The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Incompetent Peronistas

All autocratic regimes suffer from endemic incompetence. It's easy to see why: if you can't contradict the autocrat, the government is only as competent as he is. When the autocrat is a pathological narcissist, you get another level of stupid on top. People work in governments like this for one reason only: to get rich. And they get rich by stealing from the public. Competence only gets in the way of the grift.

So here we find ourselves 65 days from an election in which the incumbent claims to have the ability to put out a fire that he started, who leads a party that has given up any pretense of governing in favor of supporting this circus clown no matter what he says.

And the president is a clown, a kind of malicious Zaphod Beeblebrox, whose only role as president of the galaxy was to distract from the people who really ran things.

I'm venting some frustration given two things that have come up in the last 24 hours. First, from the New York Times, an admission (of sorts) from the administration that demeaning the office of President of the United States by having a gauche campaign event on the lawn of the White House was all about owning the libs:

[The president's] aides said he enjoyed the frustration and anger he caused by holding a political event on the South Lawn of the White House, shattering conventional norms and raising questions about ethics law violations. He relished the fact that no one could do anything to stop him, said the aides, who spoke anonymously to discuss internal conversations.

Of course he did. The show is all that matters. Which, presumably, why he plans to visit Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday (the second thing) so he can personally add gasoline to the fire burning there—a fire he started:

White House spokesman Judd Deere told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday that Trump will be meeting with law enforcement officers and “surveying” some of the damage from recent protests that turned destructive.

Joe Biden, and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have accused Trump of rooting for violence amid unrest in Wisconsin.

“He views this as a political benefit,” Biden said in an interview on MSNBC. “He’s rooting for more violence, not less. And it’s clear about that.”

Of course he is. The show is all that matters. All of this destruction and death is fun to a man like the president.

Meanwhile, 183,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 and another 1,000 die every day, while Europe gets to enjoy a normal autumn, because our incompetent, nihilistic, narcissistic president cares about nothing other than enriching himself by any means available.

How long is this going to take?

I'm sitting at my desk waiting for my work laptop to finish updating, a process now in its 24th minute, with "Working on updates 25%" on the screen for the past 5. Very frustrating; I have things to do today; and if I'd known how long it would take (I'm looking at you, help desk), I would have started the update when I left this evening.

So, all right, I'll read a few things:

My laptop has rebooted three times now and appears to have gotten up to 83% complete. I may in fact get something done today.

Afternoon round-up

There's a lot going on today, what with the Republican National Convention celebrating the apocalypse they desperately want, but a few things outside of that also happened:

Finally, only a few blocks from my house my neighbors have set up a Wee Free Library...of sticks...for dogs.

The vacuity of the modern Republican Party

Politico's Tim Alberta describes what happens "when a party gives up on ideas:"

It can now safely be said, as his first term in the White House draws toward closure, that Donald Trump’s party is the very definition of a cult of personality. It stands for no special ideal. It possesses no organizing principle. It represents no detailed vision for governing. Filling the vacuum is a lazy, identity-based populism that draws from that lowest common denominator Sanford alluded to. If it agitates the base, if it lights up a Fox News chyron, if it serves to alienate sturdy real Americans from delicate coastal elites, then it’s got a place in the Grand Old Party.

“Owning the libs and pissing off the media,” shrugs Brendan Buck, a longtime senior congressional aide and imperturbable party veteran if ever there was one. “That’s what we believe in now. There’s really not much more to it.”

The party is now defined primarily by its appetite for conflict, even when that conflict serves no obvious policy goal.

The result is political anarchy. Traditionally, the run-up to a convention sees a party attempting to tame rival factions and unite around a dynamic vision for the future. Instead, Republicans have spent the summer in a self-immolating downward spiral.

And only this morning I had an online altercation with a friend-of-a-friend who lives in rural Upstate New York. It went like this:

Original poster: Register to Vote! Wear a mask! Make sure you vote! Fight systemic racism! Orange man bad! Resist Fascism! (OK, you can stop ORDERING me about what to do in our FREE COUNTRY! - that last "order" isn't TOO ironic)

Me: Thank you for laying it out so plainly: "I'm not going to do anything anyone tells me to do no matter how many lives it saves."

OP: "I will do whatever anyone tells me in order to save 'just one life' (including wear a seat belt in the back of a limousine) but will allow babies to be killed even after the moment of birth" because it's a women's right.

Me: "I'm not going to respond to your point because it's correct, so look over here at something irrelevant to what you said."

Me, thinking twice:

But let me take up your misdirection as if it were a serious point: abortion rights is an actual policy difference between us. We may never agree, but we can have an actual discussion about it as adults. Both sides have good points. Both sides have blind spots. And that's why we have a compromise that both sides hate (which is a good sign that it's a good compromise, at least from a policy perspective). You want to support pro-life or pro-choice candidates, that's your choice.

If you don't want to register to vote, you will get no argument from me. In fact, why don't you just rip up your registration card right now and let the rest of New York go about its business without you? You want to vote, or not vote; that's your choice.

If you don't want to fight systemic racism, you'll get a big argument from me, but not because of policy; because of morality. You don't have to go to a protest, but if you won't even entertain the possibility that we as white people may have to do more than just be nice to the people of color we personally know, then I'm going to question your prejudices. Can or should the state make you fight racism? Absolutely not. Go ahead and be a racist, or fight racism, or anything in between; that's your choice.

If you don't want to resist fascism, I will simply question your sanity. But hey, again, that's your choice.

But if you don't want to wear a mask in public, then yes, I will support fining your ass if you refuse, because this isn't [just] a policy dispute or a moral question. It's about everyone else's right to avoid dying from something preventable trumping your right to avoid a little discomfort when you're at a supermarket. The virus doesn't care about public policy. Wearing a mask works; we can see that in literally every other country that has mandated it. The only policy difference here is that some people don't want to be "told" what to do, in the same way they didn't like to be "told" to go to bed when they were 6. It's not a choice; it's the easiest way to end the pandemic, and the state is right to use its public health authority to make you.

Of course, as my old grand-pappy never said, "The thing about mud-wrasslin' with a pig is, you both get covered in shit, but the pig likes it."

Our nominee

Former vice president Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party nomination for president last night:

Speaking before a row of flags in his home state of Delaware, Mr. Biden urged Americans to have faith that they could “overcome this season of darkness,” and pledged that he would seek to bridge the country’s political divisions in ways Mr. Trump had not.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long — too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” Mr. Biden said. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”

The task that faced Mr. Biden on Thursday night, and that looms over him for the next 10 weeks, was assuring Americans that he had both the grit and the vision first to topple Mr. Trump and then to deliver on a governing agenda that would materially improve their lives. Mr. Biden has laid out an ambitious suite of plans for next year, should Democrats win power, but in the daily din of public health emergencies and presidential outbursts, it is not clear how many voters are familiar with them.

Joe Scarborough called Biden's speech "Reaganesque." Dana Milbank says "Biden speaks from a place Trump doesn't know—the heart:"

[T]he power of Biden’s acceptance speech — and the power of his candidacy — was in its basic, honest simplicity. The rhetoric wasn’t soaring. The delivery was workmanlike (he botched an Ella Baker quote in his opening line). But it was warm and decent, a soothing, fireside chat for this pandemic era, as we battle twin crises of disease and economic collapse and we only see each other disembodied in boxes on a screen. Biden spoke not to his political base but to those who have lost loved ones to the virus.

Even the National Review admitted the speech did its job:

Biden’s discussion of policy issues tonight was purposely vague, a far cry from detailing his agenda, and he offered very few criticisms of Republican policies or proposals. For a guy who has spent years in the trenches of the judicial-confirmation wars, he was strikingly quiet on the courts and the issues they control — he did not mention the courts once.

This may be enough: Biden is banking that Trump is such a liability, and so detatched from any policy agenda, that you don’t actually need to talk people out of Republican ideas or into Democratic ones. This convention as a whole put more effort than the Democrats did in 2016 to pitching themes sympathetic to swing voters, the 2016 election having shocked Democrats at least temporarily out of their 2012-era smug certainties that running hard to the base would be all they would ever need again to win. Still, it gives Republicans an opportunity (if they are up to the challenge, a big if) to talk at their convention about what a Biden-Harris election really means.

Just a little more than 10 weeks—74 days—until we find out.

Equidistant

It's been 153 days since the State of Illinois instituted an emergency shutdown of the economy. Friday March 20th was the last "normal" day in the state; since then, we've lived with lockdowns, social distancing, and all the other fun bits of our pandemic response.

I mention this because January 20th is 153 days away.

We'll get there.

Happy birthday, Bill

Today is former president Bill Clinton's 74th birthday. Last night, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, where the party formally nominated former vice president Joe Biden to be president.

In other news:

And finally, in about half an hour, Parker will get a much-needed bath. He has no idea this will happen. I'll let him sleep another 10 minutes before the horror begins...

Kind of sums up Trumpism in one video

Yesterday, a scheduled "Boat Parade" on Portland, Oregon's Willamette River supporting the president's re-election campaign caused a bystander's boat to sink:

Video posted to Twitter showed the boat taking on water as its occupants called for help while more than 20 boats and personal watercraft flying President Donald Trump flags headed south on the Willamette River near downtown Portland.

Sgt. Bryan White, a spokesman for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, said river patrol deputies responded to the incident but that the people on the boat had already been picked up by other boaters in the area by the time the deputies arrived. Video appeared to show at least one of the boats that stopped to help was a parade participant.

Here's the video:

I expect none of the Trumpers were wearing masks, either.

As for liability, people I spoke with who have knowledge of maritime law said this would most likely lead to a tort case in an Oregon state court.

So many things today

I'm taking a day off, so I'm choosing not to read all the articles that have piled up on my desktop:

Finally, a "mania" set Stravinsky's Rite of Spring to Teletubbies footage, and it's horrifying.

Kamala Harris

Presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president Joe Biden, who I hope will have shortened that title by 5 words by January 20th, has picked US Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate:

Ms. Harris, 55, is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and only the fourth woman in history to be chosen for one of their presidential tickets. She brings to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Mr. Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw political electricity on the debate stage and elsewhere, and a personal identity and family story that many find inspiring.

A pragmatic moderate who spent most of her career as a prosecutor, Ms. Harris was seen throughout the vice-presidential search as among the safest choices available to Mr. Biden. She has been a reliable ally of the Democratic establishment, with flexible policy priorities that largely mirror Mr. Biden’s, and her supporters argued that she could reinforce Mr. Biden’s appeal to Black voters and women without stirring particularly vehement opposition on the right or left.

After leaving the presidential race in December, Ms. Harris turned her attention back to the Senate and found new purpose amid a wave of nationwide protests this spring against racism and police brutality. She marched beside protesters and forcefully championed proposals to overhaul policing and make lynching a federal crime, often speaking with a kind of clarity that had eluded her in the presidential primaries on economic issues like health care and taxation.

I thought Harris or Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, though I would have agreed with any of his top-5 picks as we knew them earlier today. But Harris seems like exactly the right choice.

Note that I am, and will continue to be, a financial contributor to the Biden—now Biden/Harris—campaign.