The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cold again

Today's temperatures have hovered around -9°C, with a forecast of bottoming out around -18°C tomorrow morning. But hey, at least the sun is out, right?

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, if you're looking to get away from it all, you might have to pass on the Isle of Rum off the coast of Scotland. Its population has almost doubled in the past couple of years, to 40.

The Paper Anniversary

In the US and UK, it's customary to give gifts of paper for the first anniversary. In that spirit, I say we give all the insurrectionists new subpoenas today.

President Biden marked the occasion with a speech excoriating his predecessor:

“The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election,” Mr. Biden said, standing in the same National Statuary Hall invaded by throngs of Trump supporters a year ago. “He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”

Political essayist Rebecca Solnit wonders why so many Republicans share the XPOTUS's delusions:

Hannah Arendt used the word “gullible” repeatedly in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” published in 1951. “A mixture of gullibility and cynicism is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements, and the higher the rank the more cynicism weighs down gullibility,” she wrote. That is, among those gulling the public, cynicism is a stronger force; among those being gulled, gullibility is, but the two are not so separate as they might seem.

Distinctions between believable and unbelievable, true and false, are not relevant for people who have found that taking up outrageous and disprovable ideas is instead an admission ticket to a community or an identity. Without the yoke of truthfulness around their necks, they can choose beliefs that flatter their worldview or justify their aggression. I sometimes think of this straying into fiction as a kind of libertarianism run amok — we used to say, “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.” Too many Americans now feel entitled to their own facts. In this too-free marketplace of ideas, they can select or reject ideas, facts or histories to match their goals, because meaning has become transactional.

A lot of conspiracy theories are organic or at least emerge from true believers on the margins when it comes to topics like extraterrestrials, but those at the top of conservative America have preached falsehoods that further the interest of elites, and those at the bottom have embraced them devoutly. Though when we talk about cults and conspiracies we usually look to more outlandish beliefs, climate denial and gun obsessions both fit this template.

Authoritarians don’t just want to control the government, the economy and the military. They want to control the truth. Truth has its own authority, an authority a strongman must defeat, at least in the minds of his followers, convincing them to abandon fact, the standards of verification, critical thinking and all the rest. Such people become a standing army awaiting their next command.

Author John Scalzi says, just wait for next time:

The GOP is officially done with the notion of democracy in the United States. Its only interest in it at this point is using its remaining functioning processes to shut it down. The GOP has no platform other than a Christianist White Supremacist Authoritarianism, no goal other than a corrupt oligarchy, and no plan for its supporters other than to keep them hyped up on fear and hatred of anyone who is a convenient target. The Republican party problem with the coup is not that it happened. It’s that it was so poorly planned and executed. Now they’ll have to attempt another one.

Which is coming! The GOP has already made it clear they have no intention of honoring another presidential election that might allow a Democrat into the White House. They are attempting all sorts of strategies to limit the ability of suspected non-Republicans to vote, to discount their vote if they still manage to do it, and to disrupt the certification of the vote if it doesn’t go the way they want it to. A Democrat winning is enough evidence of “voter fraud” for a Republican to attempt to gum up the works for as long as possible, to sow distrust in the system, and to pave the way for GOP Coup II, i.e., “We Didn’t Want To But Look What the Dirty Democrats Made Us Do.” This coup may or may not have an “armed citizen” component to it; as noted the GOP has gotten very good at using the processes of democracy against it. The Republicans would love a coup that they could punt up to a compliant Supreme Court, and that would probably not be a coup with shooting in it. But a coup it would be nevertheless.

A political party that can’t turn its back on a traitor who endangered even some of its own members should not be trusted. A political party that embraces that same traitor and doubles down on its allegiance to him should be reviled. A political party that has decided to abandon the constitution and the republic should be dismantled. Here in 2022, when the Republican party has clearly and unambiguously done all three, no person with any sense of moral character or loyalty to the republic should vote for the GOP, for any position, at any level, or support it in any way, but especially with money.

[H]ere’s a simple test: Substitute the words “Donald Trump” with “Hillary Clinton” and “Trump supporters” with “Clinton supporters” and then run January 6 through your memory banks. You good with a President Hillary Clinton encouraging her supporters to storm the Capitol to stop the certification of, say, President-Elect Donald Trump as the 46th president? Unless you are absolutely 100 percent lying to yourself — and you may be! — your answer here is “Hell, no.” And you would be correct. It’s treason, and any political party giving aid and comfort to such an act is beyond redemption.

So, one year out, where are the rest of the indictments?

Old fart tells majority of country to get off his lawn

US Senator Joe Manchin (D?-WV), the 74-year-old multimillionaire most recently re-elected in 2018 with just 290,000 votes (i.e., 0.08% of the US population), announced yesterday that he simply could not support the President's chief legislative goal for the current Congress, even though he apparently said he totally could before his last conversation with some random coal executive. Because the US Senate is evenly divided between the two parties, with Vice President Harris as the deciding vote in case of a tie, and because the Republican Party has no platform other than to keep the Democratic Party from governing no matter how much their own constituents scream for governance, Manchin voting "no" would kill the President's bill.

Naturally this has generated some opinion pieces in various media.

Russel Berman doesn't see this as the end of Build Back Better:

The best-case scenario for Biden is that Manchin intended his comments today not as a definitive end to negotiations but as a hard-line tactic aimed at forcing Democrats to take his position seriously, to stop trying to pressure him to buckle, and to end their attempts to win his support merely by tinkering around the edges of Build Back Better. Hoping to enact the bill by the end of the year, Democrats were loath to start over. Now it seems they must, and therein lies an opportunity.

New Republic's Michael Tomasky calls Manchin's behavior a betrayal of West Virginia's people:

[T]he people of West Virginia...are falling further behind the rest of the country with each passing decade and who have been sold a fantasy about the source of their problems and how they will be fixed.

The fantasy is that coal’s demise is all the fault of the coastal liberal elites who thumb their noses at good hard-working Christian people like the ones who live in West Virginia’s small towns and mine and haul its coal.

it was the private sector that unleashed this curse on America, preying on particularly vulnerable people and places like West Virginia, where a lot of people do physical labor for a living and lack—or lacked, until evil big government and Barack Obama came along—the health coverage that ensures they can go see a real doctor instead of just hopping into an urgent care clinic where they get a fentanyl script and are shoved out the door.

[N]ow Joe Manchin, given extraordinary power by the structure of a body that shouldn’t even exist, overrules the president of the United States and says to the people ravaged by these things that, no, the government can’t help them. Sorry, single mom who works at the Dollar General in Grantsville and would like to go to community college to better her lot: We can’t make community college free, and we can’t possibly subsidize daycare centers where you can safely plant your toddler while you take those bookkeeping courses at night at Glenville State. All that free stuff might make you a ward of the state.

But this just reflects the reality of West Virginia politics, says the Post's Karen Tumulty:

West Virginia — a state whose residents are older, poorer and sicker than average — would also stand to benefit more than most from the legislation.

Partisan tribalism, cultural issues and an attachment to the vanishing coal industry drive voter sentiment there, creating what is a paradoxical hostility to government. “Washington’s 100 percent against us,” a man from Summers County told me years ago. “They don’t like our jobs. They don’t like our attitudes.” Those attitudes have only hardened.

Ultimately, Manchin knows better than liberal naysayers that this legislation — or anything else that carries the Democratic brand — will face skepticism in West Virginia that has little to do with its merits. But he is also well aware that government has a vital role when it comes to bettering the lives and futures of his constituents. Which means things might not be over yet for some version of the Build Back Better bill.

Well, fine, but meanwhile we're 11 months from an election in which people will hear that the Democrats can't get anything done. It doesn't matter to the country that the Republican Party has no credible alternatives, or worse, to our policies.

I'll have more to say about this heading into next year, but I wonder if we need to let the Republicans absolutely rape the country before people figure out that all they want to do is rape the country.

Spicy poké

I swear, the local poké place used three shots of chili oil instead of one today. Whew. (Not that I'm complaining, of course.)

While my mouth slowly incinerates, I'm reading these:

On that last point, comedians Jimmy Carr and Emil Wakim lay down epic burns against anti-vaxxers:

Slouching towards fascism

The software release yesterday that I thought might be exciting turned out to be fairly boring, which was a relief. Today I'm looking through an ancient data set of emails sent to and from some white-collar criminals, which is annoying only because there are millions and I have to write some parsing tools for them.

So while I'm decompressing the data set, I'll amuse myself with these articles, from least to most frightening:

Whee! WinZip has finished decompressing all 517,000 files. Now to write a parser...

About Virginia

I'm not even a little surprised that Republican Glenn Youngkin beat Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Viriginia governor's race last night. The margin of 80,000 votes is just over 2% of the vote, so Youngkin can't exactly claim he won in a landslide. And, let's face it, President Biden doesn't exactly have Obama levels of popularity today. (He's still more popular than the last guy. And Gerald Ford.)

I worked in Virginia for six months in 2003, and I can tell you most of the state has, shall I say, not quite progressive politics.

Ross Douthat believes some of McAuliffe's problems come from the way he failed to address the popular—if inaccurate—perceptions of the latest boogeyman on the Right, "critical race theory." Since no one really knows what CRT actually is, Youngkin had no trouble banging that drum to scare all the suburban women that he handily shifted to his side in the last six weeks.

As for the president's agenda, as long as 52 senators want to stop him from doing anything in his first term, he can't get it done. The slave-owning Southerners who wrote the Constitution, particularly the ones from Virginia, designed the Federal government to do as little as possible.

We're five years in to historical political unrest and division in the United States, which I suppose was the Karmic balancingof the Cubs winning the World Series. The last time the US went through this much turmoil, we got the Civil Rights Act. But the time before, we got a Civil War.

Finally, let me grab a few grafs from Chris Cillizza on what CRT actually means:

For the record, here's what critical race theory actually is -- courtesy of Education Week:

"Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. ... A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas."

And here's another helpful explainer via Brookings:

"CRT does not attribute racism to white people as individuals or even to entire groups of people. Simply put, critical race theory states that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race."

The basic idea is that racism is systemic in many of the institutions of America -- and that by acknowledging that reality, we can work to overcome it.

Yeah, wow, I'd hate to teach children that...

Where did Monday go?

I'm troubled not only that it's already November but also that it's already 5pm. I've been heads-down coding all day and I've got a dress rehearsal tonight. I did, at least, flag these for later:

OK, 30 minutes more coding, then off to the Kehrein Center for our final rehearsal before Sunday's performance.

Why Biden's plan matters

Forget the amount (especially because the headlines completely mis-state the value), the "human infrastructure" bill winding through Congress right now matters in all the places it needs to:

Over the past few decades there has been a redistribution of dignity — upward. From Reagan through Romney, the Republicans valorized entrepreneurs, C.E.O.s and Wall Street. The Democratic Party became dominated by the creative class, who attended competitive colleges, moved to affluent metro areas, married each other and ladled advantages onto their kids so they could leap even further ahead.

There was a bipartisan embrace of a culture of individualism, which opens up a lot of space for people with resources and social support, but means loneliness and abandonment for people without. Four years of college became the definition of the good life, which left roughly two-thirds of the country out.

And so came the crisis that Biden was elected to address — the poisonous combination of elite insularity and vicious populist resentment.

The Democratic spending bills are economic packages that serve moral and cultural purposes. They should be measured by their cultural impact, not merely by some wonky analysis. In real, tangible ways, they would redistribute dignity back downward. They would support hundreds of thousands of jobs for home health care workers, child care workers, construction workers, metal workers, supply chain workers. They would ease the indignity millions of parents face having to raise their children in poverty.

The Republican Party have no similar policies. In fact, their policies would accelerate the "distribution of dignity" upward, even while they blamed the results on the Democrats. The reconciliation bill will help millions of Americans. And, oh yeah, it might even win us a couple of elections.

How close is the end of the Republic?

According to the Washington Post's Robert Kagan, the end has already begun:

The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves. The warning signs may be obscured by the distractions of politics, the pandemic, the economy and global crises, and by wishful thinking and denial.

The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020. Would governors call out the National Guard? Would President Biden nationalize the Guard and place it under his control, invoke the Insurrection Act, and send troops into Pennsylvania or Texas or Wisconsin to quell violent protests? Deploying federal power in the states would be decried as tyranny. Biden would find himself where other presidents have been — where Andrew Jackson was during the nullification crisis, or where Abraham Lincoln was after the South seceded — navigating without rules or precedents, making his own judgments about what constitutional powers he does and doesn’t have.

Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power. The fact that he failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate.

So, is the Republican Party a modern-day Catilinarian conspiracy? I guess we'll find out in the next few years. Should be exciting.

Excuse me while I Google a few things...

Crossing the Rubicon

Eric Schnurer outlines the alarming similarities between our present and Rome's past; specifically, the end of the Republic in 54 BCE:

History isn’t destiny, of course; the demise of the Roman Republic is a point of comparison—not prediction. But the accelerating comparisons nonetheless beg the question: If one were to make a prediction, what comes next? What might signal the end of democracy as we know it?  There is, it turns out, an easy answer at hand.

While there is no precise end date to the Republic, there was a bright-line occurrence generally recognized as the irreversible beginning of the end for participatory government. In fact, it is such a bright line that the event itself has become universally synonymous with “point-of-no-return”: Julius Caesar’s crossing of the river Rubicon.

And there is indeed an event looming—probably before the end of this year— that poses almost precisely the same situation as what provoked Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon: the possible indictment of former president Donald J. Trump.

When Trump’s supporters urge him to cross the Rubicon and cast the die—events that become highly likely if he, like Caesar, faces indictment—that is what they contemplate.

Well, at least the fall of the Republic will probably work out OK for urban areas...maybe...