The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

VP debate live-blogging

And we're off! (All times CDT, same as the rest of the blog.)

20:01: Those chairs look comfortable, especially next to those tasteful Plexiglas shields.

20:07: "Thoughts and prayers" already off the bingo card, and from the moderator. Finally the first question 5 minutes in, on Covid-19. What will you do in January that the other guys won't? Harris: "This is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country." "Our plan: contact tracing."

20:09: To Pence: "You head the coronavirus task force. Why is our death rate higher than about every other country?" "From the very first day, [the president] has put the health of the nation first." (My first laugh of the night.) And he has quite a selective memory. And a dig at Joe Biden's plagiarism. And he won't shut up.

20:12: Harris's response hits the dead, they dying, and the January 28th day. "Mr Vice President, I'm speaking."

20:14: Pence falsely claimed that the president wanted to shut down the economy, and that "2 million might have died."

20:17: Harris: "You respect the American people when you tell them the truth." Meanwhile, one of my professional female friends texted that she wants to "bitch-slap" Pence, and to the "I'm speaking" line she texted "Do you know how often I've had to say that?"

20:19: Pence: "I would like to go back." Moderator: "We have to move on." We went back.

20:20: Pence: "Stop playing politics with people's lives." My second laugh-out-loud moment tonight. And then the canard about the swine flu epidemic.

20:21: Harris: Nice, using her answer about Biden's age to talk about her history and how Biden trusts her. "We share a purpose, which is about lifting up the American people."

20:25: Pence: "The transparency [of the president's doctors] will continue." So, no, you won't release any real information about the president's health.

20:26: Harris, pivoting from transparency on health information to transparency on taxes, to hitting the president's debts. "The American people have a right to know what is influencing the president's decisions." Bam.

20:29: Harris: "Biden will repeal [the 2017] tax bill and...invest that money in what we need to do..."

20:33: Pence just claimed credit for the Democratic Party's stimulus bills. And now he's demonstrating he has no idea how trade deficits work.

20:34: The white guy is hijacking the Black woman's time. And she's spanking him for it.

20:36: Pence: "Obamacare was a disaster...and we have a plan." Both statements are false.

20:38: Pence: "I'm very proud of our environmental record." Laugh line #3. Followed by a stream of lies about the president's record on the the environment and "a commitment to science" on climate change.

20:40: One of my friends says Harris should be pushing past the moderator the way Pence is, that she's not authoritative. I disagree.

20:41: Harris spent her answer on the Green New Deal correcting Pence's lies, and then pivoted to Biden's connection to farmers, then back to the administration's war on science. She's clear, calm, and positive.

20:43: Pence will not commit to a position on climate change consistent with science, then runs away from the question to go back to the 2017 tax cuts. He really doesn't want to talk about science because, frankly, he's one of its biggest opponents.

20:45: Harris: "You lost that trade war with China. America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Farmers are in bankruptcy." Yep.

20:47: Why can't the moderator get Pence to shut up?

20:48: Pence just keeps going back to the past. Now he's talking about NAFTA? The question was about China, sir.

20:49: Pence: "China is to blame for the coronavirus." Oy gevalt. At least he's on-brand.

20:51: Harris: "There was a team of disease experts that Obama dispatched to China; this administration pulled them out." Nice. And then talking about how the world holds the Chinese leadership in higher esteem than ours. Sad and true.

20:54: This is a hell of a lot more intelligent than the last debate, I have to say. I don't think it's going to move the needle even a tiny bit.

20:56: What the hell is Pence talking about? And why won't he shut up?

20:59: Pivoting from our involvement in Syria to the president calling our armed forces "suckers and losers." And the president's inaction on Russian bounties on American troops.

21:01: Did the Susan Page's balls finally drop? Finally she told Pence to stop talking.

21:03: Pence is equating assassinating adversaries with protecting Americans. They're children.

21:07: Pence gets the question on how they would cover pre-existing conditions if the ACA gets struck down, and chooses instead to lie about how Biden supports taxpayer-funded abortions up to the moment of birth. And then asks Harris if they'll pack the court.

21:11: Pence: "They are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election." Harris: "Let's talk about packing this court, then." And proceeds to bring up the unqualified, incompetent, and sub-standard appointments to the lower courts. Nice.

21:14: Harris pivots from the question about Breonna Taylor to George Floyd, and police reform. "Bad cops are bad for all cops."

21:16: Pence blames Harris for "the rioting and the looting." "...a great insult to the men and women who protect us...." Just shut up, honkey.

21:19: Harris: "I will not be lectured by the Vice President...I'm the only one on this stage who's prosecuted criminals. ... The president...refused to condemn white supremacists."

21:20: Pence: the president "has Jewish grandchildren." Oh for fuck's sake.

21:23: Harris, on the peaceful transfer of power: "We believe in the American people, and we believe in democracy. ... So vote!"

21:26: Pence: "I think we're going to win this election." Another laugh line. But...the question was, if you lose, what are you going to do if the president refuses to concede? He pivots to lying about the 2016 election, lying about the impeachment, and lying about voter fraud.

21:31: Another friend texts: "Wow, Pence is so scripted, so dispassionate, so...vanilla." Yes: he's the archetypical old white Christian dude. And in the spirit of Hannah Arendt, I would add "banal."

21:33: Another friend, responding to Pence's useless final answer to the final question: "Yes, we can be friends with people we disagree with until the thing we disagree about is you taking away their rights."

21:36: I didn't learn anything, but at least this debate wasn't the flaming cesspit of the last one. I watched the debate on PBS again, but I'm switching to NPR for commentary. And signing off for now.

VP debate tonight

While I'm waiting for Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris to face off at 8pm Central, I have other things to occupy my thoughts:

Also, it's sunny and 20°C this morning, going up to 23°C this afternoon, so I'm taking half a day off work. We have perhaps 3 more days of nice weather this year, and it's the first day of a sprint (so no deadlines quite yet).

First Tuesday in October

Starting in March, this year has seemed like a weird anthology TV show, with each month written and directed by a different team. We haven't had Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme yet; I'm hoping that'll be the season finale in February. This month we seem to have Armando Iannucci running the show, as the President's antics over the weekend suggest.

So here's how I'm spending lunch:

Tomorrow night will be the vice-presidential debate, which I will again live-blog. I can't wait.

The Missouri Compromise and the 2020 election

Jamelle Bouie thinks 1820 offers a better view of today's politics than 1850 or 1968:

There is no one-to-one comparison from the past to current events; there never is. But drawing on the Missouri controversy, I do have an observation to make about our present situation. Once again, under the guise of ordinary political conflict, Americans are fighting a meta-legal battle over the meaning of both the Union and the Constitution.

A fight over the fate of the Supreme Court is weighty enough, but beneath the surface of this conflict is an even fiercer struggle about what the Constitution means, one taking place in the context of minority rule and incipient democratic failure.

Many democratic political systems allow for minority-led governments, although they often force parties to build majority coalitions to achieve them. That’s because minority government becomes an unacceptably bitter pill when the winning party rejects compromise and consensus in favor of factionalism and unilateral action. The problem comes when a political system allows for minority winners but doesn’t require coalition government. Stability is possible, but it depends on forbearance and good faith from all sides. You can play political and constitutional hardball, but it might bring conflict out into the open that you can’t ultimately control, and it will raise questions about your mandate to govern.

Trump, McConnell and the Republican Party have embraced a kind of political total war. Democrats and their liberal allies say this violates the democratic principles against which we judge the fairness of our institutions. In response, Republicans say the Constitution is what counts. Whether or not an action violates some abstract principle, if it’s in the rules, it’s in the rules.

The Missouri controversy was, of course, settled with a compromise. Missouri would enter the Union as a slave state, and Maine would enter as a free state, but Congress would prohibit slavery in all land of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36° 30’ parallel. This defused the fight over the territory, but could not resolve the conflict over the Union. This was legislation, a good faith agreement between two irreconcilable sides, not a permanent addition to the constitutional framework.

The Republican Party has created a situation where no compromise is possible. Biden winning in five weeks won't change that. But at least a clear win, and taking the Senate back, will allow us to repair some of the damage that four years of Republican rule has inflicted.

Shakespeare was right

Andrew Sullivan takes a step back and explains, carefully and quietly, the tyrant's mindset:

[T]yranny is not, in its essence, about the authoritarian and administrative skills required to run a country effectively for a long time. Tyrants, after all, are often terrible at this. It is rather about a mindset, as the ancient philosophers understood, with obvious political consequences. It’s a pathology. It requires no expertise in anything other than itself.

You need competence if you want to run an effective government, or plan a regular campaign, or master policy with a view to persuading people, or hold power for the sake of something else. You need competence to create and sustain something. But you do not need much competence to destroy things. You just need the will. And this is what tyrants do: they destroy things.

This is Trump’s threat. Not the construction of a viable one-party state, but the destruction of practices, norms, civility, laws, customs and procedures that constitute liberal democracy’s non-zero-sum genius. He doesn’t need to be competent to destroy our system of government. He merely needs to be himself: an out-of-control, trust-free, malignant narcissist, with inexhaustible resources of psychic compulsion, in a pluralist system designed for the opposite. All you need is an insatiable pathological drive to avoid any constraint on your own behavior, and the demagogic genius to carry a critical mass of people with you, and our system, designed as the antidote to tyranny, is soon unspooling into incoherence, deadlock, and collapse.

In every Shakespeare play about tyranny — from Richard III to Coriolanus to Macbeth — the tyrant loses in the end, and often quite quickly. They’re not that competent at governing, or even interested in it. The forces they unleash come back to wipe them from the stage, sooner or later. They flame out. Richard III lasted a mere couple of years on the throne.

But in every case, they leave a wrecked and reeling society in their wake. Look around you now and see the damage already done.

He then goes into the normal panic of everyone watching this election unfold, but until that point, he's absolutely correct. The president has no genius other than his own self-preservation; and if I seem angry, it's because this fact is obvious to anyone who has studied history.

Why is anyone listening to this clown?

In an interview yesterday, the president refused to say that he would allow a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election. Understandably, people are upset that a sitting president would hint at doing anything else. But as Josh Marshall points out, this guy lies more easily than most people breathe, so maybe we don't need to freak out as much as we are:

No one needs to tell us these threats and bogus claims are wrong. But it is still necessary to step back and realize that there’s no chaos. We are on the cusp of what should be an entirely orderly election process. There’s zero evidence there has been or will be any election fraud of any sort. Not only is there no evidence any of this is happening we have abundant, really incontrovertible evidence that organized election fraud is all but unknown in modern American electoral history. It simply doesn’t happen. Period. There’s zero reason to believe the Supreme Court or any Court will be required to decide the outcome of the election or make decisions which significantly affect the outcome.

That doesn’t mean everything is fine. This false drama and lying is all meant to set the stage for things that are very real. Certainly not to justify – but even for those of us who are gripping on to the sinews of our democracy with every strength, it creates a sense of forward motion, inevitability, disorder. But the reality check is still helpful, critical, necessary. Because none of it is really. It’s a storm of drama, completely fictive, to set the stage for an unpopular President to reject the results of an election that ends his presidency.

Even Mitch McConnell knows the president is more full of shit than a trainload of fertilizer. If the president or the GOP really had the power to steal this election, they wouldn't have to talk about it so much.

So, my fellow members of the Democratic Party, can we please just stop hyperventilating and get on with kicking this guy out of office through good old-fashioned voting? Everyone knows he's losing, including him and all of his cronies. That's why they're grabbing every bit of power they can with both hands while they still have time. That's why they're trying to jam through a nominee to the Supreme Court in an unprecedented time and manner.

Holy shit, folks. Let's start acting like the winners we are and get the Republican Party out of power until they can behave like grown-ups.

A lack of compassion

More than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19 since we started paying attention six months ago. Let me put that into perspective:

The columns represent the total number of deaths for each event (blue) or per year (gray). The line represents those deaths on an annualized basis. At 400,000 deaths per year, Covid-19 now ranks as the third leading cause of death in the US for 2020 after cancer and heart disease. We're on course to have 133 9/11s or 12 times our usual number of car crash deaths just this year.

Whatever you might think about the policy distinctions between our two political parties, surely the Republicans' callous disregard for human life in this pandemic matters, right?

Let's all play by the rules

The GOP panic to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat makes three things absolutely clear: first, they expect to lose bigly in six weeks; second, they realize they're against public opinion; and third, they realize that public opinion is continuing to turn against them. In short, this is quite literally their last chance to get a SCOTUS seat for a generation.

You know what? Everyone else is sick of their bullshit.

We're going to win both houses and the presidency, and then we're going to cement that win by expanding the court, and then by granting statehood to DC and PR. Too many in our party are tired of playing nice against a bunch of thugs.

The Republicans have the power to do exactly what they're doing. And in four months, we'll have the power to undo all of it. They say they're just playing by the rules, and they're not wrong. So we need to play by the rules as well. All of them.

Or as I learned many years ago playing AD&D: lawful good does not mean lawful stupid.

Long day, long six weeks ahead

Choral board meeting followed by chorus rehearsal: all on Zoom, and as president and generally techy guy, I'm hosting. After a full day of work and a 5 km walk. Whew.

So what's new?

Finally, if you want to be a Cook County Judge of Election, you can still sign up—and earn $230.

200,000

The official death toll in the US for Covid-19 has passed a milestone Deborah Birx predicted back in March:

In the predawn hours of March 30, Dr. Deborah Birx stepped in front of the camera on the White House lawn and made an alarming prediction about the coronavirus, which had, by then, killed fewer than 3,000 people in the United States.

"If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we can get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities," Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told Savannah Guthrie of NBC News' "Today" show.

On Saturday, Birx's prediction came true, as the number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. topped 200,000.

Meanwhile, though they have consistently done almost nothing right in the six months when 200,000 ordinary Americans have died, the Republican Party has put the pedal to the metal mobilizing after one Associate Justice died. It's all about power, nothing about the people.