The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The morning after (debate reax)

Unlike the first presidential debate on September 29th (i.e., two years ago), nothing that happened at last night's debate made me want to become a hermit in the mountains of New Zealand. But two big things stood out.

Most importantly, Joe Biden pledged to expand Obamacare with a true public option. This would expand health coverage to the entire country. It would constitute the broadest expansion of a public program in my lifetime. And it would take the biggest step towards a true guarantee of health care in the US since Medicare became law in 1965. I imagine UHG, Blue Cross, and all the other health insurers in the country just started taking a hard look at their stock option plans.

On the other side of the ledger--the side making New Zealand more attractive to me--the president essentially said that only stupid undocumented immigrants show up to immigration court. This goes along with his general belief that following the law is for suckers. And coming in the same debate in which he reiterated his "rapists and murderers" view of immigrants, it really showcased his unfitness to lead a country where fewer than 1% of its families can claim to have lived here for 500 or more years.

Other reactions, from home and abroad:

  • The Guardian: the president "has given up trying to articulate a plan."
  • Le Monde: the president "needed a striking victory to change the dynamic of the election. This wasn't the case."
  • El Universal: "nada cambia." (Nothing changed.)
  • The Toronto Star: "final debate is calmer amid the campaign storm."
  • The Washington Post: The changes to the debate format "all worked. There were far fewer interruptions — perhaps because Trump recognized it didn’t really work for him last time, but also because of the changes — and there was a far more substantive exchange on the issues." Still, the president said nothing new.
  • The New York Times: "Biden’s win is also a function of a solid performance focused on real issues, in contrast with the president’s decision to spend most of the debate on the deep lore of the Fox Cinematic Universe."

Of course, last night's debate won't change a thing. About a third of the electorate, including I, have already voted. The number of truly undecided voters this cycle wouldn't make a dent in the Tampa Bay Rays fan base. And as the man himself pointed out last night, we're only one Scaramucci (11 days) from the polls closing.

Meanwhile, back in your global pandemic

In all the excitement of the debate, I forgot to mention a couple of local news items that depressed me today:

Also, former US Attorney DIck Schultz talked to the Chicago Tribune and the local NBC affiliate about the Chicago 7 trial. (Watch Aaron Sorkin's Trial of the Chicago 7 to see Joseph Gordon-Leavitt play him.)

OK, really walking Parker and going to bed now...

Long but productive Wednesday

I cracked the code on an application rewrite I last attempted in 2010, so I've spent a lot of my copious free time the past week working on it. I hope to have more to say soon, but software takes time. And when I'm in the zone, I like to stay there. All of which is why it's 9:30 and I have just gotten around to reading all this:

I'm now going to turn off all my screens, walk Parker, and go to bed. (Though I just got the good news that my 8:30 am demo got moved to a later time.)

Late in the evening...

I did a lot today, so I've just gotten around to these stories:

Finally, I may be published in a national magazine next month. Details as I learn them.

Losing by his own rules

Variety reported this morning that Joe Biden had higher ratings than the president last night:

Biden drew 12.7 million total viewers on the Disney-owned network, while Trump drew 10.4 million in the same 9-10 p.m. time slot on NBC. Across the entire runtime, the Biden town hall averaged 12.3 million viewers. In terms of the fast national 18-49 demographic, Biden is comfortably on top with a 2.6 rating to Trump’s 1.7.

(I wonder if anyone has told him yet? Oh, to be a fly on Pence's head during that conversation...)

Apparently things didn't go as planned for the president, either. NBC decided they needed to commit actual journalism:

[D]espite fears that the event would amount to a free promotion for Trump’s campaign, it ended up being one of the toughest grillings he has faced as president, with questions about white supremacy, covid-19 deaths and his taxes.

At one point, after pushing Trump on his retweet of a QAnon-linked conspiracy theory, Guthrie said, “I don’t get that. You’re the president. You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”

When Trump said he wasn’t familiar with QAnon, Guthrie said “you do know,” to which he replied: “No, I don’t know. You tell me all about it. Let’s waste the whole show. Let’s go. Keep asking me these questions.”

After questioning him about his frequent claims of election fraud, Guthrie told him, “There is no evidence of widespread fraud, and you are sowing doubt in our democracy."

The "crazy uncle" comment prompted memes within seconds, of course, most of them with Mary Trump's face on them.

I am not sorry I missed the thing. Biden's, apparently, went pretty smoothly. I really can't wait until we have a calmer White House in January.

Evening news roundup

I dropped off my completed ballot this afternoon, so if Joe Biden turns out to be the devil made flesh, I can't change my vote.

Tonight, the president and Joe Biden will have competing, concurrent town halls instead of debating each other, mainly because the president is an infant. The Daily Parker will not live-blog either one. Instead, I'll whip up a stir-fry and read something.

In other news:

Finally, a pie-wedge-shaped house in Deerfield, Ill., is now on Airbnb for $113 a night. Enjoy.

VP debate reactions

Generally, reactions to last night's debate follow three patterns: Vice President Mike Pence mansplained to Senator Kamala Harris; Harris told the truth significantly more than Pence did; and the fly won. (My favorite reaction, from an unknown Twitter user: "If that fly laid eggs in Pence's hair, he'd better carry them to term.") Other reactions:

  • The Washington Post, NBC, and the BBC fact-checked the most egregious distortions, most of which came from Pence.
  • James Fallows believes "both candidates needed to convince voters they possess the right temperament for the job. Only one pulled it off."

In other news:

  • Following the president's positive Covid-19 test, and Pence's and the president's repeated interruptions and talking over the moderators, the Commission on Presidential Debates has decided the October 15th presidential debate will be virtual. The crybaby-in-chief got angry: "It’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want." ("Speaking to reporters in Delaware, Biden said it was still possible [the president] would show up because 'he changes his mind every second.'")
  • Alex Shephard bemoans "the final message of a dying campaign:" "With his poll numbers collapsing, [the president] keeps adopting dumber and more destructive political messages."
  • The New Yorker dives into "the secret history of Kimberly Guilfoyle's departure from Fox."
  • For total Daily Parker bait, National Geographic explores the Russian military map collection at Indiana University, with 4,000 secret Russian maps drawn between 1883 and 1947, many captured from wartime intelligence services.
  • As today is the 149th anniversary of the Chicago Fire, the Chicago History Today blog looked at the history of the house at 2121 N. Hudson Ave., the only wood-frame building to survive in the burn zone.
  • Speaking of wood fires in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune has yet another ranking of pizzas. Happy lunchtime.

Finally, the FBI arrested six men who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. They didn't get close, but still.

All the president's taxes

The New York Times dropped a bomb over the weekend with its revelation that it obtained 20 years of the president's tax returns. The documents show that either the president is one of the worst businessmen in American history, or he has committed (and indeed may still be committing) one of the largest tax frauds in American history. Actually, it looks like both:

The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise.

Most of Mr. Trump’s core enterprises — from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington — report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year.

His revenue from “The Apprentice” and from licensing deals is drying up, and several years ago he sold nearly all the stocks that now might have helped him plug holes in his struggling properties.

The tax audit looms.

And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.

I've had a security clearance, and let me just say that debt will keep you from getting one. You can be a paid-up member of the Communist Party and have a secret drug stash in your basement and still get a top secret clearance—as long as you have no significant debts and you admit the drug stash in your SF-86. But that's just one of the president's problems, according to the documents:

He appears to have paid off none of the principal of the Trump Tower mortgage, and the full $100 million comes due in 2022. And if he loses his dispute with the I.R.S. over the 2010 refund, he could owe the government more than $100 million (including interest on the original amount).

In the 1990s, Mr. Trump nearly ruined himself by personally guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, and he has since said that he regretted doing so. But he has taken the same step again, his tax records show. He appears to be responsible for loans totaling $421 million, most of which is coming due within four years.

Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president. Whether he wins or loses, he will probably need to find new ways to use his brand — and his popularity among tens of millions of Americans — to make money.

You can predict the reactions. The president called it "fake news," which means it's true. The Wall Street Journal appears to have ignored it—there's not a single story on their main or opinion pages about it at this writing. Fox News highlighted the president's and his press secretary's responses, but below the fold, in small headlines.

On our side, NBC's Jonathan Allen believes this is "devastating for his campaign:"

The vast majority of his base voters won't care whether he paid taxes or lied about being a successful businessman. His ability to pull one over on the public or the government — perhaps both — will be accepted by most of his supporters as evidence of his cunning, his acumen and his strategic brilliance.

But that base is simultaneously Trump's greatest strength and weakness on the electoral battlefield.

His inability to expand beyond his base and court the less strident is the main challengeto his re-election hopes. And the tax records make things worse. The documents reinforce narratives about Trump that fire up Democrats and give pause to Republican-leaning voters who might be persuaded either to cast ballots for Democratic nominee Joe Biden or simply stay home.

So while the tax records don't contain many surprises for those who have paid close attention to Trump's business dealings — and the distance between his boasts and the reality of his record as the head of the firms that make up "Trump Inc." — they do put Trump in a position he would like to have avoided.

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post agrees with me:

For his part, Trump has previously argued that shirking his tax obligations made him “smart.” He suggested that he merely took advantage of legal loopholes, the kind available to deep-pocketed Americans who can afford top-notch tax preparation advice. And as I’ve written before, the real estate industry enjoys tons of loopholes and other opportunities for legally minimizing tax obligations, most notably through depreciation deductions. But per the Times, Trump’s “three European golf courses, the Washington hotel, Doral and Trump Corporation reported losing a total of $150.3 million from 2010 through 2018, without including depreciation as an expense.”

That is: They were money pits.

Additionally, Times reporters Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire include details of tax practices that were, at best, extraordinarily aggressive and, at worst, suggest possible fraud on a massive scale.

These include deducting lifestyle expenses, such as the cost of haircuts, as if they were business expenses. Or appearing to pay Ivanka Trump consulting fees on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father’s business, an arrangement that may have been a way to transfer assets without paying gift taxes.

One might reasonably wonder why Trump, who appears to tweet, watch TV and golf more than he exercises his duties as president, has ever wanted a second term. Well, in addition to his desire to finally build his border wall or continue dodging potential indictments, we now know that Trump has about a half-billion dollars’ worth of motivation to stay in office four more years.

These documents show what we've really known all along: the president has perpetrated the biggest con on the American people in the country's history. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Will this really change the election? Well, a 1% swing in any of the battleground states would have done it four years ago.

In related news, Showtime's The Comey Rule will frustrate the hell out of you. I strongly recommend it.