Monday, April 20, 2020

The Weekly "It's Safe to Go Back in the Water" Wrangle

With the best of the left from around and about Deep-In-The-Hearta from the past week, the Texas Progressive Alliance isn't so sure that Mayor Vaughn is correct about there being no more sharks at Amity Beach.

Meanwhile, in Reality:

Nevertheless, the capitalists persist.

The displays are tapping into Trump’s main message on the coronavirus pandemic: governors are to blame for the crisis, not him. As the president ratchets up his re-election efforts, his argument is an effort to simultaneously put the brunt of responsibility for the coronavirus catastrophe on the shoulders of his political opponents while also maintaining that he holds “total authority” over the pandemic and the states facing it.

It’s an argument that resonates best in rural, redder parts of the country, which have not been hit as hard by the pandemic as blue, urban areas. Trump himself has said, “We’ll be opening some states much sooner than others,” despite pushback from legislators and business leaders alike about the current lack of mass testing.

And it’s a message of division, designed to pit Republican-voting areas of states against their Democratic-voting neighbors, even rural Republicans against urban Republicans. All this to activate white rural voters who supported Trump in 2016 and whom he’ll need again in 2020.

That's how it plays out here.  Greg Abbott's juggling act, with safety and science battling Dan Patrick and the pastors, has him spinning.  RG Ratcliffe at Texas Monthly was also unimpressed with Abbott's press conference about restarting the state's economy.

In times of personal crisis, Abbott always turns to Gawd his donors.

And demonstrates his inner Trump.

Shutting down government transparency has become a coronavirus symptom.

With the latest on voting-by-mail ...

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, vowed to appeal the ruling, arguing that mail voting could lead to fraud. Many states rely heavily on mail-in ballots and have had no significant issues with voter fraud. Five states already plan to run all-mail elections this year, and 28 other states allow voters to request a mail ballot for any reason. The Brennan Center for Justice found that the threat of voter fraud is “infinitesimally small.”

Kuff also looked at the initial ruling in the TDP's lawsuit to expand vote-by-mail access.  And via Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog, Chad Flanders and Kristen Spina write in Slate that the Texas courts should use the “democracy canon” to interpret excuse restrictions in absentee ballot laws.

As the ACLU stated it in its motion in the case, though, it’s arguable that everyone now has a “physical condition” that increases the “likelihood” that going to the polls might “injure[] the voter’s health.” (New Hampshire has interpreted its analogous “physical disability” provision in precisely this way) Paxton’s construction of the statute, meanwhile, also might mean that someone who actually tests positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic may not qualify for an absentee ballot, which seems absurd. As Vox’s Ian Millhiser wrote: “Either one of these interpretations of the Texas law is plausible, and a judge could reach either conclusion using methods of statutory interpretation that are widely accepted as legitimate.”

This is where Texas’ judges should turn to the so-called “democracy canon,” a method of interpreting statutes that is tailor-made for cases like this one. In his 2009 Stanford Law Review article about the method, University of California, Irvine law professor Richard Hasen offered a case citation that perfectly captures the heart of the democracy canon: “[a]ll statutes tending to limit the citizen in his exercise of [the right of suffrage] should be liberally construed in his favor.” In other words, when there is a “tie” in how to interpret the statute, the tie goes to the voter.

The case Hasen cited -- Owens v. State ex rel. Jennett -- was, in fact, a Texas Supreme Court case. Indeed, Texas historically adopted a fairly strong version of what Hasen called the democracy canon. In one appeals court case from the 1950s on the very subject of absentee ballots, Sanchez v. Bravo, a Texas court established a “clear statement” rule regarding restrictions on the right to vote. If a state is going to prevent someone from voting, the court ruled, they have to say so in “clear and unmistakable terms.” Otherwise, courts must read the law in a way that promotes “the right of the citizen to cast his ballot and thus participate in the selection of those who control his government.”

The Texas Green Party held their state convention over the weekend, and Howie Hawkins won the majority of presidential delegates.

The convention affirmed statewide candidates kat gruene for Railroad Commission, Charles Waterbury for Supreme Court Position 1, and (David B. Collins) for US Senate. None of us three paid the new filing fees to run, so under current law we will not appear on the general election ballot. As we have noted previously, a pending lawsuit may yet overturn the filing fee provision of HB 2504.


Based on the polling at countywide precinct conventions, GPTX will have 20 delegates for Howie Hawkins, 3 for Dario Hunter, 2 for Kent Mesplay, and 1 for Susan Buchser-Lochocki.

Some environmental developments include ...

The next Census -- whenever it takes place -- could well determine a future for Port Arthur as maintaining semblance of a city ... or not.

Trump's EPA rollbacks are punishing Port Arthur's residents as well.

Danielle Nelson’s best monitor for the emissions billowing out of the oil refineries and chemical plants surrounding her home: The heaving chest of her 9-year-old asthmatic son.

On some nights, the boy’s chest shudders as he fights for breath in his sleep. Nelson suspects the towering plants and refineries are to blame, rising like a lit-up city at night around her squat brick apartment building in the rugged Texas Gulf Coast city of Port Arthur.

Ask Nelson what protection the federal government and plant operators provide her African American community, and her answer is blunt. “They’re basically killing us,” says the 37-year-old, who herself has been diagnosed with respiratory problems since moving to the community after 2017′s Hurricane Harvey.

“We don’t even know what we’re breathing,” she says.

And like air pollution from fossil fuel producers, gun nuts aren't taking any time off, either.

Food concerns are moving to the forefront; Texas Standard reports that a statehouse committee chairman thinks that the meat packers are manipulating the price of beef.

State Rep. Drew Springer, chair of the House Agriculture and Livestock committee, has called for an investigation into the pricing practices of meat packers. Just four companies control 85% of the U.S beef market.

SocraticGadfly looked at restaurants by type and class, and wonders which will do better, which worse on surviving coronavirus.  The Lunch Tray noted a somewhat favorable ruling in a lawsuit over USDA school nutrition rollbacks.

And an Austin landmark loses its life to the coronavirus.

With all of this grim news, finding a bright spot somewhere can be difficult.  The Bloggess shares how she is coping.

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