Mike Honig is originally from Brooklyn, New York. He moved to Houston in September of 1977 and has been there ever since. Mike's interests are politics, history, science, science fiction (and reading generally), technology, and almost anything else. Mike has knowledge and experience in many diverse fields, sometimes from having worked in them, and sometimes from extensive reading or discussion about them. Mike's general knowledge makes him a favorite partner in Trivial Pursuit. He likes to say that about most things, he knows enough to be dangerous. Humility is a work-in-progress.
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This was intended for discussion on an earlier show, but the story has gotten a bit dated. That being said, it’s still interesting to compare the non-partisan maps generated by the Michigan commission to the gerrymandered maps created by the Texas Legislature. You can link to the Michigan maps below.
Michigan’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission adopted three plans Tuesday for the voting districts that will govern Michigan’s 13 congressional districts, 38 state Senate seats and 110 state House seats for the next decade. …
Tuesday’s vote marks the commission’s first adoption of maps since it was created via a ballot initiative in 2018. Prior to that, the maps were drawn by the political party in power.
“We did the best job we could with the time and everything else we were given,” said Commissioner Cynthia Orton, a Republican on the panel. “What could be improved is what will be improved next time. We started with a lot of unknowns. It had never been done before in Michigan, and the next commission will have the benefit of us having done this before.” …
But commissioners are expecting to encounter legal challenges to the maps in the coming weeks. Both the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party and the Michigan Republican Party said Tuesday they were exploring their legal options. …
The panel spent much of Tuesday morning ironing out the process they’d follow for the final vote and listening to continued objections to the proposed maps during a more than hour-long public comment period. …
The commission is expecting legal challenges to the maps to be filed in the coming weeks. That litigation could uphold the adopted maps, could send them back to the commission for changes or could prompt the courts to make changes. If there are no successful legal challenges to the maps, they will stand until they are reviewed by a new commission in 10 years.
Groups have been vocal about their exploration of litigation in relation to the maps.
Tuesday’s vote was preceded by a Detroit press conference with Detroit pastors and politicians urging the commission to make changes to avoid dilution of the Black vote. …
In some of the maps, the commission decreased the number of majority-Black districts in the proposed maps by stretching Detroit districts into the suburbs in an effort to increase partisan fairness and “unpack” past efforts to isolate the Democratic vote to certain districts. But Detroit leaders have argued the commission did too much to unpack the Detroit area and have damaged minority voters’ chances of getting their preferred candidate through primary elections. …
The commission’s consultants have repeatedly said there are other ways to comply with Voting Rights Act requirements than setting an arbitrary percentage of Black voting age population with which the districts must comply. …
The Michigan Republican Party on Tuesday said it was “evaluating all options to take steps necessary to defend the voices silenced by this commission.”
Democratic groups weren’t quick to criticize the maps. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, now chairman for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, praised the commission’s work as a “success” that shows independent commissions can “produce a fair result.”
MIKE: Compare and contrast the Michigan maps and process with Texas.
This program was recorded for broadcast December 29, 2021. The recording attached is the original edition intended for that broadcast. For technical reasons, will be for technical reasons, it will be aired for the first time on January 5, 2022. We apologize for any inconvenience.
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will help create a home for young people during this tough transition,” Hidalgo said, noting roughly 200 young adults age out of the foster care system in Harris County each year. “I know this will go a long way in making sure our young people have a fair shot in pursuing the life they wish to live.”
Hidalgo noted the new campus will feature access to nearby hike-and-bike trails as well as several Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County—or METRO—stops to provide residents without vehicles easy access to and from the site.
Joel Levine, executive director of the county’s Resources for Children and Adults Department, said the county has spent several years pursuing the project. …
Sarah Pinyan, who aged out of the state’s foster care system several years ago, lauded the wraparound services she received through the HAY Center. Pinyan was among a cohort of individuals who spent time in the state’s foster care that assisted the county in planning the new campus.
“I have participated in every program at the HAY Center, between our life skills classes, our mentoring and even the bridge housing program,” Pinyan said. “Knowing that the HAY Center has given me housing and the freedom to pursue my own career, my own dreams—especially at a young age—was productive.”
County officials said construction of the new campus is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022 and is slated to wrap up by the third quarter of 2023.
Officials noted the project is primarily funded through Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery grants received by the county and the city of Houston.
ANDREW: I said last week foster system kids don’t have support networks that a lot of people get from parents. This will contribute to that and that’s good, but I wonder what support exists for adults who were formerly foster kids.
A 6.32-acre tract located in the Lakes of Savannah development near County Road 58 will soon be outside of Pearland city limits and instead be located in Pearland’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. …
“There are 42 lots. Of those 42 lots, 36 of those residents out there have already petitioned the city for deannexation,” Pearland City Attorney Darrin Coker said. “The remaining six lots are owned by the developer or builder, and those have also been signed petitions for deannexation.” …
The city of Pearland receives about $30,000 annually in property tax revenue from the homes, Coker said. With the deannexation of the land, the city will lose that revenue, but homeowners will also relinquish all rights to city services, he said.
Tomball City Council approved a $47,614 grant Dec. 6 for a Tomball Economic Development Corp. project to create a new young adult space at the Lone Star College-Tomball Community Library. TEDC Executive Director Kelly Violette said at the meeting the project would be a flexible space including interactive equipment targeting teens in the community.
“The idea is a kind of makers space but something that is going to be attractive to teens to come in and really be a part of that space,” Violette said. …
Library Director Janna Hoglund … said the space will include an interactive touchscreen table, a digital wall with multiple interactive screens, and virtual and augmented reality equipment. She said the library plans to use the space to offer workshops and seminars for young adults. …
Hoglund said this is Phase 2 of the Innovation Lab project, which opened at the library in January 2020. The Innovation Lab, which is a makers space offering various technology and equipment such as 3D printers, has increased community engagement with the library, Hoglund said. She said she hopes the young adult space will do the same.
Between January and February 2019, an average of 63 people attended technology-focused classes at the library, according to the meeting’s agenda packet. That number rose to 363 between January and February 2020 after the Innovation Lab opened, a report in the packet shows.
Hoglund said the library is still considering a name for the new space. She said she hopes the library can open the space in spring 2022, but the library is still finalizing the timeline.
ANDREW: This is great. As more communal parts of life are commercialized, people will still have those needs, but fewer options to satisfy them. Libraries are increasingly stepping up in response– they do books, computers, classes, job hunting, community aid referrals, and yes, creating, both crafts and media. Some offer shelters and kitchens too. Having more places offer those things for free or low cost is always good.
KUFFNER: I’m going to let this speak for itself. [Excerpted from The Texas Tribune]
“Rick Perry is running for governor — but not that Rick Perry.
The Republican Party of Texas updated its list of candidate filings Monday — hours before the deadline for the March primary election — to include a Rick Perry running for governor. The party quickly confirmed that it was not Rick Perry, the former governor and U.S. energy secretary, against Gov. Greg Abbott. Instead it’s Ricky Lynn Perry, a man from Springtown, a town in Parker County northwest of Fort Worth. On the form, the man listed “Rick Perry” as the version of his name that he wants to appear on the ballot.
A LinkedIn profile for a Rick Perry from Springtown lists his current job as a senior desktop technician for Lockheed Martin. Neither Perry could be immediately reached for comment.
Abbott is running for a third term and has drawn at least three primary challengers. While Abbott may not be facing a challenge from his predecessor, having such a widely known name on the primary ballot could complicate his path to renomination.
Rick Perry was the longest-serving governor of Texas, preceding Abbott before the latter took office in 2015.
The candidate Perry’s form was notarized by Tony McDonald, an Austin lawyer who is active in anti-establishment conservative circles and has supported one of Abbott’s primary opponents, Don Huffines. McDonald told the Tribune that Perry is a “good conservative activist from Parker County” whom he knows through a “friend of a friend.” McDonald said he was supporting Perry and serving as his campaign treasurer.
Asked if one of Abbott’s existing primary challengers had convinced Perry to run, McDonald said he was “not aware of that.” […]
Abbott’s campaign, meanwhile, scoffed at Perry’s filing. The governor’s top political strategist, Dave Carney, said on Twitter that it was “another stupid pet trick” and that it “will backfire as these stunts always do.”
KUFFNER: You know me, I love a good phonycandidatestory. Most likely this is just a dumb trick that will have no effect on the outcome. But it’s funny, and we could all use a laugh.
… Until now, retired judges picked by the state have often agreed at the mens’ first court hearings to release them from state custody on no-cost bonds while their criminal cases slowly continue through the new judicial process for migrants. Other men who can afford their cash bonds are let out earlier. The released men typically are transferred to federal immigration authorities, after which they are either further detained, deported or released into the United States pending asylum hearings. …
Instead, the region’s administrative judge said, Shahan himself has handpicked five county judges he hopes will help him with the heavy caseload brought on by Abbott’s Operation Lone Star arrests.
“My guess is he’s friends with these folks,” said Stephen Ables, the presiding administrative judge in the region who appointed the three retired judges from a state-provided list to help Kinney County. “He feels they probably understand West Texas.”
Unlike the visiting judges, Shahan has not allowed migrants to be released on no-cost bonds after they plead not guilty in his court. Instead, they stay in the state prisons that Abbott retooled as jails for immigration-related crimes while they await future court proceedings or a trial date. …
In condemning the timing of Shahan’s decision, defense attorneys also pointed to the legal aid group’s recent request for all of its remaining 153 clients in prison to be released on no-cost bonds because the men have been in prison for months without a court date. The visiting judges were expected to hear many of the cases, as Shahan was out of the office after testing positive for the coronavirus. …
MIKE: There’s a lot more detail to this story, but I think this is the essence of it. IMO, the main issue here is the old “Justice delayed is justice denied” argument. I’m surprised that none of the defense attorneys have filed in federal courts for civil rights violations, but of course I’m no lawyer.
ANDREW: Totally wrong. There is clearly not enough oversight of Shahan’s office. I want to know what official reason he gave to dismiss these other judges, and I want that reason thoroughly investigated for plausibility.
For a vast majority of Americans, democracy ends when work hours begin.
Most people in this country are subject, as workers, to the nearly unmediated authority of their employers, which can discipline, sanction or fire them for nearly any reason at all.
In other words, Americans are at the mercy of what the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson calls “private government,” a workplace despotism in which most workers “cede all of their rights to their employers, except those specifically guaranteed to them by law, for the duration of the employment relationship.” …
[T]o say that most workers are subject to unaccountable “private government” is to make clear the authoritarian character of the American workplace. And it is to remind ourselves that in the absence of any countervailing force, the bosses and managers who wield that authority can force workers into deadly environments and life-threatening situations, or force them to remain in them.
That is what appears to have happened on Friday at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory in Mayfield, Ky. There, more than 100 people, including seven prisoners, were on the night shift, working even after tornado sirens sounded outside the facility. “People had questioned if they could leave or go home,” one employee told NBC News in an interview. But, she said, they were warned: If they left, they were “more than likely to be fired.” …
[I]n Edwardsville, Ill., a similarly powerful tornado hit an Amazon warehouse, killing six people. There, too, workers had been toiling in the midst of severe weather.
Had either of these groups of workers been empowered to say … they may have been able to protect themselves, to leave work or miss a shift without jeopardizing their jobs. In the absence of that ability, they were, in effect, compelled to work by the almost sovereign power of their respective employers, with horrific consequences for them, their families and their communities.
Put another way, these disasters cannot be separated from the overall political economy of the United States, which is arguably more anti-labor now than it’s been at any point since Franklin Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act in 1935. A society organized for capital — a society in which most workers are denied a meaningful voice in their place of employment — is a society where some workers will be exposed, against their will, to life-threatening conditions.
The immediate solution is as it always has been: unionization, collective bargaining and workplace democracy. This is easier said than done, of course, but it still must be said. Our democracy is and will remain incomplete for as long as most Americans work without power or representation under the authority of private governments. Whatever democratic habits we hope to instill in ourselves and our children cannot be sustained, in the long run, when democracy is banned from the shop floor. …
Cheers erupted from the table. Brandt, 35, buried her face in her hands and sobbed as Wise put his hands on her shoulders.
“It was a beautiful moment and one I’ll never forget,” Wise wrote in an online post.
[MIKE: I recommend going to that post link and comments for an update.]
The money was to be split between Brandt and the other servers who waited on Wise’s party. But what was supposed to be a kind, life-boosting gesture after the Dec. 2 dinner has devolved into a nightmare for Brandt and a public relations firestorm for Oven & Tap, the Bentonville, Ark., restaurant where she worked for 3½ years. Twelve days later, Brandt is no longer an employee there, and her former workplace has been forced to defend itself after firing her. …
Wise said he called Oven & Tap before the meal to request Brandt as one of the night’s servers and to ensure his plan wouldn’t run afoul of the restaurant’s tipping policy.
After getting the tip, however, Brandt said her manager told her that she and the other servers who worked the party couldn’t keep all of it. Instead, they would have to split it among the bartenders, cooks and food runners, something that had never happened before, Brandt said. Normally, 7 percent of a server’s food-and-beverage sales at Oven & Tap are automatically deducted from their paychecks to pay those people, while tips are left untouched, her lawyer, Bill Horton, told The Washington Post. ([Natalie Ghidotti, president and CEO of a Little Rock-based public relations firm], disputed that figure and said tip outs come out of a server’s tip, not their earned wages.)
Still, Brandt turned over the tip, Horton said. Then, she reached out to Wise to thank him for his generosity while explaining she hadn’t gotten to keep the full tip. Dissatisfied with that, Wise went to the owners to ask that they return the money, saying he and his fellow diners intended to only tip the servers who’d waited on them. Horton said Wise then gave Brandt and the other servers the money directly. Brandt walked away with $2,200, according to the restaurant.
Oven & Tap co-owner Mollie Mullis denied to KNWA that Wise asked about the restaurant’s tipping policy in advance. Through a spokesperson, the owners told The Post that the restaurant normally takes a cut of servers’ credit card tips to divvy among other employees, but servers get to keep cash tips in their entirety. For large parties, the restaurant decides how to handle tips on a case-by-case basis.
When Wise requested his tip go to just the servers, the owners “immediately honored that request as they have an absolute right to tip whoever they want,” [wrote Ghidotti].
Oven & Tap later paid other employees who worked the night of Wise’s dinner a total of about $7,000, “[b]ecause we feel the entire staff worked so hard that night to serve a large party of 32 people,” Ghidotti wrote.
On Dec. 7, the owners told Brandt they were firing her because she’d told Wise how his party’s tip was being distributed, Horton said. Ghidotti confirmed to The Post that Brandt had been fired but said the owners wouldn’t comment publicly about why.
On Friday, Oven & Tap’s owners threatened to sue Brandt in a cease-and-desist letter in which they claimed she’s permanently damaged the restaurant’s reputation. People who’ve never been to the restaurant have since left “countless unwarranted 1 Star Reviews … an outpouring of negative reviews, which will undoubtedly impact [the restaurant’s business],” attorney Steve Brooks wrote in the letter. Oven & Tap “has now been cast as a restaurant that treats its employees poorly.”
After Brandt was let go, Wise started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money so Brandt could pay rent and buy food while she was unemployed. Within days, the fundraiser exceeded its goal by raising more than $8,700.
As the campaign was raising money, Brandt got good news, Wise said: She’d gotten a job as a server at another restaurant. Her first shift was last week.
ANDREW: Wanting to spread the money around is admirable, but the lack of clear and agreed-upon precedent ruined it. That wouldn’t have happened if Oven & Tap were an employee cooperative. In addition to being democratic workplaces, it’s common for cooperatives to portion out profits equally to all employees. That would likely mean the servers wouldn’t have to rely on tips, and a clear precedent could be set of tips going into the same pot as profits, and being split accordingly. Of course, if the employees wanted a different setup, they could make it happen– democratically.
… Paul (R-Ky.) asked Biden to “move expeditiously to approve the appropriate resources for our state,” citing the “loss of life and severe property damage.” … The message did not go unheeded. Following the request from Paul and from the seven other members of the state’s congressional delegation, Biden declared a federal disaster the next day — making Kentucky eligible for the full range of emergency government assistance.
But it also conjured memories of Paul’s own lengthy history of opposing congressional legislation written to address past disasters, including bills passed following hurricanes Sandy, Harvey and Maria directing billions of dollars of assistance to stricken Americans. …
“We should do all we can to help our Kentucky neighbors. God be with them — they are hurting,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) wrote. “But do not for one second forget that [Paul] has voted against helping most Americans most times they’re in need.”
Interviewed Tuesday about the criticism, Paul lashed out at his critics and said they were distorting his record, which includes not only opposition to disaster-specific aid bills, but opposition to most every government spending bill that the Senate has taken up since 2011, when he was sworn in. …
Paul, who has donated $100,000 from his campaign to the relief effort, said he has routinely requested emergency aid for his state when warranted and that he has “never been opposed to the program, ever.” What he has been opposed to, he said, is refilling disaster aid accounts with borrowed money rather than offsetting the disaster aid with spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
“That’s different than saying, ‘Oh, he now wants it because it’s in his state and he never wanted it [before],’ ” [Paul] said. “I’ve never opposed anybody’s disaster relief in any other state. I’ve just asked that it be paid for.” …
[W]hile online critics did not hold back in their fury toward Paul, his Senate colleagues were more measured, assuring tornado victims in Kentucky and elsewhere that Congress would act if needed.
“I have always voted for disaster aid, and we shouldn’t hold it against disaster victims when their politicians are not doing their job,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
MIKE: So maybe Rand Paul made a fair point. Perhaps Sen. Paul should rather be asked what other federal programs to Kentucky he would like to cut to pay for the disaster aid Kentucky desperately needs. Just to be philosophically consistent.
ANDREW: Unfortunately, if asked, he’d likely have a long list of programs to cut, starting with anything relating to reproductive health, then benefits for child welfare, food, housing, and unemployment. This is the problem: they want to pay for what they want to buy by sacrificing what the rest of us need to barely survive.
MIKE: The push-and-shove in this story has me thinking of parallels to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. The end result of that was removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba in return for a promise from the US not to invade Cuba and removal of US nuclear-armed missiles from Turkey.
ANDREW: More polarization of international politics brought by the drive to make other nations behave like one’s own. Many nations do this, not just the US. But if it’s going to change, someone has to take the first step and make cooperation rather than domination and exploitation their foreign policy goal.
This is a live link to Houston Police Department Recruiting: hpdcareer.com
On last week’s show, there was a lot of discussion on police and a police department’s relationship with the community it serves. There was also some discussion of the kinds of recruits police departments are attracting. Callers concluded that the primary pool of police recruits may come from ex-military personnel. At first blush, this would seem a perfect skillset fit; ex-military people are typically tough, disciplined, know how to take and give orders, and are trained in enforcing compliance.
This might lead one to conclude that military training and experience is the perfect precursor to a police career.
GREAT INFO! “Texas has a constitutional amendments election this year. The last day to register to vote is Oct. 4. A statewide election on Nov. 2 will feature eight constitutional amendments. Here’s what you need to know to vote.” by Elvia Limón | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG | Sept. 27, 2021