Krugman's column from yesterday—the day Donald Trump was actually elected our next President—echoes a concern I've had for years:
I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.
Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.
Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.
... [T]he sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.
Meanwhile, Trump set another new low yesterday when 7 electors voted for someone other than who they were pledged to vote, the largest such group since the 12th Amendment essentially enshrined two-party politics into our system.
The usually-Republican Brookings Institution reports (.pdf) on why our Constitution has an emoluments clause, and how Trump is exactly why it has one:
Foreign interference in the American political system was among the gravest dangers feared by the Founders of our nation and the Framers of our Constitution. The United States was a new government, and one that was vulnerable to manipulation by the great and wealthy world powers (which then, as now, included Russia). One common tactic that foreign sovereigns, and their agents, used to influence our officials was to give them gifts, money, and other things of value. In response to this practice, and the self-evident threat it represents, the Framers included in the Constitution the Emoluments Clause of Article I, Section 9. It prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Only explicit congressional consent validates such exchanges.
While much has changed since 1789, certain premises of politics and human nature have held steady. One of those truths is that private financial interests can subtly sway even the most virtuous leaders. As careful students of history, the Framers were painfully aware that entanglements between American officials and foreign powers could pose a creeping, insidious risk to the Republic.
Never in American history has a president-elect presented more conflict of interest questions and foreign entanglements than Donald Trump. Given the vast and global scope of Trump’s business interests, many of which remain shrouded in secrecy, we cannot predict the full gamut of legal and constitutional challenges that lie ahead. But one violation, of constitutional magnitude, will run from the instant that Mr. Trump swears he will “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”1 While holding office, Mr. Trump will receive—by virtue of his continued interest in the Trump Organization and his stake in hundreds of other entities—a steady stream of monetary and other benefits from foreign powers and their agents.
It's not like we told you so, but...we told you so.
The Apollo Chorus of Chicago are literally in the mix of the upcoming Netflix show Sense8. You can hear us in this promo.
We haven't been able to share this information until just now. The chorus recorded a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at our November 21st rehearsal. (I unfortunately missed the rehearsal, so I'm not singing in the episode. Boo.)
It turns out, Spain may be changing time zones soon, away from the one established by Franco:
After months of speculation, Employment Minister Fátima Báñez announced this week that the government is working on a plan to get more workers out of the office at 6 p.m., rather than being stuck at work until 8 or so, as many currently are. Báñez said that one important part of that policy under consideration is a switch from Central European Time (CET) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), under which the clocks would be put back permanently by one hour.
[W]hen the country first standardized its time in 1900 after using solar time for centuries, it used GMT. It was only during World War II, in 1940, that Spain’s fascist leader, Francisco Franco, changed the time zone to CET so that the country could be line with Nazi Germany and its occupied lands. After the war, Franco stayed in power until the 1970s. The clocks were never changed back.
See? And you thought this was going to be about Trump.
That's not a metaphor. The polar vortex has descended upon Chicago, promising temperatures below -17°C tomorrow and Friday in the coldest December in years:
While the deep chill will be powered by the infamous polar vortex — the circulation of air around the Arctic Circle — meteorologists don't believe we're headed for anything like the winter of 2013-14 when Chicago suffered through its coldest four-month period ever. The polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo wouldn't even venture outdoors.
But Tom Skilling, WGN-TV's meteorologist, said people should not jump to conclusions from this week, when the high Thursday will be in the single digits. Friday will be warmer, but there will be snow and maybe freezing rain over the weekend.
"This week is going to have the coldest air most of us have felt in 11 months," Skilling said. "It's going to be brutally cold for the Bears game on Sunday. But there's no reason to believe that, because we’re in a current cold spell, that this by any means sets the tone for the rest of the winter."
So the winter might be like Donald Trump? Objectively bad, but maybe not as bad as Hitler?
Just when you think Trump's cabinet picks couldn't get any worse, the Washington Post connects dots that weren't immediately visible:
Tillerson and Trump had no previous relationship, but the Texas oilman and the New York developer hit it off when they met face to face. One of the things that they have in common is their shared affection for the works of Ayn Rand, the libertarian heroine who celebrated laissez-faire capitalism.
Andy Puzder, tapped by Trump last week to be secretary of labor, is an avid and outspoken fan of Rand’s books. One profiler last week asked what he does in his free time, and a friend replied that he reads Ayn Rand. He is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which is owned by Roark Capital Group, a private equity fund named after Howard Roark.
Trump has been huddling with and consulting several other Rand followers for advice as he fills out his cabinet. John A. Allison IV, for example, met with Trump for about 90 minutes the week before last. “As chief executive of BB&T Corp., he distributed copies of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ to senior officers and influenced BB&T’s charitable arm to fund classes about the moral foundations of capitalism at a number of colleges,” the Journal noted in a piece about him. “Mr. Allison’s worldview was shaped when he was a college student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and stumbled across a collection of essays by Ms. Rand.”
The answer to this post's headline? See for yourself.
Trump continues to crap all over American institutions before he's even legally elected President. His latest cabinet pick is a doozy:
[I]t is somehow an appropriate metaphor of our era that, if he is nominated and confirmed, this could be the sequence of U.S. Secretaries of Energy:
- 2009-2013, Steven Chu, winner of the Nobel prize in physics, professor of physics at UC Berkeley, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab;
- 2013-2017, Ernest Moniz, professor of nuclear physics at MIT, former under secretary of Energy;
- 2017- , Rick Perry, the man who couldn’t remember the department’s name.
I mean. For fuck's sake.
It's not all about PETUS today:
- Via AVWeb, the FAA has issued an airworthiness directive requiring owners of Boeing 787-8 airplanes to reboot them at least every 21 days. I am not making this up.
- Trump, never a fan of intelligence of any kind, is sticking his fingers in his ears about Russian hacking of our election. Jeet Heer warns that this yet another way Trump is very dangerous. Plus, he's lying about the CIA's role in the Iraq WMD fiasco. It wasn't the CIA who lied; it was the Administration.
- By the way, Trump has the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president since 1988 (and probably since 1974).
- Oh, and we got about 200 mm of snow over the weekend. Parker's going to need a new pair of pairs of shoes.
Winter is here.
Yesterday the Apollo Chorus of Chicago sang Händel's Messiah for (possibly) the 274th time since we first sang it in 1879. We're going to do it again this afternoon. Our local ABC affiliate has more:
For nearly a century and a half, the Apollo Chorus has brought beautiful music to Chicago. On this night, the all-volunteer choir is rehearsing for one of the city's most cherished holiday traditions: a performance of Handel's "Messiah."
"When we sing Messiah, since Handel wrote it - think of how many thousands and how many choruses have sung it in how many countries and we're a part of that," chorus [president] David Beer said.
So, it's a fluff piece, but apparently I was on TV. Thus the link.
Seats are still available for today's 2pm performance.
Today is Kirk Douglas' 100th birthday. And back in September, he had a warning for us young 'uns:
I’ve also lived through the horrors of a Great Depression and two World Wars, the second of which was started by a man who promised that he would restore his country it to its former greatness.
I was 16 when that man came to power in 1933. For almost a decade before his rise he was laughed at ― not taken seriously. He was seen as a buffoon who couldn’t possibly deceive an educated, civilized population with his nationalistic, hateful rhetoric.
I have lived a long, good life. I will not be here to see the consequences if this evil takes root in our country. But your children and mine will be. And their children. And their children’s children.
Well, I hope so. But you never know, with the unqualified loose cannon who likely will be formally elected president in 10 days.