The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Hot enough for ya?

I'm in New York for a friend's wedding this weekend, so light posting, depending on what blows up in Washington tonight. Josh Marshall is already in total freak-out mode. But President Trump tends not to do any work over the weekend, or in the evenings, or at all.

Anyway, regular posting returns Monday.

If Clinton had won

Nate Silver dives into a parallel universe with a thoughtful examination of alternative facts:

Clinton did manage one significant political accomplishment: getting Merrick Garland appointed to the Supreme Court. With the court set to consider a slate of landmark cases this year on matters including redistricting and abortion, the importance of that achievement should not be understated. But it came at a price. The deal she struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which gave him input on several Cabinet appointments in exchange for his finding a few Republicans to back Garland, has come back to haunt her. The McConnell-approved choices, such as Attorney General Joe Lieberman and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, have often seemed to side more with congressional Republicans than with the White House. Furthermore, the deal meant Clinton paid for something — the Senate’s approval of well-qualified Cabinet and court picks — that other presidents have gotten for free.

Despite the roadblocks in Congress, Clinton does have the powers of the executive branch and all that entails. But since Democrats had already held the White House for eight years, there aren’t many presidential actions Clinton can take that Obama didn’t pursue already. Mostly, she’s been left to preserve his legacy, which Trump or another Republican president surely would have attempted to dismantle, especially in areas such as immigration, drug policy and criminal justice — and perhaps most importantly, Obamacare, which Trump repeatedly pledged to “repeal and replace” on the campaign trail. Fairly or not, it’s been hard for Clinton to get a lot of credit from the Democratic base for not undoing things as opposed to doing new things, and although she remains broadly popular with Democrats (with an 85 percent approval rating), her enthusiasm numbers are tepid.

The whole thing is worth a read.

I've heard Alzheimer's patients make more sense

Yesterday, the New York Times published an interview with President Trump that no president in history could have given. It contains so many wild assertions and outright lies that its value to the public may only be in its demonstration of the man's mendacity:

Mr. Trump rebutted [former FBI director James] Comey’s claim that in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on Feb. 14, the president asked him to end the investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.

Mr. Comey testified before Congress that Mr. Trump kicked the vice president, attorney general and several other senior administration officials out of the room before having the discussion with Mr. Comey.

“I don’t remember even talking to him about any of this stuff,” Mr. Trump said. “He said I asked people to go. Look, you look at his testimony. His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”

He expressed no second thoughts about firing Mr. Comey, saying, “I did a great thing for the American people.”

Uh huh. But that's nothing compared with this:

But Mr. Trump left little doubt during the interview that the Russia investigation remained a sore point. His pique at [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, in particular, seemed fresh even months after the attorney general’s recusal. Mr. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Mr. Trump’s candidacy and was rewarded with a key cabinet slot, but has been more distant from the president lately.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” he added. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”

Mr. Trump also faulted Mr. Sessions for his testimony during Senate confirmation hearings when Mr. Sessions said he had not had “communications with the Russians” even though he had met at least twice with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. “Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers,” the president said. “He gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

The president with fewer legislative accomplishments to his name than William Henry Harrison has outdone Ronald Reagan in incoherence and lack of focus:

He has turned completely against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of his staunchest loyalists, who he now blames for essentially launching the Russia probe. He is also lashing out at Rod Rosenstein. Sessions and Rosenstein, were complicit, substantively if not legally, in firing FBI Director James Comey, what I believe is to date the greatest impeachable offense of his Presidency.  He is setting out the terms upon which he will fire Robert Mueller. He inexplicably admitted to using his second conversation with Vladimir Putin to discuss the issues that had come up a year ago in that Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr.

You’ve heard about those. What I was almost more interested was the litany of bizarre and often inexplicable statements and claims that came before he even got to those issues. So I took a moment to annotate each of these passages …

We're not shocked anymore by the President's flaws, but maybe we should be. Because this is not a man in control of himself, his job, or his life. This is a deeply disturbed, possibly mentally-ill person, who shouldn't run a lemonade stand, let alone the most powerful country the world has ever seen.

Why did Trump meet Putin alone?

The Post's Aaron Blake has three possibilities, which are not mutually exclusive:

1. There is something nefarious going on

If there is something nefarious going on, a private, undisclosed conversation that was reportedly out of earshot of other world leaders would be a great place to do it. And given the Russian government's and Trump's track records, it's not like we're going to get a straight answer on what they talked about.

2. Trump is oblivious to how this might be perceived

I've framed many of Trump's actions under the rubric of Adam Carolla's “Stupid or Liar” theory before. This reason would be the “stupid” part of that equation.

3. Trump is simply addicted to causing controversy and/or sees it as a GOP base play

[A]t this point, Trump and his team have to be wondering: What's the payoff? What is he really getting out of it? Trump's approval rating is the lowest in modern presidential history, the GOP-controlled Congress hasn't passed any signature legislation, his party split on one of his major promises on the health-care bill, and all Trump has to show for it is a mostly intact group of Republican voters who say they still like him.

I'm betting on all three, though #2 may be the root cause.

The End is Nigh?

The Post's Dana Milbank thinks that President Trump's polling numbers—already the lowest for any president since polling began 70 years ago—are about to get worse:

I asked The Post’s polling chief, Scott Clement, to run a regression analysis testing how views of the economy shape overall support for Trump when other variables such as party are held constant. The result was powerful: People who approve of his handling of the economy are 40 or 50 percentage points more likely to approve of him overall. While views of the economy closely correlate with partisanship, this means, all things being equal, that Trump’s overall approval rating should drop four or five points for each 10-point drop in views of his economic performance. Because Trump supporters are largely unconcerned with his personal antics, economic woes — not the Russia scandal or zany tweets — are what would doom Trump in public opinion.

The problem for Trump is many of his populist promises are starting to look fraudulent.

So what happens if — and when — Trump’s core backers discover that they’ve been had: They’re losing health-care coverage and other benefits, while manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and a Trump-ignited trade war is hurting U.S. exports?

Meanwhile, New Republic's Bryce Covert suggests how Democrats could change the conversation:

If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump’s empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one. It’s time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party’s platform. This is the type of simple, straightforward plan that Democrats need in order to connect with Americans who struggle to survive in the twenty-first-century economy. And while a big, New Deal–style government program might seem like a nonstarter in this day and age—just look at the continuing battle over the Affordable Care Act—a jobs guarantee isn’t actually so far-fetched.

Americans overwhelmingly want to work: Most people say they get a sense of identity from their job and would keep working even if they won the lottery. Joblessness is even associated with poorer mental and physical health for entire families—not working appears to make us sick. And there’s already strong support for a jobs guarantee: In a 2014 poll, 47 percent said they favor such a program. A jobs guarantee holds the promise not just of jobs for all, but of a stronger and more productive economy for everyone. The biggest obstacle, in fact, might be the Democratic Party’s own timidity.

A Federal jobs program and universal health care? What's next, rising productivity and declining inequality? Haul up the drawbridges!

Still, it's going to be a long 1,282 days.

How civil wars happen

Paul Krugman was inspired by his CUNY colleague Branko Mlianovic to think about our current partisan divide as a bloodless civil war:

Branko – who knows something about Yugoslavia! – argues against the view that civil wars are caused by deep divisions between populations who don’t know each other. The causation, he argues, goes the other way: when a civil war begins for whatever reason, that’s when the lines between the groups are drawn, and what may have been minor, fairly benign differences become irreconcilable gulfs.

[A] large segment of the population was no longer hearing the same news – basically not experiencing the same account of reality – as the rest of us. So what had been real but not extreme differences became extreme differences in political outlook.

In the long run, it makes you wonder whether and how we can get the country we used to be back. As Branko says, there was a time when Serbs and Croats seemed to get along fairly well, indeed intermarrying at a high rate. But could anyone now put Yugoslavia back together? At this rate, we’ll soon be asking the same question about America.

Bloodless so far, he points out.

Friday afternoon link round-up

While I'm trying to figure out how to transfer one database to another, I'm putting these aside for later reading:

Back to database analysis and design...

Why the ACA repeal effort is failing

Krugman nails it:

Believe it or not, conservatives actually do have a more or less coherent vision of health care. It’s basically pure Ayn Rand: if you’re sick or poor, you’re on your own, and those who are more fortunate have no obligation to help. In fact, it’s immoral to demand that they help.

This is a coherent doctrine; it’s what conservative health care “experts” say when they aren’t running for public office, or closely connected to anyone who is. I think it’s a terrible doctrine – both cruel and wrong in practice, because buying health care isn’t and can’t be like buying furniture. Still, if Republicans had run on this platform and won, we’d have to admit that the public agrees.

But think of how Republicans have actually run against Obamacare. They’ve lambasted the law for not covering everyone, even though their fundamental philosophy is NOT to cover everyone, or accept any responsibility for the uninsured. They’ve denied that their massive cuts to Medicaid are actually cuts, pretending to care about the people they not-so-privately consider moochers.

The trouble they’re having therefore has nothing to do with tactics, or for that matter with Trump. It’s what happens when many years of complete fraudulence come up against reality.

This is the same adolescent fantasy drove Eddie Lampert to destroy Sears.

Immense iceberg floating free in the South Atlantic

A 5,800 km² iceberg broke free of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica yesterday. That's not a good thing:

“It is a really major event in terms of the size of the ice tablet that we’ve got now drifting away,” said Anna Hogg, an expert in satellite observations of glaciers from the University of Leeds. 

At 5,800 sq km the new iceberg, expected to be dubbed A68, is half as big as the record-holding iceberg B-15 which split off from the Ross ice shelf in the year 2000, but it is nonetheless believed to be among the 10 largest icebergs ever recorded.

But while the birth of the huge iceberg might look dramatic, experts say it will not itself result in sea level rises. “It’s like your ice cube in your gin and tonic – it is already floating and if it melts it doesn’t change the volume of water in the glass by very much at all,” said Hogg.

Now at the mercy of the ocean currents, the newly calved iceberg could last for decades, depending on whether it enters warmer waters or bumps into other icebergs or ice shelves.

The Larsen C calving yesterday wasn't necessarily caused by global warming, but it didn't help. Now we just wait and see if the entire Larsen C shelf goes into the ocean in the next few years. Meanwhile, be careful boating off Patagonia for the next few years.

The low-down on Robert Moses and the Southern State

Robert Moses was well known as a bigot during his lifetime. But there has always been some question about a story Robert Caro told in his 1974 biography of Moses, The Power Broker. In his book, Caro said that Moses deliberately designed the bridges along Long Island's Southern State Parkway too low for buses to keep "those people" out of Jones Beach.

Well, Cornell historian Thomas J. Campanella has analyzed data from the era and concluded...Caro was probably right:

There is little question that Moses held patently bigoted views. But to what extent were those prejudices embedded in his public works? Very much so, according to Caro, who described Moses as “the most racist human being I had ever really encountered.” The evidence is legion: minority neighborhoods bulldozed for urban renewal projects; simian-themed details in a Harlem playground; elaborate attempts to discourage non-whites from certain parks and pools. He complained of his works sullied by “that scum floating up from Puerto Rico.”

But Moses was complex. He gave Harlem a glorious pool and play center—now Jackie Robinson Park—one of the best public works of the New Deal era anywhere in the United States.

And contrary to a claim in The Power Broker, Moses clearly meant buses to serve his “little Jones Beach” in the Rockaways—Jacob Riis Park. While oriented mainly toward motorists (the parking lot was once the largest in the world), it is simply not true that New Yorkers without cars were excluded. The original site plan included bus drop-off zones, and photographs from the era plainly show buses loading and unloading passengers.

Limiting my search to only those arched stone or brick-clad structures in place or under construction when Moses began work on the Southern State, I recorded clearances for a total of 20 bridges, viaducts and overpasses: 7 on the Bronx River Parkway (completed in 1925); 6 on the initial portion of the Saw Mill River Parkway (1926) and 7 on the Hutchinson River Parkway (begun in 1924 and opened in 1927). I then took measure of the 20 original bridges and overpasses on the Southern State Parkway, from its start at the city line in Queens to the Wantagh Parkway, the first section to open (on November 7, 1927) and the portion used to reach Jones Beach. The verdict? It appears that Sid Shapiro was right.

Overall, clearances are substantially lower on the Moses parkway, averaging just 2.73 m (eastbound), against 3.08 m on the Hutchinson and 3.13 m on the Saw Mill. Even on the Bronx River Parkway—a road championed by an infamous racist, Madison Grant, author of the 1916 best seller The Passing of the Great Race—clearances averaged 2.94 m.

It's a very pretty road. But clearly, Moses didn't intend it for the masses.