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May 7th, 2023:

Weekend link dump for May 7

“Whatever the outcome is, the drastic step is a warning sign for what may be in store in the coming years. For decades, a series regular on a TV show has been the holy grail for rank-and-file working actors because of the guaranteed income and a chance at a career- and life-changing experience if the series is a hit. If more shows start to dramatically reduce the number of series regulars, with the majority of roles available being guest-starring and recurring, the impact will be profound, with fewer actors being able to make a living and qualify for health insurance.”

“This whole situation highlights one of the hidden benefits of recognizing corporations to have rights, that corporate rights also serve as a check on government tyranny.”

“This whole spectacle is an example of the idea that introducing payments for a good or service can change the thing we’re buying.”

“The real problem with our battles against disease is that no one is in charge. We can all name the generals who led almost every war we’ve fought: Washington, Grant, Pershing, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Westmoreland, Abrams, Schwarzkopf, Petraeus, and so on. Can you name who won or lost the war against the Spanish flu? Against polio? (Not the vaccine makers Salk and Sabin. I mean the generals.) We can’t because we have no Pentagon for disease. No one is in overall charge. War is a public calling, but American medicine is a privatized mess. When we need a huge effort for the public good from it, we can’t muster it. In fact, we get the opposite — hospitals hoard ventilators and make it hard for their staffs to go where the outbreaks are. We have a patchwork of agencies with very defined, very limited purviews: the CDC, the FDA, the NIH. Even the CDC has a small staff whose job is mostly to investigate outbreaks and make recommendations to local health departments and local hospitals. Imagine the FBI, cut to a third of its size, with no guns, handcuffs or powers of arrest, plus an inclination to publish scholarly papers instead of busting heads. That’s the CDC.”

RIP, Otis Redding III, singer and son of Otis Redding, Jr.

RIP, Larry “Gator” Rivers, longtime Harlem Globetrotter.

“Comcast Cuts the Cord: Cable TV Customers Drop Below 50% of Company’s Connectivity Clients for First Time”.

RIP, Mike Shannon, longtime broadcaster and two-time World Series champion for the St. Louis Cardinals.

RIP, Tim Bachman, co-founding guitarist and vocalist for Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

RIP, Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian folk music icon whose best known songs include “Sundown”, “If You Could Read My Mind”, and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

The writers are on strike, and longtime Writers Guild member Mark Evanier explains the stakes.

A brief history of bleeping.

Republicans really don’t want young people to vote.

Tucker Carlson is an even bigger asshole than you thought.

A longtime mystery involving one of Jeopardy!‘s early champions has finally been solved.

“Nice Twitter handle you got there. Be a real shame if something happened to it.”

“Greene’s attack on Weingarten’s status as a mother is a window into what certain people really mean when they invoke parents’ rights. Let’s explore that below.”

RIP, Eileen Saki, actor best known for playing Rosie the bar owner of M*A*S*H.

RIP, Don Sebesky, prolific arranger and conductor of theatrical music, winner of three Grammy and two Tony awards.

RIP, Barbara Bryne, stage actor best known for her work in Stephen Sondheim productions.

“Harlan picked up the tab” is a phrase we keep hearing a lot. One wonders if Clarence Thomas has ever paid for anything in his adult life. “Sugar Justice”, indeed.

“The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday licensed the first-ever vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, completing an elusive quest that has been decades in the making.”

Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. Now lock them the hell up.

No mention of Ginni, of course.”

“Republicans are not just willing to shoot their hostage. For many it’s too fun an opportunity to let slip by.”

“Perhaps if I tell them that the footage came from a combination of WikiLeaks and Hunter Biden’s laptop, it will alleviate their concerns.”

“Besides making it harder to identify (and block) people who paid $8 for Twitter Blue to get an Elon-approved blue checkmark, Musk’s new verified label gives him cover in case any celebrities decide to sue him for implying they were fans of Twitter Blue.”

An example of how a pro-abortion rights campaign could go

This was from last week, and I’ve been thinking about it since.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, one of the five women suing Texas for abortion access blamed the state’s Republican senators for her near-death experience when she was denied reproductive care in the state.

“I nearly died on their watch,” Amanda Zurawski said, naming U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, who both sit on the committee. “And furthermore, as a result of what happened to me, I may have been robbed of the opportunity to have children in the future — and it’s because of the policies they support.”


The state’s ban allows for exceptions only when there is “substantial” risk to a mother or if a fetus has a fatal diagnosis. But many doctors and hospitals have been fearful of intervening even when there is a clear danger because of the stiff penalties for anyone who violates the ban, including potential prison sentences of up to 99 years, tens of thousands of dollars in fines and the loss of medical licenses.

Zurawski was 17 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with a condition called cervical insufficiency, which had caused her to dilate too soon for her baby to survive. The morning after her water broke, Zurawski still hadn’t gone into labor, but doctors in the emergency room told her there was nothing they could do for her because the baby still had a heartbeat.

Zurawksi later developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition, and the hospital agreed to perform the abortion. After delivering and losing her daughter, Willow, Zurawski developed a secondary infection and was entered into the intensive care unit, where she spent three days.

Zurawsi testified that she is still dealing with “paralyzing trauma” from the “preventable harm” she suffered, which she said “has already made it harder for me to get pregnant again.”

“I may have been one of the first who was affected by the overturning of Roe in Texas, but I certainly will not be the last,” she said.

“You have the power to fix this,” she said, addressing the panel of senators. “You owe it to me and to Willow and to every other person who may become pregnant in this country to protect our right to safe and accessible health care, emergency or no emergency. Your job is to protect the lives of the people who elected you, not endanger them.”

See here and here for more on the lawsuit, and here and here for more about the polling and politics stuff. Ms. Zurawski is as sympathetic and compelling a spokesperson as one could want. This was a wanted pregnancy that was derailed by medical issues – all of which happened after 15 weeks, by the way – and she suffered greatly and nearly died because doctors couldn’t treat her due to Texas’ laws; she may now be unable to get pregnant again as a result. You could argue, as the forced birthers are already doing, that the fault lies with the doctors, who just misinterpreted the laws. But when it’s your profession and a 99-year prison sentence on the line, no one is going to put themselves out on a limb. This is, again, the intent of the law, as embodied by the likes of Sen. Angela Paxton and her opposition to any exceptions for the life of the mother.

The bottom line here is that I believe that a vast majority of Texans would agree with the position that Ms. Zurawski should not have had to go through all that, she should have been able to get the care that she needed, which in this case was an abortion. There was a clear medical need, any reasonable person would have expected to receive it, and if the laws are an obstacle to her and her doctors then those laws should be changed. That’s what her lawsuit is about. If there were a way for there to be a statewide ballot proposition for this specific issue, I’d expect it to pass.

But just adding in an explicit “health of the mother” exception to our laws as they exist now, while being popular and clearly needed, would still leave Texas in a far more restricted place for abortion access than it was even two years ago. Note that we are only talking “health of the mother” exceptions; rape and incest would still not be an acceptable reason for an abortion. And, not to put too fine a point on it, there would still be absolutely no “abortion because it’s my choice and my body and this is what I want” allowance. No Democrat running against Ted Cruz or any other forced-birth Republican in 2024 is going to stop at this point in their abortion rights advocacy. They don’t believe in anything so limited, and their existing supporters would be rightly upset at such a change in their posture.

And so that’s the challenge. Plenty of people would support the Zurawski exception. Fewer, quite a bit fewer, would support – and more crucially, be willing to vote for politicians who support – the pre-Dobbs landscape. Note that Zurawski herself is not calling for just “health of the mother” exceptions – she wants “to protect our right to safe and accessible health care, emergency or no emergency”. How do we get the majority that is surely there for something narrow into a majority for something broader? Like I said, this is what we need to be working on. Daily Kos and Slate have more.

House Investigations committee recommends expelling Rep. Slaton


Rep. Bryan Slaton

A House committee has recommended the expulsion of Republican state Rep. Bryan Slaton after finding that he engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with a subordinate, then acted to thwart an investigation into the matter.

In a speech from the floor, Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, said Slaton’s behavior was “induced by alcohol” that the representative provided the 19-year-old woman.

“Rep. Slaton then acted systematically to influence that subordinate and multiple witnesses to obstruct the investigation,” Murr said.

Murr said expelling Slaton was necessary to protect the “dignity and integrity” of the Legislature.

After Murr’s speech, clerks distributed the investigative committee’s report on Slaton, which detailed the panel’s findings and its recommendation of expulsion. Members sat silently for about 10 minutes and read it as Slaton remained seated at his desk, occasionally peering at his phone.

Speaker Dade Phelan then resumed normal legislative business. The speaker, who typically does not participate in chamber debates as its presiding officer, said in a written statement he would stick to that role.

“I will withhold public comment until my colleagues have the opportunity to deliberate and then vote on the General Investigating Committee’s recommendations,” Phelan said.

The decision to remove Slaton will ultimately be up to the full House; the Texas Constitution allows members to be expelled with a two-thirds vote of the chamber. Murr on Saturday filed House Resolution 1542, the legislation which would remove him.

The House has not expelled members in nearly a century. Members removed Reps. F.A. Dale and H. H. Moore in 1927 on the grounds of “conduct unbecoming any member.”

See here and here for the previous updates. I have to say, I wasn’t expecting this. Obviously, this is an extremely rare situation (side note: I sure hope someone does a little reporting to find out what “conduct unbecoming any member” meant in 1927), so I doubt anyone was expecting it, least of all Slaton. QR has a copy of the report now, but it’s behind their paywall; hopefully a public copy will be made eventually. In the meantime, I invite you to watch this brief speech about the report and its recommendation by Rep. Murr:

I also want to remind you of who Rep. Slaton is:

Slaton took office in 2021 after defeating Rep. Dan Flynn, a longtime Republican state representative whom Slaton had challenged multiple times and considered too moderate.

His political campaign was largely funded by West Texas oil and gas billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. The two are among the biggest donors to some of the most socially conservative lawmakers in the Legislature, including far-right opponents to lawmakers who vote against their political interests.

Slaton is known as one of the most conservative members in the chamber, frequently rankling House leaders, and this year fought a losing battle to amend House rules to prohibit Democrats from leading legislative committees. The issue has been a major concern for ultraconservative grassroots Republicans who do not want Democrats leading key legislative debates.

Last year, he called for a blanket ban on minors at drag shows, saying it was necessary to protect children from “perverted adults.” He has also proposed giving property tax cuts to straight, married couples — but not same-sex couples or those who have been divorced — based on the number of children they have.

“Perverted adults”, indeed. The response we should all make now any time a wingnut talks about “filthy” books or drag shows or whatever else we need to “protect” children from is “You mean like Bryan Slaton?” Good riddance – I hope; we’ll see on Tuesday – to a truly awful legislator and even worse human being. Oh, and remember that the biggest moneybags in Republican politics helped foist him on us.

In the meantime, it’s still not clear what if anything the committee is doing with the allegations against Rep. Jones. Maybe the session will end and we’ll just assume they took no action, or maybe we’ll find out that they reviewed written reports but took no testimony. Not a whole lot of time left to find out.

UPDATE: The committee’s report can be found here, which I got via the DMN story. It’s 16 pages long, and you really should read it. It’s worse than I thought. Slaton actively tried to cover his tracks, none of the other staffers in his office (all male) cooperated with the investigation, his lawyer tried to delay things…it’s bad. The Trib story has been updated with details from the report since I wrote the original post. If the Travis County DA reads the report, there are multiple crimes they could try to indict Slaton for.

Two other items of interest. One is that the committee’s recommendation that Slaton be expelled was unanimous. Two, the report notes that the reason there have been so few expulsions over the years is that most members caught up in serious forms of misconduct have resigned before they could be expelled. Slaton, who has denied all responsibility in this incident, doesn’t appear likely to do that.

A ride down the West 11th bike trail

I’ve been riding the West 11th bike trail since it opened, mostly to go to some of my favorite lunch places. It’s been great, modulo the occasional hazards like trash/recycling bins out for collection and delivery trucks or construction vehicles parked there or protruding from a driveway. I had never biked along West 11th before because the two-lanes-each-way vehicular traffic moved far too fast and too recklessly to ever feel safe enough. I’d take one of the side roads, or if I wanted to cross at a light I’d go to White Oak or 14th, depending on what my destination was. The dedicated lane on 11th is a better experience than all of those, and I appreciate being able to cross Studewood at a light as well, as that can be tricky and occasionally death-defying otherwise.

Early on in the path’s existence I set out to take a ride and pause for some pictures along the way, to document the experience. I’m finally getting around to publishing them now – it’s been a busy few weeks in the news, in case you hadn’t noticed – so while the pics themselves are a bit old, I now have more experience to speak from. So come ride along with me, and see what the fuss is about.


The first evidence of what was to become the trail was the painted “bike lane” indicators on Michaux, followed by the installation of a lane divider/crossing path on White Oak. You don’t see it as much now, but in the first few weeks it was common to see people approaching this intersection, from either street, and only realizing upon arriving there that they can’t turn left. When it happened to me, I made the forced right, then turned left on Norhill onto Usener, left onto Usener, and left again onto Michaux, and then finally right onto White Oak to continue on my way. I saw one person turn left into the oncoming traffic lane – fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic – and then slide over. Seems like most people in the ‘hood have figured this out now, which is good.


Of course, West 11th is the opposite way on Michaux. I just went that way to take the first photo. This is Michaux approaching 11th. I don’t really know what the little lane is for. I guess it’s a bit of a protection if you’re turning right (east) onto Pecore, which is what 11th becomes at Michaux. But there’s no separated bike lane that way, at least not at this time, so who knows.


You have to turn left (west) from Michaux to get into the bike lane. 11th used to be two lanes beginning or ending here, with the eastbound right lane being right turn only except for the #30 bus.


At Studewood. The concrete lane separator comes and goes, mostly to allow access to various driveways but also for right-on-red turns. I’ve been conscious of this as a driver along 11th, which I didn’t really have to be before because there were never any bikes. I’ve not had any issues with cars wanting to turn right yet. It’s no different than on non-bike lane streets like White Oak, to be honest.


At Heights Blvd. The “wide turn” sign is there because of the bike lane on Heights, which now has a concrete separator that looks like a platform right there. I’ll have a better look at it on the way back. Note the “no left turn” sign onto Heights southbound – as with the White Oak situation, not everyone has figured this out yet. That left was a real hazard before the bike lane, but it does mean if you’re coming this way you either need to turn at Yale, or scoot over to a side street to access Heights southbound from there. Note also the bank of lights on the far end of Heights, with the one lone (and hidden by the bus stop sign) light on the sidewalk. I don’t quite understand that design decision – there were two sets of lights before this, as really there are two intersections. If you want to have only one bank of lights, I might have argued that it belonged at the first intersection, not the second one. Anyone have a theory about this?


At Yale. I saw several other bikers while out on that initial ride, and I see regular bike traffic now. This guy was turning left onto Yale, which is why he wasn’t in the same lane as me. I can’t think of any other wrong-way biker I’ve seen since then.


Here we are at the junction of the north-south Heights Bike Trail, which will connect you to the MKT Trail to the south. I turned around here because I was just out for funsies and didn’t have a destination in mind. Note the “stop for pedestrians” sign, which exists at a number (but not all) of the cross streets now. The vehicular traffic has actually been quite good about respecting this, which is very nice. Before the West 11th lane diet and the trail, people going along the Heights trail often felt like they were taking their lives into their hands crossing here, as four total lanes of cars would whip by, often at speeds over 40 MPH. People had been calling for a traffic light at this intersection, but the trail and the lane reduction, which has definitely led to lower speeds, and the “stop for pedestrians (and, implicitly, bikes)” sign have done the trick.


At a few points along the concrete lane dividers, there are some vertical visual markers of the bike lane, presumably to remind drivers of the lane’s existence. Clearly, someone needed that reminder.


This is the platform for what I thought was a B-Cycle location in construction, on the south side of Heights. There’s an identical thing catty-corner on the north side. Given what’s going on with B-Cycle now, I’m not sure of the purpose of the platform anymore. But there they are.

So that’s a small taste of what the ride is like on West 11th. Someday when the North Main lane has been built – here’s an April 18 update that says initial construction begins in June, so this is not far off – I’ll do a similar ride. Let me know what you think.