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May 4th, 2014:

Weekend link dump for May 4

On Clyde Bruckman, one of the early pioneers of movie comedy.

Animals Sitting On Capybaras. As Fred said, you didn’t know you wanted to see this until someone made it, and now you will realize the world needed it.

“An international research team, including a George Washington University (GW) professor, has discovered and named the earliest and most primitive pterodactyloid — a group of flying reptiles that would go on to become the largest known flying creatures to have ever existed — and established they flew above Earth some 163 million years ago, longer than previously known.”

“On any given day, tourists pay nearly $100 per person to get into Orlando’s theme parks. There, they may be waited on by homeless parents. From their hotels, they jog past bus stops where homeless children wait to head to school. They buy coffee at Starbucks next to the motels that have become families’ homes.”

“So it should be no surprise that Donald Sterling likes to throw money around to nonprofit charities. What’s troubling is why an organization like the NAACP, dedicated to eliminating racial injustice, should help Sterling whitewash his reputation.”

Still using Windows XP? Those security holes aren’t going to fix themselves, you know.

There’s a tri-corner hatted sucker born every minute.

“For me, this isn’t about politics. I’m trying to help other people who are like me, stubborn and bullheaded, who refused to even look. From my own experience, the ACA is everything it’s supposed to be and, in fact, better than it’s made out to be.”

RIP, William Blair Jr, former Negro Leagues pitcher and newspaperman.

“In terms of sheer deadliness, nothing can hold a candle to mosquitoes”.

“A Chinese company harnessed 3D-printing technology to build 10 one-story houses in a day — a cheaper, faster and safer alternative to more traditional construction.”

Yeah, I’ll probably watch Grease Live when it happens. I’m not too proud to admit it.

RIP, Dr. Isaac Greggs, legendary Southern University “Human Jukebox” band director.

“In the Roberts Court, there are no Bundys and Sterlings; the real targets of the conservative majority are those who’ve spent their lives fighting the Bundys and Sterlings of the world.”

Maybe I’m the crazy one, but I think the only ingredient in beef should be, you know, beef.

RIP, Bob Hoskins, a truly wonderful character actor.

“It’s true that we’re using a bit less gasoline than in the past. But that’s not why the Highway Trust Fund is in dire shape. It’s in dire shape because the federal gas tax has been cut nearly in half since it was last changed two decades ago. In 1993 dollars, it’s now about 11 cents per gallon. If it had just kept up with inflation, highway funding would be in fine shape.”

RIP, Al Feldstein, longtime editor of MAD Magazine.

Sharknado 3 has been greenlighted, three months before Sharknado 2 premiers.

“Major restaurant chains have come under increasing criticism for paying workers so little that they need to rely on public assistance. What’s less well known is that taxpayers are also subsidizing these corporations’ executive compensation.”

“To a gambler, this list is the sweet nectar, and probably feels like it should be brought down from a mountain somewhere (probably near Las Vegas) on stone tablets by a man with a long beard. (The skies opening up and the sun beaming down would be a nice touch, as well. Also, a choir wailing in the background.) I mean, if you’re wondering who the favorite coaches are for degenerates, this is the list.”

A time capsule discussion of the preferred #1 draft pick in this year’s NFL draft. Come back in three years and see who was a genius and who was a fool.

Wait, Newt Gingrich wants to socialize the Clippers? Nothing makes sense any more.

Paxton gets a slap on the wrist

That’s it???

Sen. Ken Paxton

State Sen. Ken Paxton, a Republican candidate for Texas attorney general, violated the Texas Securities Act by soliciting investment clients without being registered as required by law, according to a disciplinary order made public Friday.

Under the order from the Texas State Securities Board, Paxton was “reprimanded” and fined $1,000. He is also required from now on to disclose in writing his paid solicitor relationship to any clients he refers to an investment adviser.

In at least one instance investigated by The Texas Tribune, a legal client Paxton solicited on behalf of an investment adviser had no idea the senator was getting paid for the referrals, according to court documents.

The State Securities Board, which regulates the securities industry in Texas, released a written statement about the order on Friday.

“In any action the State Securities Board undertakes, the only consideration is the facts of the case. The agency does not consider any extrinsic factors,” said board spokesman Robert Elder. “The order speaks for itself.”

[…]

According to state regulations, any enforcement activities related to the assessment of an administrative fine must be “commenced within five years after the violation occurs.”

The state’s investigation of Paxton’s solicitor activities revealed that the McKinney Republican engaged in unregistered solicitation activities at least three times — in 2004, 2005 and 2012. But only the most recent one occurred within the past five years, so the $1,000 fine assessed against him pertains to only the 2012 violation.

The disciplinary order must be disclosed in a filing to securities regulators within 30 days, meaning it will be part of Paxton’s official record as a registered investment adviser representative.

See here for the background, and here for the disciplinary order. For an “oversight” that occurred three times over an eight year period, this feels awfully light to me. Something along the lines of an amount equal to the 30% commission he got in 2012 for his illegal solicitations would be more appropriate, if only to ensure that he didn’t profit from breaking the law. If the fines for not following the rules cost less than the money you can make by being a scofflaw, then what’s the incentive to comply? If my kid steals three candy bars and I punish her by making her pay for one of them, I don’t think I’m sending the right message. There’s still a chance of federal enforcement, so perhaps Paxton hasn’t fully gotten away with it just yet.

Endorsement watch: All for Alameel

In the March primary, most of the newspaper endorsements for the Democratic Senate race went to David Alameel. The one exception among major papers was the San Antonio Express-News, which went for Maxey Scherr. As Scherr did not make it to the runoff, they needed to make a new recommendation. Not surprisingly, they joined their peers in endorsing Alameel.

David Alameel

David Alameel

[Kesha] Rogers is not a credible Democratic candidate. It is difficult to envision her as any party’s nominee.

Alameel, on the other hand, would have appeal as a Democratic candidate even if Rogers hadn’t managed to make it into the runoff, itself a story of Democratic Party disarray in Texas.

Alameel has a compelling personal story and good positions on serious issues. He is a Lebanese immigrant who arrived in this country when he was 20, a U.S. Army veteran and a Dallas dentist who built a successful business of clinics.

He would bring to the Senate solid positions on sensible budgeting, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, bringing the troops home, holding banks and Wall Street accountable and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

[…]

In the runoff, there is simply no question about the better choice: We recommend Alameel for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

No question indeed. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone who realizes this votes in the runoff. Early voting starts soon, so get ready to get out there and do your job.

The other three foot rule

This is a little bold for my taste.

A Houston bicyclist is testing a year-old safety ordinance intended to ensure motorists don’t get closer than three feet from riders.

While riding in the designated bike lanes of the Memorial area this month, Dan Morgan has been filming drivers who hit a flag pole sticking out three feet from the side of his bike.

“The whole purpose of the flag was to demonstrate that we exist on the roads,” said Morgan, 47, an automation safety manager. “That flag could have been a person.”

He’s been met with anger from motorists who aren’t acquainted with the law, as seen in the videos he’s collected on his YouTube channel. Most motorists shown are angry about their cars being damaged.

Via Hair Balls, you can see some of the videos Morgan has shot on his Facebook page; here is one example. Note that Morgan is in the little bike lane by the curb – there’s plenty of room to pass him safely. I admire what he’s doing, though I don’t have the cojones to do it myself. We all know there are some reckless bicyclists out there, who ride unpredictably and who ignore the rules of the road. I’ve shaken my fist at more than a few two-wheeled idiots. But whether you like it or not, bikes have the same right to the road as you do, and it’s your responsibility as a driver to pass them safely. Remember, in any confrontation between a bike and your car, the bike and its rider are going to lose, badly. Do you want that on your conscience? If you have to slow down for a few seconds to safely pass a bike, do it. You’ll still get where you’re going. People need to live this, and HPD needs to enforce it. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the law.

Did I mention that HPD needs to enforce this law? Turns out, they’re on it.

In Houston, cops are taking a novel approach to arresting jerks who cut off cyclists. They’re going undercover on two wheels, and when things get too tight for the law, they’re calling in for support.

In 2012, if you were cycling around the country, Houston ranked as one of the worst cities to make a stop. Out of 51 American cities in the last Alliance for Biking and Walking report, listed from low to high cyclist fatalities, Houston beat out other lethal cities for number 41.

But Houston could turn itself around, especially now that it’s implementing a “Goal Zero” bike safety program that aims to keep all its cyclists alive. Last Tuesday, Mayor Annise Parker announced a series of changes to the way the city went about its transportation business. Among those changes: Sting operations from plainclothes policemen riding bikes to catch drivers who pass cyclists too closely for the city’s three-foot mandated standard.

“We asked them to put police officers in plain clothes on bicycles with support in the area, so if someone did pass them too closely, they could call on their support to pull over that driver and issue a citation,” explains Mike Payne, executive director of BikeHouston, the organization that originally went to the mayor’s office with the idea. “They just started running special missions, if you want to call them that, where they send people out to different neighborhoods to do this. And they start writing citations and warnings.”

Consider yourself warned. Pass bikes safely, and you won’t have to worry about it.

Legalize moonshining

You can brew your own beer at home, and you can ferment your own wine at home, but if you try to distill your own spirits at home, you’re asking for trouble from the rev’nooers.

The movement to legalize marijuana dominates headlines these days, but another group is laboring in relative obscurity to legalize its chosen intoxicant: homemade liquor.

The newly formed Hobby Distillers Association, based in Tarrant County, aims to change a federal law that prevents anyone from distilling spirits in the home — even if you drink it all yourself and don’t sell a drop.

“A lot of people don’t realize this is illegal,” said Rick Morris, owner of Brewhaus, a Keller company that manufactures and distributes small-scale stills and related supplies to make liquor. “It’s an eye-opener for them.”

Morris, the driving force behind the new association, has scraped up the funds to hire a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to convince Congress that hobby distilling should be put on the same legal basis as brewing beer and making wine at home.

“The beer and wine hobbyists are a little more organized,” said Paul Kanitra, president of lobbyit.com, which now represents the Hobby Distillers Association. “The hobby distillers are finally saying enough is enough.”

Federal law allows a hobbyist to brew up to 100 gallons of beer a year without getting a license or paying taxes. The same holds true for wine makers.

But distilling any amount of spirits — whiskey, gin, vodka, absinthe — could bring legal problems with the IRS and its subsidiary agency, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Federal regulators say it’s a matter of public health and safety: It’s easy, they say, to inadvertently produce homemade liquor adulterated with poisonous chemicals or start a fire with open flames used to heat a still.

Home distillers say those fears are overblown — that their hobby is safe and harms no one.

Kanitra said he and his lobby team hope to find a member of thee U.S. House or Senate to sponsor a bill and get it passed before the end of the year.

“We have to educate members of Congress, and once we do that, they will see there is no reason to treat hobby distillers so differently,” Kanitra said.

It never ceases to amaze me how many archaic Prohibition-era laws are still on the books, being enforced. I see no reason why distilling at home should be treated any differently than home brewing or home fermenting. If there are safety concerns, then put regulations on the equipment. At least craft distillers have more freedom to operate in Texas thanks to a series of bills passed last year that were sponsored by Senator and Lt. Governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte. This one’s a matter for Congress, and they’re too busy repealing Obamacare and not passing immigration reform to pay attention to something like this. Nevertheless, it would be nice if at least one member of Congress agreed to sponsor a bill to legalize home distilling. Who wants to lead on this issue?