Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

November 8th, 2020:

Weekend link dump for November 8

Assessing the COVID-19 risk on airplanes.

“If Donald Trump is reelected, he will continue to downplay the threat of the coronavirus, and more Americans will fall ill.” Hopefully byt the time this runs, that will no longer be a concern.

“Pajiba Investigates: Does Everyone In The Buffyverse Have Syphilis?”

What are the odds?

I am 100% on board with putting Weird Al Yankovic in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

You can buy a video from Amazon Prime Video, but you won’t actually own it.

“Should you recycle your disposable mask?”

“Blaire Erskine has pretended to be a stranded MAGA supporter, Jerry Falwell’s daughter, and the wife of a notorious anti-masker. The gag: How many folks think her satires are real.”

“I’ll bet you never thought you’d have to explain the doctrine of laches to your neighbors before this election was over.”

This woman is a hero.

RIP, Geoffrey Palmer, versatile British actor.

RIP, Alex Trebek, legendary host of Jeopardy!. 2020 isn’t done with us yet.

A comparison to 2012

A lot of the takes on this election – and I’m guilty of this, too – involve comparisons to 2016 and 2018. That’s fair – those are the most recent elections, the only other elections that involve Trump, the patterns that we’ve been seeing had their start in 2016 and accelerated in 2018, which is what led to the inaccurate expectations for this year – but perhaps a slightly broader lens can help illuminate something that I think is being missed right now. So let’s cast our eyes all the way back to the ancient year of 2012, and see where we are today compared to then.

In 2012, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama for President by 1,261,719 votes, and by nearly 17 percentage points. Donald Trump is leading Joe Biden by 648,690 votes, which is less than six percentage points. Joe Biden received 1,903,282 more votes than Obama did; Trump received 1,290,243 more votes than Romney did.

In 2012, Republicans won 95 seats in the State House; they would win 98 in 2014, and 95 again in 2016. Ninety-three of those were the same as in 2012; HD21 went red in 2014, and HD107 flipped blue in 2016. I know they’re doing a victory dance about holding onto the 83 seats they won in 2018, but it really needs to be emphasized that with this map that they drew, which gave them at least 95 seats in each of the first three elections where it was used, they were now topped out at 83.

In 2012, Republicans held 19 State Senate seats; they picked up a 20th in 2014. Today they hold 18. In 2012, Republicans held ten SBOE seats; they had won an 11th in 2010 but couldn’t hold it in a normal year. Today they hold nine. In 2012, Republicans held 24 Congressional seats. Today they hold 23. We certainly would have liked for that number to be lower, and we felt we had reasons to believe it would be lower, but it is still lower than it was in 2012.

In 2012 in Harris County, Republicans held all of the county court benches, most of the district court benches, all but one of the First and 14th Courts of Appeals benches (the one held by Dems, which had been won in 2008, would be lost in 2014), four out of five seats on Commissioners Court, and all of the following executive offices: District Attorney, County Clerk, Tax Assessor, District Clerk, Treasurer. Today, Democrats hold all of the county court and district court benches, about half of the appeals court benches, three out of the five seats on Commissioners Court, and all of the executive offices.

You can tell a similar story in Fort Bend County, where Dems now hold a three-out-of-five seat majority on Commissioners Court, and all of the executive seats and judicial positions that had a Democrat running for them in 2018 or 2020.

We can talk about other counties, like Williamson and Tarrant, but you get the idea. I don’t want to downplay the issues that Democrats face, or the disconnect between our goals for 2020 and our accomplishments, but I do want to point out that we’ve come a long way in eight years. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.

New details about the Paxton-Paul relationship

From depositions in a civil lawsuit, we learn more about Ken Paxton’s dealings with Nate Paul, the Austin real estate developer who’s at the root of Paxton’s current problems.

Best mugshot ever

In a transcript of the deposition obtained by The Texas Tribune on Wednesday, Paul said that he could not recall exactly when he met Paxton but that it was “several years ago.”

Paul said he considers “the relationship, you know, positive,” when asked by a lawyer in the deposition whether they were friends.

The two sometimes ate lunch together, but Paul could not say how many times, he said in the deposition. He also said they had been in touch recently, when he offered condolences to Paxton, whose mother died in late October.

Paul did not answer several questions during the hourslong deposition, which came as part of a legal dispute between Paul and the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit that provides grants to charitable organizations and academic scholarships for financially needy students. The nonprofit sued Paul’s firm in 2018, claiming he wasn’t sharing financial information about jointly owned investments managed by his businesses.

Paxton’s office took the unusual step of intervening in that lawsuit this summer, but reversed its decision shortly before the senior aides’ complaints were made public.

[…]

The agency handles tens of thousands of cases a year, so it was highly unusual that Paxton took such a close interest in so many low-profile matters tied to Paul, according to former agency staff and legal experts.

Paul’s attorney, Michael Wynne, did not respond to several questions from the Tribune, including inquiries about the nature of the investigation at the attorney general’s office. A spokesperson for Paxton said the agency is investigating some of the whistleblowers who reported Paxton to law enforcement for “making false representations to the court, illegally leaking grand jury materials, and violating numerous agency policies” but did not provide further details.

The attorneys also asked Paul about some of the legal matters in which actions of the attorney general’s office have benefited Paul.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Paul faced foreclosure on a number of properties this summer — but that the foreclosure sales didn’t take place after Paxton rushed a legal opinion that made it harder for such sales to proceed.

[…]

Paxton’s involvement in the case was not just unusual, but unethical, said Shane Phelps, who worked in the attorney general’s office under Dan Morales and was deputy attorney general for criminal justice under former attorney general John Cornyn.

“The only reason an AG would get involved in a case like that, if they were not minding their ethics P’s and Q’s, would be because they’ve got a donor who’s got an interest in it,” Phelps said. “If they have a donor who has an interest in a case, any ethical and appropriate attorney general is gonna say, ‘I can’t do that’ and is not gonna do it.”

See here for some background, and go read the rest because there’s a lot that I couldn’t include. There’s been a ton of information about this case, all of which sounds deeply fishy, though it’s hard to summarize. We’d probably not know about any of it had it not been for the shocking and explosive allegations by Paxton’s now-former aides, all of whom deserve a lot of credit for taking action in the face of significant consequences. When we finally free ourselves of Ken Paxton, they’ll be a big part of the reason why.

Houston celebrates Biden’s win

Aw, hell yeah.

Photo: Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle Staff photographer

“Honk for 270!”

When CNN announced Joe Biden had crossed the 270-electoral college vote mark needed to secure the presidency, Terrance Koontz elatedly shouted at Saturday’s “Voters Decide: Count Every Vote” rally in Southwest Houston.

“Let’s let that ride a little bit. This is awesome news, y’all,” said Koontz, an activist with the Texas Organizing Project. “I’m going to get a shirt with 270 on it.”

Several events in Houston that were originally scheduled to encourage the protection of a fair election turned into last-minute celebration parties when Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris were declared the winners of the 2020 presidential election. Or, in other cases, turned into rallies for President Donald Trump.

Local community leaders, including newly-elected Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth and District Attorney Christian Menefee, thanked grassroots community organizers for doing the work necessary to make sure everyone’s voice was heard this year. Community organizations like Texas Organizing Project, Texas Rising, Indivisible Houston, and Houston Black American Democrats planned the drive-in rally in the parking lot of Fountain Life Center as a way to drum up support while remaining socially distant.

Rapper Genesis Blu kicked off the rally with one phrase: “Every vote counts, power to the people.”

“This year shows you that your vote counts, but you have to do it over and over,” Genesis Blu said. “We have to be the change. We need to show up and show out, not just for presidential elections either. When we do that, it looks kind of good for us.”

I was out and about with my daughters on Saturday, and was uncharacteristically not-online when the news of The Call happened. My girls, who had been following it all at least as closely as I have – you haven’t lived till you’ve been informed of a group text of 13-year-old girls discussing the election results – were the ones to tell me when it happened. When we got back home, there was a group of people on the esplanade near our house having drinks and just chilling. Meanwhile, my wife had come back from another celebration to which she had contributed (and helped consume) two bottles of champagne. So what I’m saying is, Saturday was a good day. More reactions are here> and here. How did you celebrate?