The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Yay Justice Ketanji Brown!

The Tweet I highlighted earlier has this context behind it:

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson turned the favored tactic of her right-wing peers on its head Tuesday, advancing an originalist argument to support protections for racial minorities. 

She made the comments during oral arguments in Merrill v. Milligan, a case that gives the conservative majority the opportunity to gut the Voting Rights Act even further.

She read out a quote from the legislator who introduced the [14th] amendment, and went on to explain that the 14th Amendment was enacted to give a constitutional foundation to the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that was “designed to make people who had less opportunity and less rights equal to white citizens.”

Josh Marshall loves it:

It is such a breath of fresh air, seeing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson say from the bench what the 14th Amendment actually says. “It’s not a race-blind remedy,” she says, in something of an understatement. But we can actually go well beyond this since so much of modern jurisprudence, mostly but not only from the right, is based not only on ignoring the context and plain text of the 14th Amendment but pretending that the real Constitution — albeit with some additions and fresh paint jobs — is the one finalized in the first Congress as the first ten amendments. The Civil War amendments are not only not race-blind. They reflect a larger realization and aim: that the whole state thing just hadn’t worked out.

It would be possible to argue that 150+ years since the passage of the Civil War amendments represents a cooling of the ambitions of the statecraft of the 14th Amendment and an effort to work out some equitable balance between localism and national power. There’s some truth to that. But that’s not an argument available to anyone who argues for originalism. With that you have to go back to what the Reconstruction Congress thought they were doing. And what they were trying to do was quite radical in the context of the 80 preceding years of American national history — indeed, quite radical in some ways in relation to today.

Will this cause the "originalists" on the Court any hesitation before finding against Black voters through tortured, motivated, ahistorical reasoning? Of course not. But the more the centrist Justices call out the three Trump appointees and Thomas for their partisan hackery, the more likely we will see some real court reform.

Well, yes, that's the idea

Chef's kiss:

In case it doesn't show up, here's the Tweet she's replying to:

That didn't stop Justice Thomas (R) from taking his seat, either, so moral consistency isn't something we should expect.

The value of cities

CNBC released a 35-minute documentary earlier this month that fairly discusses the value of cities relative to suburbs and exurbs:

A lot of this is old hat to people who follow Strong Towns or other urbanist sources. It's a good backgrounder for people though.

In related news, California just passed legislation mandating an end to local parking requirements within walking distance of transit stations. It's a start.

Anthony's Song

I'm movin' out. A lovely young couple have offered to buy Inner Drive World Headquarters v5.0, and the rest of the place along with it. I've already gotten through the attorney-review period for IDTWHQ v6.0, so this means I'm now more likely than not to move house next month.

Which means I have even less time to read stuff like this:

Finally, American Airlines plans to get rid of its First Class offerings, replacing them with high-tech Business Class and more premium coach seats. I'd better use my miles soon.

How is it 5:30?

I've had two parallel tasks today, one of them involving feeding 72 people on Saturday. The other one involved finishing a major feature for work. Both seem successful right now but need testing with real users.

Meanwhile, outside my little world:

  • The XPOTUS seems to have backed himself into a corner by lying about "declassifying" things psychically, after the Special Master that he asked for called bullshit. Greg Sargent has thoughts.
  • Pro Publica reported on Colorado's halfway-house system that sends more people back to prison than it rehabilitates.
  • The Navy has begun its court-martial of Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays, accused of lighting the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard in 2020.

Finally, Ian Bogost (and I) laments the disappearance of the manual transmission.

Strike averted

The President announced this morning that negotiators have reached a tentative deal between the railroads and their engineers and conductors, averting tonight's planned strike:

Freight rail companies and unions representing tens of thousands of workers reached a tentative agreement to avoid what would have been an economically damaging strike, after all-night talks brokered by Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, President Biden said early Thursday morning.

The agreement now heads to union members for a ratification vote, which is a standard procedure in labor talks. While the vote is tallied, workers have agreed not to strike.

The talks brokered by Mr. Walsh began Wednesday morning and lasted 20 hours. Mr. Biden called in around 9 p.m. Wednesday, a person familiar with the talks said, and he hailed the deal on Thursday in a long statement.

“Most importantly, for the first time ever, the agreement provides our members with the ability to take time away from work to attend routine and preventative medical, as well as exemptions from attendance policies for hospitalizations and surgical procedures,” the presidents of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers said in a news release.

Excellent news for the unions! And for us travelers, and for us consumers. Whew.

Rail strike more likely

Chicago's heavy-rail commuter district, Metra, started cancelling train service that would extend past the midnight-Friday start time of the planned nationwide rail strike. Well, taking the El to work instead of Metra adds about 9 minutes to my commute, so I'll have to deal with that on Friday, I suppose. Except that commuter rail shutdowns don't even start to illustrate how bad this strike could turn out for the US economy:

[A strike] would cause immediate problems for manufacturers, says Lee Sanders with the American Bakers Association. This is nationwide. And a broad range of manufacturers who get parts, packaging and raw material delivered by rail would be effected.

"If we don't get the ingredients that we need to our plants, we won't be able to make the products that we need to get our wholesome products to the consumers," Sanders says.

So, empty shelves are a possibility. Farmers are worried too about shipping grain. Dangerous chemicals have already stopped moving. Especially valuable goods are next, and passengers are getting stranded too.

Don't forget about coal, either. About 22% of US electricity comes from coal-fired plants, including 30% of Illinois' power. (As it turns out, Illinois has a higher proportion of nuclear power—about 54% of output—than any other state, which gives us a bit more reliability.)

I have a lot of sympathy for the engineers and conductors, whose schedules seem even less predictable than even fast-food workers. I hope the railroads agree to better scheduling and time-off provisions before Friday, or we're going to have a major economic disruption while we already have high inflation. Not a good combination.

Process crimes vs intentional crimes

Writing as a guest of James Fallows, former defense official Jan Lodal outlines how subparagraph (d) of the Espionage Act should be a slam-dunk in prosecuting the XPOTUS:

This paragraph makes a straightforward action a crime: namely, failing to return classified documents if properly directed to give them back. No proof of the level of classification, or the intentions of the document holder, or the content of the documents, is required. Just a simple question, did he or she give them back or not.

This section of the Espionage Act does not require that prosecutors access or cite individual documents to prove the crime. It requires only that there were any classified documents in the boxes that Trump did not return. On that there is no doubt. It was settled by the release of the Department of Justice (DoJ) Affidavit authorizing the Mar-A-Lago document seizure.

Trump’s violation of this Subparagraph (d) of the Espionage Act could not be clearer. Unlike all other crimes being considered for prosecution, Subsection (d) requires no probing of intent or consequence. It defines as criminal a clear process violation—“failing to return” classified documents when properly asked to do so.

Given our politics and our jury system, keeping the legal actions against Trump simple is better for now. Prosecution for other offenses after getting an initial conviction will then be more likely to succeed. DOJ should take this path to reduce the risk that obfuscation and assertions of inapplicable rights and privileges by a former president could override the fragile rule of law in our constitutional democracy.

Having watched the DOJ build its case, and knowing that Attorney General Merrick Garland takes things slowly and deliberately, I expect to see this charge sooner rather than later. But I also suspect that the DOJ wants to build the most comprehensive case it can. We'll see.

Notable Friday afternoon stories

Just a few before I take a brick to my laptop for taking a damned half-hour to reformat a JSON file:

Oh, good. My laptop has finished parsing the file. (In fairness it's 400,000 lines of JSON, but still, that's only 22 megabytes uncompressed.) I will now continue with my coding.