The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What I'll be watching for tomorrow

I plan to live-blog off and on tomorrow evening, understanding the likelihood that we won't know the results of many of the races until later in the week. I'm watching these races most closely (all times CST, UTC-6):

6pm

Polls close in Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia. Of these, I mainly want to know the results in Georgia's two US Senate races, plus the US Senate race in South Carolina and the Georgia presidential totals. In Kentucky, Amy McGrath has less than a 1 in 20 chance of winning, but if you've ever played D&D you know that doesn't mean she's dead. Kentucky expects 90% of votes to be counted Tuesday night. The other three may have all their results as well, but Virginia might not have close races resolved until next week.

6:30pm

North Carolina and Ohio are must-wins for the president; North Carolina is a likely US Senate pick-up for the Democratic Party. In Ohio, the president is favored by about 62%; in North Carolina, Biden is favored around 66%. While most ballots will be counted Tuesday night in Ohio, final results may take until November 18th. We should know North Carolina by Wednesday morning.

7pm

Polls close here, in Maine, most of Texas, and a number of states unlikely to sway the election. However, by this point, polls representing 272 electoral votes will have closed. Illinois results for everything except the Fair Tax amendment will come out Tuesday night, though final results could take until the counting deadline on November 17th. We'll know whether Maine's Susan Colins goes on the dole before midnight in Chicago. But Texas, boy, I don't know. They may have some results Tuesday night but absentee ballots can come in through 5pm Wednesday.

8pm

Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New York, the western nub of Texas, and Wisconsin. Arizona should start releasing their results by 9pm, and with Mark Kelly and Joe Biden both expected to win the state, this may be the first one I actually celebrate. Colorado should start reporting results overnight, and Wisconsin should report everything by Wednesday morning. Michigan and New York will take several days to report results. (New York, in fact, has until the 28th to report its results, according to state law.)

9pm

Of the races whose polls close at this time, I care most about Iowa's US Senate race. It's dead-even between incumbent Republican Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. Because Iowa counts ballots that arrive up until the 9th, we will have to wait a week to know for sure.

10pm

All three West Coast states plus Idaho close at this time, though I don't expect any surprises. All three should go for Biden by wide margins, and only Oregon has a US Senate race that incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley should win easily. The only exciting event at 10pm will be the AP officially calling all 74 of those Electoral College votes for Biden.

11pm

The networks can call Hawai'i, with its 4 electoral votes and no US Senate race, at this time.

Midnight

Alaska finally closes its polls, sending its 3 electoral votes to the president. But the US Senate Race is still in play, with Democrat Al Gross nipping at incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan's heels. Unless the revolt from the left exceeds even my optimistic expectations, Sullivan will probably sit in the 117th Congress. However, since Alaska won't even start counting votes received after October 29th until next Tuesday, we won't know until the 18th.

In the background, I want to know state legislature races in a few states, like North Carolina. 

Sources:

One week to go

The first polls close in the US next Tuesday in Indiana at 6 pm EST (5 pm Chicago time, 22:00 UTC) and the last ones in Hawaii and Alaska at 7pm HST and 8pm AKST respectively (11 pm in Chicago, 05:00 UTC). You can count on all your pocket change that I'll be live-blogging for most of that time. I do plan actually to sleep next Tuesday, so I can't guarantee we'll know anything for certain before I pass out, but I'll give it the college try.

Meanwhile:

  • The US Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court last night by a vote of 52-48, with only Susan Collins (R-ME) joining the Democrats. It's the first time since Reconstruction that the Senate confirmed an Associate Justice with no votes from the opposition party. And in the history of our country, only two people have been confirmed by a smaller margin: Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. I'm sure the three of them will continue to fight for bipartisanship and good jurisprudence as strongly as they ever have.
  • Emma Green points out "the inevitability of Amy Coney Barrett," because the Republicans don't care. And Olivia Nuzzi brings us the story of "the tortured self-justification of one very powerful Trump-loathing anonymous Republican."
  • Bill McKibben reminds us "there's nothing sacred about nine justices; a livable planet, on the other hand..."
  • Speaking of the planet, Tropical Storm Zeta became Hurricane Zeta last night. The 2020 season has now tied the all-time record for the number of named Atlantic storms set in January 2006, and it's only October.
  • Bars and restaurants in suburban Cook County have to close again tomorrow as statewide Covid-19 cases exceed 4,500 on a rolling 14-day average. Some parts of the state have seen positivity rates over 7.5% in the last couple of weeks. My favorite take-out Chinese place down by my office is also closing for the winter, which I understand but which still saddens me.
  • The Washington Post asked TV screenwriters how 2020 should end.
  • In one small bit of good news, the Food and Drug Administration has finally agreed that whisky is gluten-free, as gluten does not evaporate in the distilling process and so stays in the mash.

Finally, from a reader in Quebec comes a tip about violent clashes between a Canadian First Nation, the Mi'kmaw tribe of Nova Scotia, and local commercial fishermen over First Nations lobster rights. If you think Canada is a land without racism, well...they're just more polite about it.

An avenue for thwarting minority rule

In the March 2020 Atlantic, writer and attorney Simon Barnicle laid out one of the simplest ways to re-balance the Senate and Electoral College without a constitutional amendment:

Realizing that the deck is stacked against them, but recognizing that constitutional amendments are a pipe dream, some Democrats have called for structural reforms that could be accomplished with a simple majority in Congress: court packing, filibuster reform, and the legally dubious Senate Reform Act, to name a few. These proposals, while perhaps well intentioned, are inadequate. At best, they are temporary fixes—the minute Republicans regain control, they will retaliate in kind. And given the structural advantages enjoyed by Republicans, Democrats are unlikely to benefit in the long run.

A better solution to the problem of minority rule would address it directly. Democrats—if and when they regain control of Congress—should add new states whose congressional representatives would likely be Democrats. In areas that are not currently states, like Washington, D.C., or territories like Puerto Rico, this could be done with a simple congressional majority. But Democrats should also consider breaking up populous Democratic states and “un-gerrymandering” the Senate. Perhaps there could be a North and South California, or an East and West Massachusetts. A new state of Long Island, an area that is geographically larger than Rhode Island, would be more populous than most of the presently existing states.

In the short term, new Democratic states would remedy the advantages Republicans currently hold in the Senate—and, to a lesser extent, the Electoral College—which allow a party to control the federal government despite a lack of popular support. And unlike other progressive proposals, the risk of retaliation and escalation is low. Because adding states would also add Democratic senators, there would be no way for Republicans to immediately add states of their own without an overwhelming electoral victory.

[T]he federal government is increasingly acting on behalf of a smaller fraction of the population. And unless Democrats get serious about adding new states to counteract the Republican advantage, the disconnect between popular votes and control of the federal government is likely to grow.

My guess is that DC will become the 51st state before the end of the next Congress, possibly followed by Puerto Rico in 2023. But here we have to tread carefully: Puerto Rico would probably send one member of each party to the Senate, if not two Republicans. I'm willing to take that chance though.

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.

Late in the evening...

I did a lot today, so I've just gotten around to these stories:

Finally, I may be published in a national magazine next month. Details as I learn them.

The view from a rural county in Ohio

Science-fiction author John Scalzi (Red Shirts, Old Man's War) lives in Darke County, Ohio, population 52,000, 97% of them white. He does not exactly fit in with his neighbors politically, as he describes:

Four years ago in Bradford, the town where I live, there were Trump street signs, like the one in the picture above. Here in 2020, there are multiple signs per yard, and banners, and flags, not just with Trump’s name on them, but of him standing on a moving tank whilst screaming eagles fly alongside him, and no, those flags are not being flown ironically, they really mean it. There are occasional Biden signs, mostly of modest size, but anecdotally they are outnumbered by Trump signs by at least twenty to one. The 2020 Darke County Trump tank is deep and perhaps a bit frantic. If Trump is hoping for “shy voters” to suddenly spring up to take him to victory, he’s not going to get them here. Darke County Trump supporters may be many things, but shy does not appear one of them.

A whole bunch of the voters are being fed shit from social media and questionable news sources and either they don’t know it or they don’t care. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the epistemic capture in the US of (not only, but in particular) poor and working class whites by conservatives, billionaires and propagandists is one of the great social engineering success stories of the last half century. This includes an informational ecosystem that’s easy to get into and hard to get out of because it simultaneously stimulates fear and anger responses, degrades one’s own ability to reason, and breeds mistrust in outside sources and political points of view. In other words: cult conditioning.

Now, it would unfair nonsense to suggest the people of a county that hasn’t gone for a Democrat since LBJ would not be reliably voting for whomever the GOP candidate was every four years. But it’s not unfair nonsense to say that convincing a historically large percentage of these folks to vote for someone who four years ago was clearly not competent to be president, and in 2020 has a nearly four-year record of venal graft and malice, is the fruit of a decades-long effort to get into their heads and make them resistant to actual facts that are right in front of them. It’s not coincidence that QAnon is metastasizing through conservative and GOP circles at breathtaking speed; having a millions-strong corps of voters willing to lap up even that level of rank bullshit is in fact the goal.

Meanwhile, Jamelle Bouie picks apart the nonsense of "constitutional originalism," which to me seems no better than any other fundamentalist religion.

Friday evening news roundup

It could be worse. It might yet be:

And hey, we're only 95½ days away from Joe Biden's inauguration.

Evening news roundup

I dropped off my completed ballot this afternoon, so if Joe Biden turns out to be the devil made flesh, I can't change my vote.

Tonight, the president and Joe Biden will have competing, concurrent town halls instead of debating each other, mainly because the president is an infant. The Daily Parker will not live-blog either one. Instead, I'll whip up a stir-fry and read something.

In other news:

Finally, a pie-wedge-shaped house in Deerfield, Ill., is now on Airbnb for $113 a night. Enjoy.

Lunchtime incompetence, history, and whisky

Someday, historians may discover what former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker—I don't have to remind you, a Republican—got in exchange for the ridiculous deal his administration made with FoxConn. After the Taiwan-based company created only a tiny fraction of the jobs it promised in exchange for billions in tax credits, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has finally told them, no, you don't get all that money for nothing.

In other news:

Finally, Whisky Advocate has some recommendations for an essential whisky bar in your home.

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.