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March 27th, 2016:

Weekend link dump for March 27

“The genetic roots of today’s Irish, in other words, existed in Ireland before the Celts arrived.”

That so-called VA “scandal” was a load of bollocks stirred up by the usual suspects.

“The GOP is divided between those people — variously called the Tea Party or the base or the insurgents — and the rest of the party, who are terrified of them and feel the need to continually prove their anti-government bona fides and ideological purity. So the entire party embraces not just ideological radicalism, but a procedural radicalism as well.”

What Kevin Drum says.

Almost half of the people who die at the hands of police have some kind of disability, according to a new report, as officers are often drawn into emergencies where urgent care may be more appropriate than lethal force.”

Having a dinosaur named after you is pretty high on the Coolness list.

“In other words, Obama hasn’t so much moved from the center to the left as he has moved the center to the left, redefining it in the process.”

“This spring, I’m going to write about the unwritten rules of a clubhouse teenager. There will always be unwritten rules, cascading down from the sky, daring you to record them with ink and quill.”

It has been said that when Phillies games are rained out, their fans will go to the airport and boo bad landings. Thus, it is no surprise that the Game of Thrones dragon was booed while on a promo tour in Philadelphia.

“To this day, [Susan Spencer] remains the only female general manager in [NFL] history.”

“It will be a profound struggle or at least take several working groups for the Freedom Caucus to figure out why they’re actually against Trump. Since he embodies everything they’ve ever stood for.”

A very happy 100th birthday to Beverly Cleary.

Hulk Hogan shouldn’t count his money just yet.

RIP, Rob Ford, former Mayor of Toronto.

RIP, Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel.

“A wave of queer female character deaths has fans fighting to remake TV.”

“The official name of a new multi-million pound research vessel could be the RRS Boaty McBoatface after the internet was asked for its ideas.”

Sarah Palin is going to be a TV judge, for “people seeking a common sense in the courtroom”. This is a thing that is going to happen.

RIP, Ken Howard, actor and SAG-AFTRA president.

RIP, Joe Garagiola, catcher and Hall of Fame broadcaster. As a kid I attended a summer baseball day camp for many years. During the lunch break, we’d watch a highlight film of a World Series or All Star Game, many of which were narrated by Garagiola. I can still do a decent impression of his call of Dan Driessen, the NL’s first ever designated hitter, hitting a home run in the 1976 Series. Rest in peace, Joe G.

There’s no evidence that that standing desk you made your company buy for you is doing you any good.

RIP, Garry Shandling, comedian and star of “The Larry Sanders Show”, among others. See here for more.

“Now, you might think that drawing a straight line from legalized abortion to a $4 trillion economic loss seems like a preposterous simplification of a complicated question: What is the socioeconomic impact of legal abortion? If you think that, you are probably one of the social scientists who recently had their intellects insulted by a certain journalist who asked them to take ghost abortions seriously. That journalist is me, and I am sorry.”

I sure hope that the artificial intelligence used to power driverless cars is better than the AI Microsoft used to power “Tay”.

How Bill James predicted the rise of Donald Trump…fifteen years ago.

What the Hawaii Democratic caucuses were like.

Can SCOTUS please intervene in the voter ID case?

The plaintiffs would like to know.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Civil rights groups challenging Texas’ voter identification law are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the measure from being used during the 2016 general election.

[…]

The civil rights groups filed a motion Friday with the Supreme Court asking it to vacate a Fifth Circuit ruling that has allowed the voter ID law to continue being implemented unchanged and to reinstate an injunction against the measure. The groups also asked the high court to consider giving the federal court in Corpus Christi limited jurisdiction over the case to issue a new injunction.

Requiring one of seven forms of valid ID, Texas’ voter ID law is considered one of the most stringent in the country. The Legislature passed the measure in 2011, and it has been the subject of litigation ever since.

Following the October 2014 ruling by the federal court in Corpus Christi, the Fifth Circuit allowed the law to stay in effect while the state appealed to avoid disrupting the elections that took place weeks after.

But the civil rights groups argue the Fifth Circuit’s stay has now stretched nearly 18 months and has “injured Texas voters in two more statewide election cycles in 2015 and 2016, and, unless vacated, will very likely cause further injury by allowing enforcement of an invalid state law again during the 2016 Texas general elections.”

Lawyers for the groups asked the Fifth Circuit last week to reverse its decision allowing the law to stay in effect, but the court said it would not consider that motion until it rehears the case in the last week of May.

The civil rights groups say the Fifth Circuit’s schedule is likely to prevent them from getting a ruling in time for the 2016 elections. Texas starts its election preparations in June, just days after the full appeals court will revisit the case.

See here for the background, and here for a copy of the application to vacate the Fifth Circuit ruling. Bear in mind that the federal district court judge put a stay on the law in her 2014 ruling, but on appeal the Fifth Circuit lifted the stay, with the Supreme Court concurring, on the grounds that it was too close to the election to change all the procedures that had been put in place to inform people about voter ID. Whatever you think of that ruling, there’s plenty of time to change things now, unless of course the Fifth Circuit runs out the clock, which some people think was their intent. I presume a 4-4 ruling means that the stay will not be reinstated, so the plaintiffs will need to hope for the good Anthony Kennedy to show up. We’ll see how it goes. SCOTUSBlog, The Hill, and NBC News have more.

Alma Allen for HISD Superintendent?

It could happen.

Rep. Alma Allen

Rep. Alma Allen

State Rep. Alma Allen, a former school principal, has emerged as a high-profile contender for the HISD superintendent’s job during the early stages of the search.

The Houston Democrat, who retired from the Houston Independent School District in 2000 and served on the State Board of Education for much of the 1990s, confirmed to the Houston Chronicle on Friday that she was seeking the post to lead the nation’s seventh-largest school system.

“I want people to know,” said Allen, 76. “I want them to know they have someone in the city who is a native Houstonian who is qualified for this position. …This is something I would love to do. I would love for my career to end on this note.”

[…]

The school board has indicated it plans to look across the country for a superintendent to replace Terry Grier, who retired Feb. 29. However, the trustees have not yet crafted a profile of the ideal candidate. The search firm they hired first plans to provide them with feedback from community meetings held over the last two months.

Allen, who worked four decades in HISD as a teacher, principal and central-office administrator, said she has the support of several elected officials, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a former colleague in the state House. Turner’s spokeswoman did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

Allen said one of Turner’s staff members gave the school board’s search firm a letter of support for her at a meeting Wednesday night. State Rep. Gene Wu, who was at the meeting, said he did not read the letter but recalled the mayor’s staffer saying the mayor was sending a letter of support. Wu said he and state Rep. Hubert Vo, another Houston Democrat, both support Allen.

“We at least want her to be considered – someone who has had a lifelong tenure in education, someone who is intimately knowledgeable about our education system, someone who sits on the education committee in the Legislature,” Wu said. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have someone who is able to navigate the Legislature.”

There’s some other general praise for Rep. Allen, whose only known competitor for the job (if indeed she wants it) is interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt. Neither Allen nor Huewitt has ever been a Superintendent before – they would have to pass a certification exam or get a waiver from the Texas Education Agency in order to take the HISD job – and Huewitt doesn’t have a background in education but rather in finance, which has caused some people to express concern about him.

Joe Greenberg, spokesman for a local group of business leaders, parents and community leaders called the Coalition for Great Houston Schools, urged the board to pursue a national search.

“The board’s highest priority should be to search for a candidate with a track record of tangible academic achievement in a large, diverse urban district,” he said.

I like Rep. Allen and admire the work she’s done in the Lege. She would surely know how to work with them to ensure that the needs of a large urban school district such as HISD were being met. That said, the Board hired a search firm for a reason, and I think we need to let them do their thing before we begin to zero in on anyone for the job. I’d also like to know what the various parent and activist groups think. By all means, put Rep. Allen in the running. Just don’t make it a two-person race from the get go.

Paxton’s hack hire

What else do you expect?

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton named Jeff Mateer as his new first assistant earlier this month, conservatives lauded him for a legal background that’s highlighted by his work on religious-liberty cases.

But Mateer’s background is drawing fire from those who champion gay rights and church-state separation, particularly since the Republican attorney general’s record already includes advising clerks that they could cite their faith as a reason to refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Mateer isn’t backing away from views that prompt those concerns, saying in a Friday statement to the Express-News, “It’s vitally important to ensure that the state is prohibited from interfering with the free exercise of religion and I look forward to defending these liberties in my new role.”

He quoted the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist’s description of a wall of separation between church and state as a “misleading metaphor.”

Robert Salcido Jr., president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 22198 in San Antonio, wrote in an open letter to Paxton that Mateer’s appointment “presents the appearance the Texas Attorney General is moving the church into a public office. It further suggests your office is setting a course targeting the LGBTQ citizens of Texas to deny our civil rights gains.”

The council – which focuses on fostering positive communication between the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and Latino communities – “will monitor his actions and when necessary take appropriate legal action to protect our community,” Salcido wrote. “We will also ensure that the broader community around the state that is committed to extending civil rights to all Texans is informed of your office’s actions.”

The Texas Freedom Network, which describes its mission as monitoring the “far right,” and Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Mateer made an alarming comment during a 2013 speech.

“I’ll hold up my hundred-dollar bill and say, ‘For the first student who can cite me the provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim, I’ll give this hundred-dollar bill. … It’s not there. … The protections of the First Amendment protect us from government, not to cause government to persecute us because of our religious beliefs,” he said then, according to the network.

Kathy Miller, network president, said in a statement last week that it is “deeply troubling to see the irresponsible appointment of a foot soldier in the culture wars who has explicitly argued that this key constitutional principle protecting religious freedom in America is essentially a myth.”

The Observer reported on this last week. Look, we know who and what Ken Paxton is, and we know what he’s about. All he cares about are primary voters and making sure his conservative credentials are sufficiently burnished to ensure that none of his colleagues feel the need to distance themselves from him. It’s the main thing he’s good at. TFN has more.

Pasadena seeks hockey team

I wish them luck.

Pasadena city officials and a group of developers recently discussed working together on a $357 million sports and entertainment resort development to be built in the convention center area.

The focal point of the proposed 200-acre master-planned development is a convertible entertainment venue and multi-use sports arena to hosts youth and professional sports tournaments and games, concerts, rodeos and ice hockey games among other things.

David Miles of Western Spherical Developers, LLC, outlined plans for the proposed development at a Pasadena City Council workshop held Tuesday (March 1).

As part of the proposal for the sports arena, Miles said members of the development team are in preliminary discussions with officials from the American Hockey League to bring an ice hockey team to Pasadena.

“In addition to ice hockey, I would think a soccer team would also be beneficial to Pasadena,” Councilmember Sammy Casados said.

Miles said the sports arena ice rink was convertible and could used for other sports events such as indoor soccer tournaments or to host professional indoor soccer games.

“Pasadena is a wonderful destination market for indoor youth soccer tournaments and professional-level indoor soccer games and we are definitely looking into those options,” Miles said.

The proposed sports arena could also be adapted for other sporting events such as rodeo/equestrian events, indoor football, indoor lacrosse, basketball, boxing, wrestling, BMX and motorcross races and monster-truck events.

The Houston area hasn’t had a hockey team since the Aeros left town, so I’m rooting for that to happen. But don’t count your pucks before they’re dropped.

I’ve checked with some of my hockey sources and nobody has heard of even the slightest possibility of the AHL putting a hockey team in Pasadena, Texas. Sure, there’s been talk of Sugar Land being the home of a AHL team since the Houston Aeros split for Iowa. But nobody with whom I talked had heard even the silliest of rumors about a hockey team in Pasadena.

Of course, AHL would love to put a team back in the Houston area. The Aeros were a successful franchise with decent attendance and a loyal fanbase. Two major airports made travel within the league easy, and it made it really easy to get players up to the parent teams. And a new team here would work well with the franchises in San Antonio and Austin.

But the discussions I’ve heard always revolve a team back in Houston at Toyota Center — which won’t happen as long as Les Alexander runs the arena (there are a lot of bad feelings around the AHL and the NHL arising from Alexander’s treatment of the Aeros). Placing a team at the NRG Arena is also not possible as long as the team has to spend large parts of February and March on the road became of the rodeo.

The talk has been centered around Sugar Land because that is where the Aeros practice facility was located. Sugar Land is also home of the Sugar Land Skeeters and has shown a willingness to embrace a minor league franchise. But it lacks the one thing most needed by any AHL hockey team, an arena.

There’s more, and author John Royal goes into the usual reckoning about publicly-financed stadia being a very bad deal for the public. He also suggests that the AHL might have been looking at the other Pasadena – you know, the one in California – which would be both hilarious and kind of sad if true.

As for soccer, we’re obviously talking the indoor version, and there are a couple of options. Whether they’re any more realistic or not, I couldn’t say. Beyond that, I echo Royal’s concern about the finances of this kind of thing and hope that the Pasadena Council does its due diligence.