The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sir Keir Starmer, KDB, KC...PM

A few hours ago, HM King Charles III invited Sir Keir Starmer (Lab) to become his Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, and form a government in his name:

Keir Starmer has said the “sunlight of hope” is now shining in Britain again as Labour won a landslide UK election victory, bringing a crushing end to 14 years of Conservative rule.

Labour had won 411 seats, while the Conservatives were on just 119, with five left to declare by 9.30am. The government’s likely majority is set to be about 170 seats. The party dominated in Scotland, with the SNP reduced to eight seats so far, while the Liberal Democrats gained at least 71 seats – their best performance ever.

There were five shock victories against Labour for pro-Palestine independent candidates, with Jonathan Ashworth, one of Labour’s election chiefs, voted out in Leicester South, and the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn winning in Islington North. Plaid Cymru was expected to win four seats.

At the last general election, in 2019, the Conservatives had a majority of 80, with 365 seats to Labour’s 203. The SNP won 48 seats and the Lib Dems had just 11.

Former PM Liz Truss lost her seat, as did former leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, incumbent leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt, and Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps. Outgoing PM Rishi Sunak has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party.

It wasn't all good news: racist demagogue Nigel Farange (Reform) won a seat in Westminster, and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, expelled from the Labour party for anti-Semitism and also leading the party to its worst loss in generations, won election as an independent in his constituency in Islington. (For US readers, Islington is the Logan Square or—and I am aware of the irony—SoHo of London. So exactly the kind of area that would elect someone like Corbyn.)

Proportionally, the Scottish National Party had the worst night, losing 38 of its 47 seats, while the Liberal Democrats jumped from 8 to 71 seats and will get to ask questions on Wednesdays again.

Right now, Labour front-benchers are meeting individually with Number 10 to find out what exciting new jobs they get in government. But as the Zen koan that the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg just posted, "none of these appointments are confirmed, until they are confirmed." Angela Rayner has become the deputy PM, and it looks like Rachel Reeves will has become the UK's first female Chancellor, an office that often leads to election as PM later on.

It took 14 years for the UK's voters to remember why right-wing governments suck. I just hope the Labour government takes at least that long to fall apart. We all need a strong center-left government somewhere in the West while Putin still breathes.

Good morning, United Kingdom!

The UK general election is going on right now. UK law prohibits editorializing or publishing poll results while polls are open. The major exit polls will come out at 22:00 BST (4pm Chicago time), at which point I will be madly refreshing The Guardian.

For now, if you live in the UK, just vote. No matter which way it goes, I'll still visit.

Holiday weekend

I'm about to leave the office for the next 4½ days. Happy Independence Day!

And who could forget that the UK will have a general election tomorrow? To celebrate, the Post has a graphical round-up of just how badly the Conservative Party has screwed things up since taking power in 2010:

There’s a widespread feeling among voters that something has gone awry under Tory government, that the country is stagnating, if not in perilous decline.

Nearly three-quarters of the public believes that the country is worse off than it was 14 years ago, the London-based pollster YouGov has found. More than 46 percent of people say it’s “much worse.” And to some extent, economic and other data back that up.

Before Brexit, a different word hung over Conservative policy: “austerity.”

Cameron pushed spending cuts intended to reduce government debt and deficit. The goal was never achieved — public debt this year hit its highest rate as a percentage of economic output since the 1960s — but austerity had many side effects, including huge cuts to local governments that hit services such as schools and swimming pools.

Britain’s beloved National Health Service was one of the few places to see funding rise in real terms during this period, but it mostly failed to match pre-2010 trends, let alone keep up with spiking inflation, immigration and the needs of an aging population. Under the Conservatives, waiting times for treatment have surged.

I'm sorry I can't be there tomorrow, but I will be there in September, eagerly questioning my friends about the election and its aftermath.

For this weekend, though, expect some Brews & Choos reviews, and probably some blather about other things as well.

You heard it here first, folks

I linked to an op-ed by Lawrence Tribe earlier today in which the constitutional scholar argues for something that first appeared right here in the Daily Parker in June 2020:

To repair the profound and growing problem of presidential unaccountability, we must dare to design a separate branch of government, outside the existing three, charged with investigating and prosecuting violations of federal criminal laws.

Yes! Just as I said, four years ago: we need an elected Attorney General, beholden only to the voters, and not to the other branches of government.

Whoo boy

Apparently everyone else got over Covid yesterday, too. Or they're just trying to make deadline before the holiday:

Finally, the Post analyzed a ton of weather forecasts and determined that forecasting Chicago weather is a lot harder than forecasting Miami's. The only glimmer of good news: today's 7-day forecasts are at least as accurate as the 3-day forecasts from the 1990s.

Right-wing power grab

Well, the Republicans sure did pack the court well, didn't they? The Supreme Court's term finally ended today with another apparent success for the convicted-felon XPOTUS. All three Justices he appointed plus Thomas (R) and Alito (R) agreed with the Chief Justice (R) that, despite the actual words of the Constitution and everything that the Federalist Papers warned us about, some actions by a president during his or her time in office cannot be prosecuted:

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision along [partisan] lines, ruled that a former president has absolute immunity for his core constitutional powers — and is entitled to a presumption of immunity for his official acts, but lacks immunity for unofficial acts. But at the same time, the court sent the case back to the trial judge to determine which, if any of Trump’s actions, were part of his official duties and thus were protected from prosecution.

That part of the court’s decision likely ensures that the case against Trump won’t be tried before the election, and then only if he is not reelected. If he is reelected, Trump could order the Justice Department to drop the charges against him, or he might try to pardon himself in the two pending federal cases.

Monday’s decision to send the case back to trial Judge Tanya Chutkan all but guarantees that there will be no Trump trial on the election interference charges for months. Even before the immunity case, Judge Chutkan indicated that trial preparations would likely take three months. Now, she will also have to decide which of the charges in the Trump indictment should remain and which involve official acts that under the Supreme Court ruling are protected from prosecution.

All of this stands in stark contrast to the way the court has handled other presidential power cases. In 1974 the justices ruled against President Nixon just 16 days after hearing oral arguments. The vote was 8-0, with Justice William Rehnquist recusing himself because of his close ties to some of the officials accused of wrongdoing in the case. And this year the court took less than a month to rule unanimously that states could not bar Trump from the ballot.

That's right, in 50 years the Republican Party has managed to crater the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, which in turn has saddled us with a seemingly never-ending stream of bad decisions that will take two generations to fix.

And they will get fixed, eventually. We fixed Dred Scott by amending the Constitution—after a bloody civil war that killed 600,000 Americans, and we remedied Plessy by passing the Civil Rights Act—80 years later.

So it's not that I have lost hope in the United States, it's just that I'm old enough that I don't believe I'm going to see the right-wing grinding down of the country reversed before I'm too old to enjoy it.

Sticky weather + cooped up with Covid = 2pm shower

Cassie and I have gone on two walks today, the first for 3.2 km and the second for 4.25 km, despite the really uncomfortable 26°C dewpoint. I mean, it's really gross out there. Fortunately because of the way dogs get rid of excess heat, it didn't bother her as much as it bothered me—the air is only 28°C, after all. But we both felt a lot better when we got back to my air-conditioned house. (Fun fact: my thermostat is set for 25°C, but the dewpoint inside is closer to 15°C which makes all the difference.)

Another person who values comfort over just about everything else is Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter, who on Thursday took a "legislative tour" of the transit system he ostensibly runs, prompting Chicago Tribune reporter Alice Yin to arch an eyebrow:

[T]he sight of many Chicago-based politicians partaking in the tour with Carter — who himself has drawn heat for not using CTA buses and trains more — raised the question why do they need a guide to familiarize them with their own city’s public transit agency?

[Chicago mayor Brandon] Johnson’s office did push the effort via a flyer from his intergovernmental affairs office that reads: “Legislative Tour featuring CTA, Chicago Park District, Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus and Chicago’s Urban Historian Sherman ‘Dilla’ Thomas.” His IGA head, Sydney Holman, also gave remarks, the CTA statement noted.

The description says the four-hour tour began at CTA’s headquarters in the West Loop before stopping at three locations “while experiencing transit as everyday Chicagoans on a quick Green Line ride on Chicago’s West Side.” Barreto’s post, meanwhile, said 10 state representatives, two state senators and seven aldermen joined Wednesday.

The flyer also notes: “Limited paid street parking available and one public lot at 180 N Jefferson $16.50 for 6 hours.”

I have a friend who works at Amtrak's head office because he loves trains. He and his wife took a 7-day vacation earlier this year, starting on the 46-hour Empire Builder train from Chicago to Seattle. Would it kill Patrick to maybe take the Red Line once in a while? Or maybe get a job doing something where he doesn't have to get a tour of the place where his customers spend all their time after having the job for several years?

Historical parallels, anyone?

We've had stories of people clinging to power long past their ability to wield it for as long as we've had stories. Today, though, I want to take note of three people who held on so long, they wound up undoing much of what they'd accomplished in their lifetimes: Paul von Hindenburg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and now possibly Joe Biden.

Germans largely loved and respected Hindenburg, in part because he came very close to winning the First World War as supreme commander of the Central Powers. The loss of that war, plus the humiliating terms of the November 1919 armistice, led bit by bit to Hindenburg's disastrous second term as President of Germany. After a tumultuous first term, and by this time 84 years old, he won re-election in 1932. It turned out that Hindenburg didn't have all his youthful mojo, so within a year he had handed the keys to Germany to a pathologically narcissistic convicted criminal from Austria. We all know how that went.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote some of the most progressive opinions in her time on the US Supreme Court, and fought her whole life for women's rights, abortion rights, and basically everything that progressives hold dear. She got her first diagnosis with colon cancer in 1999, with pancreatic cancer in 2009, and with heart disease severe enough to require a stent in late 2014. When John Paul Stevens retired in 2010, she became the oldest person on the Court. By this point progressives, including President Obama, really wanted her to retire to ensure that another like-minded judge took her place. She didn't; and when she died in September 2020, just two months before we finally got the not-yet-convicted felon out of the Oval Office, the Republican-controlled Senate fast-tracked the anti-Ginsburg, militant Christianist Amy Comey Barrett (R) into her seat. Since Ginsburg's death, the Republican supermajority on the Court has whittled away at everything she accomplished, up to and including reversing Roe v Wade. Fitting that the last two days have seen some of the most reactionary rulings from the Court since Plessy v Ferguson. (I expect a ruling as egregious as Dred Scott to hit next June.)

And now we come to President Biden, whose performance last night brought both Hindenburg and Ginsburg to mind immediately. Never mind that the convicted-felon XPOTUS couldn't utter three consecutive syllables without lying, it was excruciating to watch. Great time to have Covid; I really would have liked a stiff drink when it ended. (I'm especially sad that I couldn't commiserate with a dear friend who died on the 11th. He would have brought the bourbon.)

Let's review the reviews, shall we?

James Fallows: Thirty minutes in, he Tweeted: "Trump is lying nonstop but has been at the high end of his 'sounding coherent' range. Biden has too much info and has been at the low end of his 'revving up for big events' range." "So that is why his labored, halting, raspy, fact-clogged, uneasy sounding first set of answers was so startling. Without consciously realizing it, I had gotten used to the idea that in a crunch he could sound younger than he looks. This time he sounded very old. That’s what I meant by the bottom of his range."

Dana Milbank: "The first and probably last meeting between Donald Trump and President Biden wasn’t a debate. It was a 90-minute disinfomercial promoting the former president, who uttered one egregious fabrication after the other, with barely a pause for breath between his inventions. The truth never had a chance. The truth needed a standard-bearer on that stage in Atlanta on Thursday night. Biden plainly was not up to the job. If the country is 'failing,' it’s because it is experiencing a relentless, disciplined and coordinated attack on everything that is true — and because the one person the reality-based community was counting on to save us has just shown himself to be unequal to the task."

David Corn: President Biden "tumbled through 90 minutes, muffing answers, often looking uncertain, speaking in a low, gravelly voice that did not convey strength. This was not only a missed chance. It was a disaster. Bill Clinton used to say that strong-and-wrong beats weak-and-right. With his performance on Thursday night, Biden created a perfect test case for that proposition."

Alex Shephard: "Again and again, with no prompting, he made his opponent’s case for him. He was often incoherent, frequently appeared to forget the question he was responding to, and consistently failed to make the very easy and simple case for his reelection. He allowed Donald Trump—a man who was terrible in every Republican primary debate in 2016 and who decisively lost every presidential debate in 2016 and 2020—not only to appear competent in comparison, but to seem normal."

Andrew Sullivan: "For god's sake, withdraw. [L]ast night’s debate performance by Joe Biden is the end of his campaign. It’s over. Done. No sane person can possibly believe that this man is capable of being president now, let alone for another four years."

David Graham: "Watching the president at the first debate was at times almost physically uncomfortable. If the purpose of debates such as this one is to show voters something new about the candidates, then it didn’t work. And how could it? Both men are very well known, and very little liked, by the entire American public. Nor was there much to learn about policy: Trump doesn’t care about it, and Biden kept getting mixed up in details about it."

Peter Hamby: "What’s striking is the level of anger coming from normal Democrats, not professional Democrats, people who just want to vote against Trump and get this over with, even if they’re not in love with Biden, who are texting me their anger. It’s because so much feels at stake. Biden, by the way, never said, “I will be a transitional president.” He hinted at it. A lot of people took that to heart, and after the midterms he could have walked away like Michael Jordan after hitting that shot against the Jazz and been a hero forever to Democrats. After the midterms, Jill and Valerie Biden, and Ron Klain and Mike Donilon and Ted Kaufman should have been like, Hey man, you did your duty. You’re a historic figure. Time to pass the torch."

And those are the people on our side!

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.

When, years from now, historians try to make sense of how the United States collapsed in the late 21st century, they may clock last night as one of the nails in its coffin. Forget modern infrastructure and universal health care; we'll be lucky to have civil liberties in 20 years.

The XPOTUS and his Supreme Court appointees don't care about you

Yes, President Biden is old, but he doesn't want to recreate the world of Victor Hugo. The Republican Party does, and this morning, they showed how they'll do it.

The debate last night did not fill me with joy, as it showed my guy looking like the 82-year-old great-grandfather he is, and showed the convicted-felon other guy looking like the 78-year-old con artist he is. I may come back to this train wreck for democracy later today, but for now, I'd rather focus on why the President's geriatric performance matters less than what the convicted-felon XPOTUS gleefully took credit for.

And who better to demonstrate why a second convicted-felon XPOTUS term would set the country back two generations than the US Supreme Court, which just a few minutes ago handed down its third major decision this week demonstrating how the court's Republican majority does not think the government should prevent easily-preventable harm to innocent people.

In City of Grant Pass v Johnson, Justice Gorsuch (R) wrote the opinion for the usual suspects—Chief Justice Roberts (R) and Justices Alito (R), Kavanaugh (R), Thomas (R), and Barrett (R)—that allows cities to criminalize being homeless.

Yesterday, the same bunch limited the ability of the government to go after people who commit securities fraud (SEC v Jarkesky) and to keep our air clean (Ohio v EPA, also a Gorsuch opinion). Wednesday they said that you can tip public officials for good service (Snyder v US, by Kavanaugh).

And just now, it appears that the radical right has overturned its 1984 Chevron decision. In Loper Bright Enterprises v Raimondo, the Chief Justice says that Federal agencies, who are staffed by experts and people who know what they're doing, can't fill in the gaps that Congress (who generally don't know what they're doing) leaves in legislation. I will have a lot more to say about this development after I read the opinion.

These opinions are huge wins for people who want to cheat, steal, pollute, and punish others they see as inferior. The country this week lurched back into the mid-20th century, with the loony radical fringe salivating that they can bring us back to the mid-18th if the convicted-felon XPOTUS wins in November.

Because for the Justices that the convicted-felon XPOTUS appointed, plus of course the corrupt, Christianist radicals Alito and Thomas, if you lose your house and have to sleep rough after you invested in a fraudulent stock while choking on the air pollution from the unregulated chemical plant just across the state line from you, it's obviously your own fault, you dirty criminal.

So yes, I'm sorry, the President is an old man. But the convicted-felon XPOTUS and his Grand Old Party has caused an enormous amount of damage to the country, and will do so much more damage if put back into power next year.

The circus coming to town tonight

The President and the convicted-felon XPOTUS will perform for the voting public this evening in what CNN optimistically calls a "debate." One of them currently managing the Federal government competently and without drama as an impressive cap to his 50 years in public service, while the other is a convicted fraudster who has raped, stolen, and lied his way through 50 years of narcissistic fury. But sure, let's have them discuss matters of national concern.

Hillary Clinton, who has actually debated both men before, knows "it is nearly impossible to focus on substance when Mr. Trump is involved:"

It is a waste of time to try to refute Mr. Trump’s arguments like in a normal debate. It’s nearly impossible to identify what his arguments even are. He starts with nonsense and then digresses into blather. This has gotten only worse in the years since we debated.

Mr. Trump may rant and rave in part because he wants to avoid giving straight answers about his unpopular positions, like restrictions on abortion, giving tax breaks to billionaires and selling out our planet to big oil companies in return for campaign donations. He interrupts and bullies — he even stalked me around the stage at one point — because he wants to appear dominant and throw his opponent off balance.

Josh Marshall thinks "we actually know going in mostly what will happen:"

We’ve seen Joe Biden in presidential debates, even with Donald Trump. We’ve seen him in successive State of the Unions, as recently as three months ago. He doesn’t knock your socks off but he’s basically fine. And it amounts to a bit more than fine given the ridiculously low expectations Republicans have themselves largely created.

We know Donald Trump. He’ll be a freak: lying, interrupting, making up wild claims or dares he’ll mostly not get called on.

[M]uch of this debate will be a battle of Trump with himself. He’ll be a swaggering predatory freak. Most people don’t see that a lot, especially people who don’t follow politics very closely and whose votes will be the deciding factor in the election. So, do his antics remind people of what a freak he is? Or does he manage to use his disruptive powers to create some shiny object or embarrassing moment that somehow helps him or hurts Biden despite acting like a predatory freak?

Alex Shephard concurs:

Trump does whatever Trump wants to do—he doesn’t change. He doesn’t calibrate. He will be vile and extreme and racist. He is incompetent and chaotic and weird. He will remind voters, again and again, of the many qualities they dislike about him.

It’s clear that the people around Trump are more disciplined than they have been in previous campaigns. But Trump is not only still Trump, he’s arguably much worse.

Joe Biden may perform well, and he might not. He will likely be, as he has been for much of his presidency, somewhere in the middle. But Donald Trump will show up to the debate and do Donald Trump things. His performance in the debate will be many voters’ first major reminder of what his presidency was like. That may very well be enough for Biden, even if he cannot answer questions about his age.

I will watch, and only owing to me needing the coronavirus in my nose to die as quickly as possible will I not play any drinking games with my friends. (Plus, a drinking game with this match-up could kill a healthy adult.)

And I have to say, about President Biden's age, it doesn't really matter. If somehow the convicted-felon XPOTUS gets back into office and sees out the entire term, then he'll be just as old as Biden, but with a lot more dementia and a lot fewer IQ points.