The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Professional vs amateur

John Scalzi is a professional writer, and I am not. That's why he can encapsulate the past year in one paragraph better than I could do in three:

Biden’s not perfect by any stretch, and clearly his current approval ratings are, uhhhhh, not great. That said, he is performing pretty much to my expectations, and as well as he can, considering the 50 Democratic senators he has for his majority are actually 48 Democratic senators, one clearly-a-Republican-but-pretending-to-be-a-Democrat-for-lulz, and one chaos agent, considering the opposing political party has lost its mind and would rather burn the country to the ground than do anything useful, and considering that, like every other Democratic president in recent memory, Biden’s first job out of the gate was dealing with all the disasters and time bombs the previous administration left behind. One works with what one has, and Biden’s doing all right with that. Even if he wasn’t, he’s still better than what we had. Thanks for letting me not think about you, President Biden. I surely appreciate it.

Yes. I am glad I don't have to think about the White House every day. That was exhausting. And I'm certain, on the flimsiest of contemporary evidence but troves of historical data, that the President's approval ratings will go up next year. A lot.

Blogging is harrrrrrrd

After 7,927 blog entries over more than 23 years, I must express surprise that the XPOTUS managed a full 29 days:

Former President Donald Trump’s blog — a webpage where he shared statements after larger social media companies banned him from their platforms — has been permanently shut down, his spokesman said Wednesday.

The page, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” has been scrubbed from Trump’s website after going live less than a month earlier.

After he launched the thing, people stayed away in droves. Can't think why.

Oh, actually, I can: the kinds of people who uncritically believe that he would write anything worth reading are exactly the kinds of people too intellectually lazy and technologically hapless to expend the mental effort required to find his blog. And those of us who have technical and other kinds of savvy didn't want to read it.

The one thing I'll give the XPOTUS credit for: he has become the ne plus ultra of serial failure. Seriously, I can't help feeling impressed at the new ways he finds to fail in order to distract from his previous failures.

Last weekday of the winter

I get to turn off and put away my work laptop in a little bit in preparation for heading back to the office on Monday morning. I can scarcely wait. 

Meanwhile, I've got a few things to read:

OK, one more work task this month, then...I've got some other stuff to do.

Scalzi's thoughts on the election

Author John Scalzi posted two missives on his blog over the weekend that sum up a lot of what I'm thinking lately. He concludes the second one:

Trump is a virus and he infected our body politic, a body that the GOP spent four decades lowering its immune system so that it could receive just the sort moral and political sickness that Trump personifies. And it worked! We got very sick, and we’re very sick still.

But it turns out our antibodies were stronger than suspected. We rallied despite the best efforts of the virus. And now we have the opportunity to get better. It’s not a done deal; the GOP is still out there trying to get us sick again, and our viral load is still regrettably high. But now, at least, there is a chance to rout it and get our body politic healthy again. That works for me, today.

Yes. And he has some particularly choice words for the 70 million people who voted to re-elect the president.

The view from a rural county in Ohio

Science-fiction author John Scalzi (Red Shirts, Old Man's War) lives in Darke County, Ohio, population 52,000, 97% of them white. He does not exactly fit in with his neighbors politically, as he describes:

Four years ago in Bradford, the town where I live, there were Trump street signs, like the one in the picture above. Here in 2020, there are multiple signs per yard, and banners, and flags, not just with Trump’s name on them, but of him standing on a moving tank whilst screaming eagles fly alongside him, and no, those flags are not being flown ironically, they really mean it. There are occasional Biden signs, mostly of modest size, but anecdotally they are outnumbered by Trump signs by at least twenty to one. The 2020 Darke County Trump tank is deep and perhaps a bit frantic. If Trump is hoping for “shy voters” to suddenly spring up to take him to victory, he’s not going to get them here. Darke County Trump supporters may be many things, but shy does not appear one of them.

A whole bunch of the voters are being fed shit from social media and questionable news sources and either they don’t know it or they don’t care. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the epistemic capture in the US of (not only, but in particular) poor and working class whites by conservatives, billionaires and propagandists is one of the great social engineering success stories of the last half century. This includes an informational ecosystem that’s easy to get into and hard to get out of because it simultaneously stimulates fear and anger responses, degrades one’s own ability to reason, and breeds mistrust in outside sources and political points of view. In other words: cult conditioning.

Now, it would unfair nonsense to suggest the people of a county that hasn’t gone for a Democrat since LBJ would not be reliably voting for whomever the GOP candidate was every four years. But it’s not unfair nonsense to say that convincing a historically large percentage of these folks to vote for someone who four years ago was clearly not competent to be president, and in 2020 has a nearly four-year record of venal graft and malice, is the fruit of a decades-long effort to get into their heads and make them resistant to actual facts that are right in front of them. It’s not coincidence that QAnon is metastasizing through conservative and GOP circles at breathtaking speed; having a millions-strong corps of voters willing to lap up even that level of rank bullshit is in fact the goal.

Meanwhile, Jamelle Bouie picks apart the nonsense of "constitutional originalism," which to me seems no better than any other fundamentalist religion.

VP debate tonight

While I'm waiting for Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris to face off at 8pm Central, I have other things to occupy my thoughts:

Also, it's sunny and 20°C this morning, going up to 23°C this afternoon, so I'm taking half a day off work. We have perhaps 3 more days of nice weather this year, and it's the first day of a sprint (so no deadlines quite yet).

Not all political

Today's lunchtime round-up only had one article about current politics:

Finally, I came across an interview actor Michael Shannon gave Playboy in 2018 that's worth the read.

The Reagan Test

Author John Scalzi asks the question Reagan asked 40 years ago, and concludes he's worse off than he was in 2016:

In 1980, which is now — Jesus — 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan asked a question of the American people: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Reagan asked this question because he was running for president against Jimmy Carter, and it was in his interest to make the election a referendum on the incumbent. And while it would be inaccurate to say the question won Reagan the White House, it is accurate to say the question was a particularly useful framing device for Reagan: It took the election campaign and set it on personal terms for every voter, in a way they could easily quantify and apply to their own lives.

Now it’s 2020, and Donald Trump is president and running for re-election, and aside from any over-arching political issues with, or my own personal opinion of, the man, I think it will be interesting and useful to apply Reagan’s question to my own personal life: am I, in fact, better off today than I was four years ago?

My income has been stable for the last four years, thanks mainly to contracts signed more than four years ago. Like the economy at large (until the coronavirus struck, at least), my generally robust economic condition was a continuation of Obama-era practices and strategies, rather than new conditions.

Four years ago, I could leave my house without wearing a mask (I mean, I guess I could leave the house without one, if I was an asshole who didn’t care about the health and safety of others as well as myself, but I’m not, so I wear a mask).

Four years ago I could go to a restaurant or see a movie or go to a party or get on a plane without worrying about possibly contracting a disease that could put me on a respirator, kill me or give me serious, chronic, long-term health issues.

Four years ago I didn’t worry whether my access to the services and function of the federal government, in an emergency or at all other times, would be contingent upon whether the president had decided someone in my state state was his friend or his foe, or had flattered him enough that he felt inclined to do the job that he was in fact required to do, by law and by the Constitution.

If one of the most successful writers in America is worse off today, how are you doing?

How long is this going to take?

I'm sitting at my desk waiting for my work laptop to finish updating, a process now in its 24th minute, with "Working on updates 25%" on the screen for the past 5. Very frustrating; I have things to do today; and if I'd known how long it would take (I'm looking at you, help desk), I would have started the update when I left this evening.

So, all right, I'll read a few things:

My laptop has rebooted three times now and appears to have gotten up to 83% complete. I may in fact get something done today.