The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Friendly Anglo-American competition

Parts of the United States and the United Kingdom have started a friendly competition to see which English-speaking country can obviate months of combating Covid-19 in the stupidest ways possible.

Up first, the UK, where so many people have flocked (in the 32°C heat) to the Channel Coast that Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole have declared a major incident:

Bournemouth East MP, Tobias Ellwood, said half a million people had flocked to the beaches and said the situation was so overwhelming that the UK government should step in to help the council deal with the crisis.

He said: “A lot of people have chosen to be not just irresponsible but dangerous. We’ve made such progress tackling this pandemic. I’d hate to see Bournemouth be the one place in Britain that gets that second spike.”

The council leader, Vikki Slade, said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks [in neighbouring Poole].

“The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.

“The numbers of people descending down here are like those seen on a bank holiday. We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now. Please do not come.”

A "major incident" in the UK is similar to a disaster declaration in the US: it allows multiple agencies to coordinate and frees up emergency money.

Not to be outdone, Texas, the state that invented the phrase "hold my beer and watch this," and which had started reopening its economy despite not meeting its own goals for infection and positive-test rates, has now reversed course do to skyrocketing Covid-19 new infections:

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."

[T]he grim news was not just limited to Texas as the U.S. saw a record number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, with 45,557 reported Wednesday, according to a tally by NBC News.

Southern and Western states like Arizona and Florida that began aggressively reopening around Memorial Day are now seeing staggering spikes that make clear the deadly virus is showing no sign of going away, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly predicted.

I'm not even going to talk about Florida.

Josh Marshall yells into the wind, "this didn't have to happen:"

States around the country, responsive to the President’s messaging, have continued aggressive re-openings while cases were rising. President Trump has also consistently sent a message that basic mitigation strategies like masking are a sign of political affiliation with liberals and Democrats. Put more frankly, he’s being saying they’re for sissies. Republican politicians who rely on his support have backed this messaging and even outlawed cities’ efforts to protect themselves by imposing mitigation strategies at the city level. Since these governors mostly have their political bases of support in rural and exurban areas this amounts to the as yet lightly hit rural regions using their minoritarian political power to prevent the cities from protecting themselves.

So who wins? We'll see what Covid-19 infection rates look like in England's Southeast in two weeks, but for abject stupidity, we're hard to beat.

So much to read

I'm back in the office tomorrow, after taking a 7:15 am call with a colleague in India. So I won't spend a lot of time reading this stuff tonight:

OK, I need 3,700 steps before 10pm, and then I need to empty my dog and go to bed.

Ah, the company we keep

If I have to go more than a year without visiting Europe because my fellow Americans are too individualistic to stop the spread of Covid-19, I might have to move there permanently when able:

In case you wondered what President Trump’s glorious triumph over coronavirus looks like to the rest of the world, the news that the European Union may bar Americans from entry due to our spiking cases provides a sobering reality check.

If this goes through, it would mark a continuation of a prohibition that had been in place on travelers from the United States and elsewhere since mid-March. Only now it would be extended through the E.U.’s official reopening in July.

But I want to focus on this remarkable explanation of why this may happen:

Trump, as well as his Russian and Brazilian counterparts, Vladimir V. Putin and Jair Bolsonaro, has followed what critics call a comparable path in their pandemic response that leaves all three countries in a similarly bad spot: they were dismissive at the outset of the crisis, slow to respond to scientific advice and saw a boom of domestic cases as other parts of the world, notably in Europe and Asia, were slowly managing to get their outbreaks under control.

And so, in this, we are parting ways with our Western allies, while being quite similar to Russia and Brazil, whose responses were similarly tangled in their leadership’s disdain for empiricism and science.

I am heartened, however, that the president's declining approval ratings suggest that people have gotten tired of the reality TV show now that reality has intruded.

Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook in response to an acquaintance posting the questionable statement that the ADA allows people to ignore mask regulations:

I don't know if your state has executed legislation requiring you to wear a mask in public. And I don't care.

First, private property owners can deny entrance to anyone on a rational, non-discriminatory basis, particularly when following official guidance. Meaning, if I own a shop, and I make a rule you have to wear a nose-and-mouth covering in my shop, that's property rights. (NB: If I let Karen in without a mask and I make Jim wait outside even though he has a mask, that's discriminatory and illegal under the Civil Rights Act. Fight me.)

Second, the ENTIRE POINT right now is that we are agreeing to waive certain rights in exchange for NOT DYING OR KILLING PEOPLE. I know "civilization" is a new concept on the Internet, but, hey, humans have a million-year tradition of cooperating that I'd like to continue. But, sure, argue in favor of...uh, cytokene storms, I guess, and the rest of us will continue to protect those who can't protect themselves.

Because, ultimately, that's the argument. "Don't tell me what I can and can't do" is the cry of a 5-year-old, not a fully-formed human. We're asking you to do the right thing. And if you refuse, and your refusal puts people at risk of DEATH, then yes, we (your neighbors, friends, and people you voted for to govern shit you didn't have the mental space to govern yourself) will tell you no, we're doing this, because your convenience is less important than your neighbor's kid's life.

So far I have 23 Likes and 6 Loves for that. (My post on Parker's birthday has over 100 Likes, so clearly people have their priorities.)

It's way past time for this amendment

Attorney General William Barr's behavior since taking office, and especially over the past week, demonstrates the need for the United States to do what 43 other states already do: elect the Attorney General.

Here's my proposed Constitutional amendment:

Sec. 1. The chief legal officer of the United States and chief executive officer of the Department of Justice shall be an Attorney General, elected by the People for a term of four years, to commence on January 10th of the third year following the most recent election of the President.

Sec. 2. No Person shall be eligible to the Office of Attorney General who shall not have attained to the age of thirty years, and been nine years a Citizen of the United States, and been seven years a resident within the United States.

Sec. 3. No person shall be elected to the office of the Attorney General more than twice, and no person who has held the office of Attorney General, or acted as Attorney General, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected Attorney General shall be elected to the office of the Attorney General more than once.

Sec. 4. No person who has held the office of Attorney General, or acted as Attorney General, shall serve in any Office created by Articles II or III of this Constitution, or legislation based thereon, until four years have passed after serving as Attorney General.

Sec. 5. The Attorney General shall have the power to appoint and remove, with the advice and consent of the Senate, a United States Attorney for each Judicial District that Congress may establish, and a Deputy Attorney General, who shall assume the office of Attorney General should the office become vacant during the term of office. The Attorney General shall have the power to appoint other officers of the Department of Justice as Congress may provide by legislation.

Sec. 6. This article shall take effect on January 10th of the third year following its ratification.

Section 1 establishes that the office and the department she runs are separate from the Executive Branch, and chosen in the midterm elections. Section 2 sets the requirements for office to be the same as for US Senator. Section 3 sets term limits in the same language as the 22nd Amendment. Section 4 shuts the revolving door, except a former AG can still run for Congress. Section 5 gives the AG, and not the President, the power to appoint US Attorneys and her own deputy, with Senate approval; but she can appoint other officers that Congress may create without Senate approval. Section 6 gives the Executive-branch Justice Department two years to fully devolve into its own Constitutional realm.

If this were to be ratified in 2024, for example, we would vote for AG in November 2026 and swear her in on 10 January 2027. That person would then serve until 2031, and be ineligible to serve in the Executive branch or as a Federal judge until 2035.

Thoughts?

What just happened in SDNY?

On Friday night, US Attorney General William Barr announced that Jeffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, had resigned. Minutes later, Berman said "the hell I have."

A couple of problems immediately present themselves when you think about this. First, only the president can fire a US Attorney. (President Trump finally did that last night.) Second, the highest law-enforcement official in the country, lied in writing about this. Third, the SDNY has multiple, ongoing investigations into the president's associates and businesses. Fourth, Barr's first announcement of Berman's replacement (a well-known Trump fellatist supporter) flouted the actual black-letter law giving that power to the judges of the SDNY (who, in fact, appointed Berman).

Calling this "extraordinary" doesn't do justice to the violence this dealt to the rule of law.

The Times:

The attorney general’s interventions in high-profile cases involving the onetime Trump advisers Roger J. Stone Jr. and Michael T. Flynn have prompted accusations from current and former law enforcement officials that Mr. Barr has politicized the department.

Over the last year, Mr. Berman’s office brought indictments against two close associates of the president’s current lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, and began an investigation into Mr. Giuliani himself, focusing on whether his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on the president’s political rivals violated laws on lobbying for foreign entities.

Mr. Berman’s office also conducted an investigation into Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee, subpoenaing financial and other records as part of a broad inquiry into possible illegal contributions from foreigners.

David Kurtz doesn't stop at "accusations...Barr has politicized the department:"

We’re deep into the worst crisis in the history of the Justice Department, and it keeps deepening. This isn’t alarming for what it signifies or for what it suggests might happen next or because it raises vague future concerns. It’s alarming because this is the corruption and the wrongdoing and the malfeasance. Right here, right now. Not some theoretical future threat. This is the nightmare of a president run amok with a captive Justice Department. We’re there. We’re living it.

James Comey, who worked as an assistant US Attorney in SDNY early in his career, has also spoken up:

There has always been a tension — much of it healthy — between Washington and the Southern District, but the attempt to fire the current United States attorney feels very different. Geoffrey Berman’s office has apparently been handling cases very close to the president. In 136 days, there is an election that the incumbent appears likely to lose. The attorney general, surely not proceeding on his own, acts to bump the well-regarded head of the Office on a Friday night, in the middle of a pandemic. Something stinks.

The country is well-served by the independent spirit and reputation of the Southern District of New York. It has long been the place where hard cases could be done in a way Americans trusted. It was where Bill Clinton’s 11th-hour pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich could be credibly investigated. It is also the place with jurisdiction over so much of this president’s complicated life.

And it is a place that follows the facts alone to reach conclusions, without regard to politics, just as [Henry L.] Stimson wanted. Maybe that’s why William P. Barr moved to knock off Berman on a Friday night and announced President Trump’s intention to replace him with someone who has never worked there. And maybe that’s why Berman, in the finest traditions of the office, stood up.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has opened an investigation, with a hearing already scheduled for Tuesday.

Afternoon news roundup

My inbox does not respect the fact that I had meetings between my debugging sessions all day. So this all piled up:

Finally, conferencing app Zoom will roll out true end-to-end encryption in July.

Pwning the Libs!

I'll just start with the headline:

Trump supporters burn Michigan absentee ballot applications

Walker, Mich. — People burned letters informing them that they can vote by absentee ballot in future elections during a protest near Grand Rapids.

The applications were burned Friday during an event called Operation Incinerator outside the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker. Many people had flags, shirts and signs showing support for President Donald Trump and Republicans.

“For them just to issue them without merit, without request to absolutely everybody — that is a great waste of taxpayer money,” said Michael Farage, president of the Grand Rapids Taxpayers Association.

Murcia Fuck Yeah!

I really hope these people feel like voting is a waste of money, so they stay home in November. That would suit me just fine.

Max Bialystock is Trump's campaign manager

Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale Tweeted yesterday that 200,000—no, 300,000!—people have bought tickets to the campaign rally scheduled for Juneteenth—no, June 20th!—at the 19,000-seat arena in Tulsa where it will take place. It was not clear where all these people would sit. Or park. Or spontaneously manifest in the reality-based world.

Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 cases has started to climb again, and for reasons passing understanding, in the states that opened up the most quickly.

Objective facts exist. I really hope we get back to them someday.

Today in the weird

It's day 88 of my exile from the office, but I recently found out I may get to go in for a day soon. Will this happen before the 24th (day 100)? Who's got the over/under on that?

Meanwhile, outside my bubble:

And just in case you're not scared of everything on earth, here's a list of things in the cosmos that can help you feel even more scared.

The only appropriate response is laughter

Someone threw a widdle tantwum this morning:

President Donald Trump's campaign is demanding CNN retract and apologize for a recent poll that showed him well behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The demand, coming in the form of a cease and desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker that contained numerous incorrect and misleading claims, was immediately rejected by the network.

The CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released on Monday shows Trump trailing the former vice president by 14 points, 55%-41%, among registered voters. It also finds the President's approval rating at 38% -- his worst mark since January 2019, and roughly on par with approval ratings for one-term Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at this point in their reelection years -- and his disapproval rating at 57%.

David Vigilante, CNN's executive vice president and general counsel, told the campaign that its "allegations and demands are rejected in their entirety."

"To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN had been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN's polling results," Vigilante wrote in his response. "To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media."

We knew he wouldn't go quietly. So let's just keep laughing at him so that he goes ignominiously.