The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Thinking of Orlando Gibbons

When I read this, I couldn't help thinking of this:

The silver Swan, who, living, had no Note,
When Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast upon the reedy shore,
Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
"Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes! 
More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise."

In other burials of Caesar, former University of Chicago law students have had some unkind things to say about how Scalia treated minorities:

Ben Streeter, now an attorney with the Federal Election Commission and a former black student of Scalia’s, told Gawker that although he in fact passed Scalia’s course, he, too, noticed preferential treatment towards white students. Streeter said the final exam in one of Scalia’s classes included an unprecedented short-answer section, with answers that weren't covered in class. Streeter suspected Scalia had mentioned the material with students who came to visit him outside of class.

“In those days, the only students who came by to visit him were in the Federalist Society group,” Streeter told Gawker. “There was not a single black member of the Federalist Society in my three years at the University of Chicago.”

Phillip Hampton, the former president of the University of Chicago’s Black Student Law Association, told Gawker that he found it strange that “every black student’s lowest grade was in Scalia’s class.” He also remembered Scalia once saying that he could “usually tell papers that were written by African Americans,” even if they had no names on them.

Scalia at least remained perfectly consistent in these attitudes throughout his tenure in the Federal Courts. Remember last December, when he said black students should stay on the short bus?

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Tony. We'll be clawing back Scalia's revanchist, racist, repulsive judicial legacy for two generations—or if not, we'll be a country I don't want to live in.

GOP nonsense as technical debt

Technical debt occurs when you make a short-term coding decision to get something done, but in the process introduce an error or code smell you'll have to correct later.

Josh Marshall thinks the Republican Party did exactly that over the years, and Donald Trump is the refactoring:

This is a fairly good description of what the media is now wrongly defining as the GOP's 'Trump problem', only in this case the problem isn't programming debt. It's a build up of what we might call 'hate debt' and 'nonsense debt' that has been growing up for years.

The truth is virtually Trump's entire campaign is built on stuff just like this, whether it's about mass deportation, race, the persecution of Christians, Obamacare, the coming debt crisis and a million other things. At the last debate, Trump got pressed on his completely ludicrous tax cut plan. He eventually said growth (which if you calculate it would need to be something like 20% on average) would take care of the huge budget shortfall created by his tax plan. But Republicans can't really dispute this point since all of Republican campaign economics is based on precisely the same argument. What about Obamacare? Can Marco "Establishment" Rubio really get traction attacking Trump for having no specific plan to replace Obamacare when Republicans have spent the last five years repeatedly voting to repeal Obamacare without ever specifying a plan to replace it with? On each of these fronts, the slow accumulation of nonsense and paranoia - 'debt' to use our metaphor - built into a massive trap door under the notional GOP leadership with a lever that a canny huckster like Trump could come in and pull pretty much whenever. This is the downside of building party identity around a package of calculated nonsense and comically unrealizable goals.

Great. You know what solves technical debt sometimes? Starting over with a Version 2.0.

Authoritarian, phony, and probably going to win

Esquire's Charles Pierce is glad Trump is looking after "shitkickers like you," but he worries that stopping Trump will take more than just a moderate Republican:

The only way to stop He, Trump is not, as the Boston Globe so tragically suggests today, to have unenrolled people pick up the Republican ballot and vote for John Kasich. I can't think of a more impotent suggestion than that. In the general scheme of things, Kasich is worse off than either Cruz or Rubio and, also in the general scheme of things, no thinking Republican believes that the Commonwealth (God save it!) is important in any way at all. It's like a Democratic operative suggesting that his voters finagle with the results in, say, Mississippi. Come November, the Republicans could put up Zombie Abraham Lincoln Christ and still lose Massachusetts.

No, the only way to stop He, Trump is to give up on the twin fictions that have given him life—that government is something alien to us, instead of being the political manifestation of the popular will, and that elections are purely entertainment. The only way to stop He, Trump is to re-engage as citizens of a self-governing republic again, to realize that politics matter and that voting is more than an excuse for the PTA to run a bake sale. It is not time to make America great again. It's time to make America America again. 

Meanwhile, his brand of authoritarianism keeps building followers:

Trump’s base of white working-class authoritarians is scared of what they view as a “new” America, one in which they believe that the psychological and material wages of Whiteness will not be as great. A combination of the brain structures and cognitive processes of conservative-authoritarians, socialization by family and community, and disinformation from the right-wing “news” entertainment complex, reinforce those anxieties while also ginning up deep feelings of racial resentment toward non-whites.

Donald Trump is not necessarily the prime instigator or cause of those fears; he is just the Republican candidate who is most adept at manipulating them. Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is a direct promise to restore a world where white folks are central to all things in the United States (to the degree that they are not), and their dominance, privilege and power are uncontested.

The worry I have, of course, is that people who aren't conservative authoritarians will vote for him in November. Because it seems obvious that he'll be the Republican nominee. And that's not a guy I want anywhere near real power.

The GOP reaps what it sowed

New Republic's Jeet Heer points out how the Republican Party's "Sourthern Strategy," going all the way back to the 1950s, led more or less directly to Donald Trump's campaign:

Far from being a “cancer” on Republicanism, or some jihadi-style radicalizer, he’s the natural evolutionary product of Republican platforms and strategies that stretch back to the very origins of modern conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s.

The racist voters swarming around Trump didn’t just pop out of nowhere. The Republicans have been courting them for decades now, in a dramatic break from the party’s origins. From its creation in 1854 in opposition to the expansion of slavery until the 1940s, the Republicans were the party of the North, and more anti-racist (albeit sometimes only marginally so) than the Democrats, whose most reliable base of support was the “solid” white South. 

The Southern Strategy was the original sin that made Donald Trump possible. If Republican voters were anywhere near as diverse as the Democrats’, a candidate like Trump would have been marginalized quickly. Conservative elites can denounce Trump all they want as a “cancer” or an impostor. In truth, he is their true heir, the beneficiary of the policies the party has pursued for more than half a century.

It's a long-ish article, worth the time.

Quel week-end

I haven't had a moment to blog this weekend, but wow, what a major political event yesterday. Justice Scalia died suddenly on Saturday, and almost immediately Senate Republicans said they won't allow any nominee from President Obama to come to a vote. As Josh Marshall points out, this had no purpose save one:

In a typically insightful Twitter spree last night, David Frum noted that "McConnell’s precipitate statement [that he would refuse to hold a vote on any Obama appointee] is wrong not only on grounds of appropriateness & timing, but even politics ..." As Frum notes, it is entirely unnecessary for McConnell to make this stark pronouncement. He and his Senate caucus could simply decide in advance to judge any nominee beyond the pale, reject them on a party line vote and run out the clock.

Part of me thinks this too. And I agree with David that it is simply wrong. But I think I know why McConnell is right out of the gate with a principle he seemingly has no need to explicitly invoke:to normalize the behavior, to stake out the maximalist position early in order to allow it time to become accepted as a given. And more than this, it makes sense for him to do so while the White House is bound by normative rules of propriety and decency to focus on statements and gestures of mourning rather than political brinksmanship.

As I said, there's no debate here. It's just a power-play, a refusal to fulfill a straightforward constitutional duty, which no one, not the President or anyone else, has the power to prevent. Let's not pretend otherwise.

Because the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And this has been the case since 1964.

Eddie Lampert's murder of Sears

Sears, Roebuck & Co. was founded only a couple years after the Chicago fire (and the Apollo Chorus). For decades people equated the Sears brand with mail-order retail. They could deliver anything, anywhere, and people in rural 19th- and early-20th-century America depended on them. Their success and business acumen culminated in them commissioning the tallest building in the world just over 40 years ago.

Their current chairman, Eddie Lampert, took over in 2004, and immediately applied the teachings and wisdom of the sociopathic author Ayn Rand to running the august company. He set managers against each other, extracted cash without reinvesting, merged with bankrupt K-Mart, and in the process squandered two-thirds of the company's value—$6 billion just since 2012.

The company took another step to total collapse this week when they announced that they planned to write down the value of the name "Sears" by $200 million. This came in its official report that included dry but painful descriptions of its unbelievably bad Christmas season and its continuing hemorrhaging of cash and people.

The slow death of Sears by Lampert's hands is just sad. Lampert's ideology, and probably his narcissism, have killed one of America's biggest names. I don't think we've ever seen a better example of what happens when Ayn Rand's beliefs go up against reality.

Disqualifying characteristic of Rubio?

Buzzfeed via TPM reports that Marco Rubio is probably not ready for the White House:

The key line is: "Though generally seen as cool-headed and quick on his feet, Rubio is known to friends, allies, and advisers for a kind of incurable anxiousness — and an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined."

Now plenty of us get anxious. But there's probably nothing you want less in a President than a propensity to panic in moments of crisis. It's almost terrifying. Now I'm panicking.

For all that, not to put too fine a point on it but the presidency is a fairly unpredictable enterprise with a more or less nonstop stream of crises, some trivial, some potentially world shattering. Coolness under pressure and the ability to make decisions are the two critical attributes in any leader or executive and likely the two most important for a President. What's the 3 AM red phone line call for Rubio? Even better is the reference to panicking over crises "both real and imagined."

Again, not Obama.

The current Republican rap on Obama is basically that he doesn't panic enough. Too cool and collected, when the world is burning around him. Whatever you make of that, Obama isn't a panicker. No drama. Again, you cannot put that much stock in any single article. But the charge is about the most devastating one that can be leveled at a candidate for President. And recent debate evidence tends to confirm the diagnosis.

Yep.

One reason people are pissed off

Calculated Risk updates the "scariest jobs chart ever:"

The chart shows each of the post-World War II recessions in terms of job losses from the pre-recession peak. Notice that the 2001 recession line slides right into the 2007 line, as the Republican policies that led to the housing boom and bust tanked the banking sector.

We haven't fully recovered from the 2001 recession, in other words. We've had a generally-down cycle for almost 15 years now. That is why we should not elect a Republican legislature until they figure out how economics works.

Bruce Rauner does the impossible

Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg put the Rauner administration in context in a column a couple of weeks ago:

Not only did Rauner fail to make tangible progress, but he didn’t even tread water properly. The normal operation of the state, such as passing an annual budget, failed to occur, sacrificed on the altar of the governor’s hunger for term limits, union enfeeblement and other unrelated pet causes. He’s like an office manager getting himself hired by promising to expand a business who then promptly fails to pay the electric bill, as a point of principle against the electric company monopoly, so they turn the lights off. Now we’re sitting in the dark, listening to him explain.

But give credit where due: Rauner has accomplished something real, something that I would have thought impossible:

He makes Rod Blagojevich look good.

In 2014, Rauner won every county in Illinois except Cook, beating Pat Quinn by about 150,000 votes out of 3.6 million cast. That's not a huge mandate. But it has turned into a huge disaster. ("A yuge disaster?" Hm.)