The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Waiting for the cold front

It's mid-July today, at least until around 8pm, when late April should return. The Tribune reported this morning that our spring has had nearly three times the rain as last spring, but actually hasn't gotten much wetter than normal.

Meanwhile:

Finally, via The Onion, Google Maps now shows you shortcuts through people's houses when they're not home.

Monday morning round-up

According to my Garmin, I got almost 18 hours of sleep the past two nights, but also according to my Garmin (and my groggy head), few of those hours made a difference. I take some of the blame for that, but on the other hand, someday I want to stay in a hotel room where I can control when the air conditioner turns on and off.

Anyway, while I slept fitfully, these stories passed through my inbox:

And finally, good news for the Brews & Choos Project: Lagunitas plans to re-open their taproom later this year.

Readings over lunch

I mean...

  • Josh Marshall takes another look at the astonishing bribe Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler paid to Jared Kushner and concludes it's not just a one-off favor; it's an ongoing relationship.
  • Joan Williams argues that Democrats need to look at the class and economic aspects of the Right's economic populism, and maybe perhaps argue (correctly) that blaming people of color just takes the spotlight off the super-rich who are stealing from the middle?
  • US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) makes essentially the same argument, with a reminder that the mid-term election is only 202 days away.
  • A homeless-rights organization in Chicago argues that increasing the transfer tax on property sales over $1 million could fund real homelessness relief for real people.

Finally, a quirk in US copyright law has created a bonanza for litigators, along with the original creators of such diverse works as The Thing and Hoosiers.

Let's make some noise

US Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) excoriated Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) on the floor of the Senate this week. Greg Sargent follows Josh Marshall in exhorting more Democrats to get messages like this out more often:

Grandstanding and disingenuousness are endemic to politics. The tension between sordid political theatrics and the higher ideals they serve goes back to the ancients. But at a certain point, the pileup of absurdities becomes so comically ludicrous, so obviously unmoored from even the most basic standards of conduct, that it needs to be called out.

Yet we don’t hear enough from Democrats putting down hard emotional markers indicating that at moments like these, something is deeply amiss, and something unusually absurd and depraved is happening.

Just this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) practically snickered as he refused to say that a GOP-controlled Senate will give a hearing to a future Biden nominee to the Supreme Court.

We’re constantly told the American people hate Washington dysfunction. Yet McConnell knows he can cheerfully threaten something this obscenely destructive without fearing any political downside. But why does McConnell know this?

McConnell perhaps instinctively knows little noise from Democrats will break through to their voters, or alert the middle that something this unusual happened at all. Meanwhile, the vast right-wing media apparatus will keep up the drumbeat of wildly inflated hysteria about the threat of radical Democratic rule...

Marshall has made this point repeatedly, mostly behind paywalls. So have others. Hey, pop quiz, who's the most badass ex-military US Senator? Mine, actually. And which US Senator actually owns and works on his own farm? A Democrat. Which US Senator's latest election win was the largest swing from his state's presidential vote? A Democrat (despite it all). Who's the only person in the US Senate to have commanded multiple space missions? A Democrat.

We need to remind people who we are and what we do. And to mercilessly ridicule useless grandstanders like Hawley until they get tossed out of office.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

The US Senate did something pretty cool yesterday:

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman to be elevated to the pinnacle of the judicial branch in what her supporters hailed as a needed step toward bringing new diversity and life experience to the court.

Overcoming a concerted effort by Republicans to sully her record and derail her nomination, Judge Jackson was confirmed on a 53-to-47 vote, with three Republicans joining all 50 members of the Democratic caucus in backing her.

Not everyone shared in the joy of the day. As applause echoed from the marbled walls, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, turned his back and slowly walked out, as did most of the few Republicans remaining on the floor, leaving half of the chamber empty as the other half celebrated in a stark reflection of the partisan divide.

“When it came to one of the most consequential decisions a president can make, a lifetime appointment to our highest court, the Biden administration let the radicals run the show,” Mr. McConnell had said earlier, making one last argument against Judge Jackson, whose nomination he framed as an example of extremists taking control of the Democratic Party. “The far left got the reckless inflationary spending they wanted. The far left has gotten the insecure border they wanted. And today, the far left will get the Supreme Court justice they wanted.”

Senator McConnell is full of shit, of course, and he knows it. Jackson would have made any Republican Senator's heart sing only five years ago. But, hey, thanks to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), we may have gotten the last bipartisan confirmation in our lifetimes.

On July 1st, Justice Jackson will become only the 7th person to sit on the Court who wasn't a white guy.

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

Nobody knows nothin', 2022 redistricting edition

With state legislatures finalizing district maps throughout the country to prepare for the 2022 elections just 10 months from now, no one knows who has the advantage. The Times angsts that it looks bad for everyone:

It’s not yet clear which party will ultimately benefit more from this year’s bumper crop of safe seats, or whether President Biden’s sagging approval ratings might endanger Democrats whose districts haven’t been considered competitive. Republicans control the mapmaking for more than twice as many districts as Democrats, leaving many in the G.O.P. to believe that the party can take back the House majority after four years of Democratic control largely by drawing favorable seats.

the far greater number of districts drawn to be overwhelmingly safe for one party is likely to limit how many seats will flip — even in a so-called wave election.

“The parties are contributing to more and more single-party districts and taking the voters out of the equation,” said former Representative Tom Davis, who led the House Republicans’ campaign arm during the 2001 redistricting cycle. “November becomes a constitutional formality.”

In the 29 states where maps have been completed and not thrown out by courts, there are just 22 districts that either Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump won by five percentage points or less, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute.

Josh Marshall thinks the Democrats may actually come out ahead in 2024 and beyond:

far from the doomsaying, it looks like Democrats will basically hold their own and end up with a national map that is slightly more favorable to them than the current one. This is no fluke of course. It’s the product of an incredible amount of hard work across the country by the people who were saying how bad it might end up. It doesn’t mean the doomsaying was wrong. Kate Riga explained the various factors that went into this outcome in this post from late December. State and federal courts have been a bit less generous with Republican gerrymanders than expected – including racial gerrymanders. Republican states that had opted for commissions or other reforms held to the spirit of those reforms a bit more than expected. Democrats meanwhile pushed their advantage in the few states where they were able. New York is the key example here.

Another key overarching trend is that in a number of states Republicans just didn’t quite go for it in the way that some observers expected. They didn’t push for every last advantage. But as Kate notes in that article one key reason is that in purple-trending states those advantages got harder to manage. It became harder to figure out where to put growing numbers of voters of color or white voters who were trending more liberal. This means, if you looked closely, Republicans were using the gerrymandering opportunity less to seek new advantage and more to shore up existing seats. That has led to a new national map which is both better for Democrats and also less competitive overall.

Of course, given the technology available to both parties, and the belief stoked by Republicans but now more and more felt by Democrats that every election could be the last, neither party has an incentive to lay down arms and find a more fair system.

We have to fix this, though. I believe something will shift after 2024, especially if the XPOTUS gets back into the race. I just don't know whether the shift will benefit the country or not.

Old fart tells majority of country to get off his lawn

US Senator Joe Manchin (D?-WV), the 74-year-old multimillionaire most recently re-elected in 2018 with just 290,000 votes (i.e., 0.08% of the US population), announced yesterday that he simply could not support the President's chief legislative goal for the current Congress, even though he apparently said he totally could before his last conversation with some random coal executive. Because the US Senate is evenly divided between the two parties, with Vice President Harris as the deciding vote in case of a tie, and because the Republican Party has no platform other than to keep the Democratic Party from governing no matter how much their own constituents scream for governance, Manchin voting "no" would kill the President's bill.

Naturally this has generated some opinion pieces in various media.

Russel Berman doesn't see this as the end of Build Back Better:

The best-case scenario for Biden is that Manchin intended his comments today not as a definitive end to negotiations but as a hard-line tactic aimed at forcing Democrats to take his position seriously, to stop trying to pressure him to buckle, and to end their attempts to win his support merely by tinkering around the edges of Build Back Better. Hoping to enact the bill by the end of the year, Democrats were loath to start over. Now it seems they must, and therein lies an opportunity.

New Republic's Michael Tomasky calls Manchin's behavior a betrayal of West Virginia's people:

[T]he people of West Virginia...are falling further behind the rest of the country with each passing decade and who have been sold a fantasy about the source of their problems and how they will be fixed.

The fantasy is that coal’s demise is all the fault of the coastal liberal elites who thumb their noses at good hard-working Christian people like the ones who live in West Virginia’s small towns and mine and haul its coal.

it was the private sector that unleashed this curse on America, preying on particularly vulnerable people and places like West Virginia, where a lot of people do physical labor for a living and lack—or lacked, until evil big government and Barack Obama came along—the health coverage that ensures they can go see a real doctor instead of just hopping into an urgent care clinic where they get a fentanyl script and are shoved out the door.

[N]ow Joe Manchin, given extraordinary power by the structure of a body that shouldn’t even exist, overrules the president of the United States and says to the people ravaged by these things that, no, the government can’t help them. Sorry, single mom who works at the Dollar General in Grantsville and would like to go to community college to better her lot: We can’t make community college free, and we can’t possibly subsidize daycare centers where you can safely plant your toddler while you take those bookkeeping courses at night at Glenville State. All that free stuff might make you a ward of the state.

But this just reflects the reality of West Virginia politics, says the Post's Karen Tumulty:

West Virginia — a state whose residents are older, poorer and sicker than average — would also stand to benefit more than most from the legislation.

Partisan tribalism, cultural issues and an attachment to the vanishing coal industry drive voter sentiment there, creating what is a paradoxical hostility to government. “Washington’s 100 percent against us,” a man from Summers County told me years ago. “They don’t like our jobs. They don’t like our attitudes.” Those attitudes have only hardened.

Ultimately, Manchin knows better than liberal naysayers that this legislation — or anything else that carries the Democratic brand — will face skepticism in West Virginia that has little to do with its merits. But he is also well aware that government has a vital role when it comes to bettering the lives and futures of his constituents. Which means things might not be over yet for some version of the Build Back Better bill.

Well, fine, but meanwhile we're 11 months from an election in which people will hear that the Democrats can't get anything done. It doesn't matter to the country that the Republican Party has no credible alternatives, or worse, to our policies.

I'll have more to say about this heading into next year, but I wonder if we need to let the Republicans absolutely rape the country before people figure out that all they want to do is rape the country.

Spicy poké

I swear, the local poké place used three shots of chili oil instead of one today. Whew. (Not that I'm complaining, of course.)

While my mouth slowly incinerates, I'm reading these:

On that last point, comedians Jimmy Carr and Emil Wakim lay down epic burns against anti-vaxxers:

On the road again

I'm leaving the country today, for the first time in almost exactly two years, and I couldn't be happier. I miss my Ancestral Homeland. And the list of Covid-related travel requirements, while annoying, make sense to me. In fact, because I return Sunday, I timed my (£39 FFS!) UK 2-day test to double as my US 3-day test.

Before I take off, and consign poor Cassie to 103 hours of desperate loneliness (albeit with her entire daycare pack), I want to comment on two news stories.

First, the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society has temporarily waived adoption fees because adoptions have declined 33% in the past three months. "The rescue organization is housing and caring for more than 420 animals and has 140 animals in foster care," Block Club Chicago reports. I foresaw this at the beginning of the pandemic: people feeling lonely and isolated adopting pets that they wouldn't want when the pandemic started to wane. It really pisses me off, but after all, we live in a selfish, consumerist society that views dogs and cats as disposable.

Second, the New York Times reported Monday on how President Biden's infrastructure bill will help Chicago's West Side—but thanks to conservatives in the party scything away hunks of it, it won't help enough:

[T]he protracted negotiations over both spending packages have forced Democrats to cut several initiatives partly or entirely: tuition-free community college, a clean energy standard to combat climate change, billions of dollars for affordable housing assistance and measures to lower the price of prescription drugs.

Places like the West Side may still receive record amounts of federal assistance. But the tug of war leading up to Friday’s passage of the infrastructure bill — and still looming as Congress awaits a vote on the $1.85 trillion social-safety-net package — has delayed the party from what may be an even bigger challenge: selling the investments to voters.

Another issue being closely watched by Chicago community groups, an initiative to replace lead service lines that can cause toxic drinking water, will receive $15 billion in the infrastructure bill and could get another $10 billion in the social-safety-net package, according to environmental groups that have negotiated with lawmakers. That is well short of the $60 billion sought by industry experts and the $45 billion Mr. Biden originally proposed.

I get that legislation takes time, and when your party has a majority of exactly one—and that one is the Vice President—you won't get everything you want. But if Republicans would remember that they represent Americans and not just other Republicans, maybe we could have done better.

All right. Off to the longest doggie day care Cassie has ever experienced...