The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How much Bruce Rauner cost Illinois

In another implicit rebuke to the lump of clay that occupied the Governor's Mansion for four years, Illinois finally got a bump in its credit rating after Governor Pritzker started paying our bills again:

In upgrading Illinois’ credit by one step — to two notches above junk bond status instead of one — Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service noted that the $42 billion spending plan for the year starting July 1 “increases pension contributions, repays emergency Federal Reserve borrowings and keeps a backlog of bills in check with only constrained use of federal aid” from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan.

Even after the upgrade, Illinois remains the lowest-rated state on Moody’s scale, two notches below the next-lowest: New Jersey. Generally, states with higher credit ratings are able to borrow money at lower interest rates, ultimately saving taxpayers money.

While the upgrade from Moody’s is welcome news, it only returns the state’s rating to where it was before the last of three downgrades during the tumultuous tenure of Pritzker’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

It still baffles me why Rauner screwed Illinois so hard and without lube. He may have qualified as a "moderate" Republican by today's standards, but he still moved to kill unions, kill the state budget, and kill working people in Illinois.

Rauner now lives in exile in—where else?—Florida.

The NSA has a sense of humor

After Fox network blowhard Tucker Carlson whined that the National Security Agency, the US intelligence service tasked with spying on communications outside the US, had tapped his phones, the agency clapped back on Twitter:

TPM's Cristina Cabrera reports, "Carlson doubled down on his accusation shortly afterward on his program, saying the NSA’s statement 'an entire paragraph of lies written purely for the benefit of the intel community’s lackeys at CNN and MSNBC.'"

The NSA is just having a bit of sport with Carlson, but one can't know for sure. First, the NSA would never admit to spying on anyone. But second, even if the NSA were spying on him, wouldn't Carlson want to know which overseas friend of his would have attracted the agency's attention, and why?

In related news, the Manhattan District Attorney appears ready to charge the Trump Organization and its CFO with tax crimes tomorrow morning. Stay tuned!

Record heat in the Pacific Northwest

Portland, Ore., hit an all-time high temperature of 43°C yesterday, with a forecast of 45°C today:

The National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning for much of Oregon and Washington with historic highs -- and historic lows -- forecast across the region. Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the warning took effect as a massive ridge of high pressure encompasses the Pacific Northwest, leading to triple digits all weekend and through Monday.

By 4 p.m. Saturday, the temperature at the Portland International Airport reached 103 degrees, according to the NWS. This not only broke the previous high-temperature record for this day (which was set at 102 degrees back in 2006), but also broke the record for the month of June.

An hour later, Portland hit 107 degrees, tying the all-time record high that has only been felt three times in recorded history from 1965 to 1981.

But the heat didn't stop there. Notching up one more degree, Portland set a new record for the hottest day.

During this heatwave, the Portland metro area and the Willamette Valley can expect to see anywhere from 105 to 110 degrees, with the hottest day likely being Sunday, where the afternoon high in Portland is 110.

Seattle also had ludicrous heat. And the excessive drought covering 26% of the Western states doesn't help, as it has encouraged a persistent high-pressure area over the region that keeps it hot and dry.

But nope, no climate change! Move along!

Gotta love the centrists

The Washington Post has three opinion pieces this morning that outline where the "centrists" in my party actually stand. The first, by US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), argues in favor of letting 40 Senators, representing about 30% of the country, block legislation that the other 70% of the country want merely by threatening to block the legislation:

Once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority. But a Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a covid-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate. Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.

And, sometimes, the filibuster, as it’s been used in previous Congresses, is needed to protect against attacks on women’s health, clean air and water, or aid to children and families in need.

My support for retaining the 60-vote threshold is not based on the importance of any particular policy. It is based on what is best for our democracy. The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles.

To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act (voting-rights legislation I support and have co-sponsored), I would ask: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections, over the objections of the minority?

Well, yes, actually, writes Greg Sargent: "That truly is frightful. Imagine a world in which legislative majorities could pass voting restrictions over the objections of minorities!"

As one of the last Democratic holdouts against filibuster reform, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is making big news with an op-ed in The Post laying out her rationale. Some of its central pronouncements have already been debunked: Despite her claims otherwise, the filibuster does not facilitate moderation or bipartisan cooperation.

But there’s an even more fundamental flaw in Sinema’s argument: Defending democracy and the filibuster simultaneously, in the terms that Sinema herself employs, is simply incoherent to its core.

Sinema’s own treatment of these questions inadvertently serves to reveal that a choice must inevitably be made between the two — and that Sinema is choosing the filibuster over defending democracy.

Josh Marshall simply calls her "a preening clown," while New Republic's Matt Ford asks "how dumb does Kyrsten Sinema think we are?" But WaPo columnist Catherine Rampell argues that Manchin actually got Senate Republicans to admit to their lie that they only care about protecting the integrity of elections:

In a memo, Manchin proposed building upon parts of the For the People Act and a narrower bill, known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, with a few amendments. His proposal would make Election Day a public holiday, require two weeks of early voting, automatically register voters through motor vehicle departments and eliminate partisan gerrymandering. It’s not everything Democrats want — and has some oversights — but it addresses most of the party’s goals for promoting free and fair elections.

Perhaps more important, from a political standpoint: Manchin’s compromise completely undercuts Republicans’ case for blocking reform.

It does this by including new requirements to safeguard election security, which is — or was — the top priority of Republicans concerned by “questions” the 2020 election supposedly raised.

Republicans, on the other hand, rejected the framework. Immediately, forcefully, unambiguously.

“It needs to be blocked,” remarked Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who a week earlier praised Manchin as “saving our country” by encouraging bipartisanship.

Let's not forget, simple demographics and the Constitution already give the Republican Party a disproportionate influence on legislation. And also remember, the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule.

Relaxing weekend

Cassie and I headed up to Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills, Wis., yesterday to hang out with family. Today, other than a trip to the grocery and adjacent pet store where Cassie picked out an "indestructible" toy that now lies in tatters on the couch, we've had a pretty relaxing Sunday. I thought I'd take a break from Hard Times to queue up some stuff to read tomorrow at lunch:

I will now return to Dickens, because it's funny and sad.

All work and dog play

Oh, to be a dog. Cassie is sleeping comfortably on her bed in my office after having over an hour of walks (including 20 minutes at the dog park) so far today. Meanwhile, at work we resumed using a bit of code that we put on ice for a while, and I promptly discovered four bugs. I've spent the afternoon listening to Cassie snore and swatting the first one.

Meanwhile, in the outside world, life continues:

And right by my house, TimeLine Theater plans to renovate a dilapidated warehouse to create a new theater space and cultural center, while a 98-year-old hardware store by Wrigley Field will soon become apartments.

Heavy competition for "Dumbest in Congress" award this year

Many of the top contenders for the bottom position on the US House of Representative's intellectual achievement league table have only recently joined the august body. First-term representatives Lauren Boebert (R-CO), a high-school dropout, and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), have backed up their sterling educational credentials with solid records of stupidity. Of course, US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) would win by two lengths if he served in the House instead of the Senate. Fortunately, the House has Jim Jordan (R-OH) to represent the same demographic (stereotypical meathead football coaches with neolithic political views).

Yesterday, however, Louie Gohmert (R-TX), a perennial contender and multiple-year winner of the award, lowered the bar dramatically with a truly remarkable idea he shared with the House Natural Resources Committee and an associate deputy chief of the US Forest Service:

"I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. We know there's been significant solar flare activity," he said. "And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate."

Eberlien responded, smiling, "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert."

"If you figure out there's a way in the Forest Service you could make that change, I'd like to know," Gohmert said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) helpfully provided an answer for his astronomy-challenged colleague:

Gohmert, now in his 7th term in Congress, faces no significant challenger in 2022. And with this, he may not face a serious challenge to his title of Dumbest in Congress for the 13th year running.

Wednesday afternoon

I spent the morning unsuccessfully trying to get a .NET 5 Blazor WebAssembly app to behave with an Azure App Registration, and part of the afternoon doing a friend's taxes. Yes, I preferred doing the taxes, because I got my friend a pile of good news without having to read sixty contradictory pages of documentation.

I also became aware of the following:

Tomorrow morning, I promise to make my WebAssembly app talk to our Azure Active Directory. Right now, I think someone needs a walk.

Because conservatives love states' rights

SDCA Senior Judge Roger Benitez, a George W Bush appointee, has ruled that California's assault-weapons ban violates the 2nd Amendment:

The state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judge wrote.

Judge Roger T. Benitez, who has favored pro-gun groups in past rulings, described the AR-15 rifle, used in many of the nation's deadliest mass shootings, as an ideal weapon.

"Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment," he wrote in Friday's decision.

"Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR15 type rifle," Benitez continued. "Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional."

What a novel theory: other states allow this thing, so California must also. And yet I would bet you an entire dollar that Judge Benitez would disagree with his own theory as regards, say, marijuana or abortions.

The hypocrisy of Republicans on this issue is a lot like their hypocrisy on many others: what they want, others must have; what they don't want, no one else can have. The Federal government can't tell states they have to allow abortions, but they can tell states they can't ban the causes of the biggest health crisis in America since the invention of the automobile.

Benitez' opinion opens with a lengthy argument that the AR-15, a weapon designed specifically to allow American infantry to kill lots of people as reliably and as easily as possible, really isn't as deadly as someone's hands (no, really, footnote 3 on page 3). But really, he goes on, the term "assault weapon" is too broadly defined to be useful, but even if the AR-15 is an assault rifle, "like all guns, [it] can be used for ill or for good" (at 8).

Judge Benitez does not elaborate on the good that an AR-15 can do.

Naturally his opinion quotes dissents from Thomas, Scalia, and Kavanaugh quite a bit. For non-lawyers, quoting a dissent usually signals that the judge knows he's on the wrong side of precedent, but hopes that he can create new precedent if the case goes all the way up on appeal. He also spends a lot of time on Heller, which, I'm sure even casual Daily Parker readers know, I think was wrongly decided and has caused no end of suffering all over the US.

I expect it will. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will probably overturn Benitez, as I would guess they have done on many previous occasions. I have little doubt that our hyper-politicized Supreme Court will grant certiorari, and if so, probably reverse the appellate court.

I'm sick of my country's gun fetish. And assholes like Judge Benitez, who proudly say "there's no way to prevent this" in the only country where this regularly happens.

The Republican Civil War moves to Oregon

The Multnomah County, Ore., Republican Party has suffered what one might call a psychotic episode:

The story in Multnomah County, which is home to both Democrat-dominated Portland and a strong contingent of right-wing militia types, started with anger and frustration over [ousted GOP county chair Stephen] Lloyd’s effort to make the party “open to everyone,” including with more public-facing meetings. 

To some, that was simply too much. In early May, a faction of the party scheduled a recall vote.

The petition cited the supposed danger posed by local anti-fascist activists, asserting, “We dare not announce where and when we are meeting in the city of the original Antifa group, Rose City Antifa, which continues to actively hurt people and damage property nightly in Portland!”

But the May 6 recall vote was unusual. 

For one thing, its location, a Portland church, was not publicized ahead of time, WW reported. More suspicious still, an associate of the Proud Boys, Daniel Tooze Sr., provided volunteer security at the door as his associates roamed around the neighborhood. 

Ball told TPM the meeting included an unfamiliar crowd that he eventually heard were Proud Boys.

If this sort of thing sounds familiar, it should: it looks a lot like the rise of private militias in other democracies that have ultimately failed, going all the way back to Rome. You know how we sometimes say "people who don't study history are doomed to repeat it?" These tremors in the Republican Party are coming from people who have studied history and want to repeat it. The Right's leaders know what they're doing, even if the Herrenvolk do not.

In related news, Facebook has suspended the XPOTUS for two years.