The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What to teach law students

UC Berkeley Law School dean Erwin Cemerinsky and UTA Law & Government professor Jeffrey Abramson try to keep a stiff upper lip when teaching in the shadow of the most partisan Supreme Court in a century:

For the first time in American history, the ideology of the justices precisely corresponds to the political party of the president who appointed them. All six conservatives were appointed by Republican presidents and all three liberals were appointed by Democratic presidents.

If students are to one day become effective litigators on constitutional rights, they will need to understand the ideologies of the justices interpreting the law. In the past, we certainly discussed the ideology of the justices with our students, but we must focus on it far more now as the ideological differences between the Republican-appointed justices and judges and those appointed by Democratic presidents are greater than they have ever been.

Second, we must remind students that there have been other bleak times in constitutional law when rights were contracted. From the 1890s until 1936, a conservative Supreme Court struck down over 200 progressive federal, state and local laws protecting workers and consumers. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the court refused to stand up to the hysteria of McCarthyism. The current court will not last forever, though it may feel like that to them.

Third, we should direct focus on other avenues for change. Students need to look more to state courts and legislatures, at least in some parts of the country, as a way to advance liberty and equality. For instance, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law known as the “Roe Act,” protecting a woman’s right to abortion under state law, no matter what the Supreme Court decides.

In case you didn't already notice it's 1890 all over again, I suppose. I also quibble with "For the first time in American history, the ideology of the justices precisely corresponds to the political party of the president who appointed them." I believe that was also the same situation in 1790, with the first Court appointed by Washington.

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?

Pandemic + guns = mayhem

Chicago had almost 800 murders last year, the first time since 1996 that we've seen so many:

But that total count does not include people shot and killed in shootings on Chicago expressways, as they are the jurisdiction of the Illinois State Police. When that number is included the city reached at least 800 homicides, according to Tribune reporting in 2021.

The CPD figure also does not include self-defense shootings or fatal shootings by police officers.

All told, there were at least 4,300 gunshot victims, including those who suffered both fatal and nonfatal injuries, according to CPD data. The number is a significant increase from 2018, when 2,800 people were shot.

The increase in gun violence, mirrored in other major cities, has coincided with the two years of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, it did coincide with the pandemic, but the conservative Chicago Tribune muddies the waters a bit. In the last two years, Americans bought more guns than in any other two-year period. According to The Guardian, 5.4 million Americans bought guns for the first time in from January 2020 to April 2021, compared with 2.4 million in 2019.

The US Supreme Court's Republican majority seems poised to invalidate the last remaining restrictions on who can carry a firearm in public. What will it take to restore meaningful gun regulations in the US? Or at least in places like Chicago that need them?

The most important stories of the day

Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle read through a week of newspapers to understand the hot topics of 100 years ago:

First, there is news of the great Washington Naval Conference, which has commanded half of the front page since opening in mid-November. The idea of the conference is for the great powers to jointly reduce their armaments, so everyone can spend the money on better things.

Inside the paper, we may spend some time browsing the ads, perhaps pausing over the homage to the REO Speed Wagon — still a modern commercial vehicle in 1921, rather than an elderly rock band. We find predictions that Russia will soon be forced to abandon communism and embrace capitalism to feed its people.

Once you imagine your descendants peering back in surprise across the centuries, chuckling at the sight of you passionately arguing some historical irrelevancy, it gets easier to relax and stop shouting at each other. Or heck, maybe even put down our phones and attend to the biggest story most of us will ever live through — not what’s happening in the news but in the homes where we read it.

Somehow, though, I think the storming of the US Capitol a year ago, and the likelihood of more political violence this year, might be remembered.

Statistics: 2021

After the whipsaw between 2019 and 2020, I'm happy 2021 came out within a standard deviation of the mean on most measures:

  • In 2020, I flew the fewest air miles ever. In 2021, my 11,868 miles and five segments came in 3rd lowest, ahead of only 2020 and 1999.
  • I only visited one other country (the UK) and two other states (Wisconsin and California) during 2021. What a change from 2014.
  • In 2020, I posted a record 609 times on The Daily Parker; 2021's 537 posts came in about average for the modern era.
  • Cassie got almost 422 hours of walks in 2021, a number I don't think I ever achieved with Parker. And given I only had her for 291 days of 2021, that's an average of 1:27 of walks per day. According to my Garmin, she and I covered over 684 km just on walks that I recorded with my watch. A young, high-energy dog plus working from home most of the time will do that, I suppose.
  • Speaking of walks, in 2021 I got 4,926,000 steps and walked 3,900 km—about the straight-line distance from New York to Seattle. Those numbers came within 2% of 2020 and 4% of 2019. I also hit new personal records for distance and steps when I walked over 51 km on September 3rd. And I hit my step goal 355 times (cf. 359 times in 2020), though not all in a row.
  • I drove 4,242 km in 2021, almost exactly the same amount as in 2020 (4,265 km), but I used a bit more fuel (116 L to 79 L).
  • I spent 1365 hours working from home and 521 in the office in 2021, about the same (1327 and 560) as in 2020. I expect about the same in 2022.
  • Personal software development took up another 184 hours, almost all on the really cool thing I'm going to soft-launch tomorrow.
  • The Apollo Chorus took up 222 hours of my time, including 100 in rehearsals and performances and about the same amount on my duties as president. In 2020, that was 57 and 71 hours respectively, mainly because we didn't have any in-person performances.
  • Finally, I started only 28 books in 2021 and finished 23, after dropping a couple that dogged me for a while. That's more than in my worst-ever year, 2017 (18 and 13), but down a bit from the last two years. That said, my average numbers for the past 10 years are 28.2 and 23.3, making 2021...average. I also watched 51 movies and 48 TV shows, which just means I need to get out more.

So, will 2022 return to normal (-ish)? Or will some of the trends that started in March 2020 continue even after the pandemic has long become something we scare children with?

Seeing through the blur of 2020...or 2021?

Today is the second anniversary of the first reported Covid-19 case, a fact I had forgotten when I booked my booster shot two weeks ago. Since 2019, about 5.8 million people have died of it, 822,000 of them here in the US. And it has also befuddled peoples' senses of time.

NBC has a quiz to see if you remember when things happened in the last two years. I got 28, which embarrasses me. I really did forget all about Kanye West's divorce and Alex Trebek's death.

Let's hope that next year is 2,022, and not 2020 II.

There are still 9 more Greek letters

SARS-Cov-2-omicron continues its march through the world, aided in part by a lack of tests that could detect and mitigate Covid infections early on. The Times reports that a Texas man died of the omicron variant despite his fantastical belief that a previous Covid infection rendered him immune. One would hope this would cure the metastasizing delusions of "herd immunity" incubated within the thick skulls and vulcanized brains of the voluntarily unvaccinated, but no, we live in 'Murica.

Meanwhile, Omicron looks more and more like a mild but super-contagious virus that probably won't send vaccinated people to the hospital. And the Walter Reed Army Research Institute quietly announced yesterday that they have developed a vaccine that targets all SARS viruses, not just Cov-2. So for people who have either the sense or the compassion to get vaccinated (and boosted), Covid-19 looks well on its way to becoming just another coronavirus, like the common cold.

Don't celebrate victory just yet, though. In the war against Covid-19 we may have gotten to December 1944, but Germany hasn't surrendered. The UK announced 100,000 new Covid cases just yesterday, a new record, and here in the US we've passed 51 million cases and 805,000 deaths, on course to hit 2 million deaths by the lockdown's 2-year anniversary in March.

This map does not make me happy:


About that WWII analogy: By December 1944, the Allies knew they would win eventually. But people living through the war had no idea how long it would continue. Even if they had known, at that point war would continue in Europe for six more months and in the Pacific for three more after that, killing millions more people. Imagine living in eastern France that winter, with the Allies fighting Germany for every hectare of land and you between them, starving. That's where we are today.

I think next summer will feel a lot like the summer of 1945. We'll have a lot to clean up, but we won't be dying as much. Then we can get back to eroding our democracy one congressional district at a time.

Update, 14:15 CST: The Atlantic's Yascha Mounk has similar thoughts.

Backlog

I just started Sprint 52 in my day job, after working right up to the last possible minute yesterday to (unsuccessfully) finish one more story before ending Sprint 51. Then I went to a 3-hour movie that you absolutely must see.

Consequently a few things have backed up over at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters.

Before I get into that, take a look at this:

That 17.1°C reading at IDTWHQ comes in a shade lower than the official reading at O'Hare of 17.8°, which ties the record high maximum set in 1971. The forecast says it'll hang out here for a few hours before gale-force winds drive the temperature down to more seasonal levels overnight. I've even opened a few windows.

So what else is new?

So what really is new?

But Sprint 52 at my office, that's incredibly new, and I must go back to it.

Evening reading

Messages for you, sir:

I will now go hug my dog, who set a record yesterday for staying home alone (8 hours, 20 minutes) without watering my carpets.

Anniversaries

Just two of note. First, on this day 21 years ago, Al Gore conceded the 2000 election to George W Bush. Good thing that made almost no difference at all in world events.

Another anniversary is the one that happens every January 1st to works of art created a certain point in the past. A whole bunch of books, films, and musical compositions pass into the public domain as their copyrights expire, including:

  • The Sun Also Rises and Winnie-the-Pooh, both published in 1926;
  • The works of Louis Armstrong and Jim Morrison, who died in 1971 (except in the U.S.); and
  • All musical recordings made before January 1, 1923.

Have fun adapting!