Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

April 4th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for April 4

“For many cities and counties, the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) state and local funds are not just a $350 billion lifeline; they represent the largest positive fiscal jolt to their budgets in decades. Now, a scramble is underway to determine how best to deploy the money. The decisions made in the coming weeks— and over the next year regarding the second tranche of funding—will determine whether cities merely enjoy a brief stimulus or seed a new trajectory of inclusive economic growth. The stakes are high. The money needs to move fast and be deployed smartly and equitably. In 10 years, we may look back at this time and ask: Which places merely spent their money, and which places invested it?”

“America’s Covid Swab Supply Depends on Two Cousins Who Hate Each Other“.

“How One State’s Public Health Defunding Led to Vaccination Chaos”.

“For decades, Americans relied on analog televisions employing UHF signals for our hundreds of (mostly inane) channel distractions, but one particular stop on the dial was nowhere to be found: channel 37. Apparently, the nationwide lack of a channel 37 on living room TV sets wasn’t some big coincidence, but an intentional decision overseen by the U.S. government based on two very obvious reasons: the location of a 400-foot radio telescope and aliens.”

“The true dimensions of the worst Christian sex abuse scandal you’ve never heard of have long been largely unknown.”

I had no idea that The Flintstones had a different theme song for its first two seasons.

“An Extremely Scientific Economic Breakdown of the MCU”.

Frequently asked questions about the Deshaun Watson lawsuits, by attorney/Texans fan/all around good egg Stephanie Stradley.

“Yesterday the CDC reported the results of a study which suggest the vaccines are almost as effective against infection as they are against the disease itself.” (We already knew the vaxxes were very good at preventing you from getting sick from COVID, but you could still carry the virus, which is why mask-wearing and other precautions are still recommended after you get your shots. If this study is accurate, it means you’re unlikely to be an asymptomatic carrier as well, which would mean that a true return to normal is on the horizon.)

“The second half of May could see rates of COVID-19 finally plunging to levels that have not been seen since the first weeks of the pandemic. It’s entirely possible that, at that point, a national program of testing and case management could do what it should have done from the beginning: Help direct isolation and quarantine to take those remaining cases and push them, as much as possible, toward extinction. But that can’t happen yet. There simply are not enough doses in enough arms at this point. Which is why social distancing and mask mandates remain critical.”

“It’s amply clear that Biden’s judge-picking machine has learned some important lessons from the Federalist Society’s stranglehold on judicial selection. The game has now changed for both sides.”

“With billions of dollars in lawsuits now in the balance, Dominion Voting Systems has quietly expanded its legal armada in recent days, as the election technology company goes after Trumpworld and conservative media giants.” Among the attorneys representing truth, justice, and democracy against these modern-day Visigoths is Justin Nelson, 2018 Democratic candidate for Attorney General against Ken Paxton.

“One of the interesting things about the current misinformation landscape is that it’s not necessarily uninformed people. It’s misinformed people. It’s people who say, ‘I do my own research; I don’t trust the elites.’ And their research is nonsense, it is sophisticated nonsense.”

“Confronted with compelling video and photographic evidence in court, dozens of rioters have apologized and expressed regret as the consequences of their actions have started to sink in. The ramifications include potential job losses, financial ruin, and possible time behind bars.”

“In private, they concede their own polling shows that no message they can devise effectively counters the argument that billionaires should be prevented from buying elections.”

Are we entering the beginning of the end of Pat Sajak’s time as host of Wheel of Fortune?

“Should Masking Last Beyond The Pandemic? Flu And Colds Are Down, Spurring A Debate.”

It’s impossible to keep up with the Matt Gaetz scandal, but one should try anyway. Especially since it’s getting really ugly about now.

“The Democrats seem to understand very well that all politics is national right now. The more they stand by the president, especially a popular one, the more likely they are to survive the coming midterms. Bottom line: this [infrastructure] plan is going to happen. The Democrats will work out the details. It’s not a matter of if or whether. It’s a matter of when. They’re hoping by July’s end.”

Is Beto running for Governor or not?

Nothing has changed. Please back away from any ledges you may be approaching.

Beto O’Rourke

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has not ruled out a run for governor after all.

Earlier Friday, The Dallas Morning News published remarks O’Rourke made on an upcoming morning program that roused the Texas political class and suggested he no longer was interested in running for governor.

“I’ve got no plans to run, and I’m very focused on the things that I’m lucky enough to do right now — organizing, registering voters and teaching,” O’Rourke said on NBC DFW’s “Lone Star Politics,” which will air Sunday. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing now.”

The O’Rourke camp then quickly reached out to The Texas Tribune to clarify his sentiment.

“What I said today is what I’ve been saying for months: I’m not currently considering a run for office,” he said in a statement. “I’m focused on what I’m doing now (teaching and organizing.) Nothing’s changed and nothing I said would preclude me from considering a run in the future.”

The El Paso Democrat flirted with a run earlier this year when he said in an interview that running against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was “something I’m going to think about.” Last month, he stoked more rumors of his interest in the seat when he reemerged as an organizing force amid the Texas winter storm.

[…]

O’Rourke suggested suggested Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins as other potential gubernatorial candidates in the television interview. Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro is another oft-mentioned potential contender, and Austin-based actor Matthew McConaughey is also publicly mulling a run.

“My plan right now is to run for reelection,” Hidalgo told Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith on his “Point of Order” podcast last month. Asked if she would rule out running for something else in 2022, she said, “I wouldn’t say it’s something that I’m actively pursuing right now.”

I first heard about this little kerfuffle on Friday afternoon when I saw this tweet:

I admit my first thought was “ah, crap, now who do we need to pin some hopes on?” I belong to a Facebook group called “Beto O’Rourke for Governor of Texas” (*) and cruised over there to see what the freakout looked like, but didn’t see any postings related to this. Maybe the news hadn’t crossed from one social network to the other yet, I thought, or maybe everyone was just in denial. And not too long later I saw the updated Trib story, and realized that it was all a nothingburger. We are exactly where we were on Friday morning, when Beto was sort of acting like someone who might be a candidate but hadn’t said anything committal one way or the other. So for those of you who might have seen the initial news but not the later update, here you go. You may now resume your previous feelings about this subject.

(*) I remain on Team Julián, but will be perfectly happy with Beto. If there is a “Julián Castro for Governor of Texas” Facebook group, I have not been invited to join it yet.

Here come the petitions for the latest charter amendment effort

I’m still skeptical of this, but we’ll see how it goes.

A coalition pushing to give Houston City Council members more input at City Hall says it has gathered the required 20,000 signatures to place a charter amendment on the ballot.

The measure, if approved by voters, would allow any three City Council members to place an item on the council’s weekly agenda. Right now, the mayor has near-full control of the agenda. That allows the mayor to block measures he or she does not support.

Houston has a strong-mayor form of government that gives the chief executive far-reaching powers over the city’s day-to-day business. The city charter currently allows three council members to call a special meeting and set its agenda. That power is rarely used, however, and typically occurs as a rebuke of the mayor, failing to attract the majority of council needed to conduct business.

The coalition said it will deliver the signatures, which it began collecting in October, to City Hall on Monday and is eyeing a referendum on the November ballot this year. The coalition is a widely divergent group of organizations, including the Houston firefighters’ union, the Harris County Republican Party, Urban Reform, Indivisible Houston, the Houston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and Houston Justice.

The city secretary will have 30 days to validate the signatures, and then council will have to put the measure on the ballot for the next election date. The organizers likely missed the deadline to get on the May 1 ballot, which was Feb. 12, according to the Secretary of State’s website. The next election date is Nov. 2. The last day to order an election for that date is Aug. 16.

Charles Blain, an organizer with the coalition and president of the conservative Urban Reform, declined to say how many signatures the coalition gathered. That will be revealed at a Monday news conference, he said.

Blain argued the measure is needed to “finally get some resolution” to critical policy issues that have not reached the agenda.

“It’s important because the community deserves representation,” Blain said. “I know we all have district council members, but it’s incredibly frustrating that our district council members can’t team up with a few of their colleagues and get something on the agenda.”

See here for the background, and for how I feel about this, which remains true today. Maybe on Monday when they have that Monday news conference they can tell us what ideas that 1) have majority support on Council but are opposed by Mayor Turner and 2) would not be blocked by the state via lawsuit or new legislation they have in mind. I believe that setting the threshold to three means the most frequent use of this power would be for the troublemaker factions to bring forth items that can’t and won’t be passed but can waste time and cause division. But maybe I’m wrong, and maybe there will be some currently-blocked agenda items that meet my criteria that would finally get a Council vote that will be revealed on Monday. I’m open to persuasion if the argument is there, but I need to hear the argument first. Perhaps I’ll get to hear it on Monday.

(FYI, I was approached by a petition collector for this effort at our neighborhood Kroger about a week ago. I declined to sign, but assumed at the time that they must still be in need of signatures to meet their goal. I’m a little surprised at the timing here, but maybe this guy was an outlier.)

HPD now investigating Deshaun Watson

Someone filed a report.

Already facing a rash of civil lawsuits, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson now has been named in a criminal complaint, according to the Houston Police Department.

HPD confirmed it “is now conducting an investigation and will not comment further during the investigative process.”

The probe comes as Texans quarterback faces 21 civil lawsuits from massage therapists or wellness professionals who allege he sexually assaulted or harassed them at various points during massage sessions in 2020 or 2021.

Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have denied the claims

Hardin, who has publicly chastised Watson’s accusers for not disclosing their names in the litigation, said his team will cooperate with police.

“We welcome this long overdue development,” Hardin said of the investigation. “Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser.”

Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who is representing the alleged victims in the civil lawsuits, pushed back against the criticism of the alleged victims, saying they are courageous in coming forward.

“It takes great strength to do what these women are doing,” he said. “We are not only dealing with the future of a star quarterback, we are dealing with the physical health, mental health, safety, and well-being of courageous people who had the fortitude to step forward, although powerless, against the powerful.”

On Friday, Buzbee said that he was aware of the criminal complaint filed Friday morning.

“I will also confirm that other criminal complaints will follow, as previously indicated, in Houston and in other jurisdictions and with other agencies,” he said.

That’s more direct than Buzbee’s previous word salad on the topic. It seems likely we were always headed in this direction, but the story so far has proceeded in an unusual manner, so who really knows. Nothing to do but wait and see what if anything comes of this, and how many other reports get filed.