Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

May 25th, 2014:

Weekend link dump for May 25

“All of which is to say: There are many different ways to measure the same data. When I was putting together this list, I had Pedro Martinez and Warren Spahn coupled in my mind. One is the ultimate example of a brilliant shooting star career. One is the ultimate example of the sun rising every day. Which career would you rather have?”

Random things I happened to run across on the Internet: The General Slocum disaster was the New York area’s worst disaster in terms of loss of life until the September 11, 2001 attacks, and remains the worst maritime disaster in the city’s history. And until recently, I had never heard of it.

Meet the next Bud Selig.

Dr. Evil should have demanded one undecillion dollars. The sheer size of the number should be pleasing to him.

This kid should go into business as a “how to be smooth” guru. Well, as long as his mom doesn’t ruin it for him.

RIP, Jeb Magruder, Watergate figure and Doonesbury star.

“And then there is … the Balboni record, which at this point has to be considered one of the eight wonders of the baseball world.”

“I know it seems like you’re the cool guy who managed to score a date with a model or an actress, but no one is actually thinking that. They are thinking that you couldn’t get an actual date from one of your peers, and had to resort to a goofy social media prank to guilt someone into going with you. That’s why these women have shown up. You realize that, right? It’s not because they want to go on a date with an underage civilian, it’s because they’re worried they’ll look bad in the public eye if they say no.”

Get a piece of the Pontiac Silverdome while you still can. And try not to think too much about the Harris County Domed Stadium when you do.

A sweet, sentimental story to warm the cockles of your cold, cynical heart.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s big opportunity in 2016 is to help recruit and get elected a bunch of Senators like her.

“Republican officials confidently predict Obamacare’s unpopularity will flip control of the Senate in a massive repudiation of the President’s signature domestic accomplishment. Yet multiple GOP candidates in top-tier races are unwilling or unable to take a real position on one of the central pillars of the law, one that will impact tens or hundreds of thousands in the states they’d represent.”

Nice doggie. Please don’t eat me.

“It has everything: privacy, headrests, storage spaces. And it’s only drawbacks are possible major safety concerns and making its user look like a big, antisocial baby in a big-baby sling.”

Your guide to food-based baby names in America. Who knew so many people thought “Kale” would be a good name for a little boy?

“Nearly eight in 10 young adults favor gay marriage”. You almost have to feel sorry for all those not-young adults that are now feeling so very threatened by that. Almost.

“The issue here is not and has never been women consenting to sex and then trying to do a take-back because they had a couple. The issue, and is usually explicitly stated as, rapists targeting women who are incapacitated from alcohol or drug use.”

“Something, it appears, happened around 2003 that caused the rate of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. military to spike. Now what could that have been?”

“Put another way, in Justice Scalia’s world, people get gay-married. In Justice Kennedy’s, gay (and straight) people get married. See the difference?”

In which Tara the hero cat throws out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game and reveals she is a southpaw.

Why you should ditch Adobe Shockwave.

“Meanwhile, if McDonald’s was hoping to keep our concerns out of the public eye by suppressing our participation in the meeting Q&A, their strategy seems to have failed.”

“Yeah, that’s it. It was about the doctrine of sanctification and pastoral practice and such. Nothing to do with defending the defenders of child abusers. Nothing to do with that at all.”

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act was a big success. Now let’s build on that success.

Mean tweeters respond to celebrities reading their mean tweets about them. Self awareness (mostly) not included.

Early runoff turnout higher than expected

Not high, you understand, but higher than expected.


More than 73,000 Harris County residents cast ballots in person or by mail in the five days of early voting before next week’s primary runoffs.

While the total of 73,259 was low compared with the number of eligible voters, political experts said the actual tally of ballots cast was higher than expected.

“I was quite surprised to see how high it was,” said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus. “I think it just references the fact that there are several competitive Republican races.”

Residents voting in the Republican runoff cast 59,122 ballots. Democrats accounted for one-quarter of the ballots at 14,137.

The totals fell short of the July 2012 runoff pitting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst against now-U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a heated campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. About 89,500 voters, including 72,300 Republicans, cast ballots in that runoff.


While early voting numbers are comparable to the 2012 runoff, University of St. Thomas political scientist Jon Taylor asserted that they are “just as crappy,” when looking at the larger picture, blaming it, in part, on “Texas’ traditional voter apathy that goes back decades.”

Harris County has 2 million registered voters.

In addition to the lieutenant governor’s race, the GOP ticket in Harris County includes runoffs for the nominations for attorney general, agriculture commissioner, railroad commissioner, and four local judicial races. There are only two races on the Democratic ballot: One for U.S. Senate, another for state agriculture commissioner.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones estimated the total statewide turnout for the runoff will be between 130,000 and 160,000 for both parties.

I’ve got the daily EV totals here. The prediction made by County Clerk Stan Stanart was for 75,000 Republicans and 20,000 Democrats. While I thought his Democratic prediction was too optimistic, I’d say now that both guesses are a bit low, even if you assume that two thirds of the total vote has already been cast. I have no idea about statewide turnout other than to say I expect Republican totals to be higher. If you’re waiting till Tuesday to vote, be aware that you almost certainly won’t be able to go to your usual precinct location. I’ll have info about that Tuesday morning. In the meantime, who did vote and who is planning to vote on the 27th? Leave a comment and let us know.

California AG office does better on pay equity than Texas AG office

That’s gotta sting.

Female lawyers in the California state prosecutor’s office don’t fall as far behind their male counterparts in pay as do female lawyers in the Texas attorney general’s office, according to a Texas Tribune analysis.

Since March, the question of equal pay has been a key issue in the Texas gubernatorial contest between Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. Davis has criticized Abbott for not paying female lawyers in his office as much as men. Abbott has deflected the criticism, saying he believes women should be paid as much as men.

The Tribune gathered payroll information from California and Texas, and compared the differences in median and average pay for male and female lawyers at both prosecutors’ offices. Though each state’s agency has some unique responsibilities, both are charged with representing their respective states in litigation and with serving as legal counsel to state agencies, boards and commissions.

The comparison, which took seven weeks to complete because California did not immediately turn over relevant information, revealed that while there were some discrepancies in compensation for male and female lawyers at both state agencies, Texas female lawyers fell further behind than their California counterparts.

See here for the background. The shame of it all, for Greg Abbott to be bested by California. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t much, just another anecdote in a long story. But still, losing to California. The horror, the horror.

Walk carefully

Texas cities are not so safe for pedestrians. Yeah, I’m as shocked as you are.


Houston pedestrians better cross with care. The city is the seventh most dangerous in the nation for people on foot, according to a new report from the National Complete Streets Coalition at Smart Growth America, a nonprofit that advocates for neighborhood safety.

Texas ranked as the 10th most dangerous state for walking commuters, with nearly 4,200 pedestrian deaths between 2003 and 2012. That’s roughly 10 percent of such deaths nationally during that time period, according to data compiled from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics.

Although the total number of traffic fatalities has decreased nationally, the number of pedestrian deaths has grown. In 2012, 15 percent of all traffic fatalities involved people on foot.

As Congress considers reauthorizing MAP-21, a 2012 law that funds national transportation infrastructure, nonprofits like Smart Growth America and their pro-public safety allies are urging lawmakers nationwide to pass additional federal policy that would ensure pedestrian safety.

“This is about making smarter choices, investing our transportation dollars in projects that help achieve multiple community goals, including public health and supporting local economies,” said Roger Millar, the director of the coalition.

Using numbers from the National Weather Service, the reports says the number of pedestrian deaths in the past decade — 47,000 — is 16 times higher than the number of people who died in natural disasters. But “pedestrian deaths don’t receive a corresponding level of urgency,” Millar added.


There are two key explanations for the danger of Houston streets, said Jay Blazek Crossley, a policy analyst at Houston Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that examines urban issues in the region. One is the design of city streets, which he said prioritizes speed over safety. The other is that the region has chosen to spend on toll roads over safer urban design, he said.

“Our money is focused on building toll roads in the middle of nowhere,” Crossley said. “Instead of redesigning streets with safety in mind, we’re putting our attention there.”

Crossley added that Houston has made some recent strides. In October, Mayor Annise Parker announced an executive order establishing a citywide Complete Streets policy aimed at protecting pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists and public transit riders.

Dallas and San Antonio are also on the list, though not as high up as Houston. I don’t think there’s any question that the way our streets are built, to accommodate cars first and foremost, is the main reason behind this. As Wonkblog points out, cities that are safer for pedestrians tend to be older ones where the main street grid was built before cars existed, and thus were engineered for walking. The Complete Streets directive will help, but to say the least that’s a long-term fix. I don’t know what there is to do in the short run, but raising awareness can’t hurt. Ed Kilgore has more.