The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Evening round-up

I can't yet tell that sunsets have gotten any later in the past two weeks, though I can tell that sunrises are still getting later. But one day, about three weeks from now, I'll look out my office window at this hour, and notice it hasn't gotten completely dark yet. Alas, that day is not this day.

Elsewhere in the darkening world:

  • Mike Godwin, the person who postulated Godwin's Law, believes that invoking it as regards the XPOTUS is not at all losing the argument: "You could say the ‘vermin’ remark or the ‘poisoning the blood’ remark, maybe one of them would be a coincidence. But both of them pretty much makes it clear that there’s something thematic going on, and I can’t believe it’s accidental."
  • Julia Ioffe watches with growing horror at Ukraine's looming money cliff.
  • The rings of a 200-year-old tree in Arizona show just how bad last summer was.
  • The Federal Highway Administration has revised the MUCTD after 14 years, this time after actually listening to people who don't drive cars.

Finally, Tyler Austin Harper shakes his head that university administrators and other people of limited horizons completely misunderstand why the humanities are important:

If we have any hope of resuscitating fields like English and history, we must rescue the humanities from the utilitarian appraisals that both their champions and their critics subject them to. We need to recognize that the conservatives are right, albeit not in the way they think: The humanities are useless in many senses of the term. But that doesn’t mean they’re without value.

It is often faculty who are trying to safeguard their fields from the progressive machinations of their bureaucratic overlords. But faced with a choice between watching their departments shrink or agreeing to hire in areas that help realize the personnel-engineering schemes of their bosses, departments tend to choose the latter. ... At the same time, a generation of Ph.D. students is eyeing current hiring practices and concluding that the only research that has a prayer of landing them a tenure-track position relates to questions of identity and justice.

Instead of trying to prove that the humanities are more economically useful than other majors—a tricky proposition—humanists have taken to justifying their continued existence within the academy by insisting that they are uniquely socially and politically useful. The emergent sales pitch is not that the humanities produce and transmit important knowledge, but rather that studying the humanities promotes nebulous but nice-sounding values, such as empathy and critical thinking, that are allegedly vital to the cause of moral uplift in a multicultural democracy.

The whole essay is worth a read.

XPOTUS disqualified in Colorado; SCOTUS appeal imminent

The XPOTUS racked up another first-in-history court ruling yesterday that already has US Supreme Court law clerks cancelling their Christmas vacations:

Colorado’s top court ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald J. Trump is disqualified from holding office again because he engaged in insurrection with his actions leading up to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, an explosive ruling that is likely to put the basic contours of the 2024 election in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Colorado Supreme Court was the first in the nation to find that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — which disqualifies people who engage in insurrection against the Constitution after taking an oath to support it — applies to Mr. Trump, an argument that his opponents have been making around the country.

In the Colorado court’s lengthy ruling on Tuesday, the justices there reversed a Denver district judge’s finding last month that Section 3 did not apply to the presidency. They affirmed the district judge’s other key conclusions: that Mr. Trump’s actions before and on Jan. 6, 2021, constituted engaging in insurrection, and that courts had the authority to enforce Section 3 against a person whom Congress had not specifically designated.

“A majority of the court holds that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the justices wrote. “Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado secretary of state to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.”

The Post has four takeaways:

1. The historical and political impact may exceed the direct impact

The decision is at once explosive and likely to have little direct impact on the 2024 election.

Colorado has trended blue in recent decades and is not considered a competitive state in presidential elections, having given President Biden a 13.5-point victory in 2020. That made it the 14th-bluest state — the kind of state that if Trump ever won it, he would most likely secure more than enough electoral votes to be elected.

2. The court disagreed with a judge who ruled presidents were different

Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars from “any office, civil or military, under the United States,” anyone who takes an oath “as an officer of the United States ... to support the Constitution of the United States [who] shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”

Denver District Judge Sarah B. Wallace...ruled that Section 3 wasn’t meant to pertain to presidents.

3. A Trump traffic jam is converging on the U.S. Supreme Court

Already in the last week or so, special counsel Jack Smith asked the Supreme Court to fast-track a decision on Trump’s claims to presidential immunity from his election-subversion indictment. Then the Supreme Court signaled it would review the use of a popular charge against hundreds of Jan. 6 defendants, including Trump: obstruction of an official proceeding. Some judges have rejected or expressed skepticism about that charge’s applicability.

4. A long-running 14th Amendment effort reaches a milestone

The decision is the culmination of a long-running effort to disqualify not just Trump but other Republicans over Jan. 6.

Efforts to disqualify members of Congress including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and now-former congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) failed, in part, because it was harder to directly attach them to the events of Jan. 6.

I believe this was the correct, historical application of the 14th Amendment, and at the same time a risky strategy. Under any plain-language reading of the Constitution and the history of its adoption, the President is an officeholder, not a monarch, and so subject to the laws of the country. And the 14th Amendment exists precisely because Federal officeholders made war against the Constitution in order to preserve slavery.

But today's Republican Party bears no resemblance to the Republicans who wrote the Amendment in 1868, having decided that the only way to handle a dangerous fascist in their party was to join him. The XPOTUS continues to yell about "election fraud" as part of his Big Lie, so obviously he'll spin the Colorado case as proof of it. A reasonable person might think of it like killing your parents and then begging sympathy as an orphan, but clearly a third of the US have left reason behind in the 1960s.

We're a week and a half from 2024, and the times just keep getting more interesting...

Political realignments take time

Josh Marshall, who studied history before he became a journalist, thinks the civic democratic vs. authoritarian contest in the US won't end with the next election—or the ones after it (sub. req.):

We often think about authoritarianism being defeated or democracy ending with the election of a Trump or one of his various imitators or progenitors abroad. But it may not necessarily work that way. The Polish Law and Justice party took power in 2015 and set about reshaping the Polish state into a post-democratic authoritarian and anti-liberal democratic state. This year they were defeated by a coalition of liberal democratic parties after eight years. Top Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro was defeated by incumbent President Lula da Silva. There are various other examples.

It is in the nature of authoritarian parties and leaders that they are rule breakers rather than rule followers. And in a contest between rule breakers and rule followers the former have an inherent and sometimes insuperable advantage. ... [I]t is also the case that if the authoritarians aren’t going anywhere it is unrealistic to think they will never win another national election. Indeed, not only are they not going anywhere but the post-2021 period suggests Republicans are becoming increasingly identified with their authoritarian commitments in a way that will likely outlast Trump himself.

This isn’t necessarily good news. But it’s helpful to understand the situation in its totality. We have a temptation to hope for final victories and fear final defeats. But both may be unrealistic. It may be more of a long haul with an uncertain outcome.

My guess would be 12 years of authoritarian rule before they get kicked out. But those 12 years would do incalculable damage to the country and the world. At least they won't get 3/4 of the states behind them, so absent a constitutional convention, we'd still have a constitution to go back to.

The Lincoln Project's latest

I mean, dayum:

Will it help? I don't know. People who have been conned have a hard time accepting contrary evidence, as any con artist knows. But we can hope this will reach the clearer-eyed in the swing states.

Today's depressing stories

I guess not all of the stories I read at lunchtime depressed me, but...well, you decide:

One happy(-ish) story, as I didn't have to travel this past weekend: the TSA reported that on Sunday they screened more people (2.9 million) than on any single day in history. And of the 100,000+ flights scheduled between Wednesday and Sunday, carriers cancelled only 201 (0.2%). Amazing.

Long day

I have tickets to a late concert downtown, which means a few things, principally that I'm still at the office. But I'm killing it on this sprint, so it works out.

Of course this means a link dump:

I promise to write something substantial tomorrow or Saturday. Promise.

In other news...

Despite the XPOTUS publicly declaring himself a fascist (again), the world has other things going on:

Finally, Google has built a new computer model that they claim will increase the accuracy of weather forecasts. I predict scattered acceptance of the model with most forecasters remaining cool for the time being.

More on that New Hampshire rally

Yesterday I linked to Michael Tomasky's reaction to the XPOTUS referring to his political enemies as "Ungenziefer vermin," which the troika of WWII-era dictators used to demonize and ultimately encourage people to kill their opponents. PBS NewsHour yesterday interviewed NYU historian Ruth Ben Ghiat, who explained plainly:

Props to Amna Nawaz for not mincing words about the XPOTUS's lies and fascist rhetoric.

When challenged on the similarities between the XPOTUS's rhetoric and 1930s fascist dictators, XPOTUS Gauleiter spokesperson Stephen Cheung confirmed the parallel by saying, "Those who try to make that ridiculous assertion are clearly snowflakes grasping for anything because they are suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, and their sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House."

Meanwhile, former presidential aide Stephen Himmler Miller can't stop daydreaming about building concentration camps for immigrants—and, one must assume, everyone else he doesn't like:

That second-term agenda would revolve around what the New York Times calls “giant camps.” While detention centers already exist, the Times reports that Trump and adviser Stephen Miller envision a vastly expanded network that would facilitate the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, including longtime residents with deep ties to communities.

Those camps would also enable Trump to dramatically scale up detention of people seeking asylum, which would be subject to shocking new limits. Trump would reinstate his ban on migrants from majority-Muslim countries, invoke new legal authorities to pursue mass expulsions and enlist the military to help carry them out.

Few voters are familiar with the finer points of asylum policy. Nor do most harbor strong ideological opposition to immigration; large majorities have generally regarded legal immigration as a good thing through both presidencies.

Instead, all indications suggest that voters think the border should be managed and don’t understand why that’s not happening. Under both presidents, imagery of disorder and migrant suffering filled the media, creating the powerful impression that the executive was failing to handle the situation. Naturally, in both cases, majorities disapproved of that handling of it.

So with House Republicans refusing to work with the Democratic President and Senate on any meaningful immigration reform, things continue to look bad for the incumbents, but the GOP wants it to look bad. So they win either way. And Reichsleiter Miller and his boss get closer to their utopian dream of absolute power.

The Republican strategy since 1994 has been simple: destroy government while in power, and try to destroy it when out of power. Because good government is the enemy of authoritarian rule, which is the modern Republican Party's goal. The XPOTUS has given them their best hope yet of undoing 240 years of democracy in America.

The 2024 election could not have higher stakes, as will every election until the Republican Party can no longer compete without adapting to the real world, or until we don't have them anymore.

Productive day, rehearsal tonight, many articles unread

I closed a 3-point story and if the build that's running right now passes, another bug and a 1-point story. So I'm pretty comfortable with my progress through this sprint. But I haven't had time to read any of these, though I may try to sneak them in before rehearsal:

  • The XPOTUS has started using specific terminology to describe his political opponents that we last heard from a head of government in 1945. (Guess which one.) Says Tomasky: "[Republicans] are telling us in broad daylight that they want to rape the Constitution. And now Trump has told us explicitly that he will use Nazi rhetoric to stoke the hatred and fear that will make this rape seem, to some, a necessary cleansing."
  • Writing for the Guardian, Margaret Sullivan implores the mainstream print media to explain the previous bullet point, which she calls "doing their fucking job."
  • The average age of repeat home buyers is 58, meaning "boomers are buying up all the houses." My Millennial friends will rejoice, no doubt.
  • Bruce Schneier lists 10 ways AI will change democracy, not all of them bad.
  • The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says not to worry, the Gulf Stream won't shut down. It might slow down, though.
  • The Times interviewed Joseph Emerson, the pilot who freaked out while coming off a 'shrooms trip in the cockpit of an Alaska Airlines plane, and who now faces 83 counts of attempted murder in Oregon.
  • Author John Scalzi got to see a band he and I both listened to in college, Depeche Mode, in what will probably be their last tour.
  • The Times also has "an extremely detailed map of New York City neighborhoods," along with an explainer. Total Daily Parker bait.

Finally, a firefighter died today after sustaining injuries putting out a fire at Lincoln Station, the bar that my chorus goes went to after rehearsals. Given the description of the fall that fatally injured him—he fell through the roof of the 4-story building all the way into the basement—it sounds like the fire destroyed not only the restaurant but many of the apartments above. So far, the bar has not put out a statement, but we in the chorus are saddened by the fire and by Firefighter Drew Price's death. We hope that the bar can rebuild quickly.

Seasonal, sunny, and breezy

We have unusual wind and sunshine for mid-November today, with a bog-standard 10C temperature. It doesn't feel cold, though. Good weather for flying kites, if you have strong arms.

Elsewhere in the world:

  • The right wing of the US Supreme Court has finally found a firearms restriction that they can't wave away with their nonsense "originalism" doctrine.
  • Speaking of the loony right-wing asses on the bench, the Post has a handy guide to all of the people and organizations Justice Clarence Thomas (R) and his wife claim have no influence on them, despite millions in gifts and perks.
  • NBC summarizes the dumpster fire that was the XPOTUS and his family lying testifying in the former's fraud sentencing hearings.
  • Alexandra Petri jokes that "having rights is still bewilderingly popular:" "Tuesday’s election results suggest that the Republican legislative strategy of 'taking people’s rights away for no clear reason' was not an overwhelming success at the ballot box."
  • Earth had the warmest October on record, setting us up for the warmest year in about 120,000 years.
  • Could the waste heat from parking garages actually heat homes?
  • John Scalzi has a new film review column for Uncanny Magazine, with his first entry praising the storytelling of the Wachowski's 2008 Speed Racer adaptation.

Finally, Citylab lays out the history of San Francisco's Ferry Terminal Building, which opened 125 years ago. I always try to stop there when I visit the city, as I plan to do early next month.