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.

Tracy Flick was never cruel

A first-year undergraduate twerp with obvious narcissistic tendencies went through a homeless encampment handing out fake eviction notices earlier this week:

The one-page notices titled “Maria Hadden’s Five Day Notice To Vacate” were stuffed into belongings and posted on signs in and around Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St., residents said. They were dated Sept. 27 and listed the name of Hadden, the 49th Ward alderperson, in bold blue type over a line reading “landlord/agent.”

The notice says Touhy Park residents have five days to leave and clear the area of “all buildings, sheds, closets, out-buildings, garages, barns and other structures used in connection with said premises.”

It also says residents will be relocated for free to the Four Seasons Hotel in Gold Coast. Their stay at the hotel, 120 E. Delaware Place, would be open-ended “for as long as it takes for Maria Hadden to find you appropriate housing,” the notice states.

The notices say they were “served” by Bill Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce and candidate for 49th Ward alderman. Sarah Lim, a DePaul University freshman who is considering a run for mayor, is listed as the document’s “affiant,” or someone who files an affidavit.

Lim said she was solely responsible for the fake eviction notices. Morton denied having any involvement.

Lim fantasizes that she's a candidate for mayor next year, and also fantasizes that she didn't do anything wrong with this stunt:

Lim, who is planning on running for mayor of Chicago, said she taped up the bogus flyers so that she could “get my name out there.”

By circulating the sheets, she also hoped to get publicity directly to her website. The site assists high school and college students in attaining internships.

“I started the website last summer,” Lim said. “It has really been a struggle to get more traffic to it, which is why I resorted to the publicity stunt.”

Lim, reached by phone late Thursday afternoon, said she didn’t mean to offend anyone and was only seeking publicity.

“I have no hatred against homeless people,” said Lim, who said she came up with the idea last week because she knows the encampment is controversial. “People want something done about it,” Lim said of the homeless people living there.

“Whatever the intention, it was a very cruel act for all of these people who are pretty vulnerable and seeking housing,” Hadden said. Some are on waiting lists to be placed in homes.

When Lim was told that Hadden thought the fake notices were “cruel,” she said: “I think that instead of trying to turn me into a criminal, Hadden should be focusing on the issues right now.”

A bewildered Hadden said she had no idea why someone would do this. “You can’t make this stuff up,” Hadden said.

I make the comparison to the character Tracy Flick in Tom Perrotta's novel Election because Flick frequently gets held up as a sociopathic striver who would do anything to get elected class president. Except anyone who's read the novel can understand that Flick is actually the good guy; she wins on her merits, and never acts as cruelly as the social-studies teacher who has it in for her.

Sarah Lim, however, seems like a true sociopath in a way that most 17-year-old humans have already grown out of. I sincerely hope she matures in college, but it looks like she has a long way to go just to get to the first-year baseline.

Der Anschluß Ukrainisch

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin illegally declared Russia has annexed parts of Ukraine, which literally no other country in the world has recognized:

Speaking to hundreds of Russian lawmakers and governors in a grand Kremlin hall, Mr. Putin said that the residents of the four regions — which are still partially controlled by Ukrainian forces — would become Russia’s citizens “forever.” He then held a signing ceremony with the Russian-installed heads of those four regions to start the official annexation process, before clasping hands with them and chanting “Russia! Russia!”

Ukraine’s government has rebuffed Mr. Putin’s claims and vowed to retake territory captured by Russia in the east and south. Even as Mr. Putin spoke, Ukrainian officials said their army had encircled the Russian-occupied town of Lyman, a strategically important hub in the Donetsk region that lies inside the territory Mr. Putin is claiming.

Without saying so directly, Mr. Putin hinted that the role of nuclear weapons in war is on his mind. Describing the West as “deceitful and hypocritical through and through,” Mr. Putin noted that the United States was the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war. He then added: “By the way, they created a precedent.”

In addition to telling Putin to fuck off (in diplomatic terms, anyway), Ukrainian president Volodomir Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine has formally applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—something he was ready to promise not to do until this week:

[Putin's] speech was followed by Moscow-installed leaders of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia signing documents proclaiming them part of Russia, before joining hands with Putin and singing the national anthem.

Minutes later, Zelenskyy posted a surprise online video announcing, "We are taking our decisive step by signing Ukraine's application for accelerated accession to NATO."

Joining the alliance has been a goal of Kyiv's for years, and would give it the protection of collective defense promised by Washington and others. In reality, a number of hurdles stand in its way.

While not being NATO allies, the U.S. and others have provided billions of dollars of military support for Ukraine as well as multiple rafts of sanctions. On Friday it responded to Putin's statement with another salvo, imposing economic and visa sanctions on hundreds of Russian and Belarusian officials, their family members and businesses.

Putin's domestic situation has deteriorated precipitously in the past two weeks as the Russian people have discovered they really do have an unhinged malignant narcissist running their country. And that movie always ends the same way.

(h/t Darth Putin KGB on Twitter)

Mystery of 96-year-old woman's death deepens with new revelations

The Registrar General for Scotland finally released a death certificate that raised more questions than it answered:

Queen Elizabeth II’s cause of death is described as “old age” in the register of deaths released on Thursday.

The registrar general for Scotland, Paul Lowe, confirmed that the Queen’s death was registered in Aberdeenshire on 16 September.

Suspicious, innit? She survived in power for 70 years and this is the best you've got? Apparently Scottish law allows this sort of obfuscation:

Old age is acceptable if the doctor certifying death has cared for the patient for a long time, was not aware of any disease or injury that contributed to death and had observed a gradual decline in the person’s general health and functioning.

The Queen had been experiencing sporadic mobility problems during the final period of her life and used a walking stick regularly in public. Her use of a walking stick came after she was admitted to a private London hospital for “preliminary investigations” in October last year – her first overnight admission for eight years.

Oh? The People deserve a full investigation! A similar fate could befall the current heads of state of not just the UK, but Cameroon, Lebanon, Norway—or even the United States.

We demand the truth!

Bank of England fights "moron risk premium"

After Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's shocking mini-budget announcement last week, worldwide markets (and the IMF) have clobbered Sterling and the Conservative government in general. Today the Bank of England intervened in bond markets to try undoing the worst damage:

The Bank will start buying government bonds at an "urgent pace" to help restore "orderly market conditions".

So called Liability Driven Investment funds - which support defined benefit pensions schemes - were facing a collapse in the value of the bonds they hold, which in turn could have forced them to rush to sell other assets, sparking yet more market panic.

The Bank has already said it will "not hesitate" to hike interest rates to try and protect the pound and try and stem surging prices. Some economists have predicted the Bank of England will raise the interest rate from the current 2.25% to 5.8% by next spring.

Despite the Bank's action, the pound continued to fall with some analysts warning it could even reach parity with the dollar.

"What today shows us, is that the market doesn't see this as a problem that just the Bank of England can clean up," said Jane Foley, a currency strategist at Rabobank. "This is just firefighting".

Economist Tony Yates, formerly of the Bank, believes the markets expect a reversal to the Tories' new policy, either as a volte-face soon or at the next election:

The combination of falling sterling and rising rates is particularly damning. Normally a country embarking on a monetary-policy contraction to combat an inflationary surge—imparted by a fiscal loosening—might be expected to see a rise in its exchange rate. But the government’s move has shaken markets’ faith in its fiscal competence and its grasp of macroeconomic realities. That loss of confidence produced the exchange-rate fall.

Mr Kwarteng’s delusions will come to an end. The worst return to reality would see Britain slide into a full-blown financial crisis. In this regard the fall in sterling is less important than the rise in the cost of government finances. That is partly because investors are demanding a premium: they expect to compensate themselves for the upheavals of recent days and the uncertainty they have introduced. (The economists Paul Krugman and Dario Perkins have called this a “moron risk premium”.) In a doomsday scenario this premium generates a self-fulfilling vicious cycle. It raises spending (on interest payments on existing government debt) and lowers revenues (a dearth of confidence will lead to less economic activity). This will raise the “moron premium” further, worsening the funding gap. And so on.

Ironically the fiscal plans of a prospective left-wing government are providing the confidence anchor for the right-wing government it is expected to defeat in the next election. And the more this is expected to happen, and the sterner and clearer Labour’s plans become, the less awful the crisis will be in the meantime. The stupidity of Mr Kwarteng’s policy and its unpopularity are helping to limit the damage done by it. Markets believe that things won’t carry on as they are indefinitely.

Of particular concern, most mortgages in the UK have floating rates, unlike here in the US where fixed rates are most common. So the rising interest rates and declining pound will start hitting mortgage borrowers hard, just when gas prices blow up later this autumn.

I only wish I had a few extra bucks right now for a trip to the Ancestral Homeland. Given the current Tory resistance to change in the face of direct evidence, though, I suspect the exchange rate will remain pretty favorable to Americans through the winter.

If you won't buy my gas, you can't have it anyway

Someone—who, pray, could it be?—apparently blew up two parts of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that brings gas from Russia to Europe:

European officials on Tuesday launched investigations into possible “sabotage” following three mysterious leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines, built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe, after the system operator reported “unprecedented” damage to the lines in the Baltic Sea.

The damage — which seismic authorities registered as two significant underwater explosions — drew immediate accusations from European leaders that Russia was to blame. They offered no immediate evidence. But some officials suggested it might be revenge for Europe’s efforts to find alternatives to Russian natural gas or a threat that other gas pipelines that crisscross the Baltic Sea were vulnerable — including one inaugurated on Tuesday.

The leaks had no immediate impact on energy supplies to the European Union, since Russia had already cut off gas flows. But gas had remained in the pipes, raising concerns about possible environmental harm from leaking methane — the main component of natural gas and, when in the atmosphere, a major contributor to climate change. Images supplied by the Danish military showed gas bubbles reaching the surface of the water.

A senior European defense official and a European environmental official said that the primary, most obvious suspect behind the leaks was Russia. Russian officials had a motivation: sending a message to Europeans about the consequences of getting gas via the new Baltic pipeline. They also have the capability: a robust submersible program.

“No one on the European side of the ocean is thinking this is anything other than Russian sabotage,” the environmental official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking about the leak.

I expect that the US Navy knows exactly what happened, and the Russian Navy probably knows we know, but it'll take some time for declassified reports filter out to the public. That said, if our navy knows, then we would have shared that info with the UK and most of NATO by now. I'm going to watch what the diplomats say for the next week on this.

Sterling drops to lowest price ever

The pound fell to $1.033 in early trading this morning before rebounding to the still-ahistorical $1.08 by mid-day:

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak hasn't had the job for three weeks and he's already tanked British currency markets. The Guardian's economics editor Larry Elliott calls the mini-budget that started this catastrophe a "schoolboy error:"

Part of the story of the pound’s weakness is a function of dollar strength but that does not explain why sterling has fallen so rapidly since the end of last week. There are three UK-related factors behind the fall.

First, once a currency hits the skids it is hard to stop it. Momentum trading took over in the aftermath of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget and it has proved hard to halt.

Second, Kwarteng committed a schoolboy error by pledging further tax cuts in a full budget planned for later this year. If the markets are worried about the state of the government’s finances and the increase in borrowing needed to fund your plans, it is not the wisest course of action to add to those concerns. Kwarteng’s inexperience has been exposed.

Third, the financial markets don’t really know how the Bank of England will respond to the events of the past three days. Threadneedle Street raised interest rates by half a point last Thursday but there has been speculation of an emergency meeting of the Bank’s monetary policy committee as early as Monday.

The Economist expands:

Five-year British yields have risen from 1.5% at the beginning of August to above 4.5% now: an increase of about one percentage point in just two days.

That combination of rising yields and a falling currency has prompted discussions of a broader crisis of confidence in Britain’s economy and its assets. The government’s tax cuts will mean a growing budget deficit and higher public-debt levels in the future. Britain’s current-account deficit reached 8.3% of gdp in the first three months of the year, the deepest in modern history, driven by surging energy prices. A gaping current-account deficit is something that often worries those who invest in developing economies.

But in other ways Britain is an unusual candidate for a currency crisis. Its exchange rate is flexible, meaning that there is no link to another currency, as was the case when Britain was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992. Its financial markets are deep and sophisticated. It has minimal debt denominated in foreign currencies, and its central bank is independent from the government.

The most simple explanation for the sell-off, then, is that investors do not believe that the government’s tax cuts will lead to the real economic growth Mr Kwarteng wants. Instead, they foresee higher inflation that the Bank of England will be unwilling to fully offset with interest-rate increases. Currency analysts at the Bank of America suggest that a combination of Britain’s changing fiscal stance and the long-running effects of its decision to leave the European Union have led to a profound rethink of the pound by investors. That leaves the currency more vulnerable in the years ahead.

I was joking with friends that I should hop over there to finally get a pint and a bap for under $10, until one of them pointed out that it would be a $1210 pint and bap given airfares and hotel costs. Ah, well. It doesn't look like the pound will recover before the end of the year, so maybe Christmas in London again? Any bets on whether PM Liz Truss will have to call an election before then?

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.