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January 12th, 2014:

Weekend link dump for January 12

First world problems are still problems worth solving.

When Captain America wears a turban, it’s pretty cool.

As The Slacktivist often says, they are coming for your birth control. Don’t be surprised by it.

“As a result, Netflix can’t, any longer, aspire to be the service which allows you to watch the movies you want to watch.”

“For everyone else – roughly 90% of the US population – there has been no jump in income share relative to ten or 20 years ago to offset what now looks to be a permanent lost decade. On the contrary, the bottom 90% has continued to lose ground.”

“But why go after marijuana for its second-order effects? Why not just ban stupidity, laziness, obesity, unambitious taste, or whatever social ills are of concern to national opinion columnists?”

Forget gravity and electromagnetism. Racial animus is the strongest force in the universe.

Legal or not, you can still get fired for smoking pot. Let the toker beware.

RIP, Jerry Coleman, Yankee second baseman, Ford Frick Award-winning broadcaster for the San Diego Padres, and owner of two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 20 Air Medals for service in WWII and the Korean War.

The Tiger Mom is back to tell us all how we’re not measuring up.

There’s a Henny Youngman documentary in the works, with a Kickstarter campaign to which you can contribute.

“Obamacare will cease to be the something certain to destroy Obama and become something Obama has gotten away with.”

Click farms are the new sweatshops. I wonder how ad providers are going to deal with this.

Your reminder that the Daily Caller is a joke.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in addition to being terrible on voting rights and reproductive freedom, just set the clock back 50 years on employees’ rights.

How did Superman first take off as a newspaper comic strip?

An oral history of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic Baby Got Back music video.

“The 7-foot-tall monument would include a goat-headed Baphomet figure sitting cross-legged on a stone slab, flanked by two smiling children. The monument would also include quotes from poets Lord Byron and William Blake.”

A must read about the harassment and violent threats that many women have to deal with online.

And a must read followup to the link above.

I suppose it’s just a matter of time before Ted Cruz’s father endorses a challenger to Ted Cruz because Ted Cruz isn’t conservative enough and is part of the establishment.

You may be coping with the Srirachapocalypse, but can you survive the Velveetapocalypse, too?

“A growing body of evidence suggests that the open office undermines the very things that it was designed to achieve.”

Our nation’s first openly Pastafarian politician has been sworn into office.

“The dirty truth about American health care is that it costs more not because insurers are so powerful, but because they’re so weak.”

I’m pretty sure there will never be another politician like Bill Young again in America.

We should bring the Election Assistance Commission back.

A requiem for NBC’s soon-to-be-former studio in Beautiful Downtown Burbank. Mark Evanier remembers it well.

Not surprisingly, the BBWAA has dropped the hammer on the writer who sold his Hall of Fame vote to Deadspin.

An alternate theory of the Chris Christie scandal.

You can’t stop Dave Wilson

You can only hope to restrain him.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The battle over whether Dave Wilson is actually a Houston Community College trustee could come to a head on Thursday when the 67-year-old tries to take the seat behind the District II placard on the board’s dais.

“I’m going to represent the citizens of my district,” Wilson said Friday after a hearing on his residency. “I’m going to sit up front, vote and do the whole thing. I might even lobby to become chair.”

Wilson, a small-business owner and anti-gay activist, spoke after an hourlong hearing about the procedural machinations of a lawsuit the Harris County Attorney’s Office filed last month.

County Attorney Vince Ryan is alleging that Wilson was not legally elected to the board in November because he is not a resident of the district in which he ran.

A temporary restraining order issued in December prohibited Wilson from taking the oath of office, but Wilson filed notarized paperwork last week with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office showing he was sworn in on Jan. 1.

State District Judge Mike Englehart on Friday asked lawyers for Wilson and the county to file additional arguments about whether Wilson can take office while the lawsuit is being litigated, among other issues.

[…]

First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said the restraining order prohibits Wilson from taking the oath of office, so he is not a legal office holder.

“In my view, it would be like any citizen walking up there and sitting down,” Soard said. “It would be up to the HCC board to decide what they would do in that situation.”

Whatever else Dave Wilson may think of himself, he’s not the decider here. If Judge Engelhart puts a restraining order in place, he doesn’t get to take his seat, and that’s all there is to it. As I said before, HCC would be wise to have lawyers and security present in the event Wilson is legally barred from taking office at that time. They should explain the status of the court case to him, and for whoever else is present, and be prepared to usher him out the door if he refuses to back down. Until and unless he’s legally cleared to be sworn in by someone other than himself, he’s just another member of the public, and he should be treated as such. Obviously, if Judge Engelhart rules in Wilson’s favor then he gets to be sworn in as normal, but if not he needs to abide by that. The law applies to Dave Wilson, too.

Since it comes up in the comments every time I write about Dave Wilson, let’s be clear that I don’t fear him taking office for a minute. If he actually has evidence of current trustees or contractors or whoever else acting unethically, or if he has some hot ideas for how to improve ethics on the HCC board, great. Bring it on. But until he actually produces such evidence, or an ethics proposal, I see no reason to take him at his word. For a guy who claims to be a paragon of transparency and ethical behavior, he’s shown a remarkable willingness to push the boundaries of the law, to act deceptively for his own gain, and to be closed-mouth about his own personal information. His support of the deeply unethical Yolanda Navarro Flores at the very least calls into question his judgment about what ethical behavior is. I searched election results going back through 2001 and this is the first time he’s even run for an HCC position in that time, so it’s not like he’s some longtime crusader for this job who finally prevailed. He could prove me wrong – anything can happen – and if he does, great. More ethics is a good thing. I just see no reason to have any expectation of this outcome. I see him as a provocateur, and he managed to catch lightning in a bottle. What he does with it if he gets the chance remains to be seen, but my expectations are decidedly low.

Chron overviews of the other candidates for Governor

On the Republican side, everybody wants to be the next coming of Ted Cruz.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

As Attorney General Greg Abbott sweeps toward the GOP nomination for governor, other Republicans are reminding voters that he’s not alone in the party primary.

Waging longer-than-long-shot bids against Abbott’s superior name identification and huge war chest are conservative commentator and author Lisa Fritsch, former Univision broadcaster Miriam Martinez and Larry SECEDE Kilgore, who will be simply SECEDE Kilgore on the ballot.

They’re each pushing a message they think voters should hear.

“It’s the nature of a democracy,” said political scientist Jerry Polinard of the University of Texas Pan American.

Underfunded, largely unknown candidates tilting at party favorites have a statement to make, he said, and some may benefit from such a run in future contests.

“They are certainly serious in their minds, I think, in most cases,” he said. “In terms of the real meaning of competition – that is, do they have a realistic chance of winning? No.”

The three candidates vying against Abbott draw inspiration from Ted Cruz’s tea-party-fueled 2012 U.S. Senate victory against the better-funded, better-known Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, but they don’t have Cruz’s advantages. Though an underdog, Cruz had national support from limited-government groups that helped with funding and turnout, and he caught the attention of media nationally.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll done in October showed that those besides Abbott in the GOP gubernatorial primary – who then numbered four – had combined support of 8 percent of GOP voters. Former state GOP chairman Tom Pauken has since dropped out.

The problem with no-name underdog candidates using Cruz as an analogy for their candidacies is that Cruz wasn’t some plucky little no-name underdog taking on the big bad establishment. He was very much a part of the establishment as Solicitor General and consigliere to Greg Abbott, and while he entered that race largely unknown to general election voters, he was well known to party activists. The support he got from national groups was critical to his success. He also got a big assist from the calendar, with redistricting litigation pushing the primary back to May and the runoff to June, which gave him a lot more time to connect with a broader array of voters. Nobody in the GOP gubernatorial primary has anything close to the advantages Cruz had. The only sense in which Cruz was an underdog was that he hadn’t run for office before. He was on a level playing field in every other way. His hardcore wingnuttiness against David Dewhurst’s perceived “moderation”, where “moderation” is a code word that can mean anything from “incompetence” to “we just don’t like him anymore”, was also a key, since he was the sort of thing that the howling masses of a GOP primary runoff really wanted. The two female candidates are positioning themselves as more moderate alternatives to Greg Abbott, and it goes without saying that the constituency for that is a lot smaller than the constituency that propelled Cruz to victory. The fact that the other candidate is more than crazy enough for all three of them doesn’t do anything to help them.

The Democratic opponent to Sen. Wendy Davis doesn’t have a fatally flawed but easy to grasp analogy for his candidacy, among other things.

At age 71, Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal of Corpus Christi is a veteran of political battles going back to the 1970s as a young South Texas activist in the Raza Unida party.

He has worked to improve education for Latinos, advocated on behalf of fellow military veterans and campaigned for four offices without a victory.

Madrigal is running again in 2014 – this time for governor of Texas. He’s not bothered that he’s up against a well-known, well-funded fellow Democrat, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth.

“You shouldn’t be scared away by somebody telling you that you need $150 million to run,” he said. “I might be opening the door for the next generation of Hispanics that want to run for office.”

I can’t say I learned much about Madrigal from this article. If he has any well-developed policy positions, or a clearly articulated reason why he’s a superior alternative to Davis, it’s not in the story. Not that it’s likely to matter anyway.

Is this the end for the dollar coin?

Fine by me if it is.

Millard is keeping hope alive

The dollar wars have raged for years, with various sides battling over what a dollar should look like: Should it be a green piece of paper (cotton, actually) that you can slide in your wallet? Or should it be a metal coin that you put in your pocket?

On one side are the vending machine companies, the miners, and anyone who has traveled enough in Europe to know the convenience of a coin worth one or two euros or pounds. On the other side is Crane, the company that makes the paper for dollar bills, and the banks and retailers that prefer the convenience of paper bills.

A working assumption has been that coins would be cheaper, in the long run, for the government. They cost more to make but last much longer than paper money. The Government Accounting Office estimated the move could save $4.4 billion over the next 30 years. Others have been doubtful that such savings would materialize, as Wonkblog’s Brad Plumer details here.

Now, researchers at the Federal Reserve are weighing in, and they, too, find that getting rid of $1 bills entirely wouldn’t be the panacea that some analysts have claimed.

The most important points of the new working paper, by Michael Lambert, Shaun Ferrari and Brian Wajert, boil down to this: Coins aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

See here for my previous entry in this ongoing bit of obsession, and be sure to read that Brad Plumer piece from last year as well. Basically, the Fed questions the “seigniorage” effect, which is the primary driver of savings for the government, and points out a bunch of costs that hadn’t previously been taken into account. The net result is that the presumed benefit of switching to coins is likely to be pretty small, especially considering they’re spread over a long time period. As noted at the end, the pro-coin people disagree with this finding, so my hope that this debate is over is almost certainly premature. But I can hope.