The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Deligitimization

Happy new year! Or, as many of my friends have posted on social media, happy January, only 20 days until the new year!

Of course what they mean has to do with this:

President Donald Trump spent his first days in office pushing false claims about the size of his inauguration crowd.

He has spent the final weeks of his term blitzing the American people with falsehoods and far-fetched conspiracies as part of a failed attempt to overturn the election he lost — cementing his legacy as what fact checkers and presidential historians say is the most mendacious White House occupant ever.

“I have never seen a president in American history who has lied so continuously and so outrageously as Donald Trump, period,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said in an interview. “Dwight Eisenhower used to say one of the most important tools a president of the United States has is that people believe what he says.”

“After two centuries, it is impressive that Americans still are inclined to believe what a president tells them, especially at a moment of crisis,” Beschloss said. “When a president breaks that bond of trust with the American people, it makes it harder for future presidents to have the kind of moral authority that enables them to protect us.”

NBC News has fact-checked Trump for more than four years. Based on thousands of hours of reporting and hundreds of reported fact checks, four issues stand above the rest as the falsehoods that define the Trump presidency.

Republican speech writer Michael Gerson also has some choice things to say about the latest mendacity, but more in criticism of US Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who intends to challenge the Electoral College certification on Wednesday. Sauce for the gander, I say.

Meanwhile, here in Chicago, the New Year has begun with what we call "wintry mix" and everyone else calls "why would you want to live someplace where this happens." But like Punxatawney Phil, if a Chicagoan doesn't see his shadow on January 1st, that means we'll have a mild winter.

Last lunchtime roundup of the year?

We're so close to ending 2020 that I can almost taste it. (I hope to be tasting tacos in a few minutes, however.) True to form, 2020 has apparently decided not to leave quietly:

Finally, the Washington Post's Michael Rosenwald reports that Bloom asked 28 historians to determine whether 2020 was the worst year ever. It wasn't even close.

How we got here

The New Yorker next week has Lawrence Wright's excellent long-form history of "the mistakes and the struggles behind America's coronavirus tragedy:"

There are three moments in the yearlong catastrophe of the covid-19 pandemic when events might have turned out differently. The first occurred on January 3, 2020, when Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke with George Fu Gao, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which was modelled on the American institution. Redfield had just received a report about an unexplained respiratory virus emerging in the city of Wuhan.

Redfield is convinced that, had C.D.C. specialists visited China in early January, they would have learned exactly what the world was facing. The new pathogen was a coronavirus, and as such it was thought to be only modestly contagious, like its cousin the sars virus. This assumption was wrong. The virus in Wuhan turned out to be far more infectious, and it spread largely by asymptomatic transmission. “That whole idea that you were going to diagnose cases based on symptoms, isolate them, and contact-trace around them was not going to work,” Redfield told me recently. “You’re going to be missing fifty per cent of the cases. We didn’t appreciate that until late February.” The first mistake had been made, and the second was soon to happen.

What are the odds that we can avoid a cock-up this bad in future? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Destructo-Beast of the West Wing

The STBXPOTUS has, in the words of Greg Sargent, "detonated a truth bomb in the Georgia US Senate runoffs:"

By abruptly calling for $2,000 stimulus checks on Tuesday night, Trump inadvertently exposed core truths about the consequences of continued GOP control of the Senate — ones that Republicans are working to conceal — and about the post-Trump Republican Party in general.

In the video that Trump tweeted, he threatened to wreck the carefully negotiated settlement that led Congress to pass a $900 billion economic rescue package. He insisted that its $600 stimulus checks are insufficient and called on lawmakers to increase the payment to $2,000.

Trump’s threat not to sign the deal makes a government shutdown more likely, and it puts congressional Republicans who supported it in a terrible spot. As one GOP observer noted, Trump “just pulled down the pants of every Republican who voted for it.”

As much as I must now go scrub my brain with wire wool to remove the image of any US Senators from either party with their pants down, the guy gave the Democrats a popcorn moment like no other. When I first heard the story this morning I wondered which failed human being in the White House wound him up. Someone had to write the speech for him.

As Sargent pointed out,

It will be perversely amusing if Loeffler and Perdue are willing to stick with Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of the American people — they continue to refuse to say he lost — but not willing to support his call for more economic aid to them.

The bottom line is that the story of the past nine months confirms that orthodox conservative opposition to big spending — even to help Americans suffering amid two of the biggest crises of the modern era — has been the main obstacle to assistance for them. Trump has laid this bare.

I have no earthly idea what the White House hopes to accomplish. The STBXPOTUS doesn't usually play a long game, given his normal attention span of four to six seconds. It occurs to me, though, that with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, he will have a much easier time of running against us in 2024.

Still, the whole thing confuses me—and probably the Loeffler and Perdue campaigns as well.

All hail the mediocre white guy!

US Senator-elect Tom "Tubs" Tuberville (R-AL), who rose to mediocrity as a college football coach, continues to show those characteristics of white male entitlement that everyone else in the world envies. Namely: abject stupidity. Dana Milibank fills in some of the details:

Tubs, if he were a Democrat, is what Trump might call a “low-IQ individual.” In their wisdom, the voters of Alabama chose to replace Democrat Doug Jones, who prosecuted the Birmingham church bombing, with a man who recently announced his discovery that there are “three branches of government,” namely, “the House, the Senate and the executive.”

In an interview with the Alabama Daily News, he also offered the insight that World War II was not, as many suppose, a conflict against Nazism. “My dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism,” he said.

He further informed the newspaper that “in 2000 Al Gore was president, United States, president-elect, for 30 days.” (Actual number of days Gore spent as president-elect: zero.)

Tubs' latest plan is to object to the counting of Electoral College votes in the Joint Session of Congress on January 6th. Assuming a member of the House joins in the objection, this will have the crippling effect of delaying the count for two hours while the Senate and House debate the objection. Then Vice President Mike Pence will certify Biden's win, and Tubs will become another footnote in history, spending the next six years aggressively protecting his place in the world as a mediocre white guy who got rewarded for it.

Putin finally gives us the punchline

You have to admire Vladimir Putin's sense of humor. For five years, he's manipulated our STBXPOTUS into doing just about everything Russia could have wanted. Now that our STBXPOTUS has become STBX, Putin doesn't need him anymore. So why not come clean?

He did just that at his year-end press conference last Thursday:

Steve Rosenberg, BBC: Don't you think over the last years you also have borne part of the responsibility for making these relations [with Europe and the West] seem like a cold war...?

Putin: Who withdrew from the missile defense treaties? The INT treaty: who withdrew? It wasn't us but it was the US. ... You do realize that we are smart people, we are not idiots.

Here's the whole clip. The part in question starts at 44:17.

It really warms the heart that our STBXPOTUS never got to the level of artistry and malice Putin can exhibit so casually. He calls our president an idiot, with good evidence to support the insult, while lying on a scale the target of the insult can scarcely fathom.

Also, I love that the French spell his name "Poutine." But that's just an accident of the French language.

Today is slightly longer than yesterday

The December solstice happened about 8 hours ago, which means we'll have slightly more daylight today than we had yesterday. Today is also the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's meeting with Richard Nixon in the White House.

More odd things of note:

Finally, it's very likely you've made out with a drowning victim from the 19th century.

The longest night of 2020

If you live in the northern hemisphere, tonight will last longer than any of the 365 others in 2020. Sunsets have gotten later by a few seconds a day since the 8th, but sunrises have also gotten later and will continue to do so until just before perihelion on January 4th.

We're also only a month from Joe Biden's inauguration. Almost everyone in the Western world and quite a few outside it have felt more relaxed and less stressed in the last six weeks, and will feel even better once the STBXPOTUS loses his public-interest protections on Twitter.

Meanwhile, we've only got a few hours before the Federal Government shuts down, because Republicans in the US Senate didn't really care about Covid-19 relief until the January 5th runoff elections in Georgia got too tight for comfort. Help Doug Perdue, yes; help 30 million Americans, no. That's today's GOP. Even if we manage to get the bill through, the STBXPOTUS has lost all connection to reality and may not sign it.

The bill as it stands calls for about $900 billion in "stimulus," even though we can't actually spend money where we need to spend it to save our restaurants and restaurant workers. As economist Paul Krugman points out, giving people $600 or $1200 checks won't help; we need enhanced unemployment benefits, which puts the money in the most needful hands. He also asks, "why is there a limit on the amount of aid?" He explains:

Republicans appear willing to make a deal because they fear that complete stonewalling will hurt them in the Georgia Senate runoffs. But they are determined to keep the deal under a trillion dollars, hence the reported $900 billion price tag.

That trillion-dollar cap, however, makes no sense. The amount we spend on emergency relief should be determined by how much aid is needed, not by the sense that $1 trillion is a scary number.

For affordability isn’t a real issue right now. The U.S. government borrowed more than $3 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year; investors were happy to lend it that money, at remarkably low interest rates. In fact, the real interest rate on U.S. debt — the rate adjusted for inflation — has lately been consistently negative, which means that the additional debt won’t even create a major future burden.

And even economists who worry about deficits normally agree that it’s appropriate to run big deficits in the face of national emergencies. If a pandemic that is still keeping around 10 million workers unemployed isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.

So, yes, the longest night of the year might also see yet another Republican-sponsored government shutdown. But the longest night of the year means tomorrow night will be a few seconds shorter, and 9 nights later, 2020 will end.

Two weeks left in 2020

We're in the home stretch. We have 14 days until 2021 starts, and 32 days until the Biden Administration takes office. As Andrew Sullivan said in his column today, 2021 is going to be epic. Meanwhile:

And watch this blog for information about the Apollo Chorus of Chicago's final performance of 2020.

Stupid is as stupid does

Welcome to the (abbreviated) lunchtime roundup:

Finally, Julie Nolke for the fourth time explains the pandemic to her past self.