The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Really busy couple of weeks

Through next weekend I'm going to have a lot to do, so much that I've scheduled "nothing" for the back half of next week going into our annual fundraiser on April 6th. I might even get enough sleep.

I hope I have time to read some of these, too:

Finally, submitted without comment: Grazie Sophia Christie, writing in New York Magazine, advises young women to marry older men.

Mentally exhausting day, high body battery?

My Garmin watch thinks I've had a relaxing day, with an average stress level of 21 (out of 100). My four-week average is 32, so this counts as a low-stress day in the Garmin universe.

At least, today was nothing like 13 March 2020, when the world ended. Hard to believe that was four years ago. So when I go to the polls on November 5th, and I ask myself, "Am I better off than 4 years ago?", I have a pretty easy answer.

I spent most of today either in meetings or having an interesting (i.e., not boring) production deployment, so I'm going to take the next 45 minutes or so to read everything I haven't had time to read yet:

All righty then. I'll wrap up here in a few minutes and head home, where I plan to pat Cassie a lot and read a book.

Long day and long week

For Reasons, we have the dress rehearsal for our Saturday performance on Saturday. That means poor Cassie will likely go ten hours crossing her paws between the time I have to leave and when I'm likely to get back. Fortunately, she should be exhausted by then. Tonight's dress rehearsal for our Sunday performance won't put her out as much, thanks to Dog Delivery from my doggy day care. Still, I'd rather have a quiet evening at home than a 3-hour rehearsal and an hour-long car trip home...

Meanwhile, in the world of things that appear to matter more but actually will matter less in a year...

Finally, perhaps the reason the Chicago Transit Authority has so many problems is that its governing board has only one member who actually understands public transit? (Welcome to Chicago: where the head of the CTA has a chauffeured car, and the head of the Chicago Teacher's Union sends her kids to private school.)

Republicans care more about their religion than your rape

Between the Dobbs decision allowing states to enforce or enact medieval restrictions on women's rights, an estimated 59,000 pregnancies resulted from rapes in states where women could no longer terminate them:

A new study estimates that more than 64,000 pregnancies resulted from rape between July 1, 2022, and January 1, 2024, in states where abortion has been banned throughout pregnancy in all or most cases. Of these, just more than 5,500 are estimated to have occurred in states with rape exceptions—and nearly 59,000 are estimated for states without exceptions. The authors calculate that more than 26,000 rape-caused pregnancies may have taken place in Texas alone. The findings were published on Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Highly stigmatized life events are hard to measure. And many survivors of sexual violence do not want to disclose that they went through this incredibly stigmatizing traumatic life event,” says Samuel Dickman, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood of Montana, who led the study. “We will never know the true number of survivors of rape and sexual assault in the U.S.”

The researchers obtained their findings by combining data from multiple sources. Because state-level data weren’t available, the team analyzed national data from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey on intimate partner sexual violence from 2016 to 2017. The researchers also used a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey on criminal victimization. Putting these together, they determined the number of completed vaginal rapes among girls and women of reproductive age—defined as between the ages of 15 and 45 (although some even younger girls and older women are also capable of pregnancy).

The XPOTUS put the deciding votes on the Supreme Court. George W Bush elevated John Roberts—no moderate, he, despite his PR—to the center seat. When you vote for Republicans, this is what you get.

And I guess Texas governor Greg Abbott needs to work a little harder to "eliminate rape" in his state. How surprising that he never really came through with that promise.

You don't need sunscreen in Chicago in January

A weather pattern has set up shop near Chicago that threatens to occlude the sun for the next week, in exchange for temperatures approaching 15°C the first weekend of February. We've already had 43 days with above-normal temperatures this winter, and just 12 below normal during the cold snap from January 13th through the 22nd. By February 2nd, 84% of our days will have had above-normal temperatures since December 1st.

Thank you, El Niño. Though I'm not sure the gloominess is a fair exchange for it.

Elsewhere:

Finally, Minnesota-based wildlife photographer Benjamin Olson discovered that a mouse had moved into his car. So naturally, he set up a photo trap. And naturally, it's totes adorbs.

Speaker Johnson

House Republicans have (finally) elected a Speaker, far-right Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), an election denier who tried to popularize the "independent state legislature" malarkey after the 2020 election:

Elected to Congress in 2016, Mr. Johnson is the most junior lawmaker in decades to become speaker.

He may also be the most conservative. An evangelical Christian, Mr. Johnson is the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and sponsored legislation to effectively bar the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity at any institution serving children younger than 10 that receives federal funds.

He served on former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment defense team, played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign a legal brief supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and was an architect of Mr. Trump’s bid to object to certifying them in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

Josh Marshall has links to Speaker Johnson's podcasts, just in time for Hallowe'en. They're scary.

Election day is 376 days away...

In other news of the day...

It's only Wednesday? Sheesh...

  • The Writers Guild of America got nearly everything they wanted from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (i.e., the Astroturf organization set up by the big studios and streamers to negotiate with the Guilds), especially for young writers and for hit shows, but consumers should expect more bundling and higher monthly fees for shows in the future.
  • Josh Marshall suspects that the two competing storylines about the XPOTUS (that he's about to return to power, but he's also losing every legal battle he fights) are actually just one: his "current posture of bravado and menace – while real enough as a threat – is simply his latest con, concealing a weaker and more terrified reality."
  • Jamie Bouie marvels that Justice Clarence Thomas (R$) wins the trifecta: "We have had partisan justices; we have had ideological justices; we have had justices who favored, for venal reasons, one interest over another. But it is difficult to think of another justice, in the history of the Supreme Court, who has been as partisan and as ideological and as venal as Thomas...."
  • Melissa Gira Grant profiles US District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (R-NDTX), a Christian nationalist who rose through the Federalist Society pipeline to a lifetime appointment where he will push his Victorian-era views on the people of Texas for the next 30 years or so.
  • North Korea vomited up US Army Private 2nd Class Travis King, having used him for the little he was worth after the soon-to-be-dishonorably-discharged soldier illegally entered the kingdom in July.
  • Kelli María Korducki worries that "in the age of AI, computer science is no longer the safe major," not realizing, perhaps, that the most effective programmers are and have always been liberal arts majors.

Finally, yet another fact that will make everyone I know feel old: today is Google's 25th birthday. And yes, the Daily Parker has been around longer trillion-dollar search company. We just haven't had our IPO yet.

Everything I love about movement conservatism in one story

The religious right's endless struggle to steal billions of dollars from American taxpayers to fund their own religious schools dovetails nicely with the penchant for right-wingers to steal millions of dollars from their own kind:

In recent years, [conservative Christianist lawyer Michael Farris] has reached the pinnacle of the conservative legal establishment. From 2017 to 2022, he was the president and chief executive of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a powerhouse Christian legal group that helped draft and defend the restrictive Mississippi abortion law that led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. ADF and its allies have filed a flurry of state and federal lawsuits over the past two years alleging that public schools are violating parental and religious rights.

Yet it is outside the courtroom that Farris’s influence has arguably been most profound. No single figure has been more instrumental in transforming the parental rights cause from an obscure concern of Christian home-schoolers into a GOP rallying cry.

When former president Donald Trump called for a federal parental bill of rights in a 2023 campaign video, saying secular public school instruction had become a “new religion,” he was invoking arguments Farris first made 40 years ago. The executive order targeting school mask mandates that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) signed on his first day in office cited a 2013 state law guaranteeing “fundamental” parental rights that Farris helped write.

his most famous confrontation with public school officials came during a 1986 trial in Tennessee. His clients were born-again Christians who argued their children should not be required to read “Rumpelstiltskin,” “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and other material that they said undermined their religious beliefs.

A federal judge agreed, ordering that the children could opt out of the school’s reading lessons. But the decision in the case, Mozert v. Hawkins, was reversed by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that merely exposing children to ideas did not violate their rights.

“We are simply clarifying a right that exists — a right which comes from God,” Farris said.

Make no mistake: Farris wants you to pay for Christian education. The whole "parents rights" angle is nonsense when you think about it. As one wag on Facebook put it, "I don't want my kids playing with those kids at a public park, so you should give me my share of the park district budget to build my own." And hey, it turns out, the ones making the argument usually have a sideline in private park development.

Even without the religious aspect, when natural monopolies emerge from civil society, the only thing that privatization accomplishes is to funnel money into people's pockets without improving the overall good. Health care in the US is the best example of this, but spending public money for private education is the same basic pattern.

It's yet another example of the religious right's continuing pattern of conflating their right to opt out of consuming public goods, which they certainly have, with a belief that they're somehow owed the equivalent value of the public good as their own private property. But that's not how civil society works. And I'll bet you all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that Farris makes a great deal off the religious people he's convinced to follow him down this anti-social and destructive path.

I'm so tired of private interests taking public money for things that public organizations can do just as well, particularly if they stop having to fight for table scraps.

The dog that caught the car

Anti-abortion Republicans, having discovered by getting their asses handed to them in multiple referenda, that the majority of Americans don't want to ban the medical procedure, tried a new tactic in Ohio yesterday: make referenda impossible. They failed by a large margin:

Ohio voters rejected a bid on Tuesday to make it harder to amend the State Constitution, according to The Associated Press, a significant victory for abortion-rights supporters trying to stop the Republican-controlled State Legislature from severely restricting the procedure.

Late results showed the measure losing by 13 percentage points, 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent. The roughly 2.8 million votes cast dwarfed the 1.66 million ballots counted in the state’s 2022 primary elections, in which races for governor, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House were up for grabs.

The ballot measure would have required that amendments to the State Constitution gain approval by 60 percent of voters, up substantially from the current requirement of a simple majority. Republicans initially pitched that as an attempt to keep wealthy special interests from hijacking the amendment process for their own gain. The lawmakers voted largely along party lines in May to put the proposal on the ballot.

Ohio resident and author John Scalzi buries Amendment 1 deep:

That Issue 1 is mostly about abortion rights isn’t just speculation; Frank LaRose, Ohio’s current Secretary of State, said the quiet part out loud, saying it’s “100%” about that, because the GOP these days can’t actually stop monologuing about their evil plans. That it would also toss out the possible marijuana legalization initiative for November, and possible future initiatives on things like raising the minimum wage or redoing the frankly ridiculous gerrymandering in the state, or anything else, was just the cherry on top. At the end of the day, the Ohio GOP wanted to make sure their broadly unpopular laws telling people with uteruses they had no control over their own bodies were never challenged.

And it might have worked, too, if the Ohio GOP hadn’t done what shitty people who want to take away rights always do, which was to almost comically overreach.

Basically, the Ohio GOP had to go out of their way to lose some traditionally GOP voters, and managed to do just that.

The blatant dishonesty of the GOP and conservative messaging on Issue 1 is par for the course with their political messaging elsewhere, and it reminds me of two things: The absolute contempt the GOP has for their voters, in that they don’t feel like their voters need or deserve anything close to the truth; and how extremely well-trained GOP voters have become to reject the truth when it is inconvenient for their personal political preferences. As noted before, this particular time, the GOP disinformation regime didn’t work as well as it usually does, and some portion of the usual GOP voters didn’t swallow the bullshit. This will not teach the GOP to back off on the bullshit. It will teach them to shove the bullshit even harder the next time.

Josh Marshall fills in the larger pattern:

The broader electoral question is whether the overwhelming backlash against Dobbs will extend to elections beyond ballot initiatives where abortion is literally on the ballot. There is lots of evidence that abortion rights were a key driver of Democrats’ unexpectedly strong showing in the 2022 midterm, though in the nature of things it’s hard to isolate just what role it played in any particular race.

The challenge for Democrats is simply to align as many elections as possible with the abortion issue and the backlash against Dobbs, especially in governorships and election to Congress. There’s little sign the full electoral potential of the issue has even come close to having been harnessed.

I can't remember who said, "your religion doesn't prohibit me from doing anything; it only prohibits you." It seems like an increasingly pissed-off majority of Americans are gearing up to remind the religious right of this simple truth in the next election.

Wait, it's August?

While I fight a slow laptop and its long build cycle (and how every UI change seems to require re-compiling), the first day of the last month of summer brought this to my inbox:

  • Who better to prosecute the XPOTUS than a guy who prosecuted other dictators and unsavory characters for the International Criminal Court? (In America, we don't go to The Hague; here, The Hague comes to you!)
  • After the evidence mounted that Hungary has issued hundreds of thousands of passports without adequate identity checks, the US has restricted Hungarian passport holders from the full benefits of ESTA that other Schengen-area citizens enjoy.
  • The US economy continues to exceed the expectations of people who have predicted a recession any day now. (Of course, every dead pool has a guaranteed winner eventually...)
  • After an unprecedented 31 consecutive days enduring temperatures over 43°C, Phoenix finally caught a break yesterday—when the temperature only hit 42°C.
  • Jake Meador explores why about 40 million fewer Americans go to church these days than in 1995.
  • Remember how we all thought Tesla made cars with amazing battery ranges? Turns out, Elon Musk can't do that right, either.
  • American car culture not only gives us unlivable environments, but also discourages the exploration that people in other countries (and I when I go there) do all the time.
  • We should all remember (and thank) USSR naval Captain Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, who vetoed firing a nuclear-tipped torpedo at an American destroyer during the Cuban Missile Crisis 71 years ago.

Finally, Chicago historian John Schmidt tells the story of criminal mastermind Adam Worth, who may have been Arthur Conan Doyle's inspiration for Professor Moriarty.