The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Shakespeare was right

Andrew Sullivan takes a step back and explains, carefully and quietly, the tyrant's mindset:

[T]yranny is not, in its essence, about the authoritarian and administrative skills required to run a country effectively for a long time. Tyrants, after all, are often terrible at this. It is rather about a mindset, as the ancient philosophers understood, with obvious political consequences. It’s a pathology. It requires no expertise in anything other than itself.

You need competence if you want to run an effective government, or plan a regular campaign, or master policy with a view to persuading people, or hold power for the sake of something else. You need competence to create and sustain something. But you do not need much competence to destroy things. You just need the will. And this is what tyrants do: they destroy things.

This is Trump’s threat. Not the construction of a viable one-party state, but the destruction of practices, norms, civility, laws, customs and procedures that constitute liberal democracy’s non-zero-sum genius. He doesn’t need to be competent to destroy our system of government. He merely needs to be himself: an out-of-control, trust-free, malignant narcissist, with inexhaustible resources of psychic compulsion, in a pluralist system designed for the opposite. All you need is an insatiable pathological drive to avoid any constraint on your own behavior, and the demagogic genius to carry a critical mass of people with you, and our system, designed as the antidote to tyranny, is soon unspooling into incoherence, deadlock, and collapse.

In every Shakespeare play about tyranny — from Richard III to Coriolanus to Macbeth — the tyrant loses in the end, and often quite quickly. They’re not that competent at governing, or even interested in it. The forces they unleash come back to wipe them from the stage, sooner or later. They flame out. Richard III lasted a mere couple of years on the throne.

But in every case, they leave a wrecked and reeling society in their wake. Look around you now and see the damage already done.

He then goes into the normal panic of everyone watching this election unfold, but until that point, he's absolutely correct. The president has no genius other than his own self-preservation; and if I seem angry, it's because this fact is obvious to anyone who has studied history.

Why is anyone listening to this clown?

In an interview yesterday, the president refused to say that he would allow a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election. Understandably, people are upset that a sitting president would hint at doing anything else. But as Josh Marshall points out, this guy lies more easily than most people breathe, so maybe we don't need to freak out as much as we are:

No one needs to tell us these threats and bogus claims are wrong. But it is still necessary to step back and realize that there’s no chaos. We are on the cusp of what should be an entirely orderly election process. There’s zero evidence there has been or will be any election fraud of any sort. Not only is there no evidence any of this is happening we have abundant, really incontrovertible evidence that organized election fraud is all but unknown in modern American electoral history. It simply doesn’t happen. Period. There’s zero reason to believe the Supreme Court or any Court will be required to decide the outcome of the election or make decisions which significantly affect the outcome.

That doesn’t mean everything is fine. This false drama and lying is all meant to set the stage for things that are very real. Certainly not to justify – but even for those of us who are gripping on to the sinews of our democracy with every strength, it creates a sense of forward motion, inevitability, disorder. But the reality check is still helpful, critical, necessary. Because none of it is really. It’s a storm of drama, completely fictive, to set the stage for an unpopular President to reject the results of an election that ends his presidency.

Even Mitch McConnell knows the president is more full of shit than a trainload of fertilizer. If the president or the GOP really had the power to steal this election, they wouldn't have to talk about it so much.

So, my fellow members of the Democratic Party, can we please just stop hyperventilating and get on with kicking this guy out of office through good old-fashioned voting? Everyone knows he's losing, including him and all of his cronies. That's why they're grabbing every bit of power they can with both hands while they still have time. That's why they're trying to jam through a nominee to the Supreme Court in an unprecedented time and manner.

Holy shit, folks. Let's start acting like the winners we are and get the Republican Party out of power until they can behave like grown-ups.

Long day, long six weeks ahead

Choral board meeting followed by chorus rehearsal: all on Zoom, and as president and generally techy guy, I'm hosting. After a full day of work and a 5 km walk. Whew.

So what's new?

Finally, if you want to be a Cook County Judge of Election, you can still sign up—and earn $230.

Better Know a Ballot

Talk-show host Stephen Colbert has set up a website called Better Know a Ballot where you can check on the voting requirements for your state. He's producing videos for each state (starting with North Carolina) to explain the rules.

That's the bright spot of joy for you today. Here are other...spots...of something:

OK, one more bit of good news: The Economist reported this week that the southern hemisphere had almost no flu cases this winter, because pandemic response measures work on influenza just as they work on Covid-19.

The Reagan Test

Author John Scalzi asks the question Reagan asked 40 years ago, and concludes he's worse off than he was in 2016:

In 1980, which is now — Jesus — 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan asked a question of the American people: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Reagan asked this question because he was running for president against Jimmy Carter, and it was in his interest to make the election a referendum on the incumbent. And while it would be inaccurate to say the question won Reagan the White House, it is accurate to say the question was a particularly useful framing device for Reagan: It took the election campaign and set it on personal terms for every voter, in a way they could easily quantify and apply to their own lives.

Now it’s 2020, and Donald Trump is president and running for re-election, and aside from any over-arching political issues with, or my own personal opinion of, the man, I think it will be interesting and useful to apply Reagan’s question to my own personal life: am I, in fact, better off today than I was four years ago?

My income has been stable for the last four years, thanks mainly to contracts signed more than four years ago. Like the economy at large (until the coronavirus struck, at least), my generally robust economic condition was a continuation of Obama-era practices and strategies, rather than new conditions.

Four years ago, I could leave my house without wearing a mask (I mean, I guess I could leave the house without one, if I was an asshole who didn’t care about the health and safety of others as well as myself, but I’m not, so I wear a mask).

Four years ago I could go to a restaurant or see a movie or go to a party or get on a plane without worrying about possibly contracting a disease that could put me on a respirator, kill me or give me serious, chronic, long-term health issues.

Four years ago I didn’t worry whether my access to the services and function of the federal government, in an emergency or at all other times, would be contingent upon whether the president had decided someone in my state state was his friend or his foe, or had flattered him enough that he felt inclined to do the job that he was in fact required to do, by law and by the Constitution.

If one of the most successful writers in America is worse off today, how are you doing?

Lunchtime Tuesday

I put on a long-sleeved shirt to walk Parker this morning, and I'm about to change into a polo. It's a lovely early-autumn day here in Chicago. Elsewhere...

Finally, the city received over 600 submissions from 13 countries on how to have outdoor dining in a Chicago winter.

Hazy shade of wildfires

Smoke from the wildfires out west reached Chicago yesterday:

It’s not unusual for smoke from various regions to reach northern Illinois, especially from larger fires, according to Mark Ratzer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Chicago-area office.

Smoke from fires hundreds of miles away can billow high into the atmosphere and get carried to other regions by jet streams and winds aloft, causing cloudier skies and slightly cooler temperatures. Mid- and upper-level winds were carrying smoke this week from the West and Northwest into the Chicago area, creating the same effect.

“It’s not that it’s affecting our air quality (at the) surface,” Ratzer said. “You’re not able to smell it or anything like that, but it has created kind of a smoke layer aloft which is keeping the sun rather dim.”

It shows up pretty clearly from space, as do hurricanes Sally (over Louisiana) and Paulette (near Bermuda):

The president, meanwhile, suggests that the states go on to federal land and rake up some of the undergrowth to prevent fires. Because of course, it couldn't be climate change.

Slow news day? In 2020? Ha!

Just a few of the things that crossed my desktop this morning:

And last night, Cubs pitcher Alec Mills threw the club's 16th no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 315 no-hitters. The last time the Cubs won a no-hitter was 51 years ago.

Afternoon news break

Here we go:

Finally, for only $875,000, you can own this contemporary, 2-story house...on top of an 8-story building.

How is it already 4pm?

I've had an unusually busy (and productive!) day, so naturally, the evening reading has piled up:

Finally, National Geographic has a slideshow of the world's best ghost towns.