The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Other things I'm reading

If the Kanye West–Donald Trump crazyfest didn't do it for you, there are plenty of other things to take a look at this lunchtime:

That's all for now. Enough crazy for one Friday.

Warming up to climate change

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming new report this weekend:

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.

With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found.

Most strikingly, the document says the world’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, which amount to more than 40 billion tons per year, would have to be on an extremely steep downward path by 2030 to either hold the world entirely below 1.5 degrees Celsius, or allow only a brief “overshoot” in temperatures. As of 2018, emissions appeared to be still rising, not yet showing the clear peak that would need to occur before any decline.

Overall reductions in emissions in the next decade would probably need to be more than 1 billion tons per year, larger than the current emissions of all but a few of the very largest emitting countries. By 2050, the report calls for a total or near-total phaseout of the burning of coal.

Meanwhile, the next person to regulate the coal industry in the U.S. will likely come from the coal industry.

The New Jersey Plan on full display

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, it will be only the second time in U.S. history that an Associate Justice nominated by a president who lost the popular vote will be confirmed by senators representing less than a majority of the country's population:

Let’s walk through it.

Obviously, Trump got almost 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Clinton got about 48 percent of the votes cast for president. Trump got about 46 percent.

Kavanaugh will join the Supreme Court despite opposition from senators representing more than half the country, despite more than half the country opposing his nomination, despite being viewed unfavorably by nearly half the country and thanks to a president who is viewed with disapproval by more than half the country and who lost the popular vote.

Kavanaugh is the second nominated and confirmed by a minority, opposed by the majority. Who was the other? Neil Gorsuch:

And consider this further point. Two more current members of the dominant conservative bloc, while nominated by presidents who did win the popular vote, were confirmed by senators who collectively won fewer popular votes than the senators who voted against them.

They are Clarence Thomas, who was confirmed in 1991 by 52 senators who won just 48 percent of the popular vote, and Samuel Alito, confirmed in 2006 by 58 senators who garnered, again, 48 percent of the vote.

But I implore you to take a moment to be angry about all this, too. This is a severe legitimacy crisis for the Supreme Court.

The court, as Professor McMahon notes, was intended never to stray far from the mainstream of American political life. The fact that justices represented that mainstream and were normally confirmed by lopsided votes gave the court’s decisions their legitimacy. It’s also why past chief justices worked to avoid 5-4 decisions on controversial matters: They wanted Americans to see that the court was unified when it laid down a major new precedent.

But now, in an age of 5-4 partisan decisions, we’re on the verge of having a five-member majority who figure to radically rewrite our nation’s laws. And four of them will have been narrowly approved by senators representing minority will.

Remember, the Republican Party doesn't care about institutions, or what's good for the country as a whole. They care about power. And they are not giving it up without a fight.

Fear of loss

Paul Krugman highlights how the politics of the Republican party are mainly about privileged white men feeling like they're losing their privilege:

There have been many studies of the forces driving Trump support, and in particular the rage that is so pervasive a feature of the MAGA movement. What Thursday’s hearing drove home, however, was that white male rage isn’t restricted to blue-collar guys in diners. It’s also present among people who’ve done very well in life’s lottery, whom you would normally consider very much part of the elite.

In other words, hatred can go along with high income, and all too often does.

At this point there’s overwhelming evidence against the “economic anxiety” hypothesis — the notion that people voted for Donald Trump because they had been hurt by globalization. In fact, people who were doing well financially were just as likely to support Trump as people who were doing badly.

I very much ran with the nerds during my own time at Yale, but I did encounter people like Kavanaugh — hard-partying sons of privilege who counted on their connections to insulate them from any consequences from their actions, up to and including abusive behavior toward women. And that kind of elite privilege still exists.

But it’s privilege under siege. An increasingly diverse society no longer accepts the God-given right of white males from the right families to run things, and a society with many empowered, educated women is finally rejecting the droit de seigneur once granted to powerful men.

And nothing makes a man accustomed to privilege angrier than the prospect of losing some of that privilege, especially if it comes with the suggestion that people like him are subject to the same rules as the rest of us.

This basic dynamic explains almost every revolution in history, including the American one in the 1770s. This time it's white men, but it could be any elite group who start losing power. The Post makes a similar point:

Jennifer Palmieri, a Democratic strategist and author of “Dear Madam President,” a book about reimagining women in leadership roles, said the nation’s fast-changing culture can be unsettling and indeed frightening to men in power.

“A lot of white men don’t know what it’s like to feel threatened, powerless and frustrated,” said Palmieri, former communications director for Clinton’s campaign. “As we go through the reckoning of this lopsided power balance, there’s going to be a lot more of this.”

The Republican Party has long identified with more traditional white males, such as former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But strategists say it is now turning more toward combative male candidates in the mold of Trump, with allegations of misconduct interpreted by many within the party not as liabilities but as unfair political attacks.

“We’re a party of angry, older white men at a time when our country is going through tremendous demographic change,” Republican strategist John Weaver said, predicting that the GOP would suffer the consequences in future elections.

So when white voters tell pollsters and reporters that they fear a tide of "those people" coming over the border, they feel afraid of losing their birthright. Not the traditions and culture, necessarily, but the parts of those things that put them on top because of the accident of birth.

Lots of reactions to yesterday's confirmation hearing

Brett Kavanaugh's hearing yesterday dominated the news. Here are some reactions:

Then, today, the committee voted along party lines to advance Kavanaugh to the whole Senate; Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) demanded the FBI investigate the allegations; and protesters confronted Flake in the Capitol.

Chicago's race for Mayor is unprecedented in modern times

We have not had a mayoral race like this in a century or more:

The contest is as crowded as could be and for a reason: All of the old rules and factions have been weakened. Patronage is a shell of its former self. Departing Mayor Rahm Emanuel depended on money and not bodies to win office. Whites no longer are a majority, but neither are African-Americans; the city is split pretty much in thirds among those two groups and Latinos. Add in the fact that Emanuel groomed absolutely no one as a successor, and you have what on balance is the most wide-open, no-real-favorite contest for mayor since at least the day when Richard J. Daley was Cook County Clerk.

Of all the people [running], only two can make the April runoff election—assuming no one gets 50 percent in February—and in this big of a field, 20 percent or so of the vote could be enough to make it. With that kind of fractionalized electorate, almost anything is possible. It still could change, but this looks like a mayoral election unlike any in memory.

I don't remember a race with more than 3 major candidates...ever. Even when a Daley wasn't running, the choices were binary: Bilandic/Byrne; Washington/Byrne; Emanuel/Chico. This is going to be interesting.

The primary election will be February 26th.

The scariest book I've read in years

Yesterday I finished Dr. Jeffrey Lewis's speculative novel, The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States. Why scary? Because Lewis lays out, clearly and without hyperbole, a plausible scenario for what could be the most destructive conflict in human history.

In conjunction with Bob Woodward's Fear and the soon-to-be released The Apprentice, it's even scarier—and no less plausible.

Spend $15 and read this book.

Failing Amber Wyatt

The Washington Post has a must-read feature today about the sexual assault of 16-year-old Amber Wyatt in 2006—and how her Texas high school turned against her:

The rumor — at least initially, and certainly in the soccer player’s initial account to Aven — wasn’t that Wyatt consented to sex with the two boys, but that they never had sex at all. Yet the tone of murmurs around the school indicated that students believed the exact opposite: that Wyatt, perhaps intoxicated, had agreed to sex and then regretted it, and that, in accusing the boys of rape, caused trouble not only for herself but also for her classmates at Martin. Aven, in his statement to police, said he thought, despite the soccer player’s denials, that some consensual sexual encounter took place in the shed that night. Meanwhile, at the school, an internal investigation quickly began into students’ alcohol use, which resulted in athletes from four different sports being removed from their extracurricular activities for six weeks.

Wyatt became the bull’s eye of an angry backlash. As Liz Gebhardt, a close friend of Wyatt’s who remained by her side throughout the tumultuous period that followed, recalled: “Everyone started blaming [Wyatt] because she said something, and if she would have kept her mouth shut then nothing would have ever happened.” With 3,350 students, it was hard to contain the spread of malicious recrimination and even harder to maintain a sense of proportion.

Kids hurled insults at Wyatt in the halls and casually chatted about the news in class. Many of her former friends would no longer associate with her. Wyatt says she received threats and slurs by text messages, people telling her to kill herself, saying she got what was coming to her. Wyatt’s friendships with her former cheerleading pals grew brittle and strained. “Maybe it was me,” she speculated in 2015. “I mean, I totally changed.”

One night in September, text and MySpace messages began circulating among Martin teens who wanted to show support for the accused by writing “FAITH” on their cars. The lurid acronym — “f--- Amber in the head” — began appearing on rear windows the following morning, metastasizing as quickly as the rumors had. Even Arthur Aven wrote “FAITH” on his car.

It's as much an indictment of her town's justice system as much as her classmates. Wyatt has recovered, but it took a decade to get her life on track. The people she alleged had raped her had no consequences.

51 people

James Fallows will spend the next 54 days (until the next Congressional election in the US) talking about the 51 people who each have the power to stop President Trump:

The 51 senators who now make up the GOP’s governing majority represent about 30 million fewer constituents than do the 49 Democrats and independents. And thanks to gerrymandering and similar factors, a 1-percent GOP edge in House of Representatives voting in 2016—just over 63 million total votes for Republican candidates, versus just under 62 million for Democrats—translated into a 47-seat majority in the House.

I mention these disproportions to introduce a Time Capsule series for the 55 days between now and the 2018 mid-term elections. It will focus on the 51 people who have disproportionate power. Unlike the other 330+ million Americans, could do something directly to hold Donald Trump accountable for what nearly all of them know is his reckless unfitness for office—but who every day choose not to act.

Those 51 are, of course, the Republicans who make up Mitch McConnell’s current Senate majority.

But 55 days before the election, not a one of these 51 people has dared act. Not after the “anonymous” op-ed in The New York Times; not after Bob Woodward’s Fear (and the dozen previous books to similar effect); not after … anything.

Encouraging to me is that polling now suggests at least two of those 51 could lose their seats in November.

Party like it's 1879

Atlantic editor Adam Serwer draws a straight line between the ways the Redemption court of the 1870s paved the way for the Gilded Age and Jim Crow, and how the Roberts court now (and especially with Brett Kavanaugh on it) is returning to those halcyon days:

The decision in Cruikshank set a pattern that would hold for decades. Despite being dominated by appointees from the party of abolition, the Court gave its constitutional blessing to the destruction of America’s short-lived attempt at racial equality piece by piece. By the end, racial segregation would be the law of the land, black Americans would be almost entirely disenfranchised, and black workers would be relegated to a twisted simulacrum of the slave system that existed before the Civil War.

The justices did not resurrect Dred Scott v. Sandford’s antebellum declaration that a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. Rather, they carefully framed their arguments in terms of limited government and individual liberty, writing opinion after opinion that allowed the white South to create an oppressive society in which black Americans had almost no rights at all. Their commitment to freedom in the abstract, and only in the abstract, allowed a brutal despotism to take root in Southern soil.

The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today is similarly blinded by a commitment to liberty in theory that ignores the reality of how Americans’ lives are actually lived. Like the Supreme Court of that era, the conservatives on the Court today are opposed to discrimination in principle, and indifferent to it in practice. Chief Justice John Roberts’s June 2018 ruling to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting a list of majority-Muslim countries, despite the voluminous evidence that it had been conceived in animus, showed that the muddled doctrines of the post-Reconstruction period retain a stubborn appeal.

Roberts wrote that since the declaration itself was “facially neutral toward religion” and did not discriminate against all Muslims, it did not run afoul of the Constitution. In doing so, he embraced the logic of decades of jurisprudence from his predecessors on the high court, whose rulings ensured that the Constitution would not interfere with the emergence of Jim Crow in the American South. The nation’s founding document is no match for a dedicated majority of justices committed to circumventing its guarantees.

He lays out that in the Roberts court at least they're not vociferously white supremacist. But the deference to corporate rights, he points out, almost guarantee another generation of increasing wealth disparities in America.

Unless we win all three branches of government and pass an amendment or two. But it'll have to get a lot worse before we do that, if history is any guide.

Update: Longtime reader MB sent this: "At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past."—Maurice Maeterlinck