The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Long day, so much to read later

Tabs open but not read in my browser:

There was one more item, but it's too big to gloss over.

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.

The constant drumbeat of stupidity and cupidity

Tales in the war against reality waged by Trump and his party:

And yet, James Fallows sees cause for optimism (assuming Trump doesn't blow up the world):

In [the election's] calamitous effects—for climate change, in what might happen in a nuclear standoff, for race relations—this could indeed be as consequential a “change” election as the United States has had since 1860. But nothing about the voting patterns suggests that much of the population intended upheaval on this scale. “Change” elections drive waves of incumbents from office. This time only two senators, both Republicans, lost their seats.

[C]ity by city, and at the level of politics where people’s judgments are based on direct observation rather than media-fueled fear, Americans still trust democratic processes and observe long-respected norms. As I argued in a cover story last year, most American communities still manage to compromise, invest and innovate, make long-term plans.

Given the atrophy of old-line media with their quaint regard for truth, the addictive strength of social media and their unprecedented capacity to spread lies, and the cynicism of modern politics, will we ever be able to accurately match image with reality? The answer to that question will determine the answer to another: whether this election will be a dire but survivable challenge to American institutions or an irreversible step toward something else.

Only 698 days until the 2018 election...

Articles to read this weekend

So many meetings today, so many articles in my queue:

Tired of all this Trump crap? Have some chocolate-truffle brownies. They look delicious.

Price is wrong

With Trump set to appoint Rep. Mike Price (R-Ga.) to head Health and Human Services, he's making good on his threat to destroy Obamacare. Even if the legislation doesn't disappear, Price will do everything in his considerable power to hobble it until it stops working altogether. Here's Greg Sargent:

Unlike many Republicans, Price has at least given a lot of thought to how to replace the ACA. But Price’s own replacement proposal would roll back the Medicaid expansion, a substantial portion of financial assistance for others getting coverage, and a fair amount of regulation of the individual market. And so, the likely end result (again, at best) is that a lot of the 20 million people who would lose coverage due to repeal will remain without coverage, and protections for those with bad medical conditions will be eroded.

Did people benefiting from Obamacare who voted for Trump really expect repeal to happen? I think we need more reporting on this question. Yes, Trump did repeatedly say he would repeal Obamacare. But he also said he would replace it with “something terrific.” And he explicitly went out of his way to create the impression that he does not agree ideologically with Republicans who are hostile to government efforts to supply health care to those who can’t afford it.

Now, it’s always possible that many voters backed Trump in the full knowledge that their Obamacare might be repealed, for other reasons — because, for instance, he’ll supposedly bring manufacturing and coal jobs roaring back. Before long, those voters will learn whether their bet was a well-placed one. It’s also possible that Trump will surprise us all and insist on some kind of replacement that somehow preserves much of Obamacare’s coverage expansion. And a kick-the-can-down-the-road scenario which keeps deferring the harshest fallout from repeal is also a possibility.

But it now looks more likely that we’ll see a substantial rollback of the progress toward universal health coverage we’ve seen in the past few years. News organizations love to venture into Trump’s America to hear voters explain that Trump spoke far more directly to their economic struggles than Democrats did. Maybe now we’ll get more coverage of those inhabitants of Trump’s America who are set to lose their health care, too.

How many Trump voters will lose their health insurance as a direct consequence of his election? Krugman estimates 4 million, and shows his work.

Elections have consequences.

Meanwhile...

Vieques is part of Puerto Rico and, therefore, part of the United States. So I haven't missed entirely everything. For example, I have these things queued up to read...someday:

Wow. It's almost as if this guy can destroy anyone's vacation even without winning the popular vote.

First of two posts: all the politics

Before discussing the most important sports story in North America since...well, since the States were United, let me highlight some of the political and professional stories percolating:

Stay tuned for the real story of the day.

Why is the FBI director being nakedly partisan?

Let me see if I understand. Eleven days before an election, FBI Director James Comey sends a letter to Congress that has no specific information about an issue that was deemed closed in July but with the implication that the presidential candidate in the other party may have committed some malfeasance, even though doing so is against his agency's own policies? How can he be trusted to run a police force now?

The FBI language in the letter to Congress made it clear that new evidence had been discovered and thus will be reviewed — meaning FBI agents will read these emails. It is unusual for the FBI to tell Congress it is looking over newly discovered evidence in a criminal inquiry that was otherwise closed.

Federal practice is not to comment on ongoing investigations, or discuss details of concluded investigations. Comey previously explained his departure from that practice in his earlier congressional testimony, given the special nature of this case and congressional oversight inquiries.

Great. The FBI will read some new emails. What about the 22 million emails George W. Bush and his gang sent through the RNC's email servers that have up and vanished? Can he find those too?

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.