The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

So how did I do?

In this past election cycle, I gave money to eight candidates and two committees. Here's my record:

Candidate Race Result
Cindy Axne IA-3 Won
Sean Casten IL-6 Won
Brendan Kelly IL-12 Lost
Claire McCaskill Senate - MO Lost
Bill Nelson Senate - FL Lost
Beto O'Rourke Senate - TX Lost
Jacky Rosen Senate - NV Won
Harley Rouda CA-48 Won
DCCC US House Won
DSCC US Senate Lost

(Bold text means the parties flipped.)

So, not bad. Half won, four half lost, and one is still being recounted. But really, five of seven flipped the way I hoped. And thanks to three of my candidates (and 35 others), we took the House back.

And we'll see what happens in Florida.

Update, November 19th to reflect that Bill Nelson conceded. Boo.

Lunchtime reading

I didn't have a moment to write any code from 9am until now, so my lunch will include doing the stuff I didn't do in all those meetings. At some point I'll get to these:

Now, back to writing code, as soon as I make yet another vet appointment for my bête noir.

Why we're not hearing right-wingnut crap from Arizona

Josh Marshall points out that Republican US Senate candidate Martha McSally, who has fallen behind in the (still ongoing) vote count against Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema, has avoided raising a hue and cry about voter fraud or similar bullshit such as we're hearing from Florida and Georgia. That's because she's probably going to get the other Arizona Senate seat:

She’s not claiming the election is being stolen or making allegations of voter fraud. She’s basically letting the counting go on. That has reportedly angered national Republicans who want her to do just that. Good for her. But it’s important to note that McSally’s interests are really not aligned with those of the national party.

It is widely assumed that if McSally loses to Sinema she will be appointed to John McCain’s seat. (Former and now again-current Senator Jon Kyl is just there as a placeholder.) In other words, McSally will almost certainly be in the Senate next year regardless of the outcome of this race.

The national GOP wants an additional seat. But McSally really just wants a seat herself. At least that’s her highest priority. So she has little interest in or incentive to disgrace herself with voter fraud conspiracy theories.

Other Republicans, however, who couldn't get elected on the merits, are going nuts with the stuff.

In other words, they're babies. But since McSally sees she's getting the candy if she stays quiet, she's staying quiet.

"A Constitutional Nobody"

Former Assistant Solicitor General Neal Katyal and George Conway III (yes, Kellyanne's husband) say President Trump's "appointment" of Matthew Whittaker to oversee the Justice Department is flatly unconstitutional:

Mr. Whitaker has not been named to some junior post one or two levels below the Justice Department’s top job. He has now been vested with the law enforcement authority of the entire United States government, including the power to supervise Senate-confirmed officials like the deputy attorney general, the solicitor general and all United States attorneys.

We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation.

Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in such a position of grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is President Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always.

As Josh Marshall said earlier today, "It’s really, really bad. ... But it was also clear that it was impulsive, poorly thought out and in many ways counterproductive." In other words, as bad as the Whitaker appointment is on the surface, past Administration actions call into question whether it will actually work out the way they hope.

Scott Walker's greed

David Dayen lays out how ousted Wisconsin governor Scott Walker got greedy, which cost him his election Tuesday:

Not content to simply do the bidding of corporate interests through low tax rates and deregulation, he embarked on one of the biggest economic disasters in recent history. After Tuesday’s elections, we can say it was one of the biggest political ones as well.

In July 2017, Walker inked a deal with Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer known for being so punishing to its workers that it had to install nets to prevent suicides. Foxconn would build a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, producing LCD screens for large-panel televisions—a first for North America. The company claimed this would create 13,000 good-paying jobs and $10 billion in investment. In exchange, Walker offered $3 billion in state subsidies.

“The Foxconn campus will be large enough to hold 11 Lambeau Fields,” Walker gushed when announcing the agreement. His approval ratings had sagged after a lackluster presidential run, and he had failed to keep his first-term promise of creating 250,000 new jobs. The Foxconn deal would be the capstone of his tenure, a public-private partnership to create a high-tech hub in the upper Midwest—a real legacy item.

Instead, the deal was just a way to flush out taxpayer money, without getting much from Foxconn in return. Walker was nothing but a bagman for a coordinated hit on Wisconsin’s treasury, and he paid for it. On Tuesday, he ran into a little-understood fact of modern political life: corporate welfare is deeply unpopular.

It didn't take a Marquette University dropout to realize that Foxconn was going to renege on their deal with the state and, essentially, pocket the money. We could hear Foxconn laughing all the way down here in Chicago. But ol' Scotty never was much of a student. Or much of a governor.

About last night...

Gosh, where do we begin?

What last night showed, as clearly as day following night, is that the Republican Party simply can't win on the merits. And they know it. Yesterday demonstrated how effective their multi-year anti-democratic efforts have been.

Democratic candidates at each level in the aggregate won millions more votes than the Republican field. We lost three of our most vulnerable sitting Senators: Heidi Heidtkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate challenging the odious Ted Cruz (R-TX), nearly won, coming within 220,000 votes out of 8.2 million cast. But we picked up a compensatory seat in Nevada. We broke Republican supermajorities in the legislatures of North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and flipped them entirely in Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York. We kicked out Republican governors by huge margins in Wisconsin and Illinois, won several others, and still have a fighting chance to elect the nation's first female African-American governor in Georgia.

I get Aaron Blake's complaint that it's a "bogus stat" that 12% more people voted for Democratic US Senate candidates than Republican ones. Except it's not. Democrats out-voted Republicans in 2016 and 2014 as well, even while returning Republican majorities to Congress.

Look at Georgia. The person responsible for counting votes, Republican Brian Kemp, was a candidate for governor, and he did everything in his power (some of them beyond his legal authority) to suppress the vote for his challenger, including purging 1.4 million voter registrations and suspending 53,000 more last month.

But also look at Kansas. Kris Kobach, who taught Brian Kemp everything he knows, and who tried unsuccessfully to bring his brand of voter suppression to the country at large, got handed his hat and shown the door. This, despite allowing Democratic-leaning Dodge City to put its lone polling place a mile from public transit, as just one example.

And look at Florida. Democrat Bill Nelson is exercising his right to a recount as sitting governor Rick Scott appears to have received only 35,000 more votes out of 8 million cast. But that's not the big story out of that state. No, the really big story, with consequences for the 2020 race, is that voters passed Proposition 4, re-enfranchising 1.5 million felons—most of whom are African-American—who have completed their sentences.

The Republican Party will try to spin yesterday as a vote of confidence in President Trump. They would do that if they lost by 30 million votes as long as they held the Senate and a couple of state houses. But be clear: between voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering, voter intimidation, and the Senate being specifically designed to protect minority and small-state rights, they have a lot less support than the election suggests.

Like the Afrikaaner National Party from 1948 to 1990, the Republican Party knows it can't win the argument, so it isn't even trying. Over the next few years we'll see them grab everything they can, and use every tactic they think of to hold onto power. They know their time is limited, but like every dying party in history (including George Washington's), they're not going to go quietly. As Trump has shown us, the GOP's strategy will be scorched earth until they finally disappear into dust like their predecessors, the Know-Nothings.

Let's use our new House majority to finally get answers about how much the Trump family has profited from being in office, about how cabinet secretaries are lining their pockets while handing our future to the industries they supposedly regulate, and about how the governing party is taking a match to liberal democracy in order to forestall their own irrelevance.

So let's keep up the fight.

Oh, and Chicago voted to ban plastic straws. I just...why?

Distilling the Congress

Adam Shepherd points out that this election will make things worse, not better, regardless of the result—at least for the next two years:

Theoretically, divided government could lead to compromise, since Trump would need Democrats to pass legislation. With 2020 approaching, the thinking goes, he would be incentivized to make deals that show that he can get things done (on infrastructure, for instance). But Trump has shown no interest in this kind of politics. Yes, he has flirted with bipartisanship in the past, but has always ultimately demurred, either due to pressure from aides and donors or from a preternatural devotion to his base. When pressed, Trump has eschewed dealmaking and calls for unity and doubled down on attacks on the media and his Democratic opposition.

Over the last two years, despite controlling Washington, Republicans have done little with their power. Their only major legislative achievement was the $1.5 trillion tax cut, largely benefiting corporations and the wealthy, which appears to represent the entirety of the party’s ideas. The GOP’s policy apathy has become apparent over the last two months, as candidates across the country have embraced the president’s ethno-nationalism and racist immigration policy. With defeat looming, the GOP sees fear-mongering as the only way to get their aging white base to the polls—a strategy that worked two years ago. Expect Republicans to employ these tactics even in defeat.

In fact, they may employ them especially if they lose. The most likely Republicans to lose in Tuesday’s midterms are the most moderate members of Congress, those in suburban districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. “That means that your ordinary Freedom Caucus member is going to get reelected even in a blue wave, while the vulnerable members are the more moderate ones who represent swing districts,” Paul Waldman wrote in The Washington Post on Monday. “This will produce a somewhat ironic result in the next Congress: The bigger the blue wave, the more conservative the Republican caucus will end up being when it’s over, and the less equipped the GOP will be to run a different kind of campaign in 2020.”

Meanwhile:

Tonight will be a nail-biter. I hope I get some sleep.

Brian Kemp wants his own election to fail

By now you may have heard that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections in Georgia, and who is running for governor of Georgia this coming Tuesday, claims the Democratic Party hacked the voter registration database.

No. What happened is, when the state Democratic Party's voter protection director reached out to his office directly after being alerted to a gaping data vulnerability, he turned his own malfeasance into an attack on his opposition:

By the time Democrats reached out to the experts, Kemp’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had already been alerted to the problem on Saturday morning by David Cross of the Morrison Foerster law firm. Cross is an attorney for one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Kemp and other elections officials concerning cyber weaknesses in Georgia’s election system.

A man who claims to be a Georgia resident said he stumbled upon files in his My Voter Page on the secretary of state’s website. He realized the files were accessible. That man then reached out to one of Cross’s clients, who then put the source and Cross in touch on Friday.

The next morning, Cross called John Salter, a lawyer who represents Kemp and the secretary of state’s office. Cross also notified the FBI.

WhoWhatWhy, which exclusively reported on these vulnerabilities Sunday morning, had consulted with five computer security experts on Saturday to verify the seriousness of the situation. They confirmed that these security gaps would allow even a low-skilled hacker to compromise Georgia’s voter registration system and, in turn, the election itself. It is not known how long these vulnerabilities have existed or whether they have been exploited.

In this election and during the primaries, voters have reported not showing up in the poll books, being assigned to the wrong precinct, and being issued the wrong ballot.

All of that could be explained by a bad actor changing voter registration data.

Kemp's incompetence at securing voter registration data should be criminal. If he were a corporate executive, he could personally be sued in the EU and in other parts of the world for his negligence.

But, see, if you're running in a state where the majority of voters want your opponent to win, and you're a Republican, and you have the means and opportunity, you just bollocks up data security so badly that the entire registration process looks suspect. Then you either win, because the opposition can't vote, or you lose, and start bogus investigations to call the election's legitimacy into doubt.

This has been the Jim Crow strategy for a century and a half. That Kemp's opponent is an African-American woman with clear support from a majority of Georgians only makes Kemp's behavior more brazen.

The Republican Party can't win on the merits in most of the country, so they're throwing the game where they can. And the fact that their behavior undermines the legitimacy of elections in general is a feature, not a bug.

I've said this for 30 years: the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And they are not going to give up their losing battle quietly. Nihilism doesn't care, after all.

Vote on Tuesday, if you haven't already. Enough of this shit. We have real problems to solve, and we need real people to solve them. Don't let the nihilists win.

The nihilism of the GOP

Writing for New Republic, Garret Keizer argues that nihilism, not racism or anger at elites, really drives Trump voters:

A nihilist is someone who dedicates himself to not giving a shit, who thinks all meanings are shit, and who yearns with all his heart for the “aesthetic pleasure” of seeing the shit hit the fan. Arguing with a nihilist is like intimidating a suicide bomber: The usual threats and enticement have no effect. I suspect that is part of the appeal for both: the facile transcendence of placing oneself beyond all powers of persuasion. A nihilist is above you and your persnickety arguments in the same way that Trump fancies himself above the law.

[I]t’s probably a mistake to view nihilism as “an explanation apart” from the common analyses of the Trump phenomenon. Economic dispossession and virulent racism stand in relation to nihilism not as alternative theories but as reciprocal causes and effects. In other words, all three flourish in a moral vacuum.

A sense of radical incredulity, spectacularly typified by Trump’s refusal to believe his own intelligence services, is but one manifestation of the nihilism that brought him to power. What makes him “the real deal” in the eyes of his most ardent admirers is largely his insistence that almost everything else is fake. Like him, they know that the news is fake, the melting ice caps are fake, the purported citizenship of certain voters is fake, science is fake, social justice is fake, the whole notion of truth is fake. Whatever isn’t fake is so relative that it might as well be fake; “true for you,” maybe, but that’s as far as it goes. Among those who call themselves “believers” and are thus at least technically not nihilists, one frequently finds an obsession with apocalypse, a gleeful anticipation of the living end that will destroy the inherent fakery of all things. The social teachings of the Gospels need not trouble the Christian conscience so long as the troubles predicted in Revelation come to pass.

Another pertinent factor is envy, a basic human emotion that rising social inequality can only exacerbate. To put it in cruder terms: “The world sucks for me, so I am going to make it suck for you too. I have lost my job, my status as a white male, and may even lose my gun. So you, my smug, privileged friend, are going to lose your civil liberties, your faith in social progress, your endangered species, your affirmative action, your reproductive freedom, your international alliances, your ‘wonderful’ exchange student from Syria.” The rationale is probably not too distant from that of the jealous husband who shoots his wife, her lover, and himself. Enjoying ourselves, are we? We will enjoy nothing!—which is to say, we will enjoy the only thing a nihilist can enjoy.

It's a slightly depressing essay, but probably accurate. Sigh.

What we can really expect from climate change

Washington Post political reporter Philip Bump lays it out:

[T]he effects of the increased heat are much broader than simply higher temperatures. In an effort to delineate what scientists expect to see as the world warms, I spoke with Alex Halliday, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Direct effects of higher temperatures

Increased health risks. One of the most immediate effects of higher temperatures is an increased threat of health risks such as heat stroke. As noted above, this is probably the most easily understood risk.

Drought. There will be more droughts. For one thing, higher temperatures will lead to faster evaporation of surface water. For another, they will mean less snowfall, as precipitation will be more likely to fall as rain. In some regions, like much of the Southwest, flows of water through the spring and summer are a function of snow melting in the mountains. Reduced snowpack means less water later in the year.

Wildfires. Higher temperatures and drier conditions in some places will also help wildfires spread and lengthen the wildfire season overall.

It gets better from there. So its nice to know that the world's second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases plans to reduce regulations to allow even more emissions.