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.

Quick links

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters bottomed out at -16.5°C around 8am today, colder than any time since February 15th. It's up to -8.6°C now, with a forecast for continued wild gyrations over the next week (2°C tomorrow, -17°C on Monday, 3°C on Wednesday). Pity Cassie, who hasn't gotten nearly enough walks because of the cold, and won't next week as her day care shut down for the weekend due to sick staff.

Speaking of sick staff, New Republic asks a pointed question about the Chicago Public Schools: why should their teachers be responsible for making life normal again?

The Washinigton Post asks, what will people do with the millions of dogs they adopted when they (the people, not the dogs) go back to work?

The lawyers for Cyber Ninjas ask, who's going to pay their fees after the grift-based organization shut down abruptly?

And North Michigan Avenue asks, will any more pieces of the Hancock Center fall off the building?

And I ask, will Cassie ever let me sleep past 7am?

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!

Cassie is bored

The temperature bottomed out last night just under -10°C, colder than any night since I adopted Cassie. (We last got that cold on February 20th.) Even now the temperature has just gone above -6°C. Though she has two fur coats on all the time, I still think keeping her outside longer than about 20 minutes would cause her some discomfort.

Add that it's Messiah week and I barely have enough free time to give her a full hour of walks today.

Meanwhile, life goes on, even if I can only get the gist of it:

Finally, journalist Allison Robicelli missed a connection at O'Hare this past weekend, and spent the wee hours exploring the empty terminals. The last time I stared down a 12-hour stay at an airport, I hopped into the Tube and spent 8 of those hours exploring the city instead, but I'm not a professional journalist.

"Ghost guns" aren't the problem—guns are

LTU history professor Andrew C McKevitt explains how gun capitalism fuels our gun crisis, not "ghost guns" (or "Saturday Night Specials" or mail-order guns or...):

Ghost guns are the latest iteration of this variety of moral panic, which distracts from and obscures the most direct source of the gun violence that plagues us: American gun capitalism, with its largely unrestricted production, distribution, marketing and sale of civilian firearms unequaled anywhere in the world. That system has placed a staggering 400 million guns in private hands in the United States, virtually all of them acquired through legal commerce — including the common firearm used in the Oxford High School shooting, which was purchased on Black Friday by the suspect’s father.

Moral panics over niche firearms like ghost guns enable Americans to imagine we are addressing an intractable problem. But by portraying the gun issue as an ethical one — delineating virtuous and unvirtuous uses and users of guns — gun panics ignore the economics at the heart of the problem and contribute to worse social outcomes, like greater criminalization, while failing to stem gun violence.

For seven decades, gun panics have shaped gun control politics and policy, resulting in a discussion driven by distinctions between virtuous and unvirtuous gun use. Such a dichotomy obscures the fundamental reality of gun life in America: Gun capitalism has put more than 400 million guns in Americans’ hands.

Gun panics operate on the specter of random violent crime, which has never represented the majority of gun deaths; Americans were and are much more likely to suffer gun violence at their own hands or those of people they know.

Along the same lines, journalist and retired politician David Pepper calls out broken state legislatures, such as Michigan's, that thwart the will of clear majorities of voters who favor stronger firearms regulation.

Egregiously bad parenting

Police arrested Jennifer and James Crumbley at a commercial building in Detroit today after a day-long manhunt. They're the parents of the kid who killed four of his high school classmates last week, and wow, are they in trouble:

Prosecutors allege that the parents bought the gun for their son, and that Jennifer Crumbley boasted on social media about taking her son to a shooting range to try it out. Authorities also say 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley’s parents left the gun unlocked and neglected to act on concerns expressed by school officials that he might act violently.

Hours after announcing that the pair was being charged — an extraordinarily rare move to hold parents accountable when a minor uses a weapon in a school shooting — police officials said that the couple had gone missing. They were located overnight in a commercial building after an extensive search involving police dogs, local law enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service, authorities said.

The details of how these idiots enabled their kid to shoot a dozen people boggle the mind:

According to the criminal complaint described by McDonald at a press conference, the Sig Sauer 9mm pistol that Ethan used to kill fellow students was purchased by James Crumbley at a local gun store with his son present on November 26, four days before the rampage.  

“Just got my new beauty today,” Ethan posted on social media that same day, according to the complaint, along with photos of the Sig Sauer weapon.

“Mom and son day, testing out his new Christmas present,” Jennifer allegedly posted on social media the following day.

In the days leading up to the attack, an Oxford High teacher had “observed Ethan searching ammunition on his cellphone during class,” according to McDonald—a common warning behavior in school shooting cases. That prompted attempts by worried school officials to contact his parents via phone and email; the school got no response from the Crumbleys, said McDonald. Shortly after that outreach, Jennifer exchanged text messages with her son, according to McDonald.

“LOL, I’m not mad at you,” she allegedly texted to Ethan. “You have to learn not to get caught.”

By the morning of the shooting, graphically violent images Ethan had drawn in class prompted school officials to convene an urgent meeting with the Crumbleys and their son at the school. In his backpack, Ethan had the Sig Sauer and dozens of rounds of ammunition, according to prosecutors. Whether the parents may have suspected or been aware of that is unknown, but according to McDonald they did not ask about the whereabouts of the newly purchased weapon or inspect Ethan’s backpack. They left the high school, refusing a recommendation to take Ethan with them, according to McDonald. “He was returned to the classroom,” she said. Investigators further determined that the gun had been stored in an unlocked drawer in the Crumbley’s home.

The utter depravity.

The couple have pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison. I hope they do.

Thursday afternoon miscellany

First, continuing the thread from this morning, (Republican) columnist Jennifer Rubin neatly sums up how the Republican justices on the Supreme Court seem poised to undo Republican Party gains by over-reaching:

We are, in short, on the verge of a constitutional and political tsunami. What was settled, predictable law on which millions of people relied will likely be tossed aside. The blowback likely will be ferocious. It may not be what Republicans intended. But it is coming.

Next up, Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga argues that the Major League Baseball labor dispute and the lockout announced this morning will do nothing to prevent baseball from continuing its fade into irrelevance:

What can’t happen as MLB and the players’ union negotiate, though, is the actual game they stage being forgotten. Whatever the flaws in its salary structure and the dispersal of revenue, there’s money to go around. ... What should matter more than the money, then, has to be the game itself. The game itself is wounded.

Finally, today is the 20th anniversary of Enron filing for bankruptcy. In honor of that history, I give you the Deodorant Building Enron Headquarters in downtown Houston as it appeared in June 2001:

Sure Happy It's Thursday!

Thoughts about Jackson Women's Health

Even though the Court probably won't release its ruling in the Mississippi anti-abortion bill until June, just about everyone has the same understanding about how it will turn out. No one seems to believe abortion will remain legal in much of the US beyond the end of this term. My guess: Justice Amy Coney Barrett (R) writing the opinion for a 5-4 Court with an unusual number of concurrences and dissents.

If the Court overturns or significantly curtails Roe v Wade, it will be one of the rare times that the Court has taken away a right. For all of the Republican Justices' and Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart's positioning that Roe was wrongly decided just like Plessy or Dred Scott, their analogy breaks down when you observe that in those two other cases, the Court also removed the existing rights of a living human being under state sanction.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh (R) got halfway to the fundamental problem with abortion law when he observed (at 106):

[T]he problem, I think ... and the reason this issue is hard, is that you can't accommodate both interests. You have to pick. That's the fundamental problem. And one interest has to prevail over the other at any given point in time, and that's why this is so challenging, I think.

Except he's full or shit. Courts decide where to draw the line between competing interests all the time. That's the point of courts, and the point of Roe v Wade. Justice Kavanaugh means rather that the court can't resolve absolute interests. If you believe, as the Catholics on the Court believe, that life begins at conception—that is, it's an article of religious faith for you—then abortion is anathema.

But if you believe, as the vast majority of the American people believe, that life begins at some point after conception but before birth, then you have to weigh the mother's life and liberty against the potential life of the lump of cells in her uterus.

If the Court overturns Roe, abortion will become immediately illegal or heavily restricted in 26 states, and may soon be curtailed in several others. Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan all have existing anti-abortion statutes that would return to full effect were Roe overturned.

The silver lining to the dark cloud of thousands of women being condemned to poverty, injury, or death because the state forces them to carry unwanted pregnancies to term? The Court will have to decide this case before the end of June, four months before the 2022 Congressional elections, as well as gubernatorial elections in the aforementioned Wisconsin and Michigan.

Finally, keep in mind that the Right has clear goals in the US and in every other democracy they're attacking: authoritarian rule that allows the rulers to pillage the ruled. Undermining trust in institutions is part of their strategy. And as Justice Sonia Sotomayor (I) asked rhetorically yesterday (at 15), "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?" Well, no, as anyone who has studied history can tell you.

And America takes one more step toward the Rubicon.

More reactions from NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Guardian UK, SCOTUSblogDana Milibank, author Mary Ziegler, Billie Jean King, and to see where the Right gets their talking points, the Heritage Foundation.

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.

How is it 9pm already?

Quick hit list of stuff I didn't find time to read:

Finally, Alexandra Petri guesses about the books that Republican candidate for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin might put on your kid's AP curriculum.