The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

New art forms in the pandemic

Dear future reader, observe how the combination of physical isolation; near-universal access to the entire world through the Internet; apps that make collaboration simple (like TikTok); and really bored young people has allowed entirely new art forms to flourish. This, as just one example, needs preservation so future generations can see what we got up to in early 2021:

I don't know whether videos like this will continue once people can make live music for live audiences again. I will predict, however, that movies made in the 2040s and 2050s will use a few seconds of a TikTok sea shanty to set the stage in the same way that a few notes of "Mister Sandman" instantly tells today's audiences that the story takes place in the 1950s.

Three-pointer

Today is the last day of Sprint 28 at my day job, and I've just closed my third one-point story of the day. When we estimate the difficulty of a story (i.e., a single unit of code that can be deployed when complete), we estimate by points on a Fibonacci scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. A 2-point story is about twice as hard as a 1-point story; a 5 point story is about 5 times harder than a 1-point story; etc. If we estimate 8 or more points on my current team, we re-examine the story in order to break it into smaller chunks. Similarly, a 1-point story could turn out to have so little complexity that it takes almost no time, like today's story #304 that required adding one line of code to here and removing 37 lines of code from there. That one took about 15 minutes. The other two took a couple of hours each, as "knowing where to put the bolt" takes longer than actually attaching the bolt.

While all that happened on the west side of my desk, the monitors on the south side lit up a few stories for me to read when I get back from the walk I'm about to take:

  • Jennifer Rubin lists 50 things that have improved in the US in the past 5 days, starting with "you can ignore Twitter."
  • Though Rubin mentioned replacing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office, she didn't mention that the Biden Administration has taken steps to complete replacing his racist mug on the $10 note with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. (The outgoing administration, for obvious reasons, mothballed this plan upon taking office.)
  • Charles Blow warns against the Democratic Party should keep advocating and stop "subconsciously modulating responses" in the face of Republican criticism.
  • National Geographic describes the Roman road network that spanned over 320,000 km and still remains largely intact today.
  • Philippa Snow suggests the French series Call My Agent if you're looking for serious entertainment. For my part I'm about to start Series 2 of Peaky Blinders.
  • Loyola University Chicago professor Devon Price has a new book out: Laziness Does Not Exist. I may have to buy a copy. Eventually.

And I will now try to get in a 45-minute fast walk as our first real winter storm bears down on us from Iowa.

A tale of two press conferences

I woke up this morning, as I usually do, to Chicago's NPR affiliate WBEZ. Yet for the first time in about four years, I didn't dread the top stories. Something seems to have changed.

Well, let's take a look at two White House events, side by side. Both were the first press briefings of the incoming administration on their respective Inauguration Days:

Yeah, I can't quite put my finger on it...

The 59th time in a row

President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., and Vice President Kamala Devi Harris started their terms at noon Eastern today. It's the 59th time that the United States has transferred executive authority according to law. Let's hope for at least 59 more times.

Evening roundup

With only 18 hours to go in the worst presidency in American history—no, really this time—I have a few articles to read, only two of which (directly) concern the STBXPOTUS.

Finally, after seven weeks of back-and-forth with Microsoft engineers, I've helped them clarify some code and documentation that will enable me to release a .NET 5.0 version of the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™—the IDEA™—by this time tomorrow.

It keeps getting worse

As the capital braces for violence at President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week, Andrew Sullivan points out the obvious:

We could have...the beginning of an ongoing, armed insurgency, denying the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of the United States, backed by a hefty chunk of one of the two major parties.

Josh Marshall points out that the GOP has hobbled our resistance to this disease for 30 years or longer:

Go back to April 1995 and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. This sparked the first widespread interest in the militia movement which had begun to take root in the country in the 1980s. But Republicans, who had just taken control of Congress in January of that year, quickly shifted gears to defending militias as conservatives being smeared the association with McVeigh and his accomplices. Indeed, in June of 1995 the Senate held a hearing aimed at humanizing members of the militia movement as little more than very motivated conservative activists. As Ken Adams of one Michigan militia group told Senators at the hearing: “What is the militia?. We are doctors, lawyers, people getting involved in their government.”

[W]e’ve seen four or four cycles of this drama over the last twenty-five to thirty years: the US government is prevented from taking even basic steps to combat violent right wing extremism because the Republican party either forbids it (when Republicans are in power) or makes the political costs prohibitively high (when Democrats are).

Every time it’s the same. And the coddling of right wing extremists and terrorists by the institutional GOP has led us to a place where a government that spends approaching a trillion dollars a year on military and intelligence capacities had its seat of government stormed by an insurrectionist crowd acting at the behest of a renegade President.

As I said to a London-based colleague this morning, things will be strange over here for a few years, at least.

Sure Happy It's Thursday, March 319th...

Lunchtime roundup:

Finally, the authors of The Impostor's Guide, a free ebook aimed at self-taught programmers, has a new series of videos about general computer-science topics that people like me didn't learn programming for fun while getting our history degrees.

The Economist's Bartleby column examines how Covid-19 lockdowns have "caused both good and bad changes of routine."

More on Republican posturing about "unity"

Granted, I get most of my news and information from only one part of the media: the part based on evidence and reason. So I may not intuit correctly how Republicans calling for "unity" right now makes any sense at all, as I said on Sunday. I may, instead, think about how this reminds me of Lincoln's Cooper Union speech.

It turns out, I'm not the only one drawing these parallels. Jamelle Bouie makes the connection more eloquently than I do:

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, also said that impeaching the president “will only divide our country more.”

“As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people,” McCarthy said in a statement given two days after he also voted not to accept the results of a free and fair election in which his favored candidate lost.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas helped lead the Senate attempt to object to Joe Biden’s victory. “My view is Congress should fulfill our responsibility under the Constitution to consider serious claims of voter fraud,” he said last Monday. Now, he too wants unity. “The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” he said in the aftermath of the violence, as calls to impeach the president grew louder and louder. “We must come together and put this anger and division behind us.”

I’m reminded, here, of one particular passage from Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 address ;at Cooper Union in Manhattan, in which he criticized the political brinkmanship of Southern elites who blamed their Northern opponents for their own threats to break the union over slavery.

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

These cries of divisiveness aren’t just the crocodile tears of bad-faith actors. They serve a purpose, which is to pre-emptively blame Democrats for the Republican partisan rancor that will follow after Joe Biden is inaugurated next week. It is another way of saying that they, meaning Democrats, shot first, so we, meaning Republicans, are absolved of any responsibility for our actions. If Democrats want some semblance of normalcy — if they want to be able to govern — then the price for Republicans is impunity for Trump.

Accountability is divisive. That’s the point. If there is a faction of the Republican Party that sees democracy itself as a threat to its power and influence, then it has to be cut off from the body politic.

Exactly. I, and a whole lot of other Democrats and moderates from both parties, have had it up to here with the lack of good faith coming from the Republican Party. They've banged away with this crap for 50 years now. Only now, after an armed incursion into the US Capitol, does it seem like my party leaders have had enough.

I really hope we've finally answered the question "what do the Republicans have to do before we finally hold them to account?"

Meanwhile, in the last 5 weeks, we have had 15 days where more Americans died of Covid-19 than died on 9/11.

What the hell happened yesterday?

Where to begin.

Yesterday, and for the first time in the history of the country, an armed mob attacked the US Capitol building, disrupting the ceremonial counting of Electoral Votes and, oh by the way, threatening the safety of the first four people in the presidential line of succession.

I'm still thinking about all of this. Mainly I'm angry and disgusted. And I'm relieved things didn't wind up worse. But wow.

Here are just some of the reactions to yesterday's events:

Meanwhile, amid the violence and the insanity, the United States set a new record for Covid-19 deaths in one day.

Oh, and also, now that you mention it, both Democratic candidates for US Senate in Georgia won their races.

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.