The Daily Parker

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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.

Head (and kittens) exploding!

Leading off today's afternoon roundup, The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) announced today that Netflix has a series in production based on his game Exploding Kittens. The premise: God and Satan come to Earth—in the bodies of cats. And freakin' Tom Ellis is one of the voices, because he's already played one of those parts.

Meanwhile, in reality:

  • A consumers group filed suit against Green Thumb Industries and three other Illinois-based cannabis companies under the Clayton Act, alleging collusion that has driven retail pot prices above $8,800 per kilo. For comparison, the group alleges that retail prices in California are just $660 per kilo. (Disclosure: The Daily Parker is a GTI shareholder.)
  • Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D), one of the indirect defendants in the pot suit, signed a $46 billion budget for the state that includes $1.8 billion in temporary tax relief. Apparently, I'll get a $50 check from the State that I can apply to the $600 increase in property taxes Cook County imposed this year, which is nice, but I think the state could have aimed a bit lower on the income cap for that rebate and given more help to other people.
  • Shortly after US District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle (a 35-year-old who never tried a case and who graduated summa cum mediocrae laude from the legal powerhouse University of Florida just 8 years ago and earned a rare "not qualified" rating from the ABA upon her appointment in 2020 by the STBXPOTUS) ruled against the CDC in a case brought by an anti-masker, the DOT dropped mask mandates for public transport and air travel in the US. In related news, the Judge also said it's OK to piss in other people's swimming pools and up to the other swimmers not to drink the water.
  • While the Chicago Piping Plovers organization waits for Monty and Rose to return to Montrose Beach, another one of the endangered birds has landed at Rainbow Beach on the South Side. He appears more inclined to rent than buy, but local ornithologists report the bird has a new profile on the Plōvr dating site.
  • NBC breaks down the three biggest factors driving inflation right now, and yes, one of them is president of Russia. None, however, is president of the US.
  • Along those lines, (sane) Republican writer Sarah Longwell, who publishes The Bulwark, found that 68% of Republicans believe the Big Lie that the XPOTUS won the 2020 election, but "the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose." Makes me proud to be an American!

And finally, via Bruce Schneier, two interesting bits. First, a new paper explains how a bad actor can introduce a backdoor into a machine learning training session to force specific outcomes (explained in plain English by Cory Doctorow). Second, an attacker used a "flash loan" to take over the Beanstalk crypto currency voting system and stole $182 million from it. Because Crypto Is The Future™.

Republican Party admits it has no policies to discuss

In what amounts to a bald-faced admission that a presidential debate requires both candidates have some public policy proposals to debate, the Republican Party announced today that it will withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates:

In 1987, the Commission on Presidential Debates was established jointly by the Democratic and Republican parties to ensure that debates between the leading candidates for the President of the United States were a permanent part of the electoral process.

Now, the Republican National Committee has voted unanimously to leave the CPD, ending more than three decades of bipartisan civic cooperation.

"The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates including hosting debates before voting begins and selecting moderators who have never worked for candidates on the debate stage," Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

McDaniel is correct, in that the Commission is biased in favor of accuracy. Or, to use Paul Krugman's marvelous phrasing, "facts have a well-known liberal bias." One of the RNC's complaints, you'll recall, was that the Commission unfairly fact-checked Mitt Romney in real time during his 2012 debate with President Obama, giving viewers at home the entirely correct impression Romney was lying.

Of course the RNC no longer see any need for a presidential debate, as they have nothing really to debate. They didn't even bother with a party platform in 2020, since they had by then become a cult of personality around the XPOTUS. The next election will be about the same, especially if the XPOTUS runs again.

The RNC also doesn't care that this move continues the erosion of trust the public have in institutions like the Commission, or for that matter, the election. "It has always been easier to destroy than to create," said Spock, and the RNC fancies themselves a Genesis Device.

Update: Paul Waldman lays the Republican strategy bare:

A dispute over debates may seem far removed from that nightmare, but it isn’t. It’s all part of the same strategy: to convince the Republican base that the entire process is rigged against them.

This is how Republicans have decided to wage the 2024 campaign, in every way and on every day. If our democracy can escape it intact, it will be a miracle.

Why do Republicans elect horrible human beings?

US Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) yesterday laid out his love of American democracy at an event back home:

Now, did he really mean the election, or just the XPOTUS losing by more votes in history to now-President Biden? The more you learn about Cawthorn, the more it seems he said what he meant:

Within 72 hours of taking office, Cawthorn made headlines for helping to recruit and incite the mob that attacked the Capitol trying to subvert the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power and steal the presidency for Donald Trump.

In February 2021, TSA agents caught Cawthorn with a gun in his carry-on bag as he attempted to pass through security and board a commercial flight at the Asheville Regional Airport.

Cawthorn’s official conduct is no better than his personal conduct.  He has missed 36 of 519 roll call votes. That means he failed to report for duty 6.9% of the time, more than triple the median of 2.1% missed votes by his 434 House colleagues.

Western North Carolina may be better served when Cawthorn does not show up for work. He voted against funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program that provides $3.4 million annually to 13 mountain counties with non-taxable federal land.  He voted against funding for the Safe Rural Schools program that provides over $1 million a year to our schools. He voted against VA health care eligibility for Burn Pit Veterans. He was the lone member of the North Carolina House delegation to vote against the Opioid Prescription Verification Act.

Moe Davis, the author of that column and Cawthorn's opponent in November 2020, left out a few other details that Wikipedia helpfully fills in:

U.S. Representative Mark Meadows nominated Cawthorn to the United States Naval Academy in 2014, but his application was rejected before his 2014 car accident; Cawthorn had claimed during his congressional campaign in advertisements that the accident "derailed" his plans to attend the Academy.[13][6][17][7] Cawthorn subsequently said that at the time of the injury, he knew only that he had been nominated to the Academy and that he had expected to be accepted, and added that he never said that he had been accepted before the accident took place, but could have applied again later.[18][19] But in a lawsuit deposition, Cawthorn admitted that he had been rejected before the accident.[12]

During the fall 2016 semester, Cawthorn attended Patrick Henry College, studying political science, but earned mostly D grades and dropped out. He said his grades were low primarily because his injuries had interfered with his ability to learn.[13] Cawthorn said in a deposition, "You know, suffering from a brain injury after the accident definitely I think it slowed my brain down a little bit. Made me less intelligent. And the pain also made reading and studying very difficult."[20] He also said he withdrew due to "heartbreak" after his fiancée broke up with him.[7][21]

In a 2021 speech, he called women "earthen vessels sanctified by almighty God".[83] In 2021, he joined the House Freedom Caucus, a caucus of conservative House Republicans.[84] He describes himself as "fiscally conservative", says his stance on immigration is "conservative", and supports legal gun ownership, opposing gun control legislation.[85]

In August 2020, during Cawthorn's campaign for Congress, several women came forward accusing him of sexually aggressive behavior, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault.[6][97][98][99] Katrina Krulikas described an incident when she was 17 and Cawthorn was 19 in which Cawthorn pressured her to sit on his lap and attempted to kiss her forcefully twice, which she resisted.[12] Cawthorn did not deny the allegations, but said, "I did try and kiss her, just very normal, just in a flirtatious way", adding, "If I did make her feel unsafe, I feel bad", but questioned the timing of her allegation.[100] His campaign characterized Krulikas's allegations as politically motivated, which she denied.[99]

After Krulikas made her allegations, three other women made allegations of sexual misconduct against Cawthorn, including forcible grabbing and kissing.[97] One woman said Cawthorn called her "just a little blonde, slutty American girl" when she rejected his sexual advances.[12][7]

On October 17, 2020, a group of Patrick Henry College alumni released a public letter accusing Cawthorn of "sexually predatory behavior" while he was a student there for little more than one semester, as well as of vandalism and lying. The letter originally had 10 signatories but the number increased to over 150 alumni. Cawthorn claimed that most of the signers did not know him personally and his campaign posted a letter of support for him signed by six alumni, two of whom work for Cawthorn's campaign. The letter implied support by former Patrick Henry College President Michael Farris; Farris disavowed the support letter and asked that he not be associated with it.[101]

A February 2021 BuzzFeed News investigation found 20 people who said that Cawthorn had harassed his female classmates during college; the reporters spoke to four women who said that Cawthorn had harassed them. It was alleged that Cawthorn often recklessly drove women in his car to remote areas off campus while asking them sexual questions, which he called "fun drives". Two resident assistants said they warned women to avoid Cawthorn and not to ride in his car. A male acquaintance said Cawthorn bragged about pulling a woman into his lap and putting a finger between her legs.[7]

So, basically, Cawthorn is an entitled, misogynist, philandering, lying asshole, who represents Christian white male privilege a lot better than he represents the North Carolina 13th. He deserves nothing more than to lose his seat in Congress to anyone else with a pulse. But the good ol' folks in Western N.C. will probably re-elect him until he finally gets charged with something he can't avoid, which seems like the path of highest probability for a man like him.

Mr Toady's Wild Lie

In one of those stopped-clock-is-correct-twice-a-day moments, the XPOTUS and I have similar assessments of former US Attorney General Bill Barr:

“Bill Barr cares more about being accepted by the corrupt Washington Media and Elite than serving the American people,” Trump wrote. “He was slow, lethargic, and I realized early on that he never had what it takes to make a great Attorney General.”

Also Barr “didn’t want to stand up to the Radical Left Democrats because he thought the repercussions to him personally, in the form of their threatened impeachment, would be too severe,” according to the former president.

“In other words, Bill Barr was a coward!” he added.

Barr didn't stand up to anyone, but otherwise, I completely agree with the XPOTUS on several points. But Barr has a shrewdness to him that will likely prevent any consequences of his behavior ever attaching to him, much like others who have held the position.

NPR's Steve Inskeep's interview of the former AG aired this morning, causing me to yell things back at the radio when Barr lied about nearly everything:

Before Trump tried to overturn the election, Barr was seen as one of his ruthless defenders, making decisions for the Justice Department that favored Trump and his allies.

He does not express regret for those decisions. He argues that too many political differences are turned into criminal investigations, which is why, he said, he personally intervened in high-profile cases during his tenure.

He dropped a charge against former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI, even though Flynn himself admitted to the crime. Barr said FBI agents did not have a good reason to question him.

Then there was Trump's infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In that 2019 call, Zelenskyy appealed for Javelin missiles to defend themselves against Russian tanks, weapons Ukraine now says it needs more of in its fight against the Russian invasion.

Trump asked Zelenskyy for help in digging up political dirt to use in his reelection. He urged Zelenskyy to talk with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and with Barr. Barr says he had nothing to do with it.

"It was an absurd idea and it was pursued in a farcical way," Barr said. "But at the time, I didn't think it was criminal, and I still don't think it was criminal."

Barr wants you to think of him as one of the good guys. But he worked for the XPOTUS until two weeks before Biden's inauguration, using his office to help his friends and party. This self-hagiography is the real farce.

About as well as expected

NPR's Steve Inskeep worked for six years to land a 15-minute interview with the XPOTUS, and yet no one felt any shock or surprise when it ended abruptly:

Trump and his team have repeatedly declined interviews with NPR until Tuesday, when he called in from his home in Florida. It was scheduled for 15 minutes, but lasted just over nine.

After being pressed about his repeated lies about the 2020 presidential election, Trump abruptly ended the interview.

When pressed, it was excuse after excuse — it was "too early" to claim fraud, his attorney was no good, things just seem suspicious.

But it all comes back to the same place: He has no evidence of widespread fraud that caused him to lose the election.

The tone of the interview changed. Trump then hurried off the phone as he was starting to be asked about the attack on the Capitol, inspired by election lies.

Philip Bump rolls his eyes at "the eternal lure of reasoning with the irrational:"

Many or most of us like to consider ourselves rational, considering the evidence before us and reaching reasoned conclusions based on what we see. Presented with a refutation of a belief, we like to think, we would change our minds and acknowledge our errors. Ergo: Present Trump with refutations of his claims, and he’d crumble.

The problem, of course, is that this isn’t how it works. Humans are emotional more robustly than they are rational, and when a belief is rooted in emotion — desire, fear, anger — you can’t reason your way around it. Put succinctly, you can’t combat irrationality with reason.

This pattern repeated a few times. Inskeep would offer a rational, accurate, indisputable point about the election results, and Trump — uninterested in rationality or accuracy but very interested in disputes — would wave them away.

Why bother even trying to convince Trump of reality when it’s not going to make a dent?

The answer, I think, is in keeping with the spirit of this article. Emotionally, I and others in the media think it’s important to confront falsehoods with accurate information. Rationally, I know it won’t make a difference; rationally, I’m sure Steve Inskeep understood it was unlikely that Trump would suddenly cop to simply making things up. But the virtue of combating misinformation holds an appeal that rational consideration can’t uproot.

I refuse to believe that it’s unimportant to tell the emperor that he’s not wearing clothes, even if it doesn’t prompt him to put on pants.

I listened to the first few minutes of it this morning, and marveled at Inskeep's ability not to laugh in the XPOTUS's face. Inskeep, of course, is a professional, unlike the interviewee. And Bump has a good point: when arguing with a fantasist, there is no middle ground.

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.

The Paper Anniversary

In the US and UK, it's customary to give gifts of paper for the first anniversary. In that spirit, I say we give all the insurrectionists new subpoenas today.

President Biden marked the occasion with a speech excoriating his predecessor:

“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Mr. Biden said, standing in the same National Statuary Hall invaded by throngs of Trump supporters a year ago. “He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”

Political essayist Rebecca Solnit wonders why so many Republicans share the XPOTUS's delusions:

Hannah Arendt used the word “gullible” repeatedly in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” published in 1951. “A mixture of gullibility and cynicism is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements, and the higher the rank the more cynicism weighs down gullibility,” she wrote. That is, among those gulling the public, cynicism is a stronger force; among those being gulled, gullibility is, but the two are not so separate as they might seem.

Distinctions between believable and unbelievable, true and false, are not relevant for people who have found that taking up outrageous and disprovable ideas is instead an admission ticket to a community or an identity. Without the yoke of truthfulness around their necks, they can choose beliefs that flatter their worldview or justify their aggression. I sometimes think of this straying into fiction as a kind of libertarianism run amok — we used to say, “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.” Too many Americans now feel entitled to their own facts. In this too-free marketplace of ideas, they can select or reject ideas, facts or histories to match their goals, because meaning has become transactional.

A lot of conspiracy theories are organic or at least emerge from true believers on the margins when it comes to topics like extraterrestrials, but those at the top of conservative America have preached falsehoods that further the interest of elites, and those at the bottom have embraced them devoutly. Though when we talk about cults and conspiracies we usually look to more outlandish beliefs, climate denial and gun obsessions both fit this template.

Authoritarians don’t just want to control the government, the economy and the military. They want to control the truth. Truth has its own authority, an authority a strongman must defeat, at least in the minds of his followers, convincing them to abandon fact, the standards of verification, critical thinking and all the rest. Such people become a standing army awaiting their next command.

Author John Scalzi says, just wait for next time:

The GOP is officially done with the notion of democracy in the United States. Its only interest in it at this point is using its remaining functioning processes to shut it down. The GOP has no platform other than a Christianist White Supremacist Authoritarianism, no goal other than a corrupt oligarchy, and no plan for its supporters other than to keep them hyped up on fear and hatred of anyone who is a convenient target. The Republican party problem with the coup is not that it happened. It’s that it was so poorly planned and executed. Now they’ll have to attempt another one.

Which is coming! The GOP has already made it clear they have no intention of honoring another presidential election that might allow a Democrat into the White House. They are attempting all sorts of strategies to limit the ability of suspected non-Republicans to vote, to discount their vote if they still manage to do it, and to disrupt the certification of the vote if it doesn’t go the way they want it to. A Democrat winning is enough evidence of “voter fraud” for a Republican to attempt to gum up the works for as long as possible, to sow distrust in the system, and to pave the way for GOP Coup II, i.e., “We Didn’t Want To But Look What the Dirty Democrats Made Us Do.” This coup may or may not have an “armed citizen” component to it; as noted the GOP has gotten very good at using the processes of democracy against it. The Republicans would love a coup that they could punt up to a compliant Supreme Court, and that would probably not be a coup with shooting in it. But a coup it would be nevertheless.

A political party that can’t turn its back on a traitor who endangered even some of its own members should not be trusted. A political party that embraces that same traitor and doubles down on its allegiance to him should be reviled. A political party that has decided to abandon the constitution and the republic should be dismantled. Here in 2022, when the Republican party has clearly and unambiguously done all three, no person with any sense of moral character or loyalty to the republic should vote for the GOP, for any position, at any level, or support it in any way, but especially with money.

[H]ere’s a simple test: Substitute the words “Donald Trump” with “Hillary Clinton” and “Trump supporters” with “Clinton supporters” and then run January 6 through your memory banks. You good with a President Hillary Clinton encouraging her supporters to storm the Capitol to stop the certification of, say, President-Elect Donald Trump as the 46th president? Unless you are absolutely 100 percent lying to yourself — and you may be! — your answer here is “Hell, no.” And you would be correct. It’s treason, and any political party giving aid and comfort to such an act is beyond redemption.

So, one year out, where are the rest of the indictments?

While I pondered, weak and weary...

Today's litany of disappointments, with a couple of bright spots:

Finally, northwest suburban officials continue to track escaped bison "Billy" as she continues her walkabout through McHenry County. She will not be buffaloed back to her ranch!

Short-term license agreements

Today is the 50th anniversary of DB Cooper jumping out of a hijacked airplane into the wilds of Washington State. It's also the day I will try to get a Covid-19 booster shot, since I have nothing scheduled for tomorrow that I'd have to cancel if I wind up sleeping all day while my immune system tries to beat the crap out of some spike proteins in my arm.

Meanwhile, for reasons passing understanding (at least if you have a good grasp of economics), President Biden's approval ratings have declined even though last week had fewer new unemployment claims than any week in my lifetime. (He's still more popular than the last guy, though.)

In other news:

Any moment now, my third DevOps build in the last hour will complete. I've had to run all three builds with full tests because I don't always write perfect code the first time. But this is exactly why I have a DevOps build pipeline with lots of tests.