The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Things I queued up to read on my last day in the office this year

From the Intertubes:

I'll also have some blog entries in January. December seems to have been pretty light.

Post-posted

High above the North Atlantic, our hero reads the articles he downloaded before take-off:

  • Releasing to Production the day before a holdiay weekend? No. Just, no. OMFG no.
  • American Airlines just won a lawsuit started by US Airways that opens up competition in airfare consolidation—maybe. Bear with it, because this one article explains a lot of what's wrong with competition in any endeavor today. (I'll find a link to the Economist print article I just read on this topic when I land.)
  • The Washington Post helpfully provides 94 questions we Democrats are asking as we slouch towards a Trump presidency. Thanks, guys.
  • In the spirit of Christmas, Citylab remembers when Manhattan had the El. (How is this about Christmas, you ask? No El.) It's interesting to me that only now, more than 60 years later, is New York replacing the east-side transit options with the Second Avenue Subway.
  • Also from Citylab, an interview with Costas Spirou and Dennis R. Judd about their new book Building the City of Spectacle, how Mayor Richord M. Daley remade the city. (Note to self: buy their book.)
  • Finally, the Deeply Trivial blog compiles a couple of videos every Star Wars fan should watch. I know for a fact that the author was born well past the Ewok Divide, and yet seems to have a good bead on the Star Wars universe. Perhaps there is hope for the galaxy.

Today's flight is remarkably fast. We caught the jet stream off the Labrador coast, and with about an hour to go, we're hurtling 1,074 km/h off the west coast of Ireland. This could end up the fastest trans-Atlantic flight I've ever been on, in fact. Details later.

N.B.: Most of the entries on this blog since 2011, and a good number of them going back to 1998, have location bugs that show approximately where I was when I wrote the entry. Click the globe icon directly below and it will call up Google Maps.

If I write an entry at my house, I use a street intersection a few hundred meters away for an approximate location. In a city of three (or, in 1998, seven) million, I feel that's enough privacy. Otherwise, I try to be accurate, even going so far as to whip out my mobile phone to get a GPS fix in flight, as I've just done. Why, you ask? Because it's cool, I reply.

Has it been 40 years?

Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley died 20 December 1976:

Daley was 74 years old, in his 21st year as Mayor of Chicago.  He’d been having chest pains over the weekend, and had made an appointment with his doctor. That’s where he was now.

The doctor had examined Daley. You have to be admitted to the hospital immediately, he’d told Daley.  The mayor had phoned one of his sons.  Then, while the doctor was busy making hospital arrangements, the mayor had collapsed.

At 3:50 p.m., the mayor was dead.

So, apparently, 40 years ago right at this moment.

Then we got Michael "Snow Melts" Bilandic for a couple of years, then Jane Byrne, then Harold Washington, then Eugene Sawyer, then...Richard M. Daley.

The republic staggers

Krugman's column from yesterday—the day Donald Trump was actually elected our next President—echoes a concern I've had for years:

I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

... [T]he sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.

Meanwhile, Trump set another new low yesterday when 7 electors voted for someone other than who they were pledged to vote, the largest such group since the 12th Amendment essentially enshrined two-party politics into our system.

Important reading

The usually-Republican Brookings Institution reports (.pdf) on why our Constitution has an emoluments clause, and how Trump is exactly why it has one:

Foreign interference in the American political system was among the gravest dangers feared by the Founders of our nation and the Framers of our Constitution. The United States was a new government, and one that was vulnerable to manipulation by the great and wealthy world powers (which then, as now, included Russia). One common tactic that foreign sovereigns, and their agents, used to influence our officials was to give them gifts, money, and other things of value. In response to this practice, and the self-evident threat it represents, the Framers included in the Constitution the Emoluments Clause of Article I, Section 9. It prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Only explicit congressional consent validates such exchanges.

While much has changed since 1789, certain premises of politics and human nature have held steady. One of those truths is that private financial interests can subtly sway even the most virtuous leaders. As careful students of history, the Framers were painfully aware that entanglements between American officials and foreign powers could pose a creeping, insidious risk to the Republic.

Never in American history has a president-elect presented more conflict of interest questions and foreign entanglements than Donald Trump. Given the vast and global scope of Trump’s business interests, many of which remain shrouded in secrecy, we cannot predict the full gamut of legal and constitutional challenges that lie ahead. But one violation, of constitutional magnitude, will run from the instant that Mr. Trump swears he will “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”1 While holding office, Mr. Trump will receive—by virtue of his continued interest in the Trump Organization and his stake in hundreds of other entities—a steady stream of monetary and other benefits from foreign powers and their agents.

It's not like we told you so, but...we told you so.

 

A century old, and he remembers 1933

Today is Kirk Douglas' 100th birthday. And back in September, he had a warning for us young 'uns:

I’ve also lived through the horrors of a Great Depression and two World Wars, the second of which was started by a man who promised that he would restore his country it to its former greatness.

I was 16 when that man came to power in 1933.  For almost a decade before his rise he was laughed at ― not taken seriously.  He was seen as a buffoon who couldn’t possibly deceive an educated, civilized population with his nationalistic, hateful rhetoric.

I have lived a long, good life. I will not be here to see the consequences if this evil takes root in our country.  But your children and mine will be. And their children. And their children’s children.

Well, I hope so. But you never know, with the unqualified loose cannon who likely will be formally elected president in 10 days.

Longing for the halcyon days of James Watt

Trump has outdone himself with this doozy of a cabinet nomination:

Donald Trump intends to select Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a senior transition official confirmed to NBC News Wednesday — the clearest sign yet the president-elect will pursue an agenda that could undo President Obama's climate change legacy.

An ally to the fossil fuel industry, Pruitt has aggressively fought against environmental regulations, becoming one of a number of attorneys general to craft a 28-state lawsuit against the Obama administration's rules to curb carbon emissions. The case is currently awaiting a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which heard oral arguments in September.

Pruitt, who questions the impact of climate change, along with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, penned an op-ed in the Tulsa World earlier this year that called criticism they've received "un-American."

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall raises the alarm that having four (or five) recently-retired generals in top national security positions is not normal, for very good reasons. He concludes, "as a pattern, a government dominated by recently retired generals is a very negative development. Even if the nominees in question are not part of his thinking, there's little doubt that Trump's decision to nominate so many generals is rooted in a mix of his own lack of military service and his instinctive inability to think of relations between people or nations as anything but ones of domination."

It just keeps looking more and more like 1933.

> 2.5 million

That, as of today, is the number of votes that Clinton won more than Trump:

Hillary Clinton's popular vote lead has now reached 2.52 million votes. In percentage terms that's a 1.9 percentage point margin. It will rise at least a bit more. We can likely be confident that her final margin will be at least 2 percentage points. To compare, that's 5 times the margin of Al Gore's popular vote win in raw vote terms and 4 times his margin in percentage terms. At this point, not only did Clinton win the popular vote. It wasn't even all that close. When George W. Bush had another bite at the electoral apple in 2004 and finally did win the popular vote it was by 2.5 percentage points. Barack Obama's margin in 2012 was 3.9 percentage points.

Thank you, James Madison.

Time passes

Here's a fun comparison. This is the building adjacent to the north side of the northbound platform at the Northbrook Metra station. First, October 1985:

Here's the same wall almost exactly 31 years later:

The pharmacy long ago disappeared. The building now contains an Italian restaurant and a hair salon.