The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Mr Vice President, kick your boss to the curb now

The House of Representatives have started debate on a resolution to ask Vice President Mike Pence to start the process of removing the STBXPOTUS under the 25th Amendment. As you might imagine, this was not the only news story today:

Finally, the always-funny Alexandra Petri imagines what people who have never read Orwell believe his books actually say.

Unemployment insurance fraud at record levels

The expansion of unemployment benefits combined with sensible precautions against transmission of Covid-19 have made criminals' lives much easier:

From March through the end of November, there have been more than 2 million initial claims filed for regular state unemployment benefits, according to the agency. That figure excludes people filing claims under five federal pandemic jobless aid programs the state implemented last year.

The agency has said the rise in unemployment fraud is likely due to large corporate data breaches and is not the result of any state system breaches. Past breaches including one in 2017 involving Equifax exposed the personal data of millions of people, including names, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses number, dates of births, addresses and credit card information.

People who have not filed for benefits but receive a letter from the state unemployment agency saying a claim has been filed under their name should immediately report it through the IDES website or by calling 800-814-0513.

Don't even get me started on the calls about my car's warranty...

Calmer today as the Derpnazis return home

We had a relatively quiet day yesterday, but only in comparison to the day before:

Meanwhile, here in Chicago:

Finally, Bruce Schneier advises the incoming administration on how to deal with the SolarWinds intrusion.

See? Yesterday was quiet.

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.

I'm screaming in my head

The Times continues its coverage of the SolarWinds breach, and adds a detail that explains why the Russians continue to eat our lunch:

Employees say that under [SolarWinds CEO Kevin] Thompson, an accountant by training and a former chief financial officer, every part of the business was examined for cost savings and common security practices were eschewed because of their expense. His approach helped almost triple SolarWinds’ annual profit margins to more than $453 million in 2019 from $152 million in 2010.

But some of those measures may have put the company and its customers at greater risk for attack. SolarWinds moved much of its engineering to satellite offices in the Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus, where engineers had broad access to the Orion network management software that Russia’s agents compromised.

So many things went wrong in this case that singling out one CEO for taking profits over security may seem myopic. But the SVR must love the poetry of it: a greedy American CEO tries to increase his paycheck by hiring engineers easy for them to compromise, leading to the largest network intrusion in history.

I want to see Congress investigate this, and I want to see Thompson reduced to penury for his greed. Not that anything will change; until we have rational regulation of software security—hell, until we have any regulation of software security—criminals and our adversaries will keep exploiting companies like SolarWinds.

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.

New batch of public-domain works

All works published before 1 January 1926 have now entered the public domain:

1925 was the year of heralded novels by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf, seminal works by Sinclair Lewis, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, Agatha Christie, Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton, Aldous Huxley ... and a banner year for musicians, too. Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, the Gershwins, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, among hundreds of others, made important recordings. And 1925 marked the release of canonical movies from silent film comedians Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd.

As of today, every single one of those works has entered the public domain. "That means that copyright has expired," explains Jennifer Jenkins, a law professor at Duke University who directs its Center for the Study of the Public Domain. "And all of the works are free for anyone to use, reuse, build upon for anyone — without paying a fee."

On January 1 every year, a new batch of published works is liberated from the constraints of copyright. (For a long time, copyright expired after 75 years, but in 1998, Congress extended the date of copyright expiration for works published between 1923 and 1977 to 95 years.) It's difficult to overstate the importance of having work in the public domain. For example, can you imagine the holidays without It's A Wonderful Life? That movie happened to be unprotected by copyright, so it was able to be shown — a lot — for free, contributing to its establishment as an American Christmas classic.

In an article about this year's Public Domain Day, Jenkins discusses everything from the changes in length of copyright to a fascinating story about the copyright of Hitler's Mein Kampf, which also enters the public domain this year. (A dizzyingly exhaustive list of works from 1925 now in the public domain can be found here.)

I will once again raise my objections to the Mickey Mouse Preservation Act of 1998. The Constitution allows for "limited" protections; 75 years is quite enough, thank you.

Good morning!

Just an hour or so into the first business day of 2021, and morning news had a few stories that grabbed my attention:

Finally, don't eat icicles. They're basically frozen bird poop.