The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Anniversaries of blunders in presidential politics

On this day 4 years ago, the Cubs won the World Series. Just six days later, we experienced one of the worst things ever to happen in US presidential politics.

It turns out, today is the anniversary of other horrible things that happened to the Presidency:

  • In 1795, James K Polk was born.
  • In 1865, Warren G Harding was born.
  • In 1948, Dewey defeated Truman defeated Dewey. (At least this one turned out OK.)

I'm going into tomorrow a great deal more optimistic than I've felt in years. Tonight I'll have a run-down of the races I plan to watch tomorrow, though we may not know for days what the final results will be. For example, because we need to know the total number of votes cast to determine whether Illinois' Fair Tax Amendment passes, we can't know the final outcome until the 17th.

As of this morning, The Economist has lowered Biden's chances of winning from 96% to 95%, and 538 has Biden at 90%. The president can still win. I just don't think he will.

By the way, I was not wrong about the outcome of the last election.

Day of the Dead

Fifty years ago today, the Grateful Dead released American Beauty:

There are countless versions of the Grateful Dead to tap into, hundreds of bootlegs and remastered live recordings to queue up. Many bona fide Deadheads would say it's not even worth bothering with the studio recordings. But American Beauty, released Nov. 1, 1970, and lined with back-to-back classics that earned them the title of the great American jam band, stands out from all the rest.

Meanwhile, yesterday set a couple more milestones that historians will talk about 50 years from now:

  • Tropical Storm Eta became the 28th named storm of the North Atlantic hurricane season, setting a new record. Hurricane season officially ends a month from today.
  • More than 91 million people have already voted in this election, about 2/3 of the total ballots cast (136.5 m) in 2016.
  • The monthly average water level in the Lake Michigan-Huron system finally dipped below last year's levels, following 9 straight months of record or near-record levels.

Only 60 shopping days left until we finally exit this bizarre and horrible year.

Political news out of London

The UK Labour Party has suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn after an independent report found he presided over, and did nothing about, an increase in anti-Semitism in the Party:

The suspension was provoked by a statement from Corbyn that rejected the overall conclusions of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report, saying the problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents and the media.

That statement set the former Labour leader directly at odds with his successor. Moments after Corbyn’s statement was released, [current Labour leader Sir Keir] Starmer spoke at a press conference where he said those who “deny there is a problem are part of the problem … Those who pretend it is exaggerated or factional are part of the problem.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission report found Labour responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination over antisemitism. It cites “serious failings in the Labour party leadership in addressing antisemitism and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints”.

However, the former Labour leader said he had been obstructed by party officials in trying to tackle the issue. “One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media."

When a party leader takes his party into the worst election defeat in a generation, while doing nothing about systemic problems in the party that contributed to that loss, there is usually a reckoning. The only thing the failed leader can do at that point is show contrition, or be sacked. I hope the US Republican Party undergoes a similar realignment next year, for similar reasons.

He's both a mod and a rocker

Jennifer Rubin (a Republican, I keep having to remind myself) finds former President Obama's mockery of the current president impressive and effective:

In Orlando on Tuesday, Obama told the crowd, “Our current president, he whines that ’60 Minutes’ is too tough,” he said referring to Trump’s walking out of an interview last week with CBS News’s Lesley Stahl. “You think he’s going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl’s a bully.” He does not need to say Trump is a “crybaby” or “weak”; he lets Trump indict himself with his own conduct.

Obama does not need to label Trump “nuts” or a “conspiracy monger.” Again, Obama simply needs to point out what Trump has done and asks the audience whether it’s normal. “[Our] president of the United States retweeted a post that claimed that the Navy SEALs didn’t actually kill [Osama] bin Laden. Think about that. And we act like, well, okay. It’s not okay.” He added: “We’ve gotten so numb to what is bizarre behavior. We have a president right now who lies multiple times a day, and this is not my claim. Even Fox News sometimes says, well, what he says, isn’t really true, he didn’t mean it. It’s not normal behavior. We wouldn’t tolerate it from a coworker. We wouldn’t tolerate it from a football coach. We wouldn’t tolerate it from a high school principal. I mean, we might have to put up with it if it was a family member, but we talk about them afterward.”

With his relaxed body language and humorous delivery, Obama conveys in these short vignettes what pundits and psychologists have spent years analyzing. In doing so, he makes clear to those who do not follow politics routinely that this is not hard. You don’t have to be a political junkie or policy wonk to figure out something is very, very wrong with Trump.

And here we are, six days until the election, with the following polls-of-polls:

Know hope.

* Florida matters, because they will count all their ballots on the 3rd—in fact, they're already counting them. If Florida's 29 votes go to Biden, the president's path to re-election becomes nearly impossible.

One week to go

The first polls close in the US next Tuesday in Indiana at 6 pm EST (5 pm Chicago time, 22:00 UTC) and the last ones in Hawaii and Alaska at 7pm HST and 8pm AKST respectively (11 pm in Chicago, 05:00 UTC). You can count on all your pocket change that I'll be live-blogging for most of that time. I do plan actually to sleep next Tuesday, so I can't guarantee we'll know anything for certain before I pass out, but I'll give it the college try.

Meanwhile:

  • The US Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court last night by a vote of 52-48, with only Susan Collins (R-ME) joining the Democrats. It's the first time since Reconstruction that the Senate confirmed an Associate Justice with no votes from the opposition party. And in the history of our country, only two people have been confirmed by a smaller margin: Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas. I'm sure the three of them will continue to fight for bipartisanship and good jurisprudence as strongly as they ever have.
  • Emma Green points out "the inevitability of Amy Coney Barrett," because the Republicans don't care. And Olivia Nuzzi brings us the story of "the tortured self-justification of one very powerful Trump-loathing anonymous Republican."
  • Bill McKibben reminds us "there's nothing sacred about nine justices; a livable planet, on the other hand..."
  • Speaking of the planet, Tropical Storm Zeta became Hurricane Zeta last night. The 2020 season has now tied the all-time record for the number of named Atlantic storms set in January 2006, and it's only October.
  • Bars and restaurants in suburban Cook County have to close again tomorrow as statewide Covid-19 cases exceed 4,500 on a rolling 14-day average. Some parts of the state have seen positivity rates over 7.5% in the last couple of weeks. My favorite take-out Chinese place down by my office is also closing for the winter, which I understand but which still saddens me.
  • The Washington Post asked TV screenwriters how 2020 should end.
  • In one small bit of good news, the Food and Drug Administration has finally agreed that whisky is gluten-free, as gluten does not evaporate in the distilling process and so stays in the mash.

Finally, from a reader in Quebec comes a tip about violent clashes between a Canadian First Nation, the Mi'kmaw tribe of Nova Scotia, and local commercial fishermen over First Nations lobster rights. If you think Canada is a land without racism, well...they're just more polite about it.

An avenue for thwarting minority rule

In the March 2020 Atlantic, writer and attorney Simon Barnicle laid out one of the simplest ways to re-balance the Senate and Electoral College without a constitutional amendment:

Realizing that the deck is stacked against them, but recognizing that constitutional amendments are a pipe dream, some Democrats have called for structural reforms that could be accomplished with a simple majority in Congress: court packing, filibuster reform, and the legally dubious Senate Reform Act, to name a few. These proposals, while perhaps well intentioned, are inadequate. At best, they are temporary fixes—the minute Republicans regain control, they will retaliate in kind. And given the structural advantages enjoyed by Republicans, Democrats are unlikely to benefit in the long run.

A better solution to the problem of minority rule would address it directly. Democrats—if and when they regain control of Congress—should add new states whose congressional representatives would likely be Democrats. In areas that are not currently states, like Washington, D.C., or territories like Puerto Rico, this could be done with a simple congressional majority. But Democrats should also consider breaking up populous Democratic states and “un-gerrymandering” the Senate. Perhaps there could be a North and South California, or an East and West Massachusetts. A new state of Long Island, an area that is geographically larger than Rhode Island, would be more populous than most of the presently existing states.

In the short term, new Democratic states would remedy the advantages Republicans currently hold in the Senate—and, to a lesser extent, the Electoral College—which allow a party to control the federal government despite a lack of popular support. And unlike other progressive proposals, the risk of retaliation and escalation is low. Because adding states would also add Democratic senators, there would be no way for Republicans to immediately add states of their own without an overwhelming electoral victory.

[T]he federal government is increasingly acting on behalf of a smaller fraction of the population. And unless Democrats get serious about adding new states to counteract the Republican advantage, the disconnect between popular votes and control of the federal government is likely to grow.

My guess is that DC will become the 51st state before the end of the next Congress, possibly followed by Puerto Rico in 2023. But here we have to tread carefully: Puerto Rico would probably send one member of each party to the Senate, if not two Republicans. I'm willing to take that chance though.

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.

Debate #3* live-blogging

Here we go, the third second presidential debate of the 2020 election. Unlike the first debate, in this one, the moderator can muzzle the guy who's not speaking. Will it make a difference? We will see.

Once again, I'll be watching PBS. All times below are Central Daylight Time (UTC -5).

19:41: Watching last weekend's John Oliver waiting for the debate to start. He's explaining how we really screwed the WHO. Fun times...

20:02: 47 million people have already voted. That's 34% of all the votes cast in 2016.

20:03: And here we go. PBS is almost 2 seconds behind NPR, which I have playing in the kitchen, for obvious reasons.

20:05: "More than 40,000 Americans are in the hospital with Covid... How would you lead the country?" The president: "As you know, 2.2 million people were going to die." Oh FFS. Almost nothing he said in his answer was true. This is going to be a looooong hour and a half.

20:08: Biden: "There are 1,000 deaths a day. No one responsible for those deaths should be president. ... The president has no plan. ... Wear masks all the time, invest in rapid testing, national standards...." See? That's called a plan.

20:09: The president: "We're counting on the military [to distribute vaccine]." What? Biden: "Make sure everything is transparent. By the way, this is the same fellow who said this would end by Easter. ... He has no clear plan, and no prospect of a vaccine soon."

20:13: Why is the president blaming Biden for H1N1? Biden: "He is xenophobic, but not because he banned China. He did virtually nothing."

20:14: The president: "He's obviously made a lot of money somehow. ... I'd like to lock myself up in the basement, or in a beautiful room in the White House for a year and a half." Yeah, one can dream. And Biden's reactions are perfect.

20:15: Biden: "He says we're learning to live with it? Come on, we're dying with it." Nice.

20:16: The president: "It's China's fault!" Biden: "What did the president say in January? ... Maybe we should inject bleach? ... We're about to lose 200,000 more people!"

20:17: "Do you want to respond to that, Mr Vice President?" "No." He got the president's goat and then said "nyah."

20:19: Biden: "You need money to open, and he hasn't done anything to make that happen."

20:21: Biden: "We ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time." Arguing for money to help businesses. Arguing that it's a continuum, not black and white. "Continuum," unfortunately, is not a word the president can comprehend. Or spell.

20:22: A Daily Parker reader texts: "Wow, what restraint. No one's landing a single blow." I disagree; the president is coming close to hitting himself.

20:23: The president keeps saying businesses are "getting killed" but, to Biden's point, refuses to deal with the Democrats in Congress to get aid passed.

20:27: (Had to get a G&T, sorry about the delay.) Biden: "Giuliani is being used as a Russian pawn. ... Russia wants to make sure I don't get elected. ... I don't understand why this president isn't taking on Putin when he's paying bounties to kill American soldiers."

20:28: The president: "You got $3.5 million from Putin. I never got any money from Russia. ... There's been nobody tougher than me on Russia." Wut? "They took over a big part of Ukraine, you handed it to them."

20:30: Oh, FFS, "the emails"? I mean, really?

20:31: Biden: Hitting the president's conflicts of interest in China, including the bank accounts. "I have released ... 22 years of my tax returns. What are you hiding? Foreign countries are paying you a lot."

20:32: Again with the "under audit" crap? What the hell, "pre-paid" taxes? THAT ISN'T HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS.

20:34: "Phony witch hunt." FFS. Another TDP reader: "This is the most ridiculous 'debate' we've ever seen. I can't decide who is most inarticulate. Bullshit bullshit bullshit. This will accomplish nothing for either of them. The needle will not move in either direction." Well, sure; but nothing happens in Kabuki, either.

20:37: The president has to respond. He has to get the last word in. He can't help it.

20:40: "He pokes his finger in the eyes of all our allies. ... We need to have all our friends supporting us against China."

20:41: "All this malarkey." If I were doing a drinking game, that would be a big one.

20:43: Again, the president is all-or-nothing, which hobbles him: "If there's a war [with North Korea], it would be a nuclear war." And now he's just saved 25 million Koreans by not trying to rein in Kim.

20:45: Biden: "The Korean Peninsula must be a nuclear-free zone." The president: "[Kim] didn't like Obama." Biden: "He wouldn't meet with President Obama ... because we were putting on sanctions." And the president just can't give in. Biden is getting under his skin now.

20:47: The president is taking credit for ending the individual mandate. Unbelievable. That's like Major Dyer taking credit for Amritsar.

20:49: And the president got muted. Nice. Biden: "I'm going to pass Obamacare with a public option." WHAT? WHAT WHAT WHAT? Woooooooot!

20:50: Biden: "We're going to get the pre-existing condition plan when we get the infrastructure plan." The president is turning purple, making faces...Biden is getting to him.

20:51: Biden: "Everyone should have the right to affordable healthcare." Hear hear! "This is something that's going to save people's lives, and give people an opportunity...to have health care for their children."

20:52: The president: "[Harris] is more liberal than Bernie Sanders." Tell that to the people she prosecuted.

20:53: TDP reader, by text: "Joe has hit his stride now." Yep. And now the president is lying about Social Security.

20:54: Biden: "He's a very confused guy. He thinks he's running against someone else. I beat them." "The idea that Donald Trump is lecturing me on Social Security and Medicare? Come on." And it got to the president.

20:55: Biden: "Where I come from...people don't live off the stock market." Beautiful pivot. And the president walked right into it.

20:57: "Mr President, why haven't you gotten the relief bill?" The president: "Nancy Pelosi does not want to approve it." Moderator: "But you're the president." Biden: "I have [pushed a deal]. ... This HEROES Act has been sitting there! ... He will not support that, and Mitch McConnell won't either."

20:59: Biden repeats the Obama "I don't see red states and blue states" line. "The founders were smart; they allowed the government to deficit-spend for the United States of America." OK, that was a bit much.

21:00: The president demonstrate a complete lack of understanding about how wages work. Which means he's talking about how wages work.

21:02: We're an hour in, and the president has yet to articulate a single coherent government policy. And here comes the question about children separated from their parents at the border, and he blames the kids.

21:03: "But how will you reunite children with their families?" The president goes on about cartels, coyotes, and Obama. "Yes, we're working on a policy." Biden slams him: "Their parents brought them over. ... We're a laughingstock." Using the president's favorite words against him.

21:04: The president is now 100% on the defensive, and he's slipping.

21:05: Biden: "Within 100 days, I'm going to send to Congress a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people. ... Over 20,000 [Dreamers] are first responders ... We owe them." The president: "He had 8 years..." Yes, but he was vice-president. You're president.

21:07: The president: "A murder would come in, a rapist would come in ... and we would release them. ... Only those, I reeeeeeeally hate to say this, only those with low IQs would come back." Wow. Just, wow.

21:09: I'm still in awe of the president's last answer. One could extrapolate that he believes that people who obey the law are stupid. I sincerely hope he learns a clear lesson from Cyrus Vance next year.

21:10: Did the president just say "good" in response to Biden talking about how people of color are afraid of police? What?

21:13: What is he talking about? I do not know what the president is talking about.

21:14: The president: "I ran because of you, I ran because of Barack Obama." Yes: and let's remember why.

21:16: The president, on contributing to an environment of hate, first conflated BLM with anti-police extremists, and then "I am the least racist person in this room." OK. Right. And then he repeated this.

21:18: Biden: "Abraham Lincoln here is the most racist person here. ... This guy is a dog-whistle the size of a foghorn." And the president goes off on "Abraham Lincoln" instead of what Biden actually said, and then turns it around to the Crime Bill of 1994. Biden, with eyeroll: "Oh, god."

21:20: The moderator follows up on the Crime Bill. "Why should those families vote for you?" Biden: "In the 1980s, all 100 Senators voted for a drug bill... It was a mistake. ... People should not go to jail for a drug or alcohol problem, they should go to treatment." The president: "Why didn't he get it done? That's what these politicians do." Well, yes, that's the downside of not living in a dictatorship.

21:23: The president: "Look at China. It's filthy. Look at India. Filthy." He just insulted a fifth of the world. Good job. And all of this in an answer about climate change. Biden: "Climate change...is an existential threat to humanity." One notices subtle differences between the candidates...

21:27: Biden: "I don't know where he comes from. I don't know where he comes up with these numbers. '$100 trillion?' Come on."

21:30: Biden: "We need other industries to get to zero emissions by 2025." Uh, Joe...did you mean 2035?

21:34: The moderator, Kristen Welker, is not taking shit from anyone. She may have won this one.

21:35: Biden's closing: "We're going to choose science over fiction. We're going to choose hope over fear."

Ite missa est.

I'm switching to NPR for commentary, then walking the dog and going to bed. This debate didn't accomplish much, but that's OK. It reminded everyone what normal might look like. In that way, Biden might have the upper hand.

I believe we will know who won on Election Night, so I'll live-blog a week from Tuesday. A lot could happen, but I don't think a lot will. I am so looking forward to a calmer, more predictable White House starting next January.

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.)