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July 11th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for July 11

“Now a new FX TV series based on the [Alien]franchise is in the works from Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley—who says it’s about time for the facehuggers and xenomorphs to sink their claws into the white-collar executives who have been responsible for sending so many employees to their doom.”

“Is internet savvy the most important skill an editor in chief ought to have right now? I don’t know. But currently, the skillset seems like an afterthought, especially in larger institutions. That’s a mistake.”

“No, You Can’t Recycle a Bowling Ball (But People Sure Keep Trying)”.

“Trump’s lawyers have called the charges petty and contend they are politically motivated. Others view them as designed to put pressure on the organization’s longtime chief financial officer to turn state’s witness. As a tax professor, I see them as a fantastic opportunity to talk about tax policy and the cat-and-mouse games that people play to avoid paying their fair share.”

“Remember that time when Hobby Lobby paid ISIS for illegally smuggled ancient artifacts from Iraq?”

RIP, Matiss Kivlenieks, goalie for the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets, who died as the result of a fireworks accident.

“Vaccinated people are safer than ever despite the variants. But unvaccinated people are in more danger than ever because of the variants.”

RIP, Richard Donner, film director best known for the first Superman film, The Goonies, and the Lethal Weapon franchise.

“If a party confesses to a crime with the understanding that his words are protected, that they won’t be used against him, or revealed to others, the power of the state or federal government must abide by that promise. It’s simply cheating to do otherwise.”

“He was not found innocent. He was released on a technicality. I would say the world still believes him to be guilty for the heinous crimes he was charged with and he’s going to live a very O.J. Simpson-like existence for the rest of his life.”

RIP, Dicky Maegle, former NFL and Rice University running back, best known for being on his way to a 95-yard touchdown in the 1954 Cotton Bowl when Tommy Smith came off the Alabama bench to tackle him.

“Former President Trump has reportedly cut ties with his former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and has been annoyed with Giuliani’s requests for financial compensation in his efforts to overturn the election results.” Do these two deserve each other or what?

“Meeting with #NikoleHannahJones for an interview this week made me reflect on my June interview with Walter Hussman, the conservative Arkansas media magnate and #UNC megadonor who lobbied against hiring her. It’s worth talking a bit about these two people and interviews.”

“Americans may have fallen short of President Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal, but by most measures, we should be thankful for how far we’ve come in the past year.”

“Trump Sues Facebook, Google, and Twitter: Is It All About the Grift? The cases had barely been filed before the former president began fundraising off of them.” So, in other words, yes.

“The lawsuits are claiming that the former president’s First Amendment rights were violated by the decision to suspend his account, when in fact that is exactly backwards. The First Amendment strongly protects the decision by these companies to make content moderation decisions.”

“Reading between the lines I get the sense that the CDC and FDA see boosters, for the moment, as a solution in search of a problem when the overwhelming threat to public health remains the fact that half the population in the US still hasn’t gotten any vaccine. There’s probably also a desire to keep the tempo of key public health decisions in their hands rather than being driven by a private company.”

“It didn’t have to be this way. It’s easy to imagine a world in which Fox hosts relentlessly talked up how Donald Trump had made the vaccines possible and how if viewers got vaccinated, the dreaded masks and lockdowns would be gone forever.”

The Lege has its voter suppression hearings

People showed up to say something about it, that much is for sure.

Hundreds of Texans lined up at the state Capitol on Saturday for their first opportunity during the special legislative session to testify before lawmakers over the renewed effort to pass new voting restrictions.

Both House and Senate committees are expected to take up the respective versions of GOP-backed legislation, and as of early Saturday afternoon more than 300 people had signed up to speak.

Lufkin Republican Rep. Trent Ashby, chair of the select committee hearing the House’s voting bill, said he expected bills to be advanced out of committee at the close of the Saturday hearing, meaning the House’s bill could get a floor vote as early as next week.

In other words, there’s a chance that this passes the House before restoring legislative funding does. As of this writing, that hadn’t even gotten a committee vote in the Senate. Way to assert your agency, y’all.

I drafted this yesterday afternoon, when things were just getting started. I will not be staying up late to see the inevitable result. That Trib story will surely be updated at some point, and they have a video embed for the hearings as well. The redoutable Emily Eby is doing the live-tweet thing again, and that will be a rich source of information for you. Catch up on what happened, likely well into the night, and then try to enjoy your day today.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story. Testimony on the bills from the public – which is to say, people who showed up by 8 AM to have their voices heard – did not begin until 1:41 AM, more than 17 hours later. As I type this, it is still going on. This is how little the Republicans who are pushing this legislation care about public opinion.

UPDATE: Here’s the Trib story about how long it took for anyone to be heard on this.

The arrest of Hervis Rogers is a travesty

You should be very mad about this.

Hervis Rogers

A Houston man who made headlines last year for standing in line six hours to vote at Texas Southern University was charged this week by Attorney General Ken Paxton with casting that ballot illegally while on parole.

Just a day before Republicans forced a special session of the Texas Legislature to tighten voting restrictions, Hervis Rogers, 62, was jailed on $100,000 bail in Montgomery County on two counts of illegal voting, court records show, even though he lives and voted in Harris County. Rogers is due back in court on July 20 in what a legal expert called a “symbolic prosecution.”

“The argument of voter fraud is very hot right now, the statistics don’t seem to bear out that it is widepsread but this case will certainly stick, I suspect, in people’s memories as a cautionary tale of why you should never consider doing it,” according to criminal defense attorney Christopher Downey, who is not affiliated with this case.

An indictment filed last month with the Montgomery County District Court claims Rogers was still on parole for a 1995 burglary conviction when he voted in both the March 2020 Democratic primary and November 2018 general election.

He had been released from prison in May 2004 after serving nine years of a 25-year sentence, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He voted in the March elections less than four months before his parole was set to expire on July 1, 2020.

Texas Election Code states that someone on parole for a felony conviction is ineligible to register as a voter, and that violations of election law may be prosecuted in the county where the alleged crime was committed, or an adjoining county. Because Rogers has three prior convictions between 1986 and 1995 — all for burglary or robbery — he is potentially facing between 25 years to life in prison, Downey said.

The charges against Rogers are “extremely unusual” to Downey, who said in his nearly 30 years in criminal law he’s never come across a voter fraud case. The choice to prosecute in more conservative Montgomery County instead of Harris County, where the alleged fraud occurred, also “reeks of forum shopping” and “strengthens the argument that its a symbolic prosecution,” even if the move is legally sound.

If Rogers was indeed ineligible, his only point of contention could be that he was unaware of the restrictions on his eligibility, Downey said, though he noted that ignorance of a law does not amount to much of a legal defense.

“The Hervis case demonstrates why we need to make sure people who have been disenfranchised fully know their rights when it comes to voting, but we also need to change the laws to fully restore voting rights.” said Stephanie Gomez, associate director at Common Cause Texas, a self-described “pro-democracy” group. “There is already a lack of clarity around voting rights restoration for people who have been disenfranchised by the criminal justice system.”

[…]

“When you push forward bills that criminalize our elections, that hurts Texans and people like Hervis,” Gomez said. “It’s not lost on me that the governor has called a special session where they are chasing these claims of widespread voter fraud across Texas … the timing is not lost on me at all.”

See here for when we first met Hervis Rogers. Note that he is being held on $100,000 bail.

Really tells you something about Ken Paxton’s priorities, doesn’t it? I can’t think of a valid reason to hold this guy, or anyone like him, on that level of bond. Among many other things, this is a good example of why the cash bond system is unconstitutional and needs to be completely overhauled.

Look, we all know the reason Ken Paxton is doing this, and why he’s doing it now, more than a year after Hervis Rogers cast that vote, and why he picked Montgomery County as his preferred venue. Hervis Rogers didn’t hurt anyone. In nearly half the states in the country, he’d have been free to vote at this point in his life. He did nothing wrong, and he’s in danger of having his life destroyed for a mistake by a deeply corrupt Attorney General who wants to make and example of him. As a schoolkid I used to hear about this sort of thing happening in scary totalitarian places like East Germany and the Soviet Union. And now it’s happening here. I’m sick just thinking about it. KUHF, which was first to report this, and Reform Austin have more.

UPDATE: Thankfully, Hervis Rogers has now been released on bail. Everything about this is still a goddamned travesty.

UPDATE: Here’s the Trib story.

Sheriff Gonzalez gets a confirmation hearing date

Mark your calendars.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez

The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez’s nomination to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on July 15, the committee announced Wednesday.

President Joe Biden nominated Gonzalez to lead the agency in May, potentially positioning Gonzalez as a key player in the administration’s effort to build what Biden has called a more “humane” immigration system.

Gonzalez will appear before the Democrat-led committee, which does not include either Texas senator, as the administration is working to handle a record numbers of encounters with migrants crossing the border. Republicans have hammered Biden for months over the influx, which they say he created by moving away from former President Donald Trump’s stricter immigration policies, even though encounters began rising when Trump was still in office.

ICE was in many ways the face of Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration, which Biden has sought to move away from. If confirmed, Gonzalez would be instrumental in setting its course under Biden, a difficult task as ICE has become one of the most politicized agencies in the federal government.

See here for the background. This is just the committee hearing. Once the committee advances his nomination, which should be a formality, then the full Senate will vote on him. Barring anything weird, he’ll be confirmed, though I have no idea how much longer it may take from here. But at least we’re on the way. Once he is confirmed, he will formally resign as Sheriff, and Commissioners Court will pick someone to fill his spot. I’ll talk about that more as we get closer, but for now I’ll just say that Constable Alan Rosen is highly unlikely to be on the short list.

KPFT station for sale

Not cheap, I’m sure.

A mainstay of Montrose, public radio station KPFT, could be headed elsewhere in Houston, signaling to some a changing of the guard in one of Houston’s most eclectic enclaves.

In an email to members, Pacifica Foundation, the California-based public radio partnership that owns KPFT, said the station’s building at 419 Lovett Blvd. is for sale, with the proceeds expected to pay for relocation and some debt repayment. The decision was prompted in part by what officials called a “favorable real estate market in Houston.”

Officials said the Lovett Boulevard location “holds a very special and sentimental meaning,” but repairs and restoration made it cost-prohibitive to keep it. The announcement did not include specifics of where officials are planning to relocate, or when a move could occur.

[…]

Most operations in the building ceased in March 2020 and the COVID pandemic took hold. That makes the sale even more bittersweet as volunteers adjust to the possibility “we will never again gain access to the Mighty Ninety studios,” said former general manager Duane Bradley, who still volunteers with the station.

“My greatest concern is that Pacifica… will use the proceeds of this property sale to deal with financial problems external to Houston and leave us effectively ‘homeless,’” Bradley said. “ It has been a rough year-plus for all of us and as we begin to come out and about again, it hurts to feel on the cusp of losing the tangible evidence of what community radio — and community itself —was all about.”

The KPFT station is a Montrose icon, but as the story notes quite a few other Montrose icons like the Disco Kroger have gone the way of all things lately, so this is just how it is. I’m sure they can get a good price for it, so if this has to happen then let’s hope it at least puts KPFT on firmer financial ground. And maybe for the new station, look outside Montrose for a neighborhood that is in 2021 similar to what Montrose was in the 70s. It would at least be in the spirit of the old place.