The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Three strikes against impeachment

Welp, the Senate has acquitted President Trump almost entirely along party lines, as everyone knew it would. Only Mitt Romney (R-UT) crossed the aisle to vote for conviction. Here's a roundup of the news in the last few hours:

About yesterday:

  • The Washington Post has an annotated SOTU.
  • Alexandra Petri clutched every pearl she owned, "and also the pearls of strangers, and some oysters that may contain pearls in the future" after Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ripped up her copy of the SOTU.
  • NBC called the address Trump's "victory lap." Oh no, NBC; he's got more lapping in him.

In other news:

And it's snowing.

My Facebook live-posting last night

You'll just have to imagine the context for all of these comments I posted on my Facebook feed last night. At least I put them in chronological order:

  • Watching the State of the Union with the sound off, and PBS closed captions. And a big martini.—at Agami Contemporary Sushi.
  • I don't know if I can do this. I thought without the sound my skin wouldn't crawl as much. But the words could have come from the Politburo. And Mike Pence is so creepy.
  • OK, I need a non-trivial truthful statement. Just one. Please.
  • If all these groups have record employment, how come everyone feels poor? Maybe because having 3 jobs doesn't feel great?
  • Yeah, you kicked 7 of those 10 million off food stamps. Not a win.
  • Juan F'ing Guaidó? Wow. Talk about a stopped clock being right twice a day. Except Trump actually prefers Maduro, so...
  • Watching him without hearing him, you get a real sense of the insincerity. Go back and watch when everyone was applauding Guaidó. What a weird affect Trump had.
  • "Failing government school?" STFU you illiterate dullard.
  • Interesting how he's only using the stage-left (Republican side) teleprompter.
  • "We will never let socialism destroy American healthcare!" Obviously, because you're happy with capitalism doing it first.
  • Free healthcare to illegal aliens, oh my! (SOTU live vomiting post #2)
  • And there goes the Medal of Freedom. Which Melania just happened to have in her pocket. To place on a man who has done more to destroy political comity in this country than anyone else. I really didn't think anything about this SOTU could shock me. I was wrong.
  • Second martini delivered. Thank you, sir.
  • OMG. He's pulling a Willie Horton in the SOTU.
  • OMG. He's pulling a second... Third... How many Willie Hortons can one bring into one speech? We get it: you hate brown people. Move on.
  • What's this weird shoulder thing he's doing?
  • 187 Federal judges. Remember that. 187. About a quarter of them.
  • Wow. That was an epic take-down of the Establishment Clause.
  • Emotional frisson right now: watching SOTU with closed captions and Agami's sound system is playing "Shake It Off."
  • WTF "our warfighters?"
  • Wow. You brought SFC Williams home from a deployment so you could turn the SOTU into a reality-television special. Of course you did.
  • "The beautiful, beautiful, Alamo." There's no basement in the President's knowledge!

At this point, two martinis in, I stopped posting. At least I didn't start sobbing.

More ridiculousness in the world

Did someone get trapped in a closed time loop on Sunday? Did I? Because this week just brought all kinds of insanity:

Well, one of those is good news...

Things of interest when I have the time to spend on them

Not just articles today, but also a whole HBO mini-series:

For yet another thing to worry about today, after this post and the one before it, the New Yorker has started a series about the last time democracy almost died. (Hint: it got better.)

Occlusion

In Chicago this week, a persistent temperature inversion has kept us under a layer of stratus clouds that have obscured the sun for the past 5 days. Instead of the normal 42% of possible sunshine we get in January, this year we've only gotten 28%. It's a little depressing.

The only silver lining, so to speak, is that the cloud layer has kept temperatures a lot warmer than normal, especially overnight. So we've gotten temperatures a degree or two above freezing and a degree or two below freezing, which we like tons better than the insanity of this time last year.

In other news of persistent fogginess and concealment, Senate Republicans claim that John Bolton's book has "blindsided" them—even though Bolton's revelations are precisely what the Republicans wanted to avoid hearing in the Trump Impeachment Trial:

What’s morbidly amusing about this is that it’s actually self-incriminating. It’s deeply revealing about the true nature of the GOP coverup.

[T]his will not be a real trial unless we hear from those people, who include Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. It cannot by definition be anything other than an effort to carry through Trump’s own coverup to completion.

What actually blindsided Senate Republicans was that the details of Bolton’s account leaked before they could carry out their preordained vote to acquit. They were blindsided by this terribly inconvenient timing, which upended their coverup.

So: how much will voters actually care about this? I hope just enough to give the Democratic nominee more than 271 electoral votes this fall.

The nihilism machine

Author Nicole Hemmer outlines how the American right wing has prepared itself for the impeachment trial for the past 50 years, and it's to all our detriments:

If you tuned in to Fox News to watch the opening arguments of the impeachment trial on Wednesday night, you were out of luck. Oh, the trial was still technically being broadcast on the network, but it had been reduced to a muted box on the side of the screen, while Sean Hannity assured viewers, “None of this will matter.”

This was the purest representation so far of conservative media’s efforts to minimize not just impeachment but the full array of President Trump’s misconduct. But minimization is only half the strategy to protect Republican control of the White House. The other half is scandalization: an effort to create an air of nonstop scandal around previous Democratic presidents and presidential hopefuls.

The rapid expansion of conservative media in the 1990s and 2000s, and the conservative scandal machine that powered it, transformed American politics. During the Bill Clinton era, new scandal-mongering magazines and websites made up what Hillary Clinton accurately called a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” What followed was a cynical, partisan impeachment that treated the serious constitutional remedy as just another political game. In so doing, Republicans diminished the significance of impeachment, making it less likely the public would take the current impeachment crisis seriously.

To write off Mr. Trump’s wrongdoing as run-of-the-mill politics, then, requires both minimizing what he has done and scandalizing what other politicians do. As an added bonus, the strategy damages Americans’ faith in government and public service, bolstering the Republican Party’s anti-government agenda. As such, it’s a powerful, effective political strategy — and a deeply nihilistic one.

These tactics have also served right-wing governments the world over as well. The Soviet Union and its successor, the Russian Federation, have always tried to portray the west as just as bad as Russia, as just one example.

Remember: the right wants to rule, so that they can enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. Making people believe "government is the problem" serves this narrative well.

Warm and happy in his own little pile of shit

Dana Milbank puts a hunk of the blame for the impeachment trial on the Chief Justice of the United States himself:

Roberts’s captivity is entirely fitting: He is forced to witness, with his own eyes, the mess he and his colleagues on the Supreme Court have made of the U.S. political system. As representatives of all three branches of government attend this unhappy family reunion, the living consequences of the Roberts Court’s decisions, and their corrosive effect on democracy, are plain to see.

Ten years to the day before Trump’s impeachment trial began, the Supreme Court released its Citizens United decision, plunging the country into the era of super PACs and unlimited, unregulated, secret campaign money from billionaires and foreign interests. Citizens United, and the resulting rise of the super PAC, led directly to this impeachment. The two Rudy Giuliani associates engaged in key abuses — the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the attempts to force Ukraine’s president to announce investigations into Trump’s political opponents — gained access to Trump by funneling money from a Ukrainian oligarch to the president’s super PAC.

Certainly, the Supreme Court didn’t create all these problems, but its rulings have worsened the pathologies — uncompromising views, mindless partisanship and vitriol — visible in this impeachment trial. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), no doubt recognizing that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is helping to preserve his party’s Senate majority, has devoted much of his career to extending conservatives’ advantage in the judiciary.

We just have to get through this year. Maybe things will get better in 2021?

Forget the president. Focus on the Senate

Josh Marshall says we should hold Republican senators accountable for their handling of President Trump's impeachment trial—especially vulnerable ones up for re-election this year:

We know what Trump did. What remains to be seen is whether Senate Republicans will back his behavior. Monday evening we got a big part of the answer.

When we say that it’s Senate Republicans who are on trial, that’s not just rhetoric or wordplay. It’s the reality and understanding it is a guide to political action.

I’ve already seen a number of statements from Senate Democrats “hoping” that “Republican moderates” will force McConnell to backtrack. This is all wrong, not least because it prospectively credits the good faith of these supposed “moderates” who are in fact operating as McConnell’s foot soldiers in shutting the trial down. In other words, this is vouching for the good faith and good intentions of senators who deserve to be driven from office in November. Start making the case against them right now. If any of them think they are unfairly accused the solution is ready at hand.

Only 227 days until the election.

Johnson, Clinton, Trump

Yesterday, the House of Representatives impeached the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress:

After 11 hours of fierce argument on the House floor between Democrats and Republicans over Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, lawmakers voted almost entirely along party lines to impeach him. Trump becomes the third president in U.S. history to face trial in the Senate — a proceeding that will determine whether he is removed from office less than one year before he stands for reelection.

The Democratic-controlled House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — related to the president’s attempts to withhold military aid to Ukraine and pressure its government to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic opponent.

The House voted 230 to 197 to approve the article charging abuse of power, with the gavel falling about 8:30 p.m. On the obstruction of Congress vote, which followed soon after, the tally was 229 to 198.

All Republicans voted against both articles. Among Democrats, two voted no on the first article and three on the second, with one — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — voting “present” both times.

George Conway says the president's malignant narcissism made impeachment inevitable:

It was inevitable because of Trump himself, his very character, whose essential nature many who now support him have long understood.

In essence, Trump thinks everything should be about him, for him, for his benefit and glorification—and he can’t comprehend, and doesn’t care about, anything that isn’t. The American diplomat David Holmes testified that Ambassador Gordon Sondland explained to him that “the president only cares about ‘big stuff’”—clarifying, according to Holmes, that this meant “big stuff that benefits the president.”

And that’s why Trump can’t comply with his duties to the nation, and why he now stands as the third president ever to have been impeached. His own stated view of his constitutional authority can only be described as narcissistic: “I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.” But as the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report rightly explains, “Impeachment is aimed at Presidents who believe they are above the law, and who believe their own interests transcend those of the country and Constitution.” Or, as then-Representative Mike Pence put it in 2008: “This business of high crimes and misdemeanors goes to the question of whether the person serving as President of the United States put their own interests, their personal interests, ahead of public service.” It was inevitable that, given his boundlessly self-centered bent, this president would do precisely that.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has put the Articles of Impeachment in a drawer, ostensibly to get cooperation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on trial procedures, but also, as Josh Marshall points out, to keep the initiative and keep the focus on Republican intransigence.

And so, as we go into the last two weeks of the decade, things keep getting more interesting. To that end, I'll have a bit about this morning's Queen's Speech once I've read it.

I'll take an antacid with my lunch now

With only two weeks left in the decade, it looks like the 2010s will end...bizarrely.

More people have taken a look at the President's unhinged temper tantrum yesterday. I already mentioned that Aaron Blake annotated it. The Times fact-checked it. And Jennifer Rubin says "It is difficult to capture how bizarre and frightening the letter is simply by counting the utter falsehoods...or by quoting from the invective dripping from his pen."

As for the impeachment itself, Josh Marshall keeps things simple:

Here are three points that, for me, function as a sort of north star through this addled and chaotic process.

One: The President is accused of using extortion to coerce a foreign power to intervene in a US presidential election on his behalf.

Two: There is no one in US politics who would ever find that behavior remotely acceptable in a President of the opposite party.

Three: The evidence that the President did what he is accused of doing is simply overwhelming.

In the UK, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (Labour—Islington South and Finsbury) has announced a run for Labour Party leader: “Listening to Labour colleagues on the media over the last week, I have repeatedly heard the refrain that the problem we faced last Thursday was that ‘this became the Brexit election’. To which I can only say I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and Brussels sprouts … I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and set out a lengthy draft narrative explaining why we should not go along with it."

The Times review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker left me feeling resigned to seeing the movie, rather than excited. A.O. Scott said:

The director is J.J. Abrams, perhaps the most consistent B student in modern popular culture. He has shepherded George Lucas’s mythomaniacal creations in the Disney era, making the old galaxy a more diverse and also a less idiosyncratic place.

Abrams is too slick and shallow a filmmaker to endow the dramas of repression and insurgency, of family fate and individual destiny, of solidarity and the will to power, with their full moral and metaphysical weight. At the same time, his pseudo-visionary self-importance won’t allow him to surrender to whimsy or mischief. The struggle of good against evil feels less like a cosmic battle than a longstanding sports rivalry between teams whose glory days are receding. The head coaches come and go, the uniforms are redesigned, certain key players are the subjects of trade rumors, and the fans keep showing up.

Which is not entirely terrible. “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a great “Star Wars” movie, but that may be because there is no such thing. That seems to be the way we like it.

Well, that's a ringing endorsement. I mean, I'm sure I'll come out of it feeling like it was worth $15, but I'm not sure I'll see it over 200 times like I have with A New Hope. (It helps that ANH came out when I was about to turn 7.)

And in other news:

Will the world be better in 2020? We'll see.