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July 4th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for July 4

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

“Following a months-long investigation into a litany of dubious election fraud claims made by former President Donald Trump and his allies, a GOP-controlled Michigan Senate panel concluded [last] Wednesday not only that the state’s 2020 results are accurate, but that some of those who continue to push such claims should face criminal investigation.”

“Two assumptions about gender were at work here. The first was that no man would ever roll a suitcase because it was simply “unmanly” to do so. The second was about the mobility of women. There was nothing preventing a woman from rolling a suitcase — she had no masculinity to prove. But women didn’t travel alone, the industry assumed. If a woman travelled, she would travel with a man who would then carry her bag for her. This is why the industry couldn’t see any commercial potential in the rolling suitcase.”

John Scalzi and Jenny Lawson have a conversation about writing and other things.

“People hate mosquitoes, and so companies make a lot of anti-mosquito things: candles, wristbands, chemical and herbal sprays—even electronic devices. But if you want to keep mosquitoes off your bare skin this summer, you really just need two things: bug spray and a fan.”

“The case for eating bugs is straightforward: They’re healthy, and doing so is good for the environment.”

“A new species of the ancient giant rhino – among the largest mammals to walk on land – has been discovered in north-western China, researchers say.”

“Network television has essentially given up. It’s dying, but instead of seeking treatment, it’s decided to continue doing the same thing until its heart gives out. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no reason one of the networks couldn’t take a defibrillator to its chest and resurrect itself.”

“The Department of Justice is setting up a task force to address the rising threats against election officials and administrators, something Attorney General Merrick Garland said would not have happened without news reports bringing the severity of the problem to his attention.”

“The structure of the Democrats’ new select committee must reflect the new reality that their Republican counterparts are engaged in an active cover-up of the events they are investigating. If Republicans in Congress wanted to be honest and equal partners in this investigation, they would have supported forming a bipartisan 9/11-style commission. Instead, they blocked it.”

“That’s it. All that happened is that a restaurant in Minneapolis decided to implement European-style gratuities included in the bill. They hope this will allow them to pay back-of-house workers more fairly and they also hope it will overcome known bias in tipping behavior.”

“And in that sense, the most successful horror story of 2020 is QAnon.”

“Harris’s dilemma is not simply a product of her supposed naivete about her own political interests or Biden’s supposed insensitivity to them. Rather, it is a natural consequence of her new position—where holding the status of potential president-in-waiting is often seen as more important than whatever the occupant might be expected to accomplish while waiting to be president. If it were otherwise, perhaps a vice president who tackled a difficult national issue would be praised, not second-guessed, for addressing the governing challenges of today rather than merely protecting her personal ambitions for tomorrow.”

RIP, Stuart Damon, actor best known for a longtime role on General Hospital.

A Bronx Tale: One Sperm Donor, 19 Siblings, and Six Decades of Secrets”. It’s a riveting and somewhat bonkers story. Definitely worth the read.

“The WNBA made clear this week that it is leading the major professional sports leagues in COVID-19 prevention measures, with 99 percent of its players fully vaccinated and zero new players testing positive since the start of the regular season.”

“The Trump Org is in deep, deep trouble. And not because of the criminal charges. Because of its bank loan covenants.”

JD Vance is a tool. That’s it, that’s the link.

“Rudy Giuliani, already being sued for defamation by Dominion Voting Systems Inc. over his debunked election-conspiracy claims, has been issued a subpoena in a similar lawsuit the company filed against Fox News Network.” Sydney Powell and the MyPillow guy, too.

Let a thousand Justice Department probes of Texas voter suppression bloom

Just don’t expect too much to happen.

With Texas lawmakers poised to push for new voting restrictions in a special session next week, the state’s congressional Democrats are urging U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate Texas’ existing voting laws.

In a letter to Garland on Thursday, the Democrats — led by U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth — urged the U.S. Department of Justice to examine what they called “unconstitutional voter suppression” in Texas. They pointed to a number of existing practices that they say disproportionately affect Black and Latino voters, including the closure of polling sites across the state, reports of voter intimidation and a lack of Spanish-language voting materials.

They also reminded Garland that Republicans are likely to bring back a revised version of a controversial elections bill as early as next week, asking that federal officials keep a close eye on any changes.

“The Department of Justice must protect voting rights for all Texans,” wrote the group of 12 lawmakers, which includes all of the state’s Democratic members of Congress except U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo. “I am requesting that the DOJ Civil Rights Division focus its investigative powers in key areas reported over the last several elections that present a pattern of racially discriminatory voting practices in Texas.”

This was motivated in part by AG Garland puttint Texas on notice after suing Georgia over its voter suppression law. I applaud the move, but I don’t expect much from the federal courts, especially now. Put the maximal pressure on the poll watcher stuff and the “mistaken” provision to make it easier to overturn elections. Make some noise and hope to score some PR wins, if nothing else.

Superintendent House has arrived

He’s got a lot of work in front of him.

When Millard House II officially [started] as the new superintendent of Houston ISD on Thursday, he [had] a stack of challenges awaiting his attention.

Some students fell further behind during the coronavirus pandemic while others were “lost” amid its grip. The district expects to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 stimulus funding with no public plan for the funds in place yet. While teachers are set to receive a raise, their compensation has lagged neighboring districts, and trustees voted three weeks ago to mandate House propose a potentially larger teacher pay raise in August, when the district’s financial outlook may be clearer.

As House assumes his new role, members of the HISD community said they hope he can tackle a variety of priorities, from funding to inequities, and expressed excitement to work with him.

“The first job as a new superintendent is to learn the community, learn our schools, learn our neighborhoods,” said HISD Trustee Anne Sung, who bumped into House this week while visiting schools. “He’s already doing that so I think he’s off to a great start.”

House, 49, who was not made available for an interview this week, arrives from Tennessee, where he led the seventh-largest district in the state, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.

[…]

Among the biggest challenges for House and the district will be helping students who fell behind during the pandemic.

Standardized test score data released this week revealed one of the clearest looks yet at the pandemic’s impact. Roughly two-thirds of HISD eighth-graders did not meet math proficiency, compared with 28 percent in 2019.

Additionally, some students stopped attending class altogether, prompting recovery efforts, such as a recent four-day phone bank aimed at convincing some to return.

“We have a tremendous deficit,” said Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson, who leads the district’s largest employees union. “We are very concerned about that. I want him to know that it is not an ‘us against them’ — it is ‘we.’ And we all need to be working together, and I think that if that happens … we can be successful.”

Add the STAAR scores to the pile. Superintendent House and the Board and all the stakeholders will have plenty to do to get things going, with federal COVID relief funds available to help out. Here’s his introductory message:

Welcome to Houston. Now please make yourself available for interviews. Thank you, and god luck.