The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Welcome to the 2010s!

I'm on a train, using my mobile phone to tether my laptop to the Intertubes. I know this is an old technology, and also the reason I have unlimited data on my mobile, but I still love this stuff.

Things I'm reading:

Now approaching...Highwood! And soon off to my meeting.

Blah day

I'm under the weather today, probably owing to the two Messiah performances this weekend and all of Parker's troubles. So even though I'm taking it easy, I still have a queue of things to read:

I will now...nap.

Too dishonest even to evaluate

As the Washington Post rounds up their biggest Pinocchios of 2017, they've encountered an unprecedented problem:

Usually, this is an easy task, as we sort through the craziest Four-Pinocchio claims on issues of substance made by members of both parties. But this is the era of Trump, and nothing is ever easy. If we were not careful, we’d end up with an all-Trump list.

After all, there has never been a serial exaggerator in recent American politics like the president. He not only consistently makes false claims but also repeats them, even though they have been proved wrong. He always insists he is right, no matter how little evidence he has for his claim or how easily his statement is debunked. Indeed, he doubles down when challenged.

When we last updated our database of false or misleading claims made by the president, the number stood at 1,628 after 298 days. That’s an average of 5.5 per day.

Given the profusion of Trump claims, in two cases we have wrapped some of his statements into all-around categories: flip-flops and taking all credit. Even so, he still ended up with six of the “biggest Pinocchios,” topping his 2016 record (when he received five.)

That makes their inclusion of a few Democrats seem even more like false equivalence, which is how we got here to begin with.

Occam's razor

I keep wondering if the Trump administration keeps doing the things its doing to destroy the Republican Party because they're secretly Democrats. Mark Theissen hints at this, but sarcastically:

Stephen K. Bannon and his alt-right movement have helped accomplish something no one in a quarter-century has been able to do: get a Democrat elected in the state of Alabama.

Alabama is one of the most reliably Republican states in the country. The last time a Democrat was elected was in 1992, and no Democrat has won more than 40 percent of the vote in a Senate race there since 1996. The closest election in recent memory was in 2002, when Jeff Sessions won reelection by a razor-thin margin of 19 points. Sen. Richard Shelby has won his last three elections by 35 points, 30 points and 28 points, respectively. So it takes a special kind of stupid to pick a candidate who can lose to a Democrat in Alabama.

Not just any Democrat, but an uncompromising pro-abortion Democrat.

Ah, but you see the last sentence of the second paragraph. And that hits on the logical test wherein you pick the simplest explanation for the facts at hand. In this case, it's what my Wills professor called "the omnibus explanation," or the thing that explains everything when other explanations come up wanting.

Stupidity.

Think about previous intellectual midgets who have served as President and the current occupant shows up impressively. Harding? A giant by comparison. Buchanan? Brilliant. McKinley? Magisterial.

What irony if we avoid Armageddon because Donald Trump is the stupidest person ever elected President of the United States.

Friday afternoon reading list

The following appeared in my inbox while I was in the air. I'll read them later:

I'll probably read them after my body wakes me up at 6am local time tomorrow. The westbound time change is so much easier than eastbound, but it's still hard to sleep in.

The threats to our democracy

New Republic has excerpted How Democracies Die, by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, to be published this January. Salient points:

If constitutional rules alone do not secure democracy, then what does? Much of the answer lies in the development of strong democratic norms. Two norms stand out: mutual toleration, or accepting one’s partisan rivals as legitimate (not treating them as dangerous enemies or traitors); and forbearance, or deploying one’s institutional prerogatives with restraint—in other words, not using the letter of the Constitution to undermine its spirit (what legal scholar Mark Tushnet calls “constitutional hardball”).

Donald Trump is widely and correctly criticized for assaulting democratic norms. But Trump didn’t cause the problem. The erosion of democratic norms began decades ago.

In 1979, newly elected Congressman Newt Gingrich came to Washington with a blunter, more cutthroat vision of politics than Republicans were accustomed to. Backed by a small but growing group of loyalists, Gingrich launched an insurgency aimed at instilling a more “combative” approach in the party.

Though few realized it at the time, Gingrich and his allies were on the cusp of a new wave of polarization rooted in growing public discontent, particularly among the Republican base. Gingrich didn’t create this polarization, but he was one of the first Republicans to sense—and exploit—the shift in popular sentiment. And his leadership helped to establish “politics as warfare” as the GOP’s dominant strategy.

If, 25 years ago, someone had described to you a country where candidates threatened to lock up their rivals, political opponents accused the government of election fraud, and parties used their legislative majorities to impeach presidents and steal Supreme Court seats, you might have thought of Ecuador or Romania. It wouldn’t have been the United States of America.

The rest is history. Let's just hope that it's the history of a successful republic, not a Weimar one.

Stuff to review

I've been in frenetic housecleaning mode today, since it's the first work-from-home Wednesday I've had in...let me see...10 weeks. And apparently I last had my housekeeping service here 16 weeks ago. (It wasn't that bad; I do clean up occasionally.)

The activity and actually having to do my job has led me to miss a couple of news stories, which I will now queue up to read:

  • Former President Obama spoke at the Economic Club of Chicago last night, and said, at one point, "American democracy is fragile, and unless care is taken it could follow the path of Nazi Germany in the 1930s."
  • Citylab outlines how the tax bill now working its way through reconciliation between the House and Senate will be really, really bad for cities. As if we didn't know. As if that wasn't a feature, rather than a bug.
  • And it doesn't take a Nobel-winning economist to understand the chutzpah behind the Republican Party's bait-and-switch on taxes and deficits. "Now, to be fair, there are some people in America who get lots of money they didn’t lift a finger to earn — namely, inheritors of large estates." How true.
  • In more neutral news, the Atlantic has the the year in photos (part 1), with more on the way later this week. I especially like the Turkish seagull (#22).
  • Finally The Daily WTF has an example of life imitating satire, and it's sad and funny all at the same time.

I'm now going to throw out all the empty boxes in my office closet, though it pains me to do so. After all, someday I might need to return this pair of wired headphones from 1998...

Shut up about impeachment

Jeet Heer states what should be obvious: if Democrats try to impeach the president and fail, it will completely legitimize his presidency.

The practical problem is that for impeachment to be meaningful, Trump would not just have to be impeached by the House of Representatives (which requires a simple majority) but also removed by the Senate (requiring a two-thirds vote). It’s easy to imagine a scenario where the Democrats win the House of Representatives in 2018 and have the necessary votes for impeachment. But even in that best-case scenario, in which Democrats win every toss-up race for the Senate, they would still be well short of the votes they need in the Senate. Which means that kicking Trump out of the White House by necessity has to be a bipartisan effort with significant Republican buy-in.

The Republican Party has proven that they will tolerate just about anything from Trump. They continue to stand with him despite his demented tweeting, the political support he’s given to Roy Moore, his repeated expressions of contempt for the justice system, and his cavalier threats to launch a nuclear war. Unless Robert Mueller finds the possibly apocryphal “pee tape,” Republicans are likely to remain loyal to Trump. In fact, there’s a real possibility that even if the “pee tape” is real and widely viewed, Trump would still remain politically sacrosanct among his own party.

The most promising route for stopping Trump, then, is through the ballot box.

This means that we're probably stuck with him for 1142 more days, but if we win back the legislature, we can thwart him nearly completely.

Really, he's nuts

I'd rather have an incompetent, sane person as president (see, e.g., most of the past Republican presidents) than an incompetent, insane one. But ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya:

And why would the Republican Party allow all of this to continue? Gosh, who can say.