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October 24th, 2021:

Weekend link dump for October 24

“Christchurch, New Zealand has just made a terrible mistake. It has fired its official city wizard, a man named Ian Brackenbury Channell, and now finds itself undefended against attacks by mystical armies of dragons, goblins, and, most dangerous of all, outraged bands of rogue magicians led by Brackenbury Channell himself.”

“According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 228 officers have been killed by COVID-19 in 2021, and 47 have been killed by gunfire. In 2020, the numbers were 245 and 45.”

RIP, Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and first Black chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Powell died of COVID despite being fully vaccinated, and that is because as a person with a blood cancer, he was especially vulnerable to the disease.

A thread about breakthrough infections.

RIP, Betty Lynn, actor best known for The Andy Griffith Show. Mark Evanier was a friend and former neighbor of hers, and he has two items about her if you want to know more.

“What would religious leaders do if aliens showed up?”

“While the overlap of left-wing, magazine-friendly wellness and far-right conspiracy theories might initially sound surprising, the similarities in cultures, in ways of thinking – the questioning of authority, of alternative medicines, the distrust of institutions– are clear. But something is happening, accelerated by the pandemic – the former is becoming a mainstream entry point into the latter. An entry point that can be found everywhere from a community garden to the beauty aisle at a big Tesco. Part of what makes a successful influencer is the ability to compel their followers to trust them, and they do that by sharing their lives, their homes, their diets, their concerns. It’s become clear, both by the products they buy and the choices they make, that many people trust their influencers more than their own doctor.”

“In July 2021, according to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report, there were 834 incidents of “mishandled” wheelchairs and scooters of passengers transported by US airlines. An average of 28 a day. But the major airlines have adopted very few policies for the carrying of wheelchairs”.

“Have you signed up for Netflix, Disney Plus or HBO Max just to watch one new show or movie — then canceled for a few months until the next must-see thing comes out?” It’s called “churn and burn”, and it’s mostly done by younger people.

“Facebook said on Wednesday it will start banning […] profiles, pages, groups and events that sexualize public figures — which includes celebrities, journalists, politicians and content creators. The content covers photoshopped images, degrading images or drawings and any otherwise degrading content “depicting individuals in the process of bodily functions””.

“For a certain kind of person, Rolovich will become an avatar for personal choice and fighting back against government overreach. Stupid as his decision to fritter away a $3 million salary and a Power Five coaching job is, it will look to some like principle. But Rolovich is not even a good standard-bearer for the anti-vaccine movement, if such a thing can exist, nor has he asked to be made one. Rolovich is something a lot simpler: He is the coaching profession’s most high-profile failure of the entire pandemic, in ways that go beyond not getting the shot. He is also a selfish coward, in ways that exceed any health risks he poses by not getting vaccinated.”

“Survey finds 22% of scientists who do media interviews about COVID get violent threats“.

“Pet Cloning Is Way More Advanced Than You Thought”.

From the If You Snooze, You Lose department.

“TMTG isn’t a social media platform. It’s a scam. Trump does not need another social media platform. He needs suckers willing to buy stock. And Trump has always been very, very good at locating suckers.”

“‘Prayer in schools’ is almost never about prayer in schools”.

RIP, Peter Scolari, versatile Emmy-winning actor known for Bosom Buddies, Newhart, and a whole lot more.

Lock him up.

“Here’s How a Prop Gun Using Blanks Can Still Fire a Fatal Shot”.

“It seems that [Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG)] lifted the code for TRUTH Media without properly crediting the code’s author. And the author is already making noises about taking Trump to court.”

“Trolling is a way of trying to take back a piece of what misogynists feel women owe them, which is attention. If they can’t force you to be a subservient housewife, they can at least force you to be annoyed, upset, even afraid. It makes shitty men feel powerful.”

“Trolling is a way of trying to take back a piece of what misogynists feel women owe them, which is attention. If they can’t force you to be a subservient housewife, they can at least force you to be annoyed, upset, even afraid. It makes shitty men feel powerful.”

I think we are going to have a regular March primary

This happened in the second special session, after the Dems came back from Washington DC.

Senate Bill 13, from Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), has been sent to Governor Greg Abbott after being approved by the House and Senate this week.

The bill gives the Secretary of State the authority to change the dates of the primary election and any runoff election, along with related dates for candidate filings, depending on when a redistricting plan is finalized.

If the bill is signed into law, it would keep all current primary election and associated administrative dates the same, as long as a redistricting plan is completed by November 15th. This would set a primary date of March 1, 2022 and a runoff of May 24, 2022, with candidate filing taking place between November 29th and December 13th.

However, if a redistricting plan is not finished by November 15th, but is completed before December 28th, the primary election would be delayed to April 5, 2022 and the runoff would shift to June 21, 2022. Candidate filing would occur from January 10-24, 2022.

If the redistricting plan is not completed until after December 28th but before February 7, 2022, the primary would move to May 24, 2022, while the runoff would be pushed back to July 26, 2022. Candidates would be able to file between February 21 and March 7, 2022.

There was a bill to do this in the regular session that passed the Senate but did not come up for a vote in the House. As you may have noticed, all of the redistricting bills have been passed, and they await Greg Abbott’s signature, which I assume will happen shortly. Given that it’s not even November yet, we’re in plenty of time for that deadline. So, barring a court ruling that puts those maps on hold, I assume that the filing season will begin on November 15 as usual, with the primaries to follow in March. I haven’t seen any news stories to confirm this, perhaps because everyone had been assuming this all along, but we very much could have had delayed primaries, so I wanted to make note of this. If you have some reason to think otherwise, let us know in the comments.

Fort Bend County Commissioners Court redistricting

From last week.

Fort Bend County commissioners has formally called for the redistricting process to begin this week.

The Commissioners Court will have to prepare maps of new precincts, following the 2020 census, to ensure that the boundaries retain “one-person-one-vote” balance.

Following this, new maps have to be offered for public hearing, before finally adopting a plan.

On Tuesday, Commissioners Court set public hearing on redistricting to be held on Oct. 26, at 1 p.m. and at 6 p.m. in the Commissioners Court.

The maps will be available for the public to view on Oct. 19 by 5 p.m. on the county website.

The primary task of reapportionment of voters will concentrate on the issue of numerical balance and minority representation in the formation of commissioners’ court precincts, according to the Fort Bend County’s redistricting consultant, ALLISON, BASS & MAGEE who gave an evaluation of the census numbers to commissioners court last week.

Fort Bend County has a total population of 822,799, so the ideal precinct size would be 205,695, i.e. divide the total population by four (4), the number of single member districts, i.e. Commissioner’s Court Precincts.

[…]

Currently, the political configuration yields two Republican precincts and two Democratic precincts.

It is likely that the status quo will be maintained, and the ratio of Democratic voters in Democratic precincts may be increased.

In another scenario of gerrymandering, one Republican precinct may be overloaded with more Republican voters, diluting the other Republican precinct, resulting in three Democrat and one Republican precinct.

Currently, Commissioner Grady Prestage and Commissioner Andy Meyers appear to be preparing their own maps.

As with Harris County, Dems in Fort Bend have a 3-2 majority on Commissioners Court after capturing a Commissioner’s seat plus the County Judge slot in 2018. The County’s redistricting page is here and it currently shows three proposed maps, with statistical information about them. There are other maps that have been drawn, however, and they produce a range of outcomes:

Commissioner Prestage’s map would likely keep things at 3-2 but with Precinct 1 more competitive and potentially flippable by Dems. The map proposed by County Judge KP George would make the Court 3-1 Dems, much as Commissioner Rodney Ellis’ proposed map would do in Harris County. The County’s redistricting page doesn’t say which map was proposed by whom, so I have no idea what to look for, but hopefully we’ll learn more soon. This is very much worth keeping an eye on.

The Hollywood (mostly non-) response to SB8

Of interest.

In May 2021, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed into law SB8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act. It’s the latest, and most contested, challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court decision made in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. Since Abbott’s adoption of the law, which allows any private citizen to sue someone who performs or aids and abets an abortion once “cardiac activity” can be detected, the current Supreme Court has denied a motion to block the act from going into effect; the White House is reportedly preparing to sue Texas; Abbott has signed a Senate bill that requires physicians providing abortion-inducing drugs up to seven weeks into a pregnancy to report such doings at the risk of possible jail time; and everyone from HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver to The Satanic Temple has argued against the law.

But Hollywood has been relatively quiet on the matter. While the Texas law inspired some outcry from names like The Wire’s David Simon, Boyhood’s Patricia Arquette, and her sister, Ratched’s Rosanna Arquette, as well as scattered refusals to film in the state, the response hasn’t been nearly as urgent as it was in 2019, when Georgia had its own “fetal heartbeat” bill.

Back then, Disney CEO Bob Iger told Reuters that if that bill became law, it would be “very difficult” to produce films and TV series there. “I rather doubt we will,” he added. When asked about it during that summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, Mark Pedowitz—president of the CW, a channel that’s a subsidiary of WarnerMedia and CBS Entertainment Group and that has a history of airing shows filmed in Georgia—was similarly responsive. “Anybody who interferes with people’s right to make medical choices, I am solely against,” he said. “If the law is passed, I am certain we’ll have discussions with both studios about what to do and what not to do in terms of where Georgia sits.”

Why, then, has the Texas bill not catalyzed the same level of fervor? Simple: “Texas is not a production hub on par with Georgia,” television producer and writer Amy Berg says via email.

Berg, who was interviewed by Vanity Fair in 2019 about her decision to call for a boycott then—and, judging from her Twitter feed, is no fan of the Texas law either—continues that “even Louisiana and New Mexico have traditionally been more film-friendly. Perhaps that’s why boycotting Texas isn’t something that comes to mind immediately as a vehicle for expressing outrage or inducing meaningful change.”

There’s more to it than that, and as with Stacey Abrams’ plea for businesses to not boycott Georgia following the passage of its recent voter suppression law, there are concerns that any such action would just hurt small businesses and people without power, while being welcomed by the state’s Republican leaders who’d be happy to be in opposition to Hollywood types. You can feel however you want to about this, but I think we can all agree that this is a complex question and that people can approach it in good faith from different angles.

2021 Day Five EV report: A one week checkin

One work week, anyway. Here are the vote totals after five days of early voting. The first thing to notice is that about 70% of the votes cast so far have been by mail:

Mail ballots = 36,517
Early in person = 14,635
Drive-thru = 755

I note that the graphical breakdown of votes by type has one less vote by mail that the table totals do, no doubt an editing error. Whatever the case, there were nearly 52K votes cast through Friday, in an election with no major headliner to bring the people out. In 2017, there were 58,429 total votes cast as of the end of early voting. We’ll likely surpass than by Tuesday. That doesn’t mean we will have wildly higher turnout this year than we did in 2017. In 2017, about 59% of all votes were cast on Election Day. I suspect we will have a higher percentage of early votes this time, quite possibly because of the sharp increase in voting by mail. There are also more registered voters now that there were in 2017 – 2,233,533 in 2017, 2,431,457 in 2020, I don’t know exactly how many now but surely no less than that. More total voters may still be lower turnout as a percentage of RVs.

So that’s where we are now. I’ll do another update either Monday or Tuesday with the weekend numbers, and then again on Sunday with the final EV totals. We can make our guesses about where things will end up then. Have you voted yet? I did, and I like the new machines – the touch interface was simple and easy to use, and the paper receipt was cool, though perhaps it will be a bit of a bottleneck when we have a higher turnout election. What did you think?