The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The ambassador's a dodger, yes, and I'm a dodger too

A little-known United Nations agency would like its $22 million back, please:

At the United Nations, two officials had a problem. The little-known agency they ran found itself with an extra $61 million, and they didn’t know what to do with it.

Then they met a man at a party.

Now, they have $25 million less.

In between was a baffling series of financial decisions, in which experienced diplomats entrusted tens of millions of dollars, the agency’s entire investment portfolio at the time, to a British businessman after meeting him at the party. They also gave his daughter $3 million to produce a pop song, a video game and a website promoting awareness of environmental threats to the world’s oceans.

Things did not go well.

Transparency and accountability: it's not just a good idea, it's the law.

(The headline comes from this traditional Anglo-American song. Grift goes back to the beginning of speech, it turns out.)

The sun did come out

Chicago actually had clear skies and lovely spring weather today. That said, I'm in San Francisco this weekend, where the weather is almost exactly the same (12°C and clear).

Posting will be sporadic until Tuesday.

On the gloamin moors

Gray skies, day 45: they say the sun will come out tomorrow. I would not bet my bottom dollar on that.

In any event, I'll be in San Francisco for a couple of days, where they've had sun on and off for a while, with sun predicted tomorrow and Sunday. Then, if the predictions hold true, I'll come back here Monday in time to throw open all my windows.

We'll see. But I am really sick of the rain and clouds already.

Who took a leak on the Supreme Court?

South Texas College of Law Houston Law Professor Josh Blackman sketches out a timeline pointing to a right-wing Justice's clerk as the likely source of the Dobbs leak:

First, where did the leak come from? Most people are presuming this leak came from someone with access to the opinion, such as a Justice or a clerk. That presumption is probably correct, but it is also possible there was some illegal exfiltration of the document. ... People who are fanatical about abortion may go to great lengths to support their cause.

Fourth, Politico got the scoop. Not the Washington Post or New York Times or WSJ or NPR. Or, perhaps other outlets had a copy of the opinion, but only Politico was willing to run it. I still think WSJ had the opinion last week, in light of their editorial. The Supreme Court is in worse shape than I could have imagined.

Josh Marshall draws lines between Blackman's dots:

[T]he rapid-fire follow-up reporting on John Roberts’ position on the Mississippi case, just hours after the Politico exclusive, made me think at the time that the leaked draft opinion wasn’t a one off thing. It seemed part of a larger breakdown of secrecy or on-going leaks tied to the Mississippi abortion case. You don’t come up with details about the Chief Justice’s position and arguments from internal deliberations on one of the biggest cases in decades in an hour and a half if you’re beginning from a cold start. Then this morning I found out about this Wall Street Journal opinion page editorial from April 26th in which they fairly transparently write about current Court deliberations in the Mississippi case, specifically that John Roberts was trying to pull an unnamed conservative Justice back from fully overturning Roe.

[W]hy the column in late April? And why the specifics? It certainly reads like the authors had an inside read on on-going deliberations and fears that Roberts might be in the process of sneaking a defeat from the jaws of victory.

It reads even more like that when you read the piece in the context of the subsequent leak.

Blackman is a big advocate for overturning Roe. But that’s mostly neither here nor there for our present purposes. What’s interesting is that he’s written extensively about previous cases when Roberts nudged the Court toward less right-wing decisions and cases where there were leaks and pressure campaigns trying to prevent him from doing so. So Blackman is something of an expert on this on-going pattern and history. He seemed to spot it from his first read of the Journal editorial. Indeed, if I’m reading his piece correctly he seems to think the Journal may well have had a copy of the Alito opinion too.

(Emphasis in original.)

So, some clerk in Justice Alito's (R) or Thomas's (R) office gave photocopies of Alito's first draft to a number of right-leaning outlets, and Politico published first. All of this to push the Court towards a more extreme position than Chief Justice Roberts (I) can agree with.

Gloomier spring than we thought

I mentioned a couple days ago that we haven't seen the sun much this spring. Today the sun came out for only the second time in the last 43 days:

The National Weather Service categorized just one day in April as “clear and sunny,” said Kevin Donofrio, science and operations officer. NBC 5 meteorologist Paul Deanno said Tuesday just one of the past 42 days saw significant sunshine. That report was followed by another dark and soggy day.

Donofrio said this April saw 39.6 mm more rain than usual. Paul Walker, senior metrologist with AccuWeather, said there were only six days without rain last month. 

Chicago was also 1.5°C cooler than an average April, Walker said. Last year, it was 1.2°C warmer.

The gloom covered all of Illinois, in fact:

It’s not a stretch to say that most in Illinois are ready for warm weather by the time we hit mid-April. However, this year did not deliver as April temperatures were persistently well below normal. ... [M]ost days this past month were 3°C to 6°C colder than normal. Only 8 out of 30 April days in Galesburg were warmer than normal, and most by only a few degrees.

As a result of the colder weather, most of the state experienced below freezing temperatures as late as mid-April, and frost was reported as far south as the St. Louis Metro East on April 26.

Given how persistently rainy last month was, we best have a plethora of May flowers. For most places, the total amount of April precipitation was not excessive, and some areas were drier than normal. However, precipitation frequency last month was unusually high as most places recorded 12+ days with some measurable precipitation. Macomb had 22 days with measurable precipitation last month, Aurora had 20, Champaign had 19, and Cairo had 18. The 22 wet days in Macomb last month set a new record for April, which was the 2nd highest frequency of any month on record, only less than the 23 wet days in Macomb in October 2009. Frequent, small precipitation meant most places only had 2 to 2.5 days between precipitation events last month, which stymied fieldwork statewide.

Fortunately, the forecast calls for warmer and sunnier weather next week, with sun and 29°C forecast for Tuesday.

More Dobbs reactions

A day and a half after the unprecedented leak of Justice Alito's (R) draft opinion in Dobbs v Jackson, everyone and her dog has a reaction piece:

  • David Von Drehle in the Post warns that Alito's arguments in Dobbs, if accepted as the final majority opinion, would imperil many other rights based on privacy law: "[S]hould Alito’s draft opinion be affirmed by the court’s majority, there will be little to prevent states from enacting limits [on contraception] if they wish. Women will have only as much guaranteed autonomy over their childbearing as they had in 1868. Alito’s draft recognizes the rights of an hour-old zygote, but not of a 12-year-old impregnated by a rapist."
  • Jennifer Rubin concurs, saying the Court's "religion-driven mission" puts other settled law like Griswold v Connecticut and Lawrence v Texas in the crosshairs: "At its core, this Supreme Court’s right-wing majority seems eager to cast aside the restraints of precedent, making good on their supporters’ agenda rooted in Christian nationalism. In assuming life begins at conception (thereby giving the states unfettered leeway to ban abortion), Alito and his right-wing colleagues would impose a faith-based regimen shredding a half-century of legal and social change."
  • Josh Marshall calls bullshit on Alito's long-professed "originalism:" "Alito recognizes that there are interpretive frameworks that address new issues not explicitly referenced in the constitution. That’s in this decision. But he keeps coming back to “history and tradition” as what really seems like a separate basis of authority. Basically old school values. And lots of rights won’t make that cut."
  • Alex Shephard calls bullshit on Republicans trying to blame the leak for the Court's loss of legitimacy when, really, the activist Republican justices killed it: "There is a long tradition in conservative circles of finding every opportunity to claim victimhood. ... [But] the court’s legitimacy problems can, frankly be traced back to Bush v. Gore, if not earlier, when five Republican-appointed justices decided a presidential election based on their own partisan affiliations; this paved the way for President George W. Bush to appoint Samuel Alito."
  • Law professor and former Federal prosecutor Joyce Vance concurs, saying "Reversing Roe, particularly in the manner Alito does, condescending, patronizing, forcing an end to women’s full participation as equals in society, will forever change the belief that the court is above politics and the public’s confidence in the Court."
  • Adam Liptak of the Times agrees, hinting that Alito or one of his clerks might have leaked the draft as away of pressuring Justices Kavanaugh (R) or Gorsuch (R) to stay in the majority.
  • George Will, fresh from his local dispensary, says the end of Roe gives everyone a chance to start over. Everyone, I suppose, except the women whose lives will be ruined or lost because of unwanted or unsafe pregnancies.
  • Stephen Colbert Tweets, "I can’t believe how gullible Susan Collins is. But Susan Collins can." But Eric Garland reports on some aspects of Collins' history that paint a much worse picture of the Senator.
  • Julia Ioffe reminds us that five of six of the Republican justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

But, hey, guys? Please keep covering the other stories of the day. Like, for example, the corruption of Justice Thomas (R) and his wife.

Stare decisis for thee, not for me

Politico reported yesterday evening that the US Supreme Court voted back in February to overturn Roe v Wade, and they have Justice Alito's (R) first-draft opinion to prove it:

The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.

The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.

No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. The unprecedented revelation is bound to intensify the debate over what was already the most controversial case on the docket this term.

Alito's opinion lists the many times the Court has overturned previous decisions, but if this one stands, it'll be one of the rare times—if not the only time—the Court has overturned a decision granting rights. That is, sure, Plessy was wrong, but when the Court overturned it in Brown, they extended rights that the previous decision had curtailed.

The Supreme Court confirmed that the document is authentic, though not "the final position of any member on the issues in the case." Reports indicated that Justices Kavanaugh (R), Comey Barret (R), Gorsuch (R), and Thomas (R) joined Alito, while Chief Justice Roberts (I) has not. Justices Kagan (I), Sotomayor (I), and Breyer (I) have apparently already drafted dissents.

As one might guess, people have reacted to this news with some vigor:

  • Senator Susan Colins (R-ME) expressed surprise and alarm that Justices Kavanaugh (R) and Gorsuch (R) could possibly have prevaricated—nay, dissembled even!—in their confirmation hearings when they claimed to support stare decisis regarding Roe, for they are all, all honorable men.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised a vote on abortion rights during the current term despite opposition from Senator Joe Manchin III (D?-WV).
  • Abortion-rights groups uniformly condemned the news, even as anti-abortion groups without irony praised it for protecting potential lives (cf. lives already in being, like the women needing the procedure).

This is a developing story. I'll post updates as warranted.

Monday afternoon stories

Just a few:

Finally, James Fallows rolls his eyes at the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner, but praises Trevor Noah's closing statement.

Gloomy spring in Chicago

Last month we had the second-gloomiest April on record, with only 34% of possible sunshine reaching Chicago all month. Normal is 51%.

I realize May is only 34 hours old, but we haven't gotten any sunshine this month, either, with rain forecast tonight, Tuesday night, and Thursday. Then I'm heading to San Francisco for the weekend, where they haven't had any clouds in a while. I could use the sunshine.