The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ivanka Trump doesn't belong at the dinner, let alone the table

National security expert and Georgetown professor Carrie Cordero has about had it with the first daughter play-acting in government:

Ivanka Trump’s self-placement at the table with global heads of state is not an example of the ascension of a professional woman: She has, after all, not one merit-based qualification to be participating in the diplomatic meetings she is attending. There are professional women inside the executive branch and outside government who have spent a lifetime becoming expert in their fields, whether that’s economics, international relations, trade, international law or diplomacy. If the Trump administration’s goal is to give a woman a seat at the table, there is no shortage of women who have the requisite experience and training who have earned their seat. Indeed, there are, as Mitt Romney once quipped, binders (and, now, websites) full of them.

One interpretation of Ivanka Trump’s actions since her father took office has it that she is simply not self-aware of how these appearances come off. Don’t buy this. Videos she released purporting to be readout briefs of the president’s meetings, as well as the president’s introductions of her, appear orchestrated to present her as a credible participant in international affairs. Her participation, her photo placement, her video releases are not accidental byproducts of an inept White House adviser; they are part of her image-building. These activities should not merely be brushed off as the desires and encouragement of Donald Trump, her father and the president. She is not a child. She shoulders full responsibility for abusing her position of access.

President Trump, of course, has discarded many other norms; it’s tempting to wonder why we should spend time focusing on the activities of his daughter, which might seem benign, if embarrassing for our country. The reason is because those activities are not benign. They are part of the president and his administration’s deliberate effort to concentrate control of the executive branch within the White House and within his family, diluting important institutional mechanisms that provide accountability.

Meanwhile, the president yesterday appeared to suggest in an interview that sanctuary cities caused homelessness in the last two years. I don't even know how to comment on that.

Did they find the Ark of the Covenant?

History buffs Daniel Pogorzelski and Jacob Kaplan got permission to enter a space previously occupied by former Chicago alderman. They discovered that no one had ever cleaned the space out after the alderman died:

Longtime city clerk and former 35th Ward Ald. John Marcin, one of former Mayor Richard J. Daley’s closest political allies, had worked out of the building for years. There were rumors all of his stuff was still in there, virtually untouched since his death in 1984.

Pogorzelski and Kaplan, writers and editors for local history website Forgotten Chicago, tried for years to get ahold of the property owner, but they struck out each time.

It took awhile, but finally in 2014, with the help of Avondale Neighborhood Association President Liz Muscare, they got in.

And, much to their surprise, the rumors were true: Marcin’s office at 3534 W. Diversey Ave. had been left untouched. Old photos, campaign literature (some dating back to the 1930s when Marcin ran for congress), meticulously compiled scrapbooks, oil paintings and even neon signs were all sitting there, collecting dust.

Last week, Pogorzelski and Kaplan packed it all up in a U-Haul and delivered it to the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Richard J. Daley Library. The two donated the collection in hopes of deepening Chicago’s understanding of local politics.

“There’s all of the appointment books during his time as city clerk, the people he met with. You can kinda see how the city operated at that time,” Kaplan said.

“It’s not just ephemera. It’s stuff he used as city clerk and alderman that people will find really informative.”

For years, I thought I was going to be an historian, even going so far as to take the GRE and meet with a few East Coast history departments during my last two years in college. This kind of documentary bonanza can make someone's career. I'm glad it's going to an organization that can use it.

Just one thing, though: who paid the rent on the building for 30 years?

Park #31

This is my official post, with photos, of the penultimate park in the 30-Park Geas.

Friday I attended the Kansas City Royals–Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre in downtown Toronto. As mentioned, I arrived well into the 5th inning and didn't get my seat until the beginning of the 6th. No matter; the Jays got all 4 of their runs in the last 3 innings.

The park did not inspire me. It's a big dome, covering a meh field, with surrounding meh stands and meh food and drink concessions. It had more character than Tropicana Field, more fans than Marlins Park, more connection with the city than Kaufmann Stadium, and felt less like a prison than the Oakland Coliseum, so I can say it wasn't the worst of them. But I feel no strong urge to go back there. (And I write this on Canada Day, yet.)

And I'm glad the home team won.

 

A new taxonomy for the GOP

Michael Tomasky draws on Steven Levitsky to give us the best description yet of the modern Republican Party:

If you pay close attention to such things, you will recognize Mr. Levitsky’s name — he was a co-author, with Daniel Ziblatt, of last year’s book “How Democracies Die,” which sparked much discussion. “Competitive Authoritarianism” deserves to do the same.

What defines competitive authoritarian states? They are “civilian regimes in which formal democratic institutions exist and are widely viewed as the primary means of gaining power, but in which incumbents’ abuse of the state places them at a significant advantage vis-à-vis their opponents.” Sound like anyone you know?

Now, I should say that I don’t think we’re there yet. Neither does Mr. Levitsky. “For all of its unfairness and growing dysfunction, American democracy has not slid into competitive authoritarianism,” he told me. “The playing field between Democrats and Republicans remains reasonably level.”

So we’re not there right now. But we may well be on the way, and it’s abundantly clear who wants to take us there.

Read this back-to-back with yesterday's Op-Ed from political scientist Greg Weiner on "the Trump Fallacy" and have a great day.

New taxes in Illinois

Starting today, my state has some new laws:

  • The gasoline tax doubled to the still-too-low 10¢ per litre. Oh my stars. How could they. Ruination. (You will detect more ironic tone if you read my post from yesterday about how much gasoline I use.) For comparison with other OECD countries, the UK adds 57.95p (73.3¢) per litre, Australia gets 41.2¢ (28.6¢ US), and even Canada levies 45¢ (34¢ US). But hey, we doubled the tax, so now we can pay for our state pension deficit fixing our infrastructure.
  • Cigarette taxes went up to $2.98 a pack, and e-cigarettes now have a 15% excise. Also, we raised the legal age to buy tobacco to 21, though you can still have sex and get a drivers license at 17 and sign a contract at 18, so kids still have lots of ways to ruin their lives. (Former governor Bruce Rauner vetoed these measures last year.)
  • Schools now have to provide 5 clock-hours of instruction to count as a "school day." Having gone to Illinois schools as a kid that provided 6 to 7, it's hard for me to grasp that until today, schools only had to provide 4.
  • Finally, our $40 billion budget took effect today, the first time in 5 years that a state budget has taken effect on the first day of the fiscal year.

This is what happens when the party that wants to govern takes power from the party that wants to shower gifts on their rich friends. More on that in my next post.

Not enough time on my hands

I thought the weekend of Canada Day and the weekend before Independence Day wouldn't have much a lot of news. I was wrong:

  • Ontario Premier Doug Ford (the brother of Rob Ford) cancelled Canada Day celebrations in Toronto*. (Imagine the Governor of Virginia or the Mayor of DC canceling the 4th of July and you've about got it.) Fortunately for the city, the Ontario legislature reinstated them.
  • You know how I write about how urban planning can make people happier, healthier, and friendlier? Yah, this city in California is my idea of hell. I hope the developers lost all their money.
  • In contrast, I learned of the Lil Yellow House while in Toronto, and the rap video the real-estate agent created to sell it. (It sold quickly, for C$500,000.)
  • Apparently, my drinking gets me a B-. (80% of Americans drink 6.75 drinks per week or less; the top 10% drink 15.28 per week. This is the one B- I'm happy to have.)
  • My alma mater recently published new research linking your email address to your credit score.
  • Alabama prosecutors have brought charges for manslaughter against a woman who miscarried after getting shot. No, really. Because Alabama.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter called out President Trump on the (alleged) illegitimacy of his election.
  • The New Republic adds to the chorus of organizations surprised at what it actually took to get the Supreme Court to call bullshit.
  • Ever wonder how often two bags of Skittles candy have the same proportions of flavors? No, me neither. But this guy did.
  • Windows has a case-insensitive file system; Git is case-sensitive. Do the math.
  • Um. That's not a pet bird.

*Those celebrations will be here, on the right, in this view from my hotel room yesterday:

Finally filled up the Prius

I bought my car, a Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, on December 23rd. It took almost 188 days—more than six months—before I finally put gas in the thing.

Friday morning, on my way to Toronto, I put 34.8 L into the car after driving it 2183.6 km since the dealer delivered her. That's an average efficiency of 1.6 L/100 km, and an operating cost of 1.4¢/km.

For comparison, the last six months I owned my last car, she was getting 13.3 L/100 km and had an operating cost (because of maintenance as well as gas) of 52.9¢/km.

The whole trip to Toronto, during which the car ran almost exclusively on gas instead of battery, used only 73 L of fuel and averaged 4.3 L/100 km.

I think it was a good purchase.

Also, let me just say that adaptive cruise control makes long-distance drives a ton easier.

Record heat in Europe

Significant changes in the northern jet stream has caused serious problems for Europe and South Asia:

Unusual jet stream behavior has been recorded every three to five years since 2000 — in 2003, 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2018 — turning what scientists initially thought could be an isolated abnormality into what appears to be a pattern, [Jeff Masters, co-founder and director of meteorology for Weather Underground] said.

What is surprising to scientists now is that the wavier-than-normal jet stream has returned for a second year in a row — the first time that has been observed, said Kai Kornhuber, a climate scientist at The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City.

“I wouldn’t have expected this situation to return so quickly after the extreme summer last year,” Kornhuber said. “It gives me the chills to see this evolving in real time again. It’s a really worrying development.”

This weather pattern brought temperatures over 45°C to France earlier this week:

The highest reliable June temperature previously recorded in France was 41.5°C on 21 June 2003. The country’s highest ever temperature, recorded at two separate locations in southern France on 12 August during the same 2003 heatwave, was 44.1°C.

“At our local Potsdam station, operating since 1893, we’re set to break the past June record by about 2C,” tweeted Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Eastern parts of Germany, including Berlin, are already experiencing their hottest June on record.

“Weather data show that heatwaves and other weather extremes are on the rise in recent decades,” he said. “The hottest summers in Europe since the year AD1500 all occurred since the turn of the last century: 2018, 2010, 2003, 2016, 2002.”

Monthly records were now falling five times as often as they would in a stable climate, Rahmstorf said, adding this was “a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas”.

And the band played on...

Best laid plans

My plan for an 8-hour drive from Chicago to Toronto yesterday did not survived contact with the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). It turns out, coming into Toronto from the west during rush hour on Friday before a three-day weekend may involve traffic. So it was, in fact, a 10½-hour drive.

So the secondary plan of wandering around the Rogers Centre, getting a bunch of photos, hearing both "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "O Canada," and then watching the Blue Jays beat the Royals, didn't quite work out. I arrived at my seat during the top of the 6th inning, well after both national anthems, with the Royals up by two, and didn't get any of the shots or wandering that I'd planned.

The Blue Jays did win, though, thanks to four Toronto home runs in the last three innings. And this is in a dome; it's not like the wind was blowing out.

Today: breakfast in Toronto, dinner in Sawyer, Mich., and probably straight to bed when I get home. Tomorrow: photos from the game, a new NuGet package from Inner Drive Technology, and maybe some Pride Parade viewing. Or fleeing the area. Haven't decided yet.

Reactions to the Rucho decision

It turns out, I wasn't the only one to have a strong reaction to Rucho v Common Cause. We start with Justice Elena Kagan (citations removed):

The majority disputes none of what I have said (or will say) about how gerrymanders undermine democracy. Indeed, the majority concedes (really, how could it not?) that gerrymandering is “incompatible with democratic principles.” And therefore what? That recognition would seem to demand a response. The majority offers two ideas that might qualify as such. One is that the political process can deal with the problem—a proposition so dubious on its face that I feel secure in delaying my answer for some time. The other is that political gerrymanders have always been with us. To its credit, the majority does not frame that point as an originalist constitutional argument.

After all (as the majority rightly notes), racial and residential gerrymanders were also once with us, but the Court has done something about that fact. The majority’s idea instead seems to be that if wehave lived with partisan gerrymanders so long, we will survive.

That complacency has no cause. Yes, partisan gerrymandering goes back to the Republic’s earliest days. (As does vociferous opposition to it.) But big data and modern technology—of just the kind that the mapmakers in North Carolina and Maryland used—make today’s gerrymandering altogether different from the crude line drawing of the past. Old-time efforts, based on little more than guesses, sometimes led to so-called dummymanders—gerrymanders that went spectacularly wrong. Not likely in today’s world. Mapmakers now have access to more granular data about party preference and voting behavior than ever before. County-level voting data has given way to precinct-level or city-block-level data; and increasingly, mapmakers avail themselves of data sets providing wide-ranging information about even individual voters.

Crain's Chicago Business columnist Greg Hinz:

We’re all used to momentous U.S. Supreme Court rulings at the end of June. But rarely has the potential impact here in Chicago and Illinois been as great as it will be after a pair of key decisions today, in which the court upheld partisan gerrymandering and temporarily blocked a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census.

One decision likely removes much doubt that Illinois Democrats—led by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state House Speaker Mike Madigan—will remain in power here and assure that allies do the same in the Illinois House and Senate and in the state’s congressional delegation. The other raises the odds that Illinois will lose one, not two, U.S. House seats in the upcoming decennial reapportionment—and keep hundreds of millions of federal dollars that are allotted on the basis of population.

Back in Illinois—unless Democrats were to somehow lose their majorities in the 2020 elections—that means that they'll draw the next set of legislative and congressional maps. There will be no court challenge, at least not one base on the new map's partisan tilt.

Gov. Pritzker has promised not to be partisan in the upcoming remap, and a reform group, Change Illinois, today called on him to honor that pledge, saying in a statement that "we deserve competitive elections and an equitable democracy in Illinois."

But if you really think Pritzker, who may have national political ambitions, is going to throw away the Democratic edge here while Republicans in states such as Indiana work to screw Democrats, you don't know politics. I'm not sure how he'll wiggle out of this one. But wiggle he will.

Had Garland been confirmed to the court, he quite possibly would have sided with the court's liberal justices and been a fifth vote to outlaw partisan gerrymandering. But he didn't get confirmed. As a result, states that already are blue (like Illinois) likely will get even bluer. And states that are red will turn redder.

Democratic presidential candidates:

“Today the Supreme Court refused to stop politicians rigging our democracy by writing election rules for their own benefit,” former vice president Joe Biden said on Twitter. “It couldn’t have happened without Justices put there by Donald Trump and Republicans — another reason why Democrats must take back the White House in 2020.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another presidential candidate, called the decision an “abomination.”

“Five Republican-appointed justices gave the green light to partisan gerrymandering — which lets Republicans pursue their extreme agenda without accountability to the people,” Warren said in a tweet. “It’s bad for our democracy and we need to fight back.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), another White House hopeful, said a ban on partisan gerrymandering would be “a top priority” for her if elected president.

“Politicians shouldn’t be able to pick their voters, voters should choose their representatives,” Harris said on Twitter. “The Supreme Court’s gerrymandering decision will have drastic consequences for the future of our nation.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), another White House hopeful, called the court decision “misguided” and “an insult to our democracy.”

And Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also weighed in on Twitter, quoting from the dissenting opinion of Justice Elena Kagan.

“Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one,” Kagan said. “The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government.”

This isn't over, by the way. Kagan's dissent was sound; and 5-4 decisions by nakedly partisan courts tend not to live past the next appointment.

Still, it's a bad decision for the country, and a good one for the Republican Party. Those things usually go together, after all.