First, because it's April 20th, we have a a couple of stories about marijuana:
(The Daily Parker owns shares in Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries.)
Second, because it's the 21st Century, we have a collection of articles about the end of democracy:
And in me. I've got software to write.
US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) held her seat, as did Mark Kelly (D-AZ), meaning the Democratic Party has held the Senate:
[W]ith Ms. Cortez Masto’s victory in Nevada, Democrats have nailed down the 50 seats they need to retain control of the upper chamber, a major feat considering that voters typically punish the president’s party during the midterms.
The Democratic victory will bolster Mr. Biden’s political capital as he moves toward a possible bid for a second term. Even if Republicans do take the House, he will be able to stock the judiciary with his nominees and will be insulated from politically freighted G.O.P. legislation. And Democrats will be free to mount their own investigations to counter the threatened onslaught from a Republican-controlled lower chamber.
A Democratic Senate will be invaluable to Mr. Biden, even if Republicans narrowly secure control of the House. In addition to having two more years to confirm judges, the president will have more control over personnel in his government with the confirmation of nominees under the guidance of Mr. Schumer.
There was fist-pumping at my table last night at Rachael Yamagata's concert. I don't know if Yamagata knew the result during her set, but I'd like to think I saw an extra bit of optimism in her eyes.
It does look like we will lose the House, but I do love these two bits:
- Democrats picked up a seat in the 3rd congressional district in Washington state, a district that had been held by a Republican, Jamie Herrera Beutler. But she voted for former President Trump's impeachment and was ousted by the right in the primary. There's an irony in the fact that she was ousted because she voted to impeach Trump and, now, a Democrat has taken over that seat. It's indicative of the broader message in this election.
- One of the other races with a razor-thin margin is Rep. Lauren Boebert's seat. The conservative lightning rod had been trailing in this right-leaning district on Election Night, but is now up by just over 1,000 votes. The race appears to be trending in her direction. But it's a result that is far closer than what was expected.
On Boebert's race, keep in mind she beat a sitting Republican 55-45 in the June 2020 primary and went on to win 52-45 in the general by running as a MAGA extremist. Will she feel any contrition? Probably not. But she hasn't said anything since Tuesday, so we know she's rattled.
In case you needed more things to read today:
There are others, but I've still got a lot to do today.
A lot has happened in the past day or so:
- The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 down partisan lines that everyone can carry a gun anywhere they want to, because they had guns in 1791 and so we have to live by 230-year-old rules. (Fun fact: a well-trained militiaman in 1791 could fire four aimed musket shots in a minute! Another fun fact: in 1791, bullets didn't yet exist!)
- That will surely comfort the parents of Uvalde, Texas, about as much as the news that the school police chief finally got suspended in light of the abject incompetence of everyone he supervised.
- Josh Marshall thinks the Justice Department may, actually, prosecute some of the January 6th insurrection leaders—including, perhaps, the XPOTUS.
- Microsoft's president and vice chair Brad Smith explains how Microsoft has fought the cyberwar in Ukraine.
- Robert Wright (sub.req.) argues in favor of a negotiated peace in Ukraine, and that American foreign policy over the past 25 years has made the benefit of standing on principle less than it could have been.
- Philosopher Slavoj Žižek responds that pacifism is the wrong response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Walter Shapiro shakes his head at how badly we (the West) squandered the "lost weekend" of 1989 to 2001.
- After investing $50m in the Republican primary election Illinois has next Tuesday, Ken Griffin has decided to up sticks to Florida. He will not be missed.
- Just four weeks before I visit my ancestral homeland, three transit-related industrial actions (strikes) have either started or will start soon, affecting the national railways, the London Underground, and Heathrow's ground staff. It's a good thing that the only modes of transit I typically use in the UK are planes, trains, and the Tube!
- The US Food and Drug Administration has halted sales of Juul e-cigarette products.
Finally, let's all congratulate Trumpet, the bloodhound who won the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last night. Who's a good boy!
Max Fisher outlines how constitutional crises resolve, and suggests we should look at Latin America, not Europe, for insight into our own potential upheavals:
Such crises, with democracy’s fate left to a handful of officials, rarely resolve purely on legal or constitutional principles, even if those might later be cited as justification.
Rather, their outcome is usually determined by whichever political elites happen to form a quick critical mass in favor of one result. And those officials are left to follow whatever motivation — principle, partisan antipathy, self-interest — happens to move them.
Taken together, the history of modern constitutional crises underscores some hard truths about democracy. Supposedly bedrock norms, like free elections or rule of law, though portrayed as irreversibly cemented into the national foundation, are in truth only as solid as the commitment of those in power. And while a crisis can be an opportunity for leaders to reinforce democratic norms, it can also be an opportunity to revise or outright revoke them.
Presidential democracies [like ours and those in Latin America], by dividing power among competing branches, create more opportunities for rival offices to clash, even to the point of usurping one another’s powers. Such systems also blur questions of who is in charge, forcing their branches to resolve disputes informally, on the fly and at times by force.
Chicago's official temperature at O'Hare hit 35°C about two hours ago, tying the record high temperature set in 1994. Currently it's pushing 36°C with another hour of warming likely before it finally cools down overnight. After another 32°C day tomorrow, the forecast Friday looks perfect.
While we bake by the lake today, a lot has gone down elsewhere:
Finally, apparently John Scalzi and I have the same appreciation for Aimee Mann.
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), currently locked in a cage match with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-MS) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) for "Dumbest Person in Congress," is under investigation for some pretty dumb shit:
Colorado officials are examining allegations that Representative Lauren Boebert, a Republican representing the state’s western half, inflated the mileage she logged on the campaign trail in 2020 and then used more than $20,000 in reimbursements from donors to pay off years of tax liens on her restaurant.
The allegations have bounced around liberal circles since The Denver Post first reported in February 2021 that Ms. Boebert had cashed two checks from her campaign totaling $22,259 for mileage reimbursement. The number equated to 38,712 miles — well more than the 24,901-mile circumference of the planet.
At the core of the inquiry are eight tax liens from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment totaling $20,000 and filed against Ms. Boebert from August 2016 to February 2020 for failure to pay unemployment premiums on her business, Shooters Grill.
In late 2020, Ms. Boebert reimbursed herself for mileage from the 2020 campaign and paid off the liens.
“As you are both fully aware, utilizing an illegal source of funds or ill-gotten funds to pay off a tax lien is illegal in Colorado and under federal law,” the Muckrakers complaint to the attorney general stated, adding, “That is the very definition of ill-gotten funds.”
This won't really go anywhere before the November election, of course, but it will eventually get there. It'll be fun to watch though.
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the reporters who followed the money to expose President Nixon's corruption 50 years ago, compare the corruption that brought down Nixon's presidency to the corruption that should have brought down the last one:
President George Washington, in his celebrated 1796 Farewell Address, cautioned that American democracy was fragile. “Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,” he warned.
Two of his successors — Richard Nixon and Donald Trump — demonstrate the shocking genius of our first president’s foresight.
As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest.
And then along came Trump.
Both Nixon and Trump have been willing prisoners of their compulsions to dominate, and to gain and hold political power through virtually any means. In leaning so heavily on these dark impulses, they defined two of the most dangerous and troubling eras in American history.
As Washington warned in his Farewell Address more than 225 years ago, unprincipled leaders could create “permanent despotism,” “the ruins of public liberty,” and “riot and insurrection.”
In case you haven't seen Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, you should read Washington's full address. Even if you had: Hamilton's words are as true today as they were in 1796.
A day and a half after the unprecedented leak of Justice Alito's (R) draft opinion in Dobbs v Jackson, everyone and her dog has a reaction piece:
- David Von Drehle in the Post warns that Alito's arguments in Dobbs, if accepted as the final majority opinion, would imperil many other rights based on privacy law: "[S]hould Alito’s draft opinion be affirmed by the court’s majority, there will be little to prevent states from enacting limits [on contraception] if they wish. Women will have only as much guaranteed autonomy over their childbearing as they had in 1868. Alito’s draft recognizes the rights of an hour-old zygote, but not of a 12-year-old impregnated by a rapist."
- Jennifer Rubin concurs, saying the Court's "religion-driven mission" puts other settled law like Griswold v Connecticut and Lawrence v Texas in the crosshairs: "At its core, this Supreme Court’s right-wing majority seems eager to cast aside the restraints of precedent, making good on their supporters’ agenda rooted in Christian nationalism. In assuming life begins at conception (thereby giving the states unfettered leeway to ban abortion), Alito and his right-wing colleagues would impose a faith-based regimen shredding a half-century of legal and social change."
- Josh Marshall calls bullshit on Alito's long-professed "originalism:" "Alito recognizes that there are interpretive frameworks that address new issues not explicitly referenced in the constitution. That’s in this decision. But he keeps coming back to “history and tradition” as what really seems like a separate basis of authority. Basically old school values. And lots of rights won’t make that cut."
- Alex Shephard calls bullshit on Republicans trying to blame the leak for the Court's loss of legitimacy when, really, the activist Republican justices killed it: "There is a long tradition in conservative circles of finding every opportunity to claim victimhood. ... [But] the court’s legitimacy problems can, frankly be traced back to Bush v. Gore, if not earlier, when five Republican-appointed justices decided a presidential election based on their own partisan affiliations; this paved the way for President George W. Bush to appoint Samuel Alito."
- Law professor and former Federal prosecutor Joyce Vance concurs, saying "Reversing Roe, particularly in the manner Alito does, condescending, patronizing, forcing an end to women’s full participation as equals in society, will forever change the belief that the court is above politics and the public’s confidence in the Court."
- Adam Liptak of the Times agrees, hinting that Alito or one of his clerks might have leaked the draft as away of pressuring Justices Kavanaugh (R) or Gorsuch (R) to stay in the majority.
- George Will, fresh from his local dispensary, says the end of Roe gives everyone a chance to start over. Everyone, I suppose, except the women whose lives will be ruined or lost because of unwanted or unsafe pregnancies.
- Stephen Colbert Tweets, "I can’t believe how gullible Susan Collins is. But Susan Collins can." But Eric Garland reports on some aspects of Collins' history that paint a much worse picture of the Senator.
- Julia Ioffe reminds us that five of six of the Republican justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.
But, hey, guys? Please keep covering the other stories of the day. Like, for example, the corruption of Justice Thomas (R) and his wife.
Leading off today's afternoon roundup, The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) announced today that Netflix has a series in production based on his game Exploding Kittens. The premise: God and Satan come to Earth—in the bodies of cats. And freakin' Tom Ellis is one of the voices, because he's already played one of those parts.
Meanwhile, in reality:
- A consumers group filed suit against Green Thumb Industries and three other Illinois-based cannabis companies under the Clayton Act, alleging collusion that has driven retail pot prices above $8,800 per kilo. For comparison, the group alleges that retail prices in California are just $660 per kilo. (Disclosure: The Daily Parker is a GTI shareholder.)
- Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D), one of the indirect defendants in the pot suit, signed a $46 billion budget for the state that includes $1.8 billion in temporary tax relief. Apparently, I'll get a $50 check from the State that I can apply to the $600 increase in property taxes Cook County imposed this year, which is nice, but I think the state could have aimed a bit lower on the income cap for that rebate and given more help to other people.
- Shortly after US District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle (a 35-year-old who never tried a case and who graduated summa cum mediocrae laude from the legal powerhouse University of Florida just 8 years ago and earned a rare "not qualified" rating from the ABA upon her appointment in 2020 by the STBXPOTUS) ruled against the CDC in a case brought by an anti-masker, the DOT dropped mask mandates for public transport and air travel in the US. In related news, the Judge also said it's OK to piss in other people's swimming pools and up to the other swimmers not to drink the water.
- While the Chicago Piping Plovers organization waits for Monty and Rose to return to Montrose Beach, another one of the endangered birds has landed at Rainbow Beach on the South Side. He appears more inclined to rent than buy, but local ornithologists report the bird has a new profile on the Plōvr dating site.
- NBC breaks down the three biggest factors driving inflation right now, and yes, one of them is president of Russia. None, however, is president of the US.
- Along those lines, (sane) Republican writer Sarah Longwell, who publishes The Bulwark, found that 68% of Republicans believe the Big Lie that the XPOTUS won the 2020 election, but "the belief that the election was stolen is not a fully formed thought. It’s more of an attitude, or a tribal pose." Makes me proud to be an American!
And finally, via Bruce Schneier, two interesting bits. First, a new paper explains how a bad actor can introduce a backdoor into a machine learning training session to force specific outcomes (explained in plain English by Cory Doctorow). Second, an attacker used a "flash loan" to take over the Beanstalk crypto currency voting system and stole $182 million from it. Because Crypto Is The Future™.