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May 15th, 2022:

Weekend link dump for May 15

“The case against the Supreme Court of the United States”.

“So the $35 sculpture you got at an Austin Goodwill was looted from a museum during WWII. Now what?” A delightfully bonkers story that the reporter had apparently needed to sit on for four years until the legal stuff got worked out.

“This is a weaponized grimness. It feeds on isolation and silence and gaslighting; it tells us that we are reactionary and foolish for worrying about getting sick or making someone else sick. It tells us that we are wrong and bad to protect ourselves and others. It mocks us for ever having believed things could have been different: that systemic change was possible, that a pandemic could shift the future of public health. This grimness tells us that we must throw away our old masks, the ones that protected our lungs and bodies, and put on new ones: happy faces unconcerned with 1 million people dead from COVID in this country alone.”

“Roe has long protected the fertility industry from regulation of IVF & fertility care decision making. My take on WHAT COULD HAPPEN TO Embryos, IVF, and ART IF THE LEAKED DOBBS DECISION STANDS. Note: most IVF cycles involve “extra” embryos.” (Note: “ART” = “Assisted Reproductive Technology”.)

“Apple, Google and Microsoft announced this week they will soon support an approach to authentication that avoids passwords altogether, and instead requires users to merely unlock their smartphones to sign in to websites or online services. Experts say the changes should help defeat many types of phishing attacks and ease the overall password burden on Internet users, but caution that a true passwordless future may still be years away for most websites.”

“I’m just going to throw a bunch of graphs in this thread about views of abortion. Here’s a good place to start – allow abortion for any reason.”

“We are going to see threats to basic assumptions of how states work together. Normally, states cooperate. Normally, states leave their laws within their borders. But because anti-abortion states are going to get so aggressive in trying to solve this problem of what do we do for people traveling out of state, it’s going to create all these issues.” And that’s why you don’t throw issues like this back to the states, kids.

More than you wanted to know about the weird music on reality TV shows.

“A group of Republican senators is calling for a TV ratings system to warn parents about LGBTQ content in children’s programs. Their statement singles out Disney repeatedly.”

“Just read this translation of Putin’s speech. Reaction—that’s it? Completely out of ideas. Either doesn’t now understand the reality of the situation in Ukraine, or wilfully ignoring it.”

“One America News, the right-wing cable network, aired a 30-second segment yesterday essentially admitting the falsity of its previous “reporting” on supposed voter fraud by two Georgia election workers. The prerecorded statement aired shortly after OAN settled a defamation suit brought by Fulton County election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, whom the network had falsely accused of participating in a conspiracy to steal the 2020 election.” I hope they also got a ton of money from that settlement.

RIP, iPods. I listen to a lot of podcasts on my iPod – you know, the source of the “pod” part of “podcast” – and now I don’t know what I’m going to do when this device goes belly up. I don’t like iPhones, so I guess I will eventually have to figure out a workable-for-me podcast-playing solution for my Android phone. This feels about like how I felt when Google announced it was killing off Google Reader. It’s still perfectly good technology that lots of people like! Couldn’t you just, like, license it to someone?

“Demanding civility from those you seek to oppress is absurd. But considering the anti-abortion movement has, for decades, turned the front door of an abortion clinic into a war zone, it’s the height of hypocrisy.”

“Suddenly startups are having trouble raising money. Why?”

RIP, Bob Lanier, basketball Hall of Famer and NBA global ambassador.

RIP, Ray Scott, known as the “Father of Modern Bass Fishing” and the creator of the Bassmaster TV show.

What the January 6 Subpoenas Say About Kevin McCarthy“. Nothing good, obvs.

RIP, Fred Ward, versatile actor who will live forever in my heart for his starring role in Tremors.

“For the first time, astronomers have captured an image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.”

SCOTx ponders the questions the Fifth Circuit asked it about SB1

Seems like there’s not that much in dispute, but there’s always something.

Texas Supreme Court justices questioned during oral argument if they should answer certified questions from a federal appeals court about challenges to an election law that created penalties for soliciting voters to use mail-in ballots.

The case, Paxton v. Longoria, concerns a First-Amendment issue over how provisions in Senate Bill 1, a 2021 law, could lead to civil penalties and or criminal prosecution of county election administrators and volunteer deputy registrars.

During a Wednesday hearing before the court, the foremost issue that appeared to concern the justices was whether they should provide an advisory opinion to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals at all.

Since the case has progressed from federal district court to the Fifth Circuit and on to the state Supreme Court, the parties positions have changed and the justices find themselves in the unusual position of being asked to answer three questions where there is very little if any disagreement between the parties.

The Fifth Circuit asks the justice to answer whether a volunteer deputy registrar, or VDR, is a public official under the Texas Election Code; whether speech the plaintiffs intend to use constitutes “solicitation” within the context of the state code; and whether the Texas Attorney General has the power to enforce that code.

The plaintiffs are Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria and Cathy Morgan, a volunteer deputy registrar who assists people with mail-in ballots in Travis and Williamson counties.

The state, represented by Lanora Pettit, a principal deputy solicitor general with the Office of Attorney General, acknowledged in her brief that volunteer deputy registrars are not public officials subject to prosecution; the term “solicit” does not include merely providing information but instead requires “strongly urging” a voter to fill out an application that was not requested; and the Attorney General is not a proper official to seek civil penalties.

Sean Morales-Doyle of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law submitted a brief that was in line with Pettit on the first and third questions, but had a nuanced distinction on the question of solicitation’s meaning.

Justice Jeff Boyd asked Morales-Doyle, “I’m just not sure why the dispute matters. If everybody agrees that the VDR is not a public official, so therefore has no standing, everybody agrees that Ms. Longoria has not … indicated any intent to violate in Williamson County, and everybody agrees the attorney general has no enforcement authority , where’s the case or controversy?”

Morales-Doyle said that Morgan began the case with a reasonable fear of prosecution and while the state has indicated a disinclination to prosecute she does not know the position of the Travis County district attorney, nor what future district attorneys would do.

If the questions are not answered, she would therefore still need to have the temporary injunction in place, he said.

On defining solicitation, because a felony criminal prosecution is possible, Justice Jane Bland asked if the state should limit its meaning to the penal code’s definition, which would restrict the term to situations where a public official induces someone to commit a criminal act.

Morales-Doyle supported that approach, noting that every criminal solicitation statute that he is aware of applies only to solicitation of criminal conduct.

“What is troubling everybody—and apparently troubling the attorney general who wants to give a definition of solicitation that I’m not aware existing in any criminal code—is the absurd result that someone could be held criminally liable for encouraging their fellow citizen to vote,” Morales-Doyle said.

On rebuttal, Pettit argued that sanctionable solicitation is not limited to criminal inducement. She cited the example of barratry, where lawyers unlawfully solicit clients for profit.

See here for the background. The bottom line is that the plaintiffs have asked for a temporary injunction against the provision of that law that makes it a crime for election officials and election workers to encourage voters to vote by mail, whether or not those voters are eligible under Texas law to do so. The motion was granted by a district court judge and then put on hold by the Fifth Circuit. I think the Fifth Circuit is evaluating whether to put the injunction back in place while the rest of the initial lawsuit is litigated, but we are in the weeds here and I don’t have certainty about that. Let’s see what SCOTx says first and maybe that will clue me in. (Any lawyers out there that want to help, by all means please do.)

How much is Greg Abbott sweating right now?

I hope it’s a lot. It should be a lot.

With temperatures soaring statewide, Gov. Greg Abbott is scrambling to reassure Texans he’s closely monitoring the state’s shaky electric grid as other GOP officials vow to get back to work fixing a system many, including Abbott, declared they had repaired after deadly outages during last year’s winter storms.

An hour after high-level meetings with Abbott, the state’s electricity monitor warned the public that six power plants had failed, forcing the state to call on Texans to reduce air conditioning usage and watch their energy consumption through the weekend. Electric Reliability Council of Texas did not disclose which units had gone offline or when they’d be back up.

ERCOT data showed demand for power in Texas was projected to be within 2,000 megawatts of the total supply by mid-afternoon on Saturday, triggering the conservation alert. Typically the state has a much bigger cushion. When operating reserves drop below 1,750 megawatts for more than 30 minutes, ERCOT can interrupt power for large industrial customers and can call for rotating blackouts if reserves drop to 1,000 megawatts. A megawatt is about enough electricity to power 200 homes on a hot day.

Peak demand on the grid was expected between 5 and 6 p.m on Saturday.

Abbott, who said last June that lawmakers did “everything that needed to be done” for the grid, released a photo of himself on Friday, meeting with officials from ERCOT and the Public Utilities Commission in his office just over an hour before the conservation warning was sent out.

“We continue to work closely to ensure Texas’ power grid remains reliable & meets the needs of Texans,” Abbott said.

[…]

Democrat Beto O’Rourke has been blistering at rallies, reminding voters that more than 700 Texans died, by some estimates, when the grid failed in 2021 during the winter storms. Lawmakers had been repeatedly warned that the power grid needed reforms, but those warnings had largely been unheeded until millions of Texans were left without power during the record freezing temperatures last winter.

O’Rourke has been campaigning on forcing more weatherization requirements on energy providers and connecting the Texas grid to the national grid to ensure the state can tap into national emergency supplies when needed, something Republicans who control the Legislature have declined to do.

On Friday, he blasted Abbott for waiting until after 5 p.m. on Friday to make ERCOT put out their conservation alert, even though he had been meeting with them well before that.

“He doesn’t want Texans to know that he STILL can’t keep the power running in the energy capital of the world,” O’Rourke said on Friday after the ERCOT alert went out.

By the time you read this, the worst is likely to be over, and maybe there haven’t been any power outages resulting from the extra demand on the grid. But you know, it’s not even halfway through May yet. There will be more opportunities for us to be told to turn the A/C down as the temperatures creep up towards 100. Maybe if Greg Abbott had spent some of that federal COVID relief money on fixing the grid instead of having the National Guard write jaywalking tickets we’d be better off now.

Here are some tweets to sum it up:

The classics always have something to say to us.

Early voting for the May 24 primary runoffs starts tomorrow

You know the drill. Primary runoffs are on, with early voting going on this week, Monday to Friday May 16 to May 20. Because it’s a runoff, you only get those five days. Voting happens from 7 AM to 7 PM each day, and you can find your EV locations here with the PDF here. As with the May special election it’s a smaller list of EV locations – it looks to me like there’s a handful more, but definitely fewer than it was for March and will be for November. Look to see if your favorite place is in use before you head out.

I’ve talked about the Chron’s lack of endorsements in the three judicial races they skipped for March till I’m blue in the face, for all the good it did me. The Chron chose instead to just re-run their original endorsements instead of considering the other races, which is not what I would have had them do. You can find all the judicial Q&As and interviews I did for the primary here, plus the ones I did for Janet Dudding, Staci Childs, and Coretta Mallet-Fontenot. The Erik Manning spreadsheet is still there, too.

We still have no idea how mail ballots went in the May election. Maybe if we’re good and we eat all our vegetables someone will report on that for this election. If you are a mail voter or know someone who is, please let us know if the experience was any different this time around versus in March. These were our chances to get it (more) right. It sure would be nice to know if that was successful. In the meantime, go vote.