The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sunny and (relatively) warm

It's exactly 0°C in Chicago this afternoon, which is a bog-standard temperature for February 3rd. And it's sunny, which isn't typical. So, with the forecast for a week of bitter cold starting Friday evening, I'm about to take a 30-minute walk to take advantage of today's weather. First, though:

Early February is also the time of year when we start imagining spring. Tomorrow's sunrise is at 7am for the first time since December 1st, and we had 10 hours of daylight last week for the first time since mid-November. Yes, Chicago typically has an Arctic blast sometime during February. But Spring begins in 25 days. We can make it.

We invite you to support this bipartisan bill

Senate Democrats gave the opposition three whole days to stop dicking around with the latest Covid-19 relief package. Then today, with no more than a shrug, they told the Republicans they're tired of the crap:

Senate Democrats took the first step Tuesday toward passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill without Republican support, advancing their efforts to avoid a GOP filibuster.

The vote to kickstart the budget reconciliation process, which passed 50-49, is a sign that leadership expects to have the full Democratic caucus on board for the final package.

The vote comes a day after President Joe Biden met with a group of Senate Republicans, who are offering a $618 billion counterproposal. Although Biden told Senate Democrats Tuesday on a private caucus call that the meeting went well, he also said the Republican proposal is not sufficient, according to sources on the call.

Economist Paul Krugman has already explained the ways the GOP's $618 billion "offer" wasn't serious:

It’s not just that the G.O.P. proposal is grotesquely inadequate for a nation still ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, by their behavior — not just over the past few months but going back a dozen years — Republicans have forfeited any right to play the bipartisanship card, or even to be afforded any presumption of good faith.

But what about bipartisanship? As Biden might say, “C’mon, man.”

First of all, a party doesn’t get to demand bipartisanship when many of its representatives still won’t acknowledge that Biden won legitimately, and even those who eventually acknowledged the Biden victory spent weeks humoring baseless claims of a stolen election.

Complaints that it would be “divisive” for Democrats to pass a relief bill on a party-line vote, using reconciliation to bypass the filibuster, are also pretty rich coming from a party that did exactly that in 2017, when it enacted a large tax cut — legislation that, unlike pandemic relief, wasn’t a response to any obvious crisis, but was simply part of a conservative wish list.

Yes. It only took, what, 12 years? But our party's leadership have finally figured out not to play this game. We're not giving Lucy the football on this one.

Party like it's 1850? 1828? 1964? Who knows

I've often compared this era in American politics with previous eras, most notably the Antebellum period from Jackson on. Yale historian Joanne Freeman zeroes in on 1850—at least as far as our representatives' behavior in Congress

Although couched in calls for unity, [Republican] warnings are remarkably one-sided. There is no talk of reconciliation or compromise. No acceptance of responsibility. Lots of blame casting. And little willingness to calm and inform their base. Even now, some Republicans refuse to admit that Joe Biden won the election, and the Senate vote on an impeachment trial on Jan. 26 suggests that most Republicans want no investigation and will place no blame. They want reconciliation without apologies, concessions without sacrifice, power without accountability.

This is bullying as politics, the modus operandi of our departed chief. Hardly a Trumpian innovation, its heyday was in the decades before the Civil War. During the 1840s and 1850s, America was divided over the fate of slavery. Political parties were splintering under the strain. National institutions were struggling — and failing — to contain it. The press sensationalized the struggle to serve a cause and sell papers.

Southerners had long dominated the national government, and they felt entitled to that power. They were also worried about losing it, a product of the rise of abolitionism and potentially free states forming in the West. Viewing their violence as defensive and justifiable, they fended off attacks on slavery with force when necessary, demanding compliance or silence from their foes, and sometimes getting it.

For some Southerners, this brand of politics wasn’t much of a stretch; their slave regime was grounded in violence, and mastery was their way of life. Between 1830 and 1860, there were at least 70 violent incidents on the House and Senate floors, most of them prompted by Southerners.

With the centuries-long history of Southern white politicians advocating for Southern white minority power, does their behavior today surprise anyone? Freeman concludes:

It needs to assert the power of democratic institutions and the rule of law with a comprehensive investigation into the attack and punishment of its enablers, not in a spirit of revenge, but justly, fairly and consistently. It’s stunning that it needs to be said, but it must be: People who stage, support, or incite violent attacks on the federal government — whether they’re American citizens, members of Congress or the president himself — should be held accountable, not only to restore order in the present, but to fend off similar attacks in the future. Uniting the nation requires no less.

Yes. Lest we find ourselves lurching through the 1850s again. We all know how that ended.

The crazy gets crazier

The Republican Party had several chances to pull itself back from the brink. They failed. Instead, they keep going deeper into the dark hole of wanting to invalidate an election for the sole reason that their guy lost. Josh Marshall outlines their dangerous insanity:

What we see most clearly today is the GOP moving quickly to align itself with the instigators of the January 6 insurrection and the coup plotters who laid the groundwork for it. This may seem like hyperbole, but it is not. Kevin McCarthy, who earlier this month was saying President Trump bore responsibility for instigating the assault, is now making his pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to meet with the disgraced former President and secure his blessing. The only Republicans who stood clearly against the insurrection – like Liz Cheney – are being purged from the party. Trumpist luminaries like Tucker Carlson are already mocking the fears of representatives who feared they’d be murdered on January 6. (That’s right out of the rightist troll culture where you’re blamed for the predation against you for “not getting it.”)

The GOP has had a series of decision points over recent months, the most recent of which was after the January 6 insurrection. The shock of actually being the targets of the assault in many cases created a moment of hesitation. But that wore off quickly.

After early efforts to deflect blame or even blame Antifa for the Capitol insurrection, Republicans are shifting to the view that it was understandable, even justified and may need to happen again to secure Republican ends.

Kathleen Parker says simply that the GOP is dead:

Where conservatism once served as a moderating force — gently braking liberalism’s boundless enthusiasm — the former home of ordered liberty has become a halfway house for ruffians, insurrectionists and renegadewarriors.

The party’s end was inevitable, foreshadowed in 2008 when little-boy Republican males, dazzled by the pretty, born-again, pro-life Alaska governor, thought Sarah Palin should be a heartbeat away from the presidency. The dumbing down of conservatism, in other words, began its terminal-velocity plunge, with a wink and a pair of shiny red shoes.

Going forward, not only will House Republicans be associated with a colleague who “liked” a Twitter post calling for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s murder. They’ll be attached to QAnon, which promotes the extraordinary fiction that Trump was leading a war against Satan-worshiping pedophiles and cannibals, whose leadership includes Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks and, oh, by the way, yours truly, as well as U2’s Bono.

To those Republicans who can read: You own all of this. The party isn’t doomed; it’s dead. The chance to move away from Trumpism, toward a more respectful, civilized approach to governance that acknowledges the realities of a diverse nation and that doesn’t surrender to the clenched fist, has slipped away.

Predictably, the House and Senate GOP caucuses continue to mock President Biden's calls for unity by insisting that the only unified path forward is for Biden to do what the GOP wants. Also predictably, the Republican Party has less and less to say about policy these days, so it really isn't clear what they want. It seems only that they want power, but they have no idea (or they're not saying) what they would do with it should they obtain it.

For the last 10 days I've felt relieved in ways I didn't even realize that the XPOTUS has left the public arena, possibly for good. But about a third of my fellow Americans seem to have lost their minds. So I'm not completely relieved.

All the pretty press secretaries

Fox News has a habit of hiring the XPOTUS's press secretaries (even when no one else will), for a very simple reason:

The appeal of all four to a network like Fox News is that, more than any cluster of unprofessionals in former president Donald Trump’s orbit, his former press secretaries have the most experience in covering up, promoting and articulating lies. Fox News hired [Sarah] Sanders, for instance, just months after the Mueller report showed she lied about alleged support within the FBI for the May 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey. [Kayliegh] McEnany carried forward the tradition of disinformation stemming from the Trump White House, most egregiously in the final two months of her tenure, as she pushed specious report after specious report in service of the lie that the election had been stolen from her boss.

Meanwhile, current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will appear on tomorrow's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! on NPR, after giving almost a dozen mercifully boring and accurate press briefings. It's so delightful I could cry.

Waiting for one CI build, then another

It's every other Tuesday today, so I'm just waiting for the last continuous-integration (CI) build to finish before deploying the latest software to our production environment. So far, so boring, just the way I like it. Meanwhile, in the real world:

  • In a symbolic but meaningless vote, all but 5 Republican members of the US Senate voted to let the XPOTUS off the hook for inciting an insurrection against, well, them, as this way they believe they get to keep his followers at no cost to themselves. If this past year were a novel, the next sentence might begin with "Little did they know..." Which, you know, describes those 45 Republicans to a T.
  • Dutch police arrested more than 180 people in Amsterdam and Rotterdam for rioting against Covid-19 lockdowns: "A leading Dutch criminologist, Henk Ferwerda, said the riots involved 'virus deniers, political protesters and kids who just saw the chance to go completely wild – all three groups came together.'"
  • Air travelers across the US can rejoice that CNN Airport News will go away on March 31st.
  • Over 1 teratonne of ice melted over each of the past few years, increasing concerns about global sea level rises.
  • Two mathematicians argue that time-travel paradoxes don't exist, because the universe routes around them.

Finally, snow continues to fall in Chicago, so far accumulating to about 100 mm by my house and as of noon about 125 mm at O'Hare. Calling this a "snowstorm" seems a bit over the top as it's coming down at under 10 mm per hour and forecast to stop before too long. Plus it's barely below freezing for now—but forecast to cool down to -11°C by Wednesday night before creeping above freezing Friday and Saturday. So we might have a blanket of snow for a bit. Still, it's the most snow we've gotten all season, with less than 5 weeks to go before meteorological spring starts March 1st. I'm OK with this mild winter, though it might presage a very hot summer.

The GOP continues to eat its own

Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), one of the ten GOP representatives who voted for the Article of Impeachment against the XPOTUS two weeks ago, finds himself on the outs with his party:

Kinzinger's future prospects depend largely on Trump's continuing role in Republican politics. If the party remains in thrall to the former president at every level, Kinzinger's perceived betrayal makes political survival, let alone advancement, uncertain.

What does Kinzinger want to do in 2022? "I don't know," he says. "Do I have an interest in a statewide run? I would say, a few months ago I was certainly going to look at it, and it's still not something I'm going to rule out. I also look at it and go, who knows what the new districts look like? Who knows if I belong in the party in two years?"

Some conservatives want Kinzinger to face consequences. The Winnebago County Republican Party is considering censuring him for his impeachment vote. State Sen. Darren Bailey called for the Illinois Republican Party to sanction him, and former Cook County GOP Chair Aaron Del Mar has predicted Kinzinger would not survive a primary. Politico reports he already has a challenger: Gene Koprowski, a former official at the Heartland Institute think tank.

"I think that people are not over what (Trump) stood for at all. In fact, they're more spun up about that than ever," says Richard Porter, a member of the Republican National Committee and a potential Illinois gubernatorial candidate.

But just what, exactly, does the XPOTUS actually stand for, other than himself? This question also vexes the Republican establishment (cf. the Republican party) in Arizona, where this past weekend the state GOP convention censured Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, former US Senator Jeff Flake, and former US Senator John McCain's widow, Cindy, for failing to show appropriate obsequience to the Spiritual Leader of the Party:

The sweeping — yet essentially symbolic — rebuke took place during a meeting to figure out how to move forward after the state flipped blue in November, narrowly giving its 11 electoral votes to now-President Biden.

McCain and Flake, both of whom endorsed Biden for president, were censured for their outspoken opposition to Trump and for their support of globalist interests, according to state GOP members.

In condemning Ducey, the party cited the governor's decision to enact emergency orders during the coronavirus pandemic that the committee said are unconstitutional and "restrict personal liberties."

Much of the meeting, held indoors at Dream City Church in Phoenix, was largely a pep rally for state Republicans who support the former president and his baseless claims of election fraud.

I wonder how long after the Republican party splits into the fantasy and reality factions before we hear cries of "c'est le sang de Danton qui t'étouffe?"

Catching up

Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:

Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.

Less than 24 hours to go

The US Constitution, Amendment XX, section 1, says point blank that the STBXPOTUS will be XPOTUS in less than 24 hours. Between now and then, I have no doubt he'll shit the bed (possibly even literally) on his way out the door. Just a few minutes ago the Times reported that the outgoing administration has declared China's treatment of Uighurs "genocide," which may complicate President Biden's plans to pressure the country diplomatically. (Biden apparently supports this designation, however.)

From completely bollixing the vaccine rollout to failing in the most basic acts of class and decency with the Bidens to appointing crazy people to civil-service roles to executing more people in the past month than the US Government has executed in the past 12 years, he has done everything in his power to make 60% of Americans ready to see the back of him. We haven't even seen today's pardon list yet; I can only guess how much fun I'll have reading it.

For all of that, though, one thing has absolutely delighted me these past two weeks: he hasn't posted anything on social media. Consequently, as the Post reports, misinformation online has dropped 73% since he got booted from Twitter and Facebook:

The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.

Zignal found it dropped swiftly and steeply on Twitter and other platforms in the days after the Twitter ban took hold on Jan. 8.

The findings, from Jan. 9 through Friday, highlight how falsehoods flow across social media sites — reinforcing and amplifying each other — and offer an early indication of how concerted actions against misinformation can make a difference.

The research by Zignal and other groups suggests that a powerful, integrated disinformation ecosystem — composed of high-profile influencers, rank-and-file followers and Trump himself — was central to pushing millions of Americans to reject the election results and may have trouble surviving without his social media accounts.

Researchers have found that Trump’s tweets were retweeted by supporters at a remarkable rate, no matter the subject, giving him a virtually unmatched ability to shape conversation online. University of Colorado information science professor Leysia Palen declared in October, after months of research: “Trump’s amplification machine is peerless.”

Glory, hallelujah. Despite 25,000 Guard troops defending the capital, and an inauguration ceremony tomorrow without a huge cheering crowd, things seem better than they did a month ago. I think once we're past the 2020 hangover, 2021 will turn out all right.

Bonnie Wilson Coleman (D-NJ) is pissed off

After sheltering-in-place on January 6th with fact-denying, mask-refusing Republican colleagues, Rep. Coleman contracted Covid-19:

Over the past day, a lot of people have asked me how I feel. They are usually referring to my covid-19 diagnosis and my symptoms. I feel like I have a mild cold. But even more than that, I am angry. 

I am angry that after I spent months carefully isolating myself, a single chaotic day likely got me sick. I am angry that several of our nation’s leaders were unwilling to deal with the small annoyance of a mask for a few hours. I am angry that the attack on the Capitol and my subsequent illness have the same cause: my Republican colleagues’ inability to accept facts.

[On January 6th, m]y staff and I then decided that the Capitol building would likely be the safest place to go, since it would be the most secure and least likely to be crowded. I’ve spent a lot of time since in utter disbelief at how wrong those assumptions turned out to be.

Everyone knows what happened next: A mob broke through windows and doors and beat a U.S. Capitol Police officer, then went on a rampage. Members and staff took cover wherever we could, ducking into offices throughout the building, then were told to move to a safer holding location.

I use “safer” because, while we might have been protected from the insurrectionists, we were not safe from the callousness of members of Congress who, having encouraged the sentiments that inspired the riot, now ignored requests to wear masks.

When I say that many Republicans are responsible for what happened to me, to others and to the country last week, I mean their essential failure to accept facts led us here. Much like they should be able to accept the results of an election, elected leaders should be able to accept facts like the efficacy of masks. It’s clearly time for a congressional campuswide mask requirement, enforced by the House and Senate sergeants at arms.

Facts really do matter. I hope to get back to work soon to make sure we respect them.

We've had a strain of aggressive stupidity in the United States going back to the country's founding. Only trouble is, these days they have more political party than they usually have.