The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Andrew Sullivan on Boris Johnson

Sullivan, who attended Oxford with the British Prime Minister, takes a nuanced view:

It’s hard to take the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, completely seriously. Just look at him: a chubby, permanently disheveled toff with an accent that comes off as a parody of an upper-class twit, topped off by that trademark mop of silver-blond hair he deliberately musses up before venturing into the public eye. Then there are those photo-op moments in his long career that seem designed to make him look supremely silly — stuck dangling in midair on a zip line with little Union Jacks waving in his hands; rugby-tackling a 10-year-old in Japan; playing tug-of-war in a publicity stunt and collapsing, suited, onto the grass; or declaring at one point that he was more likely to be “reincarnated as an olive,” “locked in a disused fridge,” or “decapitated by a flying Frisbee” than to become prime minister.

And yet he has. And more than that: This comic figure has somehow managed to find himself at the center of the populist storms sweeping Britain and the West — first by becoming the most senior politician in Britain to back Brexit in 2016, and now by plotting a course that might actually bring the United Kingdom out of the epic, years-long, once-impossible-looking mess he helped make. Just over four months into office as PM, he appears poised to win an election he called and, if the polls are anywhere near correct, score a clear victory and take Britain out of the E.U. by the end of January.

Shallow, lazy, incompetent, and bigoted, this clown has somehow leveraged the fears of the many to advance the only thing he has ever genuinely believed in: his own destiny.

But there is another story to be told about him: that he has been serious all along, using his humor and ridiculousness to camouflage political instincts that have, in fact, been sharper than his peers’. He sensed the shifting populist tides of the 2010s before most other leading politicians did and grasped the Brexit issue as a path to power.

I can't quite tell where Sullivan comes down on Johnson, but as a lifelong liberal Tory, Sullivan seems to see Johnson as the right person for the job right now. He has no love of Johnson's mendacity or narcissism, and thinks he'd sell his sister for ten votes. But Sullivan sees Johnson as a strong politician who managed to neuter the far right by co-opting it.

Next week will be interesting. The UK election is in six days.

Feeling insecure? Blame these guys

The Post reported today that a simple review of phone logs shows how the president and his stooges left themselves open to Russian espionage by using insecure cell phones:

The disclosures provide fresh evidence suggesting that the president continues to defy the security guidance urged by his aides and followed by previous incumbents — a stance that is particularly remarkable given Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign for her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state.

The connection to the Ukraine campaign is also troubling because of how Moscow could exploit knowledge that Trump was secretly engaged in efforts to extract political favors from the government in Kyiv.

Trump and Giuliani have effectively “given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information,” said John Sipher, former deputy chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Sipher and others said that it is so likely that Russia tracked the calls of Giuliani and others that the Kremlin probably knows more now

“Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text” of what was said, Sipher said. “I guarantee the Russians have the actual information.”

Ordinarily I'd chalk this up to stupidity. But GOP strategist Rick Wilson sees something far darker:

The traitors deliberately ignore the reporting, counsel, and warnings of the intelligence community when it comes to Russia’s attacks and Vladimir Putin’s vast, continuing intelligence and propaganda warfare against the United States.

The traitors — be they United States senators like John Kennedy and Lindsey Graham or columnists from the Federalist, Breitbart, and a slurry of other formally conservative media outlets — repeat the Kremlin-approved propaganda messages and tropes of that warfare, word for word.

It’s not simply treason by making common cause with a murderous autocrat in Russia, or merrily wrecking the alliances around the world that kept America relatively secure for seven decades.

Their betrayal is also to our system of government, which as imperfect — and often downright fucked up — as it is, has been remarkably capable of surviving.

And if you can’t spot the treason yet, you will soon enough. That’s the thing about spies, traitors, and those who betray their country — they rarely stay hidden forever.

We need to get this administration out of office in 2021, and help the American people understand the danger their sympathizers represent. If only we still taught civics in schools.

Someone call lunch

Today in Chicago we have seen more sun than in the past several weeks, and yet here I toil in my cube. But a lot is going on outside it:

And we now return to our regular JSON debugging session, already in progress.

In the news today

As the House Judiciary Committee goes through the unfortunately necessary step of having expert witnesses state the obvious, other things caught my attention over the course of the morning:

Finally, two CTA employees were fired after one of them discovered an exploitable security hole in bus-tracking software, and the other tested it. The one who discovered it has sued under a Federal whistle-blower statute. Firing someone for discovering a potentially-catastrophic software design error is really dumb, people.

What might be?

After conversations with knowledgeable friends on both sides of center, I wonder which of these scenarios in all seriousness is most likely. Note that these scenarios are not mutually exclusive:

A. President Trump wins re-election.

B. President Trump leaves office before the 2021 inauguration.

C. President Trump loses re-election but refuses to concede.

D. One or more members of President Trump's immediate family flees to exile in Russia before the end of 2022.

E. A flag or general officer openly defies an order from President Trump...
   1. and is acquitted at court-martial; or
   2. is not sent to court-martial.

F. A senior officer (O-4 to O-6, i.e., Major through Colonel or Lt Commander through Captain) openly defies an order from President Trump...
   1. and is acquitted at court-martial; or
   2. is not sent to court-martial.

G. One or more members of President Trump's immediate family is convicted of state crimes related to Trump's companies.

All of these are troubling scenarios. All of them are possible.

Not to mention, Scenario F2 has already happened, but people outside the military may not understand the problem. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman unambiguously violated a direct order from the president when he testified before Congress last month. But the order was unambiguously illegal. If the Army were to follow proper procedures, Vindman should go to court-marshal and he should be acquitted. He hasn't been because the Army has no way of starting those proceedings without looking like it's taking a political position. But what if...?

There are many other situations that could come up before Trump leaves office, but I think these are the most likely.

Thoughtful comments about these possibilities are encouraged.

Sick day reading

I hate taking sick days, I really do. Fortunately, the Internet never takes one:

I'm now going to try to do a couple of hours of work, but really, I just want to go back to sleep.

The War-Crimes President

Historian Waitman Wade Beorn, who served in Iraq after graduating from West Point, is deeply disturbed by President Trump's intervention into the Eddie Gallagher case:

History warns us that leaders who condone war crimes find themselves in command of criminal militaries. Lessons from the past about war crimes and transgressive military cultures are not just academic: My research shows that subordinates generally read their superiors’ intent with accuracy, for better and for worse. By demonstrating his willingness to intercede in the minutiae of military justice and disciplinary procedures, the president tells those who step over ethical boundaries that they can appeal to a sympathetic ear in the Oval Office. This is exceptionally dangerous. Our military demands that its members be able to recognize and refuse unlawful orders and relies on them to uphold codes of honorable behavior. But this presidential short-circuit can critically undermine this ethos. Military judges and juries may well question their own decisions, wondering whether the president will intervene and pillory them instead of the guilty. The effects of a malfunctioning moral compass extend past our borders. Allies and host nations will be more hesitant to work with the United States if they cannot count on us to effectively punish those who cross ethical boundaries. This can imperil our troops overseas and threaten our strategic safety.

Most importantly, Trump’s actions create a chilling effect for those in uniform who take risks to report bad apples like Gallagher. What are the incentives for risking a career and enduring the stress of reporting a comrade if the president of the United States and his troll army line up in opposition? Why would someone go through all that if they think that all their efforts will be nullified in the end? How many Gallaghers, BehennasLorances, and Golsteyns will escape justice now? Even before Trump’s meddling, the Navy SEALs who turned in Gallagher were told by their commanding officer to “stop talking about it” and that doing so would ruin their careers. Ironically, that officer, Commander Robert Breisch, told those SEALs that they risked losing their tridents. Gallagher himself called them “traitors” and obliquely suggested that they might meet retribution from other SEALs.

In addition to describing the moral rot, Beorn also points out how Gallagher and others profit from their disgusting behavior. Because in Trumpland, everything ultimately comes down to money.

A heartwarming gift idea

Alexandra Petri has a suggestion:

Unsure what to get your family for the holidays this year?

Have you considered something that Devin Nunes is clearly enjoying, that even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delights in, that Donald Trump made for his own amusement in the 1980s and has since gotten to share with more and more people as demand increased?

It’s Your Own Set of Facts!

From the people who brought you Alternative Facts, but also, somehow, from Russia, Your Own Set of Facts will transform the way you interact with the news, medical professionals and everyone around you.

Sadly, she's not wrong.

Confirming expectations

Yesterday, the President of the United States mused aloud why we haven't celebrated the centennial of the 19th Amendment's passage in 1920 sooner:

After working his way through the prepared remarks, Trump interjected with his own riff. “They’ve been working on this for years and years,” he said, suddenly wondering, “And I’m curious, why wasn’t it done a long time ago, and also — well, I guess the answer to that is because now I’m president, and we get things done. We get a lot of things done that nobody else got done.”

The task of explaining to Trump that “centennial” means “100th anniversary” fell to Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn. Blackburn gently recounted that the bill worked its way through both chambers of Congress. ... She proceeded to note that “August 18th, 1920 is when the 19th Amendment was ratified.”

Mystery solved! They’re observing the women’s suffrage centennial now because next year is the centennial. That is how time works.

Even after this clear accounting, Trump nonetheless was still confused.

Dementia? Alzheimer's? The Omnibus Explanation? Probably the last one, as it would explain how he doesn't grasp that people who look at his financial disclosures easily spot the endemic fraud, such as what ProPublica reported today.

The election is in 342 days. Angels and ministers of grace, defend us.

Mid-day link roundup

As I try to understand why a 3rd-party API accepts one JSON document but not another, nearly-identical one, who could fault me for taking a short break?

Back to JSON and my miserable cold.