The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

We've seen this playbook before

Huffington Post Global Editorial Director Howard Fineman explains how President Trump dividing the country is a feature, not a bug:

Having risen to power by dividing the country, his party leadership and even, at times, his own campaign team, his aim now is to divide or discredit any institution, tradition or group in his way.

Donald Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. He is racing to undermine the federal political system — if not all American public life — before still-independent forces (for now, the federal courts, the press and Congress) undermine him.

The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And “winning” is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office.

Fineman goes on to enumerate the ways we can expect Trump to continue this strategy.

This is how people with deeply unpopular messages come to power in democracies. It's important that we keep this in mind. (That Trump is openly siding with people who venerate Adolf Hitler makes it a lot easier to see, of course.)

It doesn't help that the Republican Party continues to abet his behavior, even if only by keeping quiet. It's time for them to disband. As commentators across the spectrum are pointing out, the Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln; it's the anti-Lincoln party.

We haven't been making this up

Those of us saying for years now that President Trump is a racist twat and that you should apply Occam's Razor (or Trump's Razor) to his behavior got quite a shock yesterday when he proved our point spectacularly. We can't pretend anymore that his policies and rhetoric come primarily from "inexperience" or "stupidity." Josh Marshall lays it out plainly:

The simpler explanation that accounts for all the available facts is not always right. But as Occam noted, it is always to be preferred. What we need is a Copernican revolution in our understanding of Trumpism, or at least some of us need it. The breakthrough for Copernicus was in positing the unimaginable, indeed the terrifying possibility that the Earth is not the center of the universe but rather a peripheral, secondary celestial body. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place.

With Trump, he has a revanchist racist politics because he is a revanchist racist. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place. All the heroic and increasingly nonsensical perambulations of misunderstandings, inexperience, missed opportunities, stubbornness and all the rest are not needed. It all falls into place.

What we have in this Times article is the more direct evidence, a confirmation of what we should already know. His advisors know this is what he thinks. They apparently hear it frequently. They were shocked to here him say in public “opinions that the president had long expressed in private.”

Stop pretending he's going to learn or grow. He won't. This is the president. Supporting him means supporting these views, which should not be aired—or held—by any serious politician anywhere. And it's shocking that people like Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn can stand next to him.

Reactions to the weekend

Apparently, life went on in the US while I was abroad last week. First, to James Damore:

Of course, that wasn't the big story of the weekend. About the terrorist attack and armed ultra-right rally in Virginia, there have been many, many reactions:

Can we have a discussion about domestic right-wing domestic terrorism now? Before we have another Oklahoma City?

Noted, with sadness

I'm back from the UK, and I hope my laundry will be done soon because my body thinks it's 1:30 in the morning.

I did want to note the horror in Virginia over the weekend, and James Fallows' observations about the President's abject failure to respond appropriately:

Donald Trump had an opportunity yesterday to show that he was more than the ignorant, impulsive, reckless opportunist he appeared to be during the election. To show, that is, that the  burdens and responsibilities of unmatched international power had in fact sobered him, and made him aware of his obligations to the nation as a whole.

Of course, he failed.

And those who stand with him, now, cannot claim the slightest illusion about what they are embracing.

It was so tempting, being at O'Hare with my passport and a packed bag, just to hop on another plane...

Not enough outrage?

New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker says President Trump's outrages aren't outraging us anymore:

After six months in office, Mr. Trump has crossed so many lines, discarded so many conventions, said and done so many things that other presidents would not have, that he has radically shifted the understanding of what is standard in the White House. He has moved the bar for outrage. He has a taste for provocation and relishes challenging Washington taboos. If the propriety police tut tut, he shows no sign of concern.

[Last week,] Mr. Trump urged uniformed sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford to call their members of Congress to lobby for his military spending plan and his proposed repeal of Mr. Obama’s health care program. Traditionally, the commander in chief does not tell the troops who serve under him to involve themselves in politics or policy battles on his behalf.

"Traditionally?" The President politicizing the military is such a bright line that only George W. Bush has even come close to doing so in my lifetime. Never, in my knowledge, has a president solicited votes from uniformed personnel, and for good reason. Baker:

“It was a mistake for the president to make this comment,” said Peter D. Feaver, a specialist on civilian-military matters at Duke University and a former national security aide to Mr. Bush. “While there is a legitimate role for senior brass to explain military affairs to the public, it is not good for civil-military relations to have the military viewed as a special interest group pleading for bigger budgets.”

And then there's the matter of calling for the prosecution of his defeated opponent:

The closest analogies that historians could summon occurred a century or more ago. Aaron Burr, who sought to snatch the presidency from Thomas Jefferson when the contest went to the House of Representatives in 1800, was prosecuted in a treason case for later plotting to break off territory and create a new nation. (He was acquitted.) Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate who lost the 1912 election to Woodrow Wilson, was jailed for sedition for speaking out against World War I. In both cases, they were prosecuted for actions taken after the election.

So...never before have we come this close to being a banana republic. Meanwhile, Trump is inverting the way the White House has worked for nearly a century—or, rather, allowing his new communications director to do so:

Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, according to Politico, is among the first to get canned. It seems likely that that even if Scaramucci remains Communications Director and doesn’t become chief of staff himself – which I would not rule out – that the White House will now be run from the communications office, with a new chief of staff effectively, if not formally, reporting to Scaramucci.

This, while signalling that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is about to get his walking papers. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, sure; but it's still a little insane. Check out Jennifer Rubin's column yesterday in the Independent UK: "Trump's presidency can't be saved—so what happens next?"

Does anyone else have this website prominently on your favorites bar?

The End is Nigh?

The Post's Dana Milbank thinks that President Trump's polling numbers—already the lowest for any president since polling began 70 years ago—are about to get worse:

I asked The Post’s polling chief, Scott Clement, to run a regression analysis testing how views of the economy shape overall support for Trump when other variables such as party are held constant. The result was powerful: People who approve of his handling of the economy are 40 or 50 percentage points more likely to approve of him overall. While views of the economy closely correlate with partisanship, this means, all things being equal, that Trump’s overall approval rating should drop four or five points for each 10-point drop in views of his economic performance. Because Trump supporters are largely unconcerned with his personal antics, economic woes — not the Russia scandal or zany tweets — are what would doom Trump in public opinion.

The problem for Trump is many of his populist promises are starting to look fraudulent.

So what happens if — and when — Trump’s core backers discover that they’ve been had: They’re losing health-care coverage and other benefits, while manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and a Trump-ignited trade war is hurting U.S. exports?

Meanwhile, New Republic's Bryce Covert suggests how Democrats could change the conversation:

If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump’s empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one. It’s time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party’s platform. This is the type of simple, straightforward plan that Democrats need in order to connect with Americans who struggle to survive in the twenty-first-century economy. And while a big, New Deal–style government program might seem like a nonstarter in this day and age—just look at the continuing battle over the Affordable Care Act—a jobs guarantee isn’t actually so far-fetched.

Americans overwhelmingly want to work: Most people say they get a sense of identity from their job and would keep working even if they won the lottery. Joblessness is even associated with poorer mental and physical health for entire families—not working appears to make us sick. And there’s already strong support for a jobs guarantee: In a 2014 poll, 47 percent said they favor such a program. A jobs guarantee holds the promise not just of jobs for all, but of a stronger and more productive economy for everyone. The biggest obstacle, in fact, might be the Democratic Party’s own timidity.

A Federal jobs program and universal health care? What's next, rising productivity and declining inequality? Haul up the drawbridges!

Still, it's going to be a long 1,282 days.

How civil wars happen

Paul Krugman was inspired by his CUNY colleague Branko Mlianovic to think about our current partisan divide as a bloodless civil war:

Branko – who knows something about Yugoslavia! – argues against the view that civil wars are caused by deep divisions between populations who don’t know each other. The causation, he argues, goes the other way: when a civil war begins for whatever reason, that’s when the lines between the groups are drawn, and what may have been minor, fairly benign differences become irreconcilable gulfs.

[A] large segment of the population was no longer hearing the same news – basically not experiencing the same account of reality – as the rest of us. So what had been real but not extreme differences became extreme differences in political outlook.

In the long run, it makes you wonder whether and how we can get the country we used to be back. As Branko says, there was a time when Serbs and Croats seemed to get along fairly well, indeed intermarrying at a high rate. But could anyone now put Yugoslavia back together? At this rate, we’ll soon be asking the same question about America.

Bloodless so far, he points out.

Friday afternoon link round-up

While I'm trying to figure out how to transfer one database to another, I'm putting these aside for later reading:

Back to database analysis and design...

Why the ACA repeal effort is failing

Krugman nails it:

Believe it or not, conservatives actually do have a more or less coherent vision of health care. It’s basically pure Ayn Rand: if you’re sick or poor, you’re on your own, and those who are more fortunate have no obligation to help. In fact, it’s immoral to demand that they help.

This is a coherent doctrine; it’s what conservative health care “experts” say when they aren’t running for public office, or closely connected to anyone who is. I think it’s a terrible doctrine – both cruel and wrong in practice, because buying health care isn’t and can’t be like buying furniture. Still, if Republicans had run on this platform and won, we’d have to admit that the public agrees.

But think of how Republicans have actually run against Obamacare. They’ve lambasted the law for not covering everyone, even though their fundamental philosophy is NOT to cover everyone, or accept any responsibility for the uninsured. They’ve denied that their massive cuts to Medicaid are actually cuts, pretending to care about the people they not-so-privately consider moochers.

The trouble they’re having therefore has nothing to do with tactics, or for that matter with Trump. It’s what happens when many years of complete fraudulence come up against reality.

This is the same adolescent fantasy drove Eddie Lampert to destroy Sears.

Could we get a budget today?

Maybe, if enough Republicans show up to the Illinois House for this afternoon's veto override vote:

[S]tate government is two years into a record budget impasse that has universities on the brink of losing their accreditation, many social service nonprofits too broke to serve the needy and roadwork at a standstill. Without a budget deal by mid-August, many elementary and high schools will have to scrape the barrel of their reserves in order to be able to open their doors for the new school year.

The budget plan that [Republican Illinois Governor Bruce] Rauner vetoed would have the state spend more than $36 billion on primary and secondary education, colleges and universities, social services, medical care for the poor and other government functions, with nearly $5 billion in new taxes to help pay for it. The personal income tax rate would rise from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. The corporate tax rate would go from 5.25 percent to 7 percent. The plan also would have the state pay down about half of the nearly $15 billion pile of unpaid bills through a combination of borrowing and using cash from other state accounts.

Now the ball is in the House's court. In recent days, low attendance at the statehouse has made it impossible for lawmakers to complete any business at all, much less a veto override. On Wednesday, just 59 of the chamber's 118 lawmakers showed up to work.

Meanwhile, Moody's Investors Service has stated that they might not raise Illinois' credit rating even if the House overrides Rauner's veto, owing to $15bn in bills the State will have to pay just to get current.

Awesome. Ideologue Rauner has pushed Illinois nearly to bankruptcy with his intransigence and rich-white-guy policy agenda. How long until we can vote him out?