The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Forty years ago today

...the United States launched a space probe that is now one of the three fastest-moving and farthest human-made objects in the universe.

Voyager 2 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 9:29 CDT on 20 August 1977. As of today it's about 115 AUs (1.72×1010 km) from Earth, moving about 15.4 km/s or 55,000 km/h away from the sun.

It's still alive. NASA expects the probe to continue transmitting from interstellar space for at least another 7 years, by which time it may be able to sample the interstellar medium itself.

Happy birthday, V'GER. We hope to see you again someday.

About those statues

Via Mother Jones, the Southern Poverty Law Center has published a report that examines the statues to Confederate heroes of the sort that sparked last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Va. It should surprise no one with a modicum of historical knowledge that they went up during periods of exceptional violence against African-Americans:

[T]he argument that the Confederate flag and other displays represent “heritage, not hate” ignores the near-universal heritage of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved by the millions in the South. It trivializes their pain, their history and their concerns about racism — whether it’s the racism of the past or that of today.

And it conceals the true history of the Confederate States of America and the seven decades of Jim Crow segregation and oppression that followed the Reconstruction era.

There were two major periods in which the dedication of Confederate monuments and other symbols spiked — the first two decades of the 20th century and during the civil rights movement.

Southerners began honoring the Confederacy with statues and other symbols almost immediately after the Civil War. The first Confederate Memorial Day, for example, was dreamed up by the wife of a Confederate soldier in 1866. That same year, Jefferson Davis laid the cornerstone of the Confederate Memorial Monument in a prominent spot on the state Capitol grounds in Montgomery, Alabama. There has been a steady stream of dedications in the 150 years since that time.

But two distinct periods saw a significant rise in the dedication of monuments and other symbols.

The first began around 1900, amid the period in which states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the newly freed African Americans and re-segregate society. This spike lasted well into the 1920s, a period that saw a dramatic resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which had been born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

The second spike began in the early 1950s and lasted through the 1960s, as the civil rights movement led to a backlash among segregationists.

Mother Jones prepared this handy graph:

So, yes, these statues represent history: the history of Southern oppression of African-Americans throughout the Jim Crow era. Southern whites erected them as symbols of white supremacy and violence.

And they need to go away now.

Scott Adams isn't a Nazi collaborator, he's just a disingenuous partisan

I've watched Scott Adams defend President Trump for years now, and I'm always fascinated by his ability to accuse people who disagree with him of any number of mental deficiencies. I am surprised that it took until today for him to pipe up about Trump's latest self-inflicted wound, but not by how he approached it.

In today's post, Adams continues his longstanding argument that, when it comes to Trump, we're experiencing a "mass hysteria bubble." How does he know? Because lots of people disagree with him:

The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you can’t fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.

If you’re in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria won’t help you be aware you are in it. That’s not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions.

The reason you can’t easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play. If you see the signs after I point them out, you’re probably not in the hysteria bubble. If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means you’re trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.

Right. So, if you agree with Adams, you're not hallucinating. If you disagree with him, or if you agree with the proposition he leads with ("the United States intentionally elected a racist President"), you're hallucinating.

First, let's remind ourselves that the United States has intentionally elected racist presidents about 40 times. I'm trying to think of the few who weren't racist in the sense that we typically use the word, and the candidates I come up with are: Lincoln, Obama, Carter...maybe Truman? Possibly Teddy Roosevelt? On good days, LBJ and Kennedy? (I don't think Ford was racist but he was never elected.)

Second, the fact that a candidate is racist doesn't typically come up in elections because most of them in the past 50 years tried to keep that to themselves, and before that it would never have occurred to anyone to care. Casual racism has been a feature of American life since two hundred years before the country was founded. Hallucination? Not so much.

Third, people have known about Trump's racism since he was a young adult throwing black people out of his apartment buildings. So this isn't exactly news.

But all of that together lands on a pretty simple theory: people who voted for Trump didn't care that he was a racist, or knew and approved of it. I would bet the proportions of those two groups were 80/20. People who cared and disapproved of it most likely voted for Hillary Clinton.

Adams then sets up a set of straw men to torch:

One sign of a good mass hysteria is that it sounds bonkers to anyone who is not experiencing it. Imagine your neighbor telling you he thinks the other neighbor is a witch. Or imagine someone saying the local daycare provider is a satanic temple in disguise. Or imagine someone telling you tulip bulbs are more valuable than gold. Crazy stuff.

Compare that to the idea that our president is a Russian puppet. Or that the country accidentally elected a racist who thinks the KKK and Nazis and “fine people.” Crazy stuff.

Let's parse that. In the three historical examples Adams lists in the first paragraph, people contemporaneously identified the insanity of what was going on, but there were not-so-crazy incentives for people to keep the "mass hysteria" going. Salem had land disputes at its core; McMartin was as much about attention-seeking as it was about child abuse; the tulip bubble was a pyramid scheme that we would call criminal today. So even before we get to Adams' straw men, we have to deal with his oversimplification of some pretty disturbing historical events.

And then he posits as the issue before us that people believe Trump is a Russian puppet. But actually, that's not the fear of people who know Russian methods and tactics. That Trump got elected was a bonus to Russia's rulers, not their goal. They want to discredit Western democratic systems to bolster their own internal political controls, not because they care about the West per se. Supporting Trump and interfering in our election was about that, not about Trump's allegiances, which they know as well as we do are entirely to himself.

Moreover, even if Trump didn't intend to do so, his words have emboldened the far-right groups that threaten not just our institutions and values but our property and lives, too. So whether Trump actually said Nazis are fine people, that's what the Nazis themselves heard, and why any other President would have slammed the door on the crazies.

Adams seems to concur in part: "If you already believed President Trump is a racist, his weak statement about Charlottesville seems like confirmation. But if you believe he never offered moral leadership, only equal treatment under the law, that’s what you saw instead. And you made up your own mind about the morality," he writes. Maybe people made up their minds about the morality because of the weak statement itself, not because they imagined Trump was supporting the racists?

Adams concludes: "If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble, you might see what I am doing in this blog as a valuable public service. If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, I look like a Nazi collaborator."

No, Scott, you are neither providing a valuable public service nor are you a Nazi collaborator. You are, however, an apologist for a deeply flawed president who is, intentionally or not, exacerbating the divisions in our country to increase his own power and personal wealth.

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.

Economics 101; or, why taxi fares are regulated

Yesterday, a man reportedly threw himself in front of a CTA train at the Fullerton El stop, shutting down the three busiest lines in the system during the morning rush hour. Commuters faced hours-long delays and an already at-capacity bus system struggled to adapt to the demand.

So did Lyft and Uber, as people found out. Lyft presented one of my friends with a $75 fare to go six kilometers; she wound up taking a bus and suffering through a two-hour commute. (I wasn't affected because I had the option of walking to work yesterday.)

Chicago's City Hall is outraged:

"It is unfortunate that at least two ride share companies chose to take advantage of this morning’s difficult commuter situation," said Lilia Charcon, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection spokeswoman.

But that's their business model. If demand goes up faster than supply, prices rise.

Graph: Ray Bromley.

The only way to stop that from happening is through regulation. Like the way we regulate taxis. But then there is no way to get a taxi when demand goes up like it did yesterday, because they're all in use.

Welcome to economics.

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.