The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

More reading this evening

I'm a little disappointed with the Cubs' 6-5 loss to the Giants last night, but they get another crack at them tonight. I'll probably watch—while writing software. Meanwhile, here are some articles I wish I'd had more time to read:

Go Cubs, and back to work.

Debate reactions

Some beauties, and some that I wasn't expecting, from:

And, not for nothing, the voters.

All in all, just about everyone who weighed in on it said it was a disaster for Trump, for the Republican Party, and for American Democracy. I concur.

Heading into the weekend

Wow, my blogging velocity has been crap this month. And here I go, doing it crappier:

There will be more later, I'm sure.

Is our Constitution ill?

Garrett Epps, writing for The Atlantic, warns that the advent of Trumpism comes mainly from an erosion of our collective understanding of and belief in the reasons our Constitution was written in the first place:

Trumpism is the symptom, not the cause, of the malaise. I think we have for some time been living in the post-Constitution era. America’s fundamental law remains and will remain important as a source of litigation. But the nation seems to have turned away from a search of values in the Constitution, regarding it instead as a set of annoying rules.

But even if America is spared President Trump, will the pathologies of the last year simply dissipate in a burst of national good feeling? Hardly. Trump was not a meteorite who has unexpectedly plunged to earth out of the uncharted depths of space; he is the predictable product of a sick system.

The corrosive attack on constitutional values has come, and continues to come, from the right. It first broke into the open in 1998, when a repudiated House majority tried to remove President Bill Clinton for minor offenses. It deepened in 2000, when the Supreme Court, by an exercise of lawless power, installed the President of their choice. It accelerated when the inadequate young president they installed responded to crisis with systematic lawlessness––detention without trial, a secret warrantless eavesdropping program, and institutionalized torture.

Whatever is taught in school, the Constitution never was (in James Russell Lowell’s phrase), “a machine that would go of itself;” what has made it work is a daily societal decision that we wish to live in a constitutional democracy. In 1942, Judge Learned Hand warned that “a society so riven that the spirit of moderation is gone, no court can save; that a society where that spirit flourishes, no court need save.”

And as if on cue, yesterday the Man Himself made another broadside against the 6th and 5th amendments (without, one assumes, knowing that he did):

In a speech on Monday, Donald Trump expressed his displeasure that Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in the recent New York City bombings, will receive the full legal protections afforded to him by the federal Constitution. Trump specifically zeroed in on the fact that Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen, will presumably be provided a lawyer, as the Constitution requires. “He will be represented by an outstanding lawyer,” Trump complained with palpable chagrin. “His case will go through the various court systems for years and in the end, people will forget and his punishment will not be what it once would have been. What a sad situation. We must have speedy but fair trials and we must deliver a just and very harsh punishment to these people.”

Slate's Mark Stern goes on to remind readers that John Adams and James Madison made the 6th Amendment right to counsel a bedrock of American jurisprudence for some pretty good reasons. But neither Trump nor his supporters really care about those reasons, because in their limited imaginations, they can't see how taking away those rights for some people will almost certainly result in taking away those rights for them as well.

Who will win the debates?

James Fallows has a long article in the upcoming Atlantic attempting to answer this question:

The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States.  

The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heardKennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.  

Historians who have followed up on this story haven’t found data to back up White’s sight-versus-sound discovery. But from a modern perspective, the only surprising thing about his findings is that they came as a surprise. Today’s electorate has decades of televised politics behind it, from which one assumption is that of course images, and their emotional power, usually matter more than words and whatever logic they might try to convey.

Never has the dominance of the image over the word seemed more significant than this year, as the parties and the public prepare for the three general-election debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that are scheduled to begin September 26 (as it happens, the anniversary of that first Kennedy-Nixon debate) and the one vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, scheduled for October 4.

The whole thing is worth a read. I'm frustrated that I'll be in a rehearsal during the first debate, but I may stay up late after watching it.

Maine is sorry

After Maine Governor Paul LePage (the Rob Ford of New England) made yet more inappropriate comments into a recording device earlier this week, the Portland Press Herald has apologized to the rest of the U.S. for electing him:

Dear America: Maine here. Please forgive us – we made a terrible mistake. We managed to elect and re-elect a governor who is unfit for high office.

You probably heard about the latest episode. He was asked about the toxic racial environment that he created in the state with insensitive statements about people of color. The questioner, an entrepreneur from New York, wondered how he could ever bring a business here.

The question was an opportunity for the governor to undo some of the damage that he has caused by giving members of minority groups around the country the impression that Maine is a white state where no one else is welcome.

Instead, the governor repeated one of his worst libels: That Maine’s drug crisis is the fault of black and brown transient thugs who come here not only to sell their poison but also to take advantage of “white Maine women.”

At least he's term-limited. Though he probably won't live up to everyone's favorite recent promise, that he'll resign.