The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Six murdered in Highland Park

A "well-regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free State" just killed 5 people (update: now 6 confirmed dead) for no discernable reason in Highland Park, Ill., the next town over from the village I grew up in. I should note that Highland Park has one of the earliest and strictest gun prohibitions on record in the Chicago area, but cannot enforce these restrictions because a trade association bent on enriching its member manufacturers and retailers has convinced people living in rural areas that we city folk shouldn't decide for ourselves what constitutes appropriate gun regulations.

The body count of today's shooting—5 dead (so far), 16 wounded—suggests the shooter used a military-style weapon. I have had a firearms license for 28 years and I've got good pistol training. And yet I have never heard a good argument for anyone to have a military-style weapon like this.

Current Guard, military, or reservists can, of course, get these weapons—if they go to their base or post armory and sign them out according to regulations. Really: not even a full general officer or Navy admiral has any authority to get an assault rifle from an armory without showing cause. So if our own military keeps these things locked up, why can't a city?

One Daily Parker reader speculated that this may have been an anti-Semitic attack, given the demographics of Highland Park. I really don't care what the asshole's motivations were. I just care that he's hunted down, tried, and locked up for the rest of his life. (Illinois has a "guilty-but-mentally-ill" law that can keep someone who shoots up parades from rejoining society as long as it takes to treat them, even without a criminal conviction.)

Fuck you, Clarence Thomas. Fuck you, the lot of you reactionaries who think a  bunch of suburban moms being shot to death at a parade celebrating our country's self-governance is an acceptable price to pay so Wayne LaPierre can stay rich. Fuck you, everyone who thinks that having more guns in the area would have prevented this, given the huge police presence already in place around the parade route.

It's time Illinois passes gun safety laws and enforces them as long as possible. And it's time everyone who isn't a right-wing nut-job demand adequate gun-safety rules for the entire US.

Plug-in hybrid car + city living

Many people, particularly in the US, have suffered recently because of their choices to live in places without meaningful alternatives to driving, their neighbors' choices not to fund meaningful alternatives to driving, and a war in Eastern Europe that has directly and indirectly raised worldwide oil prices to real values not seen since 1973.

I feel a bit of smugness coming on. See, my house has a Walk Score of 95 and a transit score of 81. I live within 1500 meters (about a mile*) of two rapid-transit train lines and a heavy-rail line, not to mention nine bus routes, three of which operate 24 hours a day. I live within a short walk of multiple grocery stores, bars, restaurants, my Alderman's office, a Target, and basically everything I need.

Also, when my last car gave up the ghost 3½ years ago, I decided to get a plug-in hybrid. It can go about 40 km (25 miles) on a charge, so I hardly ever have to use its gasoline engine when I run ordinary errands.

So yesterday, when I drove to Bloomington, Ill., and back (round-trip: 466 km, 291 mi), I had to fill up for the first time since March 25th. Over the 100 days I went without buying gasoline, I drove 1,400 km (900 mi) and burned 34 L (9 gal) of gas, for an average economy of 2.4 L/100 km (97.9 MPG). In 3½ years I've driven 20,000 km (12,300 mi) and spent $395 on gasoline.

I know many people can't make the same choices I've made, but as a nation, we could make better transit and regulatory choices so that my experience is much more common.

* I'm going to translate everything into American** measurements for the benefit of readers who need to think about these concepts.

** Sure, they're technically "Imperial" measurements, but as that Empire no longer exists, and its remaining bits use the International System (SI), really the only people who need translations live in the United States.

Lazy holiday weekend

I'm spending today finishing a couple of books and season 3 of The Umbrella Academy on either side of hauling down to Bloomington, Ill., for a friend's birthday/housewarming. Tomorrow I intend to continue doing nothing creative, though the holiday may give me cause to contemplate the future of our nation.

Regular posting should resume Tuesday.

One good thing about Texas

I did enjoy the barbecue:

That's a bit of brisket and accoutrements from Stiles Switch BBQ, and it was so good. We also got some from Black's BBQ, which might have actually been better. Of course, even if I ever go back to Austin, I'll have to try one of the other 42,167 BBQ places.

I also stopped by the Home for Developmentally-Disabled Adults and their Democratic Caretakers:

About three meters to my right, which I chose not to photograph, was a giant monument to "The Horrible Men Who Murdered for Slavery," which got mistranslated into "The Brave Men Who Died for States' Rights" by the Texas Lege when they erected it in the 1890s.

Once I got home and collected her from boarding, it took Cassie about ten minutes before she just passed out. This is a happy dog:

American's Austin ground ops

My flight into Austin on Monday took two extra hours after landing—not counting the 45 minutes returning to the airport to get my bag—thanks in part to piss-poor ground operations. Yesterday, we sat at the gate for nearly an hour waiting for fuel.

Apparently the fuel truck has a minor maintenance thing going on, so we had to wait for someone to fix it so they could finish fueling the plane. But once they finished, just past 2pm, we had to wait another 10 minutes because of the shift change.

Please don't make me go to Texas again.

The successes of Frances Willard

David Frum argues that anti-abortion organizers have a lot in common with the prohibitionists of the early 20th century—and have similar prospects for long-term success:

The culture war raged most hotly from the ’70s to the next century’s ’20s. It polarized American society, dividing men from women, rural from urban, religious from secular, Anglo-Americans from more recent immigrant groups. At length, but only after a titanic constitutional struggle, the rural and religious side of the culture imposed its will on the urban and secular side. A decisive victory had been won, or so it seemed.

The culture war I’m talking about is the culture war over alcohol prohibition. From the end of Reconstruction to the First World War, probably more state and local elections turned on that one issue than on any other. The long struggle seemingly culminated in 1919, with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment and enactment by Congress of the National Prohibition Act, or the Volstead Act (as it became known). The amendment and the act together outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States and all its subject territories. Many urban and secular Americans experienced those events with the same feeling of doom as pro-choice Americans may feel today after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Only, it turns out that the Volstead Act was not the end of the story. As Prohibition became a nationwide reality, Americans rapidly changed their mind about the idea. Support for Prohibition declined, then collapsed. Not only was the Volstead Act repealed, in 1933, but the Constitution was further amended so that nobody could ever try such a thing ever again.

I think his analysis is apt.

Missed anniversary, weather app edition

I've been a little busy this weekend so even though I remembered that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Harry Potter's publication, I forgot that Friday was the 25th anniversary of Weather Now v0. Yes, I've had a weather application on the Internet for 25 years.

The actual, standalone Weather Now application launched on 11 November 1999, which I plan to make a bigger deal of. And that comes after this blog's 25th anniversary (13 May 1998). But it's kind of cool that I have an app running continuously since the early days of Bill Clinton's second term.

The illegitimacy of the Supreme Court

Some fun facts about the Justices of the United States:

  • Five were appointed by presidents who took office despite losing the popular vote. All 5 voted to overturn Roe.
  • Three of the Republicans on the Court—the Chief Justice, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett—worked for President George W Bush's Florida recount team.
  • The 52 senators who voted in favor of Justice Kavanaugh's (R) confirmation represent 145.9 million Americans. The 48 senators who voted against him represent 180.7 million.
  • The 50 senators who voted in favor of Justice Coney Barrett (R) represent 157.0 million to the 170.5 million the 48 no votes represent.
  • Eight have law degrees from Harvard or Yale. (This will remain true next month when Justice Brown takes office.)

With those facts in mind, James Fallows argues that the Court burned its own legitimacy to ashes by not remembering the simple truth about judicial power:

[D]emocratic legitimacy depends in the long run on majority rule, combined with minority rights.

We’re now closer to systematic rule by a minority, rather than respect for its rights. A democracy cannot forever function this way.

The Supreme Court has a long up-and-down history of glory and of tawdriness. But I argue that the leaders and eras that stand up best in retrospect showed awareness that the Court’s power depended on legitimacy, and legitimacy depended on the Court’s care about how it fit into the longer-term life of a democracy.

[A] court concerned about legitimacy, would under- rather than over-intrude in public affairs.

Over-intrusion is what we have. In the anti-Miranda ruling. In the blocking of gun control. In the outright voiding of Roe v. Wade.

The Court can make its rulings. From behind its barricaded and no-guns-allowed building.

It cannot preserve its legitimacy this way.

Linda Greenhouse concurs:

Consider the implication of Justice Alito’s declaration that Roe v. Wade was “egregiously wrong” from the start. Five of the seven justices in the Roe majority — all except William O. Douglas and Thurgood Marshall — were appointed by Republican presidents. The votes necessary to preserve the right to abortion 19 years later in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Roe follow-up decision that the court also overturned on Friday, came from five Republican-appointed justices.

In asserting that these justices led the court into grave error from which it must now be rescued, Justice Alito and his majority are necessarily saying that these predecessors, joining the court over a period of four decades, didn’t know enough, or care enough, to use the right methodology and reach the right decision. The arrogance and unapologetic nature of the opinion are breathtaking.

There will be turmoil now, for sure, as the country’s highways fill with women desperate to regain control over their lives and running out of time, perhaps followed by vigilantes across state lines. But the only turmoil that was caused by Roe and Casey was due to the refusal of activists, politicians and Republican-appointed judges to accept the validity of the precedents. Justice Alito’s reference to “turmoil” reminded me of nothing so much as Donald Trump’s invocation of “carnage” in his inaugural address. There was no carnage then, but there was carnage to come.

No, justices, your work isn’t done. What you have finished off is the legitimacy of the court on which you are privileged to spend the rest of your lives.

Here's some "turmoil:" some asshole in Iowa drove his truck into a pro-choice demonstration yesterday, injuring at least one woman.

One simple solution: 18-year terms. If we adopt this reform, Thomas (R) would be the first one to go followed by the Chief Justice (I) and Alito (R), which are strong arguments in favor as far as I'm concerned.

One bit of good news

About an hour ago, President Biden signed the first significant gun safety law we've passed in 30 years:

The bill provides grants to states for “red flag” laws, enhances background checks to include juvenile records, and closes the “boyfriend loophole” by keeping guns away from unmarried dating partners convicted of abuse. It will also require enhanced background checks for people ages 18 to 21 and funding for youth mental health services.

The bipartisan gun legislation sped through Congress in the month after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. Democrats unanimously voted in favor of the bill along with more than two dozen Republicans in the House and the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"When it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, we are doing something consequential," Biden said. "If we can reach a compromise on guns, we ought to be able to reach a compromise on other critical issues, from veterans health care to cutting-edge American innovation to so much more."

I don't think the President is quite correct in that conclusion. And while the law doesn't do some things we desperately need to do, like ban military-grade weapons for most civilians (including civilian police forces), it's a start. If you recall how long it took to get car safety rules passed, even incremental steps will help.