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February 7th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for February 7

“So, how many early human species were there?”

So, have you bought some Dogecoin yet?

One reason why it’s basically impossible to do political TV shows these days is that any accurate representation of the vast majority of Republican officeholders and members of the professional conservative movement would be basically just cartoonish villainy, the kind that would have been justifiably seen as unfair and unbelievable as little as ten years ago. Among many other things, that kind of characterization makes for lousy TV.

“Looking to political personalities rather than Jesus for salvation is the worst kind of mistake a Christian can make, [Rep. Adam] Kinzinger said.”

“Customer entitlement, or what customers believe they are owed, has long been an issue in the hospitality industry. Restaurant workers swap stories like war veterans about ridiculous demands, difficult customers, and bad tippers. But the pandemic, and the terrible customer behavior that has come with it—impatience regarding wait times, name-calling, frustration over limited seating and menu options, and disregard for safety protocols—has only served to highlight how pervasive and, frankly, dangerous the problem really is.”

RIP, Janie Tarses, first woman to run a network entertainment division.

RIP, Dustin Diamond, actor best known for Saved By The Bell.

I’m happy that some QAnon acolytes are looking for a way back to reality, but at some point they’re going to need to reckon with all the harm they caused.

“Implementation and Evolution of Mitigation Measures, Testing, and Contact Tracing in the National Football League, August 9–November 21, 2020″.

RIP, Freddy the Great Dane, the tallest dog in the world.

“And yet, there’s something to the idea that we need to ask how American schools can help to build a more cohesive society and more resilient democracy. Americans’ lack of regard for their country—or, more accurately, the people with whom they share it—is a real problem with profoundly negative consequences. The Capitol insurrection offered a vivid illustration of that. And schools have an important role to play in addressing the problem.”

RIP, Hal Holbrook, actor who among many other things made a career out of playing Mark Twain in a solo stage production.

“The Pilot Who Can Connect Prince Andrew to Jeffrey Epstein’s Plane Is Reportedly Cooperating With the FBI”.

“The Georgia secretary of state’s office is investigating allegations that Lin Wood, a high-profile pro-Trump attorney who launched fruitless challenges to election results and pushed baseless conspiracies of fraud, may have illegally voted in the November general election.” Get Dan Patrick on the line, stat!

“The fact that Cheney has faced more criticism from her colleagues than Greene in recent days reflects how the GOP’s traditional values are under siege and the vast power that extremists and conspiracy theories welcomed into the party by Trump are accumulating.”

“For people who have been monitoring the growth and spread of right-wing extremism inside the mainstream Republican Party—manifested in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol—the arrests that came in the aftermath of that event provided some revealing numbers. Of particular interest is the fact that the average age of the arrestees was 40 years old. That’s a surprisingly high number, particularly considering that most of the pro-Trump activists involved in violent protests of the past four years (especially the Proud Boys) have been younger men between 20 and 40 years old.”

“More than 370 Democratic congressional aides have signed onto an open letter appealing to senators to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting a violent “attack on our workplace” that threatened the peaceful transition of power and left one of their co-workers dead.”

“March for Our Lives co-founder David Hogg tweeted on Thursday that he and software developer William LeGate are launching a pillow company to compete against MyPillow, which is led by Trump supporter CEO Mike Lindell.”

“Voting technology company Smartmatic files $2.7 billion lawsuit against Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell over ‘disinformation campaign'”. Lou Dobbs is already a casualty of it,

RIP, Christopher Plummer, Oscar-winning actor known for The Sound of Music and so much more.

RIP, George Shultz, four-time Cabinet official.

RIP, Leon Spinks, former heavyweight champion who defeated Muhammad Ali.

Who believes in the myth of voter fraud?

Republicans do. Next question.

A new University of Houston survey reveals the stark partisan divide among Texans on the issue of voter fraud in the November election.

The survey found that 87 percent of Democrats believe there was no widespread fraud, while 83 percent of Republicans believe there was — despite the lack of evidence to indicate that it occurred. Overall, 55 percent of Texans believed there was no widespread fraud.

“While a sizable number of Texans believe that voter fraud occurred last November, a majority of Texans don’t agree,” said Kirk P. Watson, founding dean of the university’s Hobby School of Public Affairs and a former Democratic state senator. “We can and should build on that foundation of trust in our elections through education and potential reforms that protect election integrity without resulting in voter suppression.”

[…]

“Even though there have been multiple audits, recounts and dozens of court cases dismissed, many Republicans insist the election was compromised,” said Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School.

The same survey also found that most Texans, or 83 percent, opposed the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol led by supporters of former President Donald Trump who believed the election was stolen. Thirty-two percent of Republicans, 15 percent of independents and 8 percent of Democrats supported the events, however.

See here and here for previous blogging about this four-pack of polls. The press release for this survey is here and the full data set is here. There’s not a whole lot to add to this part of the discussion. It’s true that these Republicans are just believing the lies that their leaders have been repeatedly feeding them, and it’s hard to blame someone for being brainwashed. It’s also true that the facts are out there in abundance, that even Trump’s legal teams did not make any specific claims of fraud in their many lawsuits because they had to limit themselves to factual evidence, and that nothing is stopping anyone from learning the very simple and basic truth for themselves. I will welcome anyone who can find their way back to objective reality into the fold, but I will not forget where they had been before.

Not mentioned in this story are the questions the pollsters asked about favorability ratings for numerous politicians. Here’s a sample of the interesting ones, with the “very” and “somewhat” responses for each combined:

Greg Abbott – 39 favorable, 40 unfavorable
Dan Patrick – 27 favorable, 35 unfavorable

Joe Biden – 41 favorable, 42 unfavorable
Kamala Harris – 39 favorable, 43 unfavorable
Donald Trump – 39 favorable, 51 unfavorable

Ted Cruz – 38 favorable, 47 unfavorable
John Cornyn – 23 favorable, 44 unfavorable
Beto O’Rourke – 35 favorable, 41 unfavorable
Julian Castro – 29 favorable, 28 unfavorable

They also asked about Joaquin Castro, Dan Crenshaw, and Dade Phelan, but I’m skipping them because not enough people had an opinion to make it worthwhile. They did not ask about Ken Paxton, which I wish they had done.

Overall, that’s a better look for Dems, especially Beto, than that Data for Progress poll. Joe Biden’s number is all right – if you notice, basically no one has a net favorable total – Trump’s is terrible, and Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz are more negative than Beto. I have no idea how someone like John Cornyn can be in statewide elected office for that long and have so many people have a neutral opinion or not enough information to have an opinion about him (15% neither fav nor unfav, 18% not enough info). There’s a lot of room in most of these (Trump excepted) for opinion to swing, and it will be very interesting to see how this looks in six months or a year, when (hopefully!) things are better both economically and pandemically. And as always, this is just one poll so don’t read more into it than that.

On Judge Hidalgo’s principles and politics

This op-ed about Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo looks at her background and her style as an elected official to explore her political future.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

The question remains, is Hidalgo so focused on being a benevolent wonk that she ignores the risk — both pragmatic and political?

It’s a mistake to assume that she doesn’t care about politics or isn’t learning to play the game. Political observers point to her reliance on consultants and her passionate championing of social issues, which surely pleases her base but saps precious political capital she’ll need to influence Republicans on the balkanized court.

Still, Hidalgo’s sense of principle is what led her to implement protective lockdowns that are unpopular and cause real economic suffering. It’s what led her to support bail reform and changes to the criminal justice system that will be used as a cudgel against her.

Even if Democrats rally around her to hold off challengers, the right Republican can still put up a fight.

Hidalgo defeated Emmett by fewer than 20,000 votes, a smaller margin than what the Libertarian candidate pulled in.

“Harris County is not Dallas County, it’s not Travis. It’s still in play,” Siegel, the head of the Harris County GOP, said. “She’s going into areas that are not good for the county or its citizens.”

What’s undeniable is that Hidalgo is running the county as she said she would — and the only way she knows how.

“We’re willing to ask the question, ‘What does the evidence say we should do?’ Rather than taking the easy political route,” she said.

She doesn’t give out turkeys and she won’t take them, either. Hidalgo refuses contributions from those who have business with the county, which she recognizes makes her political future more difficult, limiting a source of legal funding that most local officials don’t think twice about securing.

She wants to run for a second term but says she has no interest in county government beyond that, an unusual admission for a politician that in and of itself leaves her vulnerable to challenge.

“I don’t want to be in the county for 30 years. I’m afraid that if I did that, I would kind of lose that fresh perspective. I just don’t know how much more value I would add,” she said. “But I definitely want to be able to see these things through.”

Sorry, Cindy Siegel, but after three straight shutout elections, Harris County is blue until proven otherwise. I get that this is an off year, and we’re now under a Democratic President, and the two elections like that before 2018 sucked for us, but I stand by that assessment. As such, I believe the larger threat to Judge Hidalgo’s re-election in 2022 is a primary challenger, a subject I’ve discussed before and don’t have anything to add at this time.

I guess I find the continued dissection of Judge Hidalgo’s unconventional history and policy-over-politics approach interesting but ultimately kind of pointless. She’s been very consistently and genuinely herself, and I just don’t think the average voter cares that much about this. She does a good job, she has helped enact policies that have benefited people and that have significant support among voters, and she has been an effective communicator in difficult times. There’s not a whole lot of mystery here.

Finally, as far as her future beyond 2022 is concerned, her answer is a more blunt version of “I’m just focused on what’s in front of me now, and don’t care to speculate beyond that”, which is actually a pretty normal answer. She has said she’s running for re-election, she’s deflecting the chatter that exists that she might run for higher office, and she’s leaving her options open for what comes next. She’s just using more direct words to say that, which may be confusing if you were expecting the usual kind of obfuscatory response. I don’t see where the vulnerability is in that.

Abortion’s going to get more illegal

It’s just a question of how much.

Republican lawmakers, buoyed by a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court and the trouncing of state-level Democrats in the November election, are pushing to reclaim Texas’ role as the vanguard among states restricting access to abortion this legislative session.

Legislators have promised to back a so-called “heartbeat bill” that would bar abortions before many women know they are pregnant. Anti-abortion advocates have urged them to challenge the Roe v. Wade decision that established the right to an abortion. And Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said at a “Texas Rally for Life” event in January that there is more “we must do to defend the unborn.”

With the GOP in control of state government and “a favorable backstop from the courts, it’s going to be a no-holds-barred approach for Republicans on abortion,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

They’re wasting no time.

On one of the first days of the session, a freshman lawmaker attempted to stop the House from naming bridges or streets without first voting to abolish abortion. The amendment failed, but was supported by more than 40 lawmakers, about half of the Republicans in the House.

At a committee hearing in December, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who chairs the powerful Senate State Affairs committee, said 10 states had already passed “heartbeat bills” and it was time for Texas to catch up.

And on Jan. 22 — 48 years after the landmark Roe v. Wade decision — two “trigger” bills were filed that would ban abortion in Texas if the Supreme Court overturned the case or otherwise altered abortion laws. Another bill could ban abortion after 12 weeks.

I mean, they have the votes, they believe they have the mandate since they didn’t lose a bunch of seats, and they believe the Supreme Court will basically let them do whatever they want. What did you expect?