The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Still ridiculously busy

At least I don't have an opera rehearsal tonight. That means I might, just might, have some time to read these once I finish preparing for a 7am meeting tomorrow:

Finally, the old Morton Salt plant on Chicago's Near North Side opened last night as a new music venue called "The Salt Shed." It even got a new coat of paint.

Sure Happy It's Thursday

So, what's going on today?

Finally, I meant to post this earlier: Cassie, plotzed, after getting home from boarding Sunday night.

Tuesday morning...uh, afternoon reading

It's a lovely day in Chicago, which I'm not enjoying as much as I could because I'm (a) in my Loop office and (b) busy as hell. So I'll have to read these later:

Finally, Mick Jagger turns 79 today, which surprised me because I thought he was closer to 130.

Stuff to read tomorrow morning

In just a few minutes I will take Cassie to boarding, then head up to Northwestern for a rehearsal (I'm in the chorus at Ravinia's upcoming performances of La Clemenza di Tito.) I'll then have to pack when I get home from rehearsal, then head to a hotel by O'Hare. Ah, how much fun is an 8:30 international flight!

As I'll have some time at the airport in the morning, and no time now, I want to queue these up for myself:

All right, I'm off. After I pack.

Busy day = reading backlog

I will definitely make time this weekend to drool over the recent photos from the James Webb Space Telescope. It's kind of sad that no living human will ever see anything outside our solar system, but we can dream, right?

Closer to home than the edge of the visible universe:

Finally, an F/A-18 slid right off the deck of the USS Harry S Truman and into the Mediterranean, which will probably result in a short Navy career for at least one weather forecaster or helmsman.

The perils of a political judiciary

Josh Marshall shares a couple of emails from attorneys dismayed by the politicization of the right-wing Supreme Court majority. One of them gets to the root of the problem:

I don’t believe laypeople really understand what a a heavy, heavy emotional lift it is for the vast majority of attorneys generally, and law professors in particular. The belief that we are serving rule of law and that that while decisions will always be shaped by human weakness, judges can and will render rulings contrary to their ideological predilections if the law requires it is central to our identity. It is what makes more than the lawyer jokes say we are. It is the essence the constitutional principle of due process, equal protection, Magna Carta law of the land. All that stuff. It’s hard to accept that it’s dead and courts are just political actors, even as right wing billionaires have plowed fortunes into making state and federal courts exactly that.

Matt Ford, meanwhile, examines the recent heckling of Justice Brett Kavanaugh (R) at a Washington steakhouse and finds no Constitutional right to dinner:

Is there actually a constitutional right to dinner? Or, more specifically, did the Constitution protect a right to dinner at the time that the Constitution was adopted? The Supreme Court has shown in Dobbs and other cases such as New York State Pistol and Rifle Association v. Bruen that originalism is the only proper method to answer these questions. My own originalist analysis of this issue leads me to conclude that no such right to dinner exists in our legal heritage. Accordingly, I do not think such a right should be recognized now.

To understand whether Kavanaugh had a right to dinner at Morton’s, we must first look to the pre-constitutional context of medieval England to understand dinner’s place in the Anglo-American legal tradition. Antonin Scalia relied upon this time period in his majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, as did Justice Samuel Alito in his majority opinion in Dobbs. There is surely no better way to decide the scope of rights enjoyed by Americans living in 2022 than by surveying the works of legal thinkers from a different country, most of whom died well before the first shot was fired at Lexington and Concord.

This historical evidence also shows that dinner involves a “profound moral question,” as Alito said of abortion in Dobbs. That sets it apart from other constitutional rights that don’t raise moral questions, like what counts as cruel and unusual punishment or what counts as religious freedom. The nature of dinner—when it can be eaten, what can be served, and who may take part in it—is also a matter of sharp and persistent division among the American people themselves. That distinguishes it from other constitutional rights like freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, where Americans rarely disagree. Dinner is just different, for reasons I will hint at but never explicitly say and that definitely have nothing to do with my personal views on the subject.

More constructively, James Fallows keeps his focus on a legal reform that would have bipartisan support if one group of partisans weren't batshit crazy:

It is hard to see how a democracy functions, long-term, with such limitless power in such unrepresentative and unaccountable hands. That is related to the critique that Elena Kagan made in her dissent from the disastrous ruling last week dis-empowering the Environmental Protection Agency, and is parallel to the case I made here.

Yesterday a group called Fix the Court released proposed legislation with a Plan A / Plan B structure.

—The main effect of the law, Plan A, would be to enact 18-year fixed terms for Supreme Court Justices, as many groups (including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and several U.S. Representatives) have proposed, and is long overdue.

—The innovation of the law is its “contingency” provision. The Constitutional validity of any term-limit rules might ultimately be appealed to the same Supreme Court whose members would be affected. And suppose they ruled against it? To keep themselves in their seats?

If that happened, according to this provision, Plan B would kick in: the Court would automatically be expanded, from nine members to 13. The logic of this approach was laid out by G. Michael Parsons, of NYU’s law school, in a detailed law-review article and an op-ed last year.

Of course, this requires that a majority of the US Senate believe in democracy and the rule of law, when it sure seems like they don't.

I've said this before: the next few years will positively suck for the most vulnerable among us as the right-wing Court continues its rampage. Maybe enough people will vote for candidates who can stop it?

Thursday afternoon round-up

A lot has happened in the past day or so:

Finally, let's all congratulate Trumpet, the bloodhound who won the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last night. Who's a good boy!

Friday afternoon reading

Yesterday I had a full work day plus a three-hour rehearsal for our performance of Stacy Garrop's Terra Nostra on Monday night. (Tickets still available!) Also, yesterday, the House began its public hearings about the failed insurrection on 6 January 2021. Also, yesterday was Thursday, and I could never get the hang of Thursdays.

Finally, Wired takes a look at the law of war, and how Ukrainian civilians may cross the line into belligerents by using apps to report military intelligence to the Ukrainian army.

San Francisco voters oust district attorney

San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin 60%-40% yesterday (but with only 26% turnout), which suggests a growing backlash against progressive crime policies as crime rates inch up from their historic lows:

Boudin was an easy scapegoat. Decades of failed housing and mental-health policies have fed a homelessness crisis in a city that was never as liberal as it appeared. The pandemic appeared to fuel deep sociological challenges that no politician or prosecutor had easy answers for. Still, his rejection reflected visible grassroots anger at both these conditions and his policies, particularly Boudin’s unwillingness to bring heavier charges against shoplifters and other kinds of petty thieves that had come to define, in the popular imagination, 2020s San Francisco. Wealthy, older voters were eager to dump Boudin, as were middle-class non-white voters, particularly Asian Americans. Victimized by a surge in hate crimes, Asian voters felt Boudin had not responded properly to their plight. In 2021, Boudin drew sharp criticism for failing to describe the murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, as a racially motivated crime. While denouncing the crime, Boudin said the defendant was “in some sort of a temper tantrum” and said there was no evidence to charge him with a hate crime. His office would later charge him with murder and elder abuse, but it wasn’t enough to assuage anger in the community.

The outcome in Los Angeles, though, was not so decisive. [Rick] Caruso, a former Republican who developed the Grove and other popular malls in the city, unloaded almost $40 million to shoot to the top of the polls and discombobulate a sleepy race that was supposed to be Bass’s to lose. Caruso blanketed the city with TV and digital ads and secured the backing of several major celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow. His campaign, in many ways, represented conservative backlash: He promised to hire more cops and championed the broken-windows policing pioneered by Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner of L.A. and New York. Like Rudy Giuliani and other right-wing mayoral candidates of yore, he vowed to crack down on perceived disorder in the city.

Caruso was also able to exploit the blind spot of California’s left — the belief that it is progressive, and accepted by broad numbers of people, to allow the unhoused to sleep in tents on public property. But, borrowing from some on the left in the housing movement, he also promised to build 30,000 new shelter beds, convert more hotels and motels into shelters, as well as petition the federal government to triple the number of Section 8 vouchers.

Because we Americans have the maturity and attention spans of toddlers, the Right can always count on progressive policies (mental health care, education, anti-poverty measures) taking too long to solve the problems (crime, drugs, homelessness) that a lack of said policies cause. In other words, we know how to reduce crime, drug use, and homelessness, but it takes a lot of time and attention to do so. Right-wing "lock 'em up" policies appeal to the toddlers voters because they seem immediate and decisive, even though overwhelming evidence shows they fail in the long run. The lack of voter turnout in San Francisco yesterday contributed to Boudin's loss, by some accounts.

I suspect Boudin's problems went a lot deeper than just advocating progressive, long-range solutions to crime and homelessness. It seems a lot like he had a tin ear and a rigidity of thought (i.e., arrogance) that pissed off his natural allies. We have the same situation here in Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot—whom I supported—has done everything in her power to ensure she only serves a single term, mainly by crapping on her friends. For example, in Chicago, it's hard to lose both the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools, but Lightfoot achieved that elusive goal last year. It looks a lot like Boudin took a similar approach to office, with expected results.