The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Turning mental illness into a nomination for President

I think we can all agree that Donald Trump believes everything he says. Either he's a genius bullshitter or he has narcissistic personality disorder. It doesn't really matter in the end, but James Fallows still tries to sort it out:

A reader makes what may by now be an obvious point but is still worth reckoning with. He was responding to the post in which I noted Trump’s combination of masterful TV performance and near-total ignorance of the actual job and challenges of being president.

Imagine going through life with the conceptual framework that you simply cannot be wrong. Facts would cease to matter, and education would largely be irrelevant, because you're the one who determines what is and isn't true. In fact, people who claim to have expertise would become the enemy because they would provide information that would exist outside of yourself. If everything you say is the ultimate, universal truth, than anything that exists outside of yourself must be deception.

I think that Trump earnestly believes every single thing that comes out of his mouth, and that the reason his beliefs seem to change is because his reality is fluid.

Sounds about right. But then again, Scott Adams could also be correct. Either way, having this man so close to becoming president scares me more than any of the usual knaves and rogues the GOP has nominated would have.

And there's this:

Articles to read while waiting for my next online meeting

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won their respective Illinois primary elections yesterday. And in other news:

Time to write some documentation. Whee.

Reading list for this evening

In between four rehearsals and two performances this week (Monday through Sunday), I'm taking tonight off. So while I have a minute or two between helping new developers understand some old code, I'm jotting down this list of things that looked particularly appealing when they came up on RSS feeds:

OK, the new devs are testing something...and more on that later.

How Trump behaves in private Chicago business deals

Not surprisingly, he behaves like a dick:

Though Trump is pitching himself to voters as a dealmaker who wins, the 12-year drama of the Trump International Hotel & Tower offers a more complicated narrative. While it reinforces his preferred image as a bold risk-taker and consummate salesman, it underscores his darker reputation as a bullying businessman willing to back out of deals and trash the competition when it's convenient. And that big TRUMP sign on the front of the building fits perfectly with the caricature of the developer as a narcissist and braggart.

Altogether, buyers of 43 condos—32 residential units and 11 hotel units—took advantage of [a 10% discount "friends and family"] deal, a group that included attorneys at DLA Piper, Trump's law firm, and architects at Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which designed the skyscraper. Some buyers demanded that Trump honor his original deal, and Trump backed down. Others were unwilling to jeopardize a valuable business relationship and simply accepted Trump's new terms without a fight.

Trump took on another group—his financial backers. Unable to pay off a maturing construction loan from a bank group led by Deutsche Bank, he sued them in 2008 for more time, citing a “force majeure” clause in his loan agreement. Such clauses are designed to give borrowers relief in the case of unforeseen, cataclysmic events, like floods or wars, but Trump argued that the financial crisis qualified. He also sought $3 billion in damages.

That a good 25% of American voters support this guy turns my stomach. But evidence about how he behaves, and how he repeatedly tries to screw his counterparties on deals, actually boosts his standing among those voters. Regardless of the outcome of this election—I'm hoping for something like the Whig implosion of 1852—it speaks poorly of our country that he's got this much support.

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.