Writing for New Republic, political scientist Scott Lemieux suggests that Democrats start playing constitutional hardball if the Republicans don't let us govern:
If the Democrats take over Congress and the White House in 2021 with Anthony Kennedy as the median justice—giving them a realistic chance of replacing him—it would be wise for Democrats to hold their fire, barring the Supreme Court serially striking down major legislation on specious constitutional grounds (which the decisions of the Obama era suggest is unlikely).
But what if Donald Trump is able to replace Kennedy, and, God forbid, justices Stephen Breyer and/or Ginsburg as well? There is no good outcome in this scenario. Republicans would have a hammerlock on a nine-member Court for decades. If Trump gets two nominees, this Court is likely to be well to the right of the current Roberts Court and likely to go to war with a Democratic Congress.
Even worse, the decisive nominations would be a product of a Republican Senate refusing to allow a president who won two majorities to fill a vacancy, and then confirming multiple nominees of a president who lost the popular vote by a substantial margin. Court-packing is bad, but allowing an entrenched majority on the Supreme Court to represent a minority party that refuses to let Democratic governments govern would not be acceptable or democratically legitimate, either.
For this reason, it would be very unwise for Democrats to rule anything out. They should be careful not to blow up the power of judicial review without good cause. But if desperate Republicans try to establish an anti-Democratic rearguard on the Supreme Court before they get swept out of office, Democrats have to leave all options on the table.
This reflects what we ancient D&D players know as the "Lawful Stupid" problem. Characters with lawful-good alignment run the risk of trying to do the right thing so much that they fail to do the necessary thing. Think: the Enterprise crew deciding not to save a planet because doing so would violate the prime directive. Or the Democratic Party continuing to assume the Republican Party will follow established political norms even when doing so would cause a temporary shift in power in the United States.
New Republic's Matt Ford contemplates the counter-factual:
Trump might also have had a better first year of his presidency. He wouldn’t be tweeting every morning about witch hunts and collusion, at least (though he’d still be tweeting). And while his poll numbers might have stayed the same, the Russia investigation might not have become the lightning rod that’s energized Democrats and demoralized Republicans. Yes, the 2018 midterms were always going to be tough for the GOP. But they would’ve been easier without the threat of more indictments from Mueller between now and Election Day.
What about legal danger? Without Comey’s removal, Trump wouldn’t be facing obstruction-of-justice questions and the risk of impeachment. The Russia investigation would have continued in a less intense form. The president’s family members might have avoided intense scrutiny from Mueller’s team. Cohen, who knows more about Trump’s legal and business dealings than almost anyone, maybe wouldn’t be facing for an imminent federal indictment. That might have spared him (and maybe the president) from questions about money laundering that are slowly starting to surface.
Experts and analysts spent the last year wondering how to contain the damage that Comey’s firing has done to the justice system. But perhaps the most effective safeguard is the example Trump has set for his successors. If civic virtue, political norms, or personal integrity don’t compel future presidents to uphold the rule of law, then maybe a simpler reason will suffice: It’s too costly not to.
Of course, if enough Republicans care more about personal enrichment than the rule of law—perish the thought!—then Trump and his cronies may not suffer any consequences for destroying it.
Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has announced a joint venture with Sterling Bay, the developer building on the former Finkl Steel site in Lincoln Park (mentioned here last week), to bring professional soccer back to Chicago:
Sterling Bay will develop and own the stadium, and will keep an ownership stake in the USL franchise it bought last year. Ricketts will be the team’s majority owner.
The Tribune in October reported that Sterling Bay was proposing a stadium on the site, as part of its effort to bring Amazon or another large corporation to the mixed-use development as an office tenant.
Chicago’s USL team is expected to begin playing in 2021.
The stadium and training facility will be available to youth and professional athletes, and also will have community and cultural events, according to the news release.
The stadium is planned along the west side of the river.
I'm looking forward to the Lincoln Yards development. The Finkl Steel plant, though an economic powerhouse for decades in Chicago, was also a huge, ugly, and polluting bunion at the foot of the Lincoln Park community area. Like other former industrial areas near to downtown (including, or perhaps especially, the New East Side), almost any mixed-use commercial/residential development is preferable at this stage of Chicago's life.
Also, I think an English Premier League vs. Chicago football match would be loads of fun.
Greg Sargent this morning points out that my party's congressional candidates aren't running the campaigns that the popular imagination thinks they are, which is a good thing:
There’s a narrative about our politics right now that you constantly encounter on social and political media. It goes like this: Democrats are too obsessed with the Russia investigation, or with Stormy Daniels, or they’re just too focused on “not being President Trump,” and as a result, they aren’t articulating an affirmative agenda and risk getting caught flat-footed by Trump’s supposedly rising popularity.
But this narrative is entirely wrong, and two new pieces this morning help set the record straight.
The first article is by Nate Silver, and it puts Trump’s job-approval numbers in their proper perspective.
If Trump’s numbers are rising, they are only doing so inside a very narrow range that remains abysmally low. And don’t forget the polling that shows strong disapproval of Trump is running higher than strong approval, which could impact disparities in voter engagement.
The second piece is by Ron Brownstein, and it reports accurately on how Democrats are actually running their campaigns right now. As Brownstein notes, many Democrats think that their chances of winning this fall turn less on whether Trump gets further dragged down by scandal, and more on their ability to link the GOP’s tax cuts to its failed (but continuing) drive to roll back health coverage, which together amount to a deeply unpopular overall set of GOP priorities.
With Republican primary elections in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and North Carolina going on today, we may have even better data about how we're retaking the House in November.
On the other hand, Bruce Schneier notes that both parties' campaigns are dangerously nonchalant about IT security. Great.
No, this isn't one of the two Daily Parker milestones we'll see this month. It's trivial and personal.
On this day in 1988, 30 years ago, I bought my first CD. It was an almost-new technology—the first CDs were commercially available in 1981—and it sounded a lot better than scratchy old vinyl records.
Just looking back at what I posted 10 years ago confirms I haven't bought that many CDs lately. I don't have the number in front of me, but I believe I've now got 940 of them, meaning I've bought an average of 12 a year since 2008. That's slightly fewer than the 12 a month I bought in 1990.
For historical context, when I bought my first CD, Ronald Reagan was president, it looked like (but wasn't certain) that Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush would be the candidates to replace him, and our arch-rival for world domination was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A Toyota Corolla cost $10,000, a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk cost 96c, and you could buy a 3-bedroom house in my home town for $200,000. (The same house is now close to $750,000.)
British Airways has started daily service between Chicago and London on the Airbus A380:
Last year, British Airways said it would begin using the A380 on one of two daily flights between Chicago and London. The aircraft seats up to 469 passengers in four cabins, including 14 first-class suites, 97 lie-flat business-class seats and 55 premium economy seats, with the remaining 303 in coach, British Airways said.
It’s only within the past couple of years that O’Hare has had facilities to accommodate the A380, which is 72.5 m long and 24 m high, with a 79.5 m wingspan. O’Hare has had a runway big enough for the A380 since 2013 but lacked gates that fit two-level planes at the time.
There is a non-zero chance, therefore, that I will fly on one of these bad boys before 2018 ends. (It's not a great chance, but it's at least a chance.)
It's entirely possible that I'll have more free time after today, at least for a week or two.
It's entirely possible that I have just looked at my calendar for this week and laughed at the previous sentence.
In advance of the largest expansion in the airport's history, the Tribune has a cool timeline of the airport's history.
Concerts tonight and Sunday; another, private performance tomorrow. And then I get a week off of choir.
Back in the day, Rudy Giuliani put away a lot of bad people when he served as the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York. Then he because mayor of New York and did some good things (and some bad).
Flash forward 30 years. Yesterday he went on TV and seriously injured his client's, President Trump's, interests:
[F]ormer New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a recent addition to Trump’s legal team, acknowledged for the first time that Trump had repaid [other Trump attorney Michael] Cohen — despite Trump’s assertion last month that he was unaware of the payment. Giuliani made the comments Wednesday night to Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel.
Josh Marshall explains why this was so...unhinged:
My best guess is that Guiliani and Trump and other members of the legal team had discussed this story (true or not) as a way to escape a claimed FEC violation. They did so with what appears to have been a fairly limited understanding of campaign finance law. But they thought it was a good idea. Giuliani then meandered his way into floating it during his interview with Sean Hannity. Note how he immediately fixes on the point that this solves the campaign finance problem (even though it appears not to). He’s adamant and cocky about it. He is then caught off guard when Hannity – himself caught off guard and scrambling in response to the initial claim – reminds him that the story is that Trump never knew anything about the Daniels deal at all and did not know where the money was from.
So, great, in arguing against a possible campaign finance violation, you've argued in favor of making false statements to law enforcement, no attorney-client privilege between Trump and Cohen, and also that Stephanie Clifford's defamation suit against Trump has merit.
These guys are just incapable of thinking things through. I guess that works in New York real estate, but it's alarming when it's the President and his aides.
Sterling Bay, the company developing the Finkl site in Lincoln Park, has reached a deal with the Chicago Terminal Railroad to extend the 606 Trail across the Chicago River:
Sterling Bay, which plans a big development on the former Finkl steel plant site and neighboring parcels, has resolved its dispute with a rail company that owns train tracks that run across riverside land and on to Goose Island.
The rail company, Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings, infuriated Sterling Bay and Goose Island landlords last fall when it rolled a couple dozen empty tanker cars across the Finkl property and onto Goose Island and left them there.
In October, Sterling Bay asked a federal agency to force Iowa Pacific to give up the tracks, arguing that they would derail development in the area. Other landlords complained that Iowa Pacific stored the cars on Goose Island merely to shake them down for money to remove the cars.
But the fight didn't last long: In January, an Iowa Pacific unit, the Chicago Terminal Railroad, gave up, agreeing not to oppose Sterling Bay's application with the federal Surface Transportation Board to force the rail company to abandon the tracks, according to a recent decision by the board.
The proposed extension to the trail would also include moving and modernizing the Metra station at Clybourn Junction.