The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two tales of bad Republican policies hurting ordinary people

First, from Crain's, an exploration of the ghost town inside Naperville, Ill., where millions of dollars evaporated when the housing bubble burst in 2008:

At the height of the building boom, Novack estimates, there were 88 homebuilders working in Naperville. "Everyone was building homes then," he says. "It was the best business to be in." The bust took that figure down to "maybe a dozen," Novack says, though in recent years it's grown back to around 30. Homebuilding has been in a trough throughout the region, not only in Naperville. Builders sold 25,105 new homes in the Chicago area in 2006, according to Schaumburg-based industry tracker Tracy Cross & Associates, and in 2015 sold less than 15 percent of that.

If only Alan Greenspan had taken an economic view instead of an ideological one in the mid-2000s and put the brakes on runaway lending. Oh, and if we'd had financial oversight. But Republicans believe in everyone making it on their own: i.e., the richest making it on their own by not having to deal with the protections we put in place in the 1930s and 1940s, the last time this happened.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the incoming Christie administration moved money around the state budget to cut taxes, and he cancelled an enormous Hudson River tunnel project ostensibly to protect the state from cost overruns. The effects of his policies (which are consistent with Republican ideology) were calamitous for public transport. The New York Times explains in detail the effects on New Jersey Transit in particular:

Under the administration of Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, the state subsidy for the railroad has plunged by more than 90 percent. Gaping holes in the agency’s past two budgets were filled by fare increases and service reductions or other cuts. And plans for a new tunnel under the Hudson River — one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the country — were torpedoed by Mr. Christie, who pushed for some of the money to be diverted to road-building projects. 

The result can be felt by commuters daily. So far this year, the railroad has racked up at least 125 major train delays, about one every two days. Its record for punctuality is declining, and its trains are breaking down more often — evidence that maintenance is suffering.

Midway through Mr. Christie’s first year as governor, New Jersey Transit was spending about $1.35 billion on projects to maintain and improve service. By the middle of last year, that figure had fallen by more than half, to about $600 million.

Again, Republican low-tax, low-service policies benefit the rich (who don't care about public services but do care about taxes) at the expense of everyone else (who pay much less in taxes to begin with but do care about public services).

With 26 days until the election, maybe we should pay attention to down-ballot races and their consequences. You want to make America great again? Quit electing people who don't care about you.

Crazy likes crazy

Maine governor Paul LePage, who is certifiably insane, thinks we need authoritarian rule in the U.S. to "re-establish the rule of law," even though authoritarian rule is, by definition, its opposite.

Fortunately, we probably can breathe easier that Donald Trump's self-immolation continues apace, though Josh Marshall and Jeet Heer both raise alarms about what might happen November 9th, particularly given Trump's weeks-long ranting about how the election is rigged against him.

After 50 years of assaulting our institutions, the Republican Party have nominated someone who wants to overthrow those institutions altogether. He's not alone. I just hope the country doesn't come apart completely before I can get someplace safe from it.

Debate reactions

Some beauties, and some that I wasn't expecting, from:

And, not for nothing, the voters.

All in all, just about everyone who weighed in on it said it was a disaster for Trump, for the Republican Party, and for American Democracy. I concur.

Round Two

I was out of town all weekend without much Internet access. Lots of driving, some hiking, and a very fun wedding instead of blogging? Well, duh.

And here we are, a few minutes from the second presidential debate, watching "Frontline" on both of the candidates. It's not changing any opinions at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters, nor, do I expect, will the debate itself. Buckle up.

21:02 EDT: "This could be one of the most repulsive debates in American history."—David Brooks. And here we go.

21:05: "I've heard from parents and teachers about their concerns about things being done in this campaign." Yep.

21:08: "I agree with everything she said." I hate to say it, but that's because she didn't say anything controversial. And then...inventing statistics about Obamacare, the Iran deal, etc.

21:10: "You bragged that you committed sexual assault." "No, it's just locker-room talk. ... We're going to defeat ISIS with locker-room talk." Donald Trump did not deny that he assaulted women. I'll have transcripts tomorrow.

21:14: "This is who Donald Trump is." Yes it is. Can't wait for the response...

21:15: Oh. Of course. He's simply not going to address what she just said at all.

21:20: "He never apologized." This is a good refrain, and it lets her get all his crap into the debate. And it gets right to his narcissism.

21:23: The Roman Republic fell, in part, because people kept getting sued and prosecuted the moment they left office—so they stopped leaving office. So basically, what we're seeing is the beginning of that here in the U.S. Trump very likely has committed crimes; he's saying he'll prosecute Clinton if he wins. Great.

21:29: "Oh, he can answer it first. Go ahead, Donald."

21:33: Watch out! The government is going to give you free health care if you vote for Hillary!

21:37: I don't have enough booze in my house to make this pain go away.

21:39: "Islamophobia is bad, and that is why my administration will make all of them wear yellow crescents on their clothes."

21:44: Hillary Clinton plays chess. She just moved her bishop to Russia-4. Watch for the knight...and watch Donald Trump try to jump the queen.

21:50: Clinton's linking of Putin to influencing the election might sound crazy to people. But it's true. Does anyone care?

21:51: "I think it would be great if we could get along with Russia, because maybe they could help us fight ISIS." Trump doesn't understand this, but the President might say exactly the same thing right now.

21:55: "He lives in an alternative reality. ... It's amusing hearing someone who hasn't paid taxes in 20 years tell us what he's going to do. ... Donald always takes care of Donald." And then she used math.

21:58: "Of course I do."—Trump answering the question about whether he used his $915m loss to avoid taxes. But it's OK, because everyone else does.

22:02: "Because you have to be able to get along with people to get things done in Washington." Zing.

22:06: "We're old and tired in terms of nuclear." Russia has about a third of the submarines and half the bombers we have. And we have an attack boat about a hundred meters behind every one of their submarines, and a satellite looking at every one of their bombers. But you see, in order to understand what that means, you'd have to know what the triad is.

22:08: "Mr. Trump, let me repeat the question."

22:09: "You disagree with your running mate." Not a question; just summarizing what he said.

22:09: Aleppo has already fallen. So fuck 'em.

22:11: Did Patton and MacArthur endorse Trump? Weren't both Patton and MacArthur fired for insubordination?

22:14: "Do you believe you can be president to everyone?" "Yes, I'll grab all their pussies."

22:17: Shorter Trump on inner cities:

22:21: Trump's answer about the 3am Tweet...I mean, I just...What? The? Fuck?

22:28: So, he's "invested" $100m of his own money in becoming president? "Invested?" What an interesting thing to say by a person who views the world transactionally. What will he consider a return on that investment?

22:31: "China is illegally dumping steel in the United States and Donald Trump is buying it." This hurts, if you care about policy. If not, eh?

22:34: "Would you say one thing that you respect about your opponent?" Hardest question of the evening. And I'm cringing in advance of his response...

22:39: What do I think about this debate? Splash of Vermouth, jigger of gin, 30 more days of this...

22:43: Mark Shields on PBS: "He doesn't have an embarrassment gene in his body. ... I was amazed he showed up tonight."

Heading into the weekend

Wow, my blogging velocity has been crap this month. And here I go, doing it crappier:

There will be more later, I'm sure.

A hint of things to come

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, N.C., has received threats of violence since denying Donald Trump's campaign access to the building for a photo-op:

“We made it known to Mr. Trump’s campaign that we were not going to grant a request of suspending our operations so he could somehow try to legitimize his ideological positions,” [Museum CEO John] Swaine told The News & Observer. “The landmark is very important – it’s not just a political backdrop.”

The museum is in the former F.W. Woolworth building, the site of the 1960 lunch counter sit-in protest against segregated eating establishments. The facility seeks to commemorate the historic sit-in and to promote equality today.

He said that since news of the museum’s decision broke last week, museum staff members have received threats via phone calls and social media.

“The callers were threatening to come over and burn down the building and to shoot up the building,” he said. “They’ve lessened in frequency this week, but they’re still coming in.”

I can't imagine why the museum denied the request. And then there's this observation from one of James Fallows' readers:

[A]fter the campaign is over and the election lost, Trump faces trouble unprecedented in American history. It’s conceivable that Trump could face civil or criminal prosecution on several fronts: federal income tax evasion, mail fraud connected with Trump University, fraud connected to his charitable foundation, espionage associated with Wikileaks, illegal lobbying associated with Russia.

We can easily imagine that some of these matters might arrive in federal or state court in the coming years. Whatever the outcome of those cases, Trump supporters will believe that the charges are Hillary Clinton’s personal retribution. And, next time the Democrats lose the White House, they will call for matching prosecutions of the losing candidate. “Lock Her Up” may have awful echoes.

As you know, this mirrors one of the defects that led to the collapse of the Roman Republic.

His entire comment is worth reading.

Interesting morning news

Just a couple of tasty items today:

  • One of my favorite BBQ places in Chicago, Smoke Daddy, will be opening at Hotel Zachary, which is currently under construction next to Wrigley Field. Next season's chow options will be that much better, not to mention excellent ribs a 20-minute walk from home.
  • Republican US Senator Mark Kirk sparred with his Democratic opponent, US Representative Tammy Duckworth, at the Chicago Tribune's editorial board endorsement session yesterday.

That's it for now. Back to optimizing software.

Beliefs? We don't need no stinkin' beliefs

David Roberts, writing for Vox, says that trying to understand what Donald Trump really believes is a category error:

The question presumes that Trump has beliefs, "views" that reflect his assessment of the facts, "positions" that remain stable over time, woven into some sort of coherent worldview. There is no evidence that Trump has such things. That is not how he uses language.

When he utters words, his primary intent is not to say something, to describe a set of facts in the world; his primary intent is to do something, i.e., to position himself in a social hierarchy. This essential distinction explains why Trump has so flummoxed the media and its fact-checkers; it’s as though they are critiquing the color choices of someone who is colorblind.

What he’s doing is trying to establish dominance — to win, in his words. That’s what he uses words for. That’s how he sees every interaction in which he is involved. He is attuned only to what the words are doing, whether they are winning or losing, not to what they mean.

This point helps explain why Trump cannot ever admit a mistake or an error. He can only process accusations — of dishonesty, of cruelty — as social gambits, not as factual claims. To him, the demand that he apologize or admit error is nothing more than a dominance play. Apologizing is losing.

That the party of Lincoln nominated this person for president will go down in history as the turning point in American civilization, I think.

Starting my day

I took a personal day yesterday to get my teeth cleaned (still no cavities, ever!) and to fork over a ton of cash to Parker's vet (five shots, three routine tests, heartworm pills, one biopsy, $843.49). That and other distractions made it a full personal day.

So as I start another work day with the half-day of stuff I planned to do yesterday right in front of me, I'm queuing up some articles again:

OK, my day is officially begun. To the mines!

Muting the debate

New York Times reporter Jonathan Mahler watched the debate with the sound off. He still had no doubts who won:

It was a little shimmy of her shoulders — cheeky, insouciant — accompanied by a big, toothy grin. Her opponent smirked.

She looked as if she was having fun. He, not so much.

Visually, anyway, there was a discernible arc to the event, with Mr. Trump growing more agitated as the night wore on, and Mrs. Clinton becoming almost giddy with what felt increasingly like genuine pleasure.

Which brings us back to the shimmy. Absent words, it felt like the most telling moment of the evening, a memorable, instinctive reaction to what I imagined must have been a Trump howler.

In that instant, it was clear that the debate had produced a winner, at least to those of us who hadn’t actually heard a word of what the candidates had said: Mrs. Clinton. He had vibrated with anxiety; she had radiated cool confidence. He had seemed to be crawling out of his own skin; she had looked uncharacteristically comfortable in hers.

Meanwhile, attempts to discern from the written transcript what Trump was talking about continue to produce little usable data, NSA and FBI sources tell The Daily Parker.