The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Mandate? What mandate?

Since records began with Eisenhower's inauguration in 1953, no incoming president has had an approval rating below 50% at the start of his administration. Reagan and George HW Bush came in at 51%, and both managed to improve (to 68% and 56%, respectively) in the first 100 days. Even George W Bush, despite the taint surrounding his election, came in at 57% and inched up to 62% by April 2001.

And along comes Trump. A Quinnipac poll released today has him at 37%, and falling. As Josh Marshall puts it, "Trump, his agenda and his party are deeply unpopular. Indeed, Trump's gotten steadily more unpopular over the last four weeks. All of this tells us that political gravity still exists. Indeed, it is already shaping events on Capitol Hill."

For comparison, shortly before he left office under a pall of sex scandals and rampant corruption, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi polled between 33-35%. And immediately before the watershed UK election in 2010, the Labour Party under Gordon Brown polled around 30%. And in 2015, just before losing to Justin Trudeau, Canada's Stephen Harper polled around 33%.

In other words, Trump is coming into office approximately as popular as discredited and failing leaders of other modern democracies right before their defenestrations.

It'll be interesting to see if he notices.

Killing Sears and selling the parts for scrap

Now that Eddie Lampert has killed Sears almost with his bare hands, he's selling the best bits off. The Craftsman brand of tools is probably the most respected piece of the formerly-august company, so naturally it's the first to go:

Sears Holdings agreed to sell its Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker for about $900 million, marking CEO Edward Lampert's third move in the past two weeks to prop up the beleaguered retailer with fresh sources of funding.

Under terms of the deal, Stanley will pay $525 million at closing and $250 million after three years, the companies said in a statement today. The buyer also will make annual payments on new Craftsman sales for 15 years. Separately, Sears announced plans to shutter 150 unprofitable stores in a bid to streamline the chain.

Craftsman has been part of Sears since 1927, when the retailer acquired the brand for $500. The tools debuted in the iconic Sears catalog two years later. By the 1940s, the brand benefited from a surge in power-tool sales. In 1981, President Jimmy Carter was given a Craftsman woodworking set as his farewell gift when he left the White House.

I really don't understand this guy. He's loaned Sears $500m of his own money. Is it ego? Incompetence? Or part of a master plan to make money by destroying Sears? We might never know.

 

Not entirely surprising real estate news

The first brick-and-mortar Sears store, which closed this past fall, will become apartments and a giant liquor store by next year:

Chicago developer Springbank Capital Advisors has purchased the old Sears store in Ravenswood and plans to turn it into a $30 million apartment and retail complex, said David Trandel, chairman and chief executive of Springbank.

The building at 1900 W. Lawrence Avenue was closed last summer by Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings as the retail firm shuttered dozens of Sears and Kmart stores. The 40,434-square-foot store had been operated as a Sears store since November 1928.

The full development of apartments and retail will be 105,000 square feet. The $30 million in financing is provided by UC Funds of Boston, Trandel said. The developer plans to start removing asbestos this month, and begin construction in May with a summer 2018 completion.

Still, Eddie Lampert's murder of the Sears brand is criminal.

Things I queued up to read on my last day in the office this year

From the Intertubes:

I'll also have some blog entries in January. December seems to have been pretty light.

Post-posted

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.

Has it been 40 years?

Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley died 20 December 1976:

Daley was 74 years old, in his 21st year as Mayor of Chicago.  He’d been having chest pains over the weekend, and had made an appointment with his doctor. That’s where he was now.

The doctor had examined Daley. You have to be admitted to the hospital immediately, he’d told Daley.  The mayor had phoned one of his sons.  Then, while the doctor was busy making hospital arrangements, the mayor had collapsed.

At 3:50 p.m., the mayor was dead.

So, apparently, 40 years ago right at this moment.

Then we got Michael "Snow Melts" Bilandic for a couple of years, then Jane Byrne, then Harold Washington, then Eugene Sawyer, then...Richard M. Daley.

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.

Important reading

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.

 

A century old, and he remembers 1933

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.