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February 14th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for February 14

“The prospect of lab-grown meat separates two activities that have been inextricably linked for virtually all of human history: Eating meat has always required animal killing. But with the development of lab-grown meat, these two activities can be separated, and the morality of each activity assessed on its own.”

“A wave of anti-trans bills are hitting statehouses”.

“The main goal here is to deter anybody from ever trying this again. That’s what we have to do. There has to be a penalty so that anybody in a future situation looks at this and says, ‘I will go to jail if I try this and so I won’t do this.’”

“Americans have shorter lives than international peers. Some researchers now say conservative policies may be to blame.”

“There has never been any evidence that major sporting events are associated with a rise in human trafficking.”

All hail Rob Gronkowski’s mom Diane, who somehow survived raising Gronk and four other sons.

“Today, by contrast, economists increasingly accept the idea that deficits are not inherently destabilizing, but a normal part of economic management. The price of going too big isn’t a crash, but a little unwanted inflation ― something that can be reined in through Federal Reserve policymaking or some tax increases from Congress. These may be unpleasant when they come, but it will be much worse for people to lose jobs, incomes and homes in the meantime. When the costs of going too small are shattered families and broken faith in a shared national project, the choice is not difficult.”

“https://www.stripes.com/news/us/barrier-breaking-texas-astronaut-dies-at-75-she-lifted-people-up-1.661397″>RIP, Millie Hughes-Fulford, barrier-breaking astronaut and scientific researcher.

RIP, Cathy Cochran, former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals justice and key criminal justice reformer.

RIP, Marty Schottenheimer, longtime NFL head coach.

RIP, Mary Wilson, founding member of Motown legends the Supremes.

“The spread of extremist conspiracy theories in the United States is the second most dangerous pandemic the country faces right now.”

“This is why I continue to think that democracy in the United States is way stronger than people are giving it credit for. It took a devastating punch from a uniquely demagogic president supported by hundreds of Republican politicians and the massed media efforts of Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media machine. Despite this, everyone outside of Trump’s cult opposed him and the effort failed miserably. That’s not bad.”

“I’ve got my assistant here, and she’s trying to remove it but uh… I’m prepared to go forward with it. I’m here live. I’m not a cat.”

“I never hear much about nature or dinosaurs or things like that. Maybe you should call your show Newsy things Considered, since I don’t get to hear about all the things. Or please talk more about dinosaurs and cool things.”

There is now a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s attempt to interfere with Georgia’s election. Someone please tell Dan Patrick to stand by with his one million dollar reward for Fulton County DA Fani Willis.

“Liz Cheney may not have been Never Trump, but she is clearly Never Again Trump, and that’s a beginning. But it also raises the question: What do we do with the late arrivals like Cheney?”

I’m just appalled by the allegations Charisma Carpenter is making against Joss Whedon. I was a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and I loved her on those shows. She deserved so much better. At least her fellow cast members are standing with her.

RIP, Larry Flynt, publisher of “Hustler” magazine.

RIP, Chick Correa, groundbreaking and multi-Grammy-winning musician and composer.

“House Democrats Are Showing That Trump Is More Guilty Than You Thought”.

“Who Is Stacey Plaskett, the Breakout Star of the Senate Impeachment Trial?”

“The 19th reached out to all 143 women in the 117th Congress to ask about their experiences January 6. Twenty-three, all Democrats, shared their points of view, many remembering new details after a month of processing.”

We’re not going to be able to have our primaries in March

That’s the obvious conclusion from this.

Texas lawmakers will almost certainly be back for a rare special legislative session in the fall now that the U.S. Census Bureau has set a September deadline for releasing the 2020 census results.

Facing significant holdups in finalizing the decennial count, the bureau announced Friday that the detailed population numbers needed to redraw legislative and congressional districts to reflect the state’s growth in the last decade will be delivered by Sept. 30, a monthslong delay that could upend the next set of elections for seats from Congress down to local offices.

The bureau’s original plan was to get the data in lawmakers’ hands as soon as this month, giving them time to rejigger district boundaries and decipher Texans’ representation during the regular 2021 legislative session. But the census’ typical timeline was repeatedly upended by the coronavirus pandemic and interference from the Trump administration.

“If this were a typical decade, we would be on the verge of delivering the first round of redistricting data from the 2020 Census,” James Whitehorne, chief of the bureau’s redistricting and voting rights data office, said in a statement. “Our original plan was to deliver the data in state groupings starting Feb. 18, 2021 and finishing by March 31, 2021. However, COVID-19 delayed census operations significantly.”

Instead, the bureau is still working to release the population numbers that determine how many congressional seats are apportioned to each state by April 30 — blowing past the legal deadline for those numbers by many months. Census officials previously indicated the second set of more detailed numbers needed for redistricting wouldn’t be available until after July.

The current timetable puts the data delivery far past the end of the 2021 legislative session on May 31, meaning Gov. Greg Abbott would need to call lawmakers back for legislative overtime in the fall.

See here and here for the background. I’ve been operating under the assumption that there would be a special session for redistricting all along, but this puts to rest any doubt. Given the fact that our statutory deadline for filing for the primaries is December 13, and given the certainty of litigation over the new maps, there’s no way we can have something in place in time for the normal 2022 calendar. Expect the primaries next year to be in May, like they were in 2012, and hope it doesn’t need to be any later than that.

So how did Paxton’s budget grilling go?

Meh.

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton violated his budget authority when he transferred $40 million of taxpayer money to cover pay raises for some members of his staff without approval of the Legislature or the governor, triggering an angry response from lawmakers on Wednesday.

“You know that I am not pleased,” Senate Finance chair Jane Nelson told Paxton during a meeting about the state budget. “We have an appropriations process for a reason. And if every agency did what yours did, General Paxton, we wouldn’t have a budget. We wouldn’t even need a budget.”

According to state budget officials, Paxton’s office in February 2020 moved money without authority for various expense items, including $8.5 million that was supposed to go to data center services. Some of that money was moved from capital project funds that are not supposed to be used for pay raises. That was a violation of Paxton’s budget transfer authority, according to officials with the state’s Legislative Budget Board. The money funded raises for 1,884 employees in the child support division.

Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mound, made clear to Paxton it is the Legislature’s authority to consider pay raises from the various state agencies as part of the budget process, and it is not up to agency heads to make that call.

“I wish we had done that one differently,” Paxton conceded.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, also pressed Paxton on the move, seeking assurances that it won’t happen again.

“After knowing more about that situation I would say I’ve instructed my staff to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” Paxton said.

See here for some background. That’s some truly harsh language there, I don’t know how he managed to withstand it. I’m all sweaty just reading the transcript. What about the money he wants to spend on fancy outside lawyers for that Google lawsuit?

But that request triggered questions from State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who pointed out that Paxton has more than 4,000 employees on his staff, including over 700 lawyers.

“Then you have talented lawyers who are capable of handling these big cases, correct?” Huffman asked.

Paxton replied: “If Google is going to have the very best lawyers that know anti-trust, we wanted to be able to compete on the same playing field.”

I guess when you drive off all the best attorneys on your own staff, you have to get creative. I’ll believe that the Senate is holding him accountable when I see what they do with this budget line item.

On a more serious note:

The U.S. Supreme Court was wrong when it refused to allow Texas to sue other states relating to the Nov. 3 that resulted in Joe Biden being elected president, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Wednesday.

Paxton, defending the lawsuit before the Texas Senate, said the U.S. Supreme Court Justices were wrong when they refused to hear his case arguing that other states had violated the Constitution because of the way they conducted their elections. The Supreme Court ruled in early December that Texas did not have the standing to challenge the election results in four battleground states — a conclusion that legal experts across the country had foreseen.

“Our only place to be heard was in the U.S. Supreme Court,” Paxton told the Senate Finance Committee as he defended his proposed budget for the next two years. “I do not think that their jurisprudence is right that they can just have this discretion to not hear your case.”

Under questioning from State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, Paxton said his suit was never about finding election fraud. Instead, he said he was concerned Texas voters were being disenfranchised because other states did not follow federal rules for conducting elections.

“We have no way to go back and even verify whether these elections were credible and whether they were done in a way that wasn’t fraudulent,” Paxton said.

It was President Donald Trump’s lawyers who drafted the lawsuit, the New York Times reported, and Trump’s team turned to Paxton only after Louisiana Attorney General Jeffrey M. Landry, a Republican, declined to take the case. The Times also reported that members of Paxton’s staff argued against filing the suit, and Paxton’s top litigator, Kyle Hawkins, refused to put his name on it.

Hawkins has since resigned.

See here for some background. Sorry, but the smoke pouring out of my ears keeps setting off the fire alarms in our house, so I’m not able to say any more about this. Let me leave you with this as a palate cleanser, and as a song to play on repeat when the FBI finally arrests his sorry ass.

Found that here.

Luhnow lawsuit dismissed

Nothing left to litigate about, apparently.

Did not age well

Former Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow’s lawsuit against the ballclub was dismissed on Friday after both parties “resolved their differences,” severing the final tie between the team and its most successful executive in history.

District Court Judge Kyle Carter granted the motion, which was filed jointly in 125th State District Court on Friday. Karl Stern, the attorney who submitted on behalf of Luhnow, did not respond when asked for further comment. An attorney representing the Astros did not return a request for comment.

Luhnow sought more than $20 million in damages in the breach of contract lawsuit he filed in November. The 54-year-old Luhnow claimed he was the “scapegoat” for a sign-stealing scandal that tarnished Houston’s 2017 World Series title.

[…]

Luhnow’s contract called for “any dispute” in the application of its terms to be resolved by “arbitration by the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee,” but Luhnow’s attorneys argued it was unenforceable in their suit due to commissioner Rob Manfred’s role in Luhnow’s dismissal. Manfred wrote MLB’s investigative findings into the sign-stealing scheme.

Luhnow’s lawyers said it would be a “complete sham” to allow Manfred or his designee in any arbitration hearing and called for an independent arbiter to preside. It is unknown whether arbitration occurred to cause the suit’s dismissal, but lawyers unaffiliated with the case surmised that was always a likely outcome.

“Arbitration is confidential. It is outside the public purview and accompanied by orders that make the proceedings secret,” Michael Lyons, of the Dallas firm of Lyons & Simmons, said in November. “Filing suit is a way for Jeff Luhnow to clear the air from a PR standpoint and get his story out in a way he might not otherwise have been able to do.”

See here and here for the background. I don’t really care what happens to Jeff Luhnow, but I feel like once I start blogging on a topic, I should see it through. Also, mandatory arbitration clauses are bad. I think that about covers it.