Rep. Clay Aiken (D, NC)? It could happen.

“It’s that time of year again, when the Citizens of Santa Royale, and anyone else who wants to help, vote on their favorite Mary Worth moments of the year.”

Raising the minimum wage reduces poverty, with very few negative effects. The evidence is quite strong.

RIP, Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers. Kathleen Geier has a great roundup of Everly Brothers songs from YouTube.

Who are these people on our ballot?

The filing deadline is long past, and campaigning for the primary and general election is well underway. Democrats in Harris County have a fairly full complement of legislative candidates this fall, some of whom are better known than others. I thought I’d take a moment to look over the primary ballot list and see what I can find about the candidates who are challenging incumbents of either party. In particular, I’m looking to see if I can find a campaign webpage and/or Facebook page, plus whatever Google can tell me. I’m limiting this to Harris County and to legislative races not counting the US Senate. I may do more of these later if I have the time and the inclination. For now, let’s get started.


CD02 – Niko Letsos: No webpage or Facebook page that I can find so far. Google tells me nothing.

CD07 – James Cargas and Lissa Squiers – Both ran for this office in 2012. Their links from that year still work.

CD10 – Tawana Cadien: Another repeat candidate from 2012. Her old website and Facebook page are still available. Interviews for all three of these candidates can be found on my 2012 Primary Election – Harris County page.

CD22 – Frank Briscoe and Mark Gibson: Neither appears to have a webpage or a Facebook page yet. Briscoe is a candidate with some pedigree. He ran for CD22 in 2002, losing by a hair in the primary to Tim Riley. He’s the son of the late District Attorney and two-time Houston Mayoral candidate Frank Briscoe, Senior, and apparently a relative in some fashion of former Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe. Here’s an interesting Q&A with him in Architectural Record, which isn’t dated but based on context appears to be from not too long after his unsuccessful run in 2002. As for Mark Gibson, Google tells me there’s a Mark Gibson that was an independent candidate for Congress in Virginia in 2012. I rather doubt this is the same Mark Gibson – it’s not that unusual a name – but that’s what I could find in Google.

CD36 – Michael Cole. Cole was the Libertarian candidate for CD36 in 2012 before announcing in August that he would run again as a Democrat. Here’s an interview he did with a Daily Kos member shortly thereafter, which includes links to all his relevant web and social media pages.

State Senate

SD07 – Jim Davis: Google tells me nothing.

SD15 – Sen. John Whitmire and Damian LaCroix: Sen. Whitmire has served in the Senate for many years, but is new to the internets; his Facebook page was created on November 19. I’ve written about LaCroix before and will have an interview with him, and one with Sen. Whitmire, soon.

SD17 – Rita Lucido: Lucido is a longtime activist and volunteer, and is the highest-profile challenger to a Republican incumbent among the legislative candidates. Her campaign Facebook page is quite active.

State House

HD129 – John Gay: No webpage or Facebook presence yet, but Google tells me that John Gay ran for CD14 as a Republican in 2012; he finished seventh in the field of nine. His campaign webpage domain ( has expired, but via here I found his personal Facebook page, and while I consider myself to be open and welcoming to party-switchers, it’s safe to say that this guy is a problem. Here’s a screenshot from his Facebook page, so you can see what I mean. Barring a major and convincing change of heart from this guy, my advice is to not waste any time or effort on him. There’s plenty of other good candidates to support.

UPDATE: Upon further investigation, it appears there are two John Gays, the one who ran as an R in 2012 in CD14, and the one who is running in HD129 as a Dem. The latter one does not have any web presence that I found at a cursory search, hence the confusion. I’ve got a business phone number for the HD129 John Gay and will try to reach him tomorrow to discuss. My apologies for the confusion.

HD131 – Rep. Alma Allen and Azuwuike Okorafor: Rep. Allen has a primary challenge for the second straight cycle. Okorafor is a newcomer on the scene but looks like a good candidate. I intend to interview them both for the primary.

HD132 – Luis Lopez: No web presence yet, and the name is too common for Google to be reliable. This may be his personal Facebook page.

HD133 – Laura Nicol: No campaign webpage yet, but her campaign Facebook page is active. She and I have been Facebook friends for awhile, and I met her in person at an HCDP event a couple of weeks ago.

HD134 – Alison Ruff: No web presence as yet. I’ve mentioned her on my blog a couple of times, and met her at HCDP headquarters a couple of weeks back. This is her personal Facebook page.

HD135 – Moiz Abbas: I got nothing.

HD138 – Fred Vernon: Another blank, though this may be him.

HD145 – Rep. Carol Alvarado and Susan Delgado: Rep. Alvarado is my State Rep, and I consider her a friend. Delgado is a realtor, a multiple-time candidate, and the former mistress of the late Sen. Mario Gallegos. Based on comments she has left here and on her personal Facebook page, I think it’s fair to say mud will be flung in this race. For the record, I’ll be voting for Rep. Alvarado.

HD150 – Amy Perez: The full complement – webpage, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Well done.

That’s it for now. I may do a similar exercise for judicial candidates if I find myself with a few spare hours. You can also check out my new 2014 Election page, where I’ll be tracking contested primaries mostly but not exclusively in Harris County. If you think I’ve misrepresented anyone here, or if I’ve missed anything relevant, please let me know. Thanks.

Center Street recycling facility is closed

So says Swamplot. Multiple emails to a couple of Heights neighorhood mailing lists sounded the alarm as well. This has been a long time coming. Originally, it was supposed to have been closed at the end of 2012, but I guess that extension got extended. With the planned expansion of single stream recycling, locations like Center Street are increasingly redundant, though for folks like some of my panic-stricken neighbors who don’t have their 96-gallon recycling bins yet, there’s still a gap in the short term. And with the continued demand for real estate in this part of town, it’s hard to claim that the highest and best use for that property was a recycling dropoff site. Those of you that are still waiting for the wheely bins, I feel your pain, but you can still lug your glass to Westpark, where at least there will be workers to haul it out of your car for you. I look forward to seeing what becomes of this site. There are still a lot of other warehouse/industrial properties along Center Street between Heights Boulevard and Houston Avenue, with some townhomes mixed in between. This could be the start of a wave.

A brief history of gay marriage legislation in Texas

From TM Daily Post.


Gay marriage supporters have made massive strides in a very short amount of time. Less than ten years ago, gay couples couldn’t get married anywhere in the United States. While the progress they did achieve shortly thereafter involved victories, they were handed down by judges—rather than their fellow voters—and the term “marriage” still didn’t apply—they could only have separate-but-equal “civil unions.”

Now, though, nearly a third of the states (containing nearly forty percent of the population) have legalized gay marriage, and in most cases, that’s been through the actions of elected legislatures or voters at the ballot box.

In Texas, meanwhile, if the status of gay marriage is going to change—at least in the short term—it’ll likely have to be in the courts. And there are four lawsuits pending that are challenging the various restrictions in the state that outlaw gay marriage. As we take a look at them, let’s also take a moment to trace the history of gay marriage bans in Texas.

Most of what’s in there will be familiar to you, though I at least didn’t realize that the first shot in this branch of the culture war was fired in 1997. The most recent developments in the state are the lawsuits, one about divorce and the other about marriage, that are likely to have a profound effect on the status quo going forward. Assuming that the federal lawsuit doesn’t make it all moot in the wake of the Utah decision, of course. In an ideal world, the existing laws would be repealed by the Legislature, but we may never get to a point where there’s a sufficient majority to repeal that awful constitutional amendment; a one-third minority in either chamber would be enough to block any such attempt. So I’m happy for the courts to do what needs to be done, but as I’ve been saying I just wonder how big and insane the freakout will be when it happens. We may get a good idea of that soon.