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November 29th, 2015:

Weekend link dump for November 29

“Crime overall in 2015 is expected to be largely unchanged from last year, decreasing 1.5 percent.”

“No, really. It’s an actual glossy, full-color magazine called Dabiq, complete with feature articles and photo spreads. So, in the interest of understanding just what makes these violent lunatics tick, I read through 700-plus pages of this oddly well-put-together propaganda and learned …” (via)

Reading this lamentation for teen girl dramedies makes me think Olivia would probably like Ten Things I Hate About You.

“In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did.”

The Illustrated and Admittedly Incomplete History of the Turducken. A rerun, but it always makes me laugh.

Maybe too much polling is a problem.

Turns out that calling something “terrorism” can be pretty damn controversial.

“HIV is not a punishment for bad behavior. It’s an illness.”

How you should have handled those awkward holiday conversations with your family. Including those awkward baseball conversations.

“Perhaps the most intriguing finding, however, is that climate denial is faddish. Certain themes get hot for a while and then get replaced by others.”

Four no-hope GOP Presidential candidates will get their equal time on NBC thanks to Donald Trump and Saturday Night Live.

Animal Planet gets sued for being bad to animals and the planet.

A group of youth activists are suing the federal government to force action on climate change.

“Student protesters at Princeton performed a valuable public service last week when they demanded that the administration acknowledge the toxic legacy of Woodrow Wilson, who served as university president and New Jersey governor before being elected to the White House. He was an unapologetic racist whose administration rolled back the gains that African-Americans achieved just after the Civil War, purged black workers from influential jobs and transformed the government into an instrument of white supremacy.”

Lying liars should be held accountable for their lies.

“So the next time you think of Billy Mitchell, remember that he is not the floating, alien head that you might have seen explode in a cartoon. He is a real man who is very good at video games. We hope this clears things up.”

Get to know some of the Presidential Medal of Freedom winners that you don’t already know but should.

RIP, Guy Lewis, longtime University of Houston basketball coach.

Feds respond to request for delay of immigration appeal



It was the federal government’s move Tuesday, and the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to reject Texas’ request for a 30-day extension to file its brief in the case, but says it is open to an eight-day delay if the response is “physically on file” at that time.

A full delay could mean the high court doesn’t render a final decision on the program — known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — until June 2017, U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said in a letter to Supreme Court Clerk Scott S. Harris. That would be more than two years after the president announced the policy that would protect more than four million undocumented immigrants from deportation proceedings and allow them to apply for three-year work permits.


It’s unclear when the high court will decide on the extension, but the justice department said it’s prepared to press on should the extension be granted.

“We note, however, that should state respondents’ request for a 30-day extension be granted, we anticipate filing a motion for expedition and a May argument session to permit the case to be heard this Term,” Verrilli wrote.

See here, here, and here for the background. Not much to add here. I trust we will know soon enough what the answer is, because if we’re left to wait for a response then won’t be anything to respond to. A statement from the Texas Organizing Project is beneath the fold, and the Current and SCOTUSBlog, which has a copy of the feds’ response, have more.


Hey look, a Regent Square update

Sometimes I forget this is still a thing.

In 2007, longtime urbanites said goodbye to the Allen House Apartments, a decades-old complex along Dunlavy just south of Allen Parkway. The multiblock property was a Houston institution, housing hundreds of college students, senior citizens and professionals behind brick walls and wrought-iron balconies that gave it a decidedly New Orleans feel.

The demolition of most of the units there – while marking the end of an era and eliminating scores of reasonably priced inner-city apartments – was done to make way for a more modern development covering 24 acres of prime property. The land has sat mostly dormant during the years following the initial announcement, but several new signs point to a coming revival of the project, Regent Square.

The development was the subject of a meeting Wednesday night of the North Montrose Civic Association. Scott Howard, the association’s treasurer, presented details about the project to residents. He said he had met with an official from the Boston-based development company earlier in the week.

“They’re ready to go,” Howard said, explaining how the project had been shelved during the recession. He showed off booklets the developer had passed along containing renderings and site maps. It was dated Nov. 16, 2015.

Howard told the group, which was meeting in the library of Carnegie Vanguard High School in the Montrose area, that the project would contain 400,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, 240,000 square feet of office space, 950 multifamily units and 4,200 parking spaces.

Plans for an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an entertainment concept that combines a movie theater and dining, in Regent Square are still in the works, as well.

“Alamo is coming to Regent Square,” Neil Michaelsen of Triple Tap Ventures, owner of the Houston locations, said Thursday in an email.

See here for prior updates. The last news we heard about this was almost three years ago, when the announcement was made about the Alamo Drafthouse. The developers did recently finish off a high-end apartment complex a bit down the street on West Dallas, so they haven’t been completely inactive, but I think it’s fair to say the main event has taken a lot longer than anyone might have expected. At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Another lawsuit against Uber

Hard to keep track of them all.


A former San Antonio-area driver for Uber has filed a class-action lawsuit against the ride-hailing company, alleging it pays drivers less than minimum wage, makes them eat expenses it should pay for and misleads users into thinking they do not have to tip drivers.

David Micheletti is among a growing number of drivers to accuse the San Francisco-based company, which matches riders with drivers through a smart-phone application, of shorting their paychecks by treating them as independent contractors instead of employees.

Micheletti filed his suit weeks ago in state district court in Bexar County, but Uber denied the allegations and moved it this month to federal court.

The suit seeks to be certified as a class-action for other drivers with similar claims as Micheletti. His attorney, Marie Napoli of New York, said she has a handful of similar class-action lawsuits in other cities where Uber operates, and they might end up being consolidated in multidistrict litigation with others filed around the country.

“This case is about one thing: Thousands of hard-working drivers struggling to get by while Uber, a company valued at more than $50 billion, exploits them to bolster its bottom line,” the lawsuit said.

Uber responded to inquiries about the suit with a statement that said, “Driver-partners are independent contractors who use Uber on their own terms: they control their use of the app.


The suit said Uber pays its drivers weekly, taking 20 percent and leaving drivers with the remaining 80 percent. Micheletti made $500 to $600 per week and incurred $100 to $200 in expenses like gas, tolls, lease payments and car repairs, the suit said.

So, after expenses, he made about $5 an hour, or $2.25 less than minimum wage, the suit said. It also said Uber misappropriated money from driver’s fares, including $1 from each fare to pay for background checks, driver safety education and safety features in its mobile application, which Micheletti believes Uber should pay, not the drivers.

The suit said Uber fails to honor its financial commitment to drivers. For instance, it’s supposed to compensate drivers $6 for each canceled fare. But in Micheletti’s case, he was only compensated for 20 canceled fares but not paid for more than 70 others.

Micheletti claims Uber told him he would get a credit card that gave him discounts on gas once he completed 20 fares, but he never received the card. He also alleges Uber misleads drivers regarding the amount of money they can earn — up to $20 an hour in fares at certain peak times. He never made anywhere near that, the suit said.

There have been multiple lawsuits filed against Uber, here in Texas and elsewhere. I don’t know if this one will be folded into the other class action lawsuit over how Uber classifies its drivers are independent contractors, but I won’t be surprised if other drivers join in. We’ll see how it goes.

Runoff endorsement watch: Frazer breaks the tie

The Chronicle has a bit of unfinished endorsement business to take care of as we approach early voting for the runoffs. In the At Large #1 and #5 races, their endorsed candidate from November did not make it into the second round, while in the Controller’s race they double-endorsed, with both of their recommended choices making the cut. They narrowed their preference down to one by endorsing Bill Frazer.

Bill Frazer

Bill Frazer

When selecting their next controller, Houston voters should look for someone who can keep a focus on these core problems – someone who is unafraid to ring the siren about Houston’s approaching financial crisis.

Of the two candidates left in the runoff, Bill Frazer has proven himself most willing to do the dirty business of the controller’s office and warn the public about the looming fiscal wreck.


We don’t agree with Frazer on every policy. His support for the city revenue cap smacks more of political signalling than financial wisdom. However, the controller’s office does not make policy, and Frazer’s skeptical eye on city spending would be a healthy counterbalance to the political incentive for mayor and City Council to splurge on their constituents.

Frazer’s opponent, Chris Brown, has an impressive resume of his own. He’s worked as a trader for an investment bank, chief of staff on City Council and currently serves as chief deputy city controller. But when he met with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, Brown emphasized compromise and coalition-building as key to solving the city’s financial problems. Political problems are in the mayor’s portfolio. Controller, on the other hand, should be playing bad cop in the fight over Houston’s financial numbers.

As noted in the editorial, the Chron had endorsed Frazer in 2013, so this is neither a stretch nor a surprise. I’m not sure how much more of a “bad cop” Frazer would be than any of the other candidates – best I can recall, every candidate I interviewed espoused some variation on a stance of “not there to antagonize or collaborate but to call balls and strikes and provide accurate information to the Mayor and Council”. Perhaps the way Frazer said it was the more appealing to the Chron. Be that as it may, Frazer is certainly a qualified candidate, and he demonstrated some crossover appeal both in 2013 and in this November. For his part, Brown has been busy collecting endorsements from just about every Democratic elected official in town. It should be an interesting race.