The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Old fart tells majority of country to get off his lawn

US Senator Joe Manchin (D?-WV), the 74-year-old multimillionaire most recently re-elected in 2018 with just 290,000 votes (i.e., 0.08% of the US population), announced yesterday that he simply could not support the President's chief legislative goal for the current Congress, even though he apparently said he totally could before his last conversation with some random coal executive. Because the US Senate is evenly divided between the two parties, with Vice President Harris as the deciding vote in case of a tie, and because the Republican Party has no platform other than to keep the Democratic Party from governing no matter how much their own constituents scream for governance, Manchin voting "no" would kill the President's bill.

Naturally this has generated some opinion pieces in various media.

Russel Berman doesn't see this as the end of Build Back Better:

The best-case scenario for Biden is that Manchin intended his comments today not as a definitive end to negotiations but as a hard-line tactic aimed at forcing Democrats to take his position seriously, to stop trying to pressure him to buckle, and to end their attempts to win his support merely by tinkering around the edges of Build Back Better. Hoping to enact the bill by the end of the year, Democrats were loath to start over. Now it seems they must, and therein lies an opportunity.

New Republic's Michael Tomasky calls Manchin's behavior a betrayal of West Virginia's people:

[T]he people of West Virginia...are falling further behind the rest of the country with each passing decade and who have been sold a fantasy about the source of their problems and how they will be fixed.

The fantasy is that coal’s demise is all the fault of the coastal liberal elites who thumb their noses at good hard-working Christian people like the ones who live in West Virginia’s small towns and mine and haul its coal.

it was the private sector that unleashed this curse on America, preying on particularly vulnerable people and places like West Virginia, where a lot of people do physical labor for a living and lack—or lacked, until evil big government and Barack Obama came along—the health coverage that ensures they can go see a real doctor instead of just hopping into an urgent care clinic where they get a fentanyl script and are shoved out the door.

[N]ow Joe Manchin, given extraordinary power by the structure of a body that shouldn’t even exist, overrules the president of the United States and says to the people ravaged by these things that, no, the government can’t help them. Sorry, single mom who works at the Dollar General in Grantsville and would like to go to community college to better her lot: We can’t make community college free, and we can’t possibly subsidize daycare centers where you can safely plant your toddler while you take those bookkeeping courses at night at Glenville State. All that free stuff might make you a ward of the state.

But this just reflects the reality of West Virginia politics, says the Post's Karen Tumulty:

West Virginia — a state whose residents are older, poorer and sicker than average — would also stand to benefit more than most from the legislation.

Partisan tribalism, cultural issues and an attachment to the vanishing coal industry drive voter sentiment there, creating what is a paradoxical hostility to government. “Washington’s 100 percent against us,” a man from Summers County told me years ago. “They don’t like our jobs. They don’t like our attitudes.” Those attitudes have only hardened.

Ultimately, Manchin knows better than liberal naysayers that this legislation — or anything else that carries the Democratic brand — will face skepticism in West Virginia that has little to do with its merits. But he is also well aware that government has a vital role when it comes to bettering the lives and futures of his constituents. Which means things might not be over yet for some version of the Build Back Better bill.

Well, fine, but meanwhile we're 11 months from an election in which people will hear that the Democrats can't get anything done. It doesn't matter to the country that the Republican Party has no credible alternatives, or worse, to our policies.

I'll have more to say about this heading into next year, but I wonder if we need to let the Republicans absolutely rape the country before people figure out that all they want to do is rape the country.

Evening reading

Messages for you, sir:

I will now go hug my dog, who set a record yesterday for staying home alone (8 hours, 20 minutes) without watering my carpets.

Tragedy and farce

We're all set to perform Handel's Messiah tomorrow and Sunday, which got noticed by both the local news service and local TV station. Otherwise, the week just keeps getting odder:

And to cap all that off, the National Weather Service has announced a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tonight that includes...tornados? I hope the weather gets better before our performance.

While I pondered, weak and weary...

Today's litany of disappointments, with a couple of bright spots:

Finally, northwest suburban officials continue to track escaped bison "Billy" as she continues her walkabout through McHenry County. She will not be buffaloed back to her ranch!

Your evening reading

Just a few:

And finally, atheist sci-fi author John Scalzi...bought a church?

Really December now

I'm looking ahead to two long rehearsals, three performances, and squeezing into my tuxedo, all while the temperature drops over the next six hours to a predicted -9°C. I conclude from these facts that it's the beginning of winter.

I also just spent the last hour trying to get Visual Studio to log into the correct Azure subscription. So instead of reading these things at lunch, I had to let them pile up:

And now, back to the mines.

"Ghost guns" aren't the problem—guns are

LTU history professor Andrew C McKevitt explains how gun capitalism fuels our gun crisis, not "ghost guns" (or "Saturday Night Specials" or mail-order guns or...):

Ghost guns are the latest iteration of this variety of moral panic, which distracts from and obscures the most direct source of the gun violence that plagues us: American gun capitalism, with its largely unrestricted production, distribution, marketing and sale of civilian firearms unequaled anywhere in the world. That system has placed a staggering 400 million guns in private hands in the United States, virtually all of them acquired through legal commerce — including the common firearm used in the Oxford High School shooting, which was purchased on Black Friday by the suspect’s father.

Moral panics over niche firearms like ghost guns enable Americans to imagine we are addressing an intractable problem. But by portraying the gun issue as an ethical one — delineating virtuous and unvirtuous uses and users of guns — gun panics ignore the economics at the heart of the problem and contribute to worse social outcomes, like greater criminalization, while failing to stem gun violence.

For seven decades, gun panics have shaped gun control politics and policy, resulting in a discussion driven by distinctions between virtuous and unvirtuous gun use. Such a dichotomy obscures the fundamental reality of gun life in America: Gun capitalism has put more than 400 million guns in Americans’ hands.

Gun panics operate on the specter of random violent crime, which has never represented the majority of gun deaths; Americans were and are much more likely to suffer gun violence at their own hands or those of people they know.

Along the same lines, journalist and retired politician David Pepper calls out broken state legislatures, such as Michigan's, that thwart the will of clear majorities of voters who favor stronger firearms regulation.

Spicy poké

I swear, the local poké place used three shots of chili oil instead of one today. Whew. (Not that I'm complaining, of course.)

While my mouth slowly incinerates, I'm reading these:

On that last point, comedians Jimmy Carr and Emil Wakim lay down epic burns against anti-vaxxers:

Thursday afternoon miscellany

First, continuing the thread from this morning, (Republican) columnist Jennifer Rubin neatly sums up how the Republican justices on the Supreme Court seem poised to undo Republican Party gains by over-reaching:

We are, in short, on the verge of a constitutional and political tsunami. What was settled, predictable law on which millions of people relied will likely be tossed aside. The blowback likely will be ferocious. It may not be what Republicans intended. But it is coming.

Next up, Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga argues that the Major League Baseball labor dispute and the lockout announced this morning will do nothing to prevent baseball from continuing its fade into irrelevance:

What can’t happen as MLB and the players’ union negotiate, though, is the actual game they stage being forgotten. Whatever the flaws in its salary structure and the dispersal of revenue, there’s money to go around. ... What should matter more than the money, then, has to be the game itself. The game itself is wounded.

Finally, today is the 20th anniversary of Enron filing for bankruptcy. In honor of that history, I give you the Deodorant Building Enron Headquarters in downtown Houston as it appeared in June 2001:

Sure Happy It's Thursday!

Thoughts about Jackson Women's Health

Even though the Court probably won't release its ruling in the Mississippi anti-abortion bill until June, just about everyone has the same understanding about how it will turn out. No one seems to believe abortion will remain legal in much of the US beyond the end of this term. My guess: Justice Amy Coney Barrett (R) writing the opinion for a 5-4 Court with an unusual number of concurrences and dissents.

If the Court overturns or significantly curtails Roe v Wade, it will be one of the rare times that the Court has taken away a right. For all of the Republican Justices' and Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart's positioning that Roe was wrongly decided just like Plessy or Dred Scott, their analogy breaks down when you observe that in those two other cases, the Court also removed the existing rights of a living human being under state sanction.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh (R) got halfway to the fundamental problem with abortion law when he observed (at 106):

[T]he problem, I think ... and the reason this issue is hard, is that you can't accommodate both interests. You have to pick. That's the fundamental problem. And one interest has to prevail over the other at any given point in time, and that's why this is so challenging, I think.

Except he's full or shit. Courts decide where to draw the line between competing interests all the time. That's the point of courts, and the point of Roe v Wade. Justice Kavanaugh means rather that the court can't resolve absolute interests. If you believe, as the Catholics on the Court believe, that life begins at conception—that is, it's an article of religious faith for you—then abortion is anathema.

But if you believe, as the vast majority of the American people believe, that life begins at some point after conception but before birth, then you have to weigh the mother's life and liberty against the potential life of the lump of cells in her uterus.

If the Court overturns Roe, abortion will become immediately illegal or heavily restricted in 26 states, and may soon be curtailed in several others. Wisconsin, Arizona, and Michigan all have existing anti-abortion statutes that would return to full effect were Roe overturned.

The silver lining to the dark cloud of thousands of women being condemned to poverty, injury, or death because the state forces them to carry unwanted pregnancies to term? The Court will have to decide this case before the end of June, four months before the 2022 Congressional elections, as well as gubernatorial elections in the aforementioned Wisconsin and Michigan.

Finally, keep in mind that the Right has clear goals in the US and in every other democracy they're attacking: authoritarian rule that allows the rulers to pillage the ruled. Undermining trust in institutions is part of their strategy. And as Justice Sonia Sotomayor (I) asked rhetorically yesterday (at 15), "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?" Well, no, as anyone who has studied history can tell you.

And America takes one more step toward the Rubicon.

More reactions from NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Guardian UK, SCOTUSblogDana Milibank, author Mary Ziegler, Billie Jean King, and to see where the Right gets their talking points, the Heritage Foundation.