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April 29th, 2018:

Weekend link dump for April 29

Some potential advantages for gender-swapping a character in a TV or movie production.

Who even knew that the Nancy comic was still a thing, much less that it was generating a ton of controversy over its recent changes?

10 TV Characters Who Actually Really Suck at Their Jobs

“Williamson specializes in a dance move I like to call the Troll Three-Step. One: Say something vile Two: When challenged, say that wasn’t what you meant, only joking etc. Step three: Go back to saying something vile.”

“As someone who lived through the Bush era, I can attest that Bush was able to impose pretty strict party loyalty on the right. But by April 2006, his approval rating among Republicans was hovering around 80 percent—not too far from where Trump is now. Those midterm elections were a disaster for the GOP. And it went downhill fast from there.”

“Everything suggests Hannity has professionals investing and managing this portfolio of real estate properties. So why would he be seeking the counsel of Michael Cohen? Whatever he claims, there’s very little evidence Cohen has any legal or business acumen or even experience doing this kind of real estate investing – that is to say competent, professional investing for extremely high net worth individuals as opposed to high stakes ‘deals’ and finding purchases for people looking to stash or launder money.”

“The President is going to congratulate him no matter what you say.”

“The ‘weird’ fringe is the biggest part of white evangelicalism”.

Did you know there was an actual real-life murder mystery that inspired Twin Peaks? Well, now you do.

RIP, Verne Troyer, actor best know for playing Mini Me in the Austin Powers movies.

“Do we really need to see what Cohen has to say to know that something is already catastrophically wrong with this picture?”

Keep an eye on this lawsuit against Facebook over its handling of fake ads.

“If a guy like that is sending out anti-Trump tweets while his wife is going on TV serially offering alternative facts in defense of the President, it’s bound to pique the interest of people around Washington. I don’t know if you’d call it Capital-N News, but it’s certainly fair game for an end-of-segment question on a Sunday show.”

“But let’s be clear, presidents who have approval ratings of 40% usually don’t get reelected. That’s especially the case when their favorability rating (a slightly different measure) is also in the same area.”

More than you wanted to know about that guy in Toronto who killed all those people and the toxic and misogynistic subculture he marinated in.

A comprehensive taxonomy of the women in The Handmaid’s Tale.

Congratulations to Jenny Cavnar, the first woman to do play by play for a game on MLB TV. And good on the Rockies for not putting up with any sexist BS about the job she did.

RIP, Bob Dorough, musician best known for composing many Schoolhouse Rock songs. He was a hairy bear, he was a scary bear…

George R.R. Martin will have his Game of Thrones prequel book published before the next actual Game of Thrones is finished. That sound you hear is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

“She’s a 5-year-old fox red Labrador retriever on assignment at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Pennsylvania. Turks is specially trained and certified to appear in courtrooms, where she often snuggles next to victims, especially children, to help them get through the trauma of testifying. These past two weeks she has had an additional assignment: Keep the jury that has been sequestered in the Bill Cosby trial in good spirits as they spend time away from their families.”

The sisterhood of Cosby survivors is an amazing thing.

If it hadn’t been for his decision to scold poor black Americans for their moral failures while decades of sexual-assault allegations had remained hidden, it’s possible that none of Cosby’s victims would have gotten their day in court.”

Pete Souza continues to be a national treasure.

Fifth Circuit upholds voter ID changes

Ugh.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Amid efforts to prove Texas’ embattled voter ID law is discriminatory, a federal appeals panel on Friday OK’d state lawmakers’ efforts to rewrite the law last year to address faults previously identified by the courts.

On a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that tossed out the state’s revisions through Senate Bill 5. The lower court had said the changes did not absolve Texas lawmakers from responsibility for discriminating against voters of color when they crafted one of the nation’s strictest voter ID laws in 2011.

But the Legislature “succeeded in its goal” of addressing flaws in the voter ID law in 2017, Judge Edith Jones wrote in the majority opinion for the divided panel, and the lower court acted prematurely when it “abused its discretion” in ruling to invalidate SB 5.

The 5th Circuit panel’s ruling is a major victory for the state after years of losses in an almost seven-year legal battle over its restrictions on what forms of identification are accepted at the polls.

[…]

Key to the state’s defense was a change in the 2017 law that allows Texans without photo ID to vote if they present alternate forms of ID and sign affidavits swearing a “reasonable impediment” kept them from obtaining the proper ID. Those voters could present documents such as utility bills, bank statements or paychecks to confirm their identification, but lawmakers also wrote into law that those found to have lied about not possessing the proper photo ID could be charged with a state jail felony.

Arguing before the 5th Circuit in December, attorneys representing the voting and civil rights groups suing the state said the “reasonable impediment” provision was a faulty remedy because of the possibility that voting “under the express threat of going to jail” would have a “chilling effect” on voters without photo ID.

They also pointed out that the list of permissible IDs remains unchanged under the state’s new ID law: a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, a U.S. citizenship certificate or an election identification certificate.

On Friday, the 5th Circuit panel sided with the state’s argument that Ramos’ decision to reject its revisions to the voter ID law was improper because a new law would require a new legal challenge, but the court did note that opponents of the law could still separately challenge SB 5 in the future.

Judge James Graves Jr. employed striking imagery to lay out his dissent to the majority opinion. “A hog in a silk waistcoat is still a hog,” he wrote before explaining that the original voter ID law was an “unconstitutional disenfranchisement of duly qualified voters.”

“SB 5 is merely its adorned alter ego,” he added.

With a loss in hand, opponents could be derailed in their efforts to persuade the courts to place Texas back under federal oversight of its election laws — a process called preclearance.

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for a copy of the opinion. The plaintiffs can and almost certainly will ask for an en banc rehearing, though the partisan makeup of the Fifth Circuit does not inspire confidence. They can also start the whole process over by filing a new lawsuit against SB5. This litigation began in 2011 after the original bill SB14 was passed, and it’s not over yet, so you can get some idea of how much longer this might get dragged out if we go down that path.

As usual, Rick Hasen has a good analysis of the ruling and its effect. The bottom line is that despite two findings by the district court of intentional discrimination, the Fifth Circuit has now said that the technical fixes of SB5, which were enacted under court pressure by the Lege, washes that sin away completely. Ross Ramsey recently wrote that no matter what ultimately happens at SCOTUS with redistricting, the Republicans have already won, because they will get four cycles out of maps that are basically what they drew and may at worst have one cycle with court-mandated “fairer” maps. No matter what happens from here, we’ve been operating under the original voter ID law or something not that far from it. There’s no price to pay for passing a discriminatory law, or potentially for passing discriminatory Congressional and legislative maps. Why wouldn’t any other Republican-controlled legislature do the same, given Texas’ experience?

As such, the only reliable solution going forward is a political one. We need to elect enough people who oppose voter ID to repeal this discriminatory, anti-democratic law. This is of course a long-term solution, but then a new lawsuit against SB5 would have something like a seven or eight year timeline based on the SB14 experience, with no guarantee of success. In the interim, we need to put more effort and resources into ensuring that people have what they need in order to be able to vote. It’s a travesty, but it’s our reality. We have no other choice.

Nine for CD27

And they’re off.

Blake Farenthold

Nine candidates have filed for the June 30 special election to finish former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold’s term, according to the secretary of state’s office. The deadline was 5 p.m. Friday.

As expected, the group includes the four candidates who are currently in the May 22 runoffs for the November election: Democrats Raul “Roy” Barrera and Eric Holguin, as well as Republicans Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud. The other five candidates who filed for the special election are Democrat Mike Westergren, Republican Marty Perez, independent Judith Cutright, Libertarian Daniel Tinus and independent Christopher Suprun.

Of the five candidates who are not also in the runoffs, Suprun, who is from Dallas, is perhaps best known — he refused to vote for Donald Trump at Texas’ Electoral College meeting following the 2016 presidential election. Westergren, meanwhile, is a Corpus Christi lawyer who unsuccessfully ran for Texas Supreme Court in 2016.

[…]

Before the June 30 special election to finish Farenthold’s term, voters in the district will primary runoffs will take place on May 22 to determine Democratic and Republican nominees for the seat in the fall. The winner of that contest will serve a full term beginning in January 2019.

See here for the background. Let’s be clear that only the candidates who are in the primary runoffs have a chance to hold this seat beyond the end of this year, if he or she wins both their runoff and then again in November. The others can aspire to be little more than a slightly extended version of Shelley Sekula Gibbs. Which isn’t nothing, but isn’t more than that. My guess is that any involvement from national Democrats would occur in the runoff for this race, assuming one of the three Dems that filed makes it that far. We’ll see how it goes.

It’s hard being pregnant in Harris County

We need to figure this out.

Life-threatening, pregnancy-related complications — the iceberg beneath the surface of the U.S. maternal health crisis — are on the rise in Harris County, according to a new report.

The report not only confirmed the Harris County rate is worse than that of the state and nation, it found that it increased more than 50 percent between 2008 and 2015. Texas’ rate of life-threatening, pregnancy-related complications went up 15 percent in the same time period.

“In subtle and unintentional ways, women’s health in Harris County has been subjugated to the health of babies so profoundly that the health of women of childbearing age is often not prioritized,” says the report, a project of the Houston Endowment.

Dr. Lisa Hollier, a Houston obstetrician-gynecologist and a co-chair of the task force that produced the report, said Harris County’s high rates “point to the need for greater intervention to promote safety around the time of delivery. Such complications are 50 times more common than pregnancy-related deaths, but don’t get near the amount of attention.”

Hollier and Dr. Cecilia Cazaban, the report’s principal investigator, said it is unclear why Harris County’s rate is increasing at such a high rate. They said that analysis is next on tap for the task force.

[…]

The new report focuses on severe maternal morbidity, the term for conditions that require such treatment as a respirator or blood transfusions or hysterectomy during delivery or in the immediate hours thereafter. It can lead to maternal death, but even when the patient survives, it can cause damage, such as kidney or heart failure, sometimes requiring lifelong treatment. It also is costly to the patient and health care system.

Harris County’s rate of severe maternal morbidity in 2015 was 2.4 percent, meaning there were 238 cases for every 10,000 deliveries. The 2015 rate was 1.97 in Texas and 1.46 in the United States.

See here for some background. The task force website is here, though I don’t think this report is on there. I hope there’s no need for me to say anything more than we really need to understand this problem so we can solve it.