The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Marching through Georgia

As millions of voters in Georgia today decide which party will control the US Senate, author Ruth Ben-Ghiat looks back on other world leaders who have had a hard time letting go:

Trump has followed an authoritarian, rather than a democratic, playbook as president. It is fitting that he would end up like some of history's best-known autocrats: hunkered down in his safe space, surrounded by his latest crop of unhinged loyalists, trying pathetically to escape the reality of his defeat.

The "inner sanctums" of authoritarians take on special importance when things are going badly and their power is threatened. Composed of flatterers and family members, they function to shield the head of state from any information that conflicts with his delusion that he is always right and will stay in power indefinitely. "For God's sake, don't upset the Führer — which means do not tell him bad news — do not mention things which are not as he conceives them to be," the exiled German journalist Karl H. von Wiegand wrote of Hitler in 1939, summarizing a situation familiar to those who have worked for Italy's Benito Mussolini, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the current American president.

It is rare in history that a process of authoritarian capture is interrupted, but that's what happened when Americans voted Trump out. Many members of the GOP, still loyal to Trump, are likely to wage war on the Biden administration. The dangers to our republic from illiberal forces are far from over. Yet a new vigilance and activism have gained ground. We will need them, and a robust free media, to protect our democracy in the turbulent years to come.

Meanwhile, while waiting for the malignant narcissistic STBXPOTUS to leave office, we've passed 350,000 dead from Covid-19, and three states have higher rates of infection than anywhere else in the world.

Good morning!

Just an hour or so into the first business day of 2021, and morning news had a few stories that grabbed my attention:

Finally, don't eat icicles. They're basically frozen bird poop.

A pathetic loser tries to change reality

I just got back from a short walk in which I confirmed (after waiting 10 minutes for a cold start) that Garmin's GPS problem has been fixed. The first thing I saw in my inbox was this story:

President Trump urged fellow Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat in an extraordinary one-hour phone call Saturday that election experts said raised legal questions.

The Washington Post obtained a recording of the conversation in which Trump alternately berated Raffensperger, tried to flatter him, begged him to act and threatened him with vague criminal consequences if the secretary of state refused to pursue his false claims, at one point warning that Raffensperger was taking “a big risk.”

Throughout the call, Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel rejected his assertions, explaining that Trump is relying on debunked conspiracy theories and that President-elect Joe Biden’s 11,779-vote victory in Georgia was fair and accurate.

It was clear from the call that Trump has surrounded himself with aides who have fed his false perceptions that the election was stolen. When he claimed that more than 5,000 ballots were cast in Georgia in the name of dead people, Raffensperger responded forcefully: “The actual number was two. Two. Two people that were dead that voted.”

I suppose one should have some compassion for a man so clearly mentally ill and in such obvious cognitive decline. Really, we need to put the blame for this squarely on the grifters and hangers-on in the STBXPOTUS's White House who enabled this call.

Deligitimization

Happy new year! Or, as many of my friends have posted on social media, happy January, only 20 days until the new year!

Of course what they mean has to do with this:

President Donald Trump spent his first days in office pushing false claims about the size of his inauguration crowd.

He has spent the final weeks of his term blitzing the American people with falsehoods and far-fetched conspiracies as part of a failed attempt to overturn the election he lost — cementing his legacy as what fact checkers and presidential historians say is the most mendacious White House occupant ever.

“I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in an interview. “Dwight Eisenhower used to say one of the most important tools a president of the United States has is that people believe what he says.”

“After two centuries, it is impressive that Americans still are inclined to believe what a president tells them, especially at a moment of crisis,” Beschloss said. “When a president breaks that bond of trust with the American people, it makes it harder for future presidents to have the kind of moral authority that enables them to protect us.”

NBC News has fact-checked Trump for more than four years. Based on thousands of hours of reporting and hundreds of reported fact checks, four issues stand above the rest as the falsehoods that define the Trump presidency.

Republican speech writer Michael Gerson also has some choice things to say about the latest mendacity, but more in criticism of US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who intends to challenge the Electoral College certification on Wednesday. Sauce for the gander, I say.

Meanwhile, here in Chicago, the New Year has begun with what we call "wintry mix" and everyone else calls "why would you want to live someplace where this happens." But like Punxatawney Phil, if a Chicagoan doesn't see his shadow on January 1st, that means we'll have a mild winter.

Destructo-Beast of the West Wing

The STBXPOTUS has, in the words of Greg Sargent, "detonated a truth bomb in the Georgia US Senate runoffs:"

By abruptly calling for $2,000 stimulus checks on Tuesday night, Trump inadvertently exposed core truths about the consequences of continued GOP control of the Senate — ones that Republicans are working to conceal — and about the post-Trump Republican Party in general.

In the video that Trump tweeted, he threatened to wreck the carefully negotiated settlement that led Congress to pass a $900 billion economic rescue package. He insisted that its $600 stimulus checks are insufficient and called on lawmakers to increase the payment to $2,000.

Trump’s threat not to sign the deal makes a government shutdown more likely, and it puts congressional Republicans who supported it in a terrible spot. As one GOP observer noted, Trump “just pulled down the pants of every Republican who voted for it.”

As much as I must now go scrub my brain with wire wool to remove the image of any US Senators from either party with their pants down, the guy gave the Democrats a popcorn moment like no other. When I first heard the story this morning I wondered which failed human being in the White House wound him up. Someone had to write the speech for him.

As Sargent pointed out,

It will be perversely amusing if Loeffler and Perdue are willing to stick with Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of the American people — they continue to refuse to say he lost — but not willing to support his call for more economic aid to them.

The bottom line is that the story of the past nine months confirms that orthodox conservative opposition to big spending — even to help Americans suffering amid two of the biggest crises of the modern era — has been the main obstacle to assistance for them. Trump has laid this bare.

I have no earthly idea what the White House hopes to accomplish. The STBXPOTUS doesn't usually play a long game, given his normal attention span of four to six seconds. It occurs to me, though, that with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, he will have a much easier time of running against us in 2024.

Still, the whole thing confuses me—and probably the Loeffler and Perdue campaigns as well.

All hail the mediocre white guy!

US Senator-elect Tom "Tubs" Tuberville (R-AL), who rose to mediocrity as a college football coach, continues to show those characteristics of white male entitlement that everyone else in the world envies. Namely: abject stupidity. Dana Milibank fills in some of the details:

Tubs, if he were a Democrat, is what Trump might call a “low-IQ individual.” In their wisdom, the voters of Alabama chose to replace Democrat Doug Jones, who prosecuted the Birmingham church bombing, with a man who recently announced his discovery that there are “three branches of government,” namely, “the House, the Senate and the executive.”

In an interview with the Alabama Daily News, he also offered the insight that World War II was not, as many suppose, a conflict against Nazism. “My dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism,” he said.

He further informed the newspaper that “in 2000 Al Gore was president, United States, president-elect, for 30 days.” (Actual number of days Gore spent as president-elect: zero.)

Tubs' latest plan is to object to the counting of Electoral College votes in the Joint Session of Congress on January 6th. Assuming a member of the House joins in the objection, this will have the crippling effect of delaying the count for two hours while the Senate and House debate the objection. Then Vice President Mike Pence will certify Biden's win, and Tubs will become another footnote in history, spending the next six years aggressively protecting his place in the world as a mediocre white guy who got rewarded for it.

The longest night of 2020

If you live in the northern hemisphere, tonight will last longer than any of the 365 others in 2020. Sunsets have gotten later by a few seconds a day since the 8th, but sunrises have also gotten later and will continue to do so until just before perihelion on January 4th.

We're also only a month from Joe Biden's inauguration. Almost everyone in the Western world and quite a few outside it have felt more relaxed and less stressed in the last six weeks, and will feel even better once the STBXPOTUS loses his public-interest protections on Twitter.

Meanwhile, we've only got a few hours before the Federal Government shuts down, because Republicans in the US Senate didn't really care about Covid-19 relief until the January 5th runoff elections in Georgia got too tight for comfort. Help Doug Perdue, yes; help 30 million Americans, no. That's today's GOP. Even if we manage to get the bill through, the STBXPOTUS has lost all connection to reality and may not sign it.

The bill as it stands calls for about $900 billion in "stimulus," even though we can't actually spend money where we need to spend it to save our restaurants and restaurant workers. As economist Paul Krugman points out, giving people $600 or $1200 checks won't help; we need enhanced unemployment benefits, which puts the money in the most needful hands. He also asks, "why is there a limit on the amount of aid?" He explains:

Republicans appear willing to make a deal because they fear that complete stonewalling will hurt them in the Georgia Senate runoffs. But they are determined to keep the deal under a trillion dollars, hence the reported $900 billion price tag.

That trillion-dollar cap, however, makes no sense. The amount we spend on emergency relief should be determined by how much aid is needed, not by the sense that $1 trillion is a scary number.

For affordability isn’t a real issue right now. The U.S. government borrowed more than $3 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year; investors were happy to lend it that money, at remarkably low interest rates. In fact, the real interest rate on U.S. debt — the rate adjusted for inflation — has lately been consistently negative, which means that the additional debt won’t even create a major future burden.

And even economists who worry about deficits normally agree that it’s appropriate to run big deficits in the face of national emergencies. If a pandemic that is still keeping around 10 million workers unemployed isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.

So, yes, the longest night of the year might also see yet another Republican-sponsored government shutdown. But the longest night of the year means tomorrow night will be a few seconds shorter, and 9 nights later, 2020 will end.

First snow in Chicago

I'm looking out my office window at the light dusting of snow on my neighbors' cars, wondering how (or whether) I'll get my 10,000 steps today. My commute to work got me 3,000 each way, making the job tons easier before lockdown. Easier psychologically, anyway; nothing prevents me from going for a 45-minute walk except that I really don't want to.

Instead of a lunchtime hike, I'll probably just read these articles:

And just as a side note for posterity, we should remember that the President of Russia congratulated Joe Biden on his win before the Majority Leader of the US Senate did. The Republican Party must really not like democracy.

Other things to read this evening

Happy Hanukkah! Now read these:

I will now have some very yummy Szechuan leftovers.

President-Elect of the United States Joe Biden

The Electoral College has voted, and with no surprises, as of 16:37 Chicago time Joe Biden has received the requisite 270 votes to be elected President of the United States. And yet, we had a few surprises today:

Finally, John le Carré died at 89 yesterday. Time to revisit Josephine Livingstone's review of "the glorious return of George Smiley," le Carré's 2017 novel A Legacy of Spies.