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May 2nd, 2021:

Weekend link dump for May 2

Please don’t feed the bears.

“U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s reported $2 million book deal is drawing criticism from legal experts who say its size and timing create bad optics for a court that is already in the political crosshairs.”

A new malaria vaccine could save a lot of lives.

“David Brooks can be maddening, but he has a role to play in moving the needle of progress.”

“The issue is in part semantic: The term low-skill as we use it is often derogatory, a socially sanctioned slur Davos types casually lob at millions of American workers, disproportionately Black and Latino, immigrant, and low-income workers. Describing American workers as low-skill also vaults over the discrimination that creates these “low-skill” jobs and pushes certain workers to them. And it positions American workers as being the problem, rather than American labor standards, racism and sexism, and social and educational infrastructure. It is a cancerous little phrase, low-skill. As the pandemic ends and the economy reopens, we need to leave it behind.”

In which dogs are used to find turtles to help fight an emerging virus that affects turtles.

“There are basically four countries in the world that are at the head of the pack in terms of vaccinations – with one, Israel, far ahead of the other three. There are as many as a dozen others but they are either city states or tiny jurisdictions that it’s hard to draw much from in terms of statistics. Those four are Israel (Pfizer), the United States (Pfizer & Moderna), the UK (AstraZeneca) and Chile (SinoVAC). There’s a decent body of theoretical and empirical support for the proposition that the population-wide effects of COVID vaccination kick in when about 60% of the population has been vaccinated – at least with the Pfizer/Moderna vaccinations.”

“You don’t need to win every vote. You need to get a majority of votes. Similarly, we don’t need to get everyone vaccinated (thought that sure would be nice). We need to get to herd immunity.”

“To recap: A tabloid falsely linked a study to the Democratic president; Fox News regurgitated the lie; Fox News consumers swallowed the regurgitated lie like conspiratorial ipecac then urped it up all over the internet; America became a measurably dumber place to live.”

“Quentin Tarantino Had A Diabolical Method For Preventing NBC From Messing With His ‘ER’ Episode”.

“A Jan. 6 Commission is Crucial to Understand the Reality of the Attack, and the Alternate Reality of the Attackers”.

“I think the bottom line here is somewhat simple, though: Mask up in crowds. Otherwise—though some judgment calls might be involved—if you’re outdoors, it’s just not as necessary.” Here’s an opposing view to that.

“Russian singer finally voted off reality TV show he didn’t want to be on following three months of misery”. Honestly, that may be the most 2021 story we’ll ever see.

“Good news: Prancer has been adopted.”

I’d say that not listening to Joe Rogan is good advice in general.

RIP, Michael Collins, Apollo 11 astronaut.

RIP, Courtney Hall, Rice Owl and former NFL player.

Josh Duggar is in the position he is in because he was enabled and protected from consequences at every step by his revolting parents and their patriarchal, dehumanizing theology.” (More here, if you can stomach it.)

“Newsmax apologized on Friday for airing false allegations that an employee for Dominion Voting Systems manipulated machines or tallies on Election Day to the detriment of former President Donald Trump.”

RIP, Olympia Dukakis, Oscar-winning actor and cousin of former Massachusetts governor and 1988 U.S. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

CD06 special election result

I’m not going to stay up late and wait till every last vote has been counted in CD06. You can see the latest report from the SOS here. As of when I drafted this, Susan Wright and Jake Ellzey were leading, with Jana Sanchez just a bit behind Ellzey. If that holds, it will be an all-GOP runoff, which is not great but not terribly surprising. It wasn’t just that the three Dems who raised the most money split the vote, it was also the no-name, no-money Dems who collected votes. I have no idea who Tammy Allison is, but she was actually the third-best Dem in the race, with over five percent of the vote. Multi-candidate special elections are weird, man.

The takes I saw last night on Twitter were scorching hot, but honestly things wouldn’t be all that much different if Sanchez had collected a couple hundred more votes (as of when I last checked) and slipped ahead of Ellzey and into the runoff. Having three viable Dems, plus one who perhaps benefitted from being the first name on the ballot in Tarrant County, was a heavy lift to overcome. It’s what I was worried about from the beginning. I don’t have anything more insightful than that to say.

The best time to buy a house in Houston was last year

Or the year before that, or the year before that

The O’Neals are part of a nationwide real estate frenzy playing out in Houston that is propelling prices to new highs. Houses are frequently drawing multiple offers, often above the asking price and can sell in a matter of days if they’re in good condition, according to local real estate agents.

The median price of a single-family home reached $260,212 in 2020, up 6.2 percent from 2019, according to an analysis of home sales and prices compiled by the Houston Association of Realtors for the Houston Chronicle. The increase in the median sales price was nearly twice the 3.2 percent year-over-year gain in 2019, according to HAR.

The increase came amid demand fueled by continued low interest rates, an extreme shortage of houses on the market and a rekindled desire for homes in the suburbs stemming from the pandemic as people spend more time at home. At the same time, despite the rising prices, the pandemic forced people to cancel vacations, stop eating out and allowed them to pay down debt, giving them more buying power than ever. Some of that may carry over to the future.

“We have a new habit of spending a lot of time at home,” said Ted C. Jones, chief economist with Stewart Title. “We’ll definitely eat out more, but maybe not as much as we did 24 months ago.”

Meantime, said Frank Lucco, an appraiser with Accurity Qualified Analytics, “Houses are flying off the shelves.”

Lucco said he has never seen Houston home prices rise this quickly in his 43 years as an appraiser. Traditionally, home prices have risen 3 percent to 4 percent annually over the last two decades. The veteran appraiser has been constantly adjusting his appraisals upward to reflect Houston’s fast rising prices.

“There’s multiple contracts on houses,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for houses to sell in the same day it’s listed.”

In March, 2,165 houses in the Houston area — 23.2 percent of the month’s sales — sold for above asking price, according to HAR. That’s nearly three times the 8 percent that sold for more than asking a year ago.

Everyone reading this in Austin and its environs is no doubt nodding their head grimly. You want crazy home prices and bidding wars, that’s the place for it. The same is going on in the greater D/FW area as well. As this story notes, there’s a lot of demand out in the burbs, with their bigger houses and spacious yards that have been a blessing for many in the pandemic, but there’s also a lot of demand for the urban core, especially among younger buyers. There’s plenty of construction in my neighborhood, and I can’t think of any lots that have been on the market for more than a couple of weeks. Whatever else you might say, it’s better to be a place where people want to live.

Zombie same sex employee lawsuit denied again

Shuffling along like the undead flesh eater that it is.

A Texas appellate court struck a challenge Thursday to Houston’s policy giving same-sex spouses of city employees the same benefits as different-sex spouses, saying that the city was immune from the case and that three major U.S. Supreme Courtrulings barred the claims.

A split Fourteenth Court of Appeals panel affirmed a state trial court’s February 2019 ruling against Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, who challenged the benefits policy in an October 2014 suit.

“Because appellants’ attempt to prevent the city from offering employment benefits to married same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as married different-sex couples cannot be reconciled with the requirements of the U.S. Constitution, we reject it,” Justice Margaret Poissant said in an opinion for the panel.

Mayor Sylvester Turner is not liable for the plaintiffs’ ultra vires claim, a claim used to target government officials for acting beyond their authority, because the 2013 directive issued by his predecessor was discretionary, the panel found.

The plaintiffs had even conceded that point when they argued the mayor and other officials spurned state marriage law “because it conflicts with their personal beliefs of what the U.S. Constitution or federal law requires,” the panel noted.

Further, Houston didn’t waive the immunity it typically has in ultra vires claims, according to the opinion. For a city to be a party to such a suit, the case must challenge a statute or ordinance, but the plaintiffs instead alleged violations of state law.

The plaintiffs also failed to establish that the directive was made without legal authority, according to the opinion.

Justice Poissant said the plaintiffs were wrongly trying to relitigate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges , which legalized same-sex marriage and made the Texas state laws at issue unconstitutional.

The panel also cited the high court’s 2017 ruling in Pavan v. Smith , which allowed same-sex parents the right to be listed on their children’s birth certificates, and its 2019 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County , which protected transgender individuals from discrimination.

The panel further denied the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction barring the city policy, saying their claim that the city used their tax dollars to “subsidize homosexual relationship,” which they believe is “immoral and sinful,” didn’t demonstrate imminent harm.

Justice Randy Wilson penned a partial dissent, saying the rest of the panel took the issue too far.

The trial court, Wilson said, had “paradoxically” dismissed the claims for lack of jurisdiction while essentially granting summary judgment on the merits. The appellate court should have addressed only the former and simply vacated the latter, he said.

See here for the previous update, and for the case information, including the opinion and concurrence and dissent from Justice Wilson. The original lawsuit was filed in 2013, for those keeping score at home. How much do you have to hate gay people to continue to pursue this eight years later? Jared Woodfill is their lawyer, if that helps you answer that question. Let us hope there is no further news to note on this.