The United States Supreme Court began their term earlier today, in person for the first time since March 2020. Justice Brett Kavanagh (R) did not attend owing to his positive Covid-19 test last week.
In other news:
So how did facebook.com disappear from root DNS, the day after 60 Minutes aired a segment on Haugen?
Forget the amount (especially because the headlines completely mis-state the value), the "human infrastructure" bill winding through Congress right now matters in all the places it needs to:
Over the past few decades there has been a redistribution of dignity — upward. From Reagan through Romney, the Republicans valorized entrepreneurs, C.E.O.s and Wall Street. The Democratic Party became dominated by the creative class, who attended competitive colleges, moved to affluent metro areas, married each other and ladled advantages onto their kids so they could leap even further ahead.
There was a bipartisan embrace of a culture of individualism, which opens up a lot of space for people with resources and social support, but means loneliness and abandonment for people without. Four years of college became the definition of the good life, which left roughly two-thirds of the country out.
And so came the crisis that Biden was elected to address — the poisonous combination of elite insularity and vicious populist resentment.
The Democratic spending bills are economic packages that serve moral and cultural purposes. They should be measured by their cultural impact, not merely by some wonky analysis. In real, tangible ways, they would redistribute dignity back downward. They would support hundreds of thousands of jobs for home health care workers, child care workers, construction workers, metal workers, supply chain workers. They would ease the indignity millions of parents face having to raise their children in poverty.
The Republican Party have no similar policies. In fact, their policies would accelerate the "distribution of dignity" upward, even while they blamed the results on the Democrats. The reconciliation bill will help millions of Americans. And, oh yeah, it might even win us a couple of elections.
James Fallows destroys any idea you may have that "reasonable people on both sides" have a disagreement about raising the Federal debt ceiling:
In reality, as nearly everyone reporting on this issue understands, this is not a “showdown.” It is not even a “disagreement.” Those terms might apply to questions like the size of the infrastructure-spending bill, or prospective judicial nominees, or what to do about Haitian refugees.
Instead, this is a naked threat. It has exactly zero legitimacy as a “policy” for either party to espouse. I’ll explain why in a moment—in the course of arguing that reporting that fails to convey the fraudulence of the issue, is diminishing rather than increasing our awareness of the truth.
- The annual U.S. government deficit, and the cumulative U.S. debt, are the results of decisions Congress and an Administration make, not independent variables.Congress votes to authorize spending, and to raise or reduce taxes. The debt and deficit reflect these decisions, rather than controlling them, or being subject to outside dictates about their size.The check you get at the end of a restaurant meal reflects what you have ordered and eaten. The number you see on a bathroom scale reflects calories in, versus energy out. The reading on a thermometer reflects outside heat.In just the same way, the annual deficit-and-debt totals indicate what Congress has already decided on. They’re a measure, not a control. Putting limits on them is like limiting what the bathroom scale can show.
- [S]tarting in the 1990s, then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich began “weaponizing” the debt limit as a political tool. He recognized that there was no “rational” reason to refuse to raise the limit, for spending Congress had already approved. But the threat of doing so would be a serious problem for whatever president was in power—because in practice it would mean that for some time the Treasury would have to stop issuing bonds and notes, which are the backbone of international finance.
- Final point: Why is a refusal to raise the debt limit a problem? It is not because anyone thinks the U.S. will ultimately default on its Treasury bonds, bills, and notes. It is because, as a technical matter, the Treasury would have to suspend issuing these financial instruments—which are a backbone of international finance.
In short, no one can make a rational policy argument about failing to raise the debt limit. And yet, here we are, with one party trying to govern and the other trying not to.
And the band played on...
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.
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.
As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:
- After 448 days, Illinois will finally reopen fully on Friday.
- Security expert Tarah Wheeler, writing on Schneier.com, warns that our weapons systems have frightening security vulnerabilities.
- Fastly's content-delivery network (CDN) collapsed this morning, taking down The New York Times, The Guardian, Bloomberg News, and other major properties; no word yet on the cause, but we can guess.
- About 12,000 volunteer software developers around the world contributed to the Mars Helicopter project through GitHub.
- Josh Marshall looks at the burn-it-all-down ethos of defeated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and our own XPOTUS.
- Alexandra Petri wonders why anyone would buy a Swiss Army knife when an AR-15 does the job better?
- ProPublica divided income tax by (unrealized) wealth growth and found that the wealthiest 25 Americans paid almost no income tax from 2014 to 2018; however, they did not apply that methodology to the millions of middle-class families whose 401(k) funds appreciated, which would show that most people paid smaller percentages than they thought.
- Earth's CO2 levels have reached 419 ppm, a level not seen since around the time humans and chimpanzees split from their last common ancestor.
Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.
Washington Post columnist Helaine Olin argues for a simplified tax filing procedure in the US:
Filing taxes is a time-consuming, bureaucratic chore that the Internal Revenue Service estimates will take the typical American 11 hours. Nationwide, that works out to some 6 billion lost hours a year, according to T.R. Reid, author of the 2017 book “A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System.”
The thing is, filing taxes just doesn’t have to be this hard. In 36 countries, the nation’s tax agency sends eligible residents a pre-filled return, and asks them to sign if they agree with the amount that’s indicated is owed or should be credited to them. Japan does this. So do Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and others. A 2018 German study found that the pre-filled forms raise tax compliance.
So why not us, you ask?
The short answer: the United States took the British penchant for time-wasting activities and dialed it to 11. The longer answer might have something to do with Intuit's $5.7 million lobbying effort over the past two years.
Chicago got up to 21°C yesterday, tying the record for March 9th set in 1974. It's already 20°C right now, close to the record 22°C set in 1955.
In other news:
And now that I've finally gotten a .NET 5 application to deploy onto a Microsoft Azure Functions App, I will take a well-earned walk.
As the counting continues in the states both presidential candidates need to win, and as Biden's lead continues to increase in Wisconsin and Michigan while he catches up in Pennsylvania, I should mention that voters weighed in on other races last night.
- Every person bar one I voted for won in Illinois, including Joe Biden, US Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D), US Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL09), my state representative Gregory Harris (D-13), and my state senator Heather Steans (D-7). (Steans ran unopposed.)
- Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL06) held his seat after his challenger Jeanne Ives came within a whisker of beating him. Meanwhile, extreme-right-wing dairy mogul Jim Oberweis' race to defeat incumbent US Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL14) remains too close to call; at this writing, Oberweis is up by 900 votes out of 375,000 counted.
- The Fair Tax Amendment failed. It would have allowed a graduated income tax in Illinois and slowed the concentration of wealth here, and I supported it. Plutocrat Ken Griffin provided most of the money towards defeating it, mainly so he could continue to hoard the wealth he gained through skimming off the financial system.
- A pair of billionaires succeeded in defeating Illinois Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride. Griffin contributed millions to this effort as well. (See a pattern?)
- Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx won re-election, but not easily.
- Mark Kelly won a resounding victory over US Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). Because McSally was never elected to the office, Kelly can take his seat in the Senate as soon as the vote is certified.
- US Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) appears to have won, 52%-45%, denying us a pickup we had hoped for.
- In Maine, US Senator Susan Collins (R) is 66,000 votes ahead of challenger Sara Gideon, and looks likely to retain her seat.
- In Georgia, US Senator David Purdue (R) and challenger Jon Ossoff may go to a runoff in January if neither wins 50% of the vote. With 94% counted, Perdue is up by 3 percentage points, at just over 50%. Georgia's special election for Senate will also go to a runoff with Democrat Raphael Warnock winning 32% of the vote against incumbent Sally Loeffler (R).
In sum: Biden will probably win, but we won't know if we have flipped the Senate until January. When the 117th Congress sits on January 3rd, we will most likely have 49 senators to the Republicans' 50, with Warnock being our only hope of getting any significant legislation onto Biden's desk before 2023.
A cold front pushed its way through Chicago this afternoon, making it feel much more like autumn than we've experienced so far. And it got pretty chilly in Washington, where Senate Republicans began the first day of hearings into the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court:
And much farther from home, Mars will be in opposition tomorrow night, coincidentally during the new moon, meaning we'll get a really good look at it.