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December 20th, 2020:

Weekend link dump for December 20

Face shields aren’t quite enough to fully protect you from COVID.

Two words: COVID penis. Make sure you get that vaccine when it’s available for you, OK?

“I get it. It’s a pandemic. If ever there was a time to give up, this is it. Don’t be pressured into half-assing your holiday lights. If you’re fortunate enough to be housed — in suburban Disneyland or anywhere else — you have done enough this year. I’d rather you give up before you murder the inflatable elves every morning or deaden your soul with projector lights at night.”

“U.S. government agencies were hit by a “global intrusion campaign” of cyber-attacks that exploited a flaw in the update of a software company, cyber-security firm FireEye said, which the Washington Post reported was a breach by Russian government hackers.”

RIP, John le Carré, master British spy novelist.

“Shortly before six o’clock Eastern Time, in Sacramento, California, fifty-five Democratic members of the Electoral College cast their votes for Biden, raising him above the threshold of two hundred and seventy. The 2020 election result was now official, pending only the formality of a ratification by the U.S. Congress, on January 6th.”

RIP, Ann Reinking, Tony Award-winning actor, dancer, and choreographer.

RIP, Ann Criswell, longtime food editor, writer, and evangelist in Houston.

How much Star Wars is too much Star Wars?

Lots of info about that SolarWinds hack.

“Let’s Talk About Simulated Sex: Intimacy Coordinators Two Years On”.

RIP, Catie Lazarus, writer, comedian, and creator of the talk show/podcast “Employee of the Month”.

“The City of Detroit wants attorney Sidney Powell to pay—literally—for her reality-adjacent dog and pony legal challenge to Michigan’s election results.”

“Trump failed to steal the election because he and his legal team are incompetent criminals, not because our democratic institutions defeated him. Saying that our democracy proved resilient against Republican attempts at subversion is like saying the fences at Jurassic Park proved resilient against raptors.”

Joe Biden should use every legitimate power at his disposal as President to do everything at once. No sequencing or playing for buy-in. You win an election. You gain certain legitimate powers. You use them. Period. Should Biden be open to bipartisan compromise? Absolutely. The door should be open. But it would be a grave mistake to spend any time coaxing anyone to come through it. We’ve played that game enough. Biden should always be willing to talk but not to delay.”

“How fingerprint and firearm experts use misleading math to appear infallible.”

RIP, Jeremy Bulloch, actor and the original Boba Fett.

One of the more interesting election maps you’ll see.

“This means that the set of potential victims is not just (just!) the 18,000 SolarWinds customers who may have downloaded the compromised updates, but also all of those 18,000 organizations’ customers, and potentially the clients of those second-order organizations as well—and so on. So when I say the SolarWinds cyberespionage campaign will last years, I don’t just mean, as I usually do, that figuring out liability and settling costs and carrying out investigations will take years (though that is certainly true here). The actual, active theft of information from protected networks due to this breach will last years.”

RIP, Bear Dalton, wine expert, Rodeo fixture, general mensch and man about town.

Another poll about the COVID vaccine

A little better.

Texans now appear a little more likely to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus than a few months ago, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by the Episcopal Health Foundation, found 63 percent of people in the state say they’re likely to get the vaccine when it becomes available. The percentage was 59 in a survey the foundation released in October.

The percentage is up significantly from a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll conducted in October. It found only 42 percent of Texans said they’d get the vaccine.

The phrasing of the two surveys was different. The UT/TT survey asked if respondents would get a low-cost coronavirus vaccine if it were available; the Episcopal foundation survey asked if respondents were “very likely/unlikely” or “somewhat likely/unlikely” to get the vaccine.

Thirty-seven percent said they were “very likely” to get the vaccine in both the new poll and the one released in October. The number “somewhat likely” grew from 22 to 26 percent.

The number “very unlikely” to get the vaccine dropped from 28 to 20 percent.

See here for more on that UT/Texas Tribune poll, here for the Episcopal Health press release, and here for the poll data. I believe the number of people who want to get vaccinated will continue to rise, though there’s certainly a ceiling on it. Some of that is partisan – there’s a distinct split in this poll – and some of it is the usual anti-vaxxer BS. Overall, though, I think a combination of the desire to return to normalcy and general societal acceptance of the vaccine will get us to a decent level. There will still be the need to do outreach, and to meet people where they are on this. We can’t afford to take any chances with this.

Springer defeats Luther in SD30

Congratulations.

Rep. Drew Springer

State Rep. Drew Springer of Muenster prevailed over fellow Republican Shelley Luther in a special election runoff for a state Senate seat that was animated by Gov. Greg Abbott and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Luther is the Dallas salon owner who was jailed earlier this year over her refusal to close her business due to coronavirus restrictions. Throughout the race, she was an outspoken critic of Abbott, who endorsed Springer in the runoff and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own campaign funds to beat back Luther in the race to succeed outgoing state Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper.

[…]

Springer declared victory on social media, posting statements on Twitter and Facebook that said he would “continue advancing the conservative priorities of our district like reducing property taxes, securing the border, and standing up for our law enforcement and first responders who keep our communities safe.”

“I will fight to ensure Texas remains the premier place in the nation to do business, so we can unleash the private sector to create jobs and move us out of this recession,” he wrote.

Luther ran as a political outsider, attacking Springer as a tool of the “Austin swamp” who would go along to get along in the upper chamber. Springer campaigned as a proven conservative, arguing Luther could not be trusted.

When it came to the pandemic, Luther leaned heavily on her experience being sent to jail, labeling Abbott a “tyrant” over the business shutdowns he initiated and calling for a 2022 primary challenge to the governor. While not as bombastic, Springer also expressed disagreement with some of the governor’s coronavirus handling, even after earning Abbott’s endorsement.

See here for the background. Like I said, there were no good choices in this race, but but at least we’ve been spared the hot takes and national attention that a Luther win would have meant. Maybe now Shelley Luther will go back to being an obscure small business owner that none of us had to pay attention to or care about. We can hope for that much.

Springer’s win will also trigger another special election, to fill his seat in HD68. I presume Abbott will call that pretty quickly after Springer gets sworn in, since the session is about to begin. I’d expect it in late January, and any subsequent runoff would be in early March or so. Like SD30, this is a deep red district 83.3% for Ted Cruz in 2018), so the partisan balance is not in doubt. The only question is whether Springer’s replacement will be more like him, or more like Shelley Luther.

Give Pancho Claus a hand

Tis the season.

He doesn’t come the night before Christmas in a miniature sleigh with reindeer like St. Nick, but instead parades along city streets with an equally number of low-riders, often surrounded by a festive jazz band.

“To the top of the roof, the lowriders flew, with a bag full of toys, and Pancho Claus too,” Richard Reyes likes to recite when he introduces the Christmas character he brought to the Bayou City almost 40 years ago.

A Houstonian Santa unlike any other, dressed in a bright red and black zoot suit with a fedora, Pancho Claus has helped thousands of disadvantaged children to feel the joy of Christmas, bringing gifts and throwing colorful seasonal parties that their low-income parents could not afford.

Now, after decades of giving, this Latino “Papá Noel” lost financial sponsors and the support of the institution of which he was one of the founders, Talento Bilingüe de Houston, sparking a community effort to save Pancho Claus. An online fundraiser via GoFundMe.com has been established, as well as an effort to create an independent nonprofit to keep the holiday tradition alive, and other programs with children that he carries out throughout the year.

“We lost our sponsors, but we don’t blame them because the (coronavirus) pandemic is affecting everybody,” said Reyes. “I’ve always said that we have our community, and this year, our community will be our sponsor.”

[…]

Pancho Claus is now operating at the Latino Learning Center, another nonprofit east of downtown that agreed to provide temporary space to store materials and prepare gift boxes. No shows or city events are planned because of the pandemic, and instead Pancho Claus will distribute gifts in a drive-thru format. More information will be posted at www.panchoclaus.com.

See here for my last Pancho Claus update, and here for the GoFundMe link. If you’re looking for a good place to give a few bucks this holiday season, you’d do well to help Pancho Claus out.