The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Holy mother of veracity, what a press conference

This is not an innocent man:

I mean, credit to Putin for keeping a straight face. But I can see why officials in both major U.S. parties have called this treasonous or nearly so.

Let's see what the Republicans in Congress do now.

Update: Around 30:15, Putin offers to have Russian law enforcement interrogate the Russian GRU agents who were named in the Justice Department indictment from Friday. Where does one even start? What does he have on Trump, seriously?

Too many things in my inbox

I probably won't have time to read all of these things over lunch:

Share that last one with your non-technical friends. It's pretty clever.

Trial runs for fascism

Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole points to the Trump Administration putting babies in cages as one example of how they're building up to fascism:

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”. And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

The best we can hope for at this point is to take back the House of Representatives in 115 days. But we now know the Russian Government will try to disrupt or discredit those elections—so we need to prepare for that as well.

Interesting times.

Lunchtime reading

It's been a busy news day:

There was also an article on tuple equality in C# 7.3 that, while interesting to me, probably isn't interesting to many other people.

Rauner confident; should Pritzker worry?

Greg Hinz reports that Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's internal polling numbers suggest his re-election race is a lot closer than the rest of the state believes:

The message came in an exclusive interview with Rauner campaign manager Betsy Ankney in which she claimed the incumbent has pulled within single digits of Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker in internal campaign polls, and promised to empty a "very full" book of opposition research on him.

 "In our focus groups, people can't cite a single positive thing about Pritzker even after he's spent $80 million" on TV ads, Ankney said. That's why, when Rauner in the spring spent "$4 million over six weeks" running ads tying Pritzker to imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, "his positive rating dropped 20 (percentage) points."

Ankney declined to release the latest results from her campaign's pollster, Dave Sackett. But said Rauner has pulled "closer than any public poll indicates." The closest poll that I'm aware of came a couple of weeks ago from We Ask America for Capital Fax. It showed Pritzker ahead just 36 percent to 27 percent, a nine-point margin. (Pritzker hasn't released his poll figures either, but it's believed they show him much further ahead.)

I'm not yet worried, because Rauner remains unusually unpopular for a governor (though he's still polling better than Rod Blagojevich's 9%). But I am curious how the polls can all be so different.

Boris Johnson has ruined Britain

So says British journalist Jenni Russell:

Britain is in this mess principally because the Brexiteers — led largely by Mr. Johnson — sold the country a series of lies in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union. They did so because neither Mr. Johnson nor his fellow leader of the Leave campaign, Michael Gove, intended, wanted or expected to win.

Because Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gove were confident that the Leave campaign was a hopeless cause, they were free to make ridiculous claims that they had no expectation of ever having to fulfill. They said that Brexit would make Britain both richer and more independent, with more money for the National Health Service, much greater control of immigration and continued friction-free trade with Europe.

Every earnest warning from the other side — about how any Brexit would damage trade, business and jobs — was dismissed airily by the Brexiteers. There were no costs or downsides in this vision of the future.

This casual dishonesty has had devastating consequences.

Russell goes on to list those devastating consequences, with devastating effect.

I'm baffled by how so many people can believe someone so obviously full of shit as Johnson. Maybe now that he's out of the Cabinet (but, tellingly, not out of Parliament) he won't be as effective in his destructive tendencies.

The worst case is probably true

Jonathan Chait lays out the evidence that we know about, and concludes that President Trump is almost certainly colluding with Vladimir Putin:

A case like this presents an easy temptation for conspiracy theorists, but we can responsibly speculate as to what lies at the end of this scandal without falling prey to their fallacies. Conspiracy theories tend to attract people far from the corridors of power, and they often hypothesize vast connections within or between governments and especially intelligence agencies. One of the oddities of the Russia scandal is that many of the most exotic and sinister theories have come from people within government and especially within the intelligence field.

Suppose we are currently making the same mistake we made at the outset of this drama — suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper. If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan’s party’s abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.

[I]f you’re Putin, embarking upon a coveted summit with the most Russophilic president since World War II, who is taking a crowbar to the alliance of your enemies, why wouldn’t you help him in 2018 and 2020? Ever since the fall of 2016, when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately turned down an Obama-administration proposal for a bipartisan warning to Russia not to interfere in the election, the underlying dynamic has been set: Most Republicans would rather win an election with Putin’s help than lose one without it. The Democrats, brimming with rage, threaten to investigate Russian activity if they win a chamber of Congress this November. For Putin to redouble his attack — by hacking into voting machines or some other method — would be both strategic and in keeping with his personality. Why stop now?

It's straightforward and logical, as Occam's Razor should be. And it's deeply frightening.

Daily Parker timing: impeccable

Just hours after I posted a Citylab article reciting all the ways the EPA has helped people's lives over the years, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned:

Mr. Pruitt had been hailed as a hero among conservatives for his zealous deregulation, but he could not overcome the stain of numerous ethics questions about his alleged spending abusesfirst-class travel and cozy relationships with lobbyists.

Mr. Pruitt also came under fire for enlisting aides to obtain special favors for him and his family, such as reaching out to the chief executive of Chick-fil-A, Dan T. Cathy, with the intent of helping Mr. Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn, open franchise of the restaurant.

White House advisers for months have implored Mr. Trump to get rid of Mr. Pruitt, including his chief of staff, John F. Kelly. Ultimately, the president grew disillusioned with Mr. Pruitt after a cascade of accusations of impropriety and ethical missteps overshadowed Mr. Pruitt’s policy achievements.

In recent days, people who have spoken with Mr. Trump said he sounds exasperated with his EPA administrator’s negative headlines. “It’s one thing after another with this guy,” one person close to Mr. Trunp quoted the president as saying.

Notice that the scandals didn't matter to Trump; only that the scandals "overshadowed...policy achievments."

So the swampiest critter in Trump's new swamp has quit. This is excellent news. But don't get too excited:

The E.P.A.’s deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who shares Mr. Pruitt’s zeal to dismantle climate change regulations, will act as the agency’s leader until a new administrator is nominated by Mr. Trump and confirmed by the Senate.

So the policies won't actually change; but at least Pruitt finally got fired.

Ode to the EPA

Before Scott Pruitt and friends destroy the Environmental Protection Agency, it's worth remembering the good it has done over the years:

Whatever happens to the EPA, this might be a good time to reflect on its legacy, especially in urban spaces. Though environmentalism conjures “America the Beautiful” images of purple mountains and unspoiled wilderness, much of the EPA’s heaviest lifting in rescuing this nation from its own filth happened in cities.

Long before fracking made tap water ignitable, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught on fire—a lot. The saga is a well-trod part of the EPA’s origin story, but it’s still worth revisiting. A 1969 river fire caught Time’s attention in an article on American sewage systems, headlined in print as “The Cities: The Price of Optimism.

The EPA also went to great lengths to clean up the Great Lakes. That Time article described Lake Erie as a “cesspool" created by the waste of “Detroit's auto companies, Toledo's steel mills, and the paper plants of Erie, Pa.” More notable city water cleanup projects include the agency’s 1983 project to restore the Chesapeake Bay or the 2002 project to clean up the Hudson River after New York City became the last city to dump sewage at sea in 1992.

Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963, but it was the creation of the EPA, combined with amendments to the law in 1970 and 1977, that added regulatory weight to the law’s mandate of reducing air pollution. The agency worked with companies and set limits on air pollutants and emissions from source like chemical plants, utilities and steel mills. Before the EPA, smog enrobed many U.S. cities in a lethal hydrocarbon haze, none more infamously than Los Angeles.

On that last point, I remember L.A. in the 1970s, and I watched it transform. Same here in Chicago. When Republicans whine about regulations hurting business, what they really mean is they want to pass along all the external costs of industry to us, the way they used to. Environmental regulations do cost industry money—because those are the real costs.

So when Scott Pruitt says he wants to reduce the burden on business, realize that he wants to put that burden right back on you.

Why do we celebrate the 4th?

Writing for NBC News, UT law professor Steve Vladeck reflects on how we celebrate today, and not Constitution Day, as the birthday of our nation:

As Lincoln would have it, Union soldiers weren’t fighting for the separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, or even the supremacy of the federal government (although that theme had often been invoked in the earlier years of the war). Instead, Lincoln suggested they were fighting for liberty from tyrannical government and the equality of all men (and, belatedly, women). This, despite the fact that no provision of the original Constitution reflected such principles (and several were expressly antithetical to them). Our “founding,” in Lincoln’s view, was not when we agreed to the legal system under which we currently operate; it was when we agreed to a more fundamental commitment to everyone’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

What this choice of birthday suggests is that, whereas we are governed by the Constitution, our national ethos is more than just the sum of the rules of our legal system — which, too many times in American history, have indulged, if not directly perpetuated, inequality and oppression.

We aspire to more because that was our justification for breaking away from the British in the first place. And so, ever since 1870, July 4, and not any other date, has been recognized by Congress as the day on which we celebrate America’s birthday — defining our core national identity as one of egalitarianism, first and foremost.

This government, of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.