The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sure Happy It's Tuesday

After finishing a sprint review, it's nice to reset for a few minutes. So after working through lunch I have some time to catch up on these news stories:

Finally, mathematician and humorist Tom Lehrer has waived most of the copyright protections around his music and lyrics, effectively putting the corpus of his work into the public domain. He says: "Most of the music written by Tom Lehrer will be added gradually later with further disclaimers." People have until the end of 2024 to download the materials he has released.

What the Barrett nomination is really about

The Senate Republicans will force through Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation to the Supreme Court before the end of December, and there's nothing the Democratic Party can do to stop it.

OK. They win this round. But by the end of the next Congress, we can win the war.

Forget about Roe v Wade; if the Supreme Court overturns it, we can fix abortion rights with legislation. And forget about gay marriage; same deal. In fact, after the Democratic Party takes control of the legislature and executive in January, nothing should prevent us from passing a civil-rights bill to ensure all Americans continue to have access to those rights. The Republicans in the Senate know that, but they're hoping to distract you from their real agenda in stacking the Federal court system and preventing people of color from voting.

In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, author Christopher Leonard explains why Mitch McConnell wants Barrett on the court before the American people drive his caucus from power in three weeks:

Since the early 1970s, [Charles] Koch has sought to dismantle most federal regulatory institutions, and the federal courts have been central to that battle. In 1974, Mr. Koch gave a blistering speech to a libertarian think tank, called the Institute for Humane Studies, in which he outlined his vision of the American regulatory state, and the strategy he would employ over the ensuing decades to realize that vision. In short, Charles Koch believes that an unregulated free market is the only sustainable structure for human society.

To achieve his goal, Mr. Koch has built an influence network with three arms: a phalanx of lobbyists; a constellation of think tanks and university programs; and Americans For Prosperity, a grass-roots army of political activists. And shaping the U.S. judiciary has been part of Mr. Koch’s strategy from the beginning. In that 1974 speech, he recommended strategy of “strategically planned litigation” to test the regulatory authority of government agencies. Such lawsuits could make their way to the Supreme Court, where justices could set precedent. In the 1990s, he focused on lower-level judges, funding a legal institute that paid for judges to attend junkets at a Utah ski resort and Florida beachfront properties; the judges attended seminars on the importance of market forces in society and were warned against consideration of “junk science” — like specific methods to measure the effects of pollution — that plaintiffs used to prove corporate malfeasance.

As Charles Koch has written and stated so often in the past five decades, there are many, many laws and programs that he would like to negate. With the nomination of Judge Barrett to the court, he appears to be closer than ever to achieving this goal.

In other words, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's refusal to give hearings not just to Merrick Garland, but also close to 200 of President Obama's lower-court nominees, is about making rich people richer. Economist Paul Krugman explains further:

We should have had a deal in the summer, when it was already obvious that the rescue package approved in March was going to expire much too soon. But Senate Republicans were adamantly opposed to providing the necessary aid. Lindsey Graham declared that emergency unemployment benefits would be extended “over our dead bodies” (actually 215,000 other people’s dead bodies, but who’s counting?).

And McConnell — whose state benefits from far more federal spending than it pays in taxes — derided proposed aid to states as a “blue state bailout.”

Republicans didn’t worry about budget deficits when they rammed through a $2 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. They only pose as deficit hawks when trying to block spending that might help ordinary Americans.

No, what this is really about is the modern G.O.P.’s plutocratic agenda. McConnell and, as far as I can tell, every member of his caucus are completely committed to cutting taxes on the rich and aid to the poor and middle class. Other than March’s CARES Act, which Republicans passed only because they were panicking over a plunging stock market, it’s hard to think of any major G.O.P.-approved fiscal legislation in the past two decades that didn’t redistribute income upward.

You might think that Republicans would set the plutocratic imperative aside when the case for more government spending is compelling, whether it’s to repair our crumbling infrastructure or to provide relief during a pandemic. But all indications are that they believe — probably rightly — that successful government programs make the public more receptive to proposals for additional programs.

That’s why the G.O.P. has tried so frantically to overturn the Affordable Care Act; at this point it’s clear that Obamacare’s success in cutting the number of uninsured Americans has created an appetite for further health care reform.

So what can we do?

Well, first, we can win the damn election next month. The Economist has us at a 91% chance of winning the White House and a 71% chance of winning control of the Senate, but that depends on us voting and not letting Republicans steal votes. Then we have to actually govern using all the tools available to us in the Constitution, just as the Republicans have done.

Let's admit DC as a state and allow Puerto Rico to join as well if they want to. Meanwhile, we need to pass civil-rights and effective regulatory legislation, expand the Federal courts to balance ideologies on the bench, and put real safeguards in place to prevent the next Republican Senate or president from moving us closer to plutocracy through their demonstrated habit of counter-majoritarian rule.

The Republican Party blew up all the norms they expect us to follow when we regain power in January. You know what? They can gey kaker im meer, as my great-grandfather might say. They will howl and whine and cry and sue, like they always do, because no one likes not getting his way.

But we need to make it clear that we will not let their malfeasance go unpunished. Only when the Republican Party gives up its Koch-fueled, illiberal, anti-democratic policies should we attempt bipartisanship again. Let's be lawful good, not lawful stupid, and force them to act like a serious opposition party.

Your morning ugliness

Three items, somewhat related:

  • The president's doctor, Sean Conley, released a memo pronouncing the president "no longer considered transmission risk to others," without providing any information on whether he tested negative for Covid-19, because why would you want clarity around the president's health?
  • The president, meanwhile, has openly called for prosecutions of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden, in a desperate bid to hang on to power befitting a small, whiny loser.
  • Three Washington Post reporters trace how a misogynistic conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris wended its way through the Intertubes.

Finally, if you're still undecided in this election, the Times has a quiz for you.

Whitmer claps back at the president

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer has had enough of the administration "endangering and dividing America:"

When I addressed the people of Michigan on Thursday to comment on the unprecedented terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges against 13 men, some of whom were preparing to kidnap and possibly kill me, I said, “Hatred, bigotry and violence have no place in the great state of Michigan.” I meant it. But just moments later, President Trump’s campaign adviser, Jason Miller, appeared on national television accusing me of fostering hatred.

I’m not going to waste my time arguing with the president. But I will always hold him accountable. Because when our leaders speak, their words carry weight.

[I]nstead of uniting the country, our president has spent the past seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, and fomenting anger and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division. He has proved time and again that he is more focused on his chances in the upcoming election and picking fights with me and Democrats across the country than he is on protecting our families, front-line workers and small businesses from covid-19.

We're only 24 days until the election. I've got my ballot right here, which I'll fill out tomorrow and drop off at the county election office on Tuesday.

VP debate reactions

Generally, reactions to last night's debate follow three patterns: Vice President Mike Pence mansplained to Senator Kamala Harris; Harris told the truth significantly more than Pence did; and the fly won. (My favorite reaction, from an unknown Twitter user: "If that fly laid eggs in Pence's hair, he'd better carry them to term.") Other reactions:

  • The Washington Post, NBC, and the BBC fact-checked the most egregious distortions, most of which came from Pence.
  • James Fallows believes "both candidates needed to convince voters they possess the right temperament for the job. Only one pulled it off."

In other news:

  • Following the president's positive Covid-19 test, and Pence's and the president's repeated interruptions and talking over the moderators, the Commission on Presidential Debates has decided the October 15th presidential debate will be virtual. The crybaby-in-chief got angry: "It’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want." ("Speaking to reporters in Delaware, Biden said it was still possible [the president] would show up because 'he changes his mind every second.'")
  • Alex Shephard bemoans "the final message of a dying campaign:" "With his poll numbers collapsing, [the president] keeps adopting dumber and more destructive political messages."
  • The New Yorker dives into "the secret history of Kimberly Guilfoyle's departure from Fox."
  • For total Daily Parker bait, National Geographic explores the Russian military map collection at Indiana University, with 4,000 secret Russian maps drawn between 1883 and 1947, many captured from wartime intelligence services.
  • As today is the 149th anniversary of the Chicago Fire, the Chicago History Today blog looked at the history of the house at 2121 N. Hudson Ave., the only wood-frame building to survive in the burn zone.
  • Speaking of wood fires in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune has yet another ranking of pizzas. Happy lunchtime.

Finally, the FBI arrested six men who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. They didn't get close, but still.

VP debate live-blogging

And we're off! (All times CDT, same as the rest of the blog.)

20:01: Those chairs look comfortable, especially next to those tasteful Plexiglas shields.

20:07: "Thoughts and prayers" already off the bingo card, and from the moderator. Finally the first question 5 minutes in, on Covid-19. What will you do in January that the other guys won't? Harris: "This is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country." "Our plan: contact tracing."

20:09: To Pence: "You head the coronavirus task force. Why is our death rate higher than about every other country?" "From the very first day, [the president] has put the health of the nation first." (My first laugh of the night.) And he has quite a selective memory. And a dig at Joe Biden's plagiarism. And he won't shut up.

20:12: Harris's response hits the dead, they dying, and the January 28th day. "Mr Vice President, I'm speaking."

20:14: Pence falsely claimed that the president wanted to shut down the economy, and that "2 million might have died."

20:17: Harris: "You respect the American people when you tell them the truth." Meanwhile, one of my professional female friends texted that she wants to "bitch-slap" Pence, and to the "I'm speaking" line she texted "Do you know how often I've had to say that?"

20:19: Pence: "I would like to go back." Moderator: "We have to move on." We went back.

20:20: Pence: "Stop playing politics with people's lives." My second laugh-out-loud moment tonight. And then the canard about the swine flu epidemic.

20:21: Harris: Nice, using her answer about Biden's age to talk about her history and how Biden trusts her. "We share a purpose, which is about lifting up the American people."

20:25: Pence: "The transparency [of the president's doctors] will continue." So, no, you won't release any real information about the president's health.

20:26: Harris, pivoting from transparency on health information to transparency on taxes, to hitting the president's debts. "The American people have a right to know what is influencing the president's decisions." Bam.

20:29: Harris: "Biden will repeal [the 2017] tax bill and...invest that money in what we need to do..."

20:33: Pence just claimed credit for the Democratic Party's stimulus bills. And now he's demonstrating he has no idea how trade deficits work.

20:34: The white guy is hijacking the Black woman's time. And she's spanking him for it.

20:36: Pence: "Obamacare was a disaster...and we have a plan." Both statements are false.

20:38: Pence: "I'm very proud of our environmental record." Laugh line #3. Followed by a stream of lies about the president's record on the the environment and "a commitment to science" on climate change.

20:40: One of my friends says Harris should be pushing past the moderator the way Pence is, that she's not authoritative. I disagree.

20:41: Harris spent her answer on the Green New Deal correcting Pence's lies, and then pivoted to Biden's connection to farmers, then back to the administration's war on science. She's clear, calm, and positive.

20:43: Pence will not commit to a position on climate change consistent with science, then runs away from the question to go back to the 2017 tax cuts. He really doesn't want to talk about science because, frankly, he's one of its biggest opponents.

20:45: Harris: "You lost that trade war with China. America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Farmers are in bankruptcy." Yep.

20:47: Why can't the moderator get Pence to shut up?

20:48: Pence just keeps going back to the past. Now he's talking about NAFTA? The question was about China, sir.

20:49: Pence: "China is to blame for the coronavirus." Oy gevalt. At least he's on-brand.

20:51: Harris: "There was a team of disease experts that Obama dispatched to China; this administration pulled them out." Nice. And then talking about how the world holds the Chinese leadership in higher esteem than ours. Sad and true.

20:54: This is a hell of a lot more intelligent than the last debate, I have to say. I don't think it's going to move the needle even a tiny bit.

20:56: What the hell is Pence talking about? And why won't he shut up?

20:59: Pivoting from our involvement in Syria to the president calling our armed forces "suckers and losers." And the president's inaction on Russian bounties on American troops.

21:01: Did the Susan Page's balls finally drop? Finally she told Pence to stop talking.

21:03: Pence is equating assassinating adversaries with protecting Americans. They're children.

21:07: Pence gets the question on how they would cover pre-existing conditions if the ACA gets struck down, and chooses instead to lie about how Biden supports taxpayer-funded abortions up to the moment of birth. And then asks Harris if they'll pack the court.

21:11: Pence: "They are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election." Harris: "Let's talk about packing this court, then." And proceeds to bring up the unqualified, incompetent, and sub-standard appointments to the lower courts. Nice.

21:14: Harris pivots from the question about Breonna Taylor to George Floyd, and police reform. "Bad cops are bad for all cops."

21:16: Pence blames Harris for "the rioting and the looting." "...a great insult to the men and women who protect us...." Just shut up, honkey.

21:19: Harris: "I will not be lectured by the Vice President...I'm the only one on this stage who's prosecuted criminals. ... The president...refused to condemn white supremacists."

21:20: Pence: the president "has Jewish grandchildren." Oh for fuck's sake.

21:23: Harris, on the peaceful transfer of power: "We believe in the American people, and we believe in democracy. ... So vote!"

21:26: Pence: "I think we're going to win this election." Another laugh line. But...the question was, if you lose, what are you going to do if the president refuses to concede? He pivots to lying about the 2016 election, lying about the impeachment, and lying about voter fraud.

21:31: Another friend texts: "Wow, Pence is so scripted, so dispassionate, so...vanilla." Yes: he's the archetypical old white Christian dude. And in the spirit of Hannah Arendt, I would add "banal."

21:33: Another friend, responding to Pence's useless final answer to the final question: "Yes, we can be friends with people we disagree with until the thing we disagree about is you taking away their rights."

21:36: I didn't learn anything, but at least this debate wasn't the flaming cesspit of the last one. I watched the debate on PBS again, but I'm switching to NPR for commentary. And signing off for now.

First Tuesday in October

Starting in March, this year has seemed like a weird anthology TV show, with each month written and directed by a different team. We haven't had Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme yet; I'm hoping that'll be the season finale in February. This month we seem to have Armando Iannucci running the show, as the President's antics over the weekend suggest.

So here's how I'm spending lunch:

Tomorrow night will be the vice-presidential debate, which I will again live-blog. I can't wait.

The Missouri Compromise and the 2020 election

Jamelle Bouie thinks 1820 offers a better view of today's politics than 1850 or 1968:

There is no one-to-one comparison from the past to current events; there never is. But drawing on the Missouri controversy, I do have an observation to make about our present situation. Once again, under the guise of ordinary political conflict, Americans are fighting a meta-legal battle over the meaning of both the Union and the Constitution.

A fight over the fate of the Supreme Court is weighty enough, but beneath the surface of this conflict is an even fiercer struggle about what the Constitution means, one taking place in the context of minority rule and incipient democratic failure.

Many democratic political systems allow for minority-led governments, although they often force parties to build majority coalitions to achieve them. That’s because minority government becomes an unacceptably bitter pill when the winning party rejects compromise and consensus in favor of factionalism and unilateral action. The problem comes when a political system allows for minority winners but doesn’t require coalition government. Stability is possible, but it depends on forbearance and good faith from all sides. You can play political and constitutional hardball, but it might bring conflict out into the open that you can’t ultimately control, and it will raise questions about your mandate to govern.

Trump, McConnell and the Republican Party have embraced a kind of political total war. Democrats and their liberal allies say this violates the democratic principles against which we judge the fairness of our institutions. In response, Republicans say the Constitution is what counts. Whether or not an action violates some abstract principle, if it’s in the rules, it’s in the rules.

The Missouri controversy was, of course, settled with a compromise. Missouri would enter the Union as a slave state, and Maine would enter as a free state, but Congress would prohibit slavery in all land of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36° 30’ parallel. This defused the fight over the territory, but could not resolve the conflict over the Union. This was legislation, a good faith agreement between two irreconcilable sides, not a permanent addition to the constitutional framework.

The Republican Party has created a situation where no compromise is possible. Biden winning in five weeks won't change that. But at least a clear win, and taking the Senate back, will allow us to repair some of the damage that four years of Republican rule has inflicted.

Let's all play by the rules

The GOP panic to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat makes three things absolutely clear: first, they expect to lose bigly in six weeks; second, they realize they're against public opinion; and third, they realize that public opinion is continuing to turn against them. In short, this is quite literally their last chance to get a SCOTUS seat for a generation.

You know what? Everyone else is sick of their bullshit.

We're going to win both houses and the presidency, and then we're going to cement that win by expanding the court, and then by granting statehood to DC and PR. Too many in our party are tired of playing nice against a bunch of thugs.

The Republicans have the power to do exactly what they're doing. And in four months, we'll have the power to undo all of it. They say they're just playing by the rules, and they're not wrong. So we need to play by the rules as well. All of them.

Or as I learned many years ago playing AD&D: lawful good does not mean lawful stupid.

Long day, long six weeks ahead

Choral board meeting followed by chorus rehearsal: all on Zoom, and as president and generally techy guy, I'm hosting. After a full day of work and a 5 km walk. Whew.

So what's new?

Finally, if you want to be a Cook County Judge of Election, you can still sign up—and earn $230.