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March 26th, 2023:

Weekend link dump for March 26

“Sending new moms to prison has devastating consequences. Some states are starting to rethink the practice.”

“Fox may be forced to read an apology on air or something, but the audience still loves the product. It’s basically the W.W.E. for this kind of world.”

“Now you may wonder if there can be any number at all that is not interesting. That question quickly leads to a paradox: if there really is a value n that has no exciting properties, then this very fact makes it special. But there is indeed a way to determine the interesting properties of a number in a fairly objective way—and to mathematicians’ great surprise, research in 2009 suggested that natural numbers (positive integers) divide into two sharply defined camps: exciting and boring values.”

“Ohio State To Supreme Court: Please Stop People From Suing Us Over Athletics Doctor’s Sexual Abuse“. By the way, if The Ohio State’s argument sounds familiar, it’s because SCOTUS has ruled in favor of a similar defendant on that argument before. If and when they take this case and OSU wins, it will be history repeating itself in a bad way.

“Hunter Biden is apparently sick and tired of being a silent Republican punching bag. He’s going on offense, suing the computer repair shop owner who gave his private information to the Republican operatives who then spread it as far and wide as they were able.”

“As the age for collecting full Social Security benefits increases, persons who retire at age 62 will see a greater reduction in their Social Security benefits.”

“These unflattering photos do what kids do best: they wholeheartedly engage with the present moment.”

Leave Flaco the Central Park Owl alone!

What makes March Madness special is things like pep band solidarity and singing your way around NCAA rules. If you know, you know.

“Why You Should Opt Out of Sharing Data With Your Mobile Provider”.

Is the Western drought finally ending? That depends on where you look”.

“But has the United States fully internalized the lessons of the Iraq War? Two decades later it is clear that Washington still has crucial lessons to absorb.”

“Fox News Sues Fox News Producer Who Is Suing Fox News Which Is Being Sued by Dominion”.

While I greatly appreciate what Nebraska State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh is doing with her filibuster against anti-trans legislation, I must reluctantly point out that Wendy Davis’ famous filibuster (she cites Davis as an inspiration) ultimately failed, and things have gotten far worse since then. A filibuster can be a great tactic, but in the end nothing is going to stop a determined majority except voting enough of them out so they’re no longer the majority.

RIP, Willis Reed, basketball Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion with the Knicks.

There are more investigations into Donald Trump’s criminality than you might realize.

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Pickles, two radiated tortoises at the Houston Zoo, on the hatching of their three children.

RIP, Ada Edwards, Houston civil rights activist and former City Council member.

RIP, Joe Giella, comic book and comic strip artist. Here’s a great sample of his work on Mary Worth.

RIP, Jim Harithas, Houston art legend who co-founded two Houston art institutions, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Car Museum.

The upcoming week in legislative gay-bashing

From the inbox, from Equality Texas:

Monday, 3/27
Action Alerts & Upcoming Hearings

HB 1686, the companion bill to SB 14, would ban trans youth from access to health care. We cannot let this pass. The hearing for HB 1686 begins at 8:00am, but we’ll be there bright and early to register to testify. Hearing details & RSVP.

Community Action: Drop a card (opposing), submit written testimonycall committee members.

Tuesday, 3/28

HB 2055 would repeal an antiquated law that bans same-sex relationships. Despite being overturned by the US Supreme Court in 2003 (Lawrence v. Texas) that law remains on the books in Texas.

Community Action: Drop a card (supporting), submit written testimony.

HB 1507 would ban pride celebrations in schools. Pride celebrations are important because they show LGBTQ+ kids that their identities are valid and worth celebrating. Hearing details and sign-up.

Community Action: Drop a card (opposing), submit written testimonycall committee members.

Wednesday, 3/29

HB 1952 would ban updates to gender markers on birth certificates. Hearing notice and details.

Community Action: Drop a card (opposing), submit written testimonycall committee members.

HB 888 would modify medical malpractice law to increase liability for doctors providing care to trans youth. Hearing notice and details.

Community Action: Drop a card (opposing), submit written testimonycall committee members.

This Week’s Hearing Highlight Reel:

SB 14 (Trans youth healthcare ban)

While we were rallying outside the Capitol on Monday afternoon, SB 14 moved out of committee. It is scheduled to be debated on the Senate Floor on Tuesday, March 28th. A committee hearing for SB 14’s companion bill, HB 1686, is also scheduled for Monday. We’re planning something big, and we need everyone there. Details about our plan for 3/27 and community actions are listed below under the Upcoming Events section.

HB 900 (Book Burning Act)

Tuesday’s hearing for HB 900 ended just after midnight and was left pending. Shoutout to Gordy, one of our Field Organizers, whose testimony summed up our feelings in this one line “The representation of my identity in literature is not obscene nor patently offensive.”

SB8 (Don’t Say Gay/Trans)

On Wednesday, the day of the hearing, legislators issued a committee substitute (a new version) of SB 8. The committee substitute is even more stringent than the original bill, and would now ban all instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, regardless of any age-appropriate designation. Not even 18-year-olds in high school would have access to LGBTQ+ related materials. On top of that, while the public hearing was still happening, the committee cut off access to testimony registration and card drops. That’s where we drew the line.

This was clearly a direct attempt to silence us, but it only made us louder. We called an emergency rally for 6:30 pm, and raced to send out the information. With only an hour and a half’s notice, 100 people showed up to Draw the Line. The power of our community is unbelievable, and we are so grateful for your support, resilience, and love.

SB 12 (Drag Tax) & SB 1601 (Drag Storytime ban)

Texas drag has a long, vibrant history with many unique scenes throughout the state. Did you know San Antonio was home to a thriving drag scene 100 years ago? Drag is part of Texas history, and community support for Texas drag artists was off the charts at Thursday’s hearing. More than 900 of you shantayed over to the Capitol and dropped cards in opposition to these bills. The 19 people who dropped cards in support of the bills should really just take the L and sashay away.


When the lives of our trans siblings are literally up for debate, we need everyone’s help. We need all the community power we can get to show up to the Capitol on Monday, March 27th, make some noise, and raise hell. Lives are on the line. Banning our care is unconscionable. They have blood on their hands. The rally will be midday (exact time and location TBA).

I have not been paying close attention to the Lege this session. It’s all bad, and I just don’t have it in me to wallow in it. A lot of people don’t have that choice, because this is existential for them. Here’s what can be done right now to help. In the end, we’ve got to win at the ballot box.

Preferred path decision for University BRT line delayed

Still working out some issues with the community.

A decision on the preferred path for Houston’s longest bus rapid transit line will wait a couple weeks longer following community outcry regarding a planned railroad overpass.

Metropolitan Transit Authority’s board of directors delayed approval of a preferred route for the University Corridor BRT project, the longest bus rapid transit project planned in the region as part of the agency’s long-range plan.

An approval of the preferred line will come “in the next week or two weeks,” Metro Chairman Sanjay Ramabhadran said, as the agency tries to line up federal funding and approvals.

“There is a lot of ways to go before we start building things,” Ramabhadran said.


Approval of the preferred route is significant because it is the specific location Metro will plan to build, and any adjustments would deviate from that plan if issues arise.

Though the project stretches 25 miles, it is a dozen or so blocks in the East End that are dividing Metro and residents in the area of the proposed overpass.

“The neighborhood fabric is being sacrificed for this overpass,” Laura Vargas told a Metro committee on Tuesday.

Transit officials said approving the route will not keep them from working to make the project more appealing to riders and residents alike

“It is certainly not the end of the process,” said Yuhayna Mahmud, project manager for the University Corridor.

Design of the line is 30 percent complete, she said.

Eastwood residents, however, have seen enough to organize their concerns over a planned overpass on Lockwood from Rusk to Sherman, spanning Harrisburg Boulevard, the parallel Union Pacific Railroad tracks and the Green Line light rail. Dozens have shown up at various Metro public meetings over the past month to discuss the project, including a meeting specifically to discuss the overpass Tuesday night. The concern for many is that the overpass would undermine the community by separating the buses from traffic while physically dividing the neighborhood.

“It should be for the people and not over the people,” overpass critic Tina Brady told Metro officials Tuesday.

The delay was welcomed by elected officials, who said it allows for transit planners and neighborhood groups to talk more and, perhaps, settle on a plan palatable to all.

“I believe Metro does owe it to the residents of the East End to build consensus,” Precinct Two Commissioner Adrian Garcia said.

Citing the ongoing debate over the impacts of the Interstate 45 rebuild, Garcia said Metro also must consider what its design will do to communities.

“Overpasses tend to be divisive and tend to divide communities even further,” Garcia said.


Facing freight train delays, pocked streets and the potential for a dividing overpass, what the community wants are proposals that can address many of the issues in an agreeable way, even if that means leveraging funds from Metro and others, such as Houston to rebuild streets or federal funds aimed at removing at-grade train crossings.

“We have to think beyond just this project,” said Veronica Chapa Gorczynski, president of the East End Management District. “We are a community, and our infrastructure is as integrated as our community is, and we can do better.”

If that comes with some hard-to-swallow changes, some residents said they will feel more part of the process, even if that means an overpass.

“If we can come to the same conclusion that this is the best thing for the community, then we can live with that,” said resident Reese Campbell.

See here for the previous update. The story references the Harrisburg overpass controversy from almost a decade ago, in which Metro ultimately went against the prevailing preference of an underpass, which they originally said they’d build and then backed away from when they decided it would be far more expensive than they first thought. It sounds like people remember that but are still willing to engage, which is a good sign. I hope Metro is as transparent as possible here and that the residents feel as though their concerns have been heard and reasonably addressed.

The vinyl renaissance

I’m not surprised by this and definitely pleased by it, though I have a little secret to confess.

After Dave Ritz came back to Houston from serving in the U.S. Army — working in a Saigon, Vietnam, radio station — he assembled a collection of more than 3,000 vinyl records. He organized the first Houston Record Convention in 1978 in the Galleria area and has been hosting such conventions six times a year ever since.

Don’t look for those events to stop anytime soon. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s annual revenue report, vinyl albums outsold CDs last year for the first time since 1987. Additionally, physical music formats continue to grow with $1.7 billion in sales in 2022, a 4 percent growth from the previous year.

Ritz, who has sold vinyl all over the country, says that interest in vinyl in Houston has always been steady. And he even noticed a Bayou City uptick in record sales shortly before the pandemic drove people to get their music fix inside their homes.

“It’s driven by younger people, there’s no doubt about that,” Ritz said. “The thing about a record is that when you hold it, you feel like you have something. You’ve got artwork on the front. Sometimes inserts with personal information or photos inside. And then you’ve got this disc you can play.”

Michael Morales, who goes by DJ Mikey Mike, runs a Facebook network of DJs across Houston that continue to spin vinyl. Morales said the vinyl resurgence is due in large part to parents wanting to introduce their children to the music they listen to.

Both Ritz and Morales said the hottest vinyl records right now are 1980s albums.

“If you can get your hand on a Journey, Van Halen, or Boston, or anything like that, it gets pretty competitive and pricey,” Morales said. “80s rock bands I would say are pretty hot right now.”

Cactus Music has been a popular spot for vinyl records in Houston for 47 years. Co-owner Quinn Bishop said there has been a steady uptick of interest in vinyl records for the past 15 years coinciding with a decline in CD sales.

Most big box retailers, like Best Buy and Target, have largely abandoned selling CDs.

“There’s a greater proliferation of vinyl stores and shrinking storefronts for CDs, and that has sort of accelerated the trend,” Bishop said.

Cactus Music still offers CDs, which are often cheaper than vinyl records.


Bishop said younger people have a “bookshelf mentality” and want to support their favorite artists by buying something physical. In fact, according to research by the entertainment data website Luminate, only half of U.S. vinyl buyers even own a record player.

Bishop said when an artist like Taylor Swift releases their albums on vinyl, it brings people into Cactus Music for the first time.

“Not everyone has a great record store near them,” Bishop said. “I will say that if you live in Houston, Texas, you’re very fortunate because there are quite a few terrific record stores here. That is not true everywhere.”

I would agree with that. Cactus Music is a great store, which often features live performances. If you’re a music head, put them on your destination list when you come to town to visit.

Both my daughters are big music fans, though Olivia is more the collector type. She has a turntable and a decent-sized cache of vinyl, some of which she inherited from me and my wife, some of which she has bought for herself, and some of which has been given to her as Christmas or birthday presents. What Ritz says about the feel and the artwork and the pride of ownership absolutely applies to her. (And to a lesser extent to Audrey, who just bought the latest Taylor Swift releases on CD, even though she listens almost exclusively to Apple Music.) She did play her records in her room before she went off to college, and I’m sure she will again when she’s back for spring break and the summer, but it’s not so much about that – Olivia is also mostly an Apple Music and Spotify girl – it is, for lack of a better word, about the coolness of it. There’s just something about studying the album art, reading and memorizing the lyrics, looking to see who has the songwriting credits and who sat in this session and on and on. I was at best a middlebrow collector back in the 80s, but I have a lot of happy memories of this kind.

As for that confession: I really preferred collecting CDs. With record albums, I mostly played them to record them to tape, because you could get the whole album on tape, you could skip a song you didn’t like that way, and you could play a tape in your car. CDs enabled the whole-album playing, the song-skipping, and the portability, while being more durable than tape and keeping the artwork (though in a smaller size) and the lyric sheets and other inserts. I basically stopped buying vinyl once I got a CD player. Later on, once I was firmly in the clutches of my iPod, I got myself a USB turntable and ripped a bunch of my old vinyl to MP3s. I’m delighted that The Kids Today are into vinyl – it’s a boon for the artists, it’s a great generation-spanning conversation topic, a good record store is a blessing – but in my heart of hearts I’m a CD guy.