The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cassie turns 3 (probably)

According to the paperwork I received from Cassie's shelter, she was born on 18 July 2018 in Cheatham County, Tenn. They may have guessed; no one will ever know. Regardless, I decree that her birthday is officially July 18th. Time for a birthday portrait or two:

(Or maybe a portrait and a landscape?)

Happy birthday, Cassie!

About that Russian document

The Guardian reported on Thursday that they had obtained, and validated, a document purporting to come from a January 2016 meeting of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his security team. The document has everything an opponent of the XPOTUS could want:

They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow’s strategic objectives, among them “social turmoil” in the US and a weakening of the American president’s negotiating position.

Russia’s three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump, in a decree appearing to bear Putin’s signature.

There is a brief psychological assessment of Trump, who is described as an “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex”.

There is also apparent confirmation that the Kremlin possesses kompromat, or potentially compromising material, on the future president, collected – the document says – from Trump’s earlier “non-official visits to Russian Federation territory”.

Journalist Julia Ioffe, who has reported on Russia for years, and who has made no secret of her belief that the XPOTUS had no business visiting the White House, let alone living there, took all of this with an entire salt lick:

It sounds absolutely amazing and gratifying, but is it true? The short answer is: we don’t know, but there are...reasons to be skeptical.

As Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired C.I.A. officer who fought Russian active measures from 2017 to 2019 from inside Langley, put it, “this seems to be packaged too neatly. Kremlin documents like this don’t leak.” On this, I agree with Marc. It just seems too pat and fits the narrative we want to believe a little too neatly.

“This definitely looks like something the Kremlin could have written and ‘leaked’ for the purpose of making people look ridiculous when it’s published and everyone gets really excited about it,” said one former U.S. government official who worked on Russia. Look, for instance, at the response to the report: the American media is again talking about Trump and whether the election had been rigged by the Kremlin. (Let’s remember that undermining confidence in election security is not an exclusively Republican sport.)

Still, for all my skepticism and all my spidey senses (and sources) telling me this is probably bullshit, it’s important to allow some space for the possibility that this document is real. It might be! But it’s probably not. The real issue is, we just don’t know yet. So if you’re a journalist with good sources in the intelligence community or in the inner sanctum of the Kremlin, get on it. If you’re not, take a beat, and think about whether it’s worth sharing information we don’t yet know to be true. That’s always a good policy.

I'm with Ioffe. If something seems to good to be true, and all that. Plus, as Ioffe also says, it doesn't matter. The XPOTUS is out of office, and with all the state investigations for prosaic things like massive tax fraud coming at him, I don't think we have to worry too much about what Russia may or may not have done to him.

Floods in Northwest Europe

Hundreds of people are missing and dozens confirmed dead in some of the worst flooding in European history:

Following a day of frantic rescue efforts and orders to evacuate towns rapidly filling with water unloosed by violent storms, the German authorities said late Thursday that after confirming scores of deaths, they were unable to account for at least 1,300 people.

That staggering figure was announced after swift-moving water from swollen rivers surged through cities and villages in two western German states, where the death toll passed 90 on Friday in the hardest-hit regions and other fatalities were expected.

The devastation caused by the severe weather came just days after the European Union announced an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, as part of plans to make the 27-country bloc carbon-neutral by 2050. Environmental activists and politicians were quick to draw parallels between the flooding and the effects of climate change.

“The water is still flowing knee-high through the streets, parked cars are thrown sideways, and trash and debris are piling up on the sides,” Alexander Bange, the district spokesman in the Märkische region of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the German news agency D.P.A.

I hope the rains abate long enough, and the rivers empty quickly enough, to limit the damage and deaths that continue today.

Mouse in the house

Cassie and I got completely pwned by a very small rodent last night. The critter managed to get past her and me even though we had it completely cornered at one point. I hope, however, that (a) the mouse understands the relative survivability of getting caught by a human vs. caught by a Weimaraner, and (b) the mouse understands the relative survivability of my house vs. the neighbor's dog- and cat-free house on the other side of my wall.

All of this happened, by the way, while I was brushing my teeth, so I also learned that Cassie really needs to hear complete English words or she has no idea what I'm trying to get her to do. "Cassie, to me" sounds less coherent with a toothbrush in my mouth, for example.

It was 20 years ago today

...that I left a medium-sized consulting firm based here in Chicago. The firm itself doesn't really matter. I left because I couldn't tolerate commuting to Houston every week to work on a project for a now-infamous energy trading firm there. No one seemed too interested in me saying the client had serious problems, and that the project, if it worked, would break all kinds of anti-trust laws. By mid-October the client proved me right when its house of cards collapsed.

I have some recollections of the summer of 2001, but of course things changed quickly, right after I started a new gig for a cool start-up on the eastern edge of Ukrainian Village. My first day was the Monday after Labor Day, the 10th.

What a strange year that was. Good thing everyone has calmed down since then.

Scarier than we thought

According to an upcoming book by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley seriously worried about the XPOTUS attempting an autogolpe in January:

Milley described “a stomach-churning” feeling as he listened to Trump’s untrue complaints of election fraud, drawing a comparison to the 1933 attack on Germany’s parliament building that Hitler used as a pretext to establish a Nazi dictatorship.

In December, with rumors circulating that the president was preparing to fire then-CIA Director Gina Haspel and replace her with Trump loyalist Kash Patel, Milley sought to intervene, the book says. He confronted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the annual Army-Navy football game, which Trump and other high-profile guests attended.

“What the hell is going on here?” Milley asked Meadows, according to the book’s account. “What are you guys doing?”

When Meadows responded, “Don’t worry about it,” Milley shot him a warning: “Just be careful.”

Greg Sargent warns we need immediate reforms to make sure we never get that close to a coup again:

Milley’s general overarching fear was absolutely correct: Trump and key strains of the movement behind him were unquestionably willing to resort to potentially illegal and violent means to thwart the transfer of power from Trump to the legitimately elected new government. They actually did attempt this.

On certification of federal elections, Congress could set standards for states that streamline the certification process to take pressure off low-level election boards, and place ultimate control of certification in the hands of state judicial actors who are ostensibly nonpartisan. That would make it harder to corrupt certification.

On state legislatures sending rogue electors, Congress could revise the Electoral Count Act. Ideas include setting higher evidentiary standards for objections to electors, making the threshold for objecting higher than one senator and representative, and requiring two-thirds of Congress to sustain an objection.

This could avert a 2024 scenario in which a GOP legislature in one deciding state buckles this time under pressure to send rogue electors, and a GOP-controlled chamber in Congress counts them, creating a severe crisis at best and a stolen election at worst.

Whatever reforms we choose, the basic guiding idea here should be this. We don’t just want to make it harder to corrupt these processes, but also to reduce the incentive to pressure officials at all these levels to do so, since it would be less likely to succeed.

Milley’s fear of a Trump military coup was not borne out. But this shouldn’t lead us to congratulate ourselves over Trump’s incompetence or the virtues of individual players. It should add to our urgency to act.

Scary stuff. And the Republican Party continues to push towards minority rule, having given up on democracy itself. So yes, we need to fix this, to the extent possible.

Don't play the other guy's game

Adam Gopnik makes a good point about President Biden's successful, if invisible, ideology:

Biden and his team, widely attacked as pusillanimous centrists with no particular convictions, are in fact ideologues. Their ideology is largely invisible but no less ideological for refusing to present itself out in the open. It is the belief, animating Biden’s whole career, that there is a surprisingly large area of agreement in American life and that, by appealing to that area of agreement, electoral victory and progress can be found.

He didn’t say as much as he might have or as many might have wanted [about the XPOTUS's crimes]. But this was surely due to his conviction, and the conviction of his circle, that an atmosphere of aggravation can only work to the advantage of the permanently aggrieved. With so many Americans in the grip of a totalized ideology of Trumpism—one that surmounts their obvious self-interest or normal calculations of economic utility—the way to get them out of it is to stop thinking in totalized terms. You get people out of a cult not by offering them a better cult but by helping them see why they don’t need a cult.

[L]ike a virus that infects the country, long Trump is an ailment that won’t go away.

The urge to fight it, hard, before it can return, seems irresistible. Yet Biden and his circle resist this fight, and it would be foolish to think that they resist it only out of blindness and opacity. They are betting on Charley Goldman’s wisdom: you can’t win playing the other guy’s game. This wisdom has taken them further than the more aggressive conventional kind might have imagined.

The President is about to get a $3.5 trillion infrastructure package through Congress on Democratic votes alone. He's doing everything he said he'd do, and succeeding (mostly). He might know what he's doing.

Tennessee punishes teenagers with health mandate

The Tennessee Dept of Health will stop telling adolescents about vaccinesespecially about the HPV vaccine:

The Tennessee Department of Health will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach – not just for coronavirus, but all diseases – amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers, according to an internal report and agency emails obtained by the Tennessean. If the health department must issue any information about vaccines, staff are instructed to strip the agency logo off the documents.

The health department will also stop all COVID-19 vaccine events on school property, despite holding at least one such event this month. The decisions to end vaccine outreach and school events come directly from Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, the internal report states.

After the health department's internal COVID-19 report was circulated on Friday, the rollback of vaccine outreach was further detailed in a Monday email from agency Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Jones.

Jones told staff they should conduct "no proactive outreach regarding routine vaccines" and "no outreach whatsoever regarding the HPV vaccine." 

Staff were also told not to do any "pre-planning" for flu shots events at schools. Any information released about back-to-school vaccinations should come from the Tennessee Department of Education, not the Tennessee Department of Health, Jones wrote.

Decisions to ratchet back outreach comes amid pressure from conservative lawmakers, who have embraced misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, said Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee's former top vaccine official.

Despite being Cassie's birthplace, not to mention the state other close friends come from, we must remember that it also hosted the Scopes trial in 1925. The state government has a long history of anti-science legislation. This mandate seems particularly idiotic, but we also have to remember that with the modern Republican Party, the cruelty is the point.

What a real filibuster looks like

Josh Marshall points to the Great Texas Democratic Legislator Escape going on today as an example of what a filibuster should be:

Democrats are making a huge spectacle. No one’s going to miss that. They also have to be very clear why they’re doing it. It’s because of an assault on voting rights in the state. They have to own that. And they’re taking this step because they’re clearly quite willing to own that.

Just as clear, this can only go on for so long. How do I know? Basically logic really but also history. We’ve seen this in Texas, Oregon, Wisconsin and various other places. Legislators are only willing to stay on the lam for so long. Over time there are various tools legislative majorities can use to get their way. (That’s not a bad thing. Majority rule is our fundamental system.) You also need a really good reason for doing it. Otherwise public opinion will rapidly turn against you.

The whole effort is best seen as an effort to stall, buy some time and they hope either slow the process down or shift public opinion in their favor. It’s not pretty but there’s some value in having that kind of escape valve in the legislative process. It’s public. It’s self-limiting. You have to own it and be politically accountable for your actions.

In other words, the Texas Democrats didn't just send an email to halt all progress in the Texas Legislature. Imagine if US Senate Republicans had to do the same thing.