The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Less than 24 hours to go

The US Constitution, Amendment XX, section 1, says point blank that the STBXPOTUS will be XPOTUS in less than 24 hours. Between now and then, I have no doubt he'll shit the bed (possibly even literally) on his way out the door. Just a few minutes ago the Times reported that the outgoing administration has declared China's treatment of Uighurs "genocide," which may complicate President Biden's plans to pressure the country diplomatically. (Biden apparently supports this designation, however.)

From completely bollixing the vaccine rollout to failing in the most basic acts of class and decency with the Bidens to appointing crazy people to civil-service roles to executing more people in the past month than the US Government has executed in the past 12 years, he has done everything in his power to make 60% of Americans ready to see the back of him. We haven't even seen today's pardon list yet; I can only guess how much fun I'll have reading it.

For all of that, though, one thing has absolutely delighted me these past two weeks: he hasn't posted anything on social media. Consequently, as the Post reports, misinformation online has dropped 73% since he got booted from Twitter and Facebook:

The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.

Zignal found it dropped swiftly and steeply on Twitter and other platforms in the days after the Twitter ban took hold on Jan. 8.

The findings, from Jan. 9 through Friday, highlight how falsehoods flow across social media sites — reinforcing and amplifying each other — and offer an early indication of how concerted actions against misinformation can make a difference.

The research by Zignal and other groups suggests that a powerful, integrated disinformation ecosystem — composed of high-profile influencers, rank-and-file followers and Trump himself — was central to pushing millions of Americans to reject the election results and may have trouble surviving without his social media accounts.

Researchers have found that Trump’s tweets were retweeted by supporters at a remarkable rate, no matter the subject, giving him a virtually unmatched ability to shape conversation online. University of Colorado information science professor Leysia Palen declared in October, after months of research: “Trump’s amplification machine is peerless.”

Glory, hallelujah. Despite 25,000 Guard troops defending the capital, and an inauguration ceremony tomorrow without a huge cheering crowd, things seem better than they did a month ago. I think once we're past the 2020 hangover, 2021 will turn out all right.

Bonnie Wilson Coleman (D-NJ) is pissed off

After sheltering-in-place on January 6th with fact-denying, mask-refusing Republican colleagues, Rep. Coleman contracted Covid-19:

Over the past day, a lot of people have asked me how I feel. They are usually referring to my covid-19 diagnosis and my symptoms. I feel like I have a mild cold. But even more than that, I am angry. 

I am angry that after I spent months carefully isolating myself, a single chaotic day likely got me sick. I am angry that several of our nation’s leaders were unwilling to deal with the small annoyance of a mask for a few hours. I am angry that the attack on the Capitol and my subsequent illness have the same cause: my Republican colleagues’ inability to accept facts.

[On January 6th, m]y staff and I then decided that the Capitol building would likely be the safest place to go, since it would be the most secure and least likely to be crowded. I’ve spent a lot of time since in utter disbelief at how wrong those assumptions turned out to be.

Everyone knows what happened next: A mob broke through windows and doors and beat a U.S. Capitol Police officer, then went on a rampage. Members and staff took cover wherever we could, ducking into offices throughout the building, then were told to move to a safer holding location.

I use “safer” because, while we might have been protected from the insurrectionists, we were not safe from the callousness of members of Congress who, having encouraged the sentiments that inspired the riot, now ignored requests to wear masks.

When I say that many Republicans are responsible for what happened to me, to others and to the country last week, I mean their essential failure to accept facts led us here. Much like they should be able to accept the results of an election, elected leaders should be able to accept facts like the efficacy of masks. It’s clearly time for a congressional campuswide mask requirement, enforced by the House and Senate sergeants at arms.

Facts really do matter. I hope to get back to work soon to make sure we respect them.

We've had a strain of aggressive stupidity in the United States going back to the country's founding. Only trouble is, these days they have more political party than they usually have.

It keeps getting worse

As the capital braces for violence at President-Elect Joe Biden's inauguration next week, Andrew Sullivan points out the obvious:

We could have...the beginning of an ongoing, armed insurgency, denying the legitimacy of the democratically elected government of the United States, backed by a hefty chunk of one of the two major parties.

Josh Marshall points out that the GOP has hobbled our resistance to this disease for 30 years or longer:

Go back to April 1995 and the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. This sparked the first widespread interest in the militia movement which had begun to take root in the country in the 1980s. But Republicans, who had just taken control of Congress in January of that year, quickly shifted gears to defending militias as conservatives being smeared the association with McVeigh and his accomplices. Indeed, in June of 1995 the Senate held a hearing aimed at humanizing members of the militia movement as little more than very motivated conservative activists. As Ken Adams of one Michigan militia group told Senators at the hearing: “What is the militia?. We are doctors, lawyers, people getting involved in their government.”

[W]e’ve seen four or four cycles of this drama over the last twenty-five to thirty years: the US government is prevented from taking even basic steps to combat violent right wing extremism because the Republican party either forbids it (when Republicans are in power) or makes the political costs prohibitively high (when Democrats are).

Every time it’s the same. And the coddling of right wing extremists and terrorists by the institutional GOP has led us to a place where a government that spends approaching a trillion dollars a year on military and intelligence capacities had its seat of government stormed by an insurrectionist crowd acting at the behest of a renegade President.

As I said to a London-based colleague this morning, things will be strange over here for a few years, at least.

Sure Happy It's Thursday, March 319th...

Lunchtime roundup:

Finally, the authors of The Impostor's Guide, a free ebook aimed at self-taught programmers, has a new series of videos about general computer-science topics that people like me didn't learn programming for fun while getting our history degrees.

The Economist's Bartleby column examines how Covid-19 lockdowns have "caused both good and bad changes of routine."

Impeached. Again.

The US House of Representatives has voted 231-197 (including 10 Republicans) to impeach the STBXPOTUS a second time. The Republicans voting for impeachment included: Jaime Beutler (Wash.), Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), John Katko (N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Peter Meijer (Mich.), Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Tom Rice (S.C.), Fred Upton (Mich.), and David Valadao (Calif.). Four Republicans abstained. Illinois representatives Mike Bost, Rodney Davis, Mary Miller, and Darin LaHood voted with their party not to send the article of impeachment to the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader (for the next 6 days) Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to call the Senate into emergency session to begin a trial, though he did leave open the possibility of voting to convict the STBXPOTUS after Joe Biden takes office a week from now. So, from his own perspective, the twice-impeached STBXPOTUS will face no real consequences—at least, not immediately—for his attempted self-coup last week.

In the background, 20,000 National Guard troops have deployed to the capital, while the acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia said "people will be shocked when they find out they find out the totality of what happened," according to Talking Points Memo.

The hangover from 2020 just won't go away.

Big news from Springfield

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago/Clearing) will lose his job later today after serving in the role since 1983. Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Hillside) received 69 votes (of a required 60) in the Democratic Caucus this morning, making his accession to the Speaker's chair all but guaranteed when the whole House votes in a few minutes to elect the Speaker. Welch will become the first Black Speaker in Illinois history.

In other news:

  • The Illinois legislature ended its previous legislative session earlier today by passing a 700-page criminal justice overhaul bill that ends cash bail and requires every law-enforcement officer in the state to wear a body camera, among other reforms. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill this week.
  • Ross Douthat holds out hope that the "divide between reality and fantasy" in the Republican Party may lead to the party's disintegration.
  • Earth's rotation has picked up a tiny bit of extra speed that may require negative leap second soon.

Too bad those shorter days haven't added up to a quicker end to the current presidential administration. At least we have less than a week to go before the STBXPOTUS is just some guy in a cheap suit.

More on Republican posturing about "unity"

Granted, I get most of my news and information from only one part of the media: the part based on evidence and reason. So I may not intuit correctly how Republicans calling for "unity" right now makes any sense at all, as I said on Sunday. I may, instead, think about how this reminds me of Lincoln's Cooper Union speech.

It turns out, I'm not the only one drawing these parallels. Jamelle Bouie makes the connection more eloquently than I do:

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, also said that impeaching the president “will only divide our country more.”

“As leaders, we must call on our better angels and refocus our efforts on working directly for the American people,” McCarthy said in a statement given two days after he also voted not to accept the results of a free and fair election in which his favored candidate lost.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas helped lead the Senate attempt to object to Joe Biden’s victory. “My view is Congress should fulfill our responsibility under the Constitution to consider serious claims of voter fraud,” he said last Monday. Now, he too wants unity. “The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” he said in the aftermath of the violence, as calls to impeach the president grew louder and louder. “We must come together and put this anger and division behind us.”

I’m reminded, here, of one particular passage from Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 address ;at Cooper Union in Manhattan, in which he criticized the political brinkmanship of Southern elites who blamed their Northern opponents for their own threats to break the union over slavery.

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

These cries of divisiveness aren’t just the crocodile tears of bad-faith actors. They serve a purpose, which is to pre-emptively blame Democrats for the Republican partisan rancor that will follow after Joe Biden is inaugurated next week. It is another way of saying that they, meaning Democrats, shot first, so we, meaning Republicans, are absolved of any responsibility for our actions. If Democrats want some semblance of normalcy — if they want to be able to govern — then the price for Republicans is impunity for Trump.

Accountability is divisive. That’s the point. If there is a faction of the Republican Party that sees democracy itself as a threat to its power and influence, then it has to be cut off from the body politic.

Exactly. I, and a whole lot of other Democrats and moderates from both parties, have had it up to here with the lack of good faith coming from the Republican Party. They've banged away with this crap for 50 years now. Only now, after an armed incursion into the US Capitol, does it seem like my party leaders have had enough.

I really hope we've finally answered the question "what do the Republicans have to do before we finally hold them to account?"

Meanwhile, in the last 5 weeks, we have had 15 days where more Americans died of Covid-19 than died on 9/11.

Mr Vice President, kick your boss to the curb now

The House of Representatives have started debate on a resolution to ask Vice President Mike Pence to start the process of removing the STBXPOTUS under the 25th Amendment. As you might imagine, this was not the only news story today:

Finally, the always-funny Alexandra Petri imagines what people who have never read Orwell believe his books actually say.

Everyone who understands security predicted this

Security is hard. Everyone who works in IT knows (or should know) this. We have well-documented security practices covering every part of software applications, from the user interface down to the hardware. Add in actual regulations like Europe's GDPR and California's privacy laws, you have a good blueprint for protecting user data.

Of course, if you actively resist expertise and hate being told what to do by beanie-wearing nerds, you might find yourself reading on Gizmodo how a lone hacker exfiltrated 99% of your data and handed it to the FBI:

In the wake of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by scores of President Trump’s supporters, a lone researcher began an effort to catalogue the posts of social media users across Parler, a platform founded to provide conservative users a safe haven for uninhibited “free speech” — but which ultimately devolved into a hotbed of far-right conspiracy theories, unchecked racism, and death threats aimed at prominent politicians.

The researcher, who asked to be referred to by their Twitter handle, @donk_enby, began with the goal of archiving every post from January 6, the day of the Capitol riot; what she called a bevy of “very incriminating” evidence.

Operating on little sleep, @donk_enby began the work of archiving all of Parler’s posts, ultimately capturing around 99.9 percent of its content. In a tweet early Sunday, @donk_enby said she was crawling some 1.1 million Parler video URLs. “These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” she said. Included in this tranche of data, now more than 56 terabytes in size, @donk_enby confirmed the raw video includes GPS coordinates, which point to the locations of users when the videos were filmed.

Meanwhile, dozens of companies that have donated to the STBXPOTUS and other Republican causes over the past five years have suddenly started singing a different tune: