The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Burning it down won't solve the problem

Writing for The Week, David Linker lays out the problem confronting the Republican Party even if they get a solid thumping this November:

[Y]es, it would be very good for the Republican Party of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, Louie Gohmert, Devin Nunes, and all the rest of them to be leveled to the ground so a wholly new party — a more reasonable, responsible, principled, and honorable party — can be built in its place.

There's just one difficulty with the plan: It does nothing to address the root of the problem, which no one — not the minimalist Trump haters, and not the fiercest maximalists out to pummel the party's establishment — has a clue how to solve.

That is the problem of the Republican voter.

The voters who swooned for Sarah Palin in 2008; who seriously considered giving the nod to Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Ben Carson, and Rick Santorum in 2012; who four years later elevated a reality-show conman to the head of their party, cast ballots for him to win the presidency, and have rallied around him ever since — most of these voters remain undaunted in their conviction that politics is primarily about the venting of grievances and the trolling of opponents. The dumber and angrier and more shameless, the better.

Could anything change these voters — turning them, not into liberals or progressives obviously, but into thoughtful citizens capable of engaging with reality, thinking about actual problems, and rewarding public servants who make a good-faith effort to respond to them? The honest truth is that I don't have the slightest clue how to make it happen. Which also means that I have no idea how the United States might work its way back to having two civically responsible parties instead of just one.

Which also means we will have to go through some version of all this nonsense again in 2022, 2024, 2026...until something shifts and these wankers grow up.

Where did it all go wrong?

I admire the New York Times for digging into how our pandemic response was so much worse than every other rich country, but ultimately, we already knew:

First, the United States faced longstanding challenges in confronting a major pandemic. It is a large country at the nexus of the global economy, with a tradition of prioritizing individualism over government restrictions. That tradition is one reason the United States suffers from an unequal health care system that has long produced worse medical outcomes — including higher infant mortality and diabetes rates and lower life expectancy — than in most other rich countries.

The second major theme is one that public health experts often find uncomfortable to discuss because many try to steer clear of partisan politics. But many agree that the poor results in the United States stem in substantial measure from the performance of the Trump administration.

In no other high-income country — and in only a few countries, period — have political leaders departed from expert advice as frequently and significantly as the Trump administration. President Trump has said the virus was not serious; predicted it would disappear; spent weeks questioning the need for masks; encouraged states to reopen even with large and growing caseloads; and promoted medical disinformation.

Some Republican governors have followed his lead and also played down the virus, while others have largely followed the science. Democratic governors have more reliably heeded scientific advice, but their performance in containing the virus has been uneven.

The Republicans who have done this, up to and including the president, need to face serious consequences for their inaction and malfeasance.

Here in Chicago, we've lost yet another convention, bringing our economic losses into the billions, including an estimated 1.3 million lost room-nights this year alone.

Reactionary right-wing corruption under scrutiny

New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit to dissolve the National Rifle Association:

The lawsuit sets up a legal confrontation that could take years to play out and will leave the 148-year-old N.R.A. — long the nation’s most influential gun-rights lobby but recently hobbled by financial woes and infighting — fighting for its survival. The attorney general’s office previously presided over the dissolution of President Trump’s scandal-marred charitable foundation, but the N.R.A., with more than five million members, is a far larger organization that is expected to put up a more prolonged fight.

The lawsuit was swiftly followed by two others: The N.R.A. filed a suit against Ms. James’s office in federal court in Albany, claiming her action was politically motivated and violated the organization’s First Amendment rights. In addition, Karl Racine, the attorney general of Washington, D.C., filed suit against the N.R.A. and its charitable foundation, which is based in the city. Mr. Racine is seeking changes to the foundation and alleges that the N.R.A. misused millions of dollars of the foundation’s funds.

The suit accuses the N.R.A. and the executives of “violating numerous state and federal laws” by enriching themselves, as well as their friends, families and allies, and taking improper actions that cost the organization $64 million over three years. The attorney general has regulatory authority over the N.R.A. because it is chartered as a nonprofit in New York. She is also seeking to oust Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Frazer, and to bar all four men from ever serving on nonprofit boards in New York again.

The lawsuit, which was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, is a civil action, and outlined a number of alleged tax violations. Ms. James said during a news conference that she was referring the matter to the Internal Revenue Service in addition to taking her own action, and did not rule out making a future criminal referral.

Never forget: the purpose of authoritarianism is theft. And very few organizations the size of the NRA represent authoritarianism so obviously. Never mind what they say; watch what they do. (Hey, Mr LaPierre, where were all your members when actual jack-booted government agents came to Portland and DC?)

The Post has more:

James said at a news conference Thursday that she is seeking to dissolve the NRA because of the brazenness of the group’s violations of law.

“The corruption was so broad and because they have basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA,” she said. “Enough was enough … No one is above the law, not even the NRA.”

The lawsuit also claims LaPierre failed to report large sums of personal income to the IRS. James’s office said it found that the NRA chief funneled personal expenses through an outside public relations firm, allowing him to avoid reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal income.

In response, the NRA said Thursday that it was filing its own lawsuit against James, alleging that the New York attorney general has violated the group’s free speech rights.

“This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend,” NRA President Carolyn Meadows said in a statement. “You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle."

Waaaaah. Another thing authoritarians hate: being called on their wrongdoing.

Do I think the lawsuit will succeed in dissolving the NRA? No, sadly. And anyway, gun manufacturers would simply create a new trade and propaganda association to continue making the Second Amendment a parody of itself.

But with this suit, and the deepening investigation into the Trump Organization's finances, also in New York State, I think the era of right-wing over-reach may have reached its conclusion. Don't expect them to go quietly, however.

As the pipeline builds...

I'm waiting for a build to finish so I can sign off work for the day, so I've queued up a few things to read later:

Looks like the build is done, and all the tests passed. (I love green pipelines.)

157,000 deaths

I am trying to put that number into perspective.

  • Assuming 112.5 passengers per flight (4.378 billion passengers carried in 2018 divided by 38.9 million flights[1]), that's the equivalent of 1,395 air-transport crashes this year.
  • It's approximately the number of deaths from nuclear weapons, ever[2].
  • More Americans have died from Covid-19 in the US than died in World War I and the Vietnam War, combined[3].
  • It is more than the total number of people who died in New York State in 2017 from all causes[4].
  • More Americans have died of Covid-19 than Asians and Africans combined, and we have equaled the number of deaths in the entirety of Continental Europe.[5]

And the president and the Republican Party have let it continue through incompetence, malice, and negligence.

[1] Source: Statista, IATA.
[2] From 6 August to 31 December 1945, the US Army estimated 90,000-120,000 deaths in Hiroshima and 60,000-90,000 deaths in Nagasaki due to the atomic bombings. Source: UCLA.
[3] Source: Wikipedia.
[4] Source: NYS Dept of Health.
[5] Source: Worldometers

The Republicans in Congress really don't care about 2020

Given Gerrymandering, the Senate's design favoring rural states, and a host of other factors, most Republicans in Congress will keep their jobs in January. Even though the best likely outcome of November's election is just two more years of gridlock before Democrats re-take the Senate, the vast majority simply don't care:

It seems relevant, for instance, that while President Trump and a few Republican incumbents seem to be in genuine trouble, the vast majority of Republicans in Congress are certain to keep their jobs. In the Senate, most Republicans aren’t up for reelection, and most of those who are aren’t facing particularly competitive races. As of last week, The Cook Political Report has rated nine Republican seats as either Lean Democratic, Lean Republican, or Tossups for November—that’s only about a sixth of the Senate Republican caucus. Cook also estimates that there are 90 competitive races in the House, representing only about a fifth of that chamber’s seats. That includes races facing 32 incumbent Republicans, which account for just a sixth of the House Republican caucus. During the 2018 midterms, 91% of House members and 84% of Senators up for reelection were reelected; in 2016, those figures were 97% and 93% respectively.

One might object that even safe Republicans presumably want the party as a whole to keep the Senate and the White House and prevent Democrats from taking power. But the notion that most Republicans care about the party’s fortunes as much or more than their own careers seems dubious—if this was the case, they probably wouldn’t be backing ideas that might cross-pressure and endanger their vulnerable colleagues to begin with. And the most Republicans can realistically hope for are at least two more years of legislative stalemate anyway—it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be able to take back the House. In a Wednesday piece chastising moderate Republicans who plan on voting against the party in November, National Review editor Rich Lowry couldn’t come up with a single policy item Republicans should look forward to enacting in another Trump term.

It should be well understood by now that even if Republicans lose the White House and the Senate—and of course, neither victory is assured—the Democrats’ ability to pass Joe Biden’s agenda will be limited by the Senate filibuster. Although Biden has suggested in recent weeks that he’s open to ditching it to overcome Republican obstruction, the decision is ultimately up to Democratic senators themselves, and pivotal moderates still oppose the move. The filibuster aside, the conservative structural advantage in the chamber will probably be in good shape for some time. Adding Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states would help Democrats somewhat if the party were actually invested in making it happenā —another very large “if”—but analyst David Shor has estimated that a slight bias toward Republicans would remain in the Senate even if Democrats added six states, including the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. If Biden attempts to circumvent Republicans through executive action as Obama did, Republicans can take solace in the fact that much of what he might try could be undone by another administration or, again, gummed up in court.

Even though American law has a well-documented liberal bias (as does reality), the founders of our country designed a system of government intended to thwart popular will. And right now, the populace really want a change. Tant pis.

Fifth month in a row over 50

This is my 55th post this month, and the fifth month in a row in which I've posted over 50 times. That brings my 12-month total to 581, the third record in a row and the fifth record this year. I guess Covid-19 has been good for something.

Here's what I'm reading today:

I'm excited to add a notch on the Brews and Choos project in a few hours. Check back tomorrow.

Spiraling out of control

First, this chart:

And yet, there are so many other things going on today:

The one bit of good news? Evanston-based Sketchbook Brewing, who make delicious beers and whose taproom inspired the Brews and Choos project, will open a huge new taproom in Skokie tomorrow evening. And guess what? It's only 4 blocks from an El stop.

The virus doesn't care about your beliefs

Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza and notoriously uninformed candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, has died of Covid-19:

Cain, 74, was hospitalized earlier this month, and his Twitter account said earlier this week he was being treated with oxygen in his lungs. It is unknown where Cain contracted the virus.

As a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, Cain was one of the surrogates at President Donald Trump's June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma—which saw at least eight Trump advance team staffers in attendance test positive for coronavirus. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh has told CNN that Cain did not meet with Trump at the Tulsa rally.

NPR is reporting that he contracted the virus at the Trump rally; but given our inadequate testing in the US, who knows for sure?

As Cain was a Black man completely uninterested in civil rights (or much of anything outside of himself), there is no small irony in his death on the eve of the funeral of John Lewis in Atlanta, which three former presidents (and zero current ones) are attending at this hour.

Meanwhile, this morning, the current president Tweeted absolute nonsense about the upcoming election, clearly trolling the media to distract from the single-worst economic downturn in the history of the United States.

The Know-Nothings irritated me because it was always obvious that their anti-science and anti-intelligence belief system would someday cause great harm to a great number. Now I'm close to enraged that they are actually doing it. Cain was one of the dumbest of the Know-Nothings. He did not need to die; his own aggressive ignorance killed him.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Herman.

We really can't take much more of this

The president and his eldest son both promoted a video, since taken down by all the major platforms, that featured what they seem to believe passes for medical expertise:

After social media companies removed a viral video showing doctors spreading unsubstantiated information about the novel coronavirus, a phrase inspired by one doctor’s past claims began trending on Twitter: demon sperm. It turns out Stella Immanuel has a history of making particularly outlandish statements — including that the uterine disorder endometriosis is caused by sex with demons that takes place in dreams.

The video showed a group that has dubbed itself America’s Frontline Doctors, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court and claiming that neither masks nor shutdowns are necessary to fight the pandemic, despite a plethora of expertise to the contrary. It was live-streamed by the conservative media outlet Breitbart and viewed more than 14 million times — fueled by a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. and multiple retweets by President Trump, which have since been deleted.

In the viral video, Immanuel made the unsubstantiated claim that hydroxychloroquine is a “cure for covid,” the disease caused by the coronavirus. As a previous Post story put it: “There is no known cure for the novel coronavirus or the disease it causes," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

As the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer first noted, Immanuel has asserted that many gynecological issues are the result of having sex with witches and demons (“succubi” and “incubi”) in dreams, a myth that dates back at least to the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” a Sumerian poem written more than 4,000 years ago. She falsely claims that issues such as endometriosis, infertility, miscarriages and STIs are “evil deposits from the spirit husband.”

Furthermore, Sommer reported that in “a 2015 sermon that laid out a supposed Illuminati plan hatched by ‘a witch’ to destroy the world using abortion, gay marriage, and children’s toys, among other things, Immanuel claimed that DNA from space aliens is currently being used in medicine.” She also offered prayers through her website to remove generational curses transmitted through placenta.

Josh Marshall cites this as evidence that we're "trapped with the abuser:"

Much as abuse victims don’t fully grasp the extent of their victimization before escaping their abusers, there are aspects of this dark era we’ll only see clearly in retrospect.

It is commonplace that victims of abuse and predation only fully grasp the degree of their victimization once they’ve exited from it.

We are all in a similar situation writ large. In but one comparatively trivial example the President has spent much of the last 48 hours arguing over his support for a hydroxychloroquine pushing conspiracy kook who claims that medicines are created with ground up alien DNA and that many basic gynecological conditions are caused by women having sex with demons.

That’s actually happening.

During a pandemic.

This is of course a comparatively minor example of the insanity and predation.

We won’t come back from this quickly. Indeed, Trump losing an election won’t even end it.

English writer John Cassidy agrees in principle:

To most of the world, the [1969 moon] landing symbolized American leadership and power. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that most of the people I grew up with loved the United States, or even openly admired it. But beneath the British condescension, there was also a respect for America: its technological know-how, its organizational efficiency, its democratic traditions, and its sheer heft. When my dad was away, working in Scotland, he saw the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy sail up the Firth of Forth. The vast aircraft carrier was almost a quarter of a mile long, he reported back to us in wonderment.

A half century later, the rest of the world is looking on in horror as this country lurches from one disaster to another. Trapped in a leadership vacuum created by the narcissistic reality-TV star who occupies the Oval Office, the United States seems powerless to arrest the spread of a pandemic that most industrialized countries contained months ago. As the cumulative number of infections surpasses four million, an economic rebound that began when many states prematurely reopened their economies appears to be stalling. And, with an election just three and a half months away, that same President, in a desperate effort to save his political skin, seems intent on creating violent clashes in some of America’s biggest conurbations.

From the Roman Republic to Weimar Germany, and to Russia and Turkey in this century, history shows that democratic decay is a gradual process, and authoritarian leaders rarely, if ever, achieve unchecked power without the acquiescence of some elements of the political establishment. America isn’t there , and hopefully it never will be. At this moment, though, its claim to be a model for other countries is looking horribly tattered. The election can’t come soon enough.

No, it bloody well can't.