The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog


High above the North Atlantic, our hero reads the articles he downloaded before take-off:

  • Releasing to Production the day before a holdiay weekend? No. Just, no. OMFG no.
  • American Airlines just won a lawsuit started by US Airways that opens up competition in airfare consolidation—maybe. Bear with it, because this one article explains a lot of what's wrong with competition in any endeavor today. (I'll find a link to the Economist print article I just read on this topic when I land.)
  • The Washington Post helpfully provides 94 questions we Democrats are asking as we slouch towards a Trump presidency. Thanks, guys.
  • In the spirit of Christmas, Citylab remembers when Manhattan had the El. (How is this about Christmas, you ask? No El.) It's interesting to me that only now, more than 60 years later, is New York replacing the east-side transit options with the Second Avenue Subway.
  • Also from Citylab, an interview with Costas Spirou and Dennis R. Judd about their new book Building the City of Spectacle, how Mayor Richord M. Daley remade the city. (Note to self: buy their book.)
  • Finally, the Deeply Trivial blog compiles a couple of videos every Star Wars fan should watch. I know for a fact that the author was born well past the Ewok Divide, and yet seems to have a good bead on the Star Wars universe. Perhaps there is hope for the galaxy.

Today's flight is remarkably fast. We caught the jet stream off the Labrador coast, and with about an hour to go, we're hurtling 1,074 km/h off the west coast of Ireland. This could end up the fastest trans-Atlantic flight I've ever been on, in fact. Details later.

N.B.: Most of the entries on this blog since 2011, and a good number of them going back to 1998, have location bugs that show approximately where I was when I wrote the entry. Click the globe icon directly below and it will call up Google Maps.

If I write an entry at my house, I use a street intersection a few hundred meters away for an approximate location. In a city of three (or, in 1998, seven) million, I feel that's enough privacy. Otherwise, I try to be accurate, even going so far as to whip out my mobile phone to get a GPS fix in flight, as I've just done. Why, you ask? Because it's cool, I reply.

The republic staggers

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 constant drumbeat of stupidity and cupidity

Tales in the war against reality waged by Trump and his party:

And yet, James Fallows sees cause for optimism (assuming Trump doesn't blow up the world):

In [the election's] calamitous effects—for climate change, in what might happen in a nuclear standoff, for race relations—this could indeed be as consequential a “change” election as the United States has had since 1860. But nothing about the voting patterns suggests that much of the population intended upheaval on this scale. “Change” elections drive waves of incumbents from office. This time only two senators, both Republicans, lost their seats.

[C]ity by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.

Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.

Only 698 days until the 2018 election...

Articles to read this weekend

So many meetings today, so many articles in my queue:

Tired of all this Trump crap? Have some chocolate-truffle brownies. They look delicious.

> 2.5 million

That, as of today, is the number of votes that Clinton won more than Trump:

Hillary Clinton's popular vote lead has now reached 2.52 million votes. In percentage terms that's a 1.9 percentage point margin. It will rise at least a bit more. We can likely be confident that her final margin will be at least 2 percentage points. To compare, that's 5 times the margin of Al Gore's popular vote win in raw vote terms and 4 times his margin in percentage terms. At this point, not only did Clinton win the popular vote. It wasn't even all that close. When George W. Bush had another bite at the electoral apple in 2004 and finally did win the popular vote it was by 2.5 percentage points. Barack Obama's margin in 2012 was 3.9 percentage points.

Thank you, James Madison.

One more thing for this horrible, horrible week

I could post about Krugman's "Thoughts for the Horrified," Deeply Trivial's explanation of how the polling failure wasn't what you think it was, or how much rats like being tickled. Instead, I give you twins born on either side of the return to Standard Time:

Emily and Seth Peterson of West Barnstable welcomed their sons in the early morning hours of Nov. 6 at Cape Cod Hospital.

Samuel was born 5 pounds, 13 ounces at 1:39 a.m., shortly before the 2 a.m. hour when clocks were turned back an hour.

Brother Ronan arrived at 5 pounds, 14 ounces 31 minutes later. Because he was born after the clocks fell back one hour, his official time of birth was declared 1:10 a.m. instead of 2:10 a.m.

Of course, the hospital, the Petersons, and ABC News all completely failed to understand that wall-clock time is not absolute time, but it's still a cute story.

Why Clinton lost

TPM's John Judis has a decent set of hypotheses:

This year, Trump proved anything but hapless, and Clinton ran a campaign that sadly recalled Gore in 2000 and Dukakis in 1988. She was unable to distinguish her own approach from Obama’s – particularly on the explosive issues of Obamacare and immigration. She ran an almost entirely negative campaign focused on her opponents’ bigotry, sexism, and bilious temperament. To the extent that she made promises, her campaign consisted of appeals to particular interest and identity groups and of programs that read like the bullet points in a office memo and simply eluded the greater public.

She made little, if any, effort to speak to and allay the distrust the voters to whom Trump was appealing. They were a “basket of deplorables.” She and her campaign rested their hopes on the theory, popular among liberals, of a “rising American electorate of the young, minorities, and single woman. But her listless campaign failed to attract the same kind of support from the young and minorities that Obama had won in 2008 and 2012. In Iowa, she broke even among voters 18 to 29, and in Missouri lost them. And her vote among Hispanics fell six points short of Obama’s in 2012.

He also goes into how Trump won, which could be useful in defeating the Republicans in 2018.

What's next?

While we can't say for certain what Trump's policies will actually be, or what effects they'll actually have, London-based writer Feargus O'Sullivan has an idea what the atmosphere might be like:

As a British person, the experience of waking up to find that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States seemed freakishly familiar. Being shaken awake before dawn with shock news, then finding that most people I knew were awake, punch drunk, and already posting on social media—it all feels eerily reminiscent of June 24, when I also woke in the dark to find that Britain had narrowly voted for Brexit.

If the post-election in the U.S. follows the template of the Brexit vote aftermath, you will need to steel yourself for some pretty ugly stuff. Both the Brexit and Trump campaigns were infected with racist rhetoric tinged with violence, both implied and real. In Britain, the Brexit vote aftermath saw an immediate, vicious uptick in racist attacks.

It’s not that racism suddenly appeared overnight. British minorities have frustratedly pointed out that the abuse many have received is just a more intense expression of an ongoing problem that’s been disregarded too long by the white and powerful. The problem is that, with a vote for Brexit being interpreted by many as a vote against immigration, racists felt emboldened that the majority was now on their side. Many non-white or non-British-born friends of mine reported being verbally insulted or even pushed out of subway trains.

The doubly frustrating thing about this turn of events is that the Brexit vote, like the Trump vote, was a protest against so many things: in particular growing inequality and, in Britain’s case, the effect of harsh austerity policies. In the aftermath, these concerns were paid initial lip service by the new government, but they’ve quite quickly been ignored in favor of a focus on immigration.

Oh, goody. This is basically what my side have been warning about for a year. The damage to our national character could take a generation to heal.


I keep coming back to this: no one has any idea what the Trump administration will actually do. This, more than anything else, is literally keeping me awake at night.

Brian Beutler worries about how the day-to-day business of being president will tax Trump beyond his ability to cope even on slow weeks. I've thought about that as well. You only need to watch an episode of The West Wing to get a sense of what kind of focus a president needs. Even George W. Bush, no scholar he, spent more time studying and preparing than Trump.

But beyond his temperament, we really have no information about what his policies and his relationship with Congress will be. So other than expecting something to go spectacularly wrong within the first few weeks he's in office, we just can't say what that will look like.

His team's lack of experience and discipline will probably give us a lot of signals, though. Think about how few leaks—and a complete lack of scandal—we've had during the Obama administration. With some of Trump's key advisors already under indictment, and the man himself party to more lawsuits than any other president in history even before he takes office, not to mention the unbelievable lack of control the campaign had over leaks from the beginning, it'll be epic. I'd say "pass the popcorn" if it weren't so horrifying.

But still: what kind of president will he be for real? Even his own supporters don't know.

In true Perceiver fashion, I'm going to gather data, at least through the first half of 2017, before freaking out completely. Is the analogy 1828, or is it 1856 (or 1933)? Is Trump Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jesse Ventura? Or is he more like Hugo Chávez or Rodrigo Duterte?

Trump broke nearly every norm of how we've elected presidents since the Civil War. Those norms existed in part because of lessons we learned in the 1830s through the 1870s. What norms will he break as president? What will his supporters do? Even if it doesn't affect me directly, being deep in the heart of one of the bluest cities in the country, what will happen to my friends who live in purple or mauve counties in North Carolina, Nebraska, and Wisconsin?

When George H.W. Bush won in the first election I voted in, I was disappointed. When his son won in 2000, I was angry; when he won again in 2004, I was embarrassed for my country. But in none of these elections did I have much doubt about how the Bushes would govern, or fear that the entire world order would be upended by the administration. Their policies made my blood boil, but I never feared for my liberty or that the Republic would fall. With Trump, I don't have any guesses, only apprehensions.

The world turned upside down...