The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Thanks again, Bruce!

Former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner (R, of course) famously stopped almost all discretionary spending in the state during his term in office by continually vetoing state budgets passed by the Democratically-controlled legislature. His term overlapped with a project to rebuild 11 railroad bridges on the North Side of Chicago, and which included a companion project, partially necessitated by the track reconfigurations required to replace the bridges, to rebuild the Ravenswood Metra station serving Uptown and Lincoln Square.

That's my Metra station.

The project started in 2013 when the railroad opened two temporary platforms north of Lawrence Ave. and removed the inadequate but semi-permanent platforms south of the street. The old platforms had a couple of small shelters; the "temporary" platforms did not.

Nevertheless, the outbound (West-side) platform opened in late 2016, more or less on time. They couldn't open it until the west-side bridges were up, and the outbound track rebuilt, so we all completely understood the delay. The inbound (east-side) platform had the same issue, so when the bridge project finished in 2017, we could all imagine a day just a few months later when we'd have a shiny new platform with end-to-end shelters, a heated waiting area, and other amenities that most other Metra riders get for free.

But because Rauner stopped paying Illinois' portion of the station rebuild, work stopped on the inbound platform until 2020, and when it resumed, it didn't exactly go at full speed. We are now nine years into the project. This morning, I had to wait for fifteen minutes in blowing snow, all because Bruce Rauner (a billionaire) didn't want to release state funds for a project to which the Federal government contributed 75% of its costs:

Rauner now lives in Florida. I guess he got tired of his neighbors—yes, even his rich Winnetka neighbors—telling him to do his fucking job.

If I ever encounter a Djinn, I might wish for all the anti-tax billionaire politicians to spend a year with the consequences of their decisions. In Rauner's case, that would look like having to take underfunded public transit everywhere, with occasional videos of European transit systems to see what it could be.

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.

Fed up with all that

Three items:

  1. James Fallows reminds us that the US Senate filibuster "is a perversion of the Constitution," that "enables the very paralysis the founders were desperate to avoid," among other things. (He also links to an essay by former US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) about how cynical the filibuster has become.)
  2. Jacob Rosenberg brings together workers' own stories about how they got fed up, illustrating how "the big quit" happened.
  3. Canadian political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon has had enough of the political disunion in the failing democracy to his south, and worries what that will mean to Canada.

On the hopeful side, though, we have the Webb Space Telescope gently nudging its mirrors into place at a rate of about 1 millimeter per day.

Cold again

Today's temperatures have hovered around -9°C, with a forecast of bottoming out around -18°C tomorrow morning. But hey, at least the sun is out, right?

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, if you're looking to get away from it all, you might have to pass on the Isle of Rum off the coast of Scotland. Its population has almost doubled in the past couple of years, to 40.

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?

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?

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.

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.

Tragedy and farce

We're all set to perform Handel's Messiah tomorrow and Sunday, which got noticed by both the local news service and local TV station. Otherwise, the week just keeps getting odder:

And to cap all that off, the National Weather Service has announced a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tonight that includes...tornados? I hope the weather gets better before our performance.