The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two great things that are effectively dead now

The Tribune has two sad stories this evening.

First, the FCC has taken steps to end the main-studio rule—apparently to allow the Sinclair/Tribune deal to go through:

The regulation, which was first adopted almost 80 years ago, requires broadcasters to have a physical studio in or near the areas where they have a license to transmit TV or radio signals. Known as the "main studio rule," the regulation ensured that residents of a community could have a say in their local broadcast station's operations.

"At a time when broadcast conglomerates like Sinclair are gobbling up more stations," the consumer advocacy group Free Press said in a regulatory filing on the matter in July, "the Commission's proposal would allow these conglomerates to move even more resources away from struggling communities and further centralize broadcasting facilities and staff in wealthier metropolitan areas."

Sinclair, the right-wing broadcaster, is currently trying to buy up Tribune Media in a $3.9 billion deal. The consolidation of the media industry has become a political flashpoint amid wider concerns about fake news and the polarization of news consumption. Even some conservatives have opposed the merger, on the grounds that it could limit the number of voices on the airwaves.

Meanwhile, with Whirlpool and Sears ending a century-old relationship, event the blind can see Sears is nearly dead:

Sears contends Whirlpool sought to “use its dominant position in the marketplace,” which would have “prohibited” the retailer from selling the appliances at a reasonable price, according to a memo addressed to Sears employees and sent to me by the company.

In response, Whirlpool CEO Marc Bitzer told investors on a conference call Tuesday that losing Sears is no biggie —only 3 percent of its global revenue.

“The entire Sears business declined over time,” he asserted.

It's 1895 all over again. Or 1885. I hope the latter, because then we only have to wait 20 years for the trusts to get busted.

This is what corruption looks like

Trump's friends have started looting Puerto Rico:

For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall.

The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure. The contract is the biggest yet issued in the troubled relief effort.

Whitefish Energy is based in Whitefish, Mont., the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Its chief executive, Andy Techmanski, and Zinke acknowledge knowing one another — but only, Zinke’s office said in an email, because Whitefish is a small town where “everybody knows everybody.” One of Zinke’s sons “joined a friend who worked a summer job” at one of Techmanski’s construction sites, the email said. Whitefish said he worked as a “flagger.”

Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico. Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved.

The scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico is far larger than anything Whitefish has handled. The company has won two contracts from the Energy Department, including $172,000 to replace a metal pole structure and splice in three miles of new conductor and overhead ground wire in Arizona. 

Uh huh.

I hope everyone realizes that the President's relentless criticism of the press, and his surrogates' suggestions that maybe we don't need a First Amendment after all, is about this. Authoritarians hate free press and informed citizenry because, at root, authoritarians are interested first and foremost in personal enrichment.

And this, right here, is what that looks like.

Lunchtime links

Too much to read today, especially during an hours-long download from our trips over the past two weeks. So I'll come back to these:

But more seriously:

Lunch break is over.

Links to read on the plane

I'm about to fly to San Antonio for another round of researching how the military tracks recruits from the time they get to the processing center to the time they leave for boot camp (officially "Military Basic Training" or MBT).

I have some stuff to read on the plane:

OK, off to K20. Or K18. Or wherever my plane has got to.

 

Pence pulls a political stunt at an NFL game

Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game (after spending $250,000 of taxpayer money to get there) when several players took a knee during the national anthem. His press office followed up with a statement that Pence "left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem."

Meanwhile, the press pool following him had previously been told to wait in the press van because "there may be an early departure." And President Trump later tweeted that he "asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled," both of which rather undermine any claim Pence had to be following his own conscience.

Let us return to the Book of Clemens, Chapter 23, verses 3-5:

Patriotism is merely a religion -- love of country, worship of country, devotion to the country's flag and honor and welfare.

In absolute monarchies it is furnished from the Throne, cut and dried, to the subject; in England and America it is furnished, cut and dried, to the citizen by the politician and the newspaper.

The newspaper-and-politician-manufactured Patriot often gags in private over his dose; but he takes it, and keeps it on his stomach the best he can. Blessed are the meek.

As Josh Marshall has pointed out repeatedly, "In Trumpland, everyone gets hurt. No one emerges with any dignity intact. He’s that ravening maw of ego and appetite and above all else unquenchable need and he has the country by the throat."

 

On assholes and disagreements

Two articles crossed my laptop today. First, from New York, Stanford professor Robert Sutton makes an argument that "we are living in Peak Asshole:"

Sutton doesn’t want to be, you know, an asshole: “Most of politics is everybody calling everybody else assholes.” And assholism, after all, is contagious. “Nasty behavior spreads much faster than nice behavior, unfortunately,” Sutton says. As he points out in his book, research shows that even a “single exposure” to negative behavior, like receipt of an insulting email, can turn a person into a “carrier.” “Literally like a common cold,” he adds. Similarly, when the president calls his detractors “haters and losers” in a tweet, when the wallpaper of life is made up of faces that belong to certified assholes like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr., etc., etc., ad infinitum, it most likely has a trickle-down effect. “The more assholes you’re around, the more asshole-y you get.” But there are other factors that have led to this explosion of assholes, Sutton points out, everything from heat and crowding to imbalances in power and the wealth gap. “The research says that when we’re in those situations, there’s envy going up, and sort of disdain goes down.” Research also shows that technology has increased the “asshole problem,” as Sutton puts it, because people are much more likely to be mean if they don’t have to make eye contact. And because technology has created the expectation for things to happen faster, and at all hours of the day, hurriedness and sleep deprivation have become major factors.

Although the new book seems exceptionally well timed, Sutton finished writing before the election, and he notes in it that he doesn’t buy into the adage that assholes finish first. The presence of a major-league asshole in the Oval Office would seem to prove him wrong, but Sutton stands by this theory. “The evidence generally is that when you treat people badly, the only time it really seems to work is if you’re in a zero-sum game and it’s a shorter-term game,” he explains. “And my perspective is that even if you’re in the zero-sum game, where the assholes get ahead, there’s all this negative carnage. The people around them, their physical and mental health and personal relationships, they all suffer. And I don’t want to go to Trump too much, but God, look how many people he’s gone through.” In the long run, he concludes, “people who treat each other with some civility generally do better.”

Very much in the same vein, New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens gave a lecture in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday about the dying art of disagreement:

To say the words, “I agree” — whether it’s agreeing to join an organization, or submit to a political authority, or subscribe to a religious faith — may be the basis of every community.

But to say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong; etiam si omnes — ego non — these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. Galileo and Darwin; Mandela, Havel, and Liu Xiaobo; Rosa Parks and Natan Sharansky — such are the ranks of those who disagree.

And the problem, as I see it, is that we’re failing at the task.

There’s no one answer [about why this is happening]. What’s clear is that the mis-education begins early. I was raised on the old-fashioned view that sticks and stones could break my bones but words would never hurt me. But today there’s a belief that since words can cause stress, and stress can have physiological effects, stressful words are tantamount to a form of violence. This is the age of protected feelings purchased at the cost of permanent infantilization.

The mis-education continues in grade school. As the Brookings findings indicate, younger Americans seem to have no grasp of what our First Amendment says, much less of the kind of speech it protects. This is a testimony to the collapse of civics education in the United States, creating the conditions that make young people uniquely susceptible to demagogy of the left- or right-wing varieties.

Both articles are worth reading.

Challenge to the Arpaio pardon

It took less than a week for two separate entities to challenge President Trump's pardon of racist thug former Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio. Via Jennifer Rubin, the Federal judge who convicted Arpaio of criminal content has stopped short of vacating the conviction:

Instead she ordered Arpaio and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case, to file briefs on why she should or shouldn't grant Arpaio's request.

Bolton has scheduled oral arguments on the matter for Oct. 4, the day before Arpaio was supposed to be sentenced.

There is case law that says a pardon implies an admission of guilt, and that will have to be argued in open court.

Rubin adds:

Meanwhile, Protect Democracy, an activist group seeking to thwart Trump’s violations of legal norms, and a group of lawyers have sent a letter to Raymond N. Hulser and John Dixon Keller of the Public Integrity Section, Criminal Division of the Justice Department, arguing that the pardon goes beyond constitutional limits.

Put simply, the argument is that the president cannot obviate the court’s powers to enforce its orders when the constitutional rights of others are at stake.

Lurking in the background is the potential for Trump to pardon associates involved in the probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and the possible obstruction of justice that followed. The Arpaio pardon may well have been an attempt to signal to those officials and ex-officials that they can resist inquiries with the assurance that Trump will pardon them. (Recall Trump’s unprecedented remarks that Michael Flynn should hold out for a grant of immunity.) Using the pardon power to obstruct an investigation into his own possible wrongdoing would signal a constitutional crisis.

A crisis that the Republicans in Congress could resolve simply by, I don't know, doing their fucking jobs. But the Party of Lincoln is happy to allow the President to destroy his office for personal gain, as long as they get their tax cuts.

Makes you long for the more-ethical days of Caligula and Nero, doesn't it?

Monday afternoon I'll-read-this-later summary

Articles I haven't got time to read until later:

That's all for now. Busy weekend behind me, another one ahead.

We've seen this playbook before

Huffington Post Global Editorial Director Howard Fineman explains how President Trump dividing the country is a feature, not a bug:

Having risen to power by dividing the country, his party leadership and even, at times, his own campaign team, his aim now is to divide or discredit any institution, tradition or group in his way.

Donald Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. He is racing to undermine the federal political system — if not all American public life — before still-independent forces (for now, the federal courts, the press and Congress) undermine him.

The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And “winning” is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office.

Fineman goes on to enumerate the ways we can expect Trump to continue this strategy.

This is how people with deeply unpopular messages come to power in democracies. It's important that we keep this in mind. (That Trump is openly siding with people who venerate Adolf Hitler makes it a lot easier to see, of course.)

It doesn't help that the Republican Party continues to abet his behavior, even if only by keeping quiet. It's time for them to disband. As commentators across the spectrum are pointing out, the Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln; it's the anti-Lincoln party.

We haven't been making this up

Those of us saying for years now that President Trump is a racist twat and that you should apply Occam's Razor (or Trump's Razor) to his behavior got quite a shock yesterday when he proved our point spectacularly. We can't pretend anymore that his policies and rhetoric come primarily from "inexperience" or "stupidity." Josh Marshall lays it out plainly:

The simpler explanation that accounts for all the available facts is not always right. But as Occam noted, it is always to be preferred. What we need is a Copernican revolution in our understanding of Trumpism, or at least some of us need it. The breakthrough for Copernicus was in positing the unimaginable, indeed the terrifying possibility that the Earth is not the center of the universe but rather a peripheral, secondary celestial body. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place.

With Trump, he has a revanchist racist politics because he is a revanchist racist. Once you accept that, a lot falls into place. All the heroic and increasingly nonsensical perambulations of misunderstandings, inexperience, missed opportunities, stubbornness and all the rest are not needed. It all falls into place.

What we have in this Times article is the more direct evidence, a confirmation of what we should already know. His advisors know this is what he thinks. They apparently hear it frequently. They were shocked to here him say in public “opinions that the president had long expressed in private.”

Stop pretending he's going to learn or grow. He won't. This is the president. Supporting him means supporting these views, which should not be aired—or held—by any serious politician anywhere. And it's shocking that people like Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn can stand next to him.