The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

A lack of compassion

More than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19 since we started paying attention six months ago. Let me put that into perspective:

The columns represent the total number of deaths for each event (blue) or per year (gray). The line represents those deaths on an annualized basis. At 400,000 deaths per year, Covid-19 now ranks as the third leading cause of death in the US for 2020 after cancer and heart disease. We're on course to have 133 9/11s or 12 times our usual number of car crash deaths just this year.

Whatever you might think about the policy distinctions between our two political parties, surely the Republicans' callous disregard for human life in this pandemic matters, right?

Remember all those storms in 2005?

Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Atlantic on 30 December 2005 and almost became a hurricane on 2 January 2006. When Zeta finally dissipated on January 6th, it ended the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history, and also one of the most destructive: category-5 hurricanes Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma caused incredible damage and loss of life throughout the US. The season also included three unnamed tropical depressions and an unnamed tropical storm, bringing the season's total activity to

That season, Tropical Storm Alpha formed on October 22nd, and Hurricane Beta formed on October 26th.

Flash forward 15 years, and it looks like we're going to break a few of 2005's records. This year, storms Alpha and Beta both formed on September 18th. So far only Hurricanes Laura and Teddy—the latter now about to pound Nova Scotia and Newfoundland—got up to category 4, and we haven't yet had any category 5 storms. But the season shows no sign of winding down.

We have known for decades that climate change would cause more frequent tropical storm activity. Welcome to the future.

The return of Allie Brosh

The cartoonist and author behind Hyperbole and a Half has returned with a new book, which I should receive tomorrow. This news offsets pretty much all the other news from today:

I'm sure there's more, but I'm done for the day.

Let's all play by the rules

The GOP panic to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat makes three things absolutely clear: first, they expect to lose bigly in six weeks; second, they realize they're against public opinion; and third, they realize that public opinion is continuing to turn against them. In short, this is quite literally their last chance to get a SCOTUS seat for a generation.

You know what? Everyone else is sick of their bullshit.

We're going to win both houses and the presidency, and then we're going to cement that win by expanding the court, and then by granting statehood to DC and PR. Too many in our party are tired of playing nice against a bunch of thugs.

The Republicans have the power to do exactly what they're doing. And in four months, we'll have the power to undo all of it. They say they're just playing by the rules, and they're not wrong. So we need to play by the rules as well. All of them.

Or as I learned many years ago playing AD&D: lawful good does not mean lawful stupid.

Long day, long six weeks ahead

Choral board meeting followed by chorus rehearsal: all on Zoom, and as president and generally techy guy, I'm hosting. After a full day of work and a 5 km walk. Whew.

So what's new?

Finally, if you want to be a Cook County Judge of Election, you can still sign up—and earn $230.

200,000

The official death toll in the US for Covid-19 has passed a milestone Deborah Birx predicted back in March:

In the predawn hours of March 30, Dr. Deborah Birx stepped in front of the camera on the White House lawn and made an alarming prediction about the coronavirus, which had, by then, killed fewer than 3,000 people in the United States.

"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we can get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told Savannah Guthrie of NBC News' "Today" show.

On Saturday, Birx's prediction came true, as the number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. topped 200,000.

Meanwhile, though they have consistently done almost nothing right in the six months when 200,000 ordinary Americans have died, the Republican Party has put the pedal to the metal mobilizing after one Associate Justice died. It's all about power, nothing about the people.

Actions must have consequences

Yesterday evening I wrote that the only appropriate response to the Republican Senate putting another Federalist Society pretty boy on the Supreme Court (or, really, anyone other than Merrick Garland) would be to revisit 28 USC §1i.e., passing a simple statute to increase the size of the court and thereby dilute its right-wing majority. This was also Josh Marshall's first thought:

We are here because of the Republican party’s increasing unwillingness to accept limits on political action. To up the ante on that tendency, to meet it, is itself a grave threat to democratic governance. But an even graver threat is to remove any mechanism of consequences or accountability. Then there is truly no limit or disincentive to corruption, law breaking and bad action. That reality is precisely the one in which we currently find ourselves.

In war or in sports or really any kind of contest you never let the other side hold all the initiative. You can say that McConnell and Trump shouldn’t take this step, that the American people should get to decide. Because the reality is they can take this step. So what will you do when they do that? The answer is you take the clearest and most economical step to undo the corrupt act. Adding new Justices is the way to do that.

Make this new corruption a centerpiece of the campaign, hold it over the heads of embattled Republican senators, try in every way to get a just result, which is to put this in the hands of the next President and Congress. But make clear that if it happens Democrats will undo it next year if the people give them to power to do so.

The Washington Post's Jill Filipovic makes the same points:

Democrats have only one play here: If Trump and McConnell jam an appointee through, it is not enough for Democrats to raise hell about the hypocrisy, the duplicity and the Republican refusal to play by McConnell’s own rules. It is not enough to target every Republican senator who goes along. It is not enough to have voters bombard their Republican senator’s office with phone calls and protests. Because those things have been happening for four years, and none of them have persuaded the GOP to put the stability of the country or the obligations of office ahead of that party’s thirst for power.

So Democrats should threaten to pack the court. And, if McConnell pushes through a new justice and then Joe Biden wins, they should follow through.

Our party has to hold the line here. Another ultra-right-wing Associate Justice will cement the power of the right wing for another 30 years, prevent us—the clear majority—from passing any meaningful legislation when we do re-take power in January, and contribute to the loss of faith in the institutions of government. All three of these outcomes are exactly what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has worked his whole career to accomplish. Even if Amy McGrath takes his seat, he will have won.

Except for this one little thing: Article 1 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the Supreme Court's size and jurisdiction. We can counter all these things with simple legislation requiring only a majority in Congress.

The Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader need to get out in front, now, and rhetorically pump that shotgun. Sure, go ahead and put one of Brett Kavanaugh's frat bros on the Court. President Biden will have Merrick Garland and three other liberals in the four new seats Congress will create before the end of March.

I've sent notes to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) making these points.

(Note: I have contributed money to both Joe Biden's and Amy McGrath's campaigns.)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1933-2020

The Notorious RBG died at her home earlier today:

The cause was complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer, the Supreme Court said.

Justice Ginsburg’s pointed and powerful dissenting opinions, usually speaking for all four, attracted growing attention as the court turned further to the right. A law student, Shana Knizhnik, anointed her the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a famous rapper who was Brooklyn-born, like the justice. Soon the name, and Justice Ginsburg’s image — her expression serene yet severe, a frilly lace collar adorning her black judicial robe, her eyes framed by oversize glasses and a gold crown perched at a rakish angle on her head — became an internet sensation.

[President] Clinton, making his first nomination to the court, conducted an almost painfully public search among judges and political figures, with contenders including Mario Cuomo, then the governor of New York, who turned him down, and Bruce Babbitt, the incumbent secretary of the interior.

As the search wound down, it appeared the president had chosen Stephen G. Breyer, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, who had come to Washington at the president’s invitation for an interview. Judge Breyer was in pain from broken ribs suffered in a recent bicycle accident, and the interview did not go well. Martin Ginsburg, meanwhile, had been urging New York’s senior senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to press his wife’s case with the president. Mr. Clinton was at first reluctant, grumbling to Mr. Moynihan that “the women are against her.” But after a 90-minute private meeting with Judge Ginsburg on Sunday, June 13, the president made up his mind. He called her at 11:33 that night to tell her that she was his choice.

Surprising absolutely no one, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time in repudiating the "McConnell Rule" against nominating a new justice during an election year:

There’s nothing in the Constitution that prevents a Supreme Court vacancy from being filled, regardless of how close to an election it opens up.

Precedent in such a situation is different. Until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked President Obama’s 2016 pick nine months before the election, this hadn’t been done very often, says Russell Wheeler, an expert on Supreme Court history with the Brookings Institution.

McConnell can’t say he is flip-flopping on his 2016 position about election-year court vacancies because doing so benefits him politically now. So he has offered some logic that does little to disguise its political convenience: This time is different because the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party, which wasn’t the case when there was a vacancy in the last year of Obama’s presidency.

And in 2016, McConnell actually argued against the Senate considering a lame-duck president’s nomination. “President Obama has every right to nominate someone on his way out the door,” McConnell said at the time. “The Senate has every right to hold its consent.”

It’s a lot to consider. But McConnell has the chance to thrust the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction for perhaps generations. It’s a remarkable legacy for McConnell that he doesn’t seem to want to pass up, no matter the risk for him or the Senate majority.

To that I would remind the gentleman from Kentucky that 28 USC §1 is just a statute, which the next Congress could easily change.

Bingey

Working from home with a gigabit Internet connection has at least one major perk: TV on in the background. I've gone through a lot of it in the last six months. The ExpanseTales from the LoopWyonna EarpWarrior NunUpload, and The Umbrella Academy were all worth watching. Some of them even have new seasons coming out soon.

On the "return to the office full-time" front, we probably have another six months to wait. The New York Times has a rundown of the 92 Covid-19 vaccines currently under development. But despite the president's lies, none of them will be available before the election. And getting 7 (or 14) billion doses manufactured and distributed will take time as well.

So, we work from home, wash our hands, wear our masks outside, and have lots of TV on in the background. Yay us.

Better Know a Ballot

Talk-show host Stephen Colbert has set up a website called Better Know a Ballot where you can check on the voting requirements for your state. He's producing videos for each state (starting with North Carolina) to explain the rules.

That's the bright spot of joy for you today. Here are other...spots...of something:

OK, one more bit of good news: The Economist reported this week that the southern hemisphere had almost no flu cases this winter, because pandemic response measures work on influenza just as they work on Covid-19.