The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sex!

Both The Atlantic and the New York Times have penetrating articles on the subject today. First, Kate Julian examines why young people are having less sex, despite the relaxation of taboos around it:

many other experts, attributes the sex decline to a decline in couplehood among young people. For a quarter century, fewer people have been marrying, and those who do have been marrying later. At first, many observers figured that the decline in marriage was explained by an increase in unmarried cohabitation—yet the share of people living together hasn’t risen enough to offset the decline in marriage: About 60 percent of adults under age 35 now live without a spouse or a partner. One in three adults in this age range live with their parents, making that the most common living arrangement for the cohort. People who live with a romantic partner tend to have sex more than those who don’t—and living with your parents is obviously bad for your sex life. But this doesn’t explain why young people are partnering up less to begin with.

Over the course of many conversations with sex researchers, psychologists, economists, sociologists, therapists, sex educators, and young adults, I heard many other theories about what I have come to think of as the sex recession. I was told it might be a consequence of the hookup culture, of crushing economic pressures, of surging anxiety rates, of psychological frailty, of widespread antidepressant use, of streaming television, of environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, of dropping testosterone levels, of digital porn, of the vibrator’s golden age, of dating apps, of option paralysis, of helicopter parents, of careerism, of smartphones, of the news cycle, of information overload generally, of sleep deprivation, of obesity. Name a modern blight, and someone, somewhere, is ready to blame it for messing with the modern libido.

Some experts I spoke with offered more hopeful explanations for the decline in sex. For example, rates of childhood sexual abuse have decreased in recent decades, and abuse can lead to both precocious and promiscuous sexual behavior. And some people today may feel less pressured into sex they don’t want to have, thanks to changing gender mores and growing awareness of diverse sexual orientations, including asexuality. Maybe more people are prioritizing school or work over love and sex, at least for a time, or maybe they’re simply being extra deliberate in choosing a life partner—and if so, good for them.

Of course, the best solution for a recession is a stimulus package that encourages growth. I am in favor of this policy.

Ross Douthat, commenting on Julian's article, attributes the decline of civilization sex to porn and masturbation as Aldous Huxley predicted:

Conservatives didn’t expect it because they believed that sexual liberation would inevitably lead to social chaos — that if you declared consent the only standard of sexual morality and encouraged young people to define fulfillment libidinally, you would get not only promiscuity but also a host of dire secondary consequences: Teen pregnancy rates and abortion rates rising together, a pornography-abetted spike in rape and sexual violence, higher crime rates among fatherless young men … basically everything that seemed to be happening in the 1970s and 1980s, when the anti-porn crusade Alberta describes was strongest.

But many of those grim social trends stabilized or turned around in the 1990s, and instead of turning teenage boys into rapists, the internet-enabled victory of pornographic culture had, perhaps, the opposite effect.

But liberal optimists were wrong as well — wrong to expect that the new order would bring about a clear increase in sexual fulfillment, wrong to anticipate a healthy integration of sexual desire and romantic attachment, wrong to assume that a happily egalitarian relationship between the sexes awaited once puritanism was rejected and repression cast aside.

Instead we’ve achieved social stability through, in part, the substitution of self-abuse for intercourse, the crowding-out of real-world interactions by virtual entertainment, and the growing alienation of the sexes from one another.

Again, I see an opportunity here for a solution that benefits, if not everyone, at least the participants in the solution.

I can't wait for the comments...

Lunchtime reading

I didn't have a moment to write any code from 9am until now, so my lunch will include doing the stuff I didn't do in all those meetings. At some point I'll get to these:

Now, back to writing code, as soon as I make yet another vet appointment for my bête noir.

Wow, who could have seen this coming?

New Republic's Alex Shepherd lays out how the Amazon HQ2 "sweepstakes" is a scam that will not do what Amazon claimed:

The company not only garnered free, widespread publicity, but also drove up its asking price, as some competitors raised their bids by billions. It’s possible that the plan all along was not to open a second headquarters, but to open two, smaller satellites. What’s unlikely, however, is that the deals being offered to Amazon will change significantly, even though the company is effectively halving their investment.

Amazon has already faced backlash for its handling of HQ2. The $1 trillion company is hardly in need of public handouts, and yet it has benefited greatly from taxpayer dollars in recent years. It may have sensed there would be further backlash over its decision, which would explain why the news broke on the eve of the midterm elections, effectively burying it. Unlike other localities, which made their offers public, not much is known about the bids from New York City and Virginia. But the public scrutiny of HQ2 will only intensify as the details—and the social consequences of HQ2—become clear.

Amazon likely chose Washington and New York for obvious reasons, making the pageantry surrounding the yearlong search for an HQ2 site all the more absurd. These are attractive places to work, and, as national hubs of politics and media respectively, they influence the national discussion. But they’re also among just a handful of major cities that could meet Amazon’s needs, in terms of infrastructure and talent. That was always true, and the company cleverly exploited it, using cities that never stood a chance to extract concessions from the few that did.

But all this was obvious from the start. And it does not make anyone look good.

How to make the House work for us

The New York Times editorial board describes a pair of proposed reforms to the House to make it more representative: first, expand it to 593 seats; and second, create multi-member districts:

There’s no constitutional basis for a membership of 435; it’s arbitrary, and it could be undone by Congress tomorrow. Congress set it in 1911, but following the 1920 census — which counted nearly 14 million more people living in the United States — lawmakers refused to add seats out of concern that the House was getting too big to function effectively. Rural members were also trying to forestall the shift in national power to the cities (sound familiar?), where populations were exploding with emigrants from farm country and immigrants from abroad.

It is true that individual representatives would find their influence diluted by the addition of more members, but that’s not an argument against expansion. Nor would growing the House cost too much. Salaries for lawmakers and their staffs would total less than one million dollars per representative — which means a couple hundred representatives could be added for the price of, say, five F-14 fighter jets.

Most important, expanding the House would mean not just a government with more representatives, but one that is literally more representative — including more people from perennially underrepresented groups, like women and minorities, and making for a fuller and richer legislative debate.

And about multi-member districts:

Sure, the Senate is designed to be undemocratic, awarding two votes to every state regardless of population. But shouldn’t the House of Representatives — the “People’s House,” after all — reflect the political makeup of the country as accurately as possible?

And yet across America, even sizeable communities of minority-party supporters regularly find themselves locked out of power for a simple reason: Single-member congressional districts. Each of the House’s 435 districts is represented by one person, chosen in a winner-take-all election. It may sound wonky, but in our hyperpolarized, geographically clustered and gerrymandered age, single-member districts have become a threat to the health of America’s representative democracy.

Most people don’t question the wisdom of voting for only one member per district, if they think about the matter at all. But there’s nothing special or preordained about it. In fact, the alternative — districts that send multiple members to Congress — was the norm at the nation’s founding. Nine states still use multimember districts to fill at least one state legislative chamber, and four — Arizona, New Jersey, South Dakota and Washington — elect all their state lawmakers this way.

Multimember districts offer other important benefits, too. When three or five members of Congress all represent the same district, it’s much harder for politicians to gerrymander themselves and their party into permanent power. And experience from the states shows that more women and minorities get elected in multimember districts.

I mean, none of this is any more likely than DC and PR statehood. But it would help our current situation, without causing either party to gain or lose significant party.

Of course, that suggests that maybe the bigger problem is duopoly...

Now if you'll excuse me, I have been waiting for these visitors.

Why we're not hearing right-wingnut crap from Arizona

Josh Marshall points out that Republican US Senate candidate Martha McSally, who has fallen behind in the (still ongoing) vote count against Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema, has avoided raising a hue and cry about voter fraud or similar bullshit such as we're hearing from Florida and Georgia. That's because she's probably going to get the other Arizona Senate seat:

She’s not claiming the election is being stolen or making allegations of voter fraud. She’s basically letting the counting go on. That has reportedly angered national Republicans who want her to do just that. Good for her. But it’s important to note that McSally’s interests are really not aligned with those of the national party.

It is widely assumed that if McSally loses to Sinema she will be appointed to John McCain’s seat. (Former and now again-current Senator Jon Kyl is just there as a placeholder.) In other words, McSally will almost certainly be in the Senate next year regardless of the outcome of this race.

The national GOP wants an additional seat. But McSally really just wants a seat herself. At least that’s her highest priority. So she has little interest in or incentive to disgrace herself with voter fraud conspiracy theories.

Other Republicans, however, who couldn't get elected on the merits, are going nuts with the stuff.

In other words, they're babies. But since McSally sees she's getting the candy if she stays quiet, she's staying quiet.

"A Constitutional Nobody"

Former Assistant Solicitor General Neal Katyal and George Conway III (yes, Kellyanne's husband) say President Trump's "appointment" of Matthew Whittaker to oversee the Justice Department is flatly unconstitutional:

Mr. Whitaker has not been named to some junior post one or two levels below the Justice Department’s top job. He has now been vested with the law enforcement authority of the entire United States government, including the power to supervise Senate-confirmed officials like the deputy attorney general, the solicitor general and all United States attorneys.

We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation.

Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in such a position of grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is President Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always.

As Josh Marshall said earlier today, "It’s really, really bad. ... But it was also clear that it was impulsive, poorly thought out and in many ways counterproductive." In other words, as bad as the Whitaker appointment is on the surface, past Administration actions call into question whether it will actually work out the way they hope.

Scott Walker's greed

David Dayen lays out how ousted Wisconsin governor Scott Walker got greedy, which cost him his election Tuesday:

Not content to simply do the bidding of corporate interests through low tax rates and deregulation, he embarked on one of the biggest economic disasters in recent history. After Tuesday’s elections, we can say it was one of the biggest political ones as well.

In July 2017, Walker inked a deal with Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer known for being so punishing to its workers that it had to install nets to prevent suicides. Foxconn would build a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, producing LCD screens for large-panel televisions—a first for North America. The company claimed this would create 13,000 good-paying jobs and $10 billion in investment. In exchange, Walker offered $3 billion in state subsidies.

“The Foxconn campus will be large enough to hold 11 Lambeau Fields,” Walker gushed when announcing the agreement. His approval ratings had sagged after a lackluster presidential run, and he had failed to keep his first-term promise of creating 250,000 new jobs. The Foxconn deal would be the capstone of his tenure, a public-private partnership to create a high-tech hub in the upper Midwest—a real legacy item.

Instead, the deal was just a way to flush out taxpayer money, without getting much from Foxconn in return. Walker was nothing but a bagman for a coordinated hit on Wisconsin’s treasury, and he paid for it. On Tuesday, he ran into a little-understood fact of modern political life: corporate welfare is deeply unpopular.

It didn't take a Marquette University dropout to realize that Foxconn was going to renege on their deal with the state and, essentially, pocket the money. We could hear Foxconn laughing all the way down here in Chicago. But ol' Scotty never was much of a student. Or much of a governor.

About last night...

Gosh, where do we begin?

What last night showed, as clearly as day following night, is that the Republican Party simply can't win on the merits. And they know it. Yesterday demonstrated how effective their multi-year anti-democratic efforts have been.

Democratic candidates at each level in the aggregate won millions more votes than the Republican field. We lost three of our most vulnerable sitting Senators: Heidi Heidtkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate challenging the odious Ted Cruz (R-TX), nearly won, coming within 220,000 votes out of 8.2 million cast. But we picked up a compensatory seat in Nevada. We broke Republican supermajorities in the legislatures of North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and flipped them entirely in Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York. We kicked out Republican governors by huge margins in Wisconsin and Illinois, won several others, and still have a fighting chance to elect the nation's first female African-American governor in Georgia.

I get Aaron Blake's complaint that it's a "bogus stat" that 12% more people voted for Democratic US Senate candidates than Republican ones. Except it's not. Democrats out-voted Republicans in 2016 and 2014 as well, even while returning Republican majorities to Congress.

Look at Georgia. The person responsible for counting votes, Republican Brian Kemp, was a candidate for governor, and he did everything in his power (some of them beyond his legal authority) to suppress the vote for his challenger, including purging 1.4 million voter registrations and suspending 53,000 more last month.

But also look at Kansas. Kris Kobach, who taught Brian Kemp everything he knows, and who tried unsuccessfully to bring his brand of voter suppression to the country at large, got handed his hat and shown the door. This, despite allowing Democratic-leaning Dodge City to put its lone polling place a mile from public transit, as just one example.

And look at Florida. Democrat Bill Nelson is exercising his right to a recount as sitting governor Rick Scott appears to have received only 35,000 more votes out of 8 million cast. But that's not the big story out of that state. No, the really big story, with consequences for the 2020 race, is that voters passed Proposition 4, re-enfranchising 1.5 million felons—most of whom are African-American—who have completed their sentences.

The Republican Party will try to spin yesterday as a vote of confidence in President Trump. They would do that if they lost by 30 million votes as long as they held the Senate and a couple of state houses. But be clear: between voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering, voter intimidation, and the Senate being specifically designed to protect minority and small-state rights, they have a lot less support than the election suggests.

Like the Afrikaaner National Party from 1948 to 1990, the Republican Party knows it can't win the argument, so it isn't even trying. Over the next few years we'll see them grab everything they can, and use every tactic they think of to hold onto power. They know their time is limited, but like every dying party in history (including George Washington's), they're not going to go quietly. As Trump has shown us, the GOP's strategy will be scorched earth until they finally disappear into dust like their predecessors, the Know-Nothings.

Let's use our new House majority to finally get answers about how much the Trump family has profited from being in office, about how cabinet secretaries are lining their pockets while handing our future to the industries they supposedly regulate, and about how the governing party is taking a match to liberal democracy in order to forestall their own irrelevance.

So let's keep up the fight.

Oh, and Chicago voted to ban plastic straws. I just...why?

Distilling the Congress

Adam Shepherd points out that this election will make things worse, not better, regardless of the result—at least for the next two years:

Theoretically, divided government could lead to compromise, since Trump would need Democrats to pass legislation. With 2020 approaching, the thinking goes, he would be incentivized to make deals that show that he can get things done (on infrastructure, for instance). But Trump has shown no interest in this kind of politics. Yes, he has flirted with bipartisanship in the past, but has always ultimately demurred, either due to pressure from aides and donors or from a preternatural devotion to his base. When pressed, Trump has eschewed dealmaking and calls for unity and doubled down on attacks on the media and his Democratic opposition.

Over the last two years, despite controlling Washington, Republicans have done little with their power. Their only major legislative achievement was the $1.5 trillion tax cut, largely benefiting corporations and the wealthy, which appears to represent the entirety of the party’s ideas. The GOP’s policy apathy has become apparent over the last two months, as candidates across the country have embraced the president’s ethno-nationalism and racist immigration policy. With defeat looming, the GOP sees fear-mongering as the only way to get their aging white base to the polls—a strategy that worked two years ago. Expect Republicans to employ these tactics even in defeat.

In fact, they may employ them especially if they lose. The most likely Republicans to lose in Tuesday’s midterms are the most moderate members of Congress, those in suburban districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. “That means that your ordinary Freedom Caucus member is going to get reelected even in a blue wave, while the vulnerable members are the more moderate ones who represent swing districts,” Paul Waldman wrote in The Washington Post on Monday. “This will produce a somewhat ironic result in the next Congress: The bigger the blue wave, the more conservative the Republican caucus will end up being when it’s over, and the less equipped the GOP will be to run a different kind of campaign in 2020.”

Meanwhile:

Tonight will be a nail-biter. I hope I get some sleep.