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October 9th, 2022:

Weekend link dump for October 9

“Even if the Equal Rights Amendment were somehow ratified today, this Supreme Court wouldn’t care.”

“But recently, this tidal wave of backlash against hormonal birth control has made its way into another sphere of influence. Anti-abortion activists—many of whom are morally opposed to the idea of contraception because they consider it a form of abortion or just morally wrong—have found that wellness influencers, many of them pro-choice, are a boon to their cause. While previous generations of activists saw picketing outside abortion clinics as their only option for engaging the public, today’s crusaders are also using social media to win followers, incorporating wellness messages into confessional videos and stylish memes to convince their audience that hormonal contraception is not only sinful but also unhealthy.”

“Actor Bruce Willis Becomes First Celebrity to Sell Rights to Deepfake Firm“. That…doesn’t actually sound great to me. But maybe I’m wrong.

TV shows get gun violence wrong. Color me shocked.

“In the past decade, several studies have suggested that lawmakers are more likely to take action on climate change when they — and their constituents — have had to deal with the disastrous consequences of previously doing nothing.”

“Cape Coral is a microcosm of Florida’s worst impulse: selling dream homes in a hurricane-prone flood zone. But people still want them.”

“Medical groups ask Justice Department to investigate threats against hospitals over gender-affirming care”.

“Since the January 6th insurrection, more than two thirds of the corporations who announced they would no longer support members of Congress who refused to certify Trump’s loss have abandoned their commitment. And many others have continued to fund sedition without batting an eye.”

RIP, Sacheen Littlefeather, activist for Native Americans who declined Marlon Brando’s Oscar for “The Godfather” on his behalf at the 1973 Academy Awards. The Academy issued her a formal apology just this past June.

RIP, Loretta Lynn, country music icon and the subject of Coal Miner’s Daughter.

“The Biden administration is issuing fresh guidance reinforcing the legal protections for pregnancy and abortion under Title IX“. I can almost feel the lawsuit that will be filed over this.

Sorry, Mikey. Actually, not sorry at all.

RIP, Tiffany Jackson, former All-American basketball player at the University of Texas who went on to play nine seasons in the WNBA.

“That’s right, Scoob fans, Velma is now officially a lesbian!”

RIP, Jim Redmond, father of Olympic runner Derek Redmond, who memorably helped his injured son cross the finish line in the 1992 Games.

RIP, Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz, activist and first Hispanic to have his name on a Texas general election gubernatorial ballot. Stace noted this earlier.

“Abortion is murder…until there’s a Senate seat on the line, apparently.” Never believe a word these people say about their “deeply held values“.

“How long have conservatives been screaming about this? Since the ’80s? The ’50s? The Great Depression? And nothing has ever happened. But they keep screaming and screaming anyway without even a shred of evidence that the national debt is actually a problem.”

“This is when I asked again if someone would put me to sleep. A surprise hysterectomy is not something one generally wants to hear and see and, unfortunately due to all the cauterizing, smell.”

Do better, Great British Bake Off. We deserved a lot better than that.

The store where we buy our dog food is a delightful old un-air-conditioned shack, just north of downtown and just next to our chi-chi neighborhood. In business since 1928 selling animal feed and various farm animals (yes, in the heart of urban Houston), owned by the same (male) couple since 1991, it’s been the place to go for backyard farmers for decades. They’re moving to a new location, thankfully not far away, and while it will be weird to not have them in their current space, I’m just glad they will continue to exist. Shop local, y’all.

RIP, Judy Tenuta, groundbreaking, accordion-playing, Grammy-nominated comedienne.

If you’ve heard about some controversy involving people who write books about Westeros with George R.R. Martin and wanted to know more about it, here’s the very deep dive that you need.

“The muted response from some of the country’s most virulent critics of abortion is an instructive reminder that for many conservatives — particular conservative politicians — opposition to abortion has little to do with morality, and everything to do with politics.”

If you’re lucky enough to catch a historic home run, make sure you know a good accountant.

You can be gay, you just can’t act gay

So rules a notoriously anti-gay Trump judge, narrowing a SCOTUS ruling from just two years ago at the behest of the usual suspect.

A federal judge has ruled that Biden administration guidelines requiring employers to provide protections for LGBTQ employees go too far, in a win for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who brought suit against the rules last fall.

The rules were first issued after the landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex or religion, includes protection for gay and transgender people.

In 2021, the Biden administration released guidance around the ruling, noting that disallowing transgender employees to dress and use pronouns and bathrooms consistent with their gender identity constituted sex discrimination.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Donald Trump-appointed U.S. district court judge for the Northern District of Texas, found that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination against an individual for being gay or transgender, “but not necessarily all correlated conduct,” including use of pronouns, dress and bathrooms.

Earlier this year, after Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion that gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors could be considered child abuse, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra released additional guidance that federally funded agencies can’t restrict people from accessing “medically necessary care, including gender-affirming care, from their health care provider solely on the basis of their sex assigned at birth or gender identity.” Kacsmaryk also ruled to vacate that guidance.

[…]

Kacsmaryk is himself known for his opposition to expanding or protecting LGBTQ rights. Before being nominated to the bench, Kacsmaryk was the deputy general counsel for the First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal organization focused on religious liberty cases. In a 2015 article arguing against the Equality Act, Kacsmaryk wrote that the proposed legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity would “punish dissenters, giving no quarter to Americans who continue to believe that marriage and sexual relations are reserved to the union of one man and one woman.”

In a 2015 article for the National Catholic Register titled “The Abolition of Man … and Woman,” Kacsmaryk called the term gender identity “problematic” and wrote that, “The campaigns for same-sex ‘marriage’ and ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ (SOGI) legislation share a common legal theory: Rules predicated on the sexual difference and complementarity of man and woman are relics of a benighted legal regime designed to harm ‘LGBT’ persons, or at least deny them ‘full equality.’”

I wonder sometimes how Ken Paxton would do if instead of being able to pick his judges he always had to argue his cases in front of a judge that, you know, ruled on the law and the merits of the case rather than on what they felt like. Probably would have a lower batting average, I’m thinking. Anyway, that ruling was 6-3, with Gorsuch the author and Roberts joining him and the (at the time) four liberals. That means that five judges who ruled for the plaintiffs are still there. It’s certainly possible, maybe even likely, that the Biden administration read that ruling in as expansive a manner as they thought they could, and as such they could have overstepped what SCOTUS had in mind. I suppose we’ll get to find out, once the Fifth Circuit does its duty of upholding the ruling. We know that in general this SCOTUS doesn’t give a crap about precedent, but maybe they’ll feel differently when it’s their own precedent.

Uvalde school district suspends its entire police force

Um, wow.

Uvalde school officials on Friday suspended all of the district police department’s activities following the firing of a recently hired district officer who was revealed to have been among the first state troopers to respond to the deadly school shooting in May.

Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller were placed on leave, and other officers employed with the department will fill other roles in the district, according to a Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District press release issued Friday. Mueller decided to retire, the release said.

The release did not specify why Hernandez and Mueller were placed on leave. A district spokesperson did not immediately return phone and email messages.

The decision arrived 10 days after protesters set up at the UCISD administrative building to demand the removal of officers from campus grounds until investigations into the police department’s response to the shooting are complete.

The district said decisions regarding the future of the department had been pending the results of two investigations, but it suspended the department’s activities Friday citing “recent developments that have uncovered additional concerns with department operations.”

[…]

Upon suspending the police department, the district asked DPS for extra troopers for campus and extra-curricular activities, according to the Friday news release.

Berlinda Arreola, the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old who was among the 19 students killed in the shooting, was walking into her workplace when she received an email with news about the suspension of the school district’s police department. Arreola told her supervisor she had to go.

“Go go go go,” the boss told her.

She went to meet other family members of the victims, who have been gathering outside the school district to protest. Arreola said she hugged everybody.

“This was a huge step,” she said. “But there’s still a lot of, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done and so we’re going to continue the fight because we’re not done.”

I did not follow the story of the former DPS trooper, whose name is Crimson Elizondo, who was hired by the Uvalde police despite being under investigation by DPS for the way she responded to the shooting. You can read the story and click the links to catch up as needed. I’m just trying to think of something remotely analogous to this in my memory, and I cannot. I am absolutely stunned. Texas Public Radio has more.

Another depressing story about the existential future of Texas Central

It’s sad, y’all.

People in the path of a proposed but floundering high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas last week filed a letter that in many ways labels Texas Central Railroad the little engine that will never be.

They think it can’t. They think it can’t. They think it can’t.

“Granted, Texas Central appears to be doing things,” attorney Patrick McShan said in the letter sent to the company on Sept. 29. “But none of the things Texas Central is now doing suggest in any manner whatsoever that it does, in fact, intend to construct the project.”

The planned rail line, once touted as mere months from construction, now is more paperwork than planning. Since its former CEO left in June, the company has said it is securing financing, but shown little other signs of life, beyond a July 8 statement after the Texas Supreme Court affirmed its right to use eminent domain to acquire property.

“Texas Central has made significant strides in the project over the last several years and we are moving forward on a path that we believe will ensure the project’s successful development,” the company said then. “We look forward to being able to say more about this at an appropriate time in the near future.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Citing various examples, McShan’s letter said it appears Texas Central is operating as a shell of a corporation, paying property taxes it owed in eight of the 11 counties where it owns property, but still owing HOA dues for numerous locations and property taxes in Ellis County.  It reportedly, McShan said, has lost investment from Japan once considered necessary for the project, and has sold some of the properties it acquired during six years of planning and design.

The company never has applied for any construction permits related to construction of the line, though it has certain federal clearances.

“We believe Texas Central has not filed, nor will it ever file, an application for a construction permit for two reasons,” McShan wrote. “One, Texas Central does not want to make these required financial disclosures; and two, it knows that if it did make these disclosures its application would be summarily denied.”

See here and here for the previous depressing examples. I note that the last post on the Texas Central Twitter page was July 8, in response to that last story. If you can’t even issue a pro forma denial to this sort of thing, it is eminently reasonable to wonder what the heck is going on over there, and if anyone is doing anything. I’d love to find some reason for a bit of optimism, but right now that just ain’t there. Please prove me wrong, guys.