The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Just one or two stories today

Sheesh:

And finally, when I left for San Francisco on Saturday morning, it was 10°C and sunny. Here we are about 76 hours later and it's 30°C. We really don't have spring or fall here some years.

Monday morning round-up

According to my Garmin, I got almost 18 hours of sleep the past two nights, but also according to my Garmin (and my groggy head), few of those hours made a difference. I take some of the blame for that, but on the other hand, someday I want to stay in a hotel room where I can control when the air conditioner turns on and off.

Anyway, while I slept fitfully, these stories passed through my inbox:

And finally, good news for the Brews & Choos Project: Lagunitas plans to re-open their taproom later this year.

The ambassador's a dodger, yes, and I'm a dodger too

A little-known United Nations agency would like its $22 million back, please:

At the United Nations, two officials had a problem. The little-known agency they ran found itself with an extra $61 million, and they didn’t know what to do with it.

Then they met a man at a party.

Now, they have $25 million less.

In between was a baffling series of financial decisions, in which experienced diplomats entrusted tens of millions of dollars, the agency’s entire investment portfolio at the time, to a British businessman after meeting him at the party. They also gave his daughter $3 million to produce a pop song, a video game and a website promoting awareness of environmental threats to the world’s oceans.

Things did not go well.

Transparency and accountability: it's not just a good idea, it's the law.

(The headline comes from this traditional Anglo-American song. Grift goes back to the beginning of speech, it turns out.)

Who took a leak on the Supreme Court?

South Texas College of Law Houston Law Professor Josh Blackman sketches out a timeline pointing to a right-wing Justice's clerk as the likely source of the Dobbs leak:

First, where did the leak come from? Most people are presuming this leak came from someone with access to the opinion, such as a Justice or a clerk. That presumption is probably correct, but it is also possible there was some illegal exfiltration of the document. ... People who are fanatical about abortion may go to great lengths to support their cause.

Fourth, Politico got the scoop. Not the Washington Post or New York Times or WSJ or NPR. Or, perhaps other outlets had a copy of the opinion, but only Politico was willing to run it. I still think WSJ had the opinion last week, in light of their editorial. The Supreme Court is in worse shape than I could have imagined.

Josh Marshall draws lines between Blackman's dots:

[T]he rapid-fire follow-up reporting on John Roberts’ position on the Mississippi case, just hours after the Politico exclusive, made me think at the time that the leaked draft opinion wasn’t a one off thing. It seemed part of a larger breakdown of secrecy or on-going leaks tied to the Mississippi abortion case. You don’t come up with details about the Chief Justice’s position and arguments from internal deliberations on one of the biggest cases in decades in an hour and a half if you’re beginning from a cold start. Then this morning I found out about this Wall Street Journal opinion page editorial from April 26th in which they fairly transparently write about current Court deliberations in the Mississippi case, specifically that John Roberts was trying to pull an unnamed conservative Justice back from fully overturning Roe.

[W]hy the column in late April? And why the specifics? It certainly reads like the authors had an inside read on on-going deliberations and fears that Roberts might be in the process of sneaking a defeat from the jaws of victory.

It reads even more like that when you read the piece in the context of the subsequent leak.

Blackman is a big advocate for overturning Roe. But that’s mostly neither here nor there for our present purposes. What’s interesting is that he’s written extensively about previous cases when Roberts nudged the Court toward less right-wing decisions and cases where there were leaks and pressure campaigns trying to prevent him from doing so. So Blackman is something of an expert on this on-going pattern and history. He seemed to spot it from his first read of the Journal editorial. Indeed, if I’m reading his piece correctly he seems to think the Journal may well have had a copy of the Alito opinion too.

(Emphasis in original.)

So, some clerk in Justice Alito's (R) or Thomas's (R) office gave photocopies of Alito's first draft to a number of right-leaning outlets, and Politico published first. All of this to push the Court towards a more extreme position than Chief Justice Roberts (I) can agree with.

More Dobbs reactions

A day and a half after the unprecedented leak of Justice Alito's (R) draft opinion in Dobbs v Jackson, everyone and her dog has a reaction piece:

  • David Von Drehle in the Post warns that Alito's arguments in Dobbs, if accepted as the final majority opinion, would imperil many other rights based on privacy law: "[S]hould Alito’s draft opinion be affirmed by the court’s majority, there will be little to prevent states from enacting limits [on contraception] if they wish. Women will have only as much guaranteed autonomy over their childbearing as they had in 1868. Alito’s draft recognizes the rights of an hour-old zygote, but not of a 12-year-old impregnated by a rapist."
  • Jennifer Rubin concurs, saying the Court's "religion-driven mission" puts other settled law like Griswold v Connecticut and Lawrence v Texas in the crosshairs: "At its core, this Supreme Court’s right-wing majority seems eager to cast aside the restraints of precedent, making good on their supporters’ agenda rooted in Christian nationalism. In assuming life begins at conception (thereby giving the states unfettered leeway to ban abortion), Alito and his right-wing colleagues would impose a faith-based regimen shredding a half-century of legal and social change."
  • Josh Marshall calls bullshit on Alito's long-professed "originalism:" "Alito recognizes that there are interpretive frameworks that address new issues not explicitly referenced in the constitution. That’s in this decision. But he keeps coming back to “history and tradition” as what really seems like a separate basis of authority. Basically old school values. And lots of rights won’t make that cut."
  • Alex Shephard calls bullshit on Republicans trying to blame the leak for the Court's loss of legitimacy when, really, the activist Republican justices killed it: "There is a long tradition in conservative circles of finding every opportunity to claim victimhood. ... [But] the court’s legitimacy problems can, frankly be traced back to Bush v. Gore, if not earlier, when five Republican-appointed justices decided a presidential election based on their own partisan affiliations; this paved the way for President George W. Bush to appoint Samuel Alito."
  • Law professor and former Federal prosecutor Joyce Vance concurs, saying "Reversing Roe, particularly in the manner Alito does, condescending, patronizing, forcing an end to women’s full participation as equals in society, will forever change the belief that the court is above politics and the public’s confidence in the Court."
  • Adam Liptak of the Times agrees, hinting that Alito or one of his clerks might have leaked the draft as away of pressuring Justices Kavanaugh (R) or Gorsuch (R) to stay in the majority.
  • George Will, fresh from his local dispensary, says the end of Roe gives everyone a chance to start over. Everyone, I suppose, except the women whose lives will be ruined or lost because of unwanted or unsafe pregnancies.
  • Stephen Colbert Tweets, "I can’t believe how gullible Susan Collins is. But Susan Collins can." But Eric Garland reports on some aspects of Collins' history that paint a much worse picture of the Senator.
  • Julia Ioffe reminds us that five of six of the Republican justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

But, hey, guys? Please keep covering the other stories of the day. Like, for example, the corruption of Justice Thomas (R) and his wife.

Stare decisis for thee, not for me

Politico reported yesterday evening that the US Supreme Court voted back in February to overturn Roe v Wade, and they have Justice Alito's (R) first-draft opinion to prove it:

The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.

The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.

No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. The unprecedented revelation is bound to intensify the debate over what was already the most controversial case on the docket this term.

Alito's opinion lists the many times the Court has overturned previous decisions, but if this one stands, it'll be one of the rare times—if not the only time—the Court has overturned a decision granting rights. That is, sure, Plessy was wrong, but when the Court overturned it in Brown, they extended rights that the previous decision had curtailed.

The Supreme Court confirmed that the document is authentic, though not "the final position of any member on the issues in the case." Reports indicated that Justices Kavanaugh (R), Comey Barret (R), Gorsuch (R), and Thomas (R) joined Alito, while Chief Justice Roberts (I) has not. Justices Kagan (I), Sotomayor (I), and Breyer (I) have apparently already drafted dissents.

As one might guess, people have reacted to this news with some vigor:

  • Senator Susan Colins (R-ME) expressed surprise and alarm that Justices Kavanaugh (R) and Gorsuch (R) could possibly have prevaricated—nay, dissembled even!—in their confirmation hearings when they claimed to support stare decisis regarding Roe, for they are all, all honorable men.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised a vote on abortion rights during the current term despite opposition from Senator Joe Manchin III (D?-WV).
  • Abortion-rights groups uniformly condemned the news, even as anti-abortion groups without irony praised it for protecting potential lives (cf. lives already in being, like the women needing the procedure).

This is a developing story. I'll post updates as warranted.

Monday afternoon stories

Just a few:

Finally, James Fallows rolls his eyes at the annual White House Correspondent's Dinner, but praises Trevor Noah's closing statement.

Student debt relief won't go to the rich

But instead I'm reading this note (sub.req.) by Paul Krugman, pointing out that college degrees no longer have anything to do with wealth or income:

[M]uch of the backlash to proposals for student debt relief is based on a false premise: the belief that Americans who have gone to college are, in general, members of the economic elite.

The falsity of this proposition is obvious for those who were exploited by predatory for-profit institutions that encouraged them to go into debt to get more or less worthless credentials. The same applies to those who took on educational debt but never managed to get a degree — not a small group. In fact, around 40 percent of student loan borrowers never finish their education.

What is widely understood is that America has become a far more unequal society over the past 40 years or so. The nature of rising inequality, however, isn’t as broadly known. I keep encountering seemingly well-informed people who believe that we’re mainly looking at a widening gap between the college-educated and everyone else.

Americans at the 95th percentile don’t consider themselves rich, because they aren’t, surely as compared with C.E.O.s, hedge funders and so on. Nonetheless, they have seen substantial gains. On the other hand, the typical college graduate — who is, remember, someone who made it through and received an accredited degree — hasn’t.

So here’s how I see it: Much of the student debt weighing down millions of Americans can be attributed to false promises.

Some of these promises were scams pure and simple; think Trump University. Even those who weren’t outright cheated, however, were pulled in by elite messaging assuring them that a college degree was a ticket to financial success. Too many didn’t realize that their life circumstances might make it impossible to finish their education — it’s hard for comfortable, upper-middle-class Americans to realize how difficult staying in school can be for young people from poorer families with unstable incomes. Many of those who did manage to finish found that the financial rewards were far smaller than they expected.

And all too many of those who fell victim to these false promises ended up saddled with large debts.

Canceling large swaths of educational debt will do more to help the bottom 95% than most of the legislation proposed this session. The rich don't need it; in fact, many wealthy people have no college debt at all. They're the ones who hold the notes, when you get down to it. So here's hoping President Biden moves forward on the proposal.

Do not do these things, UK edition

Two surprising stories out of the UK involving public figures who behaved badly and got caught. First, former tennis star Boris Becker will spend 30 months in jail for hiding assets from the UK bankruptcy court:

The former tennis star had faced a jail sentence of up to 28 years under the Insolvency Act. He was found guilty of four charges by a jury at Southwark crown court earlier this month but acquitted of further 20 counts relating to his 2017 bankruptcy.

Once nicknamed Britain’s favourite German – the 54-year-old once joked he was “top of a short list” – the six-time grand slam winner was worth about £38m in his heyday in prize money and sponsorship deals.

Also today, Conservative MP Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, Devonshire) turned himself in to the Commons standards committee after admitting he watched pornography in the House of Commons:

Rumours about the identity of the MP had been rife in Westminster since it emerged earlier this week that a female Conservative minister had reported seeing a colleague watching pornography on his phone in the Commons – an account corroborated by another MP.

Before Parish’s name emerged, several Conservative MPs, including Nickie Aiken and Simon Hoare, had called on the unnamed MP accused of watching pornography to resign, rather than risk others being wrongly named.

Guys, what the hell. Just don't.

Sure Happy It's Thursday vol. 2,694

Some odd stories, some scary stories:

  • Microsoft has released a report on Russia's ongoing cyber attacks against Ukraine.
  • Contra David Ignatius, military policy experts Dr Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds call Russia's invasion of Ukraine "the death throes of imperial delusion" and warn that Putin will likely escalate the conflict rather than face humiliation.
  • Russia historian Tom Nichols puts all of this together and worries about World War III—"not the rhetorical World War III loosely talked about now, but the real thing, including the deaths of hundreds of millions."
  • The Saudi Royal Family finally returned a Boeing 747-8 to the manufacturer after it had sat on the apron in Basel, Switzerland, for 10 years. The plane has 42 hours on it but may have to be scrapped.
  • In other B747 news, Boeing admitted to $1.1 billion in cost overruns for the four planes the Air Force ordered to carry the President. Boeing will eat the costs after making a deal with the XPOTUS for a fixed-price contract. The Air Force should receive the planes in 2026.
  • George Will thinks we should amend the Constitution to prohibit people who have served as US Senators from becoming President. He argues that too many senators use their office to run for president. But since World War II, all but one former senator who became president came from the Democratic Party (Biden, Obama, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, Truman), so I'm not sure it would pass the States even if it didn't also have to pass the Senate.

Finally, DuPage County officials have demolished a partially-completed mansion that sat vacant for 10 years, to the eternal sadness of its owner.