The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

"Don't call me stupid"

I read the news today, oh boy. And one of the stories reminded me of this movie:

See if you can guess which one.

Finally, Chicago managed 58 hours of above-freezing temperatures (from 1pm Monday until 11pm yesterday) leaving us with only 15 cm of snow on the ground and a chance it'll all be gone by this time tomorrow. The forecast calls for daytime highs above freezing every day through next week, possibly hitting 10°C over the weekend. Spring!

Good morning!

Now in our 46th hour above freezing, with the sun singing, the birds coming up, and the crocuses not doing anything noteworthy, it feels like spring. We even halted our march up the league table in most consecutive days of more than 27.5 cm of snow on the ground, tying the record set in 2001 at 25 days. (Only 25 cm remained at 6am, and I would guess a third of that will melt by noon.)

So, what else is going on in the world?

And now, back to work.

About time we learned something

As the night follows the day, now that Republicans have lost power they're once again all a-flutter about deficits. This time, Democrats aren't having it:

Twelve years ago, Barack Obama entered the White House amid somewhat similar circumstances: The economy was in a tailspin; stimulus and relief were desperately needed. His administration spent weeks watering down a bill that was more aimed at winning Republican support than adequately filling the yawning hole in the economy: The bill’s bottom-line figure was kept below $1 trillion so as not to spook the deficit hawks, and much of the relief it did include was engineered to flow into the gap with such subtlety that it was destined to be barely felt at all.

For all of Obama’s entreaties to his political opponents, Republicans rejected it anyway. They were rewarded for all that intransigence first with a big opinion swing against the stimulus and then by a wave election that took back control of the House of Representatives in 2010.

Despite all that has happened between January 2009 and February 2021, Republicans are running the same plays: fighting against economic relief in the hopes that they can use the immiseration that would follow for their political benefit.

But this is not 2009. The situation may be vaguely similar—an economic crash following catastrophic Republican governance—but the world has changed a great deal. The Black-Eyed Peas have faded toward irrelevance; most people now acknowledge that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was bad. And the attacks on Democratic spending have lost some of their spicy tang after another deficit-busting GOP administration.

The media also seems to have learned some lessons from the radicalization of the GOP. Once, a lack of opposition votes was a scandal in miniature. In 2009, McConnell was able to weaponize that idea, pushing the Obama administration to downgrade its asks without ever having to give anything up in return. McConnell got cover from media luminaries such as David Broder, who approvingly cited Obama’s bipartisan yearnings: “The president has told visitors that he would rather have 70 votes in the Senate for a bill that gives him 85 percent of what he wants rather than a 100 percent satisfactory bill that passes 52 to 48.” It’s taken a while—and a deadly pandemic—but many in the often fabulously naïve Beltway press have gotten smarter. Now the narrative is increasingly centered on McConnell’s intransigence, rather than some failure on the part of Democrats to persuade Republicans to vote for legislation that would have been bipartisan not that long ago.

Right. It only took a Republican administration's incompetence allowing mass death from a pandemic to finally—finally!—get people understand they have no interest in governing.

Might we soon enter a truly progressive era in American politics? It's about damn time if we do.

The ossification of right-wing "constitutional originalists"

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) Tweeted yesterday morning, "Protecting and defending the Constitution doesn’t mean trying to rewrite the parts you don’t like." Josh Marshall wasted no time taking her to school:

Who's gonna tell her?

There's a worthwhile point that we can draw out of this otherwise useless dumbshittery. Folks on the right who stile themselves "constitutional conservatives" generally know next to nothing about the constitution and treat it as a kind of go to unicorn to validate what they want to be true.

But even to the extent some have a decent understanding of the original document, or even the original with the first batch of amendments, there is a strong implicit and sometimes explicitly assumption that the "real" constitution is what we might call the first edition. But of course it's not.

The system was designed with a roadmap and set of rules for revision built in. Toward the end of his life Justice Thurgood Marshall gave a speech in which he said the original constitution was a morally defective document which has no claim on anyone's allegiance today. It's only with the Civil War Amendments (13-15) that the American republic and its foundational document assume any moral force and claim on a patriotic allegiance today.

To the extent there are 'founders' in whose house we currently live, who have a claim on us over the centuries it's the founders of this second republic, the authors of Reconstruction.

In other words, how can you claim to love the Constitution but pretend Article V doesn't exist?

And I hate Ted Cruz

The junior US Senator from Texas, Republican Ted Cruz, has demonstrated a particular unfitness for office this week:

Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Ted Cruz jetted to Cancún. And although the emperor was at least ensconced in a lavish, louche palace, the senator from Texas was stuck in economy class with the peasantry.

Cruz’s appeal as a politician, such as it is, has never been about being lovable or relatable, but the latest incident is embarrassing even by his standards. He was spotted on a flight to Mexico yesterday, amid a catastrophic storm that has left Texans without power, heat, and sometimes water, huddled in freezing homes and community centers as the state’s electrical grid verges on collapse. More than a dozen of his constituents have already died. Cruz is headed home today—if not necessarily chastened, at least eager to control the damage. In a statement, he said he took the trip at his daughters’ behest. Blaming your children is a curious tack for an embattled politician, but he doesn’t have much else to work with.

It is tempting to turn the “hypocrite” label on Cruz, but his sin is worse. Every politician is a hypocrite at some point. Cruz’s error is not that he was shirking a duty he knew he should have been performing. It’s that he couldn’t think of any way he could use his power as a U.S. senator to help Texans in need. That’s a failure of imagination and of political ideology.

Cruz’s callousness about his constituents’ suffering is not just morally appalling. It is also—and this probably weighs more heavily on Cruz—politically dangerous. There’s growing evidence that even Republicans drifted toward a larger role for government in the Donald Trump era.

In related news, former US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) reports on Facebook that his "And I Hate Ted Cruz" coffee mugs are flying off the shelves today.

A quarter of Texas has no electricity

Extreme cold and winter weather slammed Texas over the weekend, dropping temperatures to -9°C in Houston and causing snow in Galveston. But Texas politics has made the situation far, far worse as power failures have affected a quarter of all Texans:

As this map makes obvious, politics seems to have caused the worst of it. The right-wing Republican government of Texas slashed regulations and even disconnected Texas from the National Grid to avoid Federal rules. And now, the poorest and hardest-hit in the state are being charged extortionate rates for what little electricity the state can produce:

Until recently, the average price for electricity in Texas was a bit more than 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even before the storm's full effects were felt, Griddy warned its customers on Friday that prices rose to an average of around 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. Things got even worse over the weekend and the Presidents Day holiday.

With demand high and market pressures raising costs, wholesale power prices "were more than $9,000 per megawatt hour late Monday morning, compared with pre-storm prices of less than $50 per megawatt hour," Reuters reported.

While Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott calls for an investigation into the regulatory body that his own party created, conservative trolls have tried to deflect their own malfeasance by claiming the renewable energy producers in Texas have failed, even though (a) only 10% of Texas electricity comes from renewables and (b) the renewable sources have actually increased their output to meet the new demand after the storm.

To put it bluntly, government policies favoring wealthy white men in Texas caused this entirely preventable, and entirely predictable, catastrophe. And, equally as predictable, the people most responsible for endangering the lives of their state's poorer and browner citizens have tried to blame everyone except themselves for it.

Meanwhile, about 10% of Oregon's residents went without electricity after a massive ice storm knocked out power lines and equipment throughout the Willamette Valley, resulting in the largest power outage in the state's history. Unlike the situation in Texas, this will not result in predatory pricing or people starving to death, because Oregon has a functioning government.

You remember we won, right? (Fire DeJoy edition)

The New Republic's Alex Pareene finds the obvious way to cut the Gordian knot tying Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to his post:

If you’ve sent or received any mail over the last few months, you may have noticed that the United States Postal Service is not in great shape. After Louis DeJoy, a Republican fundraiser, took over as postmaster general last June, he quickly implemented a series of “reforms” seemingly designed to slow down service, leading to precipitous declines in the speed with which mail was delivered. Over the holidays, fewer than 40 percent of letters arrived on time.

Unfortunately, though, we’re stuck with this arrangement. It is how it is. Nothing to be done. All because of a law passed in 1970, which created a post office governing body whose rules and terms were last altered by Congress as recently as 2006.

In other words, the only way around this seemingly intractable mess—the only way to be rid of this saboteur DeJoy—would be for Congress, which Democrats control, and which is already working on postal reform, to pass some sort of law tinkering with the makeup of the board, or changing how it is run, or allowing a president once again to appoint the postmaster general directly or, really, almost anything else that would achieve the same result.

It's the same kind of thinking that keeps the District of Columbia in perpetual stasis because apparently people have forgotten that we can create states with simple legislation.

The Queen's Consent

The Guardian has apparently just discovered a parliamentary procedure in use for the past, oh, 300 years, and...well, that's about it. In the UK, the House of Commons routinely shares proposed legislation with the Queen or the Prince of Wales when the matter under consideration directly affects the Royal Family. The Queen has no power to change the legislation, and indeed has never withheld her consent as doing so would cause a Constitutional crisis.

Still, it seems, as we say in the US, a bit hinky. And it seems that the Royals occasionally had something to say about the proposals. Naturally, the committed republicans of The Guardian are clutching their pearls indeed:

The Guardian has compiled a database of at least 1,062 parliamentary bills that have been subjected to Queen’s consent, stretching from the beginning of Elizabeth II’s reign through to the present day.

The database illustrates that the opaque procedure of Queen’s consent has been exercised far more extensively than was previously believed.

The investigation uncovered evidence suggesting that she used the procedure to persuade government ministers to change a 1970s transparency law in order to conceal her private wealth from the public.

The documents also show that on other occasions the monarch’s advisers demanded carve-outs on proposed laws relating to road safety and land policy that appeared to affect her estates, and pressed for government policy on historic sites to be altered.

A spokesperson for the Queen said: “Whether Queen’s consent is required is decided by parliament, independently from the royal household, in matters that would affect crown interests, including personal property and personal interests of the monarch.

“If consent is required, draft legislation is, by convention, put to the sovereign to grant solely on advice of ministers and as a matter of public record.”

She added: “Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, with the role of sovereign purely formal. Consent is always granted by the monarch where requested by government. Any assertion that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply incorrect.”

I would also consider myself to be a republican in the UK sense, happy to have the Windsors out of the process of governing the UK and taxable just like anyone else. But the UK Constitution, at the moment, has Elizabeth II Regina as Head of State, whose consent is required for all laws passed by her Government.

I imagine this article will elicit an enormous shrug from the British people.

Ice fishing, orcas, and budget reconciliation

These are just some of the things I read at lunch today:

  • Ezra Klein looks at how a $1.9 trillion proposal got through the US Senate and concludes the body has become "a Dadaist nightmare."
  • Several groups of ice fishermen, 66 in total, found themselves drifting into Green Bay (the bay, not the city) yesterday, when the ice floe they were fishing on broke away from the shore ice. Given that Lake Michigan has one of the smallest ice covers in years right now, this seems predictable and tragic.
  • Writing in the Washington Post, Bruce Schneier laments that government security agencies have to customize President Biden's Peloton stationary bicycle to make it safe to use in the White House—not because of the effort involved to keep the president safe, but because very few people will have a Peloton with that level of security.
  • The resident Orca population in the Salish Sea between British Columbia and Washington has immigration issues and declining standards of living. (So far, none of them has joined the Proud Whales.)

Finally, McSweeney's translates US Representative Marjorie Green's (R-GA) non-apology for being a racist whacko into simpler terms.

Leni Riefenstahl on the Ellipse

Writing for Just Security, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley decodes the structural and content similarities between the propaganda film that introduced the XPOTUS on the Ellipse on January 6th and the propaganda films a certain central-European country produced in the first half of the previous century:

Fascism is a patriarchal cult of the leader, who promises national restoration in the face of supposed humiliation by a treacherous and power-hungry global elite, who have encouraged minorities to destabilize the social order as part of their plan to dominate the “true nation,” and fold them into a global world government. The fascist leader is the father of his nation, in a very real sense like the father in a traditional patriarchal family. He mobilizes the masses by reminding them of what they supposedly have lost, and who it is that is responsible for that loss – the figures who control democracy itself, the elite; Nazi ideology is a species of fascism in which this global elite are Jews.

The future promised by the fascist leader is one in which there are plentiful blue collar jobs, reflecting the manly ideals of hard work and strength.

Fascism uses propaganda as a way of mobilizing a population behind the leader. Fascist propaganda creates an awesome sense of loss, and a desire for revenge against those who are responsible. The goal of fascist propaganda is to mobilize a population to violently overthrew multi-party democracy and replace it with the leader.

This history, both European and American, illuminates the dangers we face today, laid bare in the video. In it, Trump is repeatedly represented as the nation’s father figure. It is laced through with images of masculinity, and mournful loss at the hands of traitors, clearly justifying a violent restoration of recent glory.

The message of the video is clear. America’s glory has been betrayed by treachery and division sown by politicians seeking to undermine and destroy the nation. To save the nation, one must restore Trump’s rule.

We didn't dodge a bullet on January 6th; the shooter just missed, and not by much.