The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Stuff to read on the plane

Just a quick post of articles I want to load up on my Surface at O'Hare:

Off to take Parker to boarding. Thence the Land of UK.

Mattis resigns

As someone joked after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned yesterday, "we have to worry when the grown-up in the room is nicknamed 'Mad Dog.'" His resignation letter doesn't seem that mad:

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO's 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model - gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions - to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Interesting times. And to the reason that Mattis has resigned (a disagreement with the president over pulling out of Syria), Josh Marshall rightly points out that if we don't know why the president is doing something, that's a problem in itself:

This most basic level of transparency – knowing roughly the reasons why the government is doing the things its doing – is something Americans have mostly been able to take for granted. But today we can’t. And that has knock-on effects down the line of democratic self-government and accountability. If we don’t know why things are happening, whether they’re happening for plausible policy reasons or because of pay-offs or extortion or whims, we can’t properly react to them. We can’t properly understand what is happening with no clear idea why it is happening. We lack the basic information around which political groupings properly react to those in power, supporting the government’s actions or opposing them. It generates a climate of profound uncertainty and civic paralysis.

Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is exactly what Russia and China want. We really are in an upside-down world, when Democrats are worried about our adversaries and Republicans don't care.

A short history of the Republican party's corruption

Atlantic staff writer George Packer doesn't mean the self-dealing and ballot stuffing the GOP has turned into an art form; he means the fundamental detachment and nihilism of the party in its current form:

The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means. Political corruption usually trails financial scandals in its wake—the foam is scummy with self-dealing—but it’s far more dangerous than graft. There are legal remedies for Duncan Hunter, a representative from California, who will stand trial next year for using campaign funds to pay for family luxuries. But there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing.

The corruption of the Republican Party in the Trump era seemed to set in with breathtaking speed. In fact, it took more than a half century to reach the point where faced with a choice between democracy and power, the party chose the latter. Its leaders don’t see a dilemma—democratic principles turn out to be disposable tools, sometimes useful, sometimes inconvenient. The higher cause is conservatism, but the highest is power. After Wisconsin Democrats swept statewide offices last month, Robin Vos, speaker of the assembly, explained why Republicans would have to get rid of the old rules: “We are going to have a very liberal governor who is going to enact policies that are in direct contrast to what many of us believe in.”

During the Gingrich years, I repeated that the GOP didn't want to govern, it wanted to rule. Its behavior since then has only confirmed that analysis. And it will take another 30 years to get them out of power—if we can.

This is always how it would happen

Given the American tradition of publicly saying one thing and privately doing the opposite, even staunchly-Republican businesses learn to behave as if climate change is real. After the company experienced higher-than-expected losses following California wildfires this year, Allstate's CEO put out a press release urging action on climate change:

In a release, CEO Tom Wilson minced no words on his views of the cause of the devastation, which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds missing, as well as staggering property loss.

"It's time to address the impact that more severe weather is having on Americans instead of fighting about climate change," Wilson said. "This year there have been approximately 7,500 wildfires in California, Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and a swath of severe weather across the United States, putting our customers in danger and at risk of losing their homes and hard-earned money.”

The financial blow would have been significantly worse had Allstate not shrunk substantially in California. The company said it has cut its California homeowners policies by about half over the past decade.

The catastrophe losses, combined with $60 million in unanticipated pension costs that Allstate also reported last night, will have a dramatic effect on 2018 earnings. Sandler O’Neill & Partners today reduced its 2018 earnings estimate by 15 percent to $7.67 per share from $9.03 per share.

I've predicted this for two decades now, that insurance companies would always be the first to promote climate-change remediation and greenhouse-gas reductions, because they get hurt the most by climate change. Good on Tom Wilson; now maybe he can lobby some sense into the Republican Party.

You can stop laughing now. But eventually, we're going to get there. Just not with the current government.

Gonna be a long two years

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had a, shall we say, energetic exchange with President Trump today. On camera:

Whoo boy.

Walker and the continued depravity of the Republican Party

Right-wing radio host Charles J. Sykes, a personal friend of outgoing Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, says enough is enough:

The Wisconsin GOP’s lame-duck power play was not the death of democracy. But it was bad enough: petty, vindictive, and self-destructive. It was, as the saying goes, worse than a crime. It was a blunder.

And for what?

In its arrogant insularity, the Wisconsin GOP became a national symbol of win-at-all-costs, norms-be-damned politics. Cut through the overwrought rhetoric and what did the Republican legislators actually accomplish? Not really a whole lot; certainly not enough to justify the political damage they’ve inflicted on themselves. They have managed to energize the progressive base, expose themselves as sore losers, and undermine crucial democratic norms. And in return … they got extraordinarily little.

A strong argument could be made that Walker—and people like me who supported him—helped shape our divisive and toxic political environment. Walker has an opportunity here to redeem his reputation.

He should think about how the country is eulogizing President George H. W. Bush. One of the defining moments of Bush’s political career was his last: the way he responded to his bitter defeat. The letter he left for his successor, Bill Clinton, was not merely gracious but an important affirmation of the continuity of America’s democratic norms. “Your success now is our country’s success,” he wrote. “I am rooting hard for you.”

Today that generosity seems wildly discordant. For the moment, the Trumpist style of smash-mouth, red-versus-blue, play-to-your-base politics is ascendant. What’s happening now in Wisconsin, and similar moves in Michigan, will only escalate the cycle of hyper-partisanship. Polarization is likely to get worse before it gets better.

"...because I was not a Progressive Democrat." Seriously, dude, you encouraged him and now you're recanting? Thanks, I guess.

An example of why Rauner lost

Crains' Springfield, Ill., correspondent provides a vignette showing why Bruce Rauner couldn't get anything done in his one and only term as Illinois governor. A bill the governor supports got lost in the shuffle between the Illinois House and Senate, prompting him to send a nasty letter to the press before sending it to Senate president John Cullerton. Why didn't the governor just use his legislative liaison office? Rich Miller explains:

[T]he governor's office employs a large number of people who get paid to lobby legislators. If this issue was so all-important to Rauner, then why not have one of his liaisons contact Bush in the months before the veto session began?

I made similar remarks on my blog, and [Rauner adisor Mischa] Fisher reached out to say it was not the "role of the executive branch to shepherd legislation back and forth between the two chambers."

Um, yes, it is. "Why even have legislative liaisons if you're not going to use them?" I asked. "To communicate the governor's position on legislation as it moves through the two chambers," Fisher replied.

Did he not realize that this is exactly what I was talking about? There was zero communication with the Senate until the final hours of the veto session. Fisher replied that "making sure it wasn't lost is what the governor's letter is intending to do."

J.B. Pritzker beat Rauner by half a million votes last month and will be sworn in January 14th. Rauner will "return to private industry," in the parlance of politics. Pritzker, one hopes, will be able to get a bill passed before the end of his first term.

George H.W. Bush, 1924-2018

The 41st president of the United States died last night at the age of 94. President Bill Clinton, who succeeded Bush in 1993, remembers his friend:

No words of mine or others can better reveal the heart of who he was than those he wrote himself. He was an honorable, gracious and decent man who believed in the United States, our Constitution, our institutions and our shared future. And he believed in his duty to defend and strengthen them, in victory and defeat. He also had a natural humanity, always hoping with all his heart that others’ journeys would include some of the joy that his family, his service and his adventures gave him.

His friendship has been one of the great gifts of my life. From Indonesia to Houston, from the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast to Kennebunkport — where just a few months ago we shared our last visit, as he was surrounded by his family but clearly missing Barbara — I cherished every opportunity I had to learn and laugh with him. I just loved him.

We should all give thanks for George H.W. Bush’s long, good life and honor it by searching, as he always did, for the most American way forward.

I voted against Bush in my first election, and helped defeat him in the 1992 campaign. Back then, we opposed people in the other party; we didn't hate them. Bush embodied that decency. He will be missed.

Stuff to read later

Of note:

Fun times!

Queued up for later

Some questions:

And finally, when can I take a nap?