The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Is Alexandra Petri single?

(Asking for a friend.)

Because today she flayed Alan Dershowitz's laughable argument about presidential power by laughing at it:

The will of the voters found its highest and best expression in the election of President Trump, and anything that seems likely to remove him from power or even just inconvenience him a little goes against their will. If the Founders had wanted it to be possible to legitimately remove from office a president the people had selected, they would have made three equal branches of government and devised a specific mechanism for this to occur by a two-thirds vote, or something!

This is why the prospect of another election fills me with so much alarm. We know the voters want Donald J. Trump! They said so, resoundingly, with a minority of their votes, in 2016. Dare we risk overturning that election by holding another? Suppose he were not to win it! That would certainly go against the will of the voters. It would be just as much an overturning of 2016′s results as this impeachment is — perhaps more so, because Mike Pence would not immediately get to become president afterward.

The argument gets even sillier under scrutiny.

(No, she's not, by the way.)

Things of interest when I have the time to spend on them

Not just articles today, but also a whole HBO mini-series:

For yet another thing to worry about today, after this post and the one before it, the New Yorker has started a series about the last time democracy almost died. (Hint: it got better.)

Impeachment, day 2

As if by design, the Senate trial of President Trump looked more farcical than serious yesterday. But contra popular belief, David Ignatius argues that impeachment actually bolsters our brand overseas:

A consistent theme through the Nixon and Clinton dramas, and now with Trump, is the presidents’ conviction that they didn’t commit any impeachable offenses and that the process is a partisan political sham.

Nixon wrote: “I never for a moment believed that any of the charges against me were legally impeachable.” Clinton declared in his memoir that his impeachment was “a politically motivated action by a majority party in Congress that couldn’t restrain itself.”

And so it goes. Impeachment is an inherently political process for resolving allegations of abuse of power, as the Founders intended. But past evidence suggests that it helps break the fever, rather than making it worse.

Meanwhile, Frank Bruni suggests we all take a moment to comfort the Whiner in Chief:

He’s always right and yet always wronged. He demands that we marvel at his invincibility even as we tremble at his degradation. He can vanquish any enemy — and his enemies are legion! — but look at how he’s pushed around. Trump takes a textbook oxymoron and gives it presidential form. Behold, at the Resolute Desk, a jumbo shrimp.

It’s disgusting. It’s also part of his political genius. He has turned himself into a symbol of Americans’ victimization, telling frustrated voters who crave easy answers that they’re being pushed around by foreigners and duped by the condescending custodians of a dysfunctional system.

Thanks to Republicans in the Senate, he’s poised to evade punishment again. We should all be such victims.

Yes, thanks to Republicans in the Senate, particularly those in diverse states who face election in a few months.

How many lies can one man tell?

As of yesterday, the 3/4 mark in his term, President Trump has told 16,241:

In 2017, Trump made 1,999 false or misleading claims. In 2018, he added 5,689 more, for a total of 7,688. And in 2019, he made 8,155 suspect claims.

In other words, in a single year, the president said more than total number of false or misleading claims he had made in the previous two years. Put another way: He averaged six such claims a day in 2017, nearly 16 a day in 2018 and more than 22 a day in 2019.

The president added to his total on Sunday evening with more than 20 Trumpian claims — many old favorites — during a triumphant speech at the annual conference of the American Farm Bureau Federation. He incorrectly described trade agreements — suggesting Canadian dairy tariffs were eliminated and an agreement with Japan to reduce tariffs on $7 billion of farm products was “a $40 billion deal” — and also falsely asserted that “tough” farmers and ranchers were crying as he signed a repeal of Obama-era regulations. A video of the event shows no one crying.

In 2018 and 2019, October and November ranked as the months in which Trump made the most false or misleading claims: October 2018: 1,205; October 2019: 1,159; November 2019: 903; and November 2018: 867.

So, as of today, only 365 days remain in his term. And the election is closer still.

Too many things to read this afternoon

Fortunately, I'm debugging a build process that takes 6 minutes each time, so I may be able to squeeze some of these in:

Back to debugging Azure DevOps pipelines...

Who has won the most votes?

At the moment, Elizabeth Warren has won more votes on her own in an election than anyone else running for the Democratic Party nomination. Here are some of the numbers:

Warren, US Senate, 2012: 1,696,346
Booker, US Senate, 2014: 1,043,866
Bloomberg, New York Mayor, 2005: 753,090
Biden, US Senate, 2008: 257,539
Sanders, US Senate, 2012: 207,848
Buttigieg, South Bend, Ind., Mayor, 2015: 8,515

Until she dropped out, Kamala Harris had won more votes than anyone else, with 7,542,753 voting for her in 2016 for US Senate.

And one shouldn't forget that Joe Biden won national election as Vice President with 69,498,516 votes in 2008—but he didn't do it on his own.

None of this means much, of course. It's interesting, though, who actually has experience winning millions of votes and who doesn't.

Alexandra Petri nails it, again

I had the misfortune of hearing the entirety of Rep. Doug Collins' (R-GA) opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee this morning, and I almost ran off the road because I was rolling my eyes too much.

Fortunately, Alexandra Petri neatly summed up the Republican positions he advanced:

You bet I would love to support impeachment! Nothing would delight me more — if it were just bipartisan, which unfortunately it’s not, because I have vowed to oppose it at all costs. This is sure an unfortunate coincidence. I keep asking: Why isn’t there bipartisan support for this? I could support it, if only I were not against it — which I am, vehemently, and will hear no reason to change my mind. A most ingenious paradox!

We must consider the facts. Alas, the facts are in dispute, coincidentally again by me. So, there we are. Who can say what’s true? I understand you to be saying that a certain set of things are demonstrably true, but to that I say, “What if they weren’t? Also, think about President Andrew Johnson.”

It is your fault that this impeachment process is not bipartisan, and you ought to feel bad. If I had not vowed that this process was illegitimate and I would oppose it, I would consider it legitimate, and support it. It is your fault that I won’t, for starting this process, instead of waiting for me to start it.

Which I would have! If the president were a Democrat.

As long as the Republican members of Congress do not care at all how President Trump executes his office, all the Democrats can do is point out how bad it is. And also their hypocrisy. Remember, when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair, they made all the arguments that Democrats are now making for far worse conduct.

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.

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.