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July 16th, 2017:

Weekend link dump for July 16

What part of DO NOT TOUCH was unclear to you?

Somehow, this is not satire. I got nothing.

“This, of course, presents a problem for marketers: How do you sell food to a group of people that American culture has harassed into a near-universally fraught relationship with your products? It turns out the answer is easy: Just give them something to do with food that isn’t eating it.”

“This is why Senate Republicans are having so much trouble with the health care bill. The Republican health care effort is the most unpopular legislation in three decades — less popular than the Affordable Care Act when it was passed, the widely hated Troubled Asset Relief Program bank bailout bill in 2008, and even President Bill Clinton’s failed health reform effort in the 1990s.”

“The GOP’s health care effort began with the premise that Obamacare is bad and must be repealed and replaced. But repeal and replace is a means to an end, not an end itself. The end, in theory, is the post-replacement health care system — a system that aligns with the GOP’s vision of how health care should work. But that vision is absent. When we asked eight Republican senators to tell us what the health bill was meant to achieve, we got eight different answers, and most of them were incoherent.”

“But in Fayette County and 779 other mostly rural counties across the country — the vast majority of which went for Trump — more than half the children rely for coverage on Medicaid and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, according to a Times analysis of county voting data, census data and Medicaid enrollment data.”

“The head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit in charge of deportations has directed his officers to take action against all undocumented immigrants they may cross paths with, regardless of criminal histories. The guidance appears to go beyond the Trump administration’s publicly stated aims, and some advocates say may explain a marked increase in immigration arrests.”

That was no ordinary Russian lawyer that Fredo Trump met up with.

Yes, you can safely ignore those Jayden K. Smith Facebook messages.

RIP, Deborah Grayson Carpenter, champion for models with disabilities.

“So I would recommend that Twitter immediately suspend Trump’s account. They should do so not only because it’s in the public interest, but because he has violated many of their own rules.”

“These geniuses may not have constructed an intricate conspiracy, but it’s as if they desperately want everyone to believe they did.”

“This, then, is Junior’s official explanation: I thought we were colluding to ratfck the Democratic candidate, and the presidential election in general, but then she started talking about getting the mobsters’ money back. Bitch set me up.

“The best defense of Trump’s associates, at this point, is they were too dumb to know what they were doing — a defense that doesn’t work when it includes experienced international operators like campaign manager Paul Manafort and ex-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn. Donald Trump Jr.’s own defense of himself is that he attempted to collude with Russian agents but they didn’t have any useful information and so he didn’t.”

“This is what ought to register: The scheme appears to have been put into play by a Putin regime official and a Putin-friendly oligarch who was Trump’s business partner in Russia—and Trump’s son, son-in-law, and campaign manager all joined in. (A pop singer, a Russian lawyer, and a talent manager all had supporting roles.) Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort were looking to collude with a foreign power to gain an advantage in the election—an allegation the Trump team has repeatedly and passionately denied.”

“Trump is saying that he took the meeting because he had, in fact, been promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton from a Russian source, but that it was no big deal because the lawyer didn’t deliver. Interesting way of thinking about it, Don. Let’s ask anyone who appeared on To Catch a Predator how that argument holds up in court. Oh, sorry. They’re not answering the phone. Because they’re probably in jail now.”

“Future historians and present day pundits will have a lot to say about all of this. Many of those things will have great bearing on the future of our nation and on Trump Jr.’s continued freedom. But, I’m afraid that in all that important discussion we’ll lose track of one of the most salient points: This is so embarrassing. Fortunately, I have plenty of time for the curation of schadenfreude. Here’s six petty points about the most embarrassing parts of this whole imbroglio.”

Some casting trivia for Game of Thrones, if you’re into that sort of thing.

RIP, Chuck Blazer, controversial former FIFA executive.

“No matter how Trump Jr. thinks political researchers spend their days, opposition research is not a dark art. (I’m not sure I’d even consider it any kind of art.) When done well, it’s a thoughtful, directed process of compiling known facts and figures about relevant life and career elements of an opponent to bolster an argument. But even when done badly, opposition research still has nothing to do with what Trump Jr. did. There are lines that trained and talented political operatives wouldn’t cross. The emails Trump Jr. released Tuesday show he has no idea where they are.”

“How strong is Aaron Judge? Strong enough to make actual rocket scientists look stupid.”

“These are the facts: Jared Kushner held suspicious meetings with Russians officials and operatives that he failed to disclose when he applied for a security clearance. If he weren’t the president’s son in law, he’d have been frogmarched out of the White House long ago. Why does he still have access to America’s biggest secrets?”

Redistricting trial wraps up

Now we wait.

The state of Texas faced a healthy dose of judicial skepticism on Saturday as its lawyers laid out final arguments in a trial over whether lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in enacting current Texas House and Congressional district maps.

A three-judge panel peppered lawyers from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office with questions that suggested they were having trouble swallowing the state’s defense of its maps, premised on the argument that lawmakers were merely following court orders in creating them.

The state Legislature adopted the maps in 2013 in an effort to half further legal challenges that began in 2011.

In the final hours of six days of hearings, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said he saw “nothing in the record,” to suggest the 2013 Legislature, before approving the boundaries, considered fixing voting rights violations flagged by another federal court identified ahead of time.

He and another district judge, Orlando Garcia, also criticized the state’s unwillingness to offer documents and testimony that might shine a light on lawmakers’ intentions. State lawyers kept such evidence out of court throughout the trial by claiming “legislative privilege,” which allows lawmakers to keep secret their communications on policy along with their “thoughts and mental impressions.”

The plaintiffs “get no documents, because you invoke legislative privilege. They get no testimony because of legislative privilege,” said Rodriguez, a George W. Bush-appointee. “How else are they going to get it?”

[…]

It’s not clear when the judges might rule, but they said they wanted to avoid affecting the 2018 elections which could be pushed back if new maps are not approved in time.

There’s a lot more, so go read the rest. Michael Li notes that however quickly (or not) the judges may rule, there will still be appeals. Lord only knows when we may have a final map – the possibility that primaries will be delayed, as was the case in 2012, cannot be overlooked. Li also rebuts the argument that it’s just not possible to draw additional minority districts.

Consider, for example, the configuration of Dallas-Fort Worth area congressional districts in Plan C286, the demonstration map drawn by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere and offered at trial by the Rodriguez plaintiffs.

Under Plan C286, TX-24 would become a coalition district with a citizen voting age population that is 36.1% Latino, 18.7% African American, and 5.8% Asian (mostly of Indian and Pakistani descent).

The district largely overlaps the Dallas County commissioner district currently represented by Elba Garcia and like that district would in all likelihood elect the Latino preferred candidate in the Democratic primary, although a candidate supported by a cross-ethnic coalition could also win. But, regardless, in the general election, the minority preferred candidate would win overwhelmingly virtually every time.

Compared to the 1991 version of TX-30, Plan C286′s TX-24 is much more compact and confined wholly to western Dallas County.

More importantly, unlike minority districts that in the past drew criticism for splitting cities and towns, TX-24 in Plan C286 keeps the cities of Irving, Grand Prairie, and Farmers Branch intact, joining them seamlessly to heavily Latino parts of the adjacent City of Dallas. (TX-33 a coalition district in neighboring Tarrant County, likewise, closely tracks municipal boundaries).

Li has a couple of maps from the demonstration plans to illustrate his point. Indeed, he says, you have to divide up cities to avoid the creation of minority districts nowadays. There were multiple maps creating such districts on offer, it’s just a question of whether or not the judges will accept one of them. Hopefully, we’ll know soon enough.

Coming home to run

Another Washington Post story about 2018 Congressional candidates that spends a lot of time on a Texas race.

Laura Moser

Before Donald Trump was elected president, Laura Moser was a freelance writer delving into a project about alternative religions in America. In the months after, she became a leader of the resistance against the president, launching a text messaging platform that enabled hundreds of thousands of shellshocked Trump opponents to contact their representatives about a different issue each day.

The success of that effort spurred the 39-year-old Capitol Hill mother of two to think about what else she could do. In the middle of the Trump-red electoral map, she saw an opportunity: The 7th Congressional District in her home town of Houston went blue for the first time, tipping to Democrat Hillary Clinton by one point. Rep. John Abney Culberson was reelected, but Moser saw the conservative Republican losing touch with the fast-growing, increasingly diverse district in which she grew up.

First she started recruiting other people to run. But she said her conversations kept circling back to “What about you?”

So she packed up her rowhouse and moved her three cats, two young children and political consultant husband 1,400 miles away to vie for the Democratic nomination to challenge Culberson in 2018.

“I had to work up the courage to even imagine myself running for Congress,” she said. “But I eventually decided that our country had a moral problem in only letting white men — even the right-minded ones — have a seat at the table.”

[…]

“My grandfather arrived as a Nazi refugee to this district,” she told them.

“I have been trying to get my Yankee husband back there for many years. It took Donald Trump being president to make it happen.”

She talked about why it was worth investing in her campaign and the chance to turn the district blue. After she spoke, Ben Allen, one of the hosts, signaled to the guests to get out their checkbooks.

“If we can’t vote for you, we can support you in other ways,” he said.

Moser’s East Coast connections gave her a boost in the start to her campaign. Within the first five days, she raised about $100,000, more money than Culberson’s previous challenger, lawyer James Cargas, had amassed during his entire 2016 campaign.

But the primary is shaping up to be competitive, with seven Democrats so far contending for the nomination, including two other women.

Moser believes a woman has an advantage in the race. Women constituted many of the swing voters who crossed political lines to vote for Clinton, she said. And if the resistance to Trump has a face, Moser says, it’s clearly female.

See here for a previous example of this kind. Moser hasn’t put out a press release with her Q2 finance numbers yet – she clearly got off to a good start, but she also has some strong competition on that score. Given the size of that primary field it’s a little early to talk about the prospects of a female candidate. For what it’s worth, the woman in Texas who likely has the best shot at being our next female member of Congress is Veronica Escobar. But I sure won’t mind if she has some company.

The broader implications of the Pasadena voting rights lawsuit

Buried in this Trib story about the ongoing saga of Pasadena’s voting rights lawsuit is this nugget about the state getting involved.

The case could reverberate beyond Pasadena’s city limits. Legal experts contend that a decision by the 5th Circuit could guide other courts around the country that are considering similar voting rights cases.

The Pasadena ruling also has the potential to help build a case against the state, which faces its own voting rights challenges in court, said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston who has studied voting rights cases for decades.

In lifting federal electoral oversight for Texas and other jurisdictions in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that conditions for minority voters had “dramatically improved,” but the justices left open the possibility that political jurisdictions could be placed back under preclearance if they committed new discriminatory actions.

Earlier this year, Texas faced a barrage of federal court rulings that found the 2011 Legislature intentionally discriminated against voters of colors by passing a stringent voter ID law and re-drawing the state’s political maps. Those cases are still making their way through federal courts in Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

The Pasadena ruling — “particularly because it was so thoroughly stated and so strong and by a judge that has no history of favoring blacks or Latinos in redistricting cases” — could serve as “another brick in building this case that Texas has a recent history of discriminatory action,” Murray said.

In a sign that Texas leaders also see Pasadena as a potential problem for its own cases, state attorneys filed an amicus brief in support of the city’s appeal, arguing that preclearance “must be sparingly and cautiously applied” to avoid reimposing “unwarranted federal intrusion.”

Judge Rosenthal’s preclearance ruling in the Pasadena case was improper, the state contends, because it was imposed for a single incident of discrimination instead of pervasive and rampant discrimination.

Raise your hand if you’re surprised that the state got involved. I’m surprised it took them this long. It is not yet clear if the city of Pasadena will continue to pursue this appeal. New Mayor Jeff Wagner has said he will abide by the will of Pasadena City Council. He hasn’t said much about it since being elected, including when he might ask them for their opinion. The Fifth Circuit declined to overturn Judge Rosenthal’s injunction on using the 6-2 Council map, but they did not address the merits of the overall ruling, including the bail-in on Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. I don’t know what the time frame for a hearing of that appeal at the Fifth Circuit might be, but broadly speaking it’s likely to be some time in 2018. Unless Pasadena decides to drop it and accept the lower court ruling, of course. Will the state’s intervention have an effect on that? We’ll know when Mayor Wagner asks Council to vote on the appeal.